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Addo, Kruger and Tswalu: top South African safari destinations

Updated: Dec 18, 2023

4 min read

When planning a safari to South Africa, there are a few iconic destinations that spring to mind. If you want to see a diversity of wildlife and ecosystems but you can only go to three spots, we’d recommend Kruger National Park, Addo Elephant National Park and Tswalu Private Game Reserve.

Kruger is the most well-known wildlife reserve in southern Africa, and it’s the third largest protected area on the continent. Addo is known for its elephants, but did you know you can also see whales and sharks along its coastline? Finally, Tswalu is the largest privately protected conservation area in South Africa – it’s also an important site for pangolin research!

All three of these protected areas are home to the Big 5 and more, and all boast incredible scenery, 5-star lodges and warm hospitality. Let’s take a closer look at these South African safari destinations. 

Snapshot of Kruger

A game viewer parked on a road, with a lioness sitting on the ground in front of it. The students on the game viewer all turn to get a good look.

Due to its size and diversity of wildlife, Kruger is a key conservation area in southern Africa. Kruger was established in 1898 to conserve wildlife in South Africa. It is managed by SANParks (South African National Parks) and is a world leader in environmental protection policies and practices.

Driving through the park you will get to see dozens of habitats and vegetation combinations, from mixed woodland to rocky hills and open savannah. These habitats support a significant diversity of life. In addition to the Big 5, you can find nearly 150 other mammal species. Kruger also hosts hundreds of plant, reptile, amphibian, insect and bird species. 

Where is Kruger National Park?

Kruger is located along South Africa’s eastern interior border with Mozambique. It forms part of the much larger Limpopo Transfrontier National Park, which includes land in Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Kruger is nearly 2 million hectares in size, making it South Africa’s largest national park and the third largest protected area in Africa.

Snapshot of Addo

Two elephants interact by wrapping their trunks together and pushing towards each other.

Addo Elephant National Park is the third largest national park in South Africa. It stretches from Darlington Dam in its northwest corner all the way to the coastline of the Indian Ocean. Its habitats include mountains, dams and lakes, thicket, indigenous forests, and coastal dunes. 

Because of its unique landscape encompassing both land and sea, it is the only Big 7 park in the world – home to elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion, leopard, whale and shark. When Addo was established in 1931, it was just 2,000 hectares with 11 elephants. Today, it is over 180,000 hectares and its elephant population is over 600. 

Where is Addo National Park?

Addo Elephant National Park is located in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, about an hour from Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth). Access to the park is easy from the airport, especially if you stay at a lodge that offers pick up and drop off. 

There are many beautiful and luxurious lodges to choose from. A popular one just outside the park gates is Camp Figtree (also just an hour from Gqeberha). Or if you’re on a budget, stay at a nearby backpackers or within the park at one of the SANParks camps.

Snapshot of Tswalu

A brown hyena runs along a dirt road.

Last but certainly not least, is the Tswalu Kalahari Reserve. This is the largest privately protected nature reserve in South Africa with 114,000 hectares. It’s a key attraction for those looking to experience the wonders of the kalahari within the boundary of South Africa. 

In 1999 this area was taken over by the Oppenheimer family, who committed to returning previously overgrazed farmland to its original state. They’ve since reintroduced a number of species, and visitors can see the Big 5 in addition to diverse and elusive species like pangolin, black-maned lions, brown hyena, meerkats and oryx.

Where is Tswalu Private Game Reserve?

Tswalu is located in South Africa’s Northern Cape province near the Botswana border, north of Kimberley and Upington. Its unique landscape consists of savannah and desert. Because Tswalu is privately owned and managed, accommodation is exclusively at three luxury camps: Motse, Tarkuni and Loapi. 

Are you planning a visit to one of these incredible safari destinations? What if you could work at a place like this? Don’t limit your safari to a vacation – make it your career.

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