Top Luxury Safari lodges to see the Big Five in South Africa

Top Luxury Safari lodges to see the Big Five in South Africa

Top Luxury Safari lodges to see the Big Five in South Africa

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1.Earth Lodge Sabi Sabi  

Earth Lodge is part of the Sabi Sabi Game Reserve neighboring the Kruger National Park, this conservation area is very well known for the big 5, the lodge is not only beautifully designed to get lost in the geography of the terrain. But it is also one of the most beautiful lodges in the area. The service and generosity of their staff is overwhelming. You don’t realize you have arrived at the lodge until you see someone standing at the end of what looks like a walkway into a tunnel. After greeting you they walk you through this tunnel-like walkway to come out to a spectacular setting with incredible views. If you are lucky you will get some elephants near your room with a private pool or even a lion or a leopard. I was told that more than once guests have to call receptions for a little help with the leopard using their poolside day bed. 

Recently my honeymoon clients experienced an elephant walking by their outdoor shower and coming to the front to see if it could get some water from the pool. 

In Sabi Sabi you will be able to see the big 5, this area has become more and more known for spotting leopards which are generally very hard to find. 

2. Saseka Thornybush

Saseka Tented Camp was a very nice surprise for me, actually an incredible surprise, the rooms are so different from any other lodge I’ve been to and it is so well designed and finely done, it is the epitome of taste and style. The common area is fantastic and it makes you feel like there’s a show about to start and you need to choose one of the very comfortable seats and wait for it to happen, it’s just fantastic. 

When I visited it the river was a bit dry. I was told that when the river flows it’s so relaxing just to sit there and enjoy the However, remember that when the river is dry there are waterholes near and the animals come to drink so that is a plus. 

Also being situated next to Kruger Park, this means that the animals roam freely between the park and the Thornybush game reserve. 

When you start a game drive, the ranger usually asks “what would you like to see” (make sure you tell them what you want to see), so I very quickly replied and said I wanted to see a leopard on a tree (I’d seen leopards before, but never on a tree). Well within 15 minutes they spotted one, and voila! we were done with the most difficult of the big 5. So now all we needed to do is find the other 4 which, well if lucky enough, is not that difficult. 

3. Lebombo Singita

Lebombo is one of the 5 lodges that Singita has in the Kruger area. Although it is a bit more difficult to reach than the ones in the Sabi Sands area of Kruger, it is a beautiful lodge nestled on the side of the hill next to the N’wanetsi River, near the South African border with Mozambique. Our trip there was a bit long but very much worth it. One flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg. Then a charter flight, directly into the Satara Airstrip. From there it’s a 30 – 45 minutes drive to the lodge through the Kruger National Park (if you are lucky you will start your game viewing on the way already).

I always tell my clients to make sure they go to a private game reserve for the simple reason that there the vehicles are allowed off-road, making the wildlife sighting a lot more exciting and special. You might say, “wait a minute, Lebombo is inside the Kruger National Park?” Yes, it is, but it is a concession so Singita is allowed to do what they want as long as they make sure they take good care of the area and protect it. Let’s be honest, all game reserve lodges have the same goal, to protect and take care of the wildlife. 

I was lucky enough to travel there with a client of mine who was traveling alone. Our experience didn’t start too well because on our first game drive we didn’t see many animals – Least of all any of the big 5. However on day 2 during one game drive, the afternoon one, we saw all of them (the big 5) at one point in a big open space. We saw Elephants, Rhinos, Buffalo, and Lions. Then later that afternoon we saw a big pride of lions and on our way back to the lodge we saw 2 leopards. Now that is what we call luck, and it was incredibly fabulous. Both my client and I were super happy and excited about it. 

4. Karula Kapama

 

Kapama Karula located in the Kapama Game Reserve is their flagship lodge. Impeccable elegance and style, it is a world of its own. Kapama Game Reserve is located near the Kruger National Park as well, but this reserve does not share borders with it. That doesn’t mean that we aren’t going to be able to see the big 5. Au contraire, I sometimes think it’s even easier to see them here. Keep in mind that it all comes down to luck, and being at the right place at the right time. But whenever I’ve been there I have seen the big 5 and even Cheetahs which are very hard to find in this area. 

