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[Updated July 2021]
It’s that time of year for early morning game drives, thermoses filled with hot tea, rusks, campfires, star-cluttered skies and orange-streaked sundowners. We’ve sussed out the most affordable places to escape to the bush around the country from the real budget busters to luxury stays at reasonable prices. In no particular order, here is our list of 10 affordable safaris in South Africa.
The budget busters:
Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve | Howick
Courtesy of tommovillus via Instagram
Located in the heart of the Midlands, there are three basic but well-appointed guest cottages available, all with astonishing views of the lush Umgeni Valley. The couple’s cottage is beautifully kitted out with a walk-in shower, dining table and complimentary toiletries. The three-bedroom chalet is tucked between two streams and sleeps up to six guests. The cottages come with braai facilities, daily housekeeping and free on-site parking.
Book a stay at Umgeni Valley cottages
Mbizo Bush Camp, iThala | KwaZulu-Natal
The reserve offers atmospheric bush camps at affordable prices. Mbizo Bush Camp can host eight people in two separate four-bedroom units, each having two rooms, one with a double bed and the other two single beds. Each unit has a separate hot and cold shower and toilet facilities. There’s a braai and campfire area which is serviced by an onsite attendant. A game ranger is available to take you on guided bush walks. Spot leopard, rhino and elephant if you’re lucky.
About halfway between Durban and Johannesburg, you’ll find iThala, on the south bank of the Pongola River. As a bonus, this is a malaria-free reserve.
Book a stay at Mbizo Bush Camp
Mhlangeni, iThala | KwaZulu-Natal
This camp, overlooking the Ncence River, offers complete privacy. It has five two-bedroom units and there are three hot and cold water ablution facilities with flush toilets. The communal lounge/dining room/kitchen area is set above a sun deck and braai area offering incredible game-viewing.
Book a stay at Mhlangeni Bush Camp
Addo Elephant Park | Eastern Cape
Courtesy of Patheka Ncwana via Instagram
The third-largest park in South Africa offers a wide range of activities; you can even spot whales from the coastal areas of the park. Be on the lookout for elephants, lions, spotted hyenas, Cape buffalo, and the flightless dung beetle.
Bag low season rates between May and September during the dry season. High season rates kick in from October to March, especially around school holidays.
Book your stay in Addo Elephant Park
Witsand Kalahari Nature Reserve
Discover the wild and remote beauty of the Kalahari at Witsand. You’ll spot desert antelope, birds of all kinds and be wowed by the harsh beauty of the red and white undulating dunes.
The luxurious, self-catering chalet rates are a steal, starting at just R1,350 per chalet. If you’d prefer to camp out under the stars, the camping site is only R230 for two people.
Book the family in at Witsand Kalahari
Mavela Game Lodge | KwaZulu-Natal
For a first-class luxury, tented camp safari experience that doesn’t break the bank, consider Mavela Game Lodge. They offer an all-inclusive package as well as private bush dinners for a little romance.
Get the ultimate luxury bush experience ensuite tented accommodation in one of their five guest tents, daily guided game drives in an open 4×4 vehicle, daily meals, early morning coffee, full English breakfast, high tea and three-course gourmet dinner as well as all-day tea and coffee, local beer, wine, spirits and soft drinks.
Book your stay at Mavela Game Lodge
Mount Camdeboo | Eastern Cape
This magnificent Karoo game farm just to the east of Graaff-Reinet is waiting to welcome you. Camdeboo means a “place of green hills or pools” in ancient Khoisan. You can spot over 60 mammals in the park including rhino, cheetah and giraffe. A stay at Mountain Camdeboo includes three daily meals, game drives, guided bush walks, stargazing, refreshments on game drives and cheetah tracking.
Book your stay at Mount Camdeboo
Courtesy of the_lost_society via Instagram
This private lodge within Addo Elephant park is set with jaw-dropping views of the Zuurberg Mountains. Staying here is truly a luxurious experience. Enjoy bush picnics, giraffe tracking safaris, candlelit dinners, gourmet breakfasts and plenty more on offer!
View their exclusive specials
Plett Game Reserve | Garden Route
Combining the verdant beauty of the Garden Route with an exciting safari experience, this game park is one of the largest in the region.
This family-friendly lodge is the perfect stop on your adventures along the Garden Route.
Buffalo Thorn Lodge | Pilanesberg
Conveniently close to Johannesburg, the Pilanesberg offers the perfect bush break from fast-paced city living.
The luxurious Buffalo Thorn Lodge, situated within the Black Rhino Reserve area of Pilanesberg, sleeps 10 people. The unit is self-catering but includes morning and afternoon game drives with a qualified ranger, coffee, tea and firewood as well as a fully equipped kitchen, child-friendly swimming pool, heated jacuzzi, open fire barbecue and gas barbecue.
A minimum two-night stay is required.
Book your stay at Buffalo Thorn Lodge
And there you have our list of 10 affordable safari escapes across South Africa. Let us know which is your favourite!
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