Safaris can be a pretty essential part of your trip to South Africa, and you want to pick the best one for you, especially if your time in the country is limited.
If you're unsure what safari "type" is right for you, I recommend reading my previous article about the three main categories of safaris, and from there start building your dream safari trip!
If a 3-4 day safari-getaway in the South African bush excites you, and you want to get the best value for your money, then I think you'll really enjoy looking further into Kariega Game Reserve located in Port Elizabeth.
- 1 hour flight to PE
- Pick up from Chief Dawid Stuurman International Airport (previously known as Port Elizabeth International Airport)
- 2 hour drive (which didn't feel long at all) to Kariega Game Reserve
with a pitstop at the highly recommended Nanaga Farmstall
* The driver was organized by Kariega
It's also situated along the garden route, so you can plan it as a part of your road trip as well! It's about a 10 hour drive from the city.
When making a list of things that make for a great safari experience, Kariega checks all the boxes!
• They have all of "The Big Five" *The term was coined by big-game hunters, and refers to the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot, but is now also widely used by safari tour operators. In Africa, the Big Five game animals are the lion, leopard, black rhinoceros, African bush elephant, and the African buffalo.
• 10,000 hectares with 2 rivers
The space is actually separated into two areas - the original piece of land Kariega started on, and then their "more recent" extended piece of land. We spent the most time in the extended area - this is where you can find ALL of the Big Five living a completely self-sustained and wild life. This is an experience you don't get to see at the smaller game reserves right outside the city. The original land is just as stunning, it just doesn't have any lions, which was interesting to see the difference in behavior from the animals.
• LOTS of animals
This isn't always a given when it comes to private game reserves. It depends how many animals they can keep up with. At Kariega they have a wide range of species and a LOT of them too! I have never been to a game reserve and seen so many animals.
• Twice per day | Game drives 3.5 hours per drive, twice per day. Times are adjustable but they recommend sunrise and sunset for the best chances of seeing the animals. We thought a total of 7 hours per day seemed crazy, but once you're out there time flies and you become immersed in the wildlife!
*The word game refers to animals that are not domesticated - the wildlife. The word drive refers to a vehicle trip to see the animals.
General Day-to-Day Schedule
6:00-9:30 MORNING SAFARI
10:00-16:00 FREE TIME
16:00-19:30 SUNSET SAFARI
• River cruises + beach trips by boat
While staying at the River Lodge location they include cruises up and down the river and a trip to the local beach by boat!
• All inclusive food + drinks This varies depending on the room/lodge you book but in the River Lodge there was a breakfast + lunch buffet. For dinner they had a limited 3-course menu. All drinks and alcohol was included. Mini bar included. And on the game drives drinks and snacks were also provided.
• Attentive, super willing staff members + very educated safari guides We had a gentleman named Matthews as our guide who was such a sweetie. He went over and above for our crew, I definitely recommend requesting him for the best adventures!
• Clean facilities
I've noticed it can be difficult to keep facilities pest-free when living in the center of the bush. We stayed in the River Lodge and our rooms were always kept clean and pest-free. * The bush is a term used for wild or uncultivated country
MAGICAL MOMENTS TO MENTION
As I'm sure you can imagine, every game drive is so different from the other - no two are the same. And I think that is what makes each and every drive so spectacular!
We thought 7 hours of driving around the bush seemed crazy. But we ended up never missing a drive, doing a total of 6 drives in a matter of 4 days.
IN THE MIDST OF 50+ ELEPHANTS
Since my experience of walking with elephants at Indalu Game Reserve I thought I wouldn't have a moment as special with elephants. But this safari trip really surprised me and made me realize there are many more experiences to be had with elephants that are just as remarkable, in a way not to be compared. On our first afternoon drive we came across 50 or more elephants, of all different ages, eating and walking together. We drove within feet/meters of them - it was so fascinating to be surrounded by such powerful animals! It was also the first time I saw elephants at nearly every stage of life. There are no words for moments like this...
A LION PRIDE OF 7
Going into a game drive you are usually told not to have high hopes of seeing a lion. They are very hard to find, especially in the months we went where the grasses are higher from the rain.
On the first couple of game drives, we had no sightings of lion.
Then... we got lucky! We came across the king of the pride, all alone, roaring out to the rest of his pride. We were so excited and really though this was just the cherry on top to an already incredible safari! BUT it got even BETTER!
The next day, after they were found eating a giraffe in the night, we saw the entire lion pride lounging around together! If I can recall correctly, 2 lionesses, 4 lions and the king of the pride!
Apparently a giraffe will keep them full for about 3 days. So when we found them, they were fully fed which is why they were so calm and we were able to drive up so close to them. At one point the lioness called out to the king from across the field and he got up and started walking towards her.
It sounds silly when I write it out but it's in those little moments that you are totally captivated and just can't take enough of it in.
A DAZZLE OF ZEBRAS PLAYING
A common theme in these stories are the unusual amounts of animals you see on these drives! Usually on the few game drives I've been on you see a handful of Zebras and they are very timid and run away from you quite easily.
They were much more like this in the extended reserve area (that I mentioned earlier) but when we visited the original reserve area (where there aren't any lions) there were so many grouped together! When we approached they didn't really mind, they continued eating and then started chasing each other + the ostriches.
While they were running they let out little farts each step they took and it was the cutest + funniest moment I've ever experienced with zebras! I felt like I got to see their personalities a bit more and it reignited my curiosity about them!
On most safaris you get to see the white rhino, but the Black Rhino (which is one of the BIG FIVE) is VERY rare to see. But our guide Matthews was the best and spotted him from miles away! We got to get within feet of him!