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South Africa safari: when to go, what you'll see, where to stay

By Jane Broughton

Great Fish River Lodge

South Africa has a well-deserved reputation for its many design-forward, eco-conscious safari lodges offering every conceivable luxury and almost guaranteed game viewing throughout the year. As a safari destination, South Africa is easy to get to and navigate once on the ground, making it an ideal last-minute romantic getaway for couples or a sunny winter safari for families. And while it remains an excellent choice for first-timers wanting to experience a classic, big five safari, this destination is just as popular with seasoned philanthropists taking annual impact trips supporting innovative, privately funded conservation initiatives to regenerate animal habitat, protect biodiversity and save critically endangered species .

couple in 4x4 on safari woman holding camera

The most sought-after lodges and safari camps are in private conservation areas, within private game reserves scattered across the country, or in the Greater Kruger area, which includes the Kruger National Park. Small and often owner-run, these luxury, light-footprint properties are in hand-picked, scenic locations and offer deeply layered, immersive safari experiences on and off the vehicle led by experienced guides and trackers with an intimate knowledge of the ecosystem in which they’re working. Many privately protected areas share unfenced boundaries with neighbouring tracts of protected land so that animals can roam and establish their territory over a larger space in tune with seasonal changes. Along with exclusive, up-close sightings and a limit on the number of vehicles permitted, other private concession perks include the freedom to drive off-road where permitted, take guided walks and night drives , enjoy remote bush dinners and star bed sleep-outs, and get involved with hands-on conservation. Sustainably managed properties that are fully invested in protecting the environment while maximising the positive economic spinoffs of nature-based tourism to local communities should always be a consideration before booking anything.

Drinking Elephants in the Kruger National Park South Africa.

When to go to South Africa for safari

Most of the go-to game reserves are in the northeast of South Africa and experience summer rain in thunderstorms followed by a dry winter with cool to chilly nights and warm, clear-skied sunny days ( May to October ). Winter is, therefore, the most popular time to go on safari, when the dry conditions lead to concentrations of animals around reliable water sources. This makes game viewing more predictable and animals easier to track and locate due to sparse vegetation and minimal ground cover. The mild, clear days are great for getting off the vehicle to track and explore the bush on foot. Summer rain radically transforms the bush, and everything explodes with life as the days heat up. Dense thickets and trees in leaf reduce visibility and make game viewing more challenging, but the lush, green vegetation attracts summer migrants and becomes a birder’s paradise. Predator activity increases, too, due to the abundance of baby animals at a time when food is plentiful for all. After the rain, the dust settles and light conditions are excellent for photography. Autumn and spring are good for witnessing the antelope rutting season. An early or late summer safari could be South Africa’s best-kept secret, especially with the add-on of a beach holiday outside of Cape Town ’s busiest time (from mid- December to end- January ). Elsewhere, the semi-arid Karoo and Kalahari are dry and clear-skied in winter and have low rainfall averages in summer but get very hot. In general, off-peak travel is underrated, with benefits including better availability, potential stay-longer, pay-less deals, and the possibility of securing a private vehicle.

Open dusty roads sat in a 4x4 jeep South Africa Kruger National Park

Where to go in South Africa for safari

The private conservation areas in and around the Greater Kruger area are synonymous with South Africa’s reputation for delivering epic, up-close predator action interpreted by knowledgeable guides. Kruger shares unfenced boundaries with several private reserves, including the Sabi Sand, where iconic, family-owned properties like Mala Mala , Londolozi , and Singita first put the region on the map thanks to reliable big cat sightings, especially leopards. Further private properties within the Timbavati, Thornybush and Klaserie reserves add thousands of hectares to the Greater Kruger, encouraging natural species migration and collectively securing habitat for many rare and endangered animals. In the northern reaches of the Kruger National Park, Pafuri’s immense flood plains and dense forests are renowned for walking safaris. At the same time, Singita’s privately leased Lebombo concession on the park’s Mozambican border provides strategic protection for rhinos. Further afield, large, private malaria-free reserves like Madikwe, close to the Botswana border, Marataba in the Waterberg, Samara in the Great Karoo, Tswalu in the southern Kalahari, and Kwandwe in the Eastern Cape, provide shelter for an astounding diversity of big game and rare and elusive species, boast breathtaking scenery and offer a choice of intimately scaled lodges for immersive, romantic getaways, secluded, off-grid trails camps for adventurers, and fully staffed, exclusive-use bush villas for multigenerational families .

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Beyond Tengile River Lodge

The best lodges to book

Tengile river lodge, sabi sand.

This beautifully modern AndBeyond-run lodge in the Sabi Sand has nine energy-efficient, villa-sized suites – 200 square metres in extent – cleverly concealed in a riverine forest on a bend of the Sand River where elephants often come to feed. Hand-painted botanical print fabrics, recycled stone terrazzo floors, and bespoke throws and rugs add character to the smart, modern interiors, everything angled for soaking in the tranquil views. A glass-walled forest-green marble bathroom leads to an outdoor shower on a private, shaded deck and a big  pool . The lodge’s spa and gym also have a lap pool for training swims - necessary, as the food is delicious.

Best for: Nature-loving aesthetes will appreciate the sleek, glamorous style of this lodge, which champions local, eco-friendly design, and having exclusive access to over 10,000 hectares in the quieter south-east of the Sabi Sand reserve.

Cheetah Plains, Sabi Sand

Electric, solar-powered game-drive vehicles offer a zero-emissions ride and properly quiet encounters with wildlife at this 100 per cent off-grid luxury property in the Sabi Sand. In synch with its sustainable approach to game-viewing, Cheetah Plains uses the latest in grey-water recycling. It powers everything from the air-cons to the temperature-controlled wine cellars in its three exclusive-use lodges on renewable solar energy. Named after legendary big cats in the area, the three exclusive-use lodges have four private guest suites - think glass walls gliding away into raw concrete to bring nature closer, even from the bath. Burnished metal, unpolished stone and solid timber interiors are the counterpart to colourful contemporary South African artworks.

Best for: Silent game drives in fast and efficient electric vehicles, charged off renewable energy, designed by Cheetah Plains’ owner, a former rally driver, to be extra-comfortable with luxury SUV suspension, ergonomically shaped padded bucket seats with built-in seat warmers for chilly winter mornings.

Great Fish River Lodge, Kwandwe Private Game Reserve

Nine gloriously remote, romantic suites with viewing decks and private pools sit above the Great Fish River, which meanders for 30 kilometres through this rugged, 22,000-hectare, privately owned reserve in the malaria-free Eastern Cape province, within driving distance of the Garden Route’s long, sandy beaches and indigenous forests. The breeding ground of the blue crane, Kwandwe has just 30 rooms split across two intimate lodges (Great Fish River being one of them), three exclusive-use villas (ideal for family safaris), and an off-grid tented camp. Exclusivity at up-close sightings of the big five, black rhino, cheetah and smaller, but no less significant, vulnerable and endangered species is amplified by the rugged wilderness setting: extensive open plains interrupted by carbon-storing subtropical thicket-clad hills, securing vital habitat for wildlife that last roamed freely here over 120 years ago.

Best for: A big five safari with a luxury of space and privacy for a romantic getaway, after exploring the Garden Route or Cape Town. Malaria free makes it ideal for families and the elderly, too - multiple generations sharing a fully staffed villa with a private vehicle and guide.

Royal Malewane Farmhouse

The Farmstead, at Royal Malewane, Thornybush Private Game Reserve

On expertly guided drives from this sister property to Royal Malewane’s original lodge, sightings include leopard, cheetah, wild dog, and sizeable elephant and buffalo herds. A Master Tracker leads walks. Increased movement of animals has resulted in a richer game-viewing experience in this increasingly popular privately owned reserve - all because fences were dropped on the eastern boundary with the Timbavati in 2017, opening it up to the Greater Kruger area. Liz Biden’s inimitable riotous style doesn’t hold back in this celebratory lodge with three luxury suites plus a separate villa with space for six additional adults. Like Liz’s newest addition to Royal Malewane, Waterside Lodge, this one features fun Ardmore fabrics, animal print and plush velvets in jewel colours and lots of South African art. In summer, deep verandas encourage lazing outdoors on swinging daybeds or one of the loungers submerged in the pool’s shallow end. The local Moletele community own the land here and benefits financially from the lodge’s success.

Best for: House parties, especially if the Biden family’s original bush villa, Africa House, is too big – newly renovated, its six suites share two pools, a spa treatment suite and gym.

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South Africa Safari - Compare 786 Tours

South Africa is one of the world’s most varied holiday destinations. From the classic safari country of Kruger National Park to the stately ‘mother city’ of Cape Town; from the snow-sprinkled heights of the Drakensberg to the parched red dunescapes of the Kalahari; from the gorgeous Winelands around Stellenbosch to the idyllic beaches of the Garden Route – South Africa is a true all-rounder that attracts more than its fair share of repeat visitors. It is also the most affordable and well equipped of African safari destinations, particularly well suited to family holidays, to those seeking a malaria-free holiday, to dedicated foodies and wine-lovers, and for combining a foray into Big Five country with a beach holiday and/or city break.

11-Day South Africa & Mauritius Family Safari & Beach

11-Day South Africa & Mauritius Family Safari & Beach

$7,080 pp (USD)

South Africa & Mauritius: Private tour Luxury Lodge & Resort

You Visit: Johannesburg (Start) , Madikwe GR, Bel Ombre (Town & Beach) , Mauritius (End)

Tour operator has an office in United States

4.9 /5  –  149 Reviews

4-Day Kapama River Lodge Game Safari

4-Day Kapama River Lodge Game Safari

$2,263 pp (USD)

South Africa: Private tour Luxury+ Lodge

You Visit: Johannesburg (Start) , Kapama GR (Greater Kruger) , Johannesburg (End)

Ranger Buck Safaris   Tour operator has an office in South Africa

5.0 /5  –  19 Reviews

4-Day Greater Kruger Safari with Mohlabetsi Safari Lodge

4-Day Greater Kruger Safari with Mohlabetsi Safari Lodge

$1,101 pp (USD)

South Africa: Private tour Mid-range Lodge

You Visit: Hoedspruit (Start) , Balule NR (Greater Kruger) , Hoedspruit Airport (Hoedspruit) , Hoedspruit (End)

Indigo Safaris

5.0 /5  –  121 Reviews

4-Day All Inclusive Fly-in Tour to Kruger's Imbali Lodge

4-Day All Inclusive Fly-in Tour to Kruger's Imbali Lodge

$1,850 pp (USD)

You Visit: Johannesburg (Start) , Kruger NP, Johannesburg (End)

Safari.com   Tour operator has an office in South Africa

4.7 /5  –  186 Reviews

safari south africa december

5-Day Exclusive Kruger & Private Game Reserve Experience

$1,640 pp (USD)

South Africa: Shared tour (max 9 people per vehicle) Luxury Lodge & Guest House

You Visit: Johannesburg (Start) , Kruger NP, Sabi Sands (Greater Kruger) , Sabi Sands (Greater Kruger) , Nelspruit (End)

Elephant Herd Tours & Safaris   Tour operator has an office in South Africa

4.8 /5  –  71 Reviews

safari south africa december

4-Day Ultra Budget Glamping Kruger Safari

$518 pp (USD)

South Africa: Shared tour (max 10 people per vehicle) Budget Tented Bush Camp

You Visit: Johannesburg (Start) , Kruger NP, Panorama Route (Highlight) , Johannesburg Airport (End)

MoAfrika Tours   Tour operator has an office in South Africa

4.9 /5  –  926 Reviews

safari south africa december

4-Day Tremisana/Tent Kruger Park Safari

$701 pp (USD)

South Africa: Shared tour (max 9 people per vehicle) Budget Lodge & Tented Camp

You Visit: Johannesburg (Start) , Balule NR (Greater Kruger) , Kruger NP, Blyde River Canyon (Panorama Route) , Johannesburg (End)

Viva Safaris   Tour operator has an office in South Africa

4.9 /5  –  243 Reviews

safari south africa december

4-Day Private Kruger National Park Safari

$1,255 to $1,381 pp (USD)

South Africa: Private tour Mid-range Bungalow

You Visit: Johannesburg (Start) , Southern Kruger, Central Kruger, Johannesburg (End)

Wild Planet Safari   Tour operator has an office in South Africa

4.9 /5  –  202 Reviews

safari south africa december

4-Day Classic Kruger Park Safari

$972 pp (USD)

South Africa: Shared tour (max 6 people per vehicle) Mid-range Lodge & Bungalow

Wildlife Safaris   Tour operator has an office in South Africa

5.0 /5  –  251 Reviews

safari south africa december

3-Day Sabi Sands Tented Camp Safari

$948 pp (USD)

South Africa: Private tour Mid-range Tented Camp

You Visit: Johannesburg (Start) , Sabi Sands (Greater Kruger) , Panorama Route (Highlight) , Johannesburg (End)

Safari With Us   Tour operator has an office in South Africa

5.0 /5  –  212 Reviews

safari south africa december

5-Day Greenfire Game Lodge Safari

$1,476 pp (USD)

South Africa: Shared tour (max 9 people per vehicle) Luxury Lodge

You Visit: Johannesburg (Start) , Balule NR (Greater Kruger) , Johannesburg (End)

The Kruger Safari Co.   Tour operator has an office in South Africa

5.0 /5  –  113 Reviews

safari south africa december

4-Day Safari in Style - Lodge Living & Kruger Safari Fun

$1,005 pp (USD)

You Visit: Johannesburg (Start) , Balule NR (Greater Kruger) , Central Kruger, O.R. Tambo Airport (Johannesburg) , Johannesburg (End)

Shinzelle Safaris   Tour operator has an office in South Africa

4.9 /5  –  62 Reviews

safari south africa december

5-Day Private Game Reserve + Kruger National Park

$1,272 pp (USD)

South Africa: Private tour Mid-range Lodge & Bungalow

You Visit: Johannesburg (Start) , Phalaborwa (Town) , Tshukudu GR, Kruger NP, O.R. Tambo Airport (Johannesburg) , Johannesburg (End)

Khalanga Safaris   Tour operator has an office in South Africa

5.0 /5  –  58 Reviews

safari south africa december

3-Day Kruger Safari and Panorama Route - Midrange

$672 pp (USD)

You Visit: Johannesburg (Start) , Kruger NP, Panorama Route (Highlight) , Johannesburg (End)

