Taking a South African safari

South Africa offers incredible diversity, from the cultural cities of Johannesburg and Cape Town to its game-filled national parks. Safaris are the way to see the country’s iconic big game. Discover where to go, when to visit and what to look out for, with our guide to taking a South African safari.
Lionesses at a waterhole in Kruger National Park, South Africa. Photo: Villiers Steyn/Shutterstock
Lionesses at a waterhole in Kruger National Park, South Africa. Photo: Villiers Steyn/Shutterstock

Knowing which type of safari and destination is best for you depends on your level of interest and how much time you can spare. Our local expert in South Africa explains how to get your safari right. 

When should we plan our South African safari and why?

The best time to go on safari in South Africa is from May to September. This period is known as the ‘dry season’ and is also winter in South Africa. Game viewing is particularly good during these months as the wildlife tends to gather around areas where water is most prevalent. Temperatures are mild and there is low humidity which means the risk of malaria is almost non-existent. 

Where would you recommend we make our base?

For your first time on safari in South Africa, I would recommend Kruger National Park or the Sabi Sands Game Reserve, or if you have only limited time, Pilanesberg National Park. In all three of these destinations, you will have an excellent chance of seeing all of the Big 5, as well as huge variety of other fascinating wildlife.

Elephants at Kruger National Park, South Africa. Photo: Eleanor H Hattingh/Shutterstock

Is there a ‘must-try’ dish while we are in this region?

The majority of lodges include breakfast, lunch and dinner, and they tend to focus on typical South African cuisine combined with a range of international flavours. However, one dining experience that you must try is a traditional South African braai. This Afrikaans word refers to an outdoor barbecue or grill, which is a social custom in South Africa. By cooking succulent meats on an open fire, it gives the cuts a distinctively smoky taste which makes them even more delicious.

Is there an ‘unmissable’ experience to have while we’re on safari in South Africa?

An unmissable safari experience is to take a guided bush walk. There is little that compares to discovering wildlife in the bush on foot. A trained game ranger who guides you can also teach you how to track animals' using footprints. Although large and dangerous animals are, of course, avoided on a walking safari, many other species can be viewed safely at ground level, just a few metres away.

Hippos are another must-see on your South African safari. Photo: Fotolia

What is the most impressive species we should look out for while on game drives?

The elusive leopard is definitely one to look out for while on safari. Their camouflage and stealth makes these big cats notoriously difficult to spot, but once you see one in its natural habitat, it is a truly unforgettable sight. Ultimately you need to have luck on your side to see a leopard in the wild, but Sabi Sands is one of the destinations in Africa with the densest population of these striking solitary creatures.

Do you have any additional ‘insider’ tips for taking a South African safari?

Don't forget your camera! You're sure to be planning to take lots of pictures on safari, so ensure you have enough memory on your camera for plenty of shots, and definitely remember to bring your charger.

Wild leopard resting in a tree. Photo: Papa Bravo/Shutterstock

What is the most romantic thing to do while on safari?

A bush dinner is top of the list when it comes to romance on safari. Your table will be set out in the middle of the bush under the stars with attentive waiters catering to your every need, to guarantee a dinner to remember.


Ready to take a South African safari with Insight Guides?

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 personalised to suit your own specific requirements.

Updated 9 April, 2019