It’s a well-known fact that winter is the best time to view wildlife in our national parks. So why not see spring as an opportunity to visit some of South Africa’s lesser-known parks and reserves?
This could be your chance to find a quiet spot beside a waterhole where you can relax in peace for hours. You’ll get the chance to discover parks you never thought about visiting. In spring, it’s not too hot yet, and the bush is still arid enough for you to spot the animals.
Here are 20 recommendations for a memorable wildlife experience in South Africa in spring:
1. Geogap Nature Reserve
You’ll find this 15000ha reserve 15km southeast of Springbok in Namakwaland and it promises quite a treat, with granite peaks and sandy plains. If you like flowers, you should definitely visit during spring as the wild flower garden boasts an incredible display of endemic blooms during this time. The reserve is home to 45 mammalian species including springbok, gemsbok, the endangered Hartman’s Zebra and the aardwolf and bird lovers will enjoy spotting some of the 92 bird species that flourish here.
Visit SA Venues’ website for more information about Goegap Nature Reserve.
In the far northwestern corner of the province you’ll find a very unique mountain desert wilderness named the Richtersveld. The local Nama people manage the spectacular National Park jointly with SANParks and the Nama people continue to live and graze their livestock in the area. Animals you might come across are grey rhebok, duiker, steenbok, klipspringer, kudu, Hartman’s mountain zebra, baboon, vervet monkey, caracland leopard.
3. Silkaatsnek Nature Reserve
Situated at the foothills of the beautiful Magaliesberg Mountains, this 17 000 hectare reserve creates a great weekend getaway destination from both Johannesburg and Pretoria. Enjoy exploring the reserve not only on game drives and guided tours, but also on horseback or mountain bike. Spot animals like these: impalas, zebras, kudus, giraffe, blue wildebeest, monkeys, nyalas, iguanas, warthogs, porcupines, turtles and ostriches and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
4. Mafikeng Game Reserve
The Mafikeng Game Reserve is 4 600 hectares of open Kalahari grassland and acacia thorn scrub – a typical African landscape. It’s also one of the major breeding parks for white rhinos. You’ll find a braai and picnic site where you can relax and let the kids play after showing them the buffalo, gemsbok and giraffe that roam the reserve freely.
Click here for more information.
5. Tswaing Nature Reserve
Situated just north of Pretoria, this beautiful reserve is home to not only a healthy wildlife population and a large variety of birds, trees and plants, but it is also the place of a 220 000 year old crater. It is said that a meteorite of between 30 and 50 meters in diameter left this type of impact and the site is one of the best-preserved and easy accessible impact sites in the world.
Click here for more information about Tswaing.
6. Oori Nature Reserve
Only 40 minutes from Johannesburg, in the beautiful Crocodile River Valley, this 750ha reserve consists of about 40 properties, all of which have done away with internal fencing in order to live in harmony with nature and restore the area to what it was before humans impacted so severely. The locals have introduced 52 animals and they’re slowly planting indigenous trees, getting rid of alien vegetation.
7. Kololo Game Reserve
Situated in the heart of the Waterberg biosphere, this is peaceful reserve has a rich cultural legacy. The 3000 hectares include savanna, thick bushveld, mountains and valleys and hosts a variety of game including the big 5, giraffe, kudu and impala. Birdwatchers will love picking out the 300 bird species. There are also a variety of beautiful, rustic accommodation options from which to explore this natural haven.
8. Kapama Game Reserve
Named after a Swazi king whose tribe inhabited in the northern Drakensberg mountain region in the 1880s, this 13 000 hectare private nature reserve achieves the perfect balance between bush and luxury, so you’ll be comfortable while enjoying the wildlife. Their game relocation programme resulted in the reserve now hosting elephant, buffalo and rhino. You’ll also be able to spot giraffe, impala and blue wildebeest and predators like lion, leopard, cheetah and spotted hyena.
9. d’Nyala Nature Reserve
Situated 15 kilometres south east of Lephalale, in the most remote parts of the Waterberg Biosphere, this reserve is named after the beautiful Nyala trees that grow here. This is also the location of the original ‘bosberaad’ centre, where negotiations between the former government and the ANC first began. The two game viewing hides make it fairly easy to spot wildlife and you’ll get a chance to look for white rhino, giraffe, waterbuck, zebra, tsessebe and eland. Predators include brown hyena jackal and smaller cats.
