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All 42 South African Game Reserves (Facts, Info, Map)

All 42 South African Game Reserves (Facts, Info, Map)

South Africa is a haven for animal enthusiasts, offering an array of game reserves where you can encounter everything from majestic lions to elusive leopards. Here’s a look at some of the places across the country where these magnificent creatures roam freely.

If you’re eager to explore the rich tapestry of South African wildlife and perhaps tick off seeing the Big 5 animals from your bucket list, you’re in for a treat!

READ ONEthical safari tours in South Africa

Here is the map of all South African game reserves, or visit the interactive Google Maps version.

Kruger National Park – the largest

Lion in Kruger National Park – Photo credit: Andrew Burridge via Unsplash.

Located in northeastern South Africa, Kruger National Park is one of Africa’s largest game reserves, sprawling over about 7,722 square miles (almost 5 million acres). It’s famous for its diverse wildlife including the Big Five and offers some of the best game-viewing opportunities in the world.

Wildlife: The Park is the home of 145+ mammal species, 500+ bird species, 30+ amphibian species, 110+ reptile species, and 45+ fish species. It is estimated to have 1,500 lion, 17,000 elephant, 48,000 buffalo and 1,000 leopards individuals.

How to get there? It is an approx. 6 hours from Johannesburg by car. The closest airport is Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport in Nelspruit. Other regional airports that are close by: Hoedspruit and Phalaborwa.

Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Sabi Sand Game Reserve – Photo credit: Depositphotos.

Adjacent to Kruger National Park, Sabi Sand Game Reserve is 251-square-mile reserve renowned for exceptional leopard sightings. Its unfenced borders with Kruger allow for the free movement of wildlife.

How to get there? It is an approx. 6 hours from Johannesburg by car. The closest regional airport is Skukuza.

Timbavati Game Reserve

Timbavati Game Reserve – Photo credit: Wynand Uys via Unsplash.

Bordering Kruger National Park, Timbavati Game Reserve spans about 206 square miles and is part of the Greater Kruger ecosystem, famed for its naturally occurring white lions.

How to get there? It is an approx. 6 hours from Johannesburg by car. The closest regional airport is Eastgate Airport in Hoedspruit.

Manyeleti Game Reserve

Bordering Kruger National Park, the 90-square-mile Manyeleti Game Reserve is known for its dense wildlife populations and offers a more secluded safari experience.

How to get there? It is an approx. 6 hours from Johannesburg by car. The closest regional airport is Eastgate Airport in Hoedspruit.

Mapungubwe National Park

Mapungubwe National Park – Photo credit: Depositphotos.

In northern South Africa, the Mapungubwe National Park covers approximately 108 square miles, rich in biodiversity and archaeological history. The Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2003.

Wildlife: The Park is estimated to have 456 birds, 46 raptors, 90 mammal species, 32 snakes, and 17 bat species.

How to get there? It is approx. 130 miles from Johannesburg. The closest airport is Polokwane International Airport.

Hluhluwe–Imfolozi Park

Rhinos at Hluhluwe–Imfolozi Park – Photo credit: Matthias Mullie via Unsplash.

Positioned in KwaZulu-Natal, Hluhluwe–Imfolozi Park is the oldest proclaimed nature reserve in Africa, covering nearly 370 square miles. It’s celebrated for its critical role in rhino conservation and also hosts the Big Five.

Wildlife: The park is estimated to have 23,000 impala, 1,500 white rhinos, 30 black rhinos, over 300 bird species, and various other wildlife.

How to get there? It is approximately a 6.5-hour drive from Johannesburg and under a 3-hour drive from Durban. King Shaka International Airport (Durban) is the closest airport.

Phinda Private Game Reserve

Lioness at Phinda Private Game Reserve – Photo credit: Mandy Henry via Unsplash.

Located in KwaZulu-Natal, Phinda Private Game Reserve covers about 170 square miles and is celebrated for its seven distinct ecosystems, hosting an impressive array of wildlife including the Big Five.

Wildlife: As well as various other wildlife, this reserve is home to 436 bird species.

How to get there? Phinda Private Game Reserve is over a 7-hour drive from Johannesburg and around a 3.5-hour drive from Durban. King Shaka International Airport (Durban) is the closest international airport, but Richards Bay Airport and Phinda Airstrip are also located nearby.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park

Hippos in iSimangaliso Wetlands – Photo credit: Martie Bloem via Unsplash.

A UNESCO World Heritage site in KwaZulu-Natal, iSimangaliso Wetland Park spans roughly 790 square miles and is celebrated for its rich biodiversity and unique marine and wetland environments.