Nhlalala Travel   Tour operator has an office in South Africa

5.0 /5  –  26 Reviews

safari south africa december

4-Day Fly-in Ecoluxury Safari in Malari-Free Madikwe

$3,881 pp (USD)

You Visit: Johannesburg (Start) , Madikwe GR, Johannesburg (End)

5.0 /5  –  36 Reviews

safari south africa december

7-Day Specialized Explorations, Cape & Safari - 6 Nights

$3,697 to $4,048 pp (USD)

South Africa: Private tour Luxury Lodge & Hotel

You Visit: Johannesburg (Start) , Marakele NP (Waterberg Biosphere) , Cape Town (End)

African Wildlife Plains   Tour operator has an office in South Africa

5.0 /5  –  1 Reviews

safari south africa december

4-Day Kruger NP Big Five & Panorama Route Safari

$668 to $735 pp (USD)

South Africa: Shared tour (max 8 people per vehicle) Budget Lodge

You Visit: Johannesburg (Start) , Southern Kruger, Panorama Route (Highlight) , Johannesburg (End)

The Mzansi Experience   Tour operator has an office in South Africa

4.9 /5  –  58 Reviews

safari south africa december

4-Day Big Five Safari in Mala Mala

$3,621 pp (USD)

South Africa: Private tour Luxury Lodge

You Visit: Johannesburg (Start) , MalaMala GR (Greater Kruger) , Johannesburg Airport (End)

Discover Africa Safaris   Tour operator has an office in South Africa

5.0 /5  –  403 Reviews

safari south africa december

5-Day Luxurious Greater Kruger Safari

$1,623 pp (USD)

South Africa: Shared tour (max 6 people per vehicle) Luxury Lodge

You Visit: Johannesburg (Start) , Hoedspruit (Town) , Johannesburg (End)

Safari Reinhardt   Tour operator has an office in South Africa

5.0 /5  –  8 Reviews

safari south africa december

3-Day Johannesburg to Kruger National Park Safari

$593 pp (USD)

South Africa: Shared tour (max 9 people per vehicle) Budget Camping

Mbombela Experience Tours & Transfers   Tour operator has an office in South Africa

5.0 /5  –  32 Reviews

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8 Questions About South Africa Safaris

Philip Briggs

Answered by

Philip briggs.

safari south africa december

When is the best time to visit South Africa?

“There is no bad time to take a South African holiday. But certain parts of the country are far better at specific times of the year. If a safari will be the main event of your South African tour, most of the country’s key parks and reserves are at their best in the southern hemisphere winter months of May to September, when daytime temperatures are cooler, the bush is less dense allowing for better visibility, and wildlife tends to gather around limited water sources. For beach-lovers, by contrast, the main coastal resorts are at their best in the southern hemisphere summer (November to March). Special interest groups such as bird-watchers and photographers may also prefer to undertake a safari in summer, when resident bird populations are boosted by large numbers of migrant birds, and the clear sky and greener countryside make for a more photogenic backdrop.”

Why visit South Africa, what are the major attractions?

“Variety is the keynote of South African holidays. The country boasts one of the continent’s finest safari destinations in the form of Kruger National Park and nearby private reserves, while other key Big Five safari reserves include Hluhluwe-iMfolozi and malaria-free Madikwe and Pilanesberg. Safaris aside, South Africa is renowned for its fantastic beaches, limitless hiking opportunities, wonderful outdoor climate and good-value dining and wining scene. The main focus of non-safari sightseeing is Cape Town, which is gracefully perched below Table Mountain on a scenic stretch of Atlantic coastline, close to the whale-watching hub of Hermanus and the historical Winelands around Stellenbosch and Franschhoek.”

How much does a South African safari cost?

“South African safari prices will depend greatly on the level of comfort you expect. At one extreme, self-drive camping safaris in somewhere like Kruger might work out at under US$100 for a couple per day. At the other extreme, all-inclusive safari packages at one of the country’s more exclusive private safari lodges might be 10 or 20 times more expensive. A good compromise between comfort and cost is a safari using the well-run rest camps that can be found throughout Kruger and in many other key national parks and provincial reserves. Accommodation aside, extras such as food, wine and other drinks are very cheap by international standards.”

How is the wildlife viewing?

“Excellent. Kruger National Park and neighboring private reserves host large populations of all the Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo), and rank among the top African safari destinations when it comes to spotting white rhino, as well as the rarer black rhino, leopard, cheetah and African wild dog. All these safari favorites are also likely to be encountered in Madikwe and Pilanesberg Game Reserves, as well as in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi and the various small private reserves of the Eastern Cape. Outside of the major Big Five reserves, many parts of the country are still home to a variety of antelope, monkeys and small predators, all of which might be encountered by hikers and ramblers. Bird watching is consistently excellent throughout the country, while locally conspicuous marine wildlife includes penguins, whales and giant turtles.”

How safe is South Africa for tourists?

“Crime is a genuine issue in the larger cities, especially Johannesburg, but not so much in the game reserves, smaller towns and beach resorts that form the focal points of most South African safari trips. Follow local advice about safety, avoid walking around cities at night, and you should be fine. Malaria is absent from most parts of the country, the one major exception being Kruger National Park and its immediate environs, but even here the risk is far lower than in most other African safari destinations. Madikwe and Pilanesberg are Africa’s premier malaria-free safari destinations. Many reserves in South Africa offer guided walking safaris in areas inhabited by potentially dangerous animals such as elephant, black rhino and lion, but the risk of an incident is minimal provided that you listen to your guide at all times, and treat wildlife with respect. Possibly the biggest risk to life and limb in South Africa is a car accident, so self-drivers should adopt a more defensive and cautious approach than they might at home.”

How do I select a reliable tour operator for a South Africa trip?

“It’s worth doing a bit of research into operators before you book a South Africa tour. Look for reviews of any given operator on SafariBookings.com and possibly other online portals; the more reviews an operator has received, the more confident you can be of its reliability. If you have friends who have visited the country, or who live there, ask for word-of-mouth recommendations before booking any South African safari packages. Check out the company’s website too – as a rule its level of professionalism will reflect that of the company it represents. Once in South Africa, hotels and guesthouses can usually point you to tried-and-tested operators for day outings and other short local tours.”

What type of accommodation can I expect?

“South African safari accommodation ranges from no-frills campsites to exclusive upmarket lodges offering the last word in safari chic. In between these extremes, most national parks and provincial reserves have at least one well-run rest camp offering camping facilities and self-catering chalets (usually en suite but occasionally using shared bathrooms). For those who don’t want to immerse themselves in the bush, a selection of mid-range hotels can be found within easy driving distance of many national park and reserve entrance gates. Exclusive lodges are generally associated with private reserves and concessions that offer all-inclusive safari packages incorporating guided game drives and walks.”

What can I expect from South African safaris?

“Generally South Africa has a more developed feel than other African safari destinations. Most national parks and other reserves can be reached via good, surfaced roads, which certainly isn’t the case in many other parts of Africa. Some, such as Kruger, actually have an internal network of surfaced roads, and it is the only major African safari destination where a 4WD would be a luxury rather than a necessity, and the most suitable one for self-drive safaris. Likewise, most national park rest camps are well equipped for self-caterers, and many have well-stocked grocery shops. Further, the wildlife in South Africa is as wild as it is in most parts of Africa, the standard of guiding is unusually high, and people on organized safaris can expect excellent close-up sightings of everything from the Big Five to smaller animals such as birds and lizards.”

South Africa Safari Reviews

safari south africa december

Emma is an award-winning travel writer for Rough Guides, National Geographic Traveller, Travel Africa magazine and The Independent.

Where Big Five safaris are big business, there’s a wealth of choice

Glorious images of elephants, rhinos, lions, leopards and buffalo parading through pristine bush are central to South Africa’s popular image. So it comes as a surprise to some first-time visitors that, in reality, the proportion of this...

Full Review

safari south africa december

Anthony is a photographer and writer for travel magazines and Lonely Planet, including the guides to Kenya and Botswana & Namibia.

South Africa: World-class Safaris

South Africa is one of my favourite places to go on safari, with all the necessary ingredients for a wildlife experience that will begin your enduring love affair with the continent. Primary among these ingredients is the wildlife....

Wonderful, beautiful country still trying to cast off the impacts of apartheid

Internal flights with Airlink are frequent, really great value and comfortable. Capetown was as vibrant as I expected, excellent food and drinks quality and pricing, huge choice of both on the V&A Waterfront. Uber is you best friend for...

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Beyond amazing

This was one of the most impressive trips in my life. We spent 19 days in this amazing country - in Cape Town and around, Kruger Park safari and Johannesburg. Absolutely wonderful to go to enjoy the sunny weather in November/December when...

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Exceptional 5-Star Safari Experience in South Africa

My recent safari in South Africa was an absolute gem, earning a well-deserved 5-star rating. The guide was nothing short of amazing, offering insightful knowledge that added depth to every wildlife encounter. Accommodations were top-notch...

Amazing, beautiful country, such diversity of wildlife with fantastic food, drink & service.

We stayed in three different places so experienced a variety of environments. Walker Bay was beautiful, we visited caves and the beach, went shark cage diving, horse riding and stayed in a beautiful private nature reserve in exquisite...

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The best safaris in South Africa

An expert guide to the best south africa safaris.

Anthony Ham

Anthony Ham

Stuart Butler

Stuart Butler

  • In this guide

Kruger National Park

Sabi sands game reserve, kwazulu-natal.

  • Parks of the North West Province
  • Safari in the Eastern Cape
  • Safari in the Western Cape
  • Where to go
  • Planning a safari
  • Safari FAQs

I fell in love with South Africa the very first time I laid eyes on it. Like so many safari-goers before me, the love affair began in Kruger: big cats, rhinos, elephants and just about every species of charismatic mega-fauna weren’t just present. They were everywhere.

In the years since, as my knowledge of South Africa's safari parks deepened, each visit has only confirmed that my first impressions were, if anything, an understatement. I've been travelling to Africa for two decades and some of my happiest safari experiences have been in South Africa.

For me, it's the sheer breadth and depth of safari opportunities that defines South Africa. It ticks every significant safari box: abundant wildlife, varied habitats and landscapes, a well developed safari industry, and a wonderful mix of the accessible and the remote. And every time I come back, I’m surprised by how much there still is to discover and how much there still is to see.

It’s why I keep returning, and I'm sure you will too.

My best South Africa safari tip? There's a whole world beyond Kruger and the other blockbuster parks. Those in the know seek out Timbavati, Madikwe, Kgalagadi and all the other places that the mainstream South African safari industry doesn't want to tell you about. But that's what this guide is for: we'll explore my top recommended South Africa safari parks and reserves in the following pages.

Get the digested read

Where to begin? When to go? How to plan? So many questions, so little time. That's why we've asked leading South Africa safari expert Stuart Butler to answer your most frequently asked questions in this handy four-part email series.

Tourists observing a female leopard South Africa

Close encounters with a leopard in South Africa

The best safaris in South Africa: Where to go

South africa's best, and some lesser-known, safari highlights.

Every South Africa safari region has its own charms: I find it reassuring that there are still places like Kruger or Sabi Sands, where wild Africa still reigns supreme, or that there’s still so much wildlife to be seen in big, boisterous and human-dominated Kwazulu-Natal. Safaris in the Eastern Cape and Western Cape come with so many possible add-ons for experiencing the best in modern South Africa. But above all, I love the remote, anything-can-happen experience of the Kalahari & Karoo or North West Province.

Featured South Africa Safaris

safari south africa december

Affordable Greater Kruger Safari Combo

safari south africa december

Jewels of South Africa

13 day small group tour of south africa.

safari south africa december

Malaria-Free Big 5 Safari in Madikwe

safari south africa december

Big Five Safari in Mala Mala

safari south africa december

Kruger Safari & Beach

8 days from kruger to mozambique.

safari south africa december

Wonders of South Africa

15 days from port elizabeth to kruger.

safari south africa december

Sabi Sands Fly In Safari

safari south africa december

Kwazulu Natal Beach and Bush Honeymoon

safari south africa december

Family self-drive along the Garden Route

safari south africa december

Cape Town & Kruger Luxury Safari

Best for: iconic safaris & exclusive reserves.

Kruger is South Africa’s most celebrated safari park, and deservedly so. Kruger and the surrounding private reserves are home to all of southern Africa’s iconic mammal species, including the endangered African wild dog, its varied habitats support more than 500 bird species and many of the private reserves offer top quality specialised photo safaris.

A park as good and easy to visit as Kruger attracts a lot of visitors and in high season main routes can be busy. The park’s highly-developed infrastructure also means that it doesn’t always feel all that wild. If this sounds off-putting, fear not: head to northern Kruger for wild beauty, smaller crowds and a palpable sense of adventure. You may have to work a little harder for your sightings up here, but that’s because the animals are a little more wary of vehicles than they are elsewhere. In other words, it feels like a safari of yesteryear. Oh, and the birdlife is exceptional in the north, with species you just don’t find elsewhere in the park.

The park is surrounded by a number of superb private reserves with limited numbers and no self-drives allowed, which means that wild Africa comes growling right up to you. Taking all this into account, whatever sort of safari you’re looking for, Kruger usually comes out on top.

Best for: absolute luxury safaris

If I had to make a choice, for me it’s all about the big cats. And there’s nowhere better than Sabi Sands. The leopard sightings in particular here are almost always something special, thanks to the unrivalled quality of the guiding and the intimacy of the whole low-density-tourism experience.

This 65,000 hectare reserve is, in many respects, the finest chunk of wildlife-filled wilderness in southern Africa. The choice safari destination in South Africa for the wealthy, Sabi Sands is actually a grouping of smaller private reserves rather than one single entity. With unfenced reserves adjacent to Kruger, the wildlife slips effortlessly around the ecosystem while world-class wildlife guides ensure that you’re always in the right place at the right time.

The only real downside is the hefty price tag! But if you can afford it, there’s no question that Sabi Sands offers the best safari experience in South Africa. Also, if birdwatching is your thing, as with Kruger, Sabi Sands has great birdlife, although with less habitat diversity the species count is lower.

Best for: less crowded safaris

Welcome to South Africa’s cultural heartland, an essential immersion for those seeking to understand this glorious country in all its complexity. Networks of private reserves, plus big-ticket Hluhluwe-iMfolozi range across habitats and landscapes that are quintessentially South African. That these parks even exists gives great hope for the future.

