There are some pretty incredible game parks around South Africa - and some you probably didn’t know deserve a visit. Here are our 9 favourite game parks off the beaten track.
1. Addo Elephant National Park
1 hour from Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape
Image from Wildlife South Safari
Established to conserve a small enclave of elephants, this Eastern Cape institution is a big-seven park, which also incorporates the evocative Zuurberg section and the immense coastal dunes of the Woody Cape area.
Unmissable: See the big five from the back of a horse on a two-hour trail.
2. Mountain Zebra National Park
12 km from Cradock, Eastern Cape
Image from SouthAfrica.net
This small, underrated park allows visitors to see four of the big five in a relaxed, laid-back manner. The rugged mountain landscapes provide a unique backdrop and, during colder months, some of the peaks may even receive snow. The park is also home to aardvark, blue crane and Denham’s bustard.
Unmissable: Track a cheetah on foot with the help of a guide.
3. Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park
Off the N2, about 250 km north of Durban, KwaZulu-Natal
The terrain in this KZN mega-park is hilly, subtropical and lush. It is particularly well known for rhino (white and black), but it’s actually home to all of the big five. There are two main camps and several private lodges.
Unmissable: Take in the hilltop views.
4. Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
About 250 km north of Upington, Northern Cape
Image from Safari Bookings
Red dunes, imposing camel thorns and dry riverbeds make for an incomparable safari experience. The sparse vegetation also means spotting animals is extremely easy – with lions, leopards and cheetahs all regularly seen roaming about.
Unmissable: Marvel at the legendary black-maned lions.
5. Etosha National Park
About four hours from Windhoek, Namibia
Image from Holiday Bug
Etosha, ‘the great white place’, is named after the enormous salt pan that dominates the park’s terrain, which can even be seen from space. The park has a great concentration of animals, and they are easy to find: just unwind at a watering hole and wait for them to come to you. The park is accessible by regular sedans too.
Unmissable: Watch the action at Okaukuejo Rest Camp’s popular watering hole
6. Mapula Lodge
A 45-minute flight from Maun, Okavango Delta, Botswana
Image from Expert Botswana
The mighty Okavango River empties itself into an enormous basin in the Kalahari Desert, which attracts all creatures great and small like a magnet. Mapula Lodge is all about understated luxury, and rates include both land- and water-based safaris for all.
Unmissable: Explore the Delta in a mokoro.
Four hours from Joburg, on the Botswana border, North West
Image from Sun Safaris
This vast private reserve boasts the big five and a whole lot more to boot, but it still flies under many people’s radars. Plentiful game roams the grassland, woodland and mountains, while 18 private lodges cater for every type of customer and budget.
Unmissable: Spy a wild dog.
8. Londolozi Game Reserve
75 km from Hazyview, Mpumalanga
Image from Londolozi
This incredible game reserve on the Sand River bordering the Kruger National Park has very impressive concentrations of game, as well as beautiful terrain and five luxurious camps. Rates include three scrumptious meals a day, as well as game drives in the morning and evening.
Unmissable: Get up close with the reserve’s famous leopards.
Planning a holiday and need a few more destination ideas to choose from? Read our blog on the 7 affordable family friendly BnBs