South Africa is a beautiful country with breathtaking mountains, sun-kissed beaches and pristine game reserves teeming with wildlife

Nothing comes close to a holiday in the bushveld, with a number of big-five game reserves within easy reach of Johannesburg.

Here are our top picks for a safari getaway:

1. Pilanesberg National Park

Only three hours away in a transition zone between the Kalahari and the Lowveld is one of the top big-five game reserves in South Africa, spanning over 55 000 hectares. Because of its relatively small size, there is a greater chance of encountering the big five and endangered species such as the African wild dog. For keen birders, there are as many as 360 bird species waiting to be spotted from hidden photographic hides.

The diversity of accommodation options at Pilanesberg means that there is something to suit everyone’s tastes. Whether you enjoy the more rustic option of a safari tent in the bush or savouring a gin and tonic from the comfort of your luxury suite, Pilanesberg has something just for you.

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The park itself offers the opportunity to experience open-vehicle game drives, guided bush walks and unforgettable game viewing from a hot-air balloon.

2. Madikwe Game Reserve

Madikwe Game Reserve is considered one of the largest and lesser known big-five game reserves in South Africa. This private wilderness stretches from the northern reaches of Groot-Marico to the Botswana border.

The reserve is closed to the public so it is definitely an option worth considering if you are looking for a more exclusive safari experience or a private setting for an important celebration. The reserve boasts a selection of luxury, ultra luxury and exclusive use lodge which can be accessed from Johannesburg by car or charter flight. It is a great option for those quick getaways and family safari holidays.

Madikwe Game Reserve is home to a rich diversity of wildlife, including 86 mammal species and 350 bird species. Safari activities are led by professional guides and include thrilling open-vehicle game drives and bush walks. You will also dine beneath the stars and enjoy breathtaking sunsets and night safaris.

3. Welgevonden Game Reserve

Nestled in the Waterberg region of the Limpopo Province, the 34 850-hectare Welgevonden Game Reserve is a scenic two-and-a-half-hour drive or an easy 45-minute flight from Johannesburg to one of the airstrips.

It is one of very few big-five game reserves to be proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offering sanctuary to over 300 bird species and 50 different mammals. Night safaris in the reserve are incredible and offer the opportunity to spot nocturnal species such as brown hyena, pangolin, aardwolf and aardvark.

Being a private game reserve, there is a selection of luxury lodges and camps that offer visitors an exclusive and intimate experience. It is easy to get lost in the spectacular views of mountain bushveld, gorges and rocky riverines.

The activities on offer in the reserve include open-vehicle game drives, guided bush walks, outdoor dining experiences and visits to San rock art sites.

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