This post may contain compensated links. Please read our disclaimer for additional information.

 

South Africa is one of my favourite destinations worldwide. Often described as a “world in one country” it really does offer visitors everything they could possibly want and more – with stunning scenery, beautiful beaches, a great climate, good food and wine, and of course amazing wildlife South Africa should be on everyone’s bucket list.

 

One of the favourite activities for visitors to South Africa is to spend some time at a game lodge and take some game drives/safaris to experience the wildlife up close and personal.

 

I am often asked by readers to recommend the best game lodges in South Africa and in this post I recommend 2 of my favourites – Kwa Maritane and Klaserie River Safari Lodge. I decided to ask other travel bloggers for their favourites too and you will find them in this article as well as links to book that dream vacation.

 

There is also a useful map showing the locations of the various lodges at the end of the article as well as links to other posts about South Africa which you may find useful. If you are wondering what to wear on safari or wanting some top tips for your first safari you can also find that information in my other South African focussed articles.

 

 

ULSABA – SABI SAND

 

We chose Ulusaba as our very first safari adventure, because it was convenient to reach from Johannesburg, and because it’s owned by Virgin, a brand we love.

 

Sabi Sand borders the edge of Kruger National Park, and is split into several private game reserves, one of which is Ulusaba. There are no fences so animals are free to roam from Kruger into the reserves, making a stay at Ulusaba a really exclusive experience with sightings that are just as good as in the national park.

 

We’d heard that Sabi Sand is a particularly good place for leopards, and were over the moon when our tracker found us not one, but two young males. It was probably the most magical experience we’ve ever had on our travels. The wildlife here is abundant, and we saw everything from lions and giraffe, to buffalo and even wild dogs.

 

The lodge itself is super luxurious with a relaxed vibe. Hospitality is a little over the top, not a bad thing when you’ve splashed out and want to be treated like royalty for a few days. The food never stopped coming – there were bush breakfasts of chocolate pancakes and champagne, boma dinners by the fire, and of course sundowners.

 

We stayed in a gorgeous suite at Safari Lodge on the banks of a dry riverbed accessed by wooden walkways, giving us total immersion in nature. It’s what an African safari is all about.

Written by –  Conversant Traveller

 

 

Best games lodges in South Africa featured by top international travel blogger, Tracy's Travels in Time

THE KGALAGADI TRANSFRONTIER PARK

 

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park located in the southern Kalahari desert was formed when two national parks in neighbouring countries South Africa and Botswana combined.

 

The beautiful scenery formed by the red sand dunes, sparse vegetation and dry riverbeds is one of the best places in the world to see the big cats; lion, leopard and cheetah. Camping, lying in your tent at night listening to the hyenas laughing or a lion roar is the best way to experience this African treasure.

 

There are no elephants, rhinos or buffaloes here, so it is not a place to see the big 5, it is however an excellent place to see predators in action, with plenty of the big cats. The majestic black-maned Kalahari lions, unique to this part of the world is stalked by many hopeful photographers.

 

Other famous residents of this amazing park in the Kalahari desert are a lot smaller; the bat-eared fox, meerkat, ground squirrel and the beautiful cape fox; with a bit of luck you can even spot a Honey Badger (Ratel) or Pangolin (Scaly Anteater).

 

The park can be visited all year round, but gets very busy during school holidays. June and July is the dry season it gets very cold at night, this is a great time for predator sightings.

 

A fantastic park to watch predators and scavengers such as hyenas, jackals and the birds of prey interact in this desolate landscape teeming with predators.

 

Read more – Stingy Nomads

 

Best games lodges in South Africa featured by top international travel blogger, Tracy's Travels in Time

BOOK YOUR STAY AT XAUS LODGE

In a perfect location this lodge offers visitors the opportunity to experience an authentic stay in the Kgalagadi. 

It is owned by traditional South African communities and this is reflected in the chalets built in the style of traditional dwelling places. 

There are guided bushwalks available and guests can visit bushmen artists. 