Although there is great wildlife watching in many parts of the region, the largest concentration of protected areas is in the northeastern coastal areas a few hours’ drive north of Durban. Spinning away from the massive Lake St Lucia is a number of interconnecting public and private game reserves which together encompass everything from windblown beaches to Big Five-filled grasslands.

The density of big ticket wildlife is a little lower than in the Kruger area, but thanks to the diversity of habitats the range of animal species is exceptional. All the normal big hitters are here including elephant, lion, buffalo, rhino (both black and white), leopard and wild dogs. Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park and surrounding conservation areas are the best bet for a classic Big Five safari and many an experienced safari goer actually rates Hluhluwe-iMfolozi over the more famous Kruger.

North West Province

Best for: quick & accessible safaris.

If I can’t visit Kruger, I head for the North West and into Limpopo. Some of my happiest safari days have been in Marakele, Mapungubwe and Madikwe; the latter is brilliant for everything. Up here, it’s possible to still feel a sense of adventure, as if the animals outnumber people.

In this often dry and sunburnt region, life can be tough and this is reflected in the fact that compared to greener and better-watered areas such as Kruger National Park, the density of animals can be lower. However, here it’s all about quality and not quantity. Most of the star players are resident on these open savannahs and bushveld, including all the Big Five. This is a prime region for Africa’s most lethal but persecuted predator, the wild dog. Elephants and rhino are also big fans of this part of the country but the cats, though present, tend to be a bit harder to find compared to other South African safari zones. Birdlife is impressive throughout the region.

In short, this part of the country suits two types of safari-goer: those short on time who merely need a quick safari hit with near guaranteed sightings of most big mammals and, by contrast, those with plenty of time and a willingness to forgo large numbers of animals in exchange for the adventure of never knowing quite what might be around the next corner.

The Eastern Cape

Best for: easy access from cape town.

Going on safari in the Eastern Cape always feels a little like cheating. But why shouldn’t we see elephants and big cats and other safari specials not far from world-class beaches and the peerless city of Cape Town? Smaller reserves add to the sense of safaris that are custom-made for slotting into an all-round South African holiday.

The reserves here are more compact than elsewhere, but what they lack in scale they make up for in an abundance of wildlife — including all the Big Five.

With easy access from major travel hubs, excellent tourist infrastructure and the possibility of slotting beaches, Cape Town and other attractions into the mix, the Eastern Cape is one of the most rewarding and deservedly popular wildlife destinations in South Africa, with a range of parks to explore.

The Western Cape

Best for: family-friendly & short safaris.

Other areas of the country have vast wilderness. Western Cape is instead all about making it easy to see amazing safari animals. Like Eastern Cape, it’s all about smaller reserves chockfull of wildlife, and that’s nothing to complain about. Add in the marine mammals, especially the great white sharks, and it’s a magnificent place to go on safari.

All the famed Big Five are present in this region although in most cases they’ve been re-introduced into fairly small, fenced private game reserves. These are not zoos, but they’re also not vast wilderness zones like the ones you might find elsewhere in southern Africa.

Like the Eastern Cape, Western Cape contains many different habitats, and it supports a wide range of wildlife. This includes some massive marine life including some of the world’s biggest (and hungriest!) sharks. On dry land many of the larger native mammals were wiped out over the last couple of hundred years. However, today, thanks to reintroduction programmes in the region’s private game reserves, many of these animals are returning. It’s now possible to see most of the key big mammal species of South Africa here.

The Kalahari

Big horizons and the feeling of nature in the ascendant is what draws me to the Kalahari in South Africa’s north.

One of my favourite parks in all of Africa, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (which South Africa shares with Botswana) is like a gateway into the rich desert biodiversity of one of the world’s largest sand deserts.

Kruger National Park

The best South Africa safari parks

The south africa safari experts' top picks.

Trying to pick the "best" safari parks in South Africa is a fool's errand, but if pushed I'd say it's a toss-up between either Phinda Game Reserve or Tswalu Kalahari Reserve. But all the following would be well worth your time and money.

Northern Kruger

Northern Kruger

Phinda Game Reserve

Phinda Game Reserve

Madikwe Game Reserve

Madikwe Game Reserve

Timbavati Private Game Reserve

Timbavati Private Game Reserve

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Karoo National Park

Karoo National Park

Amakhala Game Reserve

Amakhala Game Reserve

|Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park

|Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park

Tswalu Kalahari Private Reserve

Tswalu Kalahari Private Reserve

Kwandwe Game Reserve

Kwandwe Game Reserve

Northern Kruger

Kruger is widely considered South Africa’s best safari park, and deservedly so. But there's no denying that it gets busy in places. Northern Kruger however still has that wild beauty, few crowds and a palpable sense of adventure. You may have to work a little harder for your sightings up here, but that’s because the animals are a little more wary of vehicles than they are elsewhere. In other words, it feels like a safari of yesteryear. Oh, and the birdlife is exceptional in the north, with species you just don’t find elsewhere in the park.

Phinda Game Reserve

Of all the private reserves of KwaZulu-Natal, it’s Phinda that most rivals Sabi Sands and the other world-famous reserves that fringe Kruger. Compact and yet with a strong sense of wilderness, Phinda has all of the big cats, and sightings of elephants and rhinos are outstanding. But Phinda is perhaps the best place in South Africa to see the cheetah, and sightings here are consistently excellent. Fabulous accommodation adds to the appeal, visitor numbers are far fewer than in the Kruger reserves.

Madikwe Game Reserve

I’ve never quite understood why Madikwe isn’t mentioned in the same breath as Kruger and South Africa’s other elite parks. Then again, I like it that way: whenever I visit, it’s never crowded. All of the big cats are here, as are elephants, rhinos, buffalo – I once saw rhino, elephant and buffalo all sharing the same waterhole. I’ve also seen African wild dog, two bull giraffes fighting, and lions on the hunt, all on the same afternoon game drive. The mix of accommodation is just about right, too, with an affordable choice and a handful of perfectly placed luxury options.

Timbavati Private Game Reserve

Sabi Sands and Mala Mala may get all the attention among the private reserves west of Kruger. And make no mistake: both offer world-class wildlife experiences. But for something a little more low-key, I always choose Timbavati, where my wildlife sightings have always been exceptional and intense. There’s no fence between Timbavati and the national park, visiting here is like a concentrated version of the best of Kruger without the hype. A good mix of accommodation also makes it a touch more affordable than the others.

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

I love deserts, and have spent a lifetime roaming across Africa in search of the perfect desert safari experience. One that combines South African accessibility (paved roads run right to the park gate) with the best in desert scenery is Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, which South Africa shares with Botswana. Having written a book about lions, I’ve always valued as special Kgalagadi’s lion possibilities that never disappoint: watching a pride of lions roaring atop a sand dune at sunset is my definition of safari perfection.

Karoo National Park

Western Cape

Every time I visit Karoo National Park, I’m struck with amazement that this arid wilderness survives in the heart of the country. The rugged terrain, coupled with astonishing birdlife, the lurking presence of lion and black rhino, and the sheer silence at night all combine to lure me back. It’s having a desert transplanted alongside the Johannesburg-Cape Town road. Most visitors drive right on by, but there’s a whole world of wonder to experience if decide to stop.

Amakhala Game Reserve

Eastern Cape

Of all the private reserves in South Africa’s Eastern Cape, Amakhala is my pick. Relatively unheralded and yet filled with animals, it offers the kind of safari experience that will appeal to families as well as to veteran safari visitors. Big cat, elephant and rhino sightings are consistently excellent, and the habitat here enables an unusual range of activities, from standard game drives in an open-sided 4WD to walking safaris and boat trips.

|Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park

I can never resist a desert experience, one of the least-known is this fine park along the Namibian border. It’s a chance to concentrate less on the animals - though there are some rarities here, such as the caracal, klipspringer, honey badger and the Hautmann’s mountain zebra – and more on the landscape as a whole. Vivid wildflower displays in spring and the extraordinary fissures and landforms of Fish River Canyon (the world’s second-largest), make this one of Africa’s most underrated natural wonders.

Tswalu Kalahari Private Reserve

Claiming to be South Africa’s largest private reserve, Tswalu, in Northern Cape, is a shining example of what can be done when conservation and tourism combines. Built around a model of sustainability, the reserve takes a holistic approach to conservation with deep ties to the local community. And with, at last count, 85 mammal and 264 bird species, the Kalahari wildlife is magnificent, with everything from black-maned Kalahari lions, oryx and meerkats to brown hyenas, African wild dogs and pangolins.

Kwandwe Game Reserve

This 220-sq-km reserve is larger than most in the eastern Cape, and yet has just two small lodges in which to stay: overcrowding at wildlife sightings just doesn’t happen here. I’ve often had big cat and rhino sightings to myself here; the rhinos in particular seem oblivious to vehicles and I’ve been so close, I could have leaned out to touch them. And I just love the night drives: there’s nothing quite like seeing a porcupine waddling along a night road, confusing the hell out of lions.

South Africa

On safari in South Africa

South Africa safari: Need to know

Everything you wish you'd known before you booked.

South Africa is safari heaven. From the world-famous Kruger National Park and Sabi Sands to the lesser-known Karoo and family-friendly experiences in the Western Cape, there’s a wildlife experience to match all needs. First-time visitors will probably want to hit the Big Five highlights of the major parks, but don’t dismiss the more accessible lodges in the North West Province and around Cape Town.

For those looking for a cheaper option, consider self-drive safari routes. A quintessential South African family experience is a self-drive route through Kruger National Park, staying at self-catering campsites, where accommodation can be anything from small huts to guesthouses.

When planning where to go on safari in South Africa, consider what you want to get out of the experience. For luxurious lodges, head to up-market parks like Sabi Sands. If you want to get out into the bush, consider lodges that offer walking safaris. For those less bothered by the big five, consider the birdlife of KwaZulu-Natal or the cheetahs of Karoo.

Safari on your own terms

This may be controversial, but in my opinion you should forget about the "Big Five".

The Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo) are the five African safari animals deemed the most dangerous to hunt by colonial-era hunters in the late 19th- and early 20th-century. Yes, it’s a useful marketing tool. And yes, many South Africa safari-goers (and companies) are still in their thrall. But in my opinion the obsession over the Big Five has more to do with nostalgia than the excitement and experience of a safari today.

I’ve nothing against seeing the Big Five animals themselves: each one is a thrill, every time. But I think the emphasis on "bagging" all the Big Five like a colonial big game hunter can detract from fully appreciating the true experience. I’ve encountered travellers who rush away from a lion kill because they’re yet to see a buffalo and their time on safari is running out. Safari, and travel more generally, should be about much more than rushed bucket lists and tick boxes.

Personally, I’m just as thrilled to encounter a cheetah – I’d rather see a cheetah on the hunt than a lion sleeping under a tree – or an African wild dog pack streaming across the landscape and on the hunt. Or a serval, or a meerkat, or a brown hyena. Sometimes, I’ll choose to sit beneath a leopard resting in a tree for a whole afternoon, just on the chance that it will soon stretch, climb down the tree, and head off on some exciting leopard mission.

And it just seems so arbitrary. Why not the "Big Six" (I always add the cheetah to the traditional list); adding African wild dogs and fighting giraffes to become a "Big Eight". This is the problem with the Big Five: it puts someone else’s list above your own sense of wonder.

South Africa safari logistics

There are two main classes of safari in South Africa: self-drive and organised safari tours. And within the latter, there’s a whole world of choice: between a group and a private safari; between a fly-in and a 4WD safari; between a walking safari and one where you remain in your vehicle; between a camping safari and one spent sleeping in lodges.

Self-drive means using your own vehicle (typically a rental car) to travel between the game reserves and, where self-drive safaris are permitted, making your own way through the reserves and parks. You’ll need to book ahead at your chosen accommodation in each reserve, and be sure to check that self-drive safaris are permitted. Although you certainly could rent a 4WD, most South African parks and reserves have excellent road networks and a 2WD is, in most cases, sufficient.

Organised safaris are similar to typical packaged multi-stop tours, usually with a number of different reserves or parks in one trip. They include all accommodation, collection and ground transfers from the airports (or, in the case of some luxury lodges, fly-ins to their own private airstrips). You won’t need your own vehicle and all game drives will be with a guide, usually in a small group of guests.

The main pros to self-drive safaris are that they tend to be cheaper, allow you to visit places that aren’t included on mainstream safari packages, and they give you more freedom to change plans at the last moment. There’s nothing worse than being on safari with other travellers who convince the guide to move on, when all you’d like to do is stick around and wait for those lion cubs to wake up: a self-drive safari solves that problem.

There are a number of drawbacks. Firstly, you most likely won’t be in a specialised safari vehicle, typically a large, open-sided 4WD that is purpose made for good visibility. This is usually a deal-breaker for keen wildlife spotters and photographers, as being in a rental saloon car severely limits where you can go and how much you can see. You could, of course, rent a 4WD vehicle, but this increases the cost significantly. Self-drive safari also means that you are your own guide and wildlife spotter. Fun perhaps, but you’ll miss lots of sightings without a proper guide.

But not all organised South African safaris are created equal. In addition to choosing which accommodation you’ll sleep in, whether you fly or drive in, and how much time you spend in your vehicle, you’ll need to choose between your own private a safari and one you share with others. Private safaris mean having the guide and vehicle all to yourself and/or your travelling party; such safaris are easier to customise, but also more expensive. A group safari means sharing both costs and experiences: you’ll pay less and have a cast of safari companions with which to share it all, but you’ll also have less control over everything from your dates of travel to the itinerary.

Such considerations aside, the best South Africa safari tours use customised jeeps and highly-trained guides who will enliven your experience with their vast knowledge and tracking skills. Poor quality safaris can mean an overcrowded minibus hurtling from one sighting to the next with a guide who barely knows his giraffe from his flamingo. As with most things in life, you get what you pay for — aim as high as you can afford, even if that means taking a shorter trip.

Blessed with incredible geographical diversity, South Africa is truly a year-round destination. Each region offers something unique and it is always a good season somewhere in this diverse country.

The overall best time to go on safari in South Africa is between May to September. This is South Africa’s dry season, but also low season as temperatures drop for winter; don’t underestimate how long temperatures can fall overnight, particularly away from the coast. Wildlife is easier to spot in these months, as vegetation is lower and animals gather around waterholes.

When to go on safari in South Africa

When to go on safari in South Africa

Blessed with incredible geographical diversity, South Africa is truly a year-round destination…

SA_savannahsunset

Sunset over the Savannah

Safety on safari

Part of the thrill of going on safari in South Africa is the chance to get up close and personal with some of the world’s most awesome — and dangerous — animals. It’s important to follow safety guidelines and some basic health procedures to ensure your trip is as memorable as possible.

