South Africa vs Namibia Safari

South Africa vs Namibia Safari

You have made the choice. You want to go on safari. You want to be out there, see animals roam around freely and feel the African sun on your skin. But here comes the real head-scratcher, you are stuck between the possibility of two countries and a decision must be made – a South Africa vs Namibia Safari – how do you choose?

How do you choose between South Africa’s abundance of wildlife and Namibia’s surreal desert landscapes? The one has easy access to reserves, parks and cities and the other takes you away from the crowds to the middle of nowhere. And both countries offer incredible wildlife sightings. In South Africa you can see the big five within a day or two but in Namibia you can spot free-roaming populations of the rare desert elephant and the mysterious desert-dwelling wild horses.

South Africa vs Namibia safari, how do you choose?

It’s a tough one, but we’re here to help you plan.

A “South Africa vs Namibia Safari” Comparison

The one is as unique as the other – dissimilar, diverse, dreamy – and you are spoilt for choice. But if you’re stuck in a rut to make the choice, here are a few things to consider to help you with the decision.

Dunes in Namibia
Immerse yourself in the remote landscape of the Namib Desert which is believed to be the oldest of its kind in the world.

Time

South Africa is generally better for travelers with only a few days to spare due to the airports close to national parks and private reserves. You can reach the big five reserve of Pilansberg in just over two hours after stepping out of O.R Tambo International Airport, and it is 400 km to the nearest gate in Kruger National Park and the reserves. From Port Elizabeth Airport, it is possible to spot your first elephant within only one hour of driving.

Winter, and late fall and early spring, are the best time for wildlife viewing in South Africa, while summer is perfect for birding and a safari in the Eastern Cape can generally be done all-year-round.

Namibia is known for its vast open spaces, and if you are choosing to self-drive it best to give yourself at least a week due to the distances you will have to drive. There are however incredible fly-in tours and safaris in Namibia on offer – between three days and ten days – taking you to the Namibia’s must-see destinations such as Etosha National Park, Sossusvlei, Kulala Wilderness Reserve and more.

Kulala Desert Lodge
Keep the striking vast landscapes of Sossusvlei in mind when you have to make your “South Africa vs Namibia Safari” decision.

Summer in Namibia can get extremely hot and May to October the best time for game viewing,  while Sossusvlei can be visited at any time of the year. Namibia has a summer rain fall and it can bring floods to the desert; it is best to avoid the Caprivi Strip in January and February.

South Africa vs Namibia Safari Wildlife

With 21 National Parks covering an area of more than 37 000 km2 and thousands of private reserves, South Africa is well-known for its abundance of wildlife, and most parks and reserves are home to the big five. And of course, the bird life is prolific, and you will see more than just Timon and Pumba from the Lion King family.

Fish River Canyon in Namibia
See the grandeur of the world’s second largest canyon, the Fish River Canyon, with your own eyes.

Namibia however is a different story. Even though the lion and elephant sightings will not disappoint at Etosha National Park, the park is not home to the big five and to see them all you need to go to the Caprivi Region. But what it lacks in buffalo it makes up in the unique desert-adapted wildlife, from elephants, lions and wild horse to the smallest antelope in the country, the dik dik, with its elongated snout to prevent overheating and the Namaqua chameleon, the fastest of its kind.

Beyond the wildlife lies the landscapes

South Africa has to bow down to the otherworldly landscapes of Namibia.

Panoramic views and jaw-dropping sunsets will be part of your safari in South Africa, but not much compares to seeing Namibia’s Fish River Canyon, Kolmanskop, the Etosha salt plan, Sossusvlei and Dune 45, Dead Vlei and the imposing Spitzkoppe.

Add-ons to your safari

If you want to add a city escape to your safari, South Africa has more options. Explore Johannesburg alongside Kruger or Pilanesberg or combine the seaside city of Durban with a reserve in KwaZulu Natal. There are regular flights to Cape Town, from all over South Africa, if you want to add wine tasting, Table Mountain, Cape Point and the Boulders Beach penguins to your itinerary.

South Africa vs Namibia Safari
The biggest bonus of choosing South Africa instead of Namibia for a safari, is the ability to add an exciting city adventure in Cape Town, Durban or Johannesburg to your itinerary.

In Namibia you can visit Windhoek and Swakopmund, but the options of things to do are not as abound.

Know before you go: South Africa vs Namibia Safari

During peak season both countries can get extremely crowded, especially in the national parks, however, it will feel less crowded in Namibia, and when visiting a private reserve. South Africa is also more family-friendly than Namibia.

Malaria medication is necessary for most of South Africa’s reserves and parks in the northern and north-eastern regions, while Namibia’s malaria area is in the Caprivi region.

If you are self-driving an off-road vehicle is a good choice for Namibia, whereas the majority of the roads in South African National Parks are sedan-friendly.

Both countries boast exclusive private game reserves, but if you compare a South Africa vs Namibia safari in terms of cost, Namibia is slightly more expensive, mostly because there are more direct flights to South Africa.