Rated 8.4 on Booking.com

Facilities include

  • free shuttle service
  • free parking
  • outdoor pool
  • gift shop
  • there is no wifi available 
CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR STAY AT XAUS LODGE

GARONGA SAFARI LODGE

 

Garonga, and it’s sister property Little Garonga, sit within the Makalali Game Reserve, 61,000 acres of privately owned land. The reserve has just two accommodation options with the Garongas being the most luxurious of the two. This scarcity of lodges means the park never feels overcrowded and you can do entire days of safari without seeing another vehicle. This is Garonga’s greatest asset; the sense of  exclusivity. 

 

During our stay at Little Garonga, we saw our fellow guests (all three of them) for meals and game drives. During the day we relaxed by our own infinity pool, took a sneaky siesta and spotted elephants from our deck. If we wanted anything, we had been assigned our very own valet. With a quick phone call, they could organise whatever we needed. Mind you, with a fully stocked mini bar, a pool and sun loungers, we couldn’t think of anything. 

 

The reserve was screaming out for the start of the rainy season during our visit and the skeletal trees made spotting wildlife easy for the expert guides. We really harboured desires to see lions, despite assuring the guides that all nature is beautiful, and they persevered through three drives to find them.

 

Along the way we saw zebras, giraffes, hippos, elephants, warthogs, hyenas and deers a-plenty. On our final game drive, we found a pride of lions chewing on the remains of their dinner. It was an amazing experience. 

 

Speaking of food, the meals provided at Garonga were a real delight. The chef came out to talk us through the menu and the wine expert shared his pairing recommendations. I left every meal vowing never to eat again, and every time they described the next dinner I was ready to do it all over again. 

 

I don’t think you can feel such a wonderful mix of total relaxation at the lodge and fun adrenaline on the drives anywhere else. 

 

Read more – Flying Fluskey

 

Best games lodges in South Africa featured by top international travel blogger, Tracy's Travels in Time: Garonga safari lodge

BOOK YOUR STAY AT LITTLE GARONGA SAFARI LODGE

Little Garonga is comprised of only 3 suites so book ahead if you would like to stay in this beautiful game lodge.

Location: 46 km from Hoedspruit. 75 km to the Phalaborwa Gate to Kruger National Park.

Facilites:

* Free WiFi

* Air conditioning

* Swimming pool

* Private bathroom with indoor and outdoor shower

CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR STAY AT LITTLE GARONGA SAFARI LODGE

PHINDA DELUXE MOUNTAIN LODGE PRIVATE GAME RESERVE

 

Being able to live for a few days near the Big 5 (as the group formed by the leopard, African lion, African elephant, buffalo, and rhinoceros is called) and with all the rest of the animals that populate the extensive savannas of the African reserves was a dream come true for me and one of the reasons why South Africa deserves a visit.

 

The one I had the luck to visit and now I recommend is Phinda Private Reserve (Phinda Game Reserve Mountain Lodge by and Beyond), which is one of the most luxurious in South Africa where in addition to doing all the safaris you want during the time it lasts stay in their facilities (and what facilities! with a thatched-roof building with outdoor rain shower, complimentary minibar and its own private plunge pool on the terrace for you alone), you will be contributing to the preservation of the animals that live in it. Also to the protection of the one-horned rhino, in danger of extinction due to the poachers that have decimated the population of these in recent years.

 

But there is much more. The wide range of activities and facilities offered by this 5-star game lodge deserve a separate mention such as its signature bar with features an interesting library section and board games, a mind-blowing spa treatments menu, and a swimming pool among them. 

 

It is located about 4 hours from Durban and 2 hours from Richards Bay by car. Prices start around $ 540 per night.

 

Written by – A World To Travel

 

Best games lodges in South Africa featured by top international travel blogger, Tracy's Travels in Time

BOOK YOUR STAY NEAR PHINDA PRIVATE RESERVE

Below is a selection of alternative accommodation options near Phinda Private Reserve.