My clients love this game reserve because it is actually the closest reserve to the Hoedspruit airport, one of the three airports you can fly to when visiting the Kruger National Park area. It is probably the shortest land transfer from any of the Airports to the lodge. 

Within the reserve there’s a lodge called Jabulani, they have an amazing elephant interaction experience. If you love elephants this is the best interaction with them that you will have in South Africa. They have an Elephant Orphanage – these rescued elephants will spend the rest of their lives there and will be taken care of by the people that run it, it’s a true labor of love.

5. Royal Malewane

Also located in the Thornybush game reserve this is part of the Royal Portfolio hotels, it has been recognized as the top luxury lodge in South Africa, one of the best lodges in the world, as well as some of the other hotels that belong to this group. 

Being in the Thornybush Game Reserve, it is a sure thing that we will be able to see the big 5. But it all depends on our luck and how long we are there. 

The game drive experiences here are fantastic! Their game rangers are very knowledgeable and good at finding the one big 5 animal you need to see. The area, being next to Kruger Park, has plenty of animals that roam freely between the game reserve and the national park. So all we need is patience and luck and we will definitely have a great chance to see all of the big 5. Leopards are always being the cheeky ones to find – but as a piece of good advice, and this goes for most of the lodges in the Kruger area, always ask to see if they can find African Wild dogs. I find them adorable and beautiful. But they are vicious and very difficult to find because they are always on the move,. They are very good hunters and to watch them work as a group is mind-blowing. I would say that here is where my clients have seen them the most. 

Royal Malewane just opened a new lodge nearby, called Waterside, it opened last July, and I can’t wait to go visit it.

6. Bayethe Shamwari

Shamwari Game Reserve was my second safari ever, I will never forget how we chased two cheetahs that were on the hunt for a couple of reedbuck, or was it wildebeests? Anyway, we followed them for a while until they gave up, but the amazing thing that I remember from this, was the sound these animals make. They literally sound like kittens, like a house cat. 

Bayethe Lodge is one of the top lodges in the Shamwari Private Game Reserve located in the Eastern Cape province. The name means “I salute you” which is a very warm welcome in the African culture of this area of the country. As you can see, you don’t need to be in the Kruger National Park to see the big 5. Depending on your trip you can have your safari experience here at the end of the garden route, or the beginning, (depending on which way you do the Garden route). 

When I did my first Safari I was under the impression that giraffes were lonely animals (now I know they are not). But when I came here for the first time there were so many Giraffes I could not believe what I was seeing. All of them together and walking so graciously on the big plains of the reserve. Leopards are very hard to find here, but they do have them so if you see one here, consider yourself Lucky. Elephants, rhinos, and buffalo are plenty. However that doesn’t mean that sometimes you will struggle to find them – once we spent almost 3 hours looking for elephants and just as we were about to give up they surprised us by walking out of the bush right next to us, quite a few of them.

6Phinda Vlei

Considered one of the most beautiful lodges in the Phinda Game Reserve. Here you can also see the big 5 even though it is not near Kruger. This reserve is only 4 hours drive from Durban, or 2 hours drive from Richard’s Bay. It’s also very near Sodwana Bay in the Isimangaliso Wetland Park, which is a great spot for Scuba Diving. This means you can do an early morning dive and an afternoon game drive – and with some luck, you will see the big 5 and the big ocean 5 (Whales, Dolphins, Sharks, Seals, Penguins).

Phinda was the first game reserve I ever visited, my first ever safari back in 2001. I can say that my passion for South Africa, its wildlife, and this beautiful continent started here. I was very impressed by what I saw and I know that still to this day it impresses me every time. 

