Top 5 malaria free safaris in South Africa

A safari in one of South Africa’s malaria-free reserves is an excellent option for anyone who loves the idea of seeing Africa’s amazing wildlife in its natural environment, but is worried about malaria.

Whilst it is pretty straight forward for most people to take anti-malarial precautions, there are some who prefer to avoid both malarial areas and the anti-malaria drugs. This is especially true for families travelling with young children or those with pre-existing medical conditions.

Fortunately there are some excellent safari destinations in South Africa which offer an authentic luxury safari in a malaria free environment without compromising on the experience.

Madikwe Game Reserve

At over 75,000 hectares, Madikwe is one of the largest of South Africa’s malaria free reserves, and its location near the Botswana border on the edge of the vast Kalahari Desert gives it a truly epic landscape.

This is a wonderful safari destination, and is home 66 species of mammal including the Big 5 of lion, elephant, leopard, rhino and buffalo as well as the rare and endangered wild dog. There are large populations of antelope, zebra, giraffe and other game in the reserve, and around 300 bird species make this a real birders paradise.

Madikwe can be reached by road in about 4 hours from Johannesburg, however the most exciting way to arrive is by plane, landing on an untarred airstrip in the middle of the reserve.

There are many beautiful lodges in the reserve, and all will offer a similar game viewing opportunity with morning and afternoon game drives in open 4×4 vehicles which will take you off in search of the Big 5 and other species. One of the very best lodges in the area is Madikwe Hills, which boasts a spectacular view from its setting on a hill amongst huge boulders and ancient tamboti trees. The lodge has just 10 spacious and luxurious suites, and each has a separate living room as well as a four-poster bed, a beautiful bathroom, and private deck with plunge pool overlooking the reserve. The honeymoon suite is particularly romantic, with a claw-foot bath set outside in a sheltered spot that offers both complete privacy and views across the reserve below.

Kwandwe Game Reserve

Kwandwe is a 2 hour drive north of Port Elizabeth in an area of the Eastern Cape that is well known for its malaria-free game reserves. Whilst some guests will choose to fly into the reserve, Kwandwe’s location means that is very popular with guests following a self-drive itinerary along the Garden Route from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth.

This beautiful 22,000 hectare reserve is home to thousands of animals including lion, black and white rhino, buffalo, leopard and elephant, as well as countless antelope, zebra and other species.

There are just five properties in the Kwandwe reserve: three exclusive use villas which are best suited to families and small groups, and two 5* safari lodges which can cater for couples and families alike.

No matter which lodge you stay at you will be assured of a truly amazing 5* safari experience, with beautiful accommodation, exceptional food, and exciting game drives taken with experienced and knowledgeable guides.

Shamwari Private Game Reserve

Shamwari is located right next to the Addo Elephant National Park, and around an hour’s drive north of Port Elizabeth. This is the longest established of the private reserves in the Eastern Cape, and is well known for its excellent game viewing, luxurious 5* lodges and attentive service.

The lodges in Shamwari offer a wide range of different styles of accommodation, from the sophisticated, contemporary safari experience of Eagles Crag, to a traditional manor house setting at Long Lee Manor, luxury tented suites with private plunge pools at Bayethe and less extravagant tents at the more remote Explorer Camp.

Whilst the 5* lodges at Shamwari focus primarily on morning and evening game drives, Explorer Camp offers a unique walking experience, and is ideal for guests looking for something a little more adventurous. The camp itself reflects the original safari idea of being on foot and sleeping around the fire at night within the comfort of a bush tent. The two-night walking trails are run on Friday and Saturday nights over the summer months with an additional 3rd night available on request.

Welgevonden Private Game Reserve

The 34,000 hectare Welgevonden Private Game Reserve is situated about a 3 hour drive north from Johannesburg, in the Waterberg Plateau, and is completely malaria-free.

Morning and evening game drives set out to explore the reserve’s 430km road network in search of the big 5 and other species such as giraffe, kudu, zebra, warthog and the rare roan antelope.

Mhondoro Safari Lodge in the heart of the reserve and accommodates just 14 guests in a refined safari environment that combines some of the best of African and European design. As well as the beautiful deluxe suites and romantic honeymoon suite, the lodge boasts an executive suite and family suite, each of which can accommodate up to 4 guests making them perfect for families or groups of friends to share. All of the rooms have private decks overlooking the waterhole or over the reserve, and the lodge has a swimming pool which is a popular drinking spot for elephants. Nobody ever forgets the first time they are in a swimming pool and an elephant starts drinking from it!

Marataba

Marataba is a malaria-free 23,000 hectare private concession at the foothills of the Waterberg Mountains and forms part of the Marakele National Park in the Limpopo Province of South Africa. The Marakele National Park is a haven for an impressive variety of wildlife, thanks to its location in the transitional zone between the dry western and wetter eastern regions of South Africa.

Marataba can be reached by road in approximately 3.5 hours from Johannesburg, or alternatively you can fly into a nearby airstrip in under an hour and the lodge will collect you from the airstrip and drive you through the reserve in an open safari vehicle.

There are just two lodges in the Marataba concession: Marataba Safari Lodge offers 15 canvas and stone tented suites which are tastefully furnished with a contemporary twist; and the more remote Marataba Mountain Lodge offers chic, Scandinavian style, glass-fronted wooden suites perched on the side of a mountain overlooking the reserve.

In addition to the two lodges, Marataba also offers a wonderful treehouse experience. Built around a tree at the foot of a rocky escarpment with spectacular views across the reserve, the Thabametsi Treehouse offers the opportunity to enjoy a private dinner in the middle of the bush and then sleep out under the stars in the most spectacular and romantic of settings.

Paul Campbell is a Co-founder and Managing Director at Travel Butlers. Travel Butlers are specialists in tailor-made safari and beach holidays to Africa and the Indian Ocean.

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Comments (3)

  1. Steve Nicholson says:

    Anti-malaria tablets are much improved nowadays. Thirty years ago they used to leave me with a real loss of appetite. As you had to take them before and after your Safari, I could lose half a stone on a safari which may not have been a bad thing.

    Having to take tablets was one of the reasons why we never took the kids on a safari. Nowadays, I would opt for one of these malaria free parks even though the medication is much improved.

  2. Graham says:

    Travel always comes with a few inconveniences so personally I’m not averse to taking a few pills for a few weeks. To put it in context my father is likely to be taking 8 pills a day, at least, for the rest of his life.

    I’ve been itching to go on another Safari now for a few years and this elite collection has only strengthened the lure of South Africa.

  3. Maddie says:

    It’s good to know that there are safari destinations where we can feel safe from Malaria. It’s a constant scare especially to those who will be doing a safari for the first time.

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