BAYALA PRIVATE SAFARI LODGE

Location :

  • 28 km from Ubizane Wildlife Reserve
  • 35 km from Bonamanzi Private Game reserve

Rated 8.7 (Booking.com)

Facilities incude:

  • Restaurant
  • Fully equipped private bathroom 
  • WiFi is free and available in public areas
  • Free private parking
  • Gift shop
  • Pool
  • Walking Tours (additional charge)
  • Air conditioning
CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR STAY AT BAYALA SAFARI LODGE
THANDA SAFARI

Location 

  • Northern Zululand

Rated 9.5  (Booking.com)

Facilities incude

  • Two daily game drives
  • Room service
  • WiFi is free and available in public areas
  • Free private parking
  • Gift shop
  • Pool
  • Air conditioning
  • Spa and wellness centre
CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR STAY AT THANDA SAFARI
THORNWOOD

Book the villa (4 bedrooms) and get away from it all with friends and family. This is my idea of heaven!

Location 

  • 35 km from Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Park

Rated 9.6  (Booking.com)

Facilities incude

  • Self-guided walking trails
  • No internet access
  • Free private parking
  • Fully equipped kitchen
  • Private pool
  • Air conditioning
CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR STAY AT THORNWOOD

GARDEN ROUTE GAME LODGE

 

If you’re visiting Cape Town, or planning a road trip through South Africa’s epic Garden Route, one of your best options for an amazing safari experience is at the Garden Route Game Lodge. The Lodge is about 3 ½ hours from Cape Town, near Albertina, and is also in a malaria-free region.

 

The property is absolutely stunning, with an outdoor pool overlooking the mountains, private chalets, and traditional art throughout the property. Breakfast and dinner are included, as are a sunset and sunrise safari.

 

The guides were incredibly friendly, knowledgeable, and even set up a mid-safari sundowner on the evening game drive, where we could relax with a beer and some snacks, watching a rhino mother with a young just off in the distance- truly magical. We were able to see a huge range of animals, including juvenile cheetahs, giraffes, wildebeest, elephants, lions, kudu, eland, water buffalo, and more. 

 

In addition, there is a reptile center on site with a huge range of snakes and lizards that can be visited. To me, Garden Route Game Lodge really provided the iconic South African safari experience, and I can’t wait to go back again! 

 

Read more – The Accidental Australian 

 

Best games lodges in South Africa featured by top international travel blogger, Tracy's Travels in Time: Garden Route Game Lodge

BOOK YOUR STAY AT GARDEN ROUTE GAME LODGE

Location 

  • Near Albertinia overlooking the Langeberg Mountain Range in the Western Cape.
  • Cape Town International Aiport is 330 km away

Rated 9.2  (Booking.com)

Facilities incude

  • Spa facilities
  • Restaurant
  • WiFi is free and available in public areas
  • Free private parking
  • Gift shop
  • Pool
  • Air conditioning
CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR STAY AT GARDEN ROUTE GAME LODGE

KWA MARITANE – PILANESBURG GAME RESERVE

 

I have been visiting Kwa Maritane for over 30 years and it is my go-to game lodge when I am in South Africa. Although in 2009 Kwa Maritane suffered a devastating fire which destroyed large parts of the resort it has since been rebuilt and remains a wonderful place to relax and unwind.

 

Kwa Maritane is situated in the Pilanesburg Game Reserve which is located approximately 170 kms north west of Johannesburg. The resort has fantastic facilities including a spa, pool, tennis court, restaurants and more but really the stars of the show live in the game reserve.

 

With all 5 of the big five in residence taking a game drive from Kwa Maritane is always a thrilling experience. I have seen leopard, cheetah, buffalo, lion, elephant and rhino in the park as well as the numerous zebra, giraffe, wilderbeest, hippo and buck. 

 

If you fancy a break from the animals why not pop next door to Sun City on the free shuttle? I highly recommend afternoon tea in the Lost Palace Hotel.

 

Read more: Top safari tips – everything you need to know to about an African safari

 

Best games lodges in South Africa featured by top international travel blogger, Tracy's Travels in Time

BOOK YOUR STAY AT KWA MARITANE

Location 

  • 133 km from Lanseria Airport
  • 10 minute drive to Sun City

Rated 8.4  (Booking.com)

Facilities incude

  • Spot wildlife from the hide overlooking the waterhole
  • Room service
  • WiFi is free and available in all areas
  • Free private parking
  • Gift shop
  • 2 swimming pools
  • Air conditioning
  • Mini golf
  • Tennis court
  • Spa and wellness centre
  • Shuttle service to Sun City (charge)
CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR STAY AT KWA MARITANE

KLASERIE RIVER SAFARI LODGE

 

Located in a private game reserve on the banks of the Klaserie River this beautiful safari lodge is another of my favourites in South Africa. With Kruger Natoinal Park and Blyde River Canyon nearby there is plenty to keep you busy.