This &Beyond properties lodge in the Kwa-Zulu Natal province of South Africa, has a a world renowned standard of luxury. Their staff are incredibly friendly and gracious, you will feel like you belong here. One thing that I will always remember from my first visit was the encounter we had with a family of Cheetahs and thier cubs. It was quite incredible, keep in mind Cheetahs are hard to find, and also, not every private game reserve has cheetahs. So on top of the big 5 you can also see them here. 

Need some help planning Your Luxurious Big 5 Safari?

Book a FREE 30-minute consultation with German – for the perfect advice on where to stay, what to do, and how to get the best out of your travels.

What Our Clients Say

Brendan Magauran
Brendan Magauran
2024-04-14
Incredible! Beyond expectations. German guided us on an absolutely amazing trip to Cape Town, Franschhoek, Hermanus and a safari at Thornybush game reserve. Every recommendation was spot on from a restaurants to a guided tour of Cape Point, the Hop on hop off bus, where to visit in the wine country, lodging in a beach front suite in Hermanus. As for the safari at Thornybush - WOW! More than we could have ever imagined in terms of luxury and game sightings. Thank you German. Looking forward to our next trip with you as our guide. And yes, we have told all family and friends, this is the man to contact for their travels.
Ellen H.
Ellen H.
2024-04-12
We feel beyond lucky to have found Nanan Travel! We are from the USA and are DIY-ers, used to making our own travel arrangements. When planning for our bucket-list trip to S. Africa, it quickly got overwhelming and stressful to differentiate among the innumerable safari options on the internet, figure out domestic flights, assess safety concerns, find a private driver to tour Cape Point, etc. We did not want to travel with a tour group, nor use a global internet travel agency, so I looked for a travel agent actually based in Cape Town so that we could deal with just one person who really knew the area. I found Nanan based on location and reviews, then was sold by their individualized approach and willingness to help with as much or as little of the planning as one wants. We reached out to German de la Melena and he answered immediately, even though it was a Sunday evening in Cape Town, wanting to hear all about our wishes so that he could work on things promptly and have a suggested itinerary by the time we woke up the next morning! He was thoughtful, conscientious, friendly, worked within our budget and did not try to upsell us, gave us options and even incorporated some specific requests we had. From that initial contact on, all the stress and worry about our upcoming trip went away! After designing a fantastic itinerary for us, the true test of an amazing travel agent came when my husband injured himself the week before our trip and couldn’t travel, requiring us to postpone for 4 weeks. While we were dealing with stressful health issues, we gave German our medical documentation and he took care of the rest. He had to change all of our reservations and domestic flights, and went above and beyond to do so without our incurring more expense. What a huge relief! German remained remarkably responsive before and during our trip, able to advise on any question and troubleshoot any problem, reachable by What’s App in minutes. Between the great itinerary and the peace of mind, working with German and knowing he had our back truly made all the difference in our experience being the trip of a lifetime!! Thank you, German! You deserve more than 5 stars and I will refer everyone I know to you!
Pablo Berenbaum
Pablo Berenbaum
2024-03-17
Exclente organización. Hoteles, tours, impecables !!! Gracias Germán x las sugerencias, el viaje fue INCREIBLE !
Faisal Alaali
Faisal Alaali
2024-03-13
I cannot say enough great things about Nanan Travel. He organized a spectacular trip to South Africa for me, and every detail was absolutely perfect. From the boutique hotels to the incredible safari stays, everything was top-notch and exceeded my expectations. The entire trip was seamlessly planned, and I never once had to worry about a thing. The accommodations were luxurious, the guides were knowledgeable and friendly, and the overall experience was truly unforgettable. Last part was the stay in Cape Town before heading back home. The city is absolutely stunning, and I was able to explore all it had to offer thanks to the amazing recommendations from German. I highly recommend Nanan Travel for anyone looking to plan a trip to South Africa or any other destination. Their attention to detail, personalized service, and overall expertise make them the best in the business. Thank you German for an incredible journey that I will never forget!
Manuel D
Manuel D
2024-03-08
Hemos pasado días espectaculares en Sudáfrica y Zimbabue, toda la organización de nuestros hijos con German funcionaron perfectamente. Todas las actividades, lodges, tours, safaris, fueron perfectos, así como el trato recibido en cada lugar fue muy personalizado, haciendo que este viaje sea inolvidable. Cada detalle funcionó a la perfección. Nanan Travel es 100% confiable y recomendable.
Monica C
Monica C
2024-03-08
Acabamos de llegar a Lima después de un viaje soñado a Africa. Mi hija y su esposo, que habían hecho Safari el año pasado por su Luna de Miel, querían que los cuatros papas viviéramos y sintiéramos toda la adrenalina y experiencias que ellos habían vivido, así que no lo pensaron dos veces y nos invitaron a este viaje único y maravilloso. Gracias Nanan Travel, gracias German, hemos vivido lo que realmente quisieron transmitirnos los Manuela y Rodrigo, los lugares visitados, las atenciones, los hoteles y su staff, todo, y la experiencia de estar con los animales asi de cerca es única. Si quieren hacer un viaje soñado, no dejen de contactar a German, escriban a Nanan Travel, y no se arrepentirán. Gracias por Todo!!
Gustavo Rivera
Gustavo Rivera
2024-03-05
Fue espectacular, desde el momento en que llegamos a Cape Town hasta que llegamos a Lima de vuelta estuvimos súper engreídos, los lugares escogidos para descansar , los guías, todo lo conocido !!, realmente un viaje de ensueño, recomendado a mil !!! Gracias Germán, eres un capo !!!
Violeta Rivera
Violeta Rivera
2024-03-05
Espectacular ! hemos pasado unos días increíbles con un servicio de primera Volvería hacer el mismo viaje mañana mismo !!!
Lizbett Arevalo
Lizbett Arevalo
2024-02-26
If you want to sit back, relax and enjoy… German is the way to go! My 16 YO son and I had the best dream trip came true to South Africa thanks to him! I can’t thank you enough German! Starting from Cape town then Safari and meeting my best friend in Johannesburg… I call it an OVER THE TOP kind of vacation🤩🤩🤩🙌🙏❤️🐆🐘🇿🇦🦁 🦏

