The Best South Africa Safari Lodges

Treehouse bedroom at a safari lodge in South Africa

South Africa is one of the best countries to see wildlife in its natural habitats. Not only is it more affordable than Tanzania, Kenya and Botswana, but it’s also home to all of the Big 5 and a plethora of other animals in its national parks and private game reserves. But where’s best to stay when observing its wildlife?

In this post, we’ve got some of the best South Africa safari lodges as fantastic options for you – from budget camps to the most luxurious safari lodges in South Africa.

Visiting South Africa? Check out this 2 week South Africa itinerary for some more inspiration.

Africa on Foot in Klaserie Private Nature Reserve

Africa on Foot is an intimate safari lodge in the heart of Klaserie Private Nature Reserve – just outside Kruger National Park. The accommodation is very comfortable, with each guest/couple or family staying in one of five chalets – a mud brick hut with a thatched roof. Our chalet even had an outdoor shower, which gave us an incredible encounter with monkeys while we showered in the afternoon! Guests can also opt to stay overnight in the treehouse, giving uninterrupted views of the game reserve without even leaving their bed.

Guests start the day with a hot drink and snack in the communal lounge, before setting out on jeeps into the park. During the game drives, the guide and tracker treat guests to their knowledge of the animals and the park itself. You could be lucky enough to see all of the Big 5 in the reserve, as well as wild dogs, hippos and hundreds of bird species too. After spending the morning spotting wildlife, guests return to the lodge for a hearty breakfast cooked fresh by the staff, and then spend the afternoon relaxing in the lodge and eating lunch before another game drive in the evening. During this evening game drive, the staff lay on sundowner drinks and snacks overlooking the waterhole, while you listen out for lions roaring in the distance. After the sun has set, the jeeps head back to the lodge for a delicious dinner (vegetarian and vegan options available!) and drinks around the campfire.

The highlight of the lodge is the opportunity to go out on walking safaris, led by a highly experienced tracker who could spot tracks and disturbed plants. This led us to have a very close encounter with a rhino that I will never forget!

How to book: Visit booking.com to find the latest prices for Africa on Foot. Click here!

Bukela Game Lodge in Amakhala Game Reserve, Eastern Cape

If you are planning on going on a wildlife safari in South Africa and want to experience eco-luxury at its best, you need to visit Amakhala Game Reserve on the Eastern Cape and stay at Bukela Game Lodge. Bukela Game Lodge offers beautiful glamping tents complete with a queen sized bed, fireplace and private terrace.

The common areas are beyond cozy and it won’t be long before you feel right at home. In addition to a pool and cocktail lounge, Bukela also has a viewing platform with a clear view of a popular wildlife watering hole that giraffes, elephants, zebras and warthogs like to frequent.

Would Be Traveller South Africa Safari Lodges - Bukela Game Lodge at Amakhala Game Reserve in South Africa

Because the hotel is a part of the game reserve, don’t be surprised if you wake up and find that there’s no water – it just means that the cheeky elephants have stopped by overnight, damaged the plumbing and helped themselves to some fresh water! At night, a ranger will also escort you back to your room from the dining room…just in case you run into some animals in the dark. You can’t be more immersed in nature than at Bukela.

Though the rooms and facilities are stunning, the absolute best part about Bukela is the twice-daily game drives with their experienced rangers. The rangers at the Amakhala Game Reserve are incredibly knowledgeable and respectful towards the wildlife, and the private 18,000 acre reserve is home to the “Big 5”: lions, elephants, rhinos, buffalo and leopards. There are also plenty of giraffes, zebras, wildebeest, hyenas, and a variety of antelope species – we even spotted a cheetah with three of its newborn cubs!

How to book: Visit booking.com to find the latest prices for Bukela Game LodgeClick here!

Vuyani Safari Lodge in Moditlo Private Game Reserve

The Vuyani Safari Lodge is based within the Moditlo Private Game Reserve in Hoedspruit, just a stone’s throw from Kruger National Park.

The secluded honeymoon suites provide the perfect setting for feeling at one with the reserve and feeling all by yourself so you can enjoy your stay in a lovely private setting.

It’s not all relaxation though. With 2 game drives per day included in the stay, you will be getting 5 am wake-up calls for your morning drive and will go out again at 3 pm for the second drive lasting about 3 hours each (longer if you happen to find one of the big 5 which is likely to happen). The evening drive includes a stop by a lake to watch the sunset whilst sipping a cocktail or a glass of wine.

The reserve has an abundance of wildlife and you will certainly be spoilt with the range of animals you’ll come across, including a friendly pair of Cheetah brothers who were rescued and raised on the reserve. The reserve has the big 5, see if you can spot them all!

The staff here are second to none and cannot do enough for you. You will experience world-class food where the chef will cater for any and all dietary requirements. You’ll never be hungry!

How to book: Visit booking.com to find the latest prices for Vuyani Safari Lodge. Click here!

Phinda Mountain Lodge in Phinda Private Game Reserve

Phinda Mountain Lodge has to be one of the best safari lodges in South Africa. Managed by &Beyond, it is located in Phinda Private Game Reserve, a 3 hours drive from Durban, in KwaZulu Natal. It can be reached by car, but here also are charter flights from all over the country, including Cape Town.

