South Africa is home to some of the most impressive national parks in the world. It features a variety of heart-stopping landscapes, from the dry Kalahari Desert to the lush forests of Kwazulu-Natal. The country’s abundant wildlife presents the Big Five: lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos, and buffalo. It truly offers a unique experience with its natural beauty and incredible diversity.

South Africa also has undeniably rich cultures with unique traditions and beliefs. The Zulu people, who inhabit the Kwazulu-Natal province, are particularly well-known for their vibrant civilization. They are known for their elaborate traditional dress, as well as their passionate music and dance.

The Zulu tribe is just one example of the many cultures you’ll encounter in South Africa. However, with such popularity comes the risk of overcrowding. That’s why we’ve created a list of the best private game reserves in South Africa. These are places where you can enjoy the country’s breathtaking landscapes and wildlife without the crowds.

The Best Private Game Reserves in South Africa

MalaMala Game Reserve

MalaMala is one of the oldest and most well-known private game reserves in South Africa. It’s located in the Sabi Sand Reserve, which forms the Kruger National Park. The reserve promises the opportunity to see the Big Five and is renowned for its excellent game viewing experiences.

MalaMala also has a long history of conservation. It was one of the first private game reserves to be established in South Africa, and it played a crucial role in the beginning of anti-poaching measures in the country.

The reserve is a malaria-free area, which makes it a good option for families with young children. It also has a luxury safari lodge, which offers an exclusive and comfortable experience to make the most out of the African bush.

One of the Ndhzenga male lions looks across the savanna while being watched by a couple zebra
One of the Ndhzenga males looking towards his brothers while being watched by a couple zebra | @pcfvanwyk

Sabi Sands Game Reserve

Sabi Sands is another private game reserve in the Kruger National Park. It’s adjacent to the MalaMala reserve, sharing an unfenced border with the park. The game reserve is home to a variety of wildlife, including the Big Five, and it’s also known for its excellent leopard sightings. The reserve offers day and night game drives so you can make the most of your time in Sabi Sands.

Sabi Sands is perfect if you’re looking for a luxury safari experience. The reserve has a couple of luxurious lodges, as well as a spa and wellness center. You can also enjoy fine dining experiences and other 5-star amenities within the area. One of the most popular lodges in Sabi Sands is Ulusaba, which boasts its rock lodge and safari lodge. The Ulusaba rock lodge is located on a small hill, offering stunning views of the African bush. On the other hand, the Ulusaba safari lodge is shaded by the trees and provides a more intimate experience.

A young leopard cub stops in the road to look back at the camera
Leopard cub looking back at the camera | @chasingspots_

Kapama Game Reserve

Kapama is a private game reserve in the Hoedspruit area of Limpopo. The reserve spans 15,000 hectares, harbouring 40 different mammal species, including the Big Five. In addition to game drives, you can also go on safari walks and river safaris.

Kapama also offers a luxury safari experience twice daily with the help of experienced rangers. You can stay at one of their four lodges located within the reserve. The Karula lodge is perfect for families, as it has interconnecting rooms and suites. The Southern camp is great for honeymooners and couples, while BuffaloCamp is for those who want to get closer to nature. The River Lodge is the most luxurious of the four, and it’s perfect for those who want to experience the very best of Kapama.

The view from Kapama Game Lodge swimming pool as an elephant walks by - The Best Private Game Reserves in South Africa
Swimming pool with a view at Kapama Game Lodge | @cali_cut_