Wildlife: This wetland park is home to approximately 115 mammal species, including 800+ hippos. 530 bird species have also been recorded in iSimangaliso.

How to get there? iSimangaliso Wetland Park is around a 7.5-hour drive from Johannesburg, and under a 3-hour drive from Durban. The closest regional airport is Richards Bay, while the nearest international airport is King Shaka (Durban).

Mkhuze Game Reserve

Situated in KwaZulu-Natal, Mkhuze Game Reserve covers about 100 square miles and is part of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. This reserve is celebrated for its bird watching, with 420 bird species recorded, and also supports a significant population of white and black rhinos.

Wildlife: This game reserve is home to approximately 80 mammal species and 420 bird species.

How to get there? Mkhuze Game Reserve is just under a 7-hour drive from Johannesburg. Richard’s Bay is the closest domestic airport, while King Shaka International Airport (Durban) is the nearest international airport and is around a 3.5-hour drive away.

Addo Elephant National Park

Elephants at Addo Elephant National Park – Photo credit: Etienne Steenkamp via Unsplash.

Near Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape, Addo Elephant National Park spans approximately 695 square miles. Initially established to protect the last remaining South African bush elephants, it now also shelters other species including lions and black rhinos.

Wildlife: Addo is home to over 800 elephants and more than 400 cape buffalo, as well as marine species such as the Great white shark and Southern right whale.

How to get there? Addo Elephant National Park (the main entrance) is around a 1-hour drive from Gqeberha, formerly Port Elizabeth. The closest international airport is located in Cape Town, or you can fly to Johannesburg. Alternatively, Gqeberha has a domestic airport.

Pilanesberg National Park

Located in an ancient volcanic crater, Pilanesberg National Park covers about 212 square miles. It offers a unique landscape and is malaria-free, home to the Big Five and numerous other species.

Wildlife: There are over 7,000 animals in this national park, including over 50 species of large mammals. 15 species of antelope and 360 bird species are found here.

How to get there? Pilanesberg National Park is under a 3-hour drive from the capital of Pretoria and under 3.5 hours from Johannesburg. Pilanesberg International Airport is the nearest airport, but the park is also accessible from OR Tambo International Airport (Johannesburg).

Madikwe Game Reserve

Madikwe Game Reserve – Photo credit: Claire Roadley via Unsplash.

Near the Botswana border, you’ll find Madikwe Game Reserve. This 290-square-mile reserve is malaria-free and known for its wild dog populations. It offers intimate wildlife viewing and luxury accommodations.

Wildlife: This reserve is home to over 65 large mammal species and approximately 300 resident and migrant bird species.

How to get there? Madikwe Game Reserve is around a 4-hour drive from Pretoria, with Johannesburg taking just under 5 hours. Johannesburg OR Tambo International Airport is approximately a 4.5-hour drive away and offers shuttle flights to the reserve.

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park – Photo credit: Antonius Smal via Unsplash.

Extending over 14,668 square miles across South Africa and Botswana, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park features desert landscapes and abundant wildlife, including the iconic black-maned Kalahari lions.

How to get there? Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is around a 10.5-hour drive from Johannesburg. Upington Airport is the closest domestic airport or there’s Johannesburg OR Tambo International Airport, which is around an 11-hour drive away.

Karoo National Park

Karoo National Park – Photo credit: Marlin Clarke via Unsplash.

Located in the Western Cape, Karoo National Park encompasses about 290 square miles. It features dramatic landscapes and diverse wildlife, including a successful reintroduction of lions.

Wildlife: There are over 60 mammal species in this national park. Over 50 different reptile species (including 35 lizard species and 6 different tortoise species) are also found in Karoo.

How to get there? Karoo National Park is around a 5-hour drive from Cape Town and approximately 9 hours from Johannesburg. George Airport is the closest airport, or there’s Cape Town International Airport which is located further afield.

Shamwari Private Game Reserve

Giraffes at Shamwari Private Game Reserve – Photo credit: Harshil Gudka via Unsplash.

In the Eastern Cape, Shamwari Private Game Reserve spans about 96 square miles and is known for its luxury lodges and animal rehabilitation centers, playing a significant role in conservation efforts.

How to get there? Shamwari is under an hour’s drive from Gqeberha. Formerly known as Port Elizabeth, this city has a domestic airport. Alternatively, Cape Town International Airport is a 9-hour drive away.

Welgevonden Game Reserve

Giraffe at Welgevonden Game Reserve – Photo credit: Arthus Hickinbotham via Unsplash.

