All my life I had read Wilbur Smith novels, watched programmes like 50/50 and National Geographic (filmed right in my backyard) and craved the experience of the “bush.” I was a city boy though. So though I craved the experienced I never made the effort to get out there – thinking I could just satisfy my thirst with another chapter / episode or magazine. The truth of the matter is that the real wonder of a South African safari can hardly be done justice through pictures or the written word. It has to be experienced first hand,
Last year I gave in and headed out to the Kruger National Park, the largest game reserve in the country, and came back a different spirit. To be right alongside these majestic creatures, to smell the, to witness them feeding – be it on leaves or a fresh kill (equally exhilarating), playing with their young and going about their daily lives was incredibly special. I remember my wife and wishing that all South Africans would get the opportunity to witness what we had. And the truth is, we all can.
Though we may not all be able to drive to the Kruger there are game reserves in every province of South Africa … here are five Safari Breaks that you can get to as soon as this weekend if you like.
AQUILA GAME RESERVE, WESTERN CAPE (NEAR CAPE TOWN)
Aquila Game Reserve is a private game reserve that offers day-trips, horseback safaris, quad bike safaris, a variation of accommodation options, wildlife education and much more. Best of all it’s less than two hours away from the city.
TSHUKUDU LODGE, PILANESBERG (NEAR JOHANNESBURG)
Gauteng resident are spoilt for choice when it comes to safari options living in such close quarters to places like the Kruger & Sabi Sabi reserves. However if those prove just out of range for a weekend break then head to the Tshukudu Lodge in the Pilanesberg National Park. Tshukudu means “place of the Rhino” and the lodge offers game drives, walks and luxury accommodation at reasonable rates in the heart of this 55 000 hectare wildlife paradise.
HLUHLUWE RIVER LODGE, KWAZULU NATAL (NEAR DURBAN)
The Hluhluwe River Lodge borders on Lake St Lucia outside the village of Hluhluwe close to South Africa’s oldest game reserve, The Hluhluwe Umfolozi Game Reserve, which is in KwaZulu-Natal and was established back in 1895. You’ll find a plethora of animal watching activities available including game drives, horse trails, mountain bike trails, riverboat birding tours and self-guided walks. At just 280km from the King Shaka International Airport this is the perfect safari weekend getaway for Durbanites.
ADDO AFRIQUE GIRAFFE LODGE, EASTERN CAPE (NEAR PORT ELIZABETH)
Based in Addo Elephant Park, the third largest game reserve in South Africa, the Addo Afrique Giraffe Lodge is just 72 km from Port Elizabeth and offers a relaxing break from the bustling city. A weekend here could include game drives, stargazing, jacuzzi’s, and private plunge pools. A variety of accommodation options and activities are available too.
!XAUS LODGE, NORTHERN CAPE (NEAR UPINGTON)
Situated in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (Africa’s first transfrontier reserve), on the borders of South Africa and Botswana, is the !Xaus Lodge. This luxury safari lodge dubbed “A place to experience and not merely observe” by its the Khomani San owners was opened in 2007 and offers game drives, guided tracking with authentic bushmen and the opportunity to engage with one of the last pristine conservation areas on the planet.