A step by step guide to your first safari in South Africa

South Africa offers everything and more if you want to embark on your first safari. The sprawling landscapes are diverse, the roads are easily navigable, the parks and reserves are plentiful – with some rolling out the carpet of luxury beyond your wildest dreams – and the activities will fill up your itinerary in no time. But a safari is not a safari without the wildlife. And in South Africa you are in for a treat, from the big five to the small five and even the lesser known shy five.If you have been dreaming about a safari, you have imagined it all. You have envisioned an elephant silhouette against an African sunset and pondered upon the thought of staring into a lion’s eyes. South Africa’s wildlife is yearning to show you the glossy magazine images in real life and this step by step guide to your first safari in South Africa will help you to make the image real and more vivid than you could have ever imagined.

A step by step guide to your first safari in South Africa

Don’t fret or fear; your safari dream is in good hands. Whether you want to head north or south, self-drive or do bush walks and bird watching, adventure is a given. And with so many options of where to go and what to do, consider this step by step guide to your first safari in South Africa a road map to planning your African getaway.

people on game drive in south africa elephant herd

It is a sensory overload to get so close to South Africa's big five when going on a guided game drive.

Discover the purpose of your trip

Is it a solo trip, honeymoon, self-drive adventure or a family getaway? Do you want to combine it with a city escape or other experiences?

picnic next to the river kruger

Step into a world of exclusive and personal experiences, like sipping a sundowner on a picnic next to the river, when choosing a private reserve for your safari in South Africa.There are safari packages perfectly tailored to your needs and expectations. For example, private lodges are often more exclusive and will charm you with romance, while national parks are great for DIY safaris and family-friendly escapes.

Do you have an animal bucket list?

Most people want to see the big five first and foremost, but for others it might be a zebra or a meerkat. Some of the parks and reserves are known for specific animals, and it all depends: what is on your animal bucket list?Kruger National Park, and the Greater Kruger Park, are known for big five sightings, the nocturnal aardwolf as well as its prolific bird life with endangered vultures and migrant birds flapping colorful wings during summer.Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape is home to more than 600 elephants (and the big five), as well as the protected flightless dung beetle and Mountain Zebra National Park boasts the Cape mountain zebra.The St. Lucia wetland area in KwaZulu Natal is home the largest population of hippos, a great number of crocodiles and more than 30 marine animals.And Madikwe Game Reserve, which borders Botswana, goes to great lengths to protect the African wild dog, while Pilansberg is a good place to see the rare brown hyena and the fastest antelope in Africa, the tsessebe.

wild dogs on a kill

The very vocal, and endangered, African wild dogs are considered the masters of collective hunting; stumbling upon them while on safari is a fortunate find.

Decide on a time of the year for your safari in South Africa

Winter in South Africa is the best time to visit Kruger National Park, Madikwe and Pilanesberg, as your chance to see more wildlife increases but summer is ideal for bird watching. In KwaZulu Natal the best weather is between April and September, late winter is great for game drives and diving can be done all-year-round. The Eastern Cape has a mild climate throughout the year, but some private reserves experience below zero temperatures in winter (something to keep in mind for those sunrise game drives).

Worried about malaria?

It is always safe to take malaria medication when visiting St Lucia, Kruger National Park and the surrounding areas, but there are several no-malaria or low-risk zones too like the Eastern Cape, Pilansberg, Madikwe and certain places in KwaZulu Natal.

Set your budget, choose your accommodation

The accommodation options are endless, from cottages geared for families who want to follow the self-catering route or lodges offering full board, to camps that are exclusively private and setting the standard of sheer luxury.

lion sands tinga deck

Going to the bush does not mean roughing it when it comes to dining options; instead you will be treated to mouthwatering gourmet cuisine, local delicacies and some of South Africa's finest wines.

Want to experience more than a game drive?

But wait there’s more. You can do guided bush walks (day trails and multi-day trails) and have 4x4 experiences in most places. In Mountain Zebra National Park you can track cheetah on foot, in Pilanesberg you can take a hot air balloon while KwaZulu Natal features several excellent dive sites.

The final step in your step by step guide to your first safari in South Africa

With the perfect picture you have imagined your trip to be, where is this step by step guide to your first visit in safari in South Africa taking you? Will you fly into Johannesburg and discover the nearby Pilanesberg, or do you want to see Kruger National Park? Perhaps you want to combine the Eastern Cape with the Garden Route or uncover the lesser known reserves of KwaZulu Natal.Our safari experts can help you plan your first safari, from flights to suggesting activities to recommending accommodation fit for a king, queen, your family and your budget. Let us help you plan.

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