Cape Town Safaris

Cape Town’s far from South Africa’s most garlanded gamelands – the likes of Kruger National Park and its satellite concessions, or the up and coming Madikwe Game Reserve. Yet if you can’t spare the time or afford to get to those, a handful of smaller safari parks await within four hours of Cape Town.

Prepared to drive an hour and no more? Then point your bonnet towards Buffelsfontein Game & Nature Reserve. Three of the fabled Big Five – lion, rhino and buffalo – are found on this converted cattle farm, with cheetah, giraffe, zebra and blue wildebeest keeping them company. Also within 60 minutes is Fairy Glen Game Reserve, whose leopard and elephant populations mean it hosts all the Big Five.

Motor for two hours, and you’ll bag yourself a further three options, two in the scrubby Klein (Little) Karoo region. Horseback rides are available alongside the mandatory 4x4 drives at dinky Aquila Private Game Reserve, which also completes its Big Five bingo card and chucks in giraffe, baboons and Bushman cave paintings for good measure. Slightly bigger is Inverdoorn Game Reserve, most notable for a world-recognised cheetah sanctuary which offers interaction experiences. Walking safaris and game drives are available too.

Near Hermanus in the Western Cape is Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, whose chief focus is on all things marine. Along with rock-pooling and fynbos-focused 4WD expeditions, boat trips and cage dives here can introduce you to great white sharks, Southern right whales, Cape fur seals, African penguins and bottlenose dolphins.

Three-and-a-half hours from Cape Town awaits the city’s best safari day-trip option Sanbona Wildlife Reserve. Once again found amid the Klein Karoo’s succulent-happy semi-desert, it not only has the full complement of Big Five members but a pride of rare white lions, supported by a rehabilitation programme. Equally rare is the rare riverine rabbit; in fact, it’s the Earth’s tenth most-endangered mammal. The additional bait includes giraffe, great guides, more San rock art and, should you wish to stay longer, three fairly-luxurious lodges.

Four hours away, Botlierskop Private Game Reserve is found along the famous Garden Route. Lions, buffalo, rhino, elephant and hippos are present and correct, and the kids can ride horses or elephants should the standard game drives not appeal. A spa stands by for frazzled parents.

Note that we’d recommend any of the further-away parks like Kruger for a truly-authentic, unsanitised South African safari experience. The places above, especially Sanbona, constitute very decent alternatives, however.