There are so many great reasons to take a safari in South Africa, not least of which is that the game reserves here are malaria-free. This is perfect if you’re travelling as a family with young kids or want to skip the hassle of taking anti-malarial medication. Here’s our roundup of the top 8 malaria-free game reserves in South Africa…
1. Marakele National Park
Set in the Waterberg, Marakele National Park is a Biosphere Reserve in South Africa. You can self-drive here and accommodation options are numerous, from camping and self-catering lodges to upmarket private game reserve lodges. Marakele offers spectacular scenery featuring vast red cliffs and grassy valleys. This national park is split into two sections. The first section has easy to navigate gravel roads and it’s likely you’ll be able to spot white rhinos here. The second section is a bit more rugged and features access control by means of a gate. A highlight is taking a drive to the mountain-top viewpoint where you’ll be able to see endangered Cape vultures cruising the thermals.
2. Mount Camdeboo Private Game Reserve
Set at the foot of the Sneeuberg Mountain Range a 3-hour drive inland from Port Elizabeth is Mount Camdeboo Private Game Reserve. This reserve in the malaria-free Karoo features white rhino, buffalo, cheetah and the rare mountain zebra. There are also plans to introduce elephants and lions to the reserve in the near future. Accommodation in Mount Camdeboo is spectacular and features three perfectly restored gabled manor houses and two luxury safari tents. Beyond game drives and bush walks you can also look forward to cheetah tracking, stargazing and scenic helicopter flights. If you’re pushed for time, skip the drive and fly into the reserve via the Graaff-Reinet airstrip.
3. Pilanesberg National Park
Just a 2-hour drive from Johannesburg and set in an ancient volcanic crater, you’ll find Pilanesberg National Park. You’ll easily be able to spot three of the Big 5 (white rhino, buffalo and elephants) but there are also lions and leopards, although they’ll be a bit tougher to see. Pilanesberg is an excellent bird watching destination, featuring 350 species which you’ll be able to spot from a number of hides. Apart from a variety of lodges, the park offers many self-catering options and you can opt to self-drive if you’re not taking any of the guided game drives.
4. Kwande Game Reserve
Kwande Game Reserve, situated in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province, in one of the country’s newest malaria-free private safari parks. While it used to be farmland, it has now been restocked with wildlife and features 22,000 hectares of stunning hills and valleys on both sides of the Great Fish River. Accommodation includes four luxury lodges, two catering to families and the other two suited to couples looking for a romantic getaway. As far as wildlife goes, you’ll be able to see the Big 5 here and even cheetahs and black rhino. Only a 2-hour drive from Port Elizabeth, Kwande is a good choice if you’re looking to combine an authentic safari with a Garden Route holiday.
5. Tswalu Kalahari Private Game Reserve
Situated in the southern Kalahari region, this vast and pristine wilderness area is South Africa’s largest malaria-free private game reserve. Well known for its spectacular and rare wildlife, you’ll easily be able to spot black-maned lions, African wild dogs, a large population of habituated meerkats and even aardvark and pangolins in the winter months. Tswalu provides a world-class authentic safari experience. You’ll have your own game vehicle, tracker and guide and can look forward to activities like horse riding and walking safaris. Your five-star safari encounter here will also include wine tastings, dune picnics, luxury spa treatments and champagne breakfasts.
6. Samara Private Game Reserve
The main lodge at this Eastern Cape private game reserve is the gorgeous old Karoo farmhouse, Manor House, surrounded by spectacular scenery. One of the first reserves to introduce cheetah tracking on foot (by radio aerial), your Samara guide will get you discreetly ear to these big cats for awesome photo opportunities set against the gorgeous backdrop of the Karoo. If you visit in the winter months, it’s highly likely you’ll also get to spot aardvarks, one of Africa’s strangest and elusive mammals.
7. Shamwari Game Reserve
This popular game reserve in the Eastern Cape offers visitors the chance to mix an authentic safari in South Africa with sumptuous accommodation, featuring six luxury lodges, two of them catering specifically for families. About an hour’s drive from Port Elizabeth airport, this privately owned and family-run malaria-free game reserve features excellent wildlife viewing and world-class guides. You’ll be able to spot the Big 5 (as always, leopard sightings are a bit tough) as well as learn about Shamwari’s impressive conservation projects at their Born Free Big Cat Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre and Rhino Education Centre.
8. Madikwe Game Reserve
This state-owned but privately run game reserve offers consistent wildlife viewing and the terrain of classic bushveld ensures an authentic Big 5 safari experience. While there aren’t any self-drive safaris or independent accommodation available, you’ll love staying in one of the all inclusive lodges. Beyond the regular game drives, Madikwe guides will venture off-road with you for the chance to get closer to the wildlife. You’ll also have the opportunity to head out on night drives and walking safaris, exciting experiences that add to the thrill of being on safari in Africa. Madikwe features a number of upmarket lodges, some of which cater to families travelling with children. The reserve is a four-hour drive from Johannesburg but, if time is tight, you can charter a flight to this amazing destination.