First-time safari-goers are often worried about encounters with dangerous wildlife. The simple truth is that you won’t get eaten by a lion. Safari guides are trained to keep their guests safe and will tell you how to act in any given encounter with wildlife.

If you’re on a self-drive trip: never get out of your car unless specifically told that it’s safe to do so; never attempt to feed or pet the animals; and never walk around in the bush alone at night — if you need to leave your tent at night, call security.

Note that elephants, buffalo and hippo are all far more dangerous than lions. Give elephants a very wide berth especially if you happen to be on foot. Never get between a hippo and water and avoid walking in dense bush where you could meet buffalo.

If you’re on a walking trip, try to stay downwind of the animals. If an animal begins behaving in a hostile manner, back away slowly and quietly. In all scenarios, follow the advice of your guides and rangers.

Staying healthy

The more real health risk comes from drinking tap water or eating something which doesn’t agree with you, both of which can lead to an upset stomach for a day or so. Only drink treated water and be careful with what you eat - although the food prepared at most safari camps is invariably safe - and often world-class.

The heat and strong African sun can easily leave you burnt, dehydrated or, worse, give you heat or sunstroke. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, bring lots of water and slap on plenty of factor 50 sunscreen.

Malaria can be a problem in parts of the northeast (which is where the best-known parks and reserves are) so always wear insect repellent at night, sleep under a net and follow your doctor’s advice on anti-malarials.

Health-wise, South Africa is generally a trouble-free destination, but make sure all of your standard vaccinations are up to date before travelling.

South Africa has an unenviable reputation for violence and robbery and it would be remiss to say that there isn’t a danger from this. However, the threat to most tourists is very low. Most violence occurs in poorer city neighbourhoods and not in tourist areas. More to the point, robberies and violence on a safari is only likely to be an issue if a troop of baboons manages to get into your room.

Responsible safaris

A safari is a wonderful opportunity to experience nature on a grand scale. But although it’s easy to get swept up with the romance of it all, you shouldn’t forget that your presence has a direct impact on the ecosystem, for good and bad.

The upside of your safari is that the money you put into the system pays for conservation and helps keep the land protected and wild. Without wildlife tourism, there’s a very real chance that many of South Africa’s conservation zones would become, or remain, farmland with all the implications that has for a fragile ecosystem.

In addition, there are things you can do to make your impact is as positive as possible. Before booking with any safari company, camp or lodge, or even choosing the parks and reserves you wish to visit, take a look at the conservation and community projects they are involved with. Companies investing back into local communities and conservation projects often like to shout about it on their websites. And when you do book, remember to mention that their community projects were a factor in your decision. This will encourage further investment in such programmes.

Respect the wildlife

On safari, treat the wildlife with the respect it deserves. Getting too close to wildlife, approaching animals head-on or pursuing and encircling them is likely to disturb them and cause distress. Approach wildlife at an angle, which is less threatening than coming at animals head-on. Movements must be steady and predictable.

How close you can get depends on the species but in general, your presence shouldn’t alarm the animals, cause them to flee, or change their normal behaviour. If the animals appear disturbed, you should move away immediately.

Noise, such as the sound of engines, laughter and shouting, should be kept to a minimum. Engines should be switched off when stationary and vehicle horns or fog horns on boats should never be used.

Bright lights and flash photography will startle an animal, possibly costing it a meal or even its life. On night drives, the use of naked searchlights should be replaced with red filtered lamps that do not disturb wild animals.

Avoid causing unnecessary damage to the environment. Litter, including plastic bags, batteries and cigarette butts, can be ingested by wildlife, causing injury or even death. Make sure you don’t drop anything and dispose of your rubbish properly.

Follow your guide

Absolutely no direct contact should be made between wild animals and people, including the guides. This can be highly stressful for the animals concerned, run the risk of transmitting disease, and can potentially, cause injury or even death. If you are observing wildlife from a vehicle, never get out of the car unless instructed to do so by your guide.

All animals have very specific diets and feeding them different foods could make them ill. Feeding wildlife can also change their social and feeding behaviour, encouraging begging, causing conflict between other animals, and increasing the likelihood of aggression towards humans.

If travelling in a group, don’t be shy. If you see or experience unacceptable human behaviour that has a negative impact on wild animals, be sure to speak out. If you cannot change the behaviour at the time by voicing your concerns, contact your tour operator afterwards and register your disapproval.

Conversely, if you have a great experience, thank and reward your guide appropriately and let your tour company or agent know that you appreciate their conscientious approach to what should be a magical experience.

Part of the joy of seeing animals in the wild is that you’re visiting them in their own environments and witnessing their natural behaviour. Inevitably there will be times when the animals are less active or visible, depending on the location, the season, or even just the time of day.

Do your research before you travel and find out the best time of year to view the wildlife you most wish to see. If the animals aren’t active when you visit, don’t be disappointed: this is not a zoo. It’s all part of a respectful approach to the natural world that you’re visiting. It’s important that tourists don’t pressure their guides into manipulating the situation to make viewing the animals easier, or to set up that perfect photo opportunity.

Finally, when you get back home talk to your friends about the environmental issues the parks and reserves of South Africa face, and help spread the important message of conservation to your friends and family.

For more information on ethical wildlife holidays and how to interact with wildlife in a responsible and sustainable way, see our companion guide Compassionate Travel: A guide to animal-friendly holidays .

South Africa safari FAQs

Your questions, our expert answers, how much does a safari in south africa cost.

This is a virtually impossible question to answer as there’s such a huge range! But broadly speaking at the low-cost/budget end it ranges from USD $100 to $300 per person per night. This typically includes basic accommodations, such as tented camps or rest camp lodges.

At the mid-range prices might be USD $300 - $600 per person per night with a corresponding bump in accommodation quality.

At the high end there seems to be no ceiling. In private game reserves visitors can spend from $600 to $2,000 or more per person per night. You’ll be grateful that the sundowner is included in the price and additional activities like bush walks, night drives, or even hot air balloon rides may be included.

What should I expect on a safari in South Africa?

Most safaris start around dawn with a quick breakfast before heading out in the vehicles to begin animal spotting. Most animals choose to hunt in the early morning or dusk when temperatures are cooler. It’s also a good time to spot nocturnal animals returning from a night’s hunting, such as lions.

After a few hours in the field, you’ll break for lunch before heading out again until dusk. In general, expect to spend between 6-8 hours each day searching for animals. Remember that temperatures will regularly reach 30C and the tracks the vehicles drive on can be bumpy and dusty. Dress appropriately, wear lots of suncream and drink plenty of water. Evenings are spent swapping stories — and drinks — around the campfire.

It’s also worth remembering that you’re visiting national parks, not zoos. There is no guarantee that you’ll see any of the Big Five — or any animal at all. Conversely, be aware that you’ll spend eight hours a day searching for wildlife. It is possible for animal ‘fatigue’ to set in if you spend too long in one park or lodge. To counter this, visit different lodges or parks, and mix up your experience by including walking safaris, overnight camping or evening safaris.

Is safari dangerous?

In a word, no. The chances of being attacked by an animal are so minimal it hardly warrants considering. However, you must stick to the general rules imposed by the park and heed the instructions of your guides. If you break those and decide to go for a moonlight walk through the bush on your own, then yes, you might become a midnight snack.

Is safari family friendly?

Kids of all ages enjoy safaris as much as any adult. But a safari tends to mean a lot of time in a vehicle, often on bad roads and in hot weather. If there’s plenty of action taking place, younger children will be as hooked as you. But they can become bored the moment the pace slows down. If travelling with kids, ensure you choose camps or lodges that offer plenty of child-friendly activities. Some lodges and camps don’t accept children under a certain age. And don’t plan on heading out on early game drives every morning.

What is the food like in safari camps?

The standard of food is generally very high — even in the remotest lodges. Most lodges will have qualified chefs on hand and part of the entire safari experience is the cuisine and the emphasis placed on food.

Will I have to carry cash on safari in South Africa?

South Africa’s currency is the Rand, denoted by an R in shops and ZAR in currency trading. A favourable exchange rate with major currencies makes travelling in South Africa cheaper than visiting Europe or the United States. You can use credit cards in many shops, restaurants and lodges; there are many ATMs throughout the country and you can exchange traveller’s cheques at all banks. The best cash currencies to bring are US Dollars, Euros or British Pounds as these notes are accepted at the many Bureaux de Change in bigger cities.

You will be offered currency exchanges by people on the street throughout Africa. It may be tempting to avoid the conversion commissions; however, this is illegal and should be avoided at all costs.

On safari, almost all major expenses (all meals, activities, and, sometimes even, drinks) are covered in the costs of accommodation. Any extras tend to be very limited, and can generally be paid by card.

In urban centers, particularly in South Africa, ATMs are to be found in most shopping malls and banks, and will accept international cards using the Cirrus and Plus systems, as well as Visa, Mastercard, or American Express credit cards (provided your credit account has a cash withdrawal facility).

All airports in south Africa also have ATMs, and you can withdraw money as soon as you land (generally at a better exchange rate than if you were to exchange cash or travellers checks at a bank).

How much should we tip our safari guides?

In some environments such as at lodges, on safari and on treks, tipping is structured in ways that make it clear, fair and less easy to abuse. Tips can be given in local currencies or in USD, GBP or EUR, so be sure to carry small denominations with you. As a general guide:

Guide/tracker: Your guide and tracker are central to the success of your safari. You’ll have plenty of time to connect with them and, by the end of your trip, they might just be your new best friends. With guides, it’s customary to leave a tip on your departure. What you choose to leave is totally up to you, but a general rule of thumb on safari is to tip your guide US$10 and your tracker US$5 per person per day.

Guests that are returning to a lodge that they have visited before, sometimes even bring small, personalised gifts for their guides. Alternatively, the lodges will generally give you a guideline for tipping and gifting if you ask them.

Camp/lodge staff: There is a lot that happens behind the scenes on your safari and it’s important to consider and acknowledge all the wonderful people who look after the lodge. Most safari lodges and camps have a communal tip ‘jar’ and around US$10 to US$20 per day is considered a reasonable tip.

Outside of the lodges/camps, you might want to tip 10% to 15% for good service at restaurants and in bars. Most waiters earn an incredibly basic wage so tips are a much-needed supplement. If you're just buying a beer or a coke, it's fine to leave the change rather than a specific tip. If you're dining with a large group at a nice restaurant, a service charge will usually be automatically added to your bill.

At budget hotels, tips for housekeeping are not expected but are nevertheless always welcome. At luxury safari camps there will often be a general tipping box at the front desk or reception. Tips deposited here will usually be spread evenly between camp staff; so if you want to tip someone specifically, make sure to do so directly.

What should I pack for a South Africa safari?

You don’t need much specialist gear for a South African safari.

Most people will want a photographic record of their adventure and if wildlife images are important to you then you need a good DSLR camera with a long lens, at least 400mm. Anything less and the animals will appear as nothing but hazy dots in a sea of scrub. Bring spare camera batteries and memory cards.

Binoculars are another essential. Get the best pair you can afford and make sure that everyone in your group has a pair or there will be endless bickering over whose turn it is to get a closer look at that distant rhino.

A good field guide to the birds and animals is an excellent addition to your pack. Most guides will have one for guests to use, but it’s still nice to have your own.

Lightweight walking shoes are a good idea (and essential for anyone planning a walking safari). Hiking trousers and shorts are also worth having. They provide protection from the thorn bushes and sun and are comfortable to wear. Don’t forget to bring a fleece as it can be surprisingly cold during a sunrise safari. Sun hat, sunscreen and sunglasses are three other essentials.

If staying in up-market accommodation, it’s probably worth bringing a set of slightly smarter clothes for evening dinner.

With fluctuating temperatures — hot and sunny during the day, cold at night — layering is your best option. Some things to consider bringing include:

  • T-shirts or shirts — bring some longsleeve ones to combat mosquito and the sun
  • Lightweight fleece/jacket
  • Safari/combat trousers
  • Broken in walking/hiking shoes
  • Sandals/flipflops for use in lodges/camps

How long should I plan for a safari in South Africa?

If you’re just looking for your standard Big 5 safari, fewer nights in one or two really great private reserves trumps more nights in a crowded national park. My standard advice is to get more bang for your buck: aim for fewer nights, but spend more per night for the best reserve/lodge that your budget can stretch to.

What are the differences between private game reserves and national parks in South Africa?

National Parks are government-owned and managed and private reserves are, you guessed it, privately owned and operated.

National parks serve a broader range of budgets, including some fairly low cost safaris and basic accommodation. They’re busier, sometimes feeling crowded, and activities are limited to standard game drives.

Private reserves are a whole other affair, can be very exclusive and upscale and you’ll often have the wildlife all to yourself. Privately operated reserves are free to offer a wider range of activities such as night game drives and horseback rides.

What can we do before or after a safari in South Africa?

Probably my biggest piece of advice would be to make plenty of time to see the rest of the country either before or after your safari. Just a smattering of suggestions:

South Africa’s cities, history and urban culture : There’s Table Mountain, Robben Island, and the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. The Apartheid Museum and Maboneng Precinct in Johannesburg. And of course a visit to Nelson Mandela House Museum in Soweto.

If nature and the outdoors are your bag look into Blyde River Canyon for breathtaking views and hiking trails, the fascinating hominid fossils at Cradle of Humankind just north of Johannesburg, the waterfalls at Augrabies Falls National Park and the scenic trails and views of Plettenberg Bay at Robberg Nature Reserve.

For some beach and coast time there’s Golden Mile and Umhlanga Rocks at Durban, whale watching in Hermanus (best between June and November), and the lagoons and beaches of West Coast National Park.

Finally for some road trips and scenic routes have a look at the Garden Route, famous for its charming towns and beautiful beaches; vineyard driving routes around Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, or Constantia, or, for something totally different, to the glorious tacky Sun City.

Are there any non-touristy tribal experiences in South Africa?

If you're expecting colourfully dressed, exotic-looking tribal peoples that you can visit and for it not to feel commercial, then no that's difficult to find. An experience like that that you’re paying for will, by definition, be somewhat inauthentic, if not exploitative.

However, if you want to meet people of different tribes but not necessarily dressed in an exotic manner and dancing around for you then that's possible everywhere in South Africa on almost every street.

