Safaris Close to Cities in South Africa

Where to go on safaris in South Africa

When planning your trip to Africa, experiencing a safari, and viewing the ‘Big 5’ should absolutely make it into your itinerary. There is nothing like waking up early in the morning, putting on your go-to safari outfit of brown, green and any other neutrals you could find in your closet, having a quick cup of coffee with a rusk, and heading onto a safari vehicle to see both the wildlife and the sun wake up for a new day. 

With so many safari options in the continent, it may be hard to choose what’s best for you, your family and your budget. You may think that going on a safari trip with your loved ones may cost a fortune and will probably be based in Kenya or Tanzania – remote areas that may be a bit more difficult and expensive to reach. Luckily, some of the best safari reserves on the African continent are located in South Africa, and they are all accessible by car or plane. So, whether your South African itinerary is based in Cape Town, Johannesburg or Pretoria, here is a list of our favorite safari destinations in the country.  


From Cape Town


Aquila Private Game Reserve

How to get there: 

Aquila Private Game Reserve is just a two-hours’ drive from Cape Town. Rent a car to drive there or organize a shuttle with the game reserve for day safari or overnight options.

What makes it unique: 

The Big 5 and various other species freely roam this 10,000-hectare conservancy located just two hours outside of Cape Town. Aquila has been commended for its social responsibility, conservation efforts as well as its ability to bring luxurious African hospitality to a local private game reserve. Enjoy either a day or overnight safari experience. The overnight safari experience is hard to beat – with several safaris scheduled, both sunrise and sunset, luxurious buffets for all meals, as well as stunning accommodation options, ranging from chalets to private suites. In addition to the Big 5 and stunning lodging facilities, anyone visiting Aquila has the opportunity to enjoy a tranquil spa experience, an outdoors infinity pool, and a wet bar. 

Besides the go-to safari options of driving around open-air vehicles for 3-4 hours, Aquila Private Game Reserve has several other options to view wildlife and enjoy the landscapes. Choose between horseback riding or quad biking for a unique safari experience. Reach out to us to book a day trip or overnight safari experience. 


Buffelsfontein Game and Nature Reserve

How to get there: 

Situated an hour away from Cape Town in the stunning West Coast, Buffelsfontein Game and Nature Reserve is easily accessible by car.

What makes it unique: 

This family-owned 1600-hectare game reserve is one of the smaller safari options, within one hour of Cape Town. However, this intimate safari experience in the West Coast is home to 4 of the Big 5, thus home to one of the largest selections of wildlife within close distance of Cape Town. Buffelsfontein is also home to the Cheetah, Giraffe, Zebra, Kudu, Eland, Oryx, Blue Wildebeest, Mountain Reedbuck, Red Hartebeest and much more. There is also an exciting addition to your average game drive – guests are able to witness the feeding of carnivores. These feedings occur Mondays – Saturdays and form part of the afternoon full guided game drives.

For accommodation, choose between the rustic bush camp option, self-catering chalets, or luxurious cottages. See their website for more info. 


Gondwana Game Reserve

How to get there: 

Gondwana Game Reserve is a four-hours’ drive away from Cape Town and situated along the Garden Route. Alternatively, the reserve is located 45 minutes away from George airport, with local and regional flights arriving from both Cape Town and Johannesburg daily. 

What makes it unique: 

This piece of 11,000-hectare land has it all – the Big 5, thriving vegetation, rolling landscapes, views of the surrounding Outeniqua Mountains. luxurious accommodation, mountain biking, spa facilities and fun activities for the whole family. 

Gondwana is the only free ranging Big 5 private wildlife reserve in the Southern Cape. Besides the famous Big 5 – you will have the opportunity to see various other animals, such as giraffes, zebra, eland and more. Plus – Gondwana Reserve is home to the rare and endangered black rhinoceros, a first in the Western Cape. Visitors can also enjoy informative fynbos walks with an experienced guide to learn more about the variety of flora and birdlife in the reserve. 

One of the more unique lodging experiences in the game reserve is found in Kwena Lodge, a modern twist on the traditional Khoi-San dwelling, which consists of open-plan suites with 180-degree views, sky lights for stargazing, fireplaces, and deep baths. 3- or 4-bedroom villas are also available for larger groups of families. Visit Gondwana Game Reserve’s website for more information. 


