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Best South Africa Malaria-free Safari Reserves

CLASSIC BIG 5 SAFARIS WITH PEACE OF MIND

Whether it’s the Kruger or Kenya, an African safari usually carries a risk of malaria. And while the risk of contracting malaria on safari is generally very low, a South Africa malaria-free safari is your chance to visit genuine Big 5 reserves with no risk of malaria at all.

There are two regions of South Africa with malaria-free safari reserves: northern South Africa and the Eastern Cape. With one exception, these reserves are Big 5 destinations (home to lion, elephant, leopard, buffalo and rhino) and they all have a wide range of accommodation – safari lodges, tented camps and exclusive-use villas – at both public and private game reserves. These reserves cater for all traveller types, including honeymooners and families with younger children, and combine easily with malaria-free Cape Town via a short domestic flight.

MALARIA-FREE NORTHERN SOUTH AFRICA

There are several destinations across the north of the country that offer excellent malaria-free safari reserves, most of them privately-run. The best time to visit the region is during the long dry season – May to October. Wildlife is increasingly concentrated around water at this time and the vegetation is low and sparse, all of which makes animals easier to see. Dry-season weather in this part of South Africa is nearly always sunny, clear and warm although it’s cold at night in June, July and August.

MADIKWE PRIVATE GAME RESERVE

Lying close to the Botswana border, Madikwe is a fascinating blend of familiar savannah animals and unique Kalahari wildlife. It’s a good place to see the Big 5 (lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo and elephant) and rarities like African wild dog and brown hyena. There’s a wide selection of accommodation on offer – honeymoon hideaways, family-friendly camps and luxury lodges – and because it’s a private reserve, there are never too many other vehicles around.

Nare Suite in malaria free Madikwe reserve

Set in Big 5 country, the Nare Suite at Jaci’s Safari Lodge is perfect for families or couples.

RECOMMENDED MADIKWE ACCOMMODATION

The Nare Suite at Jaci’s Safari Lodge is a fully-staffed private house with chef, guide & vehicle. Families with children aged 12 and over will love Jaci’s Tree House with its air-conditioned suites set in the forest canopy.

PILANESBERG NATIONAL PARK

A public-access park set next to golf and entertainment resort Sun City, Pilanesberg is good for a first-time safari and offers adventures like hot-air ballooning as well as day and night game drives but we’d recommend staying in the adjoining Black Rhino Game Reserve. It’s a private conservation area with no day-trippers, a good range of lodges to choose from, and a healthy reputation for the Big 5.

Safari lodge in malaria free Pilanesberg reserve

The luxurious, family-run Lush Private Lodge is set in Pilanesberg’s Black Rhino Reserve.

RECOMMENDED PILANESBERG ACCOMMODATION

There’s air-conditioned accommodation for all types of traveller at Black Rhino Lodge in the private reserve – it’s a classic safari lodge overlooking a busy waterhole – but families with older children and couples could try Lush Private Lodge.

TSWALU KALAHARI RESERVE

South Africa’s biggest private reserve is also one of its most exclusive: this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore the beautiful red-sand Kalahari and see its most elusive creatures – aardvark, meerkats and honey badgers – as well as black-maned Kalahari lions, African wild dog and cheetah. Besides game drives and guided walks, other activities here include horseback safaris and walks with habituated meerkats; accommodation is very upmarket.

Private plunge pool overlooking malaria free Tswalu reserve

Famous for its sightings of rare animals, Tswalu offers safari activities shaped by your particular interests and enjoyed at your own pace.

RECOMMENDED TSWALU ACCOMMODATION

Sleeping up to 10 guests, Tswalu’s Tarkuni Homestead comes fully staffed and complete with private field guide and tracker – it’s great for families and groups of friends. Couples may prefer the seclusion and casual elegance of The Motswe.

WELGEWONDEN GAME RESERVE

The rugged, mountainous landscape of the Waterberg provides the location for this Big 5 reserve, a destination famous for its temperate and malaria-free climate. Welgewonden is just a short drive and an even shorter flight from travel-hub Johannesburg, making it a good option for a night or two at the beginning or end of a safari.