Welgevonden Game Reserve is a 282-square-mile reserve. Located in the Limpopo Province, it’s malaria-free and is known for its significant population of rhinos and luxurious safari experiences.

Wildlife: This reserve is home to over 65 mammal species, 320 bird species, and 100 species of reptiles, frogs, and fishes.

How to get there? Welgevonden Game Reserve is a 2.5-hour drive from Pretoria and a 3.5-hour drive from Johannesburg (less with no traffic). OR Tambo International Airport serves both cities and offers flights to the airstrip within the reserve.

Marakele National Park

Marakele National Park – Photo credit: Mark Potterton via Unsplash.

Also in Limpopo, Marakele National Park encompasses about 250 square miles and is part of the Waterberg Biosphere, offering a haven for the Big Five in a diverse landscape.

Wildlife: As well as various mammals, there are at least 363 bird species in this national park.

How to get there? Marakele National Park is just under a 4-hour drive from Pretoria, and a 4.5-hour drive from Johannesburg. The closest international airport is OR Tambo International Airport (Johannesburg).

Kwandwe Private Game Reserve

Kwandwe Private Game Reserve is an 86-square-mile private reserve in the Eastern Cape that offers an exclusive safari experience with robust conservation practices, particularly for rhinos and elephants.

Wildlife: Over 7,000 animals have been re-introduced into the park including elephants, rhinos, lions, and leopards.

How to get there? Kwandwe Private Game Reserve is under a 2-hour drive from Gqeberha. The two closest domestic airports are Port Elizabeth and East London. In terms of international airports, Cape Town and Johannesburg are both over a 10-hour drive away.

Garden Route National Park

Located along the southern coast, Garden Route National Park covers about 495 square miles and is known for its lush forests, dramatic coastline, and diverse ecosystems.

Wildlife: Over 80 species of mammals call Garden Route National Park home, as well as 370+ bird species, 25 snake species, and no fewer than 15 whale and dolphin species.

How to get there? Garden Route National Park has different areas, but the Tsitsikamma area is around a 1.5-hour drive from Gqeberha. Cape Town is around a 6.5-hour drive (depending on traffic), which is where the closest international airport is. Nearby domestic airports include George and Port Elizabeth.

Augrabies Falls National Park

Situated around the stunning Augrabies Waterfall in Northern Cape, Augrabies Falls National Park spans about 820 square miles and offers landscapes dominated by rugged terrain and diverse wildlife.

Wildlife: A total of 49 mammal species have been recorded in the park, along with 200+ bird species and 45 reptile species.

How to get there? Augrabies Falls National Park is around an 8.5-hour drive from Cape Town, and just under a 10-hour drive from Johannesburg. Cape Town offers the closest international airport, but Upington Airport is just a 1.5-hour drive from the park.

Mountain Zebra National Park

In the Eastern Cape, covering approximately 110 square miles, Mountain Zebra National Park is dedicated to preserving the endangered Cape mountain zebra and other species.

Wildlife: 1000+ Cape mountain zebra are located in this park, along with over 250 bird species.

How to get there? Mountain Zebra National Park is around a 3-hour drive from Gqeberha. Both Cape Town and Johannesburg are an 8.5-9 hour drive from the park. The closest domestic airport is Port Elizabeth. O.R. Tambo International Airport and Cape Town International Airport are a similar distance away (approximately 9 hours).

West Coast National Park

Near Langebaan, about 90 miles north of Cape Town, you’ll find West Coast National Park, a 106-square-mile park that is famed for its spring flower blooms and migratory birds.

Wildlife: 15+ mammal species and 250 bird species can be found in this national park.

How to get there? West Coast National Park is just over an hour’s drive from Cape Town, making Cape Town International Airport the closest airport. Johannesburg is approximately a 16-hour drive away.

Nambiti Private Game Reserve

Located in KwaZulu-Natal, Nambiti Private Game Reserve is a 56-square-mile reserve that is malaria-free and known for its Big Five sightings and luxurious lodges.

Wildlife: As well as the Big 5, Nambiti has 40 other wildlife species.

How to get there? Nambiti Private Game Reserve is around a 3-hour drive from Durban and under a 4.5-hour drive from Johannesburg. King Shaka International Airport (Durban) is the closest airport, but there’s also O.R. Tambo International Airport (Johannesburg) nearby.

Tswalu Kalahari Reserve

Tswalu Kalahari Reserve is the largest private game reserve in South Africa, covering about 440 square miles in the Southern Kalahari. The reserve is known for its conservation of desert species and the elusive pangolin.

Wildlife: This reserve is home to 85 mammals, 264 bird species, 26 lizard species, 22 snake species, 7 species of frogs and toads, and 75 butterfly species.

