The 5 Best Luxury Safari Lodges & Resorts in South Africa

Experience the bountiful wildlife of South Africa in one of these luxury safari lodges set