“Where’s the best place to go on safari in South Africa” is a common question asked and it can be answered in one of two ways.
The first way is to consider what is the % likelihood of seeing the animals that most people want to see. A good selection of predators or the ‘So-called Big Five’ for example.
I have my own informal pecking order of game reserves (having been in the industry for 20+ years.) There are no guarantees and every reserve will have its quiet days. Just has you will also strike lucky sometimes and have an epic game drive in a less prolific reserve. But the private game reserves adjacent to the Kruger National Park come in at the top of my list – the Sabi Sands followed by the Timbavati, for consistently good sightings of a broad range of wildlife.
But of course that’s only a small part of the story. So lets look at the second way of answering the question…
Your safari has to fit into your overall holiday needs. There may be many reasons why you may not want to stay near the Kruger.
- You don’t want to be in a malaria area
- You don’t want to fly so far if you are mainly holidaying in the Cape
- You don’t want to pay the high prices (though there are some affordable lodges in the Timbavati)
There are loads of good reasons for going on safari in the northern KwaZulu Natal, either instead of, or in addition to, a Kruger safari…
The Northern KwaZulu game lodges include Phinda Game Reserve, Thanda Game Reserve, AmaZulu Game Reserve, Zululand Rhino Reserve and of course Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve which also is open to the public.
All of these offer the Big Five with a good selection of plains game as well. It is much less likely that you’ll see leopard here, but much more likely that you may see cheetah, especially at Phinda. You are virtually guaranteed to see rhino in the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi park!
Reasons to head off on safari in northern KZN
- Very scenic game reserves, totally different from the Kruger
- Easy to combine with a beach stay at either Thonga, Rocktail Beach camp, White Pearl or St Lucia – with easy road transfers on offer
- Excellent for birding
- Above average chance of seeing cheetah
- The game lodges generally offer good value for money. So this means that it’s often possible to fit in two contrasting safari experiences, either one in the Kruger and one in northern KZN, or two within KZN, without the need to pawn Granny’s jewellery.
- Some lodges offer very varied activities so that you can focus on game drives at one lodge, and do a range of other activities at another lodge.
Good examples are Makakatana Bay Lodge in the Isimangaliso wetlands Park (see below) and Ghost Mountain Inn and White Elephant Safari Lodge. The latter two options are close to Lake Jozini so that you can combine game drives with sunset cruises on lake Jozini, canoeing and even a spot of exciting tiger fishing.
Isimangaliso Wetlands Park
Further south is the Isimangaliso park surrounded Lake St Lucia. This park has really blossomed in the last few years. This park doesn’t have lion, and elephant are rarely seen, but it has its own particularly charms. It is exceptionally pretty with Lake St Lucia, the highest vegetated dunes in the world, warm Indian Ocean beaches and vast expanses of open grassland.
You can stay IN the park at Makakatana Bay Lodge or opt to stay more modestly at one of the many guest houses in St Lucia.
(See our blog – Cape Vidal – Bush and Beach in one day – for more info)
Our recommended game lodges in KwaZulu Natal
Excellent Value for Money