SA's top game reserves

2012-05-11 09:39
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A Year in the Wild: Mfolozi, KZN

Scott Ramsay, photographer and writer, shares these images of his latest stay in Mfolozi Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal.

All you readers have spoken with your votes and it's thanks to you we've managed to put together your top five lodges in South Africa.

We should be deservedly proud of the abundance of our game reserves, many of which are within easy driving distance of our cities. We also get to enjoy the economic boost as the ever-present flow of tourists keeps the industry going, and many conservation projects and social initiatives are funded as a result of people looking at our collection of animals.

So here are the top five reserves out of the 19 options you had:

We have a tie for fifth place as Hluhluwe Game Reserve and Kgalagadi Transfrontier both hauled in 7% of the vote.

Hluhluwe: The oldest game reserve on the continent. Known for its white rhino conservation back in the middle of last century, this 114-year old park in northern KwaZulu-Natal boasts the Big Five and a mass of bird and other animal species. The Lobombo mountain range flanks one side of the park and the extraordinary Great St Lucia Wetland Park is close-by.

White rhino in Hluhluwe. Photo by

Kgalagadi Transfrontier was originally the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park (in South Africa) and the Gemsbok National Park (in Botswana), but now it's one 36 000 square kilometre, cross-border reserve. It's two biggest features are the gemsbok herds and black-maned lions, but there is still a huge variety of savannah-dwelling creatures to see. Kgalagadi means "place of thirst" which is fairly appropriate as there is annual rainfall of 200mm. This also means that the animals there move around a much larger area than in other reserves due to the scarcity of food.

A gemsbok roaming the savannah. Photo by

In third position with 8% of the vote comes Pilanesberg National Park - another home to the Big Five, and claims that it "accommodates virtually every kind of mammal of southern Africa". The huge variety is created by an overlap in climate between the dry Kalahari and wetter Lowveld. Bordering on the famed glitterati of Sun City, the Pilanesberg offers an alternative to screeching slot machines and pasty bodies at the Valley of the Waves. Geologically, the reserve is fairly unique as it is the result of a volcanic eruption many million of years ago which created the surrounding hills.

Elephants having a cooldrink. Photo by

The countdown continues with Tsitsikamma National Park flying in at number two with 10% of the vote. This is probably the most beautiful game park in the country to get to as it requires a drive along the Garden Route to get there. It's also a reserve that offers marine life as an option: dolphins and whales can sometimes be seen off the park's coastline. The mild year-round means that the park retains its greenness and lushness, so you can enjoy the natural outdoors in January or June. One of the top activities here is a Canopy tour - basically a set of foofie slides between trees - where you get to view this gorgeous scenery from 30 metres above it.

Tsitsikamma - coastal and forest animals. Photo from Wikimedia Common.

And your number one favourite game reserve in the country, fairly unsurprisingly, is the granddaddy of them all. Yep, it's the Kruger National Park that pretty much wiped the floor and won with a solid 36% of the vote. The sheer size of Kruger is extraordinary - it is nearly 19 000 square kilometres - bigger than Gauteng - and hosts all the game you could ever wish to see. According to a 2004 count, there are over 1500 lion, nearly 30 000 buffalo, 11 500 elephant - the numbers are staggering. And it's over 100 years old so they certainly know what they're doing. The science that goes into accommodating so many animals in such a massive space is incredibly detailed so that we, as good South Africans, can enjoy the beautiful things our land has to offer.

A curious leopard in Kruger. Photo by

Do you think the vote was correct? Drop us a comment and tell us why you agree or disagree.

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