From Johannesburg and Pretoria



Pilanesberg National Park

How to get there: 

The closest airport and major city to Pilanesberg Park is Johannesburg. Visit South Africa’s industrial capital for a few days before taking the three-hour drive to this national park. 

What makes it unique: 

As the fourth largest park in South Africa, Pilanesberg is a malaria-free environment and its diverse ecological environment promises rich, dramatic landscapes as well as thrilling big game safaris. When driving through the national park, keep an eye out for a wide variety of animals, including wildebeest, zebra and impala, especially around the Mankwe Dam region, the largest body of water in the reserve. Adding to the uniqueness of the reserve is the fact that the park itself was built inside a volcano crater, which erupted around 1300 million years ago, and some of its preserved stone age sites show proof of the presence of man.

If you want to stay for a few nights, a variety of accommodation, from budget to luxury, is available to suit your needs. Check out for more information. 


Madikwe Game Reserve

How to get there: 

Situated against the Botswana border close to the Kalahari Desert, there are plenty of options to reach this game reserve. Drive approximately 4.5 hours from two of South Africa’s major cities, Johannesburg and Pretoria, which both have airports to fly into. Alternatively, you can fly into Gaborone airport in Botswana, which is 28 kilometers from Madikwe Game Reserve.

What makes it unique: 

This hidden gem is one of the lesser-known game reserves in the country, which makes it an exciting experience for all animal and nature lovers. Madikwe Game Reserve is currently the fifth largest game reserve and is regarded as one of the best conservation areas in Africa. The park is home to approximately 66 large mammals and roughly 300 bird species. Madikwe is also home to the endangered African Wild Dog, originally introduced into the park with a small pack of six in 1994. Today’s thriving wild dog population is protected by Madikwe’s conservation efforts. 

Choose from a number of luxurious lodges as well as camping lodges in this malaria- free zone. This game reserve is perfect for all occasions, whether you’re spending a holiday with the family or celebrating a honeymoon or other special occasion with a loved one. 

View for more information and availability. 


Kruger National Park

How to get there: 

There are various options to get to Kruger National Park. The most popular option is to arrive into Johannesburg airport and either rent a car or meet your tour guide for the trip. The drive from Johannesburg to Kruger is about 5 hours but be sure to always add extra time for any gas or photo stops. If you have time, take a detour about an hour outside of Kruger and drive the Panorama Route and view amazing vistas at viewpoints, such as Bourke’s Luck Potholes, Three Rondavels, Blyde River Canyon and many more.

What makes it unique: 

We can’t have a list of safari experiences in South Africa without Kruger National Park. Kruger Park is the second largest game reserve in the African continent, located in the northeastern part of South Africa. The Park covers an area of 19,485 square kilometres (7,523 square miles) and spans the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga. Paul Kruger, the president of the Transvaal Republic at the time first proclaimed the national park in 1898 as the Sabie Game Reserve, as a need to protect the animals of the Lowveld.

 Planning a trip to Kruger Park may seem overwhelming but with 19,000 square kilometres to explore, there is little doubt that every adventurer will view majestic wildlife in stunning African landscapes, no matter what part of the park you explore. However, the more popular area of the park to explore is the southernmost region, due to its proximity to Johannesburg and thus its accessibility, as well as the likelihood you would view the Big 5. Kruger National Park allows visitors to self-drive, which could be better if you’re in a budget. However, driving around the Kruger in a traditional open-air safari vehicle with an experienced guide should be on every Travellers bucket list. 

BYO tent-camping as well as self-catering chalets are available on most of the main rest camps located inside the park. Visit the San parks website to see which rest camp offers more than just accommodation, such as pool facilities or restaurants. Besides rustic camping and cottage accommodation, you can also splurge on 5-star lodging inside some of the best private game reserves located alongside the western boundary of Kruger National Park. Enjoy several luxurious lodges, each equipped with unique safari amenities, such as gyms, restaurants, private spa and pool facilities, and unique safari-viewing opportunities. 

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