Four South African Parks in the Top 10 Best Safari Parks of Africa

Category: Other
- 16 Jun 2015

No less than 4 South African parks have been awarded a top 10 position in the definitive list of Africa’s best safari parks. MalaMala, Sabi Sands, Phinda and Kgalagadi all received a top 10 ranking. No other safari country has so many parks in the top 10. An excellent result for South Africa.

SafariBookings.com has published the list of Africa’s best safari parks. The list was based on 3,008 park reviews that were collected via the SafariBookings website. Of this total, 2,234 reviews were contributed by safari tourists from more than 60 nationalities. To complement these user reviews, reputable guidebook authors (working for Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, Frommer’s, Bradt and Footprint) teamed up in the SafariBookings Expert Panel and wrote another 774 expert reviews.

With a rating of 4.81 stars out of 5, MalaMala Game Reserve ranked second of all parks, topped only by Serengeti National Park. Sabi Sands was awarded the 6th position, Phinda Game Reseve ranked 7th, and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park 9th. Kruger ranked 20th, which came as a surprise to the SafariBookings team. They expected this top-class park to rank higher.

Why are these 4 parks such great safari destinations?

  • MalaMala, Sabi Sands and Phinda are all top-class private game reserves. Besides excellent accommodation, food and guiding, these reserves offer superb wildlife viewing with almost guaranteed sightings of the Big Five.
  • Kgalagadi is one of the most rewarding destinations for self-drive visitors; it is off-the-beaten-track with great wilderness appeal and excellent wildlife viewing.
  • Kgalagadi’s scenery is stunning; the red sand dunes in the inhospitable desert form a magnificent backdrop for wildlife viewing and photography.
  • The three private reserves offer night drives, walking safaris, and the off-road driving allows close wildlife encounters.
  • Phinda is arguably the best place in Africa to see Cheetahs.
  • MalaMala and Sabi Sands share an unfenced border with Kruger National Park and are part of this enormous eco-system.
  • MalaMala doesn’t offer traversing rights to guests from other properties, making it very exclusive and not crowded.

The top 50 safari parks

  • Serengeti National Park   Tanzania Tanzania

    4.89/5
    Classic safari, Big 5 present (rhino rare), many big cats, wildebeest migration
    Ranks #1 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Mala Mala Game Reserve   South Africa South Africa

    4.81/5
    Classic safari, private reserve, abundant wildlife- including the Big 5
    Ranks #2 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Okavango Delta   Botswana Botswana

    4.75/5
    Canoe, boat and classic safari, waterway paradise, Big 5 (rhino in Moremi)
    Ranks #3 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Mana Pools National Park   Zimbabwe Zimbabwe

    4.75/5
    Walking, canoe and classic safaris, 4 of the Big 5 and wild dogs present, no rhino
    Ranks #4 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Moremi Game Reserve   Botswana Botswana

    4.66/5
    Classic safari, Big 5 present (rhino rare), partly located in the Okavango Delta
    Ranks #5 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Sabi Sand Game Reserve   South Africa South Africa

    4.64/5
    Area consisting of multiple private reserves, excellent Big 5 wildlife viewing
    Ranks #6 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Phinda Game Reserve   South Africa South Africa

    4.63/5
    Classic safari, private reserve, abundant wildlife- including the Big 5
    Ranks #7 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Masai Mara National Reserve   Kenya Kenya

    4.60/5
    Classic safari, Big 5 present (rhino rare), many big cats, wildebeest migration
    Ranks #8 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park   South Africa South Africa

    4.59/5
    Classic safari, transfrontier park with Botswana, all big cats present
    Ranks #9 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Ruaha National Park   Tanzania Tanzania

    4.56/5
    Walking and classic safari, 4 of the Big 5 (no rhino), cheetah and wild dogs
    Ranks #10 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • South Luangwa National Park   Zambia Zambia

    4.56/5
    Walking and classic safari, giraffe, 4 of the Big 5 (no rhino), abundant wildlife
    Ranks #11 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Ngorongoro Crater   Tanzania Tanzania

    4.52/5
    Classic safari, abundant wildlife in the volcanic crater includes the Big 5
    Ranks #12 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Selous Game Reserve   Tanzania Tanzania

    4.48/5
    Walking, boat and classic safari, Big 5 present, healthy population of wild dogs
    Ranks #13 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Kidepo Valley National Park   Uganda Uganda

    4.45/5
    Classic safari, giraffe, cheetah, antelope species, 4 of the Big 5 (no rhino)
    Ranks #14 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Chobe National Park   Botswana Botswana

    4.45/5
    Boat and classic safari, Big 5 present (rhino very rare), abundant elephants
    Ranks #15 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Ol Pejeta Conservancy   Kenya Kenya

