Ways you can combine Cape Town with a memorable safari
A visit to Cape Town is, without doubt, one of the highlights of South Africa and no trip to the Rainbow Nation is complete without it. However, the incredible wildlife in South Africa is also not to be missed, making a safari another definite must. This means that combining the bright lights of Cape Town with the clear starry nights of the African bush is the key to the ultimate South Africa holiday.
In all honesty, Cape Town is about as far away from the most popular safari areas in South Africa as you can possibly get. However, despite this geographical inconvenience, there are a number of great ways to mix Cape Town with a world-class wildlife experience. You can either drive or fly to the Eastern Cape, renowned for its malaria-free, top-notch game reserves or fly to another area further north, such as Kruger National Park - one of the best safari spots in the whole of Africa.
There are a number of European and North American style safari parks much nearer to Cape Town, but these really don’t compare to the excellent game reserves further afield. As they are smaller in size and far from natural habitats, they tend to be a little sterile and tame, which we believe can be disappointing for anyone seeking a safari in the true sense of the word. At Travel Butlers, we’re all about real, authentic safaris and this is why we don’t recommend the parks near Cape Town to our customers.
If you’re after a genuine African safari experience, it is 100% worth making the journey to one of the National Parks or private game reserves in South Africa, or even one of its neighbouring countries. The added distance will pale into insignificance when you’re racing through the bush towards a pride of lions on the prowl at sunset.
South Africa's Major Cities And Safari Destinations.
Cape Town, The Garden Route, and a Safari in the Eastern Cape
Driving along the scenic Garden Route towards Port Elizabeth is one of the most popular ways to combine Cape Town with a classic safari in the malaria-free Eastern Cape. It’s a brilliant option for travellers of all ages and makes for a relaxed holiday filled with variety, wildlife and, most importantly, fun!
The total distance by road from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth is a pretty substantial 750km and the safari reserves are often another 2hrs further from there, so we definitely don’t recommend trying to do this in one day. Moreover, the Garden Route, which skirts the southern coast of South Africa, is simply stunning, so it’s worth taking the time to explore.
Driving the Garden Route is an adventure all of its own, with some breathtaking sights along the way. The scenery is wonderfully diverse with windswept beaches, lush forests, deserts and lagoons, so we’re sure that it will be a road trip to remember. There’s a huge amount to do en route, with everything from whale-watching to forest trekking up for grabs, so it’s a real all-round winner.
Understandably, the Garden Route is very popular, especially in South African summertime (our winter in the UK), so if you’re planning to travel over this period it’s crucial to arrange everything in advance.
Of course, if time is preciously short and driving is not an option, it is possible to fly between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, which takes just over an hour. From there, you can make your way to your game reserve in only a couple of hours.
If You Have The Time, Go To The Greater Kruger Park
The magnificent Kruger National Park in north-east South Africa is 1800km from Cape Town, making it pretty much as far as you can go without leaving the country! However, Kruger really is one of the all-time great safari destinations, offering some of the most outstanding game viewing in the world, so if you’re wild about wildlife, it’s worth going the distance.
Kruger is by far the most popular safari spot in South Africa for locals and overseas visitors alike. When you get there, you’ll instantly understand why. Huge amounts of people fly between Cape Town and Kruger in order to combine the country’s two leading destinations, so it’s a tried and tested travel solution.
By road from Cape Town, the journey takes a gruelling 3 days (2 days to reach Johannesburg and another 5 hours or so reach Kruger itself). It’s no surprise then that most people decide to fly to one of the small airports in or around Kruger and hit the road from there. These flights can either be direct from Cape Town or call for a short switchover in Johannesburg.
The sheer choice of safaris available in Kruger is overwhelming and although there are dozens of lodges and private reserves, each one feels secluded and exclusive. Whether you plump for the world-famous Sabi Sand Reserve or Timbavati, Thornybush, Kapama or Balule, you’ll get within a few metres of lion and leopard on the safari of a lifetime. In short, you really can’t go wrong.
If you’re after the independent thrill of a self-drive safari, there’s an excellent infrastructure of roads and rest camps in Kruger National Park. These are brilliant for a back-to-basics bush experience and, even better, very easy on the budget.
Madikwe Game Reserve
Madikwe Game Reserve hugs the border with Botswana making it a fair hike from Cape Town. It’s a huge, wonderful malaria-free reserve with a massive variety of both landscapes and wildlife, so you’ll be rewarded for your efforts if you choose to visit. To get to Madikwe from Cape Town, you’ll need to take a quick flight to Johannesburg and then either a 90-minute air-hop in a small plane (a great experience in itself!) or a 4-5 hour trip by road.
If you’re looking for a wild, off-the-beaten-track safari in South Africa, you can’t do better than Madikwe. Its remoteness is one of its very best qualities, so you won’t begrudge the journey for a second.
Pilanesberg & The Waterberg
Both Pilanesberg and The Waterberg are just a couple of hours from Johannesburg, so they’re very convenient, easy-to-reach safari locations.
With numerous flights hopping between Cape Town and Johannesburg each day, these areas are very accessible and ideal if you’re a little strapped for time.
Each of these reserves offer malaria-free Big Five game viewing, so you’ll definitely be in for a wildlife treat and if your flight home departs from Johannesburg a safari in Pilanesberg or The Waterberg makes excellent sense.
Add More To Your Trip With A Safari in KwaZulu-Natal
KwaZulu-Natal is far more than just a safari destination, so combining it with Cape Town will create a unique and unforgettable holiday. Home to some of the most famous game reserves in Southern Africa as well as the magnificent Drakensberg Mountains and the stunning St. Lucia Wetlands, KwaZulu-Natal is also rich in moving tribal history and culture.
Here, you can see the Big Five, visit the historic battlefields, get acquainted with the vibrant Zulu culture, watch sea turtles in breeding season, go snorkelling and scuba diving, relax on sandy beaches and top it all off with a chic cocktail in the sub-tropical city of Durban. KwaZulu-Natal probably boasts a wider range of world-class attractions than anywhere in the country, so you certainly won’t be short of things to do.
Despite all this, KwaZulu-Natal is a part of South Africa that many tourists just don’t reach, especially if they’re visiting Cape Town on the same holiday. But why? Well, it’s mostly down to distance. By road, the journey from Cape Town to Durban takes a whopping 3 days and large parts of the trip take you onto smaller roads through some remote parts of the Eastern Cape. Port Elizabeth to Durban is a 1000 km drive itself, and apart from East London and the Wild Coast (which is a 90 minute detour), there’s very limited accommodation en-route.
Whilst eye-opening and wonderful, it’s not what you would call an easy route. Unless you have around 4 weeks at your disposal, driving is probably out of the question. However, if you’re a curious traveller eager for a really authentic and cultural adventure, you can still combine KZN with Cape Town by flying to Durban and driving to the game reserves from there.