What makes the lodge and Phinda amazing is the safari experience. Here, guests have a chance to see all the Big Five, and to do so in a completely responsible and ethical way. Rangers are accompanied by trackers, and jeeps hardly ever carry more than 6 passengers. No more than 3 jeeps at a time are allowed to view animals, and depending on the animal no more than one. Rangers are perfectly trained to look for the animals and to make sure all guests get the best experience possible.

The lodge itself is a fantastic experience: completely immersed in nature, this is the kind of place where animals roam freely. Nyala love to drink from the guests’ plunge pool (there is one in each room) and even elephants have been caught doing so. The rooms are very large and comfortable, and all feel like a little private enclosure. There is a very comfortable king-size bed, a bathroom with a shower and a separate Victorian-style bathtub, with &Beyond beauty products range. And if the comfort of the room isn’t enough, there even is a spa for incredible treatments.

 Would Be Traveller South Africa Safari Lodges - Phinda Mountain Lodge

The view from the dining area is fantastic, and the food served at the property is simply excellent. Breakfast is scrumptious, and so is lunch. Dinner location varies every night, and guests can find themselves dining in the boma or even in the middle of the forest, for an incredible al fresco experience.

All personnel is kind, ready to help and incredibly professional.

Phinda Mountain Lodge certainly isn’t a budget option, but it is worth every penny!

Deciding between a Private Game Reserve and a National Park? Read my blog post to help compare the two.

Mala Mala Main Camp in Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Mala Mala is a private game reserve located within the Sabi Sand Game Reserve. At 33,000 acres, it’s the largest and oldest private Big Five game reserve in South Africa. There are three camps on the Mala Mala site: ‘Main Camp’ which caters for fifty guests, ‘Sable’ for families, and ‘Rattrays’ for just sixteen guests, which allows for a more intimate experience.

The private rooms at Mala Mala Main Camp are designed like a traditional South African hut complete with a huge bed, workspace, outdoor shower and unfenced deck outside to watch for wildlife. Not that there will be much time spent in camp instead of out in the wilderness!

Would Be Traveller South Africa Safari Lodges - Mala Mala

Sabi Sand shares 19kms of unfenced borders with the Kruger National Park, allowing wildlife to move freely between the two. It meant that our sightings are basically constant, whether it was a group of thirteen hyenas bathing in a watering hole, a troop of baboons racing along the riverbank, a tree filled with vultures or even the white rhino we spotted at the gates of Mala Mala on our way back home. If you’re looking for a luxurious safari experience, Mala Mala is a great choice!

Mala Mala is a 40-minute jeep ride from Skukuza Airport.

Read more about the incredible wildlife encounters in South Africa by clicking here!

Naledi Bushcamp just outside Kruger National Park

Located in a private game reserve on the edge of Kruger National Park, Naledi Bushcamp is that rare safari lodge – small, luxurious and affordable. The camp only has three suites, but some have more than one bedroom so at most there are 11 people staying at once. Rooms have private terraces and some come with outdoor showers or plunge pools. And because you’re right out in the bush the animals often come to you – you may even have monkeys making a dive for your lunch one day!

Would Be Traveller South Africa Safari Lodges - Naledia Game Lodge

The day starts with a 5 am wake-up call before a three-hour morning game drive in an open-top jeep. After a big breakfast, there’s free time to relax by the pool or find a quiet spot to curl up with a book. Or Naledi offers a few different activities. There’s a walking safari or a trip to a hide where you can watch birds and giraffes at the watering hole while sipping on a G&T. After lunch, there’s more free time before the afternoon game drive which includes sundowner drinks and snacks, followed by drinks by the campfire and a three-course dinner outside by candlelight.

The food is a real highlight at Naledi, with lots of fresh produce and local dishes, ending up with a big braai on the last night. The staff help makes it memorable too – each night a different member of staff eats dinner with the guests so you can find out more about their lives. There’s a really friendly ethos and lots of special little touches that make it feel luxurious. And all your food and activities are included in the price, so the only extras are alcohol and tips.

How to book: Visit booking.com to find the latest prices for Naledi Bush Lodge. Click here!

Rhino River Lodge in Manyoni Private Game Reserve, Zululand

Rhino River is a five-star eco-lodge located inside the Manyoni Private Game Reserve in the heart of Zululand in KwaZulu Natal. The family-owned property brings next-level exclusivity to the usual safari experience, by only accommodating 24 guests at a time, offering hearty South African cuisine and warm hospitality. The open-fronted dining and lounge areas have panoramic views over the property. Meandering paths connect the communal areas with the swimming pool and rooms.

Would Be Traveller South Africa Safari Lodges - Rhino River Lodge

The lodge offers three types of accommodation: double en-suite luxury rooms for two guests, family chalets for four guests or two-bedroom private safari homes for up to four guests. Rooms have air-conditioning, ceiling fans, private verandahs, mosquito nets, coffee and tea-making facilities, and a fully-stocked minibar. Their simple decor blends contemporary design with tribal art and artefacts handpicked from across Southern Africa.

The game reserve is home to the Big 5 (rhinos, elephants, buffaloes, leopards and lions), cheetahs, birds and African wild dogs.

How to book: Visit booking.com to find the latest prices for Rhino River Lodge. Click here!

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