It can often be difficult to pick the best safari in South Africa, because there are so many options out there.

The best South African safari destinations

A safari can be a life-changing, spirit-revitalising experience – no matter where in Africa one goes. The morning stillness on the savanna, the slow lumbering of an elephant, the sunsets, the drama, the interplay between species, the sounds at night and the smell and crackle of a campfire – these different elements stir something primal and pure within all of us. Yet some destinations in Africa stand out, and South Africa is one of them. 

The Kruger National Park, one of the world’s oldest and most iconic game reserves, plays host to the Big 5 and a plethora of other beautiful species. Most safari visitors will head that way, but there are a whole host of other world-class reserves to also choose from. In Madikwe, Eastern Cape and Zululand there lie a number of parks and reserves with incredible conservation stories, fantastic wildlife sightings and superb lodges. 

Beyond the Big 5, South Africa continues to shine. It’s the diversity of attractions, ultimately, that make it such a wonderful destination and has seen it win over the hearts and minds of so many visitors. From the drama of the pristine coastline to the soaring mountaintops, among the oldest in the world, these are some of the reasons South Africa often tops the list of dream destinations.

What makes a South African safari so special?

World-class lodges

In the 80s, South Africa introduced to the world the concept of the luxury safari lodge. Lodges such as Mala Mala and Londolozi in the Sabi Sand concession of the Kruger National Park introduced elements of sunrise-and-sunset game drives, top-quality in-house chefs, excellent service, stunning architecture and the art of tracking and guiding to create the ultimate safari experience. 40 years later and South Africa’s lodges are still leading the pack in terms of elevated lodge stays and wildlife sightings. 

Saseka Tented Camp, Thornybush Game Reserve

Big 5 sightings

‘You can never control what you’re going to see, they are wild animals and up to their own game of survival,’ is something that every guide has had to explain to their guests. Yet there are some special places in South Africa that all but guarantee certain sightings. The Sabi Sand, for example, is the best place in the world to have up-close and intimate sightings of leopard. Viewings of lion, elephant, rhino and buffalo can also be expected in certain reserves who know the behaviour of their animals well.

Africa’s elite guides and trackers

While looking into the eye of an elephant or seeing a cheetah make a kill on a plain are the types of experiences that you’ll remember forever, there’s a deeper engagement with the bush that visitors get in the hands of a top guide. They’re able to take a step back and explain how each insect, tree, creature and bird fit into the ecosystem and how they interact with each other. It’s this understanding of nature that often resonates deepest and why a quality guide, and South Africa has many, makes such a big difference. 

Destinations to pair with a South African safari

In addition to being such an extraordinary experience, the great thing about a South African safari is the ability to easily add other iconic destinations to your trip.

Cape Town

Many visitors to South Africa will begin their journey in Cape Town, the dazzling entrance to Africa. With its postcard-perfect beaches, iconic Table Mountain, cutting-edge foodie scene, historical tours and vibrant street life.

Garden Route

Home to some of the world’s best drives, the Garden Route is a natural playground of quiet beaches, ancient forests, deep gorges and epic mountains. This string of coastal towns is one of South Africa’s favourite destinations and home to a range of thrilling activities and beautiful places to stay. 

Fairview House, Plettenberg Bay

Cape Winelands

Just an hour from Cape Town, the Winelands region of Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek is one of the world’s most stunning wine destinations. Dramatic mountainscapes soar above vineyards that produce excellent chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Hand-in-hand with this come the best chefs in the land, unique dining experiences, five-star accommodation and scenes that belong in the finest oil painting.

Delaire Graff, Stellenbosch

Start Planning

So, what are you waiting for? Start planning your dream luxury South African safari with Scintilla’s expert travel consultants.

Local Knowledge

Local Knowledge

We’re based in Southern Africa and have first-hand knowledge of the experiences that await our travellers.
Responsible Travel

Responsible Travel

All the experiences and destinations we recommend support their communities and environment.
Boutique Focus

Boutique Focus

Our goal is to connect curious-minded travellers to the essence of the place they’re visiting.
Immersive Experiences

Immersive Experiences

We specialise in showing our travellers how to discover unique, locally-infused experiences.
Exceptional Locations

Exceptional Locations

Our bespoke journeys feature stylish, owner-run properties in exceptional locations.
Bespoke Trips

Bespoke Trips

Our consultants are widely travelled and vastly experienced, with expert knowledge of Southern Africa.