South Africa’s best kept safari secrets

South Africa is renowned for its remarkable safari experiences, with people from all around the world travelling miles and miles to spend a night or two at one of the country’s superb game reserves. There are many firm favourites, names recognised across the globe for their incredible accommodation and service that have yet to disappoint even the most discerning traveller. But South Africa is also home to a number of hidden gems. These gems are the lesser-known safari destinations, where a quiet, intimate stay away from the crowds is guaranteed.

We’ve put together a list of South Africa’s best kept safari secrets, where you can enjoy total peace and quiet during your luxury bush getaway.

Dwyka Tented Lodge, Sanbona Private Game Reserve

Sanbona is a game reserve in the Western Cape situated a three-hour scenic drive from Cape Town. Set at the foot of the Warmwaterberg Mountains, Sanbona Game Reserve covers over 58,000 hectares of protected Karoo plains, open bushveld, and indigenous flora and fauna.

Surrounded by striking rock formations, Dwyka Tented Lodge offers accommodation in nine luxury tented suites set in a horseshoe bend of a dry ravine. Each of the tents sleeps two adults in either twin- or king-beds, and is equipped with an en-suite bathroom, outdoor shower, and a private deck with heated spa bath. Dwyka Tented Lodge also features a Relaxation Retreat, where guests can indulge in relaxing treatments overlooking a beautifully vast and weathered landscape.

Lentaba Safari Lodge, Lalibela Private Game Reserve

Situated in the malaria-free province of the Eastern Cape, Lalibela Game Reserve is conveniently located just an hour’s drive from Port Elizabeth. The 9,000-hectare reserve spans five unique ecosystems, resulting in an incredible assortment of wildlife and plant species.

Lentaba Safari Lodge is nestled on a quiet hillside, accommodating 20 adults in ten secluded, thatched chalets. Overlooking the sprawling valley below, each chalet features an en-suite bathroom and private viewing deck. The lodge has recently been renovated, boasting newly decorated rooms with a modern African theme. Guests can look forward to lazing by the swimming pool, enjoying meals in the outdoor boma, and watching wildlife come and go at the nearby waterhole.

Jaci’s Tree Lodge, Madikwe Private Game Reserve

Madikwe is one of the largest game reserves in the country, covering more than 75,000 hectares of pristine wilderness. The reserve is renowned for its abundant wildlife and diversity of habitats, from perennial rivers and striking mountains to vast plains, dense woodlands and steep cliffs.

At Jacis’ Tree Lodge, accommodation consists of eight custom-built treehouses that float high above the ground, overlooking the lush foliage and flowing Marico River. The treehouses are raised on wooden stilts and connected by elevated walkways, and come equipped with an en-suite bathroom, outdoor shower and private viewing deck. Enthusiastic shutterbugs can take pleasure in Jaci’s Photographic Safari programme, as well as the underground Terrapin Hide.

Nkorho Bush Lodge, Sabi Sands Game Reserve

The 65,0000-hectare Sabi Sands is one of the most revered game reserves in South Africa, home to an astonishing array of wildlife. Situated adjacent to Kruger National Park, there are no borders between these two reserves, allowing wildlife to roam freely in a massive natural environment.

Nkorho Bush Lodge promises a classical safari experience paired with stylish modesty, with accommodation in six stunning chalets. Each chalet comprises an en-suite bathroom, outdoor shower and private wooden deck. The lodge is situated in an area exceptionally rich in game, and as such guests can expect the most phenomenal animal sightings during game drives. Other things to look forward to include outdoor dining and relaxing days spent at the rock pool.

The Outpost, Kruger National Park

Sprawling over nearly two-million hectares of unrivalled wilderness, Kruger National Park is one of the most esteemed wildlife parks in Africa. The world-renowned national park fuses historical, archaeological and natural sights for a truly unique safari experience.

The Outpost lies in a vast and remote area of Kruger National Park, resting high on a hilltop and overlooking the Luvuvhu River Valley. The lodge offers contemporary style accommodation in 12 stand-alone luxury rooms, each fully immersed in the bushveld and equipped with an en-suite bathroom and wraparound deck. The Outpost is a birdwatcher’s paradise, with a prolific year-round birdlife of more than 350 species, which can be observed during a guided walk through the bush.

Mhondoro Game Lodge, Welgevonden Game Reserve

Welgevonden is a 38,000-hectare game reserve that forms part of the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve in the Limpopo province. Boasting mountainous terrains, deep valleys and cliffs, grassy plains and flowing rivers, Welgevonden is home to a diversity of habitats for a wide range of wildlife.

The newly rebuilt and refurbished Mhondoro Game Lodge presents a tasteful mix of African chic and contemporary design. The lodge accommodates guests in six different suites, ranging from a honeymoon suite to a family room and private villa. Mhondoro’s underground waterhole – connected to the main lodge via a tunnel – offers the most incredible opportunities to observe and photograph the local wildlife up-close in a safe environment.

Forest Lodge, Phinda Game Reserve

Encompassing more than 28,000 hectares of protected land in KwaZulu Natal, Phinda is noted for its abundant wildlife and great variety of safari activities. The reserve contains seven distinct ecosystems, and thanks to its coastal rainfall pattern, enjoys a year-round lush, green environment.

Forest Lodge boasts a magnificent location in a rare and beautiful sand forest, surrounded by towering trees and dense greenery under a canopy of leaves. The 16 glass-fronted suites afford sweeping views over the forest floor, and come complete with an en-suite bathroom and deck area. Guests can look forward to cooling down in the rim-flow swimming pool, relaxing in-room massage treatments, and a Wild Child Programme for young kids.

Colin Dilland is Owner and Managing Director of East Cape Tours and Safaris.

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Comments (4)

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  1. Will says:

    Those tented lodges in Sanbona are really striking and unusual, but only a three hour drive from Cape Town makes them quite accessible. I’d never heard of it before, or any of the other places to stay in this article, so I’ve definitely got some places to look into now. Wildlife holidays are what I’m focused on at the moment.

  2. Glad we’ve given you some new places to check out, Will! Sanbona is one of our favourites, because it’s so accessible and fits in perfectly with a trip to Cape Town.

  3. Anna says:

    As someone who really cannot handle crowds, especially in foreign countries, posts like this are so helpful. I am more than willing to pay extra money just to visit and stay in places that are slightly less populated, but still beautiful nonetheless. All of these places look absolutely perfect, the Mhondoro Game Lodge but even be TOO secluded!

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