Lodge accommodation and game viewing at malaria free Welgevonden reserve

Couples seeking privacy will like Nedile Lodge, a luxury retreat with just five indulgent suites on offer.

RECOMMENDED WELGEWONDEN ACCOMMODATION

Exclusive-use Tintswalo Family Camp is fenced to give parents with young children peace of mind; Mhondoro Safari Lodge also has family accommodation as well as honeymoon suites and a private fully staffed Villa that sleeps six.

MALARIA-FREE EASTERN CAPE

The Eastern Cape is at one end of South Africa’s largest malaria-free holiday region, balanced by the Western Cape and Cape Town at the other end and the ever-popular Garden Route in between. In fact, there are several malaria-free safari reserves within a few hours’ drive of Cape Town but it’s the Eastern Cape that offers a more genuine Big 5 safari – bigger reserves, more animals and more wilderness. Either fly between destinations (flight times are quick) or take your time with a self-drive itinerary: pick up a car in Cape Town, tour the Whale Coast and Garden Route, and return it in the Eastern Cape after your safari.

You can visit the Eastern Cape for a malaria-free safari at any time – the climate is agreeably temperate with rain possible throughout the year though it’s driest between October and April. The region gets busy during the Christmas holiday period – ask us for advice on planning a safari during this time.

SHAMWARI PRIVATE GAME RESERVE

A pioneer of malaria-free Big 5 safaris in the Eastern Cape, Shamwari is a great choice for safari travellers as well as families with children of all ages. From the comfort of camps designed specifically for families, you’ll find a kids’ activity programme for the young ones, an adventure centre and swimming pools for older ones plus game drives, educational experiences and a big cat sanctuary.

Boma with a view on malaria free Shamwari reserve

The wonderful view from Sindile’s Boma, overlooking the malaria-free Shamwari private reserve.

RECOMMENDED SHAMWARI ACCOMMODATION

Staffed and with a private guide, Sarili Private Lodge sleeps up to 10 which makes it great for families of all ages and groups of friends; Sindile is good choice of accommodation for couples – it’s a luxurious tented camp with wonderful views and no kids under 12.

AMAKHALA GAME RESERVE

You can go on river cruises and canoe adventures as well as game drives and bush walks at Amakhala – it’s only an hour’s drive from Port Elizabeth airport (it’s a good choice for self-drivers) and there are several accommodation options for families plus luxurious retreats too. Enjoy classic Big 5 game viewing, great bird watching and perhaps a trip to a dinosaur fossil site – who could ask for more?

Safari accommodation in malaria free Amakhala reserve

Hlosi Game Lodge is a tranquil grassland retreat offering rich game-viewing and comfortable accommodation for the whole family.

RECOMMENDED AMAKHALA ACCOMMODATION

Welcoming children of all ages and packed with activities, Hlosi Game Lodge is an obvious choice for families on safari whereas honeymooners and couples may prefer the 5-star luxury of Bukela Game Lodge, complete with its own spa.

KWANDWE PRIVATE GAME RESERVE

One of the biggest private Big 5 reserves, Kwandwe has activities from ‘bush-treasure’ hunts to conservation projects to look forward too as well as game drives, river cruises and bush walks. The reserve sits at the heart of several cultures too, evidence of which you’ll see in everything from ancient rock art to colonial architecture. Their family lodges welcome children of all ages and place an emphasis on developing a tailored safari programme for families.

Malaria free Kwandwe reserve

Kwandwe’s terrace overlooks a wildlife-rich expanse of grassland close to one of the major waterholes on the reserve.

RECOMMENDED KWANDWE ACCOMMODATION

Wake up to sweeping views from your luxurious suite at Fort House – a private retreat ideal for families looking for complete independence and privacy. The Great Fish River Lodge is a smaller and more intimate accommodation – it’s great for couples, especially as each suite has its own plunge pool.

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