Best places to see the Big 5

Having recently visited the Pilanesberg, I am now serious craving another bush holiday. However, the problem comes in when you want to visit a big 5 game reserve.


As a South African taking 2 days to drive through the bush and potentially spot some of the most magnificent creatures, sounds like a weekend well spent, the only problem is not many of us can afford it. When it comes to some lodges you are looking at forking out as much as you would on a trip to Europe.


So where can you go that isn’t too hard on the pocket? Luckily there are a few options.


Obviously, the Kruger Park is one. This reserve has the widest diversity of wildlife in South Africa and offers a variety of accommodation options. The private reserves around the park like Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve or Timbivati Private Nature and Game Reserve offer more luxury and pricey accommodation but SANParks has a number of great offerings at an affordable price.



Close to the Botswana boarder, Madikwe is a little gem, the only problem is it is going to cost you a fortune to enjoy. Even if you are looking at the Eco Bush Camps you need to set aside a minimum of R2000 per person per night. I absolutely love the look of Rockfig Lodge Madikwe or aha THAKADU RIVER CAMP.

Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve

This is the oldest proclaimed nature reserve in Africa. In central KwaZulu Natal this area may be a little further from Johannesburg but is worth the travel. Accommodation is more affordable and boasts amazing views of the area. Try the Hluhluwe River Lodge or Rhino Ridge Safari Lodge.



An hour and a half from Johannesburg this is probably one of the most accessible areas to see the big 5 and also the cheapest. You can get really great star graded accommodation for a great price. I haven’t personally visited this park as of yet, so i’m not entirely sure of the standard of game viewing. I quite liked the look of Ngala Lodge or for a little cheaper option, Ou Klip.

Pilanesberg Game Reserve

I love this park and it is just far enough out of the city. The size also makes it a lot easier to see a variety of animals. We managed to see 4 of the 5 in just one day. The con is that because the park is a short drive from the city and close to Sun City the prices of accommodation is quite expensive. All the images used in this article were capture in one day in the park. Try Bakubung or Kwa Maritane who have great self catering accommodation if you are lucky enough to find availability. Another great affordable option is Thutlwa Safari Lodge.



Close to Bela-Bela, this reserve boasts 4 of the big 5 with lions being housed on a different part of the reserve. The best thing about this area is you don’t have to stay in the actual reserve. There are great accommodation options in the Bela-Bela area that will suit every need and budget. Look at options like Zebula and 3 on the Cliff.



It forms part of the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve which was officially declared by UNESCO in 2001. It may be the last on my list but it is most certainly not the most affordable. If you are looking for accommodation I would suggest looking at their website or contacting their reservations office which have always been a great help to me.





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