For something more in-between, and I suspect, more what you're after then I'd try heading to the Kalahari regions in the north. It's a stunning semi-desert region (lots of interesting wildlife and a real wilderness feel) and is the home of South Africa's small San Bushmen community. These were some of the original inhabitants of southern Africa and some do live a very traditional lifestyle (but well away from tourists).

How do I find a responsible South Africa safari operator?

Although it’s easy to get swept up with the romance of it all, you shouldn’t forget that your presence has a direct impact on the ecosystem, for good and bad.

The upside of your visit is that the money you put into the system pays for conservation and helps keep the land protected and wild. Without wildlife tourism, there’s a very real chance that many of South Africa’s conservation zones would become farmland.

But there are things you can do to make your impact as positive as possible. Before booking with any safari company, camp or lodge, or even choosing the parks and reserves you wish to visit, take a look at the conservation and community projects they are involved with. And when you do book, remember to mention that their community projects were a factor in your decision. This will encourage further investment in such programmes.

Would you recommend a self-drive safari in South Africa? Is it easy?

Yes, it’s easy to self-drive in South Africa and, generally, fairly safe although car crime can be an issue (don't leave anything in your car in towns). If you're just hopping from national park to park and sticking mainly to rural regions then self-drive in South Africa is simple enough. Just remember that South Africa is a big place so don't try and cover it all in one trip!

In this guide:

An expert guide to safaris in kruger national park, an expert guide to the best safaris in sabi sands, an expert guide to the best safaris in kwazulu-natal, about the authors.

The best safaris in South Africa

Anthony is a renowned travel journalist and guidebook author and is one of the world's leading authorities on Africa safari, wildlife and conservation. He has been travelling to Africa for more than two decades to research Africa safari guidebooks for Lonely Planet. He is widely published in The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, The Monthly, Virginia Quarterly Review (VQR), National Geographic Traveler, BBC Wildlife, Lonely Planet Traveller, Africa Geographic, The Independent, Travel Africa, among many others.

The best safaris in South Africa

Stuart is an award-winning travel journalist covering safari, trekking and conservation in Africa for the Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, BBC, Bradt Travel Guides, amongst many others. He is the author of Walking With The Maasai , a journey through some of Kenya's lesser-visited Maasai lands.

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Where to go on safari in December

Some great suggestions where to have the best safari experiences in December

Alex

30 Sept 2020

17 nov 2020.

Principe Island 8 Copy

In December, Africa is in the height of summer with many places at their lushest. Rains are at their heaviest with beautifully dramatic storms sweeping across the continent brining much needs water. Because of the abundance of water, the large herds have dispersed making wildlife viewing more difficult than other months but it is still a very rewarding time to travel to certain areas of Africa. In Southern Africa, impala ewes have begun dropping their adorable lambs with predators lurking nearby. South Africa is potentially one of the best countries to visit in December as it has enough concentrations of wildlife to provide fantastic, top-quality safari experiences.

Uganda and Rwanda

Whilst thunderstorms light up the skies across Southern Africa, Rwanda and Uganda are in their dry season which creates ideal conditions for mountain gorilla trekking in Bwindi Forest, Uganda and Volcanoes National Park, in Rwanda as the paths are less slippery and the skies are clear. Conditions are like this throughout the region, meaning other primate experiences are also just as accessible.

South Africa

South Africa hold such tremendous diversity that it simply cannot be discounted in December. Some areas are prone to spectacular thunderstorms, but these can be short lived. The bush is alive, filled with lush greenery, beautiful coloured birds and an abundance of young animals both prey and predators alike. The Sabi Sands in the Greater Kruger National Park can provide some stunning safari options with private lodges offering some of the most luxurious lodges you will find anywhere in Africa.

The Central Kalahari region which is usually bone dry and arid is flush with a green carpet, attracting large herds of springbok and oryx which provides an annual abundance for the resident cheetah and black-maned lions. This region is probably one of the finest and most productive to see both these critically endangered big cats.

December is also a great time to visit Cape Town with days usually filled with beautiful weather warm with clear, cloudless skies and little to no rain. It’s a great time to visit as there’s a lot going on in this modern, cosmopolitan city. Beer, wine, gin and champagne and food festivals aplenty as it’s the height of the South African summer. And don’t forget the Franschhoek Wine Tram – a journey which makes plenty of stops along a route strewn with some of the oldest and distinguished wine estates in South Africa.

Kwitonda Gorilla

Head to the central regions of the Serengeti and you’ll be rewarded with the spectacle of the Great Migration in relative isolation as the peak season is well past. The vast herds are making their way south towards their calving grounds. And of course, the journey is fraught with danger as they pass through territories belonging to prides of lion, coalitions of cheetah and clans of hyena… dramatic and adrenaline hunting scenes await.

Sao Tome and Principe Islands

Between September and April are the best months to head to these tranquil, idyllic equatorial islands of Sao Tome and Principe off the west coast of Africa as several different of turtles are nesting along the beautiful beaches. Hawksbill, leatherback, green and olive ridley turtles can all be seen in what has become an site of ecological importance to the survival of these gentle ocean dwellers.

If you’re lucky you may get to see a female digging out her nest before laying her precious eggs and then making her way back to the ocean. Or you may get to see the emergence of the hatchlings as they struggle from their nest buried deep in the sand, then scrambling their way through the gauntlet of the beach.

It is a remarkable and emotional experience as you watch the hatchlings overcoming obstacles such as driftwood and dodging predators in the form of birds and crabs before reaching the open ocean waters. It’s estimated that out of every 1,000 turtles born, only a handful will survive to adulthood before eventually returning to the same beach to make their own nests, laying the next generation of hatchlings.

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See Africa Today

Your Ultimate Guide to Exploring South Africa in December

Cape Town

With the winter season in Europe fast approaching, you might be interested in visiting South Africa in December. It is sunny here and combining the weather with the festive season spirit, you’ll definitely have a good time.

From diving with white sharks to spending some time in beautiful wine lands and exploring the numerous national parks, there is plenty to do in South Africa at this time of the year. In this article, we will be covering South Africa in December; so, stay tuned if you’re planning to escape the chilly European winter by visiting this beautiful African nation.

Table of Contents

What Is December Known For in South Africa?

December is known for being one of the hottest months in South Africa, with the temperatures reaching 25°C in certain parts of the country. By contrast, December is one of the wettest month in other places, with thunderstorms experienced in Kruger and Johannesburg.

South Africa in December

South Africa. Photo/ Camp Master.

Is December a Good Time to Visit South Africa?

December is a wonderful time to visit South Africa. It is summer time, which means lots of sunshine and clear blue skies everywhere in the country. There are also multitude of events taking place. Below are some of the reasons why we recommend you visit South Africa in December , especially if you are from the Northern Hemisphere:

  •  Christmas on the beach – With lots of sunshine in South Africa, it is a great opportunity to enjoy your Christmas on the beach. It’s time to put on your best swimsuit and head to a picturesque beach to celebrate Christmas in a way you have never done before.
  • Turtle-tracking season – South Africa offers some of the best turtle-viewing in the world, and December is the perfect time to see turtles on the shores. Visit the country’s far northeastern coast to enjoy turtle watching this December.
  • Luxury safari experiences – South Africa is known worldwide for having a great abundance of wild animals and birds. At Phinda and Thanda, you get the rare opportunity to combine a Big Five safari and a beach holiday . iSimangaliso West Park is the place to be if you love watching birds as it is a prime destination with over 500 bird species.
  • Durban Jazz Festival – Another reason why you need to visit South Africa in December is because of the Durban Jazz Festival. Durban jazz is an annual supreme musical experience which takes place on Boxing Day on banks of Hazelmere Dam. The festival brings vibrancy and a variety of genres by celebrating jazz music.

Is Cape Town Nice in December?

Continually voted as one of the top cities in the world, there is no doubting the fact that Cape Town is an ideal destination to visit in South Africa in December. The temperatures here vary between 17°C and a high of 27°C and there is very little rain.

From picturesque mountains to stunning beaches and bottle-green wine valleys, there are a lot of places to explore in Cape Town this month. Water sports are popular at this time and you can enjoy swimming, kayaking, surfing, snorkelling, scuba diving and kite surfing.

December being a holiday season, there is also lots of events in Cape Town. Cape Town Festival of Beer is one of the events you don’t want to miss, especially if you love your bubbles malted. This decade-old event, which features more than 200 beers from many nations, is finally back after being postponed for four years due to Covid-19. There is also live entertainment plus small food entrepreneurs selling their goods.

Cape Town

Cape Town is one of the top places to visit in South Africa in December. Photo/ Records of Roam.

Is It  OK to Go on Safari in December

Safari destinations in Kenya and Tanzania are at their best between January and late March as well as June to October when the climate is mild and dry. However, it is still okay to go on safari in December, thanks to the warm and sunny weather creating ideal travel conditions .

If you visit Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park at this time of the year, you can spot the wildebeest migration, which attracts predators such as lions, leopards and hyenas. These predators follow the herds looking for an opportunity to make a kill. If you are on a safari in Kenya , you can head to Maasai Mara National Park and spot rhinos, elephants, lions and leopards.

A safari in South Africa in December is also possible thanks to destinations like Kruger National Park and Sabi Sands. These parks are home to the Big Five and you can also see antelopes, zebras and other wild animals.

South Africa guide

Safari game drive in South Africa. Photo/ andBeyond.

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About the author.

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Abraham Odhiambo

Abraham Odhiambo is a writer with interests in nature, travel, African safari and sports. I'm pursuing a bachelor's degree in Media and Communication at Egerton University.

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As the northern hemisphere sinks into the short, cold, dark days of winter, Africa stretches its arms out wide in a warm welcome. Summer gets going in Africa in December and many destinations are at their best. The weather in Africa in December is mostly hot and sunny, while the occasional cooling rains in the interior 'green' things up.

Great wildlife migrations are taking place now as fresh grasses begin to cover Africa's rolling plains from the Serengeti to the Kalahari Desert. The herds attract predators in great numbers and travellers on an African safari in December usually enjoy plentiful sightings of big cats in action. Migrant birds arrive to fill the air with colour and song, and Africa’s trees stand in full-leafed glory, casting welcome shade over December safari picnics.

Beach holidays are excellent at most Indian Ocean destinations, too. Whether you're planning a safari or a beach vacation (or a combination of both), keep in mind that Africa in December can be busy. Beaches are at their sunniest and the traditional Christmas and New Year summer holiday season is in full swing.

If you live in the northern hemisphere and you're thinking about visiting Africa in winter, December is a wonderful and festive time of the year – here are our best recommendations for where to go in Africa in December:

1. South Africa

Majestic view of Table Mountain from Cape Town V&A Waterfront

With some of the finest Big 5 game viewing on the continent, plenty of opportunities to combine bush and beach holidays, and well-developed infrastructure that makes it easy to get around, South Africa in December offers unforgettable holiday experiences – no wonder it's one of the best places to visit in Africa’s in December!

Continually voted as one of the world’s top cities to visit, Cape Town remains one of the best places to visit in Africa in December. With picturesque mountains, bottle-green wine valleys and gorgeous beaches all within easy reach, the 'Mother City' is one of South Africa ’s best-loved travel destinations and at her prettiest in December.

The weather is hot and Martini-dry, the beaches buzzing and the mood infectiously cheerful – perfect for Christmas in Africa. We recommend hiring a private villa to have a prime position at the best beaches , exclusive use of swimming pools and parking, plus housekeeping and 24-7 security.

Our Favourite Places to Stay in Cape Town:

Cape cadogan boutique hotel.

From $165 per person sharing

Activities travellers enjoyed:

  • Restaurants within walking distance

More Quarters Neighbourhood Hotel

From $185 per person sharing

Table Bay Hotel

From $145 per person sharing

The Garden Route

Arguably the most beautiful stretch of coastline in Africa, the Garden Route in South Africa runs from a couple of hours outside Cape Town to just after the seaside town of Plettenberg Bay. It’s a firm family favourite for a holiday in South Africa in December, and the ideal way to explore all the Garden Route’s sandy beaches, rocky shores, quaint towns and indigenous forests is to rent a car and drive yourself.

Our Favourite Places to Stay on the Garden Route:

The plettenberg.

From $150 per person sharing

Knysna Hollow Country Estate

From $105 per person sharing

  • Bird watching
  • Boules / Petanque

Manor House Boutique Hotel at Fancourt

  • High tea on offer
  • Jogging trails
  • Fine dining experience

Kwa-Zulu Natal

Further up the coast, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) offers a sunny subtropical beach experience, complemented by Big 5 game reserves, wetland parks and coral reefs. KZN is one of the best warm places to visit in South Africa in December for top bush-and-beach safari combinations that bring together the indulgence of a safari lodge with the barefoot-chic of a beach resort.

This beautiful province is ideally experienced as an easy paced self-drive journey, leaving King Shaka International Airport in Durban and exploring the garden province.

Our Favourite Places to Stay in KZN:

The oyster box.

From $245 per person sharing

  • Beach activities
  • Local village visits

Phinda Vlei Lodge

From $750 per person sharing

  • Animal tracking experience
  • Game drives
  • Guided walks
  • Horse riding
  • River cruises
  • Scenic flights
  • Scuba diving
  • Snorkelling
  • Specialist guides
  • Guided walking safaris
  • Deep sea fishing

Thonga Beach Lodge

  • Boat excursions
  • Cultural Visits
  • Dune walks & drives

2. Botswana

safari south africa december

With plenty of top predators – it’s where to see African wild dogs, lion, leopard and hyenas – and abundant plains game, a Botswana safari is guaranteed to be one of the best African winter holidays you’ll ever have. Aside from being one of the top big game safari destinations, Botswana is also one of the safest countries in Africa to explore.

The Kalahari

This semi-arid sandy savannah extends over Southern Africa and covers an area almost 1.5 times the size of Texas. The Kalahari occupies most of Botswana and offers safari-goers a choice of three incredible parks: Nxai Pan National Park, the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and Makgadikgadi Pans National Park.

Travel to Botswana’s Kalahari region for a December safari and you won’t believe your eyes. Green grass covers the once-baked earth and watering holes, which were powder-dry just a month prior, brim with birds and beasts. November to April is Green Season in Botswana and if you can put up with the odd afternoon thundershower (you may even get no rain at all), then a Kalahari safari in December is not to be missed.

