Top 6 private game reserves in South Africa

South Africa is known for its spectacular game viewing and outstanding natural beauty. So where better to experience this stunning country, than from one of its finest private game reserves? Discover our local expert's selection of the most special, luxurious reserves on offer
Impala (aepyceros melampus) reflected in waterhole while drinking. Zululand
Impala (aepyceros melampus) reflected in waterhole while drinking. Zululand. Photo: Shutterstock

Lodges in South Africa's private reserves offer luxurious bush-style accommodation to go with the spectacular game-watching, and prices are generally on par with five-star hotels, but then so is the service. In most cases, the wining and dining is world-class, too, with dinner often eaten under the stars in a traditional boma, where guests can swap their tales of the day around the campfire.

One factor that will affect the quality of the experience is whether you are at a lodge that shares traversing rights with neighbouring reserves, or one that has exclusive use of its land – in the latter case, game drives can get a bit like a production line, as guides from different lodges wait in turn to join sightings they have picked up on the radio. The following private game reserves offer visitors a luxury and exclusive stay in truly special settings. 

1. Kapama Game Reserve, Limpopo Province

The expansive Kapama Private Game Reserve offers luxury lodges and stilted tent accommodation, some of which sit spectacularly on the banks of the Klaserie and Kapama rivers. Surrounded by the majestic Drakensberg mountains, the scenery here is sublime. Enjoy a wealth of experiences on Insight Guides' Cape Amazing: Cape Town Explore trip, including boma dining, an elephant-back safari, game drives, bush walks, pampering at the Wellness Centre, romantic reserve sleep-outs, and hot air ballooning.

Elephants in  Addo Elephant National Park.Elephants in Addo Elephant National Park. Photo: Shutterstock

2. Sabi Sand Reserve, Kruger

The legendary Sabi Sand Game Reserve, which abuts the Kruger north of Skukuza and incorporates the iconic lodges of Londolozi, Singita, and Sabi Sabi among others, is an exclusive private game reserve with prices to match. The 65,000 hectare (160,610-acre) -reserve sits in the southwestern section of the Kruger National Park and is a veritable wildlife oasis. Speak to our local experts for South Africa to arrange a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Sabi Sand Reserve today.

3. Mala Mala Game Reserve, Kruger

Catering to those with deep pockets and also for those who are looking for a more tranquil stay, Mala Mala offers the most reliable leopard watching in Africa. Game drives take place in open top 4x4 vehicles with experienced guides who can take you off-road for special sightings. A stay here almost guarantees a Big Five sighting. Sound like your kind of place? Add it to your ultimate South African safari with the help of our local experts.

4. Aquila Game Reserve, The Western Cape

Located in the spectacular Hex River Valley, the bio-diverse habitat at Aquila ensures plenty of variety for the avid wildlife watcher. Home to giraffes, antelopes (blesbok, springbok, gemsbok, klipspringer, duiker, greybuck, and steenbok), black and blue wildebeest, zebras, ostriches, baboons, caracals, foxes, jackals, leopards and 172 species of birds, including the black eagle, you'll be kept busy with sightings all day on Insight Guides' South Africa: Cape Peninsula to Victoria Falls holiday.

Hippo walking into water with ox peckers on his back.Hippo wading into water with an oxpecker on its back. Photo: Shutterstock

5. Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve, Zululand

Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve covers the territory 25km (18 miles) west of St Lucia. Hluhluwe-iMfolozi is the largest of the Zululand reserves and the best place to spot rhinos. It is the second-oldest game reserve in South Africa and an important conservation area. Accommodation options here range from the more basic traditional rondavels to luxury tents with a private chef.

6. Addo Elephant National Park, The Eastern Cape

Known for its elephants, this park also protects the most varied habitats of any South African reserve. You can stay at the Sibuya Game Reserve Estate, the only camp accessed by water along the Kariega River. The park itself offers amazing wildlife viewing and river boat excursions, and there is an abundance of bird life here too. If you are a wildlife lover, this may be just the place for you! 

Ready to take a trip to South Africa?

Our local experts can organise fantastic trips to South Africa for you. To get started, simply get in touch to let us know your ideas for the trip and when you would like to travel. We will then create a tailor-made itinerary especially for you, which can be amended until you are completely happy with every detail before booking. You can browse our existing itineraries for inspiration, and keep in mind that all of our pre-planned itineraries can be fully tailored to suit your own specific requirements.

Cheetah in Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve, South Africa.Two cheetahs walk side-by-side in the Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve, South Africa. Photo: Shutterstock

Updated 11 April, 2017