The Sardine Run

The Sardine Run

The Sardine Run

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Two years and 1 month, lots of emails, and lots of back and forward arrangements, were what it took us to finally be able to do the Sardine run.

It all started with an email from a friend saying that his uncle was doing the Sardine run and had invited him, he asked if I wanted to join then all of a sudden we were 8 people, all super excited and happy. Then Covid came along and put everything on hold. After covid, a few people had to cancel, and we were only 4, and later on, at the venue, we were joined by two more travelers from Italy and now we can call them friends. 

Let me start by explaining what is the Sardine run and what makes it so special. The Sardine run is a seasonal movement of fish and predators along the Eastern Cape coastline to the South Coast of KwaZulu Natal, in South Africa. The biggest natural event on Earth, and the only animal event that can be seen from space.

The sardine run of southern Africa occurs from May through July when billions of sardines spawn in the cool waters of the Agulhas Bank and move northward along the east coast of South Africa. Their sheer numbers create a feeding frenzy along the coastline. The run, containing millions of individual sardines, occurs when a current of cold water heads north from the Agulhas Bank up to Mozambique where it then leaves the coastline and goes further east into the Indian Ocean.

In terms of biomass, researchers estimate the sardine run could rival East Africa’s great wildebeest migration. However, little is known about the phenomenon. It is believed that the water temperature has to drop below 21 °C in order for the migration to take place. In 2003, the sardines failed to ‘run’ for the third time in 23 years. While 2005 saw a good run, 2006 marked another non-run. 

Thank you, Wikipedia. 

Now, I don’t want to bore you with specific details but I will try to go day by day and explain briefly what we experienced. Oh… We did a 4-day safari in Kariega Game reserve before the sardine run and that was amazing. It was halfway between Port Elizabeth and East London, although you can fly directly into East London. 

DAY 1 – Sunday

 

We arrive midday and had lunch and in the afternoon we had a briefing and went to try on the wetsuits and fins, etc.

