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Top Luxury South African Safaris You Should Visit
Written by Jean Blackmon
It is always the right time to visit South Africa. If you’re planning on visiting soon, you may want to consider a stay at one of the many luxury private game lodges that operate outside areas of Johannesburg. Some of the best private game lodges are located in or adjacent to Kruger National Park. These parks are popular due to the free roaming, they remain undisturbed and have an impressive range of wildlife.
Depending on the time of year you visit this captivating country, you’re guaranteed to see the ‘Big 5’ (Lion, Leopard, Rhino, Elephant and Cape Buffalo). The chance to spot more wildlife increases during the dry season, May through October. You might even witness a lion’s epic take-down of an antelope, watch hippos sun-bathing in the Oliphant river, stumble upon a herd of elephants grazing on the plains at sunset or experience an elusive leopard sighting. Giraffe, impala, rhinoceros; you are in the wild! Any different
Amenities at some of the more upscale lodges rival those of the most expensive 5-star hotels. We’re talking infinity edge pools, full-service bars, fitness rooms, spa treatments, wine cellars, and king-sized beds outfitted with billowy white mosquito netting. Did I mention to bring your appetite? Meals are usually taken out on the main deck, dining room or underneath velvet African skies. Be ready to experience delectable and exotic meals prepared by master chefs. Ever tasted Kudu egg rolls? No worries, there’s something on the menu to please every palate.
On a typical day, you’ll go on two game drives, early morning and sunset. The open-top, 4-wheel drive Land Rover will be outfitted with a knowledgeable guide (who may also be your driver) and a highly trained tracker seated out front of the vehicle ready to locate the next animal sighting. You’ll have an early morning coffee stop in the bush and a ‘sundowner’ during the evening game drive. A sumptuous breakfast awaits you upon your return to the lodge. Afterward, you can choose to go on a walking safari, lounge by the pool or hang out in the game hide observing the countless birds and wildlife at the watering hole.
During the cooler months (June-August), you’ll most likely be treated to a beautiful candlelit dinner and wine as you dine beneath the serene African skies. As the crackle of wood on the boma warms the cool night you’ll enjoy swapping stories of the day’s game viewing with other lodge guests.
For a first-timer, a two-night, three-day stay is recommended. This should be sufficient to give you an idea whether or not you enjoy the safari experience. Hopefully, it will leave you looking forward to your next visit to the bush.
Nightly rates for safaris can run the full price spectrum: $$ to $$$$$. However, there’s a luxury safari experience for every taste and budget. Check out these budget-friendly, luxury game lodges.
Naledi Bushcamp is located in the Balule Reserve within Greater Kruger National Park, about 6 hours northwest of Johannesburg. The average cost for this location is $300-400 USD per night, per person sharing accommodations; depending on the room selected and the season.
If glamping is more your style, Hamiltons Tented Camp is located in the western region of Kruger National Park, nestled between Sabi Sands and Manyeleti private game reserves; about 5-6 hours outside of Johannesburg. The average Cost is $500-600 USD per night, per person sharing accommodations; depending on the room selected and the season.:
Aha Makalali Private Game Lodge is located west of Kruger National Park in Limpopo province. One and ½ hours by plane from OR Tambo airport, Johannesburg to Hoedspruit airport; 5-6 hours by car. Its average cost is some $400-600 USD per night, per person sharing accommodations; depending on the room selected and the season.
Jean is a licensed Certified Public Accountant by day and a spirited world traveler with a commitment to experiencing the world and sharing those experiences with all that have a desire to learn, expand and enrich their minds through travel. Follow all her travels on Instagram.