The Kruger National Park is one of the most famous game reserves in the world and for good reason. With over 200 miles to explore and an impressive number of animal species to see, it has been a favourite with safari goers since it’s opening in 1898. Both visitors to South Africa and the local population flock to the Kruger National Park throughout the year in the hope of seeing the Big Five amongst many of the other species on offer. However, South Africa is a haven for safaris and there are a huge number of game reserves to discover throughout the country. In fact, it has been reported that there are twenty official national nature reserves that cover around 3% of the South African landscape.
All of these reserves are fantastic and visitors to the country may want to explore the game reserves on offer outside of the Kruger Park. It may be that tourists are not planning on visiting the north of South Africa or don’t have the time needed to spend to experience the Kruger Park fully. Smaller game reserves don’t mean that you have to compromise on quality – there are number of safaris where you can still see the Big Five and experience a true African safari adventure.
Shamwari Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape
Whilst smaller than the Kruger Park and Addo Elephant Park, Shamwari has been voted as one of the world’s leading safaris and game reserves for many years. It is located approximately 75km from Port Elizabeth and has a number of high profile animals, including the Big Five. Shamwari is also extremely environmentally concerned and looks to conserve animals in their natural environment as far as possible. They aim to have visitors merge with the natural environment, putting as little impact on the wildlife as possible. The safari park has a number of luxury lodges for those wanting to stay in the park over night, some of which include relaxation spa treatments. The game reserve also offers guided game walks, guided drives at sunset and sunrise as well as tours of animal rehabilitation centres.
Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park in Kwazulu-Natal
Situated in the hills of Kwazulu-Natal, Hluhluwe–iMfolozi is one of the oldest game reserves in South Africa. One of the fantastic things about this game reserve is that it has extremely diverse scenery. From African savannahs, vast grasslands and beautiful coastlines, the park caters for a huge range of animals. It is another Big Five park, but the park is historically known for its conservation efforts concerning the endangered white rhino. In the right season, safari goers can be taken out to sea to go whale and dolphin spotting or even experience turtles coming to shore to lay their eggs. As the park is located in the heart of Zululand, visitors can also book to experience the Zulu culture first hand. Tours of townships are available, as well as cultural villages that are dubbed ‘living museums’, where safari goers can experience traditional Zulu life.
Aquila Game Reserve in the Western Cape
Visitors to Cape Town are likely to want to experience an African safari; however with the Kruger Park over 2000 miles from the city, this is often out of the question. The Aquila Game Reserve is a good alternative and is only about an hours drive from Cape Town. Marketed as the ultimate African getaway, this game reserve is another Big Five park and boasts four star luxury accommodation. Aside from the Big Five animals, guests can expect to encounter hippo, giraffe and over 170 species of bird. What is special about this park is that visitors can experience their safari on horseback, quad bike or the traditional guided 4x4 tour. There is also golf available and cherry picking in the Aquila valley, making for a truly unique South African safari experience.
These alternatives to the Kruger National Park are great and offer once-in-a-lifetime South African safari experiences. A fantastic range of animals coupled with accommodation with an African vibe, these ‘secret’ safari parks are not to be missed. Whether you choose a safari holiday package or just take a day trip, check out these game reserves for an unforgettable experience.