DAY 2 – MONDAY

 

Very early morning wake-up call, and we had to be ready to leave for the launching area by 7:45 after a while we arrived at where the boat was, and off we went, the first day was full of excitement for what we might see and we did see thousands of Dolphins, I’m not exaggerating, I have never seen so many dolphins together, but we didn’t see the actual sardines.

DAY 3 – TUESDAY

 

Wasn’t a good day, didn’t see much, maybe a couple of whales on a mission so we didn’t get to spend time with them (keep in mind one day of the week is the rest day), when we came back we were considering taking the rest day on Wednesday, but when we spoke with the organizers they told us that Thursday was going to be a bad weather day so we decided to go out on Wednesday.

DAY 4 – WEDNESDAY

 

We went out very early again and we were quite unlucky but we did see dolphins and some whales, no sardines, our spirits were down and very tired. 

DAY 5 – THURSDAY

 

We didn’t go out to sea, rather we enjoyed a nice chilled day we went to do some quad biking at a nearby reserve which was lots of fun. Although next time I’ll choose the Horse riding experience though.

DAY 6 – FRIDAY

 

we went out with the hope of finally seeing what they call a bait ball, that’s when the dolphins force the sardines into a group and that’s when all the predators around join the feast and go crazy. How do we know when there’s a bait ball and where it is? Well, first of all, we always follow the birds, specifically the gannets, they are the key to finding them, anyway, back to day 6, we saw a couple of whales some Humpbacks and a couple of Bryde’s whales, now, the amazing thing about seeing the Bryde’s whale was that they are usually very fast and sneaky, difficult to see but this one, in particular, was going very slow and decided to hang out with us for a while, it was great, then we ran into a seal and we swam with it. But besides these few amazing encounters, no Sardines, and no Bait ball.

Now, we are back at the beach resort and we are feeling really bad because it is very exhausting to be at sea for so many hours and getting wet and the wind and all that, We had great weather and were super lucky with that, but we weren’t happy, to say the least.

DAY 7 – SATURDAY

 

it’s a windy morning, we’ve changed the boat launching spot, much closer to the resort. We get on the boat, it’s windy, we are getting splashed all over and the sea is a bit rough so after 45 minutes I am ready to quit!  

I tell myself, give it another 15 minutes and then complain, well, 10 minutes later our Sea Biologist and guide, Mark spots lots of Gannets quite far away and we don’t see any dolphins (which is kind of a prerequisite for a bait ball) but as we approached the birds we see it. A WHALE…. Yes!!!! A whale and there were lots of Dolphins and thousands of birds!!! 

YES! FINALLY, we’ve found it, A BAIT BALL! Mark screams, and we all get super excited and jump in the water, now what happened next is indescribable, dolphins, seals, sharks, a whale, and birds all going crazy for the sardines. In the beginning, we just thought it was dolphins and birds and that one whale, but then, we saw the sharks and seals and we were right in the middle of the Bait ball, we had no clue as to where to look at or what to do there was so much action all at once, but we were lucky enough to be there for about 45 minutes. 

Then all of a sudden just like that the birds dissipated and rested on the water and the dolphins started moving away and Voila, it’s over. All I can say is that those 45 minutes were worth all those other days of nothing and bouncing and wind and tiredness and all the complaining we might have done and all the early wake-ups and all that. SO WORTH IT!

I highly recommend it and I am definitely going to organize a group for next year, Who is in? 

Sardine Run 2022 – such an adventure!

 

Do you think you would like to do the sardine run?

Do you know someone who would want to do it with you?

Share this blog with them and contact us on:

[email protected] or via  WhatsApp +27767687708

Top 5 Honeymoon Trips in Africa

Top 5 Honeymoon Trips in Africa

Top 5 Honeymoon Trips in Africa

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For most newlyweds, your honeymoon is the trip of a lifetime. Sure, you may end up taking bigger or wilder trips down the road, probably with your growing family, but the first post-wedding getaway is epic. It allows you time to enjoy each other, to leave all the planning and stress behind you. It sets the tone for the adventures you’ll have in the future together and creates memories that will last for a lifetime.