Make sure you pack plenty of extra camera batteries, because the Kalahari’s annual show is taking place. Thousands of zebras arrive, snorting and braying their way to the lush fresh grazing. Springbok antelope herds give birth en masse, covering the landscape in wobbly-legged lambs just as herds of wildebeest and even buffalo arrive. And with all this 'T-bone on the hoof', the Kalahari is where to go in Africa in December for bitter-sweet predator action as beautiful black-maned Kalahari lions, cheetahs, wild dogs and hyenas take advantage of easy prey.

Our Favourite Places to Stay in the Kalahari:

Jack's camp.

From $1,700 per person sharing

  • Quad-biking
  • Private game-drives
  • Fly camping

Leroo La Tau

From $600 per person sharing

  • Night drives

From $640 per person sharing

  • Full-day safaris
  • Star gazing

Ready to Plan Your Trip to Africa in December? 

3. tanzania.

Witness the wildebeest migration on a safari in Tanzania

Offering a stunning diversity of landscapes and wildlife, this East African country appears on plenty lists of the best places to visit in Africa in December. Top this off with the ease with which visitors can obtain visas for Tanzania and you’ve got the formula for a fantastic time in Africa.

Serengeti National Park

The 'short rains' season from November to December relieve the dry mid-year winter in Tanzania . Clouds build up in the mornings and break in spectacular, but generally short-lived, showers in the late afternoons that are unlikely to affect game viewing.

Migrant birds return from the northern hemisphere and resident plains game give birth. The Wildebeest Migration is still heading south to the great plains and offer plentiful targets for the Serengeti’s big cats. If you’re looking for dramatic game drives, the Serengeti is where to go on an African safari in December.

Tarangire National Park

Temperatures are pleasant – it doesn’t get much above 28°C (82°F) – and game viewing is good right across Tanzania. Elephant-packed Tarangire National Park , yet to receive its main rains, is another great place to go on an African safari in December.

  • Ngorongoro Crater

Created about 3 million years ago when a big volcano exploded and collapsed on itself, the Ngorongoro Crater is the largest intact volcanic caldera on Earth. It’s one of the world’s most spectacular natural wonders, supporting over 25 000 animals.

While it’s mostly green and lush throughout East Africa in December, the Crater is particularly gorgeous at this time of year. Wildlife photographers are in for a treat in one of the easiest places to see the Big 5.

Nyerere National Park (Selous) and Ruaha

Second-time-round safari visitors may want to explore a little further away from the more popular destinations in Tanzania. Early rains are turning Southern Tanzania’s Ruaha National Park and the Nyerere National Park (Selous) green, and a December safari is considered good for game viewing.

Beautifully wild, enormous in size and filled to the brim with wildlife, these areas offer crowd-free safari experiences in East Africa in December.

Our Favourite Trip Ideas:

East africa's migration, safari & highlands.

From $12,010 per person sharing

Destinations visited:

  • Amboseli National Park

A lion in close proximity to the safari vehicle in the Masai Mara, Kenya

Incredible natural beauty and unforgettable cultural encounters make Kenya a strong contender for the top spot on the list of best African holidays in December. Combining time on seemingly endless green plains with the country’s pristine beaches is the perfect way to spend a holiday in Kenya in December.

Masai Mara National Reserve

The Masai Mara is out of Migration season – November kicks off the short summer rains which trigger the last leg of the Wildebeest Migration, when the herds move south to the Serengeti to give birth.

Calving (birthing) season for the Masai Mara’s resident animals is between December and January. It’s a time when surface water is plentiful and wildebeest, zebra and antelope give birth to their calves, foals and fawns. With so much easy prey around, it’s also a good time for predators to raise their cubs and pups, making a December safari fantastic for photographic opportunities.

Thanks to the Mara’s abundant resident wildlife, temperate, climate and wide-open plains, there’s virtually always something to see, no matter what time of year you visit. But an African safari in December will also offer you low-season prices and lower visitor numbers.

Kenya Big 5 & Rhino Tracking Safari

From $5,505 per person sharing

Kenya's Family Safari - Best with Pre-teens (9-12)

From $6,400 per person sharing

Kenya's Best-Value Mara & Diani Beach

From $3,600 per person sharing

  • Kenya Beaches

5. Indian Ocean Islands

Infinity pool overlooking the beach on an island in the Indian Ocean

Not much beats Christmas in Africa in a hammock under a gently waving palm tree. Enjoying some R&R in a tropical paradise is simply the best way to crown your African safari in December.

In some cases, you can sip coffee at your safari camp in the morning and enjoy a cocktail that same evening on a tropical beach. But choose your island carefully, as the summer rains are starting to fall across the Indian Ocean islands. It’s not day-ruining weather, but cyclone season generally starts from about January and some places are drier than others – it's always a good idea to check with your Africa Safari Expert.

Here are our recommendations for where to go on African beach holidays in December:

The Seychelles

Home to some of the world’s finest beaches, award-winning resorts and super-stylish villas, the Seychelles weather is generally warm and beach-perfect all year round, with December to April being the hottest months.

Diving and snorkelling conditions are good and if you’re looking for unbeatable exclusivity, one of the Seychelles private island resorts is where to go in Africa in December. Furthermore, thanks to easy logistics and its location, the Seychelles is a great add-on to an East African safari in December.

Always a firm favourite for active travellers and families with children, this twinkling jewel in the Indian Ocean offers powder-soft beaches, warm waters and glorious weather year-round. The best time to go to Mauritius is from May to December when it’s cool, dry and sunny. Regular flights make Mauritius a fantastic add-on to a Southern African safari in December.

Family Kenya & Seychelles

From $7,970 per person sharing

  • Mahe Island

Honeymoon Cape Town, Kruger & Mauritius

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Honeymoon Serengeti & Seychelles

From $10,260 per person sharing

  • Lake Manyara

Thinking of Visiting Africa in December?

Africa’s most popular destinations are busy and some summer rains are getting started. But with good deals and more of the bush to yourself, Africa in December offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy a classic game-viewing safari or go off the beaten path. Several destinations are at their most enticing and there’s a sense of excitement as the end of the year approaches.

Get in touch with our team of Africa Safari Experts to help you plan an unforgettable trip to Africa in December:

Dominic Chadbon

TripAdvisor Excellent

[email protected]

private east africa tours - Home to Africa logo

The Best African Safaris in December

December is a much sought-after month to embark on a safari expedition in Africa. From favorable weather conditions to spectacular wildlife encounters and enticing travel offers, this time of the year beckons adventurers to explore the uncharted territories of the continent. With temperatures often comfortably warm and precipitation levels at a lower ebb, the conditions are conducive to outdoor exploration and animal spotting.

Moreover, the wildlife sightings during December are nothing short of awe-inspiring. From the iconic Big Five to a plethora of other magnificent species, Africa’s diverse fauna graces the landscape in all its splendor during this period.

In this comprehensive guide, we’re poised to equip you with all the essential information you need to plan your African safari in December. From choosing the perfect destinations, to curating experiences that will etch memories into your heart, we’re here to ensure that your December safari is an unforgettable journey.

SKIP TO A SECTION

Is December a good time to go?

The weather

What to expect from a Christmas safari

Where to go

What to pack

Is December a good time to go on safari?

Absolutely! December is a wonderful time to go on a safari in Africa. Here are some of the reasons why:

Wildlife births

Another captivating aspect of December safaris lies in the opportunity to witness the birth of new life within the animal kingdom . This particular month sees the arrival of offspring across numerous species, including elephants and lions .

As you venture through the African landscapes, you may be fortunate enough to witness the tender moments when these young creatures take their very first steps in the wild . The sight of baby animals navigating their surroundings with curiosity and vulnerability is nothing short of remarkable.

Improved wildlife viewing

As vegetation thins out due to the dry season, wildlife becomes more visible and easier to spot. With water becoming scarce, animals tend to gather around water sources, providing excellent opportunities for observing a variety of species in their natural habitats.

Birdwatcher's delight

In December, bird enthusiasts are in for a special treat as this month marks the arrival of many migratory bird species to Africa. These birds undertake impressive journeys across continents to find suitable habitats during the colder months in their breeding regions.

Different parts of Africa welcome specific species, which are adapted to thrive in particular habitats. Wetlands become temporary homes for waterfowl and waders, grasslands host various raptors and ground-nesting species, while forests resonate with the calls of songbirds and canopy-dwelling birds. This dynamic interplay between migratory birds and resident species.

Book a safari in November 2023 and enjoy a FREE Chimpanzee Trek!

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What is the weather like in december for a safari.

In December, the weather you’ll experience during your safari adventure depends on where you’re headed. This month typically marks the onset of the dry season in many renowned safari destinations, bringing about varying climatic conditions across the diverse regions of Africa.

Typically, you can expect warm and inviting temperatures in most safari areas. Daytime weather ranges from comfortably mild to pleasantly hot, creating an ideal environment for engaging in outdoor activities like thrilling game drives. There is also a noticeable decrease in rainfall compared to previous months. This reduction means you’re far less likely to encounter heavy showers or the challenges of navigating muddy paths, making both travel and wildlife observation much smoother.

However, keep in mind that Africa spans a vast expanse with an array of climates:

  • East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania) revels in warm temperatures and minimal rainfall, making it the prime window for safaris in iconic locales such as the Maasai Mara and Serengeti.
  • Southern Africa (South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe) similarly enjoys dry conditions, creating an optimal setting for game-watching in celebrated parks like Kruger and Chobe.
  • In desert regions like Namibia , daytime temperatures can soar, but evenings bring cooler air, giving you chance to admire unique desert landscapes and wildlife that has adapted to such an environment.

Staying updated on the local weather forecasts for your chosen destination is a savvy move, ensuring you’re well-prepared for your journey.

Christmas Safari in Africa

What is it like to go on safari at Christmas?

Spending Christmas on safari is a magical experience that blends the wonder of the wilderness with the spirit of the holiday season.

Despite being far from home, many safari lodges and camps go the extra mile to create a festive atmosphere for guests. Decorations such as local crafts, tree ornaments inspired by African animals, and traditional elements typically adorn living and dining areas.

Many also arrange special Christmas celebrations for their guests. This could include festive meals, traditional dances, and even gift exchanges. In some cases, Christmas meals are often enjoyed outdoors (weather-dependent, of course!). Imagine dining under the open African sky, surrounded by the beauty of nature and the warmth of a campfire…

While on your trip, you could enquire about visiting local communities to gain insight into local cultures and traditions and how they celebrate the festive season. You might have the opportunity to participate in the celebrations and learn about their own holiday customs.

Where to go on safari in December

If you’re considering a safari adventure in December, there are plenty of destinations across Africa that we recommend to make the best of your trip at this time of the year. Here are some top places to consider for your December safari:

Maasai Mara National Reserve

best time to see great migration

The Maasai Mara, especially in December, emerges as a top destination for those seeking an exceptional safari experience. This time of the year offers a harmonious blend of wildlife encounters, holiday cheer, and the unique cultural tapestry of the Maasai people.

One of the standout features of visiting the Maasai Mara in December is the fantastic wildlife viewing opportunity. As the dry season unfolds, your chances of spotting iconic species such as lions, elephants, buffalos, leopards, and rhinos—the famed “Big Five”—are greatly heightened.

You may also be lucky enough to witness the tail end of the wildebeest migration . While the main migration typically occurs from July to October, pockets of wildebeest and zebra herds may still be traversing the Mara in search of grazing land and water sources. December also marks the arrival of migratory bird species to the Maasai Mara. This presents a treat for bird enthusiasts, as the Mara’s avian population becomes adorned with vibrant colors and diverse species.

If you have always dreamed of having an up, close, and personal wildlife encounter, visiting the Masai Mara should be on the bucket list. Why not book our 4-day trip over the festive season?

Okavango Delta

Bostwana in December

December in Botswana’s Okavango Delta marks the beginning of the enchanting green season. The landscape awakens with vibrant greens as plants flourish following the rains.

One of the most anticipated aspects of this season is the arrival of migratory birds from the northern hemisphere, which coincides with the birthing period of numerous herbivores, including baby impalas and wildebeests.

During this time, embarking on boat safaris becomes a favored way to explore the delta’s intricate waterways, channels, and floodplains. From the comfort of your boat, you’re treated to a fresh perspective of the diverse ecosystem in the park. Keep your camera ready for unexpected encounters – whether it be elephants or antelopes enjoying a leisurely drink at the water’s edge or crocodiles basking lazily in the sun.

Serengeti National Park

Tanzania Safari in December

In the early days of December, Serengeti National Park in Tanzania becomes a stage for a remarkable natural phenomenon: the start of the wildebeest migration. This event is concentrated in the northern part of the park and offers a fascinating opportunity for wildlife enthusiasts to observe both the migratory herds and the interactions between predators and prey.

Again, in the northern Serengeti, you have the chance to witness predator-prey dynamics up close. Carnivores like lions, cheetahs, and leopards are drawn to the migratory herds, presenting an opportunity to witness their hunting strategies in action. The park is also a haven for birdwatchers. A variety of bird species (both resident and migratory) can be spotted during this time.

If this type of safari adventure is right up your street, why not check out our 6-day Serengeti Safari !

Tarangire National Park

Giraffes in Africa in December

Tarangire National Park might stand in the shadow of its more famous counterpart, the Serengeti, but when December arrives, Tarangire transforms into a hidden gem of wildlife encounters.

The Serengeti typically draws more crowds, but this park offers an intimate and less busy safari experience . In turn, you’ll be able to fully engage with the sights and sounds of nature, free from distraction .

The Tarangire River takes center stage in this national park, where a mesmerizing gathering of wildlife takes place. Imagine elephants , giraffes , zebras , and an array of antelope species converging along its shores, seeking refreshment and relief from the hot sun.

South Africa

Kruger national park.

South Africa in December

December emerges as an exceptionally enticing month to visit South Africa’s Kruger National Park. First and foremost, it marks the peak of the summer season in the southern hemisphere. The comfortable temperatures and extended daylight hours provide visitors with ample opportunities to engage in outdoor activities . Game drives remain a cornerstone of the experience, offering the chance to traverse the park’s diverse landscapes and come face-to-face with the Big Five and an array of other remarkable species. Guided walks led by experienced rangers provide a more intimate connection to nature, allowing visitors to absorb the finer details of the ecosystem, from the intricate flora to the smaller creatures that often elude the casual observer.

While the allure of the park’s diverse wildlife is a year-round phenomenon, December unveils a unique spectacle due to its convergence with the dry season. This season sees animals from across the park gather around waterholes, providing an exceptional opportunity for wildlife enthusiasts to witness a vibrant tapestry of creatures engaging in their natural behaviors.

