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South Africa Luxury Safari Tours

South Africa's luxury safari tours take in some of the highlights of what is arguably the continent’s most diverse and developed tourist circuit. A trip might include the impressive cities of Cape Town and Stellenbosch, the fossil sites of the Cradle of Humankind, the ancient rock art of the Drakensberg Mountains and the spring flowers of Namaqualand. The country’s 2,700km / 1,680mi coastline is varied and scenic. As if that were not enough, South Africa is also a fabulous wildlife-viewing destination – from the vast Big Five country protected within the Greater Kruger, malaria-free Madikwe and Pilanesberg and the desert landscapes of Kgalagadi to the seasonal whale-calving grounds below Hermanus.

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1-20 of 170 luxury tours, packages and holidays to South Africa

6 Questions About South Africa Luxury Safari Tours


6 Questions About South Africa Luxury Safari Tours

Answered by Philip Briggs

Why should I choose South Africa?

“South Africa has many private reserves and concession lodges that cater specifically to the luxury market. All the Big Five are present in good numbers in the major private reserves. On luxury safaris, game drives and walks are generally guided by knowledgeable and experienced guides and trackers. A bonus of most private reserves and concession lodges is that night drives are permitted, as is a certain amount of off-road driving. This enhances the likelihood of close encounters with lions, leopards and other carnivores. As a bonus, South Africa has a very organized and efficient tourist infrastructure by African standards. This, combined with a luxury safari, makes it a reliable holiday choice for nervous first-time visitors to the continent.”


What is included in a safari package?

“A South Africa luxury safari usually operates on an all-inclusive basis. This covers four- or five-star accommodation, all meals, and expertly guided activities such as game drives in open 4x4s. Some top-end lodges also include laundry and drinks in their prices. Booked directly through the lodge, prices are unlikely to include transportation there and back. However, any package price quoted by a tour operator should include road or air transfers from the specified starting point. Tips are not included in either case, and these can add up.”


What parks do you recommend for a South African luxury safari?

“There are plenty of choices. In my opinion, the first choice for general wildlife viewing and Big Five sightings is a cluster of private reserves on the western border of Kruger National Park. These reserves are collectively managed and marketed as Sabi Sands. The only drawback to Sabi Sands is that some (not all) properties share traversing rights with several neighbors. The strict rules limiting vehicle numbers often result in a long wait to join a sighting or being hurried off to make space for another lodge’s clients. A better option, from this point of view, is Timbavati Nature Reserve, which borders Kruger, and has a scattering of exclusive concession lodges. A trip to Greater Kruger carries a low but genuine risk of contracting malaria, in particular during the hotter, wetter months of November to April. Many safari-goers, particularly those with young children, prefer to head to malaria-free Madikwe Game Reserve for this reason. Madikwe boasts some superb luxury lodges and fine Big Five wildlife viewing. Convenient for those whose South African holiday includes the Western and Eastern Cape is a cluster of malaria-free private reserves situated in Addo Elephant National Park, inland of Port Elizabeth. The pick of the private reserves in KwaZulu-Natal is Phinda. It offers great Big Five viewing and is also maybe the most reliable place in South Africa to spot cheetah. ”


Can you describe a typical day on a South Africa luxury safari?

“Most lodges set in private reserves or concessions are exempt from the restrictions on driving between sunset and sunrise enforced in most national parks and public reserves. This has an impact on a typical day, allowing for a schedule that makes the most of the wildlife-viewing hours when predators are active. A typical day starts with a pre-dawn wake-up call and a pot of tea or coffee, before heading out on an early morning game drive. Return to the lodge mid-morning for brunch or late breakfast. Then plan on a long and relaxed lunch break, especially during the southern hemisphere summer when days are longer and temperatures higher. Following a nap, swim and light afternoon tea, you head out on an evening game drive. This usually incorporates a sundowner drink and a night drive, where the tracker will use a spotlight to pick out wildlife ranging from chameleons and nightjars to genets and bush babies. After, it’s back to the lodge for a three-course bush dinner and a drink around the campfire. Some lodges offer guided game walks to see birds and smaller wildlife, either first thing in the morning or – more commonly – after breakfast. These provide a welcome change of pace for those people spending more than two days on safari. Ideally, a game walk is undertaken in the morning cool rather than the heat of the afternoon.”


