With both leafy suburbs and glossy skyscrapers wrapped around Table Mountain, Cape Town is a city that manages to hypnotize guests with its whimsical charm and progressive energy. Situated at the southern tip of Africa, the city offers unlimited options for travelers looking to fill their days with activities. Whether it’s winetasting or watersports, you won’t need to go far to immerse yourself in idyllic life as a local. Although Cape Town offers a treasure trove of centrally-located things to do, South Africa’s spectacular wildlife is best experienced beyond the pristine peninsula. At Extraordinary Journeys, we encourage travelers to spend a few days against the backdrop of the Indian and Atlantic oceans heading to South Africa’s finest safaris from Cape Town.
The Greater Kruger National Park is one of South Africa’s most iconic safari destinations. Known for its abundance of big game and diverse birdlife (over 500 species), it has earned its stripes amongst nature enthusiasts. With a direct flight from Cape Town in the south to Limpopo and Mpumalanga in the northernmost part of the country, it’s a surprisingly quick and convenient way to go on safari from Cape Town.
Once your two-hour flight touches the tarmac, it’s a short 40-minute and 50-min transfer to two of the Kruger’s most sought-after safari lodges.
Saseka Tented Camp
Catch your mid-morning flight from Cape Town International Airport to Hoedspruit, and you’ll reach Saseka Tented Cape in time for a delicious salad-bowl lunch overlooking Thornybush Private Nature Reserve. Set within the Greater Kruger National Park, Saseka Tented Camp is a superb choice for couples and honeymooners looking for an ultra-luxurious and polished safari experience near Cape Town.
Families and small groups aren’t left out in the cold either. Little Saseka is a spacious sole-use tented suite with high-end furnishings and antique African-inspired decor. It provides the perfect platform to enjoy an exclusive take-over with a bonus of your own private chef and game-viewing vehicle.
Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge
Experience the safari of tomorrow at Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge in Sabi Sands, an avant-garde property set within the southwestern area of the Greater Kruger National Park. A two-hour flight from Cape Town to Skukuza, followed by a 50-minute transfer, will see you welcomed at this new-age lodge with warmed towels and even warmer smiles by noon.
Situated in the heart of the world-famous national reserve, Earth Lodge has a revolutionary yet discerning aesthetic that doesn’t compromise the splendor of a traditional safari. Where there is water, there is wildlife, and this private concession occupies prime property at the junction of the Sabie and Sand Rivers, a magnet for all creatures, great and small.
The lesser-known Eastern Cape province of South Africa is often overlooked in favor of more customary or recognizable luxury locations. Lying roughly 477 miles from Cape Town, this safari region offers significant benefits to travelers looking to kick off their bushveld break from the Mother City. Not only is the Eastern Cape closer to Cape Town, but it’s also malaria-free, making it the ideal destination for guests looking to spend less time in transit, particularly those with young children. The province boasts several private game reserves, a few of which our team recently visited. Besides teeming with Big Five game and various antelope, here are more reasons to visit these top Eastern Cape safaris near Cape Town.
Kwandwe Private Game Reserve
Situated on 22,000 hectares of aloe and spekboom-carpeted land, Kwandwe is a large reserve with intimate appeal. The short one-hour and 30-minute flight from Cape Town to Gqeberha (formerly known as Port Elizabeth) is followed by a comfortable drive of roughly the same duration. Thanks to a tarred Category 3 private airstrip, guests also have the option to charter a direct flight from Cape Town to the reserve and touch down in tranquility.
Extensive accommodation options make Kwandwe an attractive safari destination for couples, families, and friends traveling on safari from Cape Town. Nine intimate suites, each with its own private plunge pools, let couples staying at Great Fish River Lodge enjoy a personal safari experience in the company of like-minded guests. Further onto the expansive wilderness, properties like the sophisticated Melton Manor and charming Uplands Homestead allow guests traveling with children to be harmonious with nature—and each other.
Shamwari Riverdene Family Lodge
You may know Shamwari from its self-titled Netflix documentary—Shamwari Untamed—a docu-series which takes viewers behind the guest-facing curtain of conservation on the 25,000-hectare property.
Just an hour by road from the port city of Gqeberha, Riverdene Family Lodge is where children—and parents—can enjoy an ‘untamed’ vacation of their own. Shamwari’s Kids on Safari Adventure Centre gives little ones a chance to run as wild as the Big Five in a mind-blowing outdoor play park.
Kid-focused guides ensure that young minds are enriched, while visits to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre and Born Free Big Cat Rescue and Education Centre foster their compassionate and conservation-focused spirits from small. Riverdene Family Lodge is an exceptional holiday destination where both the young and young at heart are as free as the wildlife that roams the reserve.
HillsNek Safari Camp, Amakhala Game Reserve
With just 30 miles separating Amakhala Private Game Reserve from Shamwari, it’s easy to see why the Greater Addo region of the Eastern Cape is considered safari-central. HillsNek is an intimate camp where you and your loved ones are welcomed as family. Each of the four luxury safari tents has raised wrap-around wooden decks from where you can take in uninterrupted views of the indigenous Eastern Cape wilderness.
But these panoramic views serve as just an appetizer for the magic that Amakhala serves up. In addition to bush walks and twice-daily game drives, boat cruises along the Bushman’s River, the lifeblood of the reserve, propel you from land to water-based game viewing. Nature enthusiasts will also love the chance to survey antelope, zebra, and giraffes at eye level on a horseback safari. At HillsNek Safari Camp, it’s not only the short transit from Cape Town that will make you feel closer to nature but the authentic Amakhala ambiance itself.
South Africa is a land of contrasts, and the southern Kalahari is proof of the patchwork of panoramas within its borders. This semi-arid desert dominates Botswana, eastern Namibia and stretches down into the northernmost part of South Africa. Despite poor rainfall and extreme temperatures, the sandy savannah is rich with wildlife, from meerkats and black-maned lions to wildebeest and African wild dogs.
Despite the remoteness, guests can expedite their arrival at the region’s signature property, one of the best safaris in South Africa, thanks to a two-hour direct charter flight from Cape Town with ExecuJet Aviation.
Tswalu Kalahari Reserve
At 111,000 hectares, Tswalu is South Africa’s largest privately-owned reserve. Accommodating only 40 guests in three high-end safari camps, this exclusive property boasts one of the lowest guest-to-wilderness ratios in the country.
Unlike other properties of its caliber, you’re granted a private vehicle, guide, and tracker for the duration of your stay, regardless of the camp you’re booked at. Activities are as diverse as the dramatic landscape: spend a morning watching habituated meerkats bask in the warming sun, join a guide on foot in search of African Rock Pipit, or hop on board a specialized photographic safari vehicle to capture wildlife against the striking backdrop of brick-shaded dunes.
Guests anticipate the evening dining experience with even more enthusiasm (and patience) as catching sight of an elusive brown hyena on a game drive. Restaurant Klein JAN is the creation of South Africa-born Michelin star chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen. This destination kitchen, strategically camouflaged with its natural surroundings, is part of what draws guests from all corners of the globe to this isolated yet wondrous savannah
What’s the best safari from Cape Town?
The country’s reliable flight schedule and fair road network make South Africa‘s best safari destinations easily accessible from Cape Town. Whether you choose to spend time at the Eastern Cape’s top trio of properties or travel further north to Tswalu and the selection of private concessions within the Greater Kruger National Park, the short travel distance from Cape Town will encourage you to add a few more nights to your South Africa itinerary.