10 of the best places to see wildlife in Southern Africa this winter

Posted by Adel Groenewald on 17 April 2014

Winter is the best time of year to go on a safari. Vegetation dies back, visibility is increased and animals congregate on perennial water sources. Here are some of the best places to see wildlife in Southern Africa, for both the luxury-orientated and the budget-conscious.

Photo by Brent Stirton

It’s official. Mornings are getting colder, darker and increasingly more depressing. It’s difficult to get out of bed, let alone spend a week away from home, trying to pretend that winter is fun. Well guess what, in Southern Africa’s game reserves, winter is fun. It’s the best time to see wildlife: the bush is thinner, the roads are accessible, and wild animals are easier to spot.

Below are some of Southern Africa’s classic game reserves – well-known and revered for their ability to produce great wildlife sightings in winter. If you’re looking to escape the crowds and head for something a little more off the radar, be sure to check out this round up of 10 secret parks and nature reserves in South Africa that are definitely worth a visit.

Kruger National Park

Limpopo Province and Mpumalanga

Photo by Adel Groenewald

Surely South Africa’s prime wildlife viewing (in photos: big cats of Kruger) destination, the Kruger National Park never fails to impress when it comes to spotting animals, especially in the dry season. Kruger has an impressive range of accommodation options, from camping to luxury lodges and they promise the best safari experience in the country. Because of its size and ample accommodation options, we’ll give you four.

Budget accommodation in Kruger

Lower Sabie Rest Camp

This relaxed rest camp is situated on the banks of the Sabie River and offers camping, caravanning and self-catering bungalows starting at R200 per person sharing.
Read a full review (and book) here

Satara Rest Camp

Situated in central Kruger, this is the best camp to start your search for lion and the other members of the big cat family. Self-catering, camping and caravan options start at R175 per person.
Read a full review (and book) here


Find full reviews on all of Kruger National Park’s main camps here


Luxury accommodation in Kruger

Imbali Lodge

This exclusive lodge is situated in the Imbali safari concession and offers spacious, private chalets overlooking the N’waswitsontso River bend.
Find out more (and book) here

Lukimbi Safari Lodge

Situated in the southern region of the Kruger, this lodge combines luxury and elegance with modern African decor and beautiful river views.
Find out more (and book) here

Top travel packages and tours to the Kruger National Park


Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Northern Cape and southern Botswana

Photo by Schalk Burger

This was the first formally declared trans-border conservation area and is the amalgamation of the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa and the Gemsbok National Park in Botswana. The park is renowned for sightings of predators and the seasonal movements of blue wildebeest, springbok, eland and red hartebeest.

A first timer’s guide to the Kgalagadi

In photos: the magic of the Kgalagadi

Budget accommodation in Kgalagadi

Sitzas Rest Camp

Self-catering Rondavel overlooking Mata Mata. Campsites in the dry Auob riverbed in the shade of old camel thorn trees.

Find out more (and book) here


Luxury accommodation in Kgalagadi

Grootkolk Wilderness Camp

Situated 20km from Union’s End, where South Africa, Botswana and Namibia meet, this tented accommodation overlooks a waterhole and offers a tranquil stay.
Find out more (and book) here


Thornybush Private Game Reserve

Limpopo Province

Thornybush Private Game Reserve

Photographer: Tom Coetzee

Accommodation in private reserves adjacent to Kruger National Park tend to be pricey. But a clever solution to this is to find a place to stay just outside these parks and head out on daily game drives in search of wildlife. Expect to see the Big 5 and a large variety of plains game.


Budget accommodation in Thornybush

Morula Lodge

Morula Lodge offers comfortable accommodation in self-catering chalets ideal for families and groups. The lodge is located 40 km from Hoedspruit.
Find out more (and book) here

Luxury accommodation in Thornybush

Shumbalala Game Lodge

Situated within the Thornybush Private Game Reserve, you’ll enjoy an intimate stay in luxury, thatched chalets with fireplaces and air-conditioning.
Find out more (and book) here


Kibale Forest National Park


Kibale National Park

For those who are tired of the standard South African safari, this is the ideal way to explore a different country and discover a national park where the lead characters are primates. Exploring on foot is the preferred method and chimp trekking expeditions come highly recommended.


Budget accommodation in Kibale

Kibale Forest Camp

Enjoy a classic canvassed stay in this tented camp that is surrounded by dense forest vegetation. Tents go for R376 per person sharing.
Find out more (and book) here


Luxury accommodation in Kibale

Chimp’s Nest

Situated on the border of the reserve, this lodge enjoys views of the snow-capped peaks of the Rwenzori Mountains and is often visited by monkeys, chimps and forest elephants.
Find out more (and book) here


Go mountain gorilla tracking in Uganda


Etosha National Park


Photo by Tyson Jopson

Etosha National Park is Namibia’s prime wildlife viewing destination and is situated in the north of the country. The many waterholes attract the animals living in this fairly dry region, especially during the dry winter months. Many of the waterholes are floodlit, providing excellent night time game viewing. Visit www.etoshanationalpark.org for more.