What type of accommodation can I expect?

“Your South Africa luxury safari will almost certainly be based at exclusive small lodges offering the safari equivalent variation of a three- to five-star city hotel. Most of these lodges are designed to make the most of their African bush surroundings and are constructed from a combination of stone, canvas, wood and thatch. Some pricier lodges offer even more ambitious design and facilities. Wherever you stay, accommodation will likely be spacious, comfortable freestanding units with en suite showers and private verandahs. Many lodges also have swimming pools, spas and/or quality gift shops. World-class cuisine is usually complemented by carefully selected Cape wines. The service is top notch. The upmarket lodges in South Africa’s numerous private wildlife reserves are scattered all around the country. The most important and best of them are clustered in three areas: along the western border of Kruger National Park, in northeastern KwaZulu-Natal close to iSimangaliso and Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, and in the Eastern Cape in the vicinity of Addo Elephant National Park. In addition to the private reserves, similarly exclusive lodges can be found in various concessions set within public reserves such as Kruger National Park and Madikwe Game Reserve.”


How much will this safari cost?

“The price of the safari leg of a South Africa luxury tour depends on which part of the country you choose and how much luxury you want to experience. You’d be lucky to pick up an all-inclusive luxury safari package for less than US$250 to US$300 per day per person sharing. At the absolute top end of the range you might be looking at an all-inclusive daily price of US$700 to US$1,000 per person. Safaris in Sabi Sands and Phinda are more costly, while the concession lodges in Kruger and Madikwe are somewhat cheaper. Most lodges offer discounted low-season rates and special one-off packages during the southern hemisphere winter (May to September). This is the best time of year for Big Five sightings in most parts of the country.”


South Africa Reviews

4.6/5 811 Reviews
Lizzie Williams  –  
South Africa ZA

Lizzie is a reputed guidebook writer and author of the Footprint guides to South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

South Africa is rightly celebrated for its magnificent natural beauty and excellent choice of parks

South Africa has a wonderful range of landscapes, a near-perfect climate, and the choice of destinations, activities and itineraries is virtually inexhaustible. Aside from its beautiful coastline and cosmopolitan cities – both of which I...

Full Review

Anthony Ham  –  
Australia AU

Anthony is a photographer and writer for travel magazines and Lonely Planet, including the guides to Kenya and Botswana & Namibia.

South Africa: World-class Safaris

South Africa is one of my favourite places to go on safari, with all the necessary ingredients for a wildlife experience that will begin your enduring love affair with the continent. Primary among these ingredients is the wildlife....

Full Review

Randy  –  
United States US
Reviewed: Mar 23, 2023
Loved it

We did two nights in Kruger with a very experienced guide. Great on details of all animals. Saw many animals, including the Big 5! Then two nights in Sabie Sands. More luxurious and closer to animals because they drove off road. Also saw a...

Full Review

Helena  –  
South Korea KR
Reviewed: Mar 22, 2023
A wonderful country to visit

We were picked up without any issues and arrived at out destination and went on game drives twice a day and it was just amazing seeing animals in their natural habitat, seeing different species of birds and animals at the watering hole was...

Full Review

Elizabeth A. Woods  –  
United States US
Reviewed: Mar 18, 2023
Awesome Journey

Tour Operator was Pembury Tours; Gail was our Representative. Our trip was affected by the flood. Both Timbavati & Sabi Sands were inaccessible. Gail was great in arranging other lodging for us, Simbavati Waterside & Kambaku River...

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Steven Fu  –  
Singapore SG
Reviewed: Mar 16, 2023
Kruger National Park is one of the best safari I have ever been.

The game drive is fun. We have seen many Elephants, Giraffes, Zebras, Kudus , Impalas, spotted some Hippos, Hyenas, Lions as well. Umbhaba Eco Lodge is a nice place to stay, good breakfast, and great lunch options, good dinner buffet. ...

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