    4.45/5
    Classic safari, private reserve, Big 5 and chimpanzee sanctuary present
    Ranks #16 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Etosha National Park   Namibia Namibia

    4.45/5
    Classic safari, 4 of the Big 5 (no buffalo), excellent wildlife viewing during the dry season
    Ranks #17 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Linyanti Concession   Botswana Botswana

    4.44/5
    Classic safari, private reserve, 4 of the Big 5 (no rhino)
    Ranks #18 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Hwange National Park   Zimbabwe Zimbabwe

    4.44/5
    Classic safari, abundance of all major safari animals- including the Big 5
    Ranks #19 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Kruger National Park   South Africa South Africa

    4.43/5
    Classic safari, great abundance of all major safari animals- including the Big 5
    Ranks #20 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Lower Zambezi National Park   Zambia Zambia

    4.40/5
    Canoe and classic safari, 4 of the Big 5 (no rhino), no giraffe
    Ranks #21 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Katavi National Park   Tanzania Tanzania

    4.35/5
    Classic safari, 4 of the Big 5 (no rhino), abundant wildlife in the dry season
    Ranks #22 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Matusadona National Park   Zimbabwe Zimbabwe

    4.35/5
    Walking, boat and classic safari, Big 5 present, many elephant, no giraffe
    Ranks #23 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Timbavati Nature Reserve   South Africa South Africa

    4.33/5
    Classic safari, private reserve, Big 5 present
    Ranks #24 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Samburu National Reserve   Kenya Kenya

    4.33/5
    Classic safari, 4 of Big 5 (no rhino), adjoining Buffalo Springs without fences
    Ranks #25 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Tsavo West National Park   Kenya Kenya

    4.31/5
    Classic safari, adjacent to Tsavo East, Big 5 present, low wildlife density
    Ranks #26 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Madikwe Game Reserve   South Africa South Africa

    4.28/5
    Classic safari, private reserve, Big 5 present
    Ranks #27 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Amboseli National Park   Kenya Kenya

    4.26/5
    Classic safari, Big 5 present, famous for its views of Mount Kilimanjaro
    Ranks #28 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Kafue National Park   Zambia Zambia

    4.26/5
    Walking, boat and classic safari, cheetah, 4 of the Big 5 (no rhino), no giraffe
    Ranks #29 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Tembe Elephant Park   South Africa South Africa

    4.25/5
    Classic safari, the Big 5 is present, famous for its big tuskers
    Ranks #30 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Tsavo East National Park   Kenya Kenya

    4.25/5
    Classic safari, adjacent to Tsavo West, Big 5 present, low wildlife density
    Ranks #31 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • North Luangwa National Park   Zambia Zambia

    4.21/5
    Walking safari only, Big 5 present (rhino in protected zone), no giraffe
    Ranks #32 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Central Kalahari Game Reserve   Botswana Botswana

    4.20/5
    Classic safari, wildlife scarce except after summer rains, all big cats present
    Ranks #33 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Queen Elizabeth National Park   Uganda Uganda

    4.19/5
    Boat and classic safari, abundant wildlife, 4 of the Big 5 (no rhino), no giraffe
    Ranks #34 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Shamwari Game Reserve   South Africa South Africa

    4.17/5
    Classic safari, private reserve, Big 5 present
    Ranks #35 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve   South Africa South Africa

    4.16/5
    Classic safari, Big 5 present, famous for its rhino population
    Ranks #36 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Lewa Wildlife Conservancy   Kenya Kenya

    4.15/5
    Classic safari, private reserve, Big 5 present
    Ranks #37 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Meru National Park   Kenya Kenya

    4.15/5
    Classic safari, 4 of the Big 5 present (rhino in fenced sanctuary)
    Ranks #38 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Murchison Falls National Park   Uganda Uganda

    4.11/5
    Boat and classic safari, waterfall, abundant wildlife, 4 of the Big 5 (no rhino)
    Ranks #39 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Kapama Game Reserve   South Africa South Africa

    4.08/5
    Classic safari, private reserve, Big 5 present
    Ranks #40 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Gonarezhou National Park   Zimbabwe Zimbabwe

    4.08/5
    Classic safari, Big 5 and cheetah present, rhino rare and animals are skittish
    Ranks #41 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Tarangire National Park   Tanzania Tanzania

    4.05/5
    Classic safari, 4 of the Big 5 (no rhino), abundant wildlife in the dry season
    Ranks #42 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Makgadikgadi Pans National Park   Botswana Botswana

    4.04/5
    Classic safari, wildlife scarce outside wet season, Big 5 present (rhino rare)
    Ranks #43 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Nxai Pan National Park   Botswana Botswana

    4.00/5
    Classic safari, wildlife scarce outside wet season, Big 5 present (rhino rare)
    Ranks #44 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Mkhuze Game Reserve   South Africa South Africa