In photos: the magic of Etosha National Park

Budget accommodation in Etosha

Mamselle Nature Camp

These bungalows are shaded by Mopane and White Syringa trees and are situated just outside the park along the main road. Prices start at R70 per person to camp and R130 per person to stay in a self-catering bungalow.
Find out more (and book) here


Luxury accommodation in Etosha

Andersson’s Camp

This luxury tented camp is situated within the private Ongava Reserve, adjacent to Etosha and looks out over a frequented waterhole.
Find out more (and book) here


Experience the best of Namibia on a 12-day adventure



Addo Elephant National Park

Eastern Cape

Photo by Liam Cornell

Contrary to what the name may suggest, you’ll get to see much more than elephants at Addo Elephant Park in the Eastern Cape. The park is easily accessible and also hosts lion, buffalo, black rhino, spotted hyena and a variety of antelope and zebra species. It is the third largest national park in the country and incidentally hosts around 550 elephants.

Budget accommodation in Addo

Addo Main Rest Camp

Here you’ll have a wide range of accommodation options to choose from, with camping and caravanning being the most affordable.

Find out more (and book) here


Luxury accommodation in Addo

River Bend Lodge

Situated on a private concession within the Addo Elephant Park, you’ll stay in one of eight luxury suites, each with a private veranda and some with bush showers.
Find out more (and book) here


Mapungubwe National Park

Limpopo Province

Photo by Etienne Oosthuisen

Mapungubwe used to be a flourishing metropolis in the Iron Age, but today this site consists of a vast expanse of savanna at the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe Rivers. If you’re not admiring the elephant, giraffe, white rhino, eland and gemsbok then you can visit some of the cultural sites, thereby enjoying not only game viewing, but also a history lesson or two.

Budget accommodation in Mapunbgubwe

Mazhou Camping Site

Situated in the western section of the park, this campsite caters for 10 tents or caravans and prices R185 a unit.
Find out more (and book) here


Luxury accommodation in Mapungubwe

Vhembe Wilderness Camp

This camp is situated in the eastern section of the park and is walking distance from the Limpopo River and the historically significant Mapugubwe Hill.
Find out more (and book) here


Lake Kariba


Photo by Paul Steyn

This incredible lake in the Zambezi River is surrounded by national parks both on the Zimbabwe and Zambia side and provides some excellent water-based game viewing. Apart from boating safaris and nature walks, you might also enjoy some excellent bird watching and even a spot of fishing.

Read: Lake Kariba houseboat cruising

Budget accommodation in Kariba

Kariba Bush Club

A wide range of accommodation options are available, ranging from camping to cabins on the houseboat. Camping costs R100 a person and the grounds are on the banks of the lake.
Find out more (and book) here


Luxury accommodation in Kariba

Karibeer House Boat

This family friendly pontoon house boat is intimate, with only three cabins and an open-air sleeping area (with mosquito nets) on the deck.
Find out more (and book) here


Spend six nights on a houseboat in Kariba with Getaway Travel


Waterberg Biosphere Reserve

Limpopo Province

This is the world’s only savanna biosphere reserve and offers not only game viewing, but also a strong culture injection. Habitats here are incredibly diverse and include wetlands and rivers, steep cliffs and slopes and even bushveld. The area also hosts many endangered species, like the African wild dog, black and white rhino and leopard.

Budget accommodation in Waterberg

Madikela Game Lodge

Situated on an ancient limestone plateau, you’ll stay in one of six self-catering cottages starting at R160 per person sharing.
Find out more (and book) here


Luxury accommodation in Waterberg

Shibula Lodge and Bush Spa

This luxurious lodge is surrounded by greenery and mountains and offers nine, individually designed, thatched chalets.
Find out more (and book) here


Pilanesberg Game Reserve

North West Province

Pilansberg Game Reserve

The Pilansberg Game Reserve park lies adjacent to Sun City in South Africa’s North West province. You’ll find a vast variety of animals, including the Big 5 and many other predators and antelope. The roads are well looked after, making self-drive game viewing easy and enjoyable. Visit www.pilanesbergnationalpark.org for more.

Budget accommodation

Makinky Manzi

This tented camp is close to a waterfall where you can swim in the rock pools and tents.
Find out more (and book) here


Luxury accommodation

Pilanesberg Private Lodge
Situated at the foot of the Pilansberg Mountains, this private lodge has five rooms and offers a luxurious and secluded stay.
Find out more (and book) here

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