Top 5 Game Reserves to Visit in Summer

Come summer in South Africa between December and March, Addo Elephant National Park, Gondwana Game Reserve, Hluhluwe Game Reserve, Pongola Game Reserve and Shamwari Private Game Reserve are the best reserves to visit. Whether you are planning on going on safari for the first time or you’re a returning game reserve visitor, we know that these game reserves are not to be missed. See the Big 5, learn about their various conservation programmes, view wildlife while lounging on a boat, go bird watching and much more while visiting these reserves. Here’s our list of best game reserves to see in the summer…

1. Addo Elephant National Park

Situated on the Garden Route, 72km (one hour’s drive) away from Port Elizabeth and malaria-free, Addo is a good option for families. Here you can see the famous Addo elephants as well as mile after mile of verdant citrus trees, bearing fruit all winter and scenting the air with their blossoms in springtime. Established in 1931 to save 11 Elephants on the brink of extinction, Addo is now home to one of the most dense African elephant populations and currently has about 550 elephants.

Other than being a sanctuary for African elephants, the park is also home to 280 Cape Buffalo, some black Rhinos, a range of Antelope species, as well as the rare flightless dung Beetle. The game viewing and outdoor activities, includes horse-back riding, guided walking, hiking and 4×4 trails and a picnic area for day visitors. Recently, the Addo Elephant National Park has expanded to become the only park in the world to lay claim to Africa’s ‘Big 7’, which are the elephant, rhino, lion, buffalo, leopard, southern right whale and great white shark. This park is full of life and adventures!

2. Gondwana Game Reserve

Situated on the scenic Garden Route, a four-hour drive from Cape Town International Airport, this 11,000-hectare game reserve offers a luxurious and malaria-free safari destination. Here you can explore and experience the beauty of Western Cape’s unique flora—the fynbos—which is found nowhere else in the world. Indigenous plants such as Proteas, Ericas, and Restios provide year-round enjoyment and colour. Numerous fountains, streams and dams provide spectacular waterholes. The gorgeous deep valleys, ravines, rolling green hills covered in a sea of colourful indigenous flora and the mountains that seem to go on for an eternity will be a feast for your senses, not to mention that it would make an amazing addition to your Instagram account!

The park is actively sustainable and is constantly working to reduce its carbon footprint and conserve wildlife. Gondwana has replaced all of its electric geysers with solar assisted geysers in their staff village that houses 75 people. Additionally, the park supports some of the most critically endangered vegetation types in the world. The reserve bi-annually monitors veld condition to determine the state of the Fynbos.


And if all those perks weren’t enough to win you over, did you know that Gondwana offers a once-in-a-lifetime romantic and tranquil experience? That’s right, the park hosts beautiful African weddings! The game reserve offers two boutique lodge venues that can accommodate 100 people seated or up to 200 in a cocktail-styled setting. They also have outdoor wedding venues. There is something for everyone at Gondwana.

3. Hluhluwe Game Reserve

The Hluhluwe Game Reserve—otherwise known as Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park—is the oldest reserve in Africa. It is 96000 hectares in size and is the only state-run park in KwaZulu-Natal that has the Big 5 and is home to the largest population of White Rhino in the world. The park also has 86 species such as the Nile crocodile, hippo, cheetah, spotted hyena, blue wildebeest, jackal, giraffe, zebra, waterbuck and more. Fun fact: this park used to be the private hunting grounds of King Shaka.

Buck, Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve

Photo Credit: jumblejet

Activities within the Hluhluwe Umfolozi Park include day drive safaris, night drive safaris (which are only available if you are staying overnight in the park), guided day walking trails and guided overnight walking trails. For the safaris, there are 3 options: 3-hour day safari options, half day safari options and full day safari. The safaris include conservation levies, breakfast on half day safaris and lunch on the full day safaris. During colder months, rustic guided overnight guided walking safaris are run. This is a great opportunity for you to experience the Big 5 on foot.

Zebra, Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve

Photo Credit: jumblejet

4. Pongola Game Reserve

The Pongola Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal is a birding hotspot. It is home to four of the Big 5 and many other plains game species. The Pongola River runs through the centre of the reserve. The reserve offers scenic bushveld, mountains and a lake with a diversity of leisure activities. They have game drives that are done in open vehicles, and there are sightings of White Rhino, Buffalo, Giraffe, Blue Wildebeest, Zebra, Kudu, Nyala, Warthog, Impala and many other species. You can go on a rhino tracking adventure! Feel the excitement of viewing them from a concealed spot in the bush. On their guided walks, you have the opportunity to learn more about conservation, the environment and mother nature.

Photo Credit: Their Gallery

Their boat cruises combine game viewing & bird watching from the tranquillity of the water and last about three hours. The Fish Eagle safari boat is a real treat where you can enjoy a breakfast, lunch or sundowner cruise while viewing the game grazing along the shores of the lake. The 21-metre luxury day cruise boat departs from the Mvubu jetty and can carry up to 50 people in comfort and safety. The Fish Eagle has a sun deck, bar, kitchen, braai and toilet, is ideal for a relaxed trip on the Pongolapoort Dam and is also available for special functions by arrangement.

Photo Credit: Their Gallery

5. Shamwari Private Game Reserve

The Shamwari Private Game Reserve is located on the Garden Route in the Eastern Cape, about an hour’s drive from Port Elizabeth. The reserve is a conservation orientated 5-star safari holiday destination and is malaria-free. It is home to vast herds of wildlife, birdlife and incredible ecological diversity. Five of South Africa’s 7 biomes are found here. The Shamwari Private Game Reserve is an award-winning 25, 000 hectares of protected land and a pioneer in environmental education. On top of all this, the reserve has plenty of activities on offer that you can enjoy.

Photo Credit: Their website.

Ornithologists and bird watching hobbyists alike will be delighted to hear that the reserve has an array of birds, such as Black Shouldered Kites, Secretary birds, African Darters, Malachite Kingfishers, Black Harrier and many more. Their game viewing drives are available for morning and evening trips as this is when the animals are most active. The drives are guided by trained game rangers who’ll take you and your party through the reserve, encountering many animals along the way.

If you’ve got children, they have the opportunity to learn about the importance of nature conservation as well as have buckets of fun in their Kids on Safari programme. While the children are occupied, you can spend some time relaxing at their safari spa, which will leave you feeling revitalised and rejuvenated.

Photo Credit: Their website.

We hope that these game reserves have piqued your interest. Whether you’re having a holiday in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth or KwaZulu-Natal, these reserves are not too far away. Each reserve has its own unique potential for great and memorable experiences. Get in touch with our consultants to book your next vacation!

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