    3.92/5
    Classic safari, Big 5 present, wild dog present but rare
    Ranks #45 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Lake Nakuru National Park   Kenya Kenya

    3.90/5
    Classic safari, Big 5 present, famous for its flamingos
    Ranks #46 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Pilanesberg Game Reserve   South Africa South Africa

    3.87/5
    Classic safari, Big 5 present
    Ranks #47 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Addo Elephant National Park   South Africa South Africa

    3.86/5
    Classic safari, Big 5 present, but only elephants are regularly seen
    Ranks #48 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Mapungubwe National Park   South Africa South Africa

    3.85/5
    Classic safari, 4 of the Big 5 and cheetah, no buffalo, lion and rhino are rare
    Ranks #49 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

  • Matobo National Park   Zimbabwe Zimbabwe

    3.85/5
    Classic safari, rhino, leopard, cheetah, giraffe and antelope species present
    Ranks #50 of Africa’s top 50 safari parks

What do experts say about these 4 parks

  • James Bainbridge From United KingdomUK – Senior author of the Lonely Planet to South Africa.

    Rating:

    5/5 stars

    “Kgalagadi is one of Africa’s most incredible wildlife parks, and one of the world’s most pristine wildernesses. The arid landscape is stunning: red dunes ripple away to the horizon, dotted with thorny acacia trees.” Full review

  • Philip Briggs From South AfricaZA – Author of 7 Bradt guidebooks to Africa, incl. South Africa.

    Rating:

    5/5 stars

    “My favourite wildlife destination in South Africa, legendary MalaMala pioneered the modern private reserve experience when it opened its gates to paying clients in the 1960s, and for many years it was the ultimate safari destination for the rich and famous.” Full review

  • Melissa Shales From United KingdomUK – Award winning writer for Fodors, Frommers and Insight.

    Rating:

    5/5 stars

    “Sabi Sand Reserve is in effect a private extension of the vast Kruger National Park. It also probably represents the greatest cluster of unadulterated safari luxury on the planet, surpassing even the Masai Mara.” Full review

  • Stephen Cunliffe From South AfricaZA – Acclaimed travel writer and avid conservationist.

    Rating:

    5/5 stars

    “Phinda Private Game Reserve is the setting for one of South Africa’s finest wildlife-viewing experiences. What the reserve lacks in terms of wilderness appeal is ably compensated for by its abundant animal sightings and quality nature-guiding experience.” Full review

What do safari tourists say about these 4 parks

  • TheWanderingAmerican From United StatesUS – 35-50 years of age – Experience level: 2-5 safaris

    Rating:

    5/5 stars

    “Mala Mala is an absolutely amazing safari destination. Having done a more rustic camping safari in the past, I was blown away by the comfort and amenities (wifi, a/c, lack of insects, etc.) of the Mala Mala camp so deep in the bush.” Full review

  • rpgold From CanadaCA – 35-50 years of age – Experience level: 2-5 safaris

    Rating:

    5/5 stars

    “The accommodations in Phinda were very luxurious and very comfortable. We were very happy with the game drives taken and enjoyed abundant wildlife sightings. Although a private reserve, it is still large enough with varied terrain to avoid redundancy when staying multiple nights.” Full review

  • Bird Brian From United KingdomUK – 65 years of age or older – Experience level: over 5 safaris

    Rating:

    5/5 stars

    “Kgalagadi is one of South Africa’s top parks. Not only are there vast herds of grazers, there are a large number of predators. One would be unlucky not to see one of lion, cheetah or leopard on a visit. It is a large park, with a wide variety of camps and accommodations, of high quality.” Full review

  • Kimmy From United KingdomUK – 50-65 years of age – Experience level: first safari

    Rating:

    5/5 stars

    “What an amazing time we had in Sabi Sands. We did not expect to see so many beautiful animals so close up. We loved the off-roading too; tracking cheetahs, leopards and lions. The river beds were dry and we enjoyed our morning bush mix stops there with the vervet monkeys and baboons.” Full review

Demographics of the reviewers (all parks)

User reviews: 2,234
Expert reviews: 774
Nationalities: 63

Percentage of reviews by country
All user reviews. Move your cursor over a country to get the number

Age and gender (Percentage)
All people who wrote user reviews. Move your cursor over the chart for more details

Safari Experience Level (Percentage)
All people who wrote user reviews. Move your cursor over the chart for more details

 



  • Jeroen Beekwilder
  • Contributed by From Netherlands NL
    Jeroen is co-owner of SafariBookings.com. His desire to feel connected powers his love of travel. He has traveled all over the world with his wife and two children. But he will always remember his first African safari with his family in Tanzania. The thundering hooves of the wildebeest migration over the endless plains helped to develop a passion for Africa which never left.
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