More than 267,000 people visited South Africa in the first quarter of 2022. This is a huge step up since the start of the pandemic, and more people are visiting to take part in some of the amazing activities South Africa has to offer.
If you're planning a safari trip to Africa, there are a lot of options in front of you. Perhaps the most well-known South Africa safari area is the Kruger National Park, but that doesn't mean it's the one you should go for. It's worth taking the time to consider other options for national parks, as you might find something that suits you a bit better.
You'll be able to find information on different national park websites, but in this guide, we're going to cover 10 of the best safari alternatives to Greater Kruger. Keep reading for more.
1. Madikwe Game Reserve
Some of the best alternatives to Kruger National Park safaris are those found in Madikwe Game Reserve. It lies against the Botswana border and is a total of 765 square kilometers.
It's made up largely of reclaimed farmland and has amassed a wide range of wildlife over the last 32 years. It's a state-owned park, but Madikwe operates as a private game reserve. This means drives can only be conducted by private lodges in the reserve with no self-driving visitors allowed.
If you're going on a South African safari, you'll want to see the Big Five, and that's possible here. There are also plenty of other animals you'll likely come across such as cheetahs, the endangered Wild dog, and the very rare Brown hyena.
The landscape has plenty of woodland and savannah, and it's a year-round destination. There are seasonal variations of course, but there's typically less rain than you'll find on Kruger National Park safaris, and it doesn't get as hot or humid.
2. Sabi Sand Game Reserve
Sabi Sand Game Reserve is considered one of the best spots for safari trips in South Africa. It's known for luxurious trips, but there are a few budget-friendly options too. Rather than being one large national park, Sabi Sand is actually made up of multiple smaller private reserves.It's right next to Kruger, and without any fences, the wildlife is free to move between the two. Freedom is very important for wildlife in Africa, so this is ideal. Sabi Sands is known for having particularly good birdlife.
If you're trying to stick to a tight South Africa safari budget, this might not be the best option for you. Bear in mind, however, that you often get what you pay for. The higher price tag ensures you'll get one of the best experiences available from a South Africa safari trip.
3. KwaZulu Natal Game Reserves
KZN hosts several reserves that have a huge amount to offer. These are more affordable options, making them accessible to more people. Visiting here will give you a chance to see some of the most impressive wildlife in Africa, including both black and white rhinos.
One of the most famous reserves among these is Hluhluwe-iMfolozi. It's 960 square kilometers, and it's well known for having the largest population of rhinos of any reserve, and was the driving force behind saving white rhinos from extinction in the 1970s, as well as the Big Five, Wild dogs, and a range of antelope, so you can knock these off of your Africa safari checklist.
There are several other reserves you can visit, such as:
In the north of KwaZulu Natal, you'll find Tembe Elephant Park. This borders Mozambique and Swaziland and is aptly named as it's home to some of the largest Elephants in Africa, along with plenty of other animals, and is incredibly budget-friendly, with 3-night packages starting at $350 USD including game drives and meals.
4. Eastern Cape Reserves
If you don't want to go too far from the metropolitan areas, this is a great option. The Eastern Cape Game Reserves sit just a couple of hours outside of Port Elizabeth and offer the full safari experience with multiple private game reserves.
To save on your Africa safari budget, you could visit Addo Elephant Park as it allows self-driving visitors. The Eastern Cape offers incredible landscapes, and many of the lodges are designed to make the most of this.
On the coast, you'll also find the Sardine Run between May and July if you want to add something a bit more unique to your trip. All the Eastern Cape Reserves are home to the Big Five, along with plenty of other animals you'll want to see such as giraffes, impalas, warthogs, and zebras.
Some of the most popular reserves here include:
5. South Africa's North West Province
Some people will have plenty of time to explore while in South Africa, but that might not be the case for you. If you're on a tight schedule, you'll want to be efficient. The North West Province can be a good place to visit if you want to start ticking off your Africa safari checklist quickly.
You can do quick safaris here, and you've still got a very good chance of seeing all of the wildlife you're interested in. The area is particularly well-known for Wild dogs, with Elephants and Rhinos also being common. Just bear in mind that the country's big cats can be a bit harder to find here than in other national parks.
It's hotter and drier than some of the other regions, so don't expect to see as much greenery here. The wildlife population is less dense as a result. For many, this might not be the first choice for a safari, but it's often better than most of the others if you need to get a lot done quickly.
6. Samara Karoo Private Reserve
This reserve is located in the Great Karoo semi-desert and offers a somewhat different experience. It's situated on former farmland, and the region has an arid landscape with flat-topped mountains.
The Big Five have recently been reintroduced, so you'll be able to see them. There's also a conservation area for cheetahs. They're incredibly relaxed, and people are able to approach them on foot. You might even be able to see the normally elusive aardvark here in the winter as it's cool enough for them to come out during the day.
7. Makalali Game Reserve
This is fairly close to Kruger National Park, being just an hour away, and has the Olpfants River as a feature. As a private reserve, it doesn't get nearly as busy as Kruger. This is ideal if you want to avoid crowds. The lodges here provide excellent comfort for a mid-range price tag.
8. Tswalu Kalahari Private Reserve
This reserve is located in the far north and is the largest private reserve in South Africa. It's over 1,000 square kilometers, so there's plenty to see.
You can go horse riding across the plains, track black-maned Kalahari lions, spend time with habituated meerkats, and you may even spot a black rhino. Just bear in mind that due to the size of this reserve, it's not ideal for shorter trips. This makes for a far better experience for those looking for longer excursions, and with a good budget, as it's a high-end destination.
Booking Your South African Safari
As you can see, there are plenty of options, which can make booking your South African safari somewhat challenging. There are plenty of national park websites that you can look at to find more detail on each.
If you still need help deciding, the team at Indigo Safaris can help. We have years of experience in organizing all kinds of wildlife adventures. Take a look to see more about why you should book with us today.
Photographer, conservationist, dive and field guide, teller of bad jokes.