Kent’s South Africa Safari

July 10, 2019  By: Kent

There are many great safari destinations in South Africa where guests are all but guaranteed sightings of the Big 5 and more. Many first-time visitors to South Africa request Kruger National Park, the most famous park in the country. The game there is great, but the public nature of the main park can be a detraction. Therefore, there are reasons to consider other options, and that’s what I did on my recent visit.

Leopard sighting on safari at Kapama Private Game Reserve, South Africa
Photo courtesy Kapama Private Game Reserve

My first stop was Kapama Game Reserve, a private 32,000-acre reserve that will be connected with Kruger in the future once a long network of fences are brought down between it and a neighboring reserve that borders Kruger. This means that wildlife from Kruger and within the reserve can migrate freely, making a better and more diverse game viewing experience for guests.

The reserve is home to the Big 5, along with many other species. With plentiful game and enthusiastic guides and trackers, you will have a chance to experience the wildlife on game drives and night drives in open vehicles, game walks and more activities.

For accommodations, there are larger hotel-like lodges, cozy traditional safari camps, and exclusive luxurious chalets at Kapama Karula, which are sure to please even the most discerning travelers. A highlight for me on my recent safari was seeing mating leopards just steps from Kapama River Lodge’s extensive spa.

Also in the area are two special places – Camp Jabulani, offering 5-star accommodations, safaris and wildlife interactions with a small herd of rescued elephants, and the Hoedspruite Endangered Species Center (HESP) which cares for abandoned or injured wildlife.

Wild Dogs on safari in Umfolozi Game Reserve, South Africa
Photo courtesy Umfolozi Big Five Game Reserve

Later in my trip, I visited lesser-known Hluhluwe–Umfolozi Game Reserve, the oldest nature reserve in Africa. Located several hours’ drive north of Durban, Hluhluwe–Umfolozi is a scenic, hilly park with a variety of wildlife and a long history of conservation.

Historically, Hluhluwe was part of the Zulus’ royal hunting grounds and the childhood home of its most famous king, Shaka Zulu. More recently, it was host to Operation Rhino, led by Dr. Ian Player, who in the 1960’s found a remnant population of southern white rhinos during a time of intense poaching when the species was thought to have been wiped out. The rhinos were protected and bred so successfully that they were able to reintroduce rhinos all over Africa, bringing them back from the brink of extinction.

More recently, Hluhluwe has had the largest population of white rhino in the world, and although they have experienced some poaching issues in recent years, it’s still a great place to see these ancient beasts. And while the other game in the area proved difficult to find on my last safari, it was a very pleasant nature area to experience.

Mantis Mthembu Lodge, South Africa
Photo courtesy Mthembu Lodge

During my visit, I stayed at two new lodges in the area, Biyela and Mthembu, high end offerings with large chalets, great food and excellent guides. The lodges represent a development between the private sector and local communities and I had the pleasure of meeting the local chief on our visit. Plans include building more lodges with other local tribes.

I always enjoy visiting South Africa on safari, and this trip was no exception. There is something for everyone!

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