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South Africa Self-drive Safaris & Tours

South Africa is a fabulous destination no matter how you organize your safari. But to go on a self-drive safari here can take things to a whole new level. The country has an excellent and well-maintained road network, and a self-drive trip or tour will give you so much freedom to enjoy what you’re seeing. While your safari operator will organize the vehicle and give you an itinerary, you’ll still have lots of opportunities to take control of your experience without having to take anyone else into consideration (which you would on most other kinds of safari). Above all, you’ll be exploring a country of exceptional natural beauty and variety, not to mention some amazing national parks filled with wildlife.

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1-20 of 29 self-drive tours, trips and holidays to South Africa

5 Questions About South Africa Self-drive Safaris


5 Questions About South Africa Self-drive Safaris

Answered by Anthony Ham

Where should I go on a South Africa self-drive safari?

“Choosing where to go is one of the hardest decisions to make when you’re planning your South Africa self-drive safari. A lot depends on how much time you have to dedicate to your trip. And every person will be different in what they want to see. If you’re here to see wildlife, as most people are when on safari, you may want to focus on the country’s northeast. So many memorable safaris begin and end with Kruger National Park, and it’s certainly one of the best parks for wildlife anywhere in Africa. Along its western boundary, Kruger also has a number of game reserves, including world-famous Sabi Sand Game Reserve, that see fewer crowds but enjoy world-class wildlife viewing. Also in the northeast are Mapungubwe and Marakele National Parks and Pilanesberg and Madikwe Game Reserves, all of which are first-rate. Elsewhere in the country, Phinda Private Game Reserve, Addo Elephant National Park and Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve are also well worth considering. Other possible areas to explore if landscapes and wild natural beauty are a big part of why you’re here include the Drakensberg mountains, the south or west coasts of the country, or the big horizons of the Karoo or Kalahari in the north.”


Is a self-drive trip in South Africa safe?

“A South Africa self-drive safari is generally safe, and most travelers return home with a suitcase full of good memories. Crime can be a problem in and around larger cities, but incidents are very rare in rural areas and extremely so in national parks and reserves. When driving through South Africa you can expect good roads, and if you stick to the speed limit and drive carefully, it's unlikely that you'll have any problems. Never drive on public roads at night: doing so will put you at risk of encountering wandering animals and also increase the chances of having an accident involving other vehicles. There is also very little danger to you from the wildlife that you’ll come across, as long as you remain inside your vehicle at all times when in wildlife areas and move around carefully at night if you’re camping. If in doubt, ask locals for their advice, and always do as they suggest.”


What is the best time of the year for a self-drive safari in South Africa?

“The best time of year for your 4x4 South Africa safari is from May to September. This coincides with the Dry season in Kruger and many of the parks in the northeast. It’s when you can generally expect fine weather and mild (or even cool) temperatures. During the dry months, animals should be easier to find as they draw near to the last remaining water sources. Traveling at this time has the added bonus of being when most accommodation places offer low- or shoulder-season prices. If you’re here to see birds, November to April is best, because that’s when countless migratory bird species spend time in South Africa, before returning to Europe and North Africa. And keep an eye on South African school holidays when planning your trip: parks and reserves can get overrun during these weeks.”


What type of vehicle is recommended for a self-drive tour in South Africa?

“You’ll almost certainly be driving a 4WD vehicle on your South Africa self-drive safari. Despite this, a 4WD is rarely necessary in most South African parks and reserves, where a 2WD or AWD is generally sufficient. Even so, most operators will give you a 4WD to make sure that you’re fine in any situation. There are two types of self-drive safaris. One is where you use the vehicle to get from one hotel, lodge or tented camp to the next. If you’re on this kind of safari and there is no camping component, you’ll drive a standard 4WD vehicle. If, on the other hand, you will be camping each night, or for at least some of the nights you’ll be driving through South Africa, you will probably drive a 4WD camper. This fully equipped vehicle may have a fridge, a rooftop or ground tent, camping and cooking equipment, and everything you need to camp self-sufficiently.”


How much will this safari cost?

“Going on a self-drive safari through South Africa can vary greatly in cost but should start at around US$150 per person per day for a budget safari, rising to around US$350 to US$400 per person per day for a more luxurious experience. This will be the price quoted to you by the safari tour operator, but won’t include fuel, and may or may not include park entrance fees. One variable to consider is whether you’ll be camping (which is cheaper) or staying in hotels or lodges at the end of each day’s driving. If it’s the latter, there are so many different choices across a range of accommodation places, which can mean a big variation in the cost of your overall safari. Other things that can impact the price of your self-drive safari include the months when you travel (high season is more expensive than low season) and how long you’ll be traveling for.”


South Africa Reviews

4.6/5 940 Reviews
Mike Unwin  –  
United Kingdom UK

Mike is an award-winning wildlife writer, former editor of Travel Zambia magazine and author of the Bradt Guide to Southern African Wildlife.

A world in one country

South Africa’s astounding array of landscapes – from semi-desert to savanna and snow-capped mountain to coral reef – means it offers a greater variety of wildlife experience than any other African country. There are surely few other...

Full Review

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

Rosemere Maia  –  
Brazil BR
Reviewed: Dec 4, 2023
Culture, adventure, beautiful landscapes, welcoming people: that's South Africa!

South Africa is wonderful. Exceeded my expectations. It is a country full of natural beauty, with a very rich culture and extremely welcoming people. I didn't feel unsafe at any point. I loved visiting its parks and reserves, its...

Full Review

Elyse  –  
United States US
Reviewed: Nov 29, 2023
Better than I could have imagined

My husband and I booked flights to SA but didn't have a full plan, and about a week before we left decided to book a Safari in or near Kruger. I reached out to Safari Bookings who sent out questions to a few safari tour companies and...

Full Review

Jessica  –  
Australia AU
Reviewed: Nov 28, 2023
Highly recommend

My friend and I booked the 4-Day Tremisana Kruger Park Safari with Viva Safaris. I couldn't rate it any higher. The whole experience was amazing, we saw so many animals, all the staff were amazing and the services including the food was...

Full Review

Peter  –  
Czech Republic CZ
Reviewed: Nov 27, 2023
fantastic wildlife experience at Sanbona Resort

We had a fantastic stay at Sanbona Wildlife Resort about 3 hours from CapeTown very well organized by Gems of Africa. After this safari we enjoyed a few days in CapeTown, one of our favorite cities in the world. Finally we went to...

Full Review