 

Take a game drives in one of the near-by game reserves or go on a bush walk on Klaserie Safari Lodge’s private property. 

 

Other excursions available include Blyde River boat cruises, hot air ballooning and horseback safaris. Day trips to nearby Kruger National Park are also available.

 

Read more – What to pack for your South African safari

 

Best games lodges in South Africa featured by top international travel blogger, Tracy's Travels in Time: Klaserie River Safari lodge

BOOK YOUR STAY AT KLASERIE SAFARI LODGE

Location 

  • 35 km from Hoedspruit
  • 45 minute drive to Kruger Park’s Orpen Gate

Rated 8.4  (Booking.com)

Facilities incude

  • Minibar
  • Private bathroom with shower
  • WiFi is free and available in public areas
  • Free private parking
  • Shared lounge
  • 3 outdoor pools
  • Air conditioning
CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR STAY AT KLASERIE RIVER SAFARI LODGE

PAKAMISA LODGE

 

I was nervous to travel to South Africa on my own, especially as it was my first trip solo, but I couldn’t have asked for a better experience than Pakamisa Safari. They organised everything for me, including airport pickup and drop off so I didn’t have to worry about getting to the lodge.

 

When I arrived everyone was brilliant and the owner of the whole safari greeted me and showed me to my lodge. I have never stayed in somewhere so nice! Pakamisa has self contained lodges of varying sizes all with balconies overlooking the stunning vista that is KwaZulu-Natal.

 

Pakamisa is a horseback safari so after I had a little chance to settle in I went out with the owner and one of the guides on a trail through the safari. As you, and your horse, are exposed to everything Pakamisa mostly has prey animals. This includes zebra, giraffe, warthogs, impala and other small animals. They did also have a few leopards if you could find them and they also offered excursions to the neighbouring Big Five Safari if you wanted to see some of the bigger African animals. Pakamisa also offered walking tours as well as driving tours.

 

The best thing about Pakamisa is the family atmosphere. Everything is ran by one woman who is incredible! Every day all the guests had dinner together in the large dining area, including the staff and the owner. The food was absolutely phenomenal and sharing meals together with everyone made it a lot less lonely for me and I met some really great people over those meals.

 

I was made to feel at home from the moment I arrived and I am truly grateful for the whole experience, being able to ride every day through South African bush.

 

Read more – The Travel Fairies Blog

 

Best games lodges in South Africa featured by top international travel blogger, Tracy's Travels in Time

BOOK YOUR STAY AT PAKAMISA

Location 

  • Situated in Pongola

Rated 9.8  (Booking.com)

Facilities incude

  • Waking tours/Horse riding/Archery/Hiking – additional charges apply
  • Restaurant
  • WiFi is free and available in public areas
  • Free private parking
  • Outdoor pool
CLICK TO BOOK YOUR STAY AT PAKAMISA

 

Thank you to all the travel bloggers who contributed to this article about these beautiful game lodges in South Africa. You really are spoilt for choice for places to stay and things to see! If you are heading to South Africa have a great time.  Do check out my other posts about South Africa below. 

 

I have a great library full of travel resources to help you plan your next trip (to South Africa/Australia/Europe or indeed anywhere in the world). This is available to my subscribers – why not subscribe below and get free access today? It is totally free and I promise there will be no spam!

 

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PIN - 8 FABULOUS GAME LODGES IN SOUTH AFRICA

Author: Tracy

Over the last 50 years I have lived and worked in 7 countries on 4 continents and travelled to many more. I enjoy exploring and learning about new places and meeting people on my travels. History, reading, photography, nature and wildlife are my interests and I am ALWAYS researching and planning my next trip (preferably by train)

With a lifetime of travel experience, and a network of friends all over the world, I share genuine insider guides, recommended best book lists and train journey inspiration to help YOU travel authentically to some of the most beautiful places on earth.

Come and join me as I travel the world one country (and train journey) at a time!

This post may contain compensated links. Please read our disclaimer for additional information.

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