Whether you’re a lie-on-a-beach-with-a-coconut couple, daring foodies, adventure junkiesglamping, or exploring city-scapes folk, there are incredible places in Africa to help you write the next chapter to your happily-ever-after. I’ve created this perfect list of the Top 5 African Honeymoon Trips to help you create the perfect romantic getaway!

1. Just South Africa

Cape Town Winelands & Safari near Durban, plus a visit to a stunning beach resort on the northeast coast of South Africa. Great for a more budget-friendly Honeymoon, or people that don’t want to cross borders and deal with Covid tests, etc. Perfectly suited for couples looking for some city vibe, contact with nature and wildlife, and great relaxation by the beach.

How does this romantic rendezvous sound?

Romantic strolls in the vineyards anyone?

For more information please contact us via email [email protected] or via  WhatsApp +27767687708

2. South Africa and Mozambique

If you like a bit more upscale vibe, visit Cape Town and the Winelands, followed by a great luxury safari in the Kruger area. Finishing off with a stay in Mozambique for a unique beach experience in some of the most amazing beach resorts.

Would you like to spend some time in the bush & on the beach?

Want to celebrate close to nature?

For more information please contact us via email [email protected] or via  WhatsApp +27767687708

3. East Africa Kenya

There are plenty of combinations here, the possibilities are endless. We could recommend 3 national parks in Kenya, followed by a visit to some of the fantastic beaches on the coast of Kenya (no need to cross borders to Zanzibar).

This would fit you perfectly if you are not interested in visiting a city and just want to immerse yourself in nature and relax by the beach. The best time to book your honeymoon for this would be between June to October to enjoy the migration (just keep in mind this is peak season so High prices).

DOESN’T THIS SOUND INTERESTING?

Would you be interested in joining this adventure?

For more information please contact us via email [email protected] or via  WhatsApp +27767687708

4. East Africa and Zanzibar

Same as before, lots of options. This package would include 6 – 7 nights of safari between Kenya and Tanzania and then 4 -5 nights in a fantastic beach resort, ideal for romance and relaxation, much needed after the safari portion of your adventure. This is a Luxury trip, small plane flights, expensive but worth it. The best time to do it is June – October to enjoy the migration (also peak season so High prices).

Could you do with Safari - seaside & sun?

Would you be interested in joining this African journey?

For more information please contact us via email [email protected] or via  WhatsApp +27767687708

5. Rwanda, Migration, Seychelles

The ultimate luxury trip! Imagine spending time with a family of Silverback gorillas in beautiful Rwanda, then visiting Serengeti for some 5 Star Big Five Safari. Followed by a visit to the Maasai Mara and Ngorongoro. Only to end with a fabulous stay in Seychelles, Now this is Luxury and romance at its best.

How does this adventure sound?

Would you be interested in seeing the migration and the Gorillas?

For more information please contact us via email [email protected] or via  WhatsApp +27767687708

What Our Clients Say

Thank you German for organising an unforgettable trip, your flexibility and the fact that you were on top of everything making sure everything went marvellously, I hope I can come back soon to see more! #GermanKnows

Yessica Flores Camborda
Peruvian

Unfortunately I was not able to travel with German to South America but he did provide the best touring and personalized service in Cape Town. Would highly recommend to anyone, for anywhere, at any time! Thanks an epic trip German!!

Jack Herman
USA

Excellent Organisation, Beyond our expectations! Thank you German!!

Salvador Rodriguez
Peruvian

He organised 10 to 28 friends of mine in Cape Town (#30Peruvians)… they definitely showed them the best of the city, the wine lands and a Safari!… Thank you very much German!

Fico Pastor
Peruvian

They organised our trip to Cape Town and everything was incredible, we did everything and it was all A1 a truly unique and unforgettable experience. Thank you German. Blindfolded the best option to get to know South Africa.
Tera Ascuna
Peruvian
The best way to see and fall in love with Africa! Thank you German for your advice and recommendations!

Vanessa Luna

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