Choosing the best region for your private safari is an important decision - and there are more choices than most travellers realise. To help you, we've rounded up a short summary of what each area offers, and our consultants are on hand when you need personal recommendations and a hand to take care of all your travel details.
Here’s Portfolio’s quick guide to the main private safari regions in southern Africa
The private reserves of the Sabi Sands, Manyeleti, Timbavati and Klaserie border the Kruger National Park, and there are no fences so the game roams free between them all. This area makes for a great first safari because you’re almost guaranteed to see the Big 5 (lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo & elephant). As animals are habituated to vehicles, you’ll get very close for great photos. Private concessions within the Kruger Park offer a similar experience.
When to go: Winter's mild with less vegetation making for easier game viewing. Summer's hot and and the rainy season, but the landscape is beautifully green and birding is better with the summer migrant birds.
How to get there: Flying in is easy via Kruger Mpumalanga International and Skukuza airports - Airlink even offer scheduled small plane links to the camps in the Sabi Sand. Charters are available into other reserves. Alternatively, do the 5-6 hour drive from Joburg which goes via the spectacular Panorama Route.
Animal highlight: Leopard (particularly in the Sabi Sands)
Best for: Close up viewing and photographing of animals in the private reserves here vehicles are allowed to drive off-road, and luxurious lodges.
This large Big 5 reserve is on the more arid side of South Africa (bordering Botswana), with wide open plains that allow you to see animals from further away. Game sightings here can be very good, with a wide range of species and big herds of elephants. It's especially popular with families as it's malaria free year-round.
When to go: Hot in summer, chilly nights in winter, but generally clear skies.
How to get there: Scheduled flights and charters from Johannesburg's airports, or take the 3-4 hour drive from Joburg.
Animal highlight: Wild dog were successfully reintroduced to the reserve, and it's become famed for sightings of these pack animals with their complex hierarchies and interactions.
Best for: Families travelling with children will love this malaria-free area and there are some great child-friendly lodges.
3. Eastern Cape
Addo Elephant Park and the surrounding private reserves are popular for their location at the opposite end of the Garden Route to Cape Town, and because they’re malaria free. Each reserve is separate, which limits the sizes of animal herds, and dense bush can make sightings difficult - so you'll appreciate the private safari experience with a ranger who knows where to look. Further inland in the arid Karoo, Samara has wide open plains for excellent sightings.
When to go: A mild climate year-round although can be cold in winter.
How to get there: Fly in Port Elizabeth or self-drive via the Garden Route.
Animal highlight: The friendly elephants of Addo, and cheetah at Samara.
Best for: Families and those looking to combine a safari experience with a trip down the Garden Route will find the safaris in this area convenient to access.
Conveniently located from Johannesburg and Pretoria, and malaria free option, the Waterberg is a scenically beautiful region combining mountains, plains and perennial rivers. Welgevonden Private Game Reserve and Marakele National Park have the Big 5, but smaller reserves may not have all.
When to go: Pleasant climate of warm summers with refreshing afternoon thunderstorms and mild, dry winters although chilly at night.
How to get there: The easiest safari destination to drive to from Joburg - under 3 hours on great roads (until the very last stretch which may be on dirt).
Animal highlight: Rhino are plentiful in the Waterberg, and easy to spot.
Best for: It's close proximity to Johannesburg makes this area easy to access, the lodges in this area are generally well prices too.
Many provincial and private parks make up this area of astounding diversity, with forests of ghostly fever trees, plains, estuaries, waterways and mountains.
When to go: Hot in summer, warm and mild in winter with less foliage making sightings easier.
How to get there: Located between the South African War battlefields, Swaziland and beaches, this is a good area to take time to self-drive and combine several destinations in one trip.
Animal highlight: Black and white rhino (which were brought back from extinction at Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park).
Best for: The diverse ecosystems allow for game drives, boat-based safari and walking on protected beaches all in one region.
Considered by many to be the holy grail of safari, the world’s largest inland delta offers astounding wildlife and birding, viewed from the water or on land. Having travelled all the way there, you may want to visit more than one camp, or combine with the drier Chobe (see below).
When to go: The waters in the Delta arrive when the rains stop. The water trickles down from the Angolan highlands and gives life to the dry land. The winter months of June and July are the best time to visit as the delta is full of water and provides amazing game viewing and water based activities.
How to get there: You’ll need to fly to Maun and then arrange a charter a plane to your camp (our reservations team can help with that).
Animal highlight: Big 5 and huge variety of birds
Best for: The gorgeous views over the Delta as your fly into your lodge and cruising the waterways in a "mokoro" (dug-out canoe)
This national park in northern Botswana is famed for elephants, and the wild feeling - it's part of vast ecosystem far from cities and much human habitation. It combines well with the Okavango Delta and Victoria Falls.
When to go: Very hot in summer, but mild, dry winters make for excellent game viewing as the wildlife congregates around the main rivers.
How to get there: Charter flights are the best way to get around. Victoria Falls has a new airport which makes for easy access into the region.
Animal highlight: Home to the largest concentration of elephants in the southern hemisphere.
Best for: Combining safari with Victoria Falls as they are only 1.5 hours apart. Elephants, elephants everywhere!
To ensure you get to experience every kind of safari experience you may just wish to plan a trip to more than one area, or maybe you're prefer to plan another trip for a different sort of safari experience? Once you’ve been to all these listed above, there are even more to explore.
Contact one of our experienced travel planners who will help you to plan a personalised itinerary for the African safari holiday of your dreams at email@example.com