Are there many mosquitos during a December safari?

No! The drier conditions of this month usually mean fewer of these pesky insects and mosquitos compared to the wetter months , meaning a reduced likelihood of irritating insect bites that can put a damper on your adventure.

Nonetheless, it’s always a smart move to exercise caution. While the mosquito population might be lower, they’re still present in some areas. During the early mornings and evenings, when they tend to be more active, it’s advisable to take some preventive measures such as applying mosquito repellent and long-sleeved clothing.

What clothing should I pack for a December safari?

When preparing for your December safari, your choice of clothing plays a crucial role in maximizing your comfort and overall experience.

During daylight hours, the temperatures can rise significantly, so opt for lightweight and breathable clothing . Dressing in long-sleeved shirts and pants crafted from moisture-wicking materials not only shields you from the sun but also keeps you cool. Earthy shades like khaki, olive, and beige help you seamlessly blend into the natural surroundings while minimizing any disturbance to wildlife .

As mornings and evenings can bring a drop in temperatures, packing layers such as a light sweater or jacket is always a good idea. And when it comes to footwear, always opt for closed-toe shoes or sturdy hiking boots . They safeguard your feet against uneven terrains and potential critters. Additionally, tossing in a pair of lightweight sandals is a great idea for those moments of relaxation at the camp or lodge.

A wide-brimmed hat becomes your trusty companion while on every safari to ward off the sun’s rays, as well as UV-protective sunglasses .

Despite December’s tendency for reduced rainfall, it’s still a wise move to have a lightweight rain jacket or poncho on hand, just in case.

A Special Offer for Your Dream December Safari

If you’re considering booking your dream safari for December , we have an irresistible offer that will enhance your journey even further.

When you reserve your safari adventure now, we’re thrilled to gift you a FREE chimpanzee trek to include in your itinerary.

So, what are you waiting for?

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  • Where To Go On Safari In December

Where To Go On Safari In December

December is a wonderful time to go on an African safari, with the warm and sunny weather creating ideal travel conditions. In some areas it’s very hot with cooling rainstorms while in other areas it’s the beginning of the full-on rainy season. The rains in some parts have transformed the landscapes into lush green paradises, enticing a diverse range of wildlife. The rainstorms disperse the herds from the watering holes, where they form smaller groups, and spread them across the grasslands and savannas.

Certain regions offer extraordinary scenery and an exceptional game-watching experience during December. It’s a popular time for visitors, especially families on festive holidays, so planning ahead and securing the right accommodations is crucial for the best experience and deals. Here’s a list of the best places to visit in December for an African safari:

South Africa

December is the short rainy season in Tanzania, often only overnight rains, and the hottest month with high temperatures. The festive period from mid-December to mid-January is a popular time to visit and it’s worth noting that safari destinations and coastal resorts are busy and more expensive.

In the eastern Serengeti National Park you can spot the wildebeest migration as the vast herds move southwards. The migration attracts predators such as lions, hyenas, and leopards, who follow the herds, looking for opportunities to make a kill. It is an important time for giraffes, elephants and buffalos this is the start of the birthing season for them.

The scenic wonder that is the Ngorongoro Crater  together with its neighbour, the Serengeti National Park, offers exceptional game viewing. However, don’t overlook the lesser-known reserves such as Katavi, Ruaha and Selous, which are less-visited gems, perfect for the more adventurous safari travellers looking to experience other areas of Tanzania. In addition, Mahale rainforest and mountains is a great spot for trekking and is home to endangered chimpanzees.

Recommended Safaris: 

  • 5 Days Wildebeest Migration, Tarangire, Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater
  • 5 Days Mahale Mountain National Park Safari

Browse our wealth of Tanzania tours and start planning your own unforgettable safari experience for 2023.

South Africa beckons with its popular safari destinations like Kruger National Park and Sabi Sands. These renowned parks provide luxury safari experiences and are home to Africa’s iconic “big five”: lions, elephants, rhinos, buffalos, and leopards. As the rains transform the wilderness into lush green habitats, migratory birds and a variety of antelopes begin to appear. And where there are antelope there are predators!

If you are looking for a tranquil beach vacation, KwaZulu Natal offers stunning beaches and coral reefs for scuba diving. KwaZulu Natal is also home to the 960 km2  Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park, the oldest proclaimed nature reserve in Africa and renowned for its rhino conservation efforts. Addo National Park in the Eastern Cape has over 600 elephants as well as lion, buffalo, black rhino, leopard and spotted hyena, and is the third largest national park in South Africa.. The Central Kalahari region is a hidden gem in December, boasting natural habitats teeming with antelopes and cheetahs and black-maned lions.

  • 12-Day Exclusive Safari, Cape Town and Surrounds
  • 4-Day Kruger Park Fly and Drive Safari

December is the period of short rains, which means that prices are sometimes lower (except possibly the festive period), and wonderful warm weather. The premier national park, the Masai Mara National Reserve is an ideal safari location for spotting elephants, lions, leopards and rhinos. Most of the migrating herds of zebra, wildebeest and Thomson’s gazelle have moved south to the eastern Serengeti in Tanzania by now, but there is a chance to catch the last stragglers and the following calving season. The short rains also welcome a huge influx of migratory bird species.

Meanwhile, December is the perfect time to experience Kenya’s stunning coastline, with water conditions ideal for snorkelling and diving. The weather is always more hot and humid along the coast, and for stays during the festive period, book early as it’s a popular time to visit.

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December is the summer season and rainy season in Botswana, often with spectacular thunderstorms. Some areas may not be accessible with the rains making tracks impassable. The summer heat and afternoon rains transform the lands into verdant grazing grounds, attracting large herds of elephants, buffalos and zebras. There is also abundant bird watching in the Okavango Delta, with migratory bird species arriving to escape the cold climes of the northern hemisphere.

December is the birthing season for impalas and springboks, which almost certainly guarantees sightings of predators too – leopards, cheetahs, lions and wild dogs. The Kalahari Desert metamorphoses into a lush green oasis with the rains, offering incredible wildlife sightings. The Savuti area of Chobe National Park and the Kalahari have lower crowds and offer a great safari experience in December.

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A premier African safari destination, Botswana offers amazing safaris from top rated safari experts.

Zimbabwe is a fantastic destination for a safari adventure in December – the weather is warm with rains in the afternoons which clear the air, and its the low season with less visitors so it can be a great value time to travel here. There is a wide variety of resident and migratory birds, plenty of wildlife to see and a variety of national parks and game reserves to explore. Hwange National Park in the west of the country, one of the largest game reserves in Africa, boasts an impressive population of elephants and lions while its grasslands and mopane woods are home to African wild dogs.

Mana Pools National Park is another popular destination, known for its stunning floodplains and large herds of buffalo and elephants and Matobo Hills National Park is a must-see, with its unique rock formations and population of black and white rhinos.

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  • Hwange Walking Safari

Namibia generally has low visitor numbers, which makes for a more intimate safari experience. December is the hot and humid rainy season in December in Namibia. The rains thicken the vegetation meaning it can be harder to spot wildlife which also disperses as water sources become more plentiful. Etosha National Park , the most popular park in Namibia, is home to an abundance of wildlife, including lions, leopards, elephants and rhinos, which gathers around the waterholes.

With its rugged coastline and unique desert landscapes, the Skeleton Coast National Park is known for its shipwrecks and is a fascinating place to visit. It’s a hostile environment, but you may still see some wildlife such as brown hyena, desert lion, jackal, kudu, zebra or desert adapted elephant. Another one of Namibia’s renowned attractions is its stunning western desert environments, with the towering sand dunes of Sossusvlei in Namib Naukluft National Park.

  • Best of Namibia Safari
  • 4-Day Namib Coast & Sossusvlei Adventure Tour

Our expert in-country travel partners are ready to help you create your dream safari.

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safari south africa december

  • Victoria Falls in December

Africa's best authentic tailor-made safaris

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By Vihann Van Wyk

Safari Travel Planner

December is slightly cooler than November but still a hot month, with daytime temperatures averaging 31°C/88°F. It’s also the second wettest month of the year (after January), so you’ll get an afternoon thundershower on most days.

Highlights of the Month

The Zambezi

The river is low in December, so the falls are much less dramatic than earlier in the year. The waterfalls can also completely dry up on the Zambian side .

How awesome to wake up to this view?

With the start of summer rains, the vegetation starts to get full and greener, which means December isn’t an ideal time for wildlife viewing. However, the birdlife at this time of year is superb, with birds in their full colourful plumage and many migratory species around.

December is the last month for excellent whitewater rafting with the perfect water level in the Zambezi River .

December is low season in Vic Falls, so you’ll be able to get lower rates on hotels and packages .

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With over 20 years of experience, our team will help you choose the perfect african safari for your adventure., 24/7 support, personalized, popular victoria falls safaris, these recommended tours for victoria falls can be tailor-made to match your budget..

safari south africa december

Victoria Falls and Chobe National Park Discovery

Zimbabwe Victoria Falls Botswana Chobe Chobe River Southern Africa

From $ 2130 /USD

safari south africa december

Kafue and Livingstone Adventure

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From $ 4890 /USD

safari south africa december

Affordable Victoria Falls Stay

Zimbabwe Victoria Falls

From $ 960 /USD

safari south africa december

Livingstone Discovery

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From $ 1570 /USD

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Victoria Falls, Chobe and Moremi Affordable Safari

Southern Africa Zimbabwe Victoria Falls Botswana Chobe Okavango Delta

From $ 3200 /USD

safari south africa december

37 Victoria Falls Safaris to choose from

Stay for 4 - 18 days

Experience our Tailor-made Tours in Victoria Falls

Our recommended tours in victoria falls.

safari south africa december

Okavango Delta and Victoria Falls Adventure

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safari south africa december

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  • South Africa In December: Explore The Best Of This Safari Paradise In Winter 2024!

23 Mar 2023

South Africa is known for it’s all year natural beauty and is also a very popular tourist spot. There is no particular season pattern you should follow while planning a trip to South Africa as every season has something beautiful to offer. There is always something to see in every season in South Africa. December is a perfect period to visit South Africa if you love the winter and want to go around places without the heat being a problem. So, what are you waiting for? Get packed & Go!

Things to do in South Africa in December, 2022

Here is the list of enticing things you can do when you visit South Africa in December. Keep scrolling down and read along!

1. Visit The National Parks

National parks

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There are many national parks around this place like west coast national park, Table Mountain national park, Karoo national park, Kruger national park , Addo National Park, and many more. The main attraction of Addo national park is the huge number of elephants that reside in this park. Apart from that the Kruger national park is the largest national park in terms of size and is home to many animals.

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2. A Beautiful Experience In Franschhoek

Franschooek Champagne festival

This narrow valley is nestled between the mountains and is filled with beautiful wine lands. This is the prettiest wine lands region. They carry out a Franschhoek Cap and Champagne festival in December which takes place at Huguenot gardens and it is a huge and very popular affair.

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3. Kayak With Crocodiles

Kayaking

If you feel a little adventurous and want to try something new then this is the sport for you. You can kayak through the river of St. Lucia among the crocodiles. It is a fun experience and tourists should try it out. The river is filled with 1200 crocodiles and 900 hippos that will be lurking around as you kayak.

6 Alluring Lakes In South Africa For A Delightful Encounter With Nature!

4. Wildlife Safari On A Horse

Horse Safari

If you feel bored going around sanctuaries without really getting a close look of many animals, then this African safari in December is your answer. In this wildlife safari you get to experience animal watching in a better and closer way. You will love this if you love watching and playing around the animals. Even the animals are quiet friendly and you will have a great time moving around with the animals.

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5. Visit The Cango Caves

Cango-Caves_22nd oct

These caves are the oldest and the most loved South African tourist attraction and have great cave service. There are two tours and you can choose depending on your preference. First there is a standard tour where you can just walk leisurely around the caves and get a better view at different cave formations around this place. Then there is an adventure tour which takes you through the narrow pathways which have opening that are about 26 centimeters apart.

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6. Diving With White Sharks

White Shark

For all the adventure junkies this is a great sport. If you are not hydrophobic and love sharks, then you must try this. There is cage diving also which is also very popular. This is really safe and experts take great care that no harm is caused to you. Even if you don’t know diving or even swimming you can try the cage diving.

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7. Garden Route Safari

Garden Safari

If you know something about South Africa, then it has to be the diverse natural vegetation that is beautiful and has a great abundance of various animals and birds. Garden route is one part of South Africa which is beautiful and stunning in its own way. There are chances that you might spot the Big 5 animals while going through the garden route safari.

Table Mountain National Park: The Surreal Beauty Of South Africa

8. Take A Canopy Tour

Canopy tour

There are many adventurous activities that are available in South Africa. The natural beauty has always been the greatest attraction but the various unique sports are also something you can look forward to. Canopy tours are around many places in South Africa. There is a zip lining place in garden route towards the south which is a perfect place for beginners.

Hot Springs In South Africa: To Explore The Natural Hidden Gems Of The Country’s Charm

9. Turtle Watching

Turtle Watching

With the abundance of great beaches that are beautiful and spectacular, the marine life of South Africa is also a great reserve to this country. Turtles are small and beautiful but some species of turtles are getting extinct and South Africa has some beaches where there are groups which work towards saving these species.

From Running A Marathon To Jumping Off From The Highest Bungee Jumping Spot In The World, He Did It All In His South Africa Trip!

10. Enjoy The Boulder Beach

Boulder Beach

If you need a day off relaxing on the beach, then this is the perfect place for you. The giant boulders on this beach are the reason why it is called the boulders beach . These boulders are around 540 years old. Another attraction of this beach are the African penguins that reside here, there are about 2000 penguins in this beach. This is a safe and immaculate beach where you can relax and have a great time just watching the penguins.

12 Handpicked Resorts In South Africa For A Glamorous Holiday

So are you excited to explore this land of wildlife safari on your winter vacation? If yes, then plan your African holiday with TravelTriangle and experience an adventurous ride while in this country!

Disclaimer: TravelTriangle claims no credit for images featured on our blog site unless otherwise noted. All visual content is copyrighted to its respectful owners. We try to link back to original sources whenever possible. If you own the rights to any of the images, and do not wish them to appear on TravelTriangle, please contact us and they will be promptly removed. We believe in providing proper attribution to the original author, artist or photographer.

Please Note: Any information published by TravelTriangle in any form of content is not intended to be a substitute for any kind of medical advice, and one must not take any action before consulting a professional medical expert of their own choice.

