Top 5 Malaria Free South African Safaris
If you’re looking for a wonderful African safari holiday but the prospect of taking anti-malaria medication fills you with dread, then look no further. With 15 years of experience of guiding all over the South African bush, here’s my top five:-
Phinda Private Game Reserve
Phinda is a 5-Star private reserve set in the beautiful KwaZula-Natal province of South Africa. This 28 555 hectare reserve has six wonderful lodges ranging from the exclusive Rock and Vlei with just 6 villas a piece, the exclusive use Homestead to the more family orientated Mountain Lodge with 25 suites.
The game drives at Phinda are amazing with the reserve being home to the ‘Big 5’ plus the increasingly rare cheetah, which are sighted on a regular basis here. Each Ranger is professionally trained in house at Phinda, whilst your Zulu Tracker will have expert knowledge handed down from generation to generation on animal spoor and behaviour; you will be amazed at how they are able to track the animals whilst driving through the reserve. In addition, he’ll be able to give you a real insight into the customs, history and traditions of the Zulu tribe. One of my absolute favorite sightings of all time was at Phinda, a couple of juvenile lions discovering a land crab and just having no idea what to make of it. This really is a magical place to visit and the memories you create here will last a lifetime.
Madikwe Game Reserve
Madikwe is a slightly different type of reserve in the fact that it’s government owned but privately operated by a number of private lodges ranging from comfortable 3-Star to the luxurious 5-Star offerings, so there is accommodation to fit most pockets. The game drives here are very well managed with off road driving permitted for close up sightings.
I’ve visited the reserve on several occasions and can honestly say I have witnessed some of my most memorable predator sightings at Madikwe, following a pack of wild dog hunting a hare but running straight into a herd of very irritated elephant, an elusive caracal with her young kitten walking right across the front of our vehicle and a brown hyena on a carcass are just a few that instantly spring to mind. Home to the ‘Super Seven’ (lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo, elephant, wild dog & cheetah) there is so much to see here you’ll fail to be disappointed with your safari experience. All that and only a 4 hour drive from Johannesburg!
Shamwari Private Game Reserve
Shamwari is situated on the eastern side of the ‘Garden Route’ and makes a perfect finale to any Cape Town / Winelands / Garden Route trip. This reserve has a total of six very different 5-Star lodges, from the tented Bayethe, family orientated Riverdene to the stunning Eagles Craig Lodge, each with their very own identity.
Shamwari is renowned for its excellent game viewing, photographic opportunities are everywhere. What truly sets this reserve apart is its dedication to conservation, it houses a wildlife rehabilitation centre, with a sole purpose to rehabilitate and return orphaned and injured animals into the wild. It also hosts the ‘Born Free Education Centre’ which is a sanctuary for big cats that have been rescued from captive situations from around the world. Both of these vital projects can be visited whilst staying at Shamwari.
Kwandwe Private Game Reserve
Like Shamwari, Kwandwe is located in the Eastern Cape and is very popular as a highlight to visitors travelling along South Africa’s Garden Route. It offers five different award-winning lodges, each with their own distinct charm. The 22 000 hectare reserve offers the ‘Big 5”, along with cheetah and some of the smaller,
more unusual animals such as the elusive caracal; so you can expect truly memorable experiences here. Guests also get the option of switching one of their twice daily game drives for a big game walk tracking rhino, elephant or buffalo, a fishing safari on the Great Fish River or a night drive to witness some of the African bushes’ nocturnal animals like the aardwolf, aardvark and porcupine, which are regularly seen here.
Thanda Private Game Reserve
Like all of these reserves game viewing is outstanding and with only 6 people to a vehicle here you’ll always have a window seat to view the ‘Big 5’ plus cheetah and hyena that reside on the reserve. However, what my wife and I remember most about Thanda is the unique accommodation on offer here.
You can choose between the Tented Camp, which harks back to South Africa’s past. With no electricity in the rooms, light is provided by lantern, which gives this camp its colonial ambiance, the African bush feels so close here you really could believe that you’ve been transported back into the 1900s. Thanda’s alternative is Safari Lodge, these nine large individual villas are a tribute to the Zulu culture. Each villa has a large bedroom, separate lounge with fire place, indoor/outdoor bathroom, private boma for romantic dining, private plunge pool and sun deck and round day bed overlooking the reserve. My one last comment regarding Thanda are the excellent bush dinners that they organize, I’ve been on many of these offerings over the years, but I can honestly say nobody does it quite as well as Thanda!
So there you have it, my top five malaria free South African safari reserves, all are superb and offer a slightly difference experience.