How to get there? Tswalu Kalahari Reserve is around an 8-hour drive from Johannesburg and over a 6-hour drive from Bloemfontein. The closest domestic airport is Bram Fischer Airport. This reserve also provides a charter flight from either Johannesburg or Cape Town as there’s an airstrip on-site.

Bontebok National Park

Located in the Western Cape, Bontebok National Park covers about 11 square miles and is focused on protecting the rare bontebok, a type of antelope.

Wildlife: This national park is home to various mammals (including 150+ bontebok and 12 carnivore species), 28 reptile species, and over 200 bird species.

How to get there? Bontebok National Park is just over a 2.5-hour drive from Cape Town, and around a 14-hour drive from Johannesburg. The closest international airport is Cape Town, but there’s also George Airport, a domestic airport, around a 2.5-hour drive away.

Golden Gate Highlands National Park

In the Free State, covering about 135 square miles, Golden Gate Highlands National Park is noted for its spectacular sandstone formations and a variety of high-altitude wildlife.

Wildlife: This national park is home to 50+ mammals and over 135 bird species.

How to get there? Golden Gate Highlands National Park is under a 3-hour drive from Johannesburg, and around a 4-hour drive from Pretoria. O.R. Tambo (Johannesburg) is the closest international airport to the park.

De Hoop Nature Reserve

De Hoop Nature Reserve is located in the Western Cape reserve and covers approximately 136 square miles. It’s particularly noted for its marine reserve, which provides a sanctuary for marine life and is a prime whale-watching spot.

Wildlife: This nature reserve has 86 mammal species, 260 bird species, and at least 250 fish species.

How to get there? De Hoop Nature Reserve is around a 3-hour drive from Cape Town, with the closest international airport being located in this city. Alternatively, George Airport is just under a 3-hour drive and serves domestic flight routes.

Agulhas National Park

Situated at the southernmost tip of Africa, Agulhas National Park covers about 79 square miles and protects unique fynbos vegetation and historic sites, including the iconic lighthouse.

Wildlife: 60+ mammals can be seen in this national park but some of these travel through, rather than living here permanently.

How to get there? Agulhas National Park is under a 3-hour drive from Cape Town. The closest airport is Cape Town International Airport.

Cederberg Wilderness Area

Located in the Western Cape, the Cederberg Wilderness Area covers about 284 square miles and is famous for its ancient rock art and rugged, scenic landscapes.

Wildlife: This wilderness area has 65+ different mammal species, 15 snake species, and over 100 bird species.

How to get there? Cederberg Wilderness Area is under a 3-hour drive from Cape Town. The closest airport is Cape Town International Airport.

Karoo National Park

Karoo National Park in the Western Cape covers about 123 square miles, showcasing the unique desert flora and fauna of the Great Karoo area.

Wildlife: This nature reserve has 60+ mammal species, along with 18 snake species, 5 tortoise species, 35 lizard species, and 200+ bird species.

How to get there? Karoo National Park is approximately a 5-hour drive from Cape Town (depending on traffic) and around a 10-hour drive from Johannesburg. The closest domestic airport is located in George, while the closest international airport can be found in Cape Town.

Table Mountain National Park

Encompassing the iconic Table Mountain and surrounding areas in Cape Town, Table Mountain National Park covers about 85 square miles and offers breathtaking views and rich biodiversity.

Wildlife: This national park is home to 20+ mammals, 22 snake species, and over 300 bird species.

How to get there? Table Mountain National Park is based in Cape Town, around a 15-20 minute drive from the area of Fishoek. The closest airport is Cape Town International Airport.

Camdeboo National Park

Surrounding the town of Graaff-Reinet in the Eastern Cape, Camdeboo National Park covers about 76 square miles and is known for the spectacular Valley of Desolation and rich wildlife.

Wildlife: Camdeboo is home to 43 mammal species (including 13 types of carnivores), 19 lizard species, 10 snake species, 5 tortoise species, and 5 types of frog. Nearly 250 bird species have been recorded.

How to get there? Camdeboo National Park is under a 3-hour drive from Gqeberha, with the domestic airports of Port Elizabeth and George being the closest options for air travel. Cape Town is an 8-hour drive away, while Johannesburg is over an 8.5-hour drive away (both cities offer an international airport).

Tankwa Karoo National Park

Located in a remote area of the Northern Cape, Tankwa Karoo National Park spans about 570 square miles, offering stark desert landscapes and a tranquil retreat.

Wildlife: As well as other wildlife, this national park is home to 187 bird species.

