Top Luxury Safaris in South Africa You Should Visit
This article originally published in Travelnoire.com South Africa issue April 14, 2019; written by Jean Blackmon https://www.travelnoire.com/luxury-south-african-safaris-you-should-visit
Anytime is the right time to visit South Africa so if you’re planning on visiting soon you have to consider a stay at one of the many luxury private game lodges that dot the areas outside Johannesburg. Many of the best private game lodges are located in or adjacent to Kruger National Park due to the free-roaming, undisturbed and impressive range of wildlife in this region.
Depending on the time of year you visit this captivating country you’re practically guaranteed to see the ‘Big 5’ (Lion, Leopard, Rhino, Elephant and Cape Buffalo). Although, the chance to spot more wildlife increases during the dry season (May –October). You might witness an epic take-down of dinner by a lion, watch hippos sun-bathing in the Oliphant river, stumble upon a herd of elephants grazing on the plains at sunset or experience an elusive leopard sighting. Giraffe, impala, rhinoceros; you are in the wild! Any number of other wildlife may be just up the road.
Amenities at some of the more upscale lodges rival those of the most discriminating 5-star hotels. We’re talking infinity edge pools, full service bars, fitness rooms, spa treatments, wine cellars, and king-sized beds outfitted with billowy white mosquito netting. Did I mention to bring your appetite? Meals are usually taken out on the main deck, dining room or underneath velvet African skies. Be ready to experience delectable and occasionally exotic meals prepared by master chefs. Ever tasted Kudu egg rolls? No worries, there’s something on the menu to please every palate.
On a typical day you’ll go on two game drives, early morning and sunset. The open-top, 4-wheel drive Land Rover will be outfitted with a knowledgeable guide/driver and a highly trained tracker seated out front of the vehicle ready to locate the next animal sighting. You’ll have an early morning coffee stop in the bush and a ‘sundowner’ during the evening game drive. A sumptuous breakfast awaits you upon your return to the lodge. Afterwards you can choose to go on a walking safari, lounge by the pool or hang out in the game hide observing the countless birds and wildlife at the watering hole.
During cooler months (June-August) you’ll most likely be treated to a beautiful candlelit dinner and wine as you dine beneath the serene African skies. As the crackle of wood on the boma warms the cool night you’ll enjoy swapping stories of the day’s game viewing with other lodge guests.
For a first-timer, a two-night, three-day stay is recommended. This should be sufficient to give you an idea whether or not you enjoy the safari experience. Hopefully, it will leave you looking forward to your next visit to the bush.
Nightly rates for safaris can run the full price spectrum - $$ to $$$$$. However, there’s a luxury safari experience for every taste and budget. Check out these budget-friendly, luxury game lodges.
Naledi Bushcamp –Located in the Balule Reserve within Greater Kruger National Park about 6 hours northwest of Johannesburg.
Average cost: $300-400 USD per night, per person sharing accommodations; depending on the room selected and the season. Website: Naledigamelodge.com
If glamping is more your style, Hamiltons Tented Camp-Located in the western region of Kruger National Park, nestled between Sabi Sands and Manyeleti private game reserves; about 5-6 hours outside of Johannesburg.
Average Cost: $500-600 USD per night, per person sharing accommodations; depending on the room selected and the season. Website: Hamiltonstentedcamp.co.za
Aha Makalali Private Game Lodge – Located west of Kruger National Park in Limpopo province. One and ½ hours by plane from OR Tambo airport, Johannesburg to Hoedspruit airport; 5-6 hours by car.
Average Cost: $400-600 USD per night, per person sharing accommodations; depending on the room selected and the season. Website: Aha.co.za/makalali-lodge