There are a number of private game reserves along the extended ‘Garden Route’ as well as the Addo Elephant National Park which is open to the public to self-drive or take guided safari game drives in. The Garden Route has the added attraction of whale watching opportunities around Hermanus and Plettenberg Bay, and if you are after an adrenalin rush, there is always Great White Shark cage diving as well.
The closest reserve to Cape Town is the Sanbona Wildlife Reserve which is about a 3 hour scenic drive from the city to the heart of the Little Karoo, along the Route 62 – the world’s longest wine route.
Set in the foothills of the Warmwaterberg Mountains, Sanbona boasts 58, 000 hectares of sculpted Cape Fold Mountains, wide-open Karoo plains, indigenous flora and fauna and rare examples of San rock art, some dating back more than 3, 500 years. It is home to the Big 5 and has 4 different lodges where visitors can stay.
Taking a different route away from Cape Town along the N2 highway, there is the Gondwana Game Reserve, again a private conservancy, it is ideally placed for visitors travelling between Hermanus and George, and is located close to the town of Mossel Bay. Gondwana is also home to the Big 5 animals and offers safari lodge accommodation, either fully catered or self-catering. The vast open landscapes are quite breath taking but game viewing can be patchy. You are highly unlikely to see leopard, so think Big 4 rather than Big 5!
The more traditional style game reserves can be found beyond Port Elizabeth, the surroundings, weather and game viewing is more akin to what you would find in the Kruger. A couple of nights at Pumba, Shamwari or Kariega make an ideal way to end a Garden Route Itinerary and a great way to relax after 10 days of golfing. Pumba uniquely has a pride of White lion, more commonly associated with the Timbavati. These roam free inside the reserve along with the Tawny lion that we are used to seeing.
All the reserves have the Big 5 animals and whilst some are located alongside the N2 highway, the reserves are so large you leave the traffic noise behind as you drive into the bushveld.
The Addo Elephant National Park is the best known park that is open to visitors on a day safari basis. You can choose to drive in your own car or book for one of the park-run guided safaris that depart throughout the day from the main gate. These are on a shared basis in the park safari vehicles are will almost certainly allow you access to more areas and better game viewing. The park is famous for its elephants but is home to the Big 5.
All of the game reserves and safari lodges in this region are malaria-free making it ideal for families. The safari lodges can be quite pricey and only marginally less expensive than travelling to the Kruger instead. We recommend hiring a car on a one-way drop off basis so that your holiday starts in Cape Town and ends with the safari. You can then drop off your car at Port Elizabeth and fly home from there either via Johannesburg or Cape Town.
Speak to one of our Garden Route safari experts on +44 208 249 5919 (UK) or +65 919 412 56 (Asia). They will be happy to advise on safari lodges, what you can expect to see, and the best time to go on safari in the Kruger.
You can view some of our top Garden Route Safari Lodge suggestions here.
Garden Route Accommodation
Read our reviews of the best hotels along the Garden Route of South Africa including Family-friendly, malaria-free safari stays.
Garden Route Golf
Enjoy a round of golf between game drives at some of the local courses including the exciting, Pinnacle Point near Mossel Bay and Humewood in Port Elizabeth.
Everything you need to know about going on safari in South Africa including the best time to visit the Garden Route for a holiday, what to pack for a safari, and what the weather will be like.