How to get there? Tankwa Karoo National Park is around a 4.5-hour drive from Cape Town. This makes Cape Town International Airport the closest option for international air travel. Johannesburg is a 13-hour drive away.

Knysna National Lake Area

Part of the Garden Route National Park, the Knysna National Lake Area is famed for its beautiful lakes, forests, and coastal views.

How to get there? Knysna National Lake Area is around an hour’s drive from George, which is where you’ll find the nearest airport (domestic). Cape Town is approximately a 6-hour drive away and is where the nearest international airport is located. Johannesburg is a 13-hour drive away.

Royal Natal National Park

In KwaZulu-Natal, Royal Natal National Park is famous for its stunning Drakensberg Mountain scenery, including the Amphitheatre cliff face, one of the most impressive geological features in South Africa.

How to get there? Royal Natal National Park is just over a 3-hour drive from Durban, and a 3.5-hour drive from Johannesburg. This makes King Shaka International Airport (Durban) and OR Tambo International Airport (Johannesburg) the closest airports.

Richtersveld Transfrontier Park

A cross-border park with Namibia, Richtersveld Transfrontier Park covers about 2,300 square miles of desert landscape, known for its rugged mountains and cultural heritage of the Nama people.

Wildlife: This park has 50+ mammal species.

How to get there? Richtersveld Transfrontier Park is just under a 9-hour drive from Cape Town, and a 15-hour drive from Johannesburg. Cape Town offers the closest international airport.

Rietvlei Nature Reserve

Located near Pretoria, Rietvlei Nature Reserve is a popular spot for birdwatching and viewing rhinos and other game. It covers 15 square miles.

Wildlife: 350 bird species and a variety of mammals call this reserve home.

How to get there? Rietvlei Nature Reserve is approximately a 20-minute drive from Pretoria and a 45-minute drive from Johannesburg. OR Tambo International Airport (Johannesburg) is the closest airport.

Mokala National Park

In the Northern Cape, Mokala National Park covers about 105 square miles and focuses on the conservation of endangered species like the black rhino and roan antelope.

Wildlife: This national park has 40+ mammal species and over 135 bird species.

How to get there? Mokala National Park is over a 2.5-hour drive from Bloemfontein and a 6.5-hour drive from Johannesburg. Kimberly offers the closest airport, while the nearest international airport can be found in Johannesburg.

Marloth Nature Reserve

Situated near Swellendam in the Western Cape, Marloth Nature Reserve covers about 49 square miles, known for its hiking trails and native forests.

Wildlife: There are 114 bird species as well as various mammals.

How to get there? Marloth Nature Reserve is around a 2.5-hour drive from both Cape Town and George. George offers a domestic airport, while Cape Town offers an international airport.

Oribi Gorge Nature Reserve

In KwaZulu-Natal, Oribi Gorge Nature Reserve offers stunning gorge views, rich wildlife, and exhilarating adventure sports.

Wildlife: This nature reserve has over 250 bird species and various mammals.

How to get there? Oribi Gorge Nature Reserve is a 1.5-hour drive from Durban and over a 7-hour drive from Johannesburg. The closest option for air travel is Margate Airport (domestic) or King Shaka International Airport in Durban. OR Tambo International Airport (Johannesburg) is within driving distance.

Loskop Dam Nature Reserve

Located in Mpumalanga, Loskop Dam Nature Reserve spans approximately 57 square miles around the Loskop Dam area. It is renowned for its water-based activities and diverse wildlife, including large populations of hippopotamus and various antelope species.

Wildlife: This nature reserve is home to at least 30 endangered species.

How to get there? Loskop Dam Nature Reserve is under a 2.5-hour drive from Pretoria and approximately a 3-hour drive from Johannesburg. The closest international airport is OR Tambo (Johannesburg).

Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve

Near Johannesburg in the Gauteng province, Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve encompasses about 48 square miles. It offers a scenic landscape with rolling hills and plains, home to a variety of game including zebra, red hartebeest, and several antelope species, making it a great spot for hiking and wildlife photography.

Wildlife: Over 200 bird species are found in this reserve, along with various mammal species.

How to get there? Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve is around a 30-minute drive from Johannesburg and a 55-minute drive from Pretoria. OR Tambo International Airport (Johannesburg) is the closest airport.

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Emese Maczko is a travel blogger behind Eco Lodges Anywhere. Having explored several destinations around Europe, the US, Indonesia, and Australia, and resided in Germany, the United Kingdom, and Luxembourg, Emese possesses a keen understanding of diverse cultures and an appreciation for the beauty of each destination she visits. She advocates for sustainable travel and ecotourism.