Wild, wilder, wildest – South Africa

December 23rd 2019  |   South Africa  |  by   Richard Smith
wild South Africa

Wild – The Timbavati

Spreading luxuriantly over much of north eastern South Africa, the Kruger National Park is one of Africa’s finest wildlife reserves, a treasure trove of wildlife in a region of exceptional natural beauty and an essential part of any South African safari.

A great rhino sighting from while on a game drive from Tanda Tula

A great rhino sighting while on a wildlife drive at Tanda Tula

The Kruger stretches for over two hundred miles from south to north, getting ever quieter and more remote until it reaches the little-visited tracts of Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou and Mozambique’s Limpopo national parks to combine into the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Peace Park.

Star bed at Tanda Tula, a great way to enjoy the wilderness

Star bed at Tanda Tula, a great way to enjoy the wilderness

The best sightings are probably around the Sabi Sands area as this is where most of the rhino live, but there is, if anything, more wildlife further north in Timbavati: these are also the two regions where you’ll find the best lodges and camps such as Tanda Tula and Ngala Tented Camp.

Leopard near Ngala Tented Camp

Leopard near Ngala Tented Camp

These lodges have perfected a varied safari experience. Daily wildlife drives, walking trails, night drives with spotlights and birdwatching sessions are backed by hospitality of the highest standard. Cuisine is superb, and the lodges elegantly rustic with guest rooms combining the ultimate in luxury with picture-windows overlooking untrammelled bush.

Wilder – Phinda Reserve

Seven distinct habitats make Phinda one of South Africa’s most rewarding wildlife reserves, and something of a conservation success story. Set on the coast of KwaZulu-Natal, the protected area contains woodland, grassland, mountain ranges, river courses, coastal wetlands and – most unusually – sand forest.

Endless views at Phinda Private Reserve

Endless views at Phinda Private Reserve

Twenty years ago, when Aardvark Safaris started, Phinda’s wildlife was still somewhat depleted, but thanks to a pioneering programme of large mammal relocation it has become one of Africa’s greatest biodiversity hotspots. Wildlife drives and walks introduce the region’s wildlife at your own pace: there are 415 bird species to spot, though you’re likely to break off to pay attention instead to herds of elephant as they meander past.

Fabulous wildlife sightings at Phinda Private Reserve

Fabulous wildlife sightings at Phinda Private Reserve

Visitor numbers in the reserve are strictly limited, with just a handful of lodges offering accommodation of the highest standard. Choose Phinda Homestead if you’re looking for a luxurious, sole-use villa, or Phinda Mountain for views of the Ubombo mountain range and the surrounding Zululand bush.

Wildest – Tswalu

You know you’re heading to the middle of nowhere when the only feasible way to get to a reserve is by private plane arranged by the reserve itself. While South Africa is one of the more developed safari countries in Africa, there are still huge tracts of land with very few people, and Tswalu is one of the biggest.

Tswalu Tarkuni sitting in its remote valley

Tswalu Tarkuni sitting in its remote valley

The current guardians of Tswalu are the Oppenheimer family who took responsibility for restoring this part of the Kalahari to its natural state in 1998. Since then, remnants of its history as a farmed area and non-native species have been removed, and indigenous species and natural processes restored.

Enjoying Tswalu's stunning scenery on horseback

Enjoying Tswalu‘s stunning scenery on horseback

This model of conservation is supported by ecotourism with just two lodges, Tswalu Tarkuni and Tswalu The Motse, on the 1,200 square kilometre reserve. Guests come here for walks, rides or drives across the silent red dunes, together with bird-watching, star-gazing, rhino tracking and visits to the habituated meerkat dens.

Wild dog at Tswalu

Wild dog at Tswalu

Any questions on holidays to South Africa?

If you’ve got this far and not found an answer to a question you have that we should have included, please ask in the comments section below, or pop us an email. We’ll be sure to reply and may amend the article to include our answer.

What next?

We would be delighted to help you plan a holiday, whether to Kruger, Phinda or the furthest reaches of South Africa. Our team of experts have travelled widely throughout Africa. They can offer expert advice on every type of safari from family and beach holidays to riding and primate safaris. If you would like to talk to someone who has been there and done it, please just send us an email or give us a call.

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