Frequently Asked Questions About South Africa In December

Is December a good time to visit South Africa?

South Africa is an all-year round destination and the climate varies from various climate conditions. The region experiences a dry and hot weather in the summer months which lasts from November and February. Thus South Africa weather in December is is perfect to have a good time to experience the summer season in South Africa.

Is Cape Town safe for tourists?

Cape town ranks at 110th out of the list of 162 most dangerous cities around the world, due to its increased crime rates and level of crime in the area. But in the last few years, the city has been made safe for the tourists with increased safety measures and law.

What are best places to visit in South Africa in December?

Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg and Kruger National Park are some of the best places to visit in South Africa in December.

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Animals Around the Globe

Animals Around the Globe

10 Best African Countries for Safari

Posted: December 19, 2023 | Last updated: December 19, 2023

safari south africa december

#1 Botswana

Recommended Tours:

Thus, poachers are seen as enemies of the people. As a result, Botswana has come into view as Africa's most sought-after ecotourism destination. Starting from the Chobe National Park to the Moremi Nature Reserve, you'll be able to witness numerous gems all around the country.

Back in 2014, Botswana widely banned the hunting of wild animals and implemented strict laws which are still in practice. The country resumes its zero-tolerance for poaching and their very own environmental minister, Tshekedi Khama, has even launched a shoot-to-kill policy for poachers.

Botswana, with its wildlife conservation and natural parks, is a haven for nature lovers. It is currently in the top 5, as its approach to the protection and conservation of wildlife is worth the praise. As a country, it is very forward-thinking, some may even call it aggressively forward-thinking when it comes to its preservation and anti-poaching laws.

<p><strong>Recommended Tours:</strong></p> <p>Its fertile land provides a safe and comforting home to around 200 <a class="wpil_keyword_link" href="https://www.animalsaroundtheglobe.com/mammals/" title="mammal">mammal</a> species. This includes elephants, hippos, monkeys and so much more. Along with 650 bird species and 5,500 plants. Even though the country is still underdeveloped and most of the population live in rural households, its national parks, and sight-seeing destinations are on the top 10 of our lists.</p> <p>Even though many would face some difficulties in locating Malawi on a map, given how tiny it is, the country is home to the world-renowned Lake Malawi National Park. This is practically one-third of the country and is the most biodiverse lake in the world.</p>

Its fertile land provides a safe and comforting home to around 200 mammal species. This includes elephants, hippos, monkeys and so much more. Along with 650 bird species and 5,500 plants. Even though the country is still underdeveloped and most of the population live in rural households, its national parks, and sight-seeing destinations are on the top 10 of our lists.

Even though many would face some difficulties in locating Malawi on a map, given how tiny it is, the country is home to the world-renowned Lake Malawi National Park. This is practically one-third of the country and is the most biodiverse lake in the world.

safari south africa december

Most of the land in Namibia is occupied by the Kalahari and Namib Deserts. Along with that, the country also has 12 national parks and many other areas which are protected. So, if you go there for a safari, you'll have many rich areas to see and explore.

When it comes to countries with the least amount of population, Namibia is one of them. Which proves to be a good thing for nature. This is because most of the land in Namibia is still unspoiled by human filth or any sort of development, giving nature a chance to breathe.

safari south africa december

In the country's Volcanoes National Park, you'll find 10 habituated gorilla families. Groups of 8 trekkers can visit them for one hour per day. But that's enough to get the best African safari experience. And as a nature lover, you'll enjoy the experience to the max.

If you've been around for some time, you'll be familiar with Rwanda's mountain gorillas. They were famously broadcasted and their fight for survival was shown on  National Geographic . This was all thanks to the late  Dian Fossey  back in the 1970s who advocated for the rights of these mountain gorillas throughout her life.

Considering the tragic history surrounding the mass genocide of the people of Rwanda back in 1994, it's truly a blessing what the country has achieved in the past 25 years. There have been countless investments in infrastructure. This has resulted in the country being a very fast-growing destination for ecotourism.

safari south africa december

#6 South Africa

But given all the advantages, it's safe to conclude that South Africa also suffers from over-tourism. I mean, if you have so many great attractions, people will flock towards it. Chances are that you'll find yourself in the middle of dozens of unruly visitors who are not too keen on obeying the rules. This occurs mostly during the peak seasons.

Annually, the country has one million visitors. Its biggest attraction is the Kruger National Park with its enrichment in biodiversity. Visitors there also have the liberty to self-drive, thus, getting a first-person private but superb experience. 

For some time now, South Africa has been climbing the charts to become one of the most popular destinations for African safaris. Given its location, South Africa is a very convenient and cheap destination for people from the United States. Besides that, the country also boasts a well-developed infrastructure which makes it perfect for luxury travelers as well.

safari south africa december

#7 Tanzania

One of the most popular locations would be the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The country is also a haven for 1100 different bird species. It's no wonder that Tanzania gets this much rep. Especially when the country boasts so many wonders.

We talked about Kenya being the top destination for Safari. Now Tanzania here takes second place in being the continent's most popular safari destination. And why shouldn't it? The country has 16 national parks and an extraordinary amount of wealth and wildlife wonders for the people to witness.

safari south africa december

Some of its natural attractions include housing the highest mountain range in Africa. It also has the world's largest free-standing volcano and the second-largest freshwater lake. With its 30 national parks and other wildlife reserves, Uganda boasts many more sanctuaries which are worth the visit. Especially if you're a lover of nature and wildlife.

Often called "The Pearl of Africa", Uganda is certainly a great pick for an African safari. Its reputation as being one of the best ecotourism destinations comes from the country's natural attractions and wildlife.

<p><strong>Recommended Tours:</strong></p> <p>Out of its 20 national parks, the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park is home to many wildlife animals such as African elephants, Angolan giraffes, Cape buffalo, etc. Other than that, there are many private ownerships of National parks, notably the Kasanka National Park which is near the basin of Lake Bangweulu. It's a safe place where visitors can see 400 different avian species.</p> <p>Zambia may be a bit far down the list of popular destinations for your African safari, but many consider it to be a destination for diversified and immersive safari experiences, and making a notable feature on our 10 Best African Countries for Safari guide. The country is steadily focusing on conservation as their president has shown a keen interest and is working on building the nation's economy as well as the infrastructure.</p>

Out of its 20 national parks, the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park is home to many wildlife animals such as African elephants, Angolan giraffes, Cape buffalo, etc. Other than that, there are many private ownerships of National parks, notably the Kasanka National Park which is near the basin of Lake Bangweulu. It's a safe place where visitors can see 400 different avian species.

Zambia may be a bit far down the list of popular destinations for your African safari, but many consider it to be a destination for diversified and immersive safari experiences, and making a notable feature on our 10 Best African Countries for Safari guide. The country is steadily focusing on conservation as their president has shown a keen interest and is working on building the nation's economy as well as the infrastructure.

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  1. South Africa in December: A Lush, Green Summer

    safari south africa december

  2. Top Reasons to Visit South Africa in December

    safari south africa december

  3. 10 Must Things To Do At South Africa In December 2022!

    safari south africa december

  4. Luxury Safari Holidays South Africa

    safari south africa december

  5. One Day Cape Town Safari Tours and Experiences in South Africa

    safari south africa december

  6. Where to Go in Africa in December 2023

    safari south africa december

COMMENTS

  1. Where To Go on an African Safari in December

    African Safari in December December is a good month to go on safari in Botswana. The pans in the desert areas attract a lot of wildlife in the Wet season. If you don't mind a bit of rain, this Green season is a lovely time for a safari in Tanzania's Northern circuit and Kenya. Low-season rates might be an added bonus.

  2. Unforgettable December: Family-Friendly Safaris in South Africa

    Posted on 13th December 2023 There's nothing better than a family vacation, and one spent on safari is just the epitome of African magic. Join us as we go on a magical journey this December with family-friendly safari getaways that promise joy, adventure, and unforgettable moments.

  3. South Africa in December

    1 View our recommended safaris for inspiration and get ready to plan your dream safari 2 Contact us or fill out an enquiry form and one of our travel experts will help you tailor make your perfect safari 3 Enjoy an authentic African experience, with peace of mind Travel with Confidence

  4. Best Time To Visit South Africa (Month by Month)

    South Africa Safaris South Africa Travel Guide 4.6 /5 - 979 Reviews Best Time To Visit - South Africa Expert By Philip Briggs Philip lives in South Africa and has authored many guidebooks to African destinations, including the Rough Guide to Game Parks of South Africa. Kruger & Around Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Excellent Good

  5. South Africa safari: when to go, what you'll see, where to stay

    An early or late summer safari could be South Africa's best-kept secret, especially with the add-on of a beach holiday outside of Cape Town 's busiest time (from mid- December to end- January ). Elsewhere, the semi-arid Karoo and Kalahari are dry and clear-skied in winter and have low rainfall averages in summer but get very hot.

  6. Safari in December

    December is a great month for safari in Kenya and works extremely well for Christmas or New Year breaks, although you must book these key dates a long way in advance to get the best camps. Mauritius December is a great month to visit Mauritius, with temperatures for the year reaching a peak in either December or January.

  7. Southern Africa in December

    1 View our recommended safaris for inspiration and get ready to plan your dream safari 2 Contact us or fill out an enquiry form and one of our travel experts will help you tailor make your perfect safari 3 Enjoy an authentic African experience, with peace of mind Travel with Confidence

  8. African Safari In December 2022 [Best Locations & Experiences]

    An African safari in December allows you to experience, the Southern African green season, when the bush comes alive with fresh grass growth, flowers and newborn animals, and being summer it makes for ideal safari & beach holidays. But wait, there's more… Bwindi Impenetrable Forest safari in December

  9. 744 South Africa Safari Tours (Offered by 51 Tour Operators)

    5-Day Tremisana Lodge Kruger Park Safari. $1,018 pp (USD) South Africa: Shared tour (max 9 people per vehicle) Mid-range Lodge. You Visit: Johannesburg (Start), Balule NR (Greater Kruger), Greater Kruger, Kruger NP, Blyde River Canyon (Panorama Route), Johannesburg (End) Viva Safaris. 4.9 /5 - 243 Reviews.

  10. Best safari in Africa

    SeasonSummer Average Temperature for December 26 Celsius 79 Fahrenheit What The sight of thousands of zebra arriving to feast on the fresh grass as well as hundreds of wobbly newborn springbok, impala, wildebeest and buffalo. Naturally, predators are always around to pick off the proverbial runts of the litter.

  11. The Best Safari In South Africa: An Expert Guide

    Best for: iconic safaris & exclusive reserves. Kruger is South Africa's most celebrated safari park, and deservedly so. Kruger and the surrounding private reserves are home to all of southern Africa's iconic mammal species, including the endangered African wild dog, its varied habitats support more than 500 bird species and many of the private reserves offer top quality specialised photo ...

  12. 10 Best Safaris in December 2024/2025

    10 Best Safaris in December 2024/2025 - TourRadar Planning a safari in December? Check the best tours and destinations for an African safari in December. Biggest Selection. Best Prices.

  13. 21 Best Places To Visit In South Africa In December

    1. Cape Town Cape Town is one of the best places to visit in South Africa in December. Located on the Cape Peninsula, the most southwestern tip of Africa, the city usually enjoys a nice temperate climate when other areas of the country are in sweltering heat. Not many major cities have the stunning natural beauty that makes Cape Town so unique.

  14. Where to go on safari in December

    30 Sept 2020 Updated on 17 Nov 2020 Share article on In December, Africa is in the height of summer with many places at their lushest. Rains are at their heaviest with beautifully dramatic storms sweeping across the continent brining much needs water.

  15. South Africa Safari Holidays

    It is a fantastic choice for first-time safari goers and seasoned travellers alike. It also has some excellent 'Big Five' malaria-free reserves, making it an amazing option for families too." Call an expert +18889780956. Destinations. South Africa. Explore South Africa.

  16. Your Ultimate Guide to Exploring South Africa in December

    Is It OK to Go on Safari in December What Is December Known For in South Africa? December is known for being one of the hottest months in South Africa, with the temperatures reaching 25°C in certain parts of the country. By contrast, December is one of the wettest month in other places, with thunderstorms experienced in Kruger and Johannesburg.

  17. Where to go in Africa in December

    1. South Africa 2. Botswana 3. Tanzania 4. Kenya 5. Indian Ocean Islands As the northern hemisphere sinks into the short, cold, dark days of winter, Africa stretches its arms out wide in a warm welcome. Summer gets going in Africa in December and many destinations are at their best.

  18. The Best African Safaris in December

    The Best African Safaris in December. 5 months ago. The Best African Safaris in December. December is a much sought-after month to embark on a safari expedition in Africa. From favorable weather conditions to spectacular wildlife encounters and enticing travel offers, this time of the year beckons adventurers to explore the uncharted ...

  19. Where To Go On Safari In December

    Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is a fantastic destination for a safari adventure in December - the weather is warm with rains in the afternoons which clear the air, and its the low season with less visitors so it can be a great value time to travel here. There is a wide variety of resident and migratory birds, plenty of wildlife to see and a variety of ...

  20. Victoria Falls in December

    Climate December is slightly cooler than November but still a hot month, with daytime temperatures averaging 31°C/88°F. It's also the second wettest month. ... Luxury South Africa Safari and Zambia Honeymoon. Southern Africa Cape Town Sabi Sands Zambia Victoria Falls Livingstone. From $ 6650 /USD per person per tour. VIEW SAFARI.

  21. 10 Must Things To Do At South Africa In December 2022!

    South Africa In December: Explore The Best Of This Safari Paradise In Winter 2024! .. Written by Priyanka Banerjee South Africa is known for it's all year natural beauty and is also a very popular tourist spot.

  22. Safari in December

    Kenya in December is a great month for safari in Kenya and works extremely well for Christmas or New Year breaks, although you must book these key dates a long way in advance to get the best camps. Mauritius December is a great month to visit Mauritius with temperatures for the year reaching a peak in either December or January.

  23. 10 Best African Countries for Safari

    If you're craving the ultimate safari adventure, look no further. We've meticulously curated the ultimate guide to unveil the 10 Best African Countries for Safari, designed especially for ...

  24. South Africa Safaris

    It is a fantastic choice for first-time safari goers and seasoned travelers alike. It also has some excellent 'Big Five' malaria-free reserves, making it an amazing option for families too." Call an expert +18889780956. Destinations. South Africa. Explore South Africa.