Visit Go Limpopo for more information on d’Nyala Game Reserve.
10. Mjejane Game Reserve
Situated on the banks of the Crocodile River, on the southern end of the Kruger National Park, the unfenced borders of Mjejane Game Reserve offers direct access to the Kruger, by use of a low-water bridge. The 4000 hectare reserve had 10km of river frontage and you can enjoy staying right on the river’s edge while you go on endless game drives either in the southern section of the Kruger, or in Mjejane itself, where you’ll enjoy a more peaceful side of the wilderness.
11. Ligwalagwala Conservancy
One of the first small reserves in Mpumalanga to reintroduce lions, Ligwalagwala is located only 30mins from the Malelane and Crocodile Bridge gates to the Kruger. The 15 000 hectares of land consists mostly of privately owned game farms and farmland and it forms a beautiful green belt on the border of the Kruger.
Visit SA Venues’ website for more information on Ligwalagwala
12. Mthetomusha Game Reserve
Set against the impressive Malelane Mountains, the Mthetomusha Game Reserve also forms an extension of the Kruger National Park. These grassland regions with its huge granite domes and rocky outcrops play host to the big 5 as well as buffalo, white rhino, impala, zebra, giraffe and sable. This is also one of the first reserves to implement a community-based approach to conservation and many other reserves have adopted the approach since.
Click here for more information on Mthetomusha
13. Mount Everest Game Reserve
Although it’s not named after the real thing, Mount Everest Game Reserve is a beautiful, privately owned reserve situated in a particularly scenic part of the Free State. It’s close to Harrismith, making a visit there easy, and you’ll get to see rhino, ostrich, waterbuck and mountain zebra.
Click here for more information
14. Willem Pretorius Game Reserve
This 12 000 hectare reserve is centered around the impressive Allemanskraal Dam. On the summit of one of the hillocks found in the reserve, called Doringberg, you’ll find a well-preserved ruin of a prehistoric settlement, apparently of the long-vanished Leghoya people. Among many other plains game, you’ll also encounter the largest herd of black wildebeest in the world.
Click here for more information
15. Ndumo Game Reserve
Situated in the Maputoland region, just south of the Mozambican border, this is one of the country’s oldest game reserves. It also boasts one of the highest bird counts for any nature reserve in South Africa, with 430 species for you to seek out. Other animals that you may encounter in these beautiful parts are black rhino, white rhino, buffalo, hippo and crocodile.
Click here for more information
16. Falaza Game Park
This privately owned game reserve and spa offers a more luxurious wildlife experience. The park neighbours the World Heritage site of St Lucia and hosts both the big five and the fascinating corals of Sodwana Bay, assuring you an unforgettable nature retreat.
17. Kwantu Private Game Reserve
This luxury game reserve hosts not only the big 5, but also has an elephant sanctuary and some endangered and exotic wildlife. If you live close-by and you don’t want to spend the night in the reserve, you can relax at the Day Centre, watch the animals at the watering hole and enjoy some hearty African cuisine. The village of Sidbury is situated inside the reserve and was built by the British Settlers to support the sheep farming community in the 1800s. Take an outing to see the beautiful church built in 1838.
18. Sibuya Game Reserve
Centered along a winding river – the most navigable in the country to be exact – this is an incredible destination for bird watching. It’s also a beautiful sanctuary to a wide range of animals – from elephants to otters and even the Big 5. Accommodation is in two private and luxurious tented lodges.
19. Ko-ka Tsara Game Reserve
Situated outside Beaufort West, in the heart of the Great Karoo, this intimate, privately owned reserve hosts more than 20 species of game in the 30 000 acres of pristine Karoo veld. Spend your days driving around at a leisurely pace, admiring the giraffe, kudu, gemsbok, wildebeest and eland that roam these lands.
20. Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area
Known for its extraordinary rock formations and popular hiking routes, the Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Area is situated in the Groot Winterhoek mountain range, north of Tulbagh and east of Porterville. You’ll easily spot the klipspringer, grey rhebok and grysbok that habitat the area. The more illusive leopard, wildcat and caracal can also be found here.
Visit Cape Nature for more information
*Photo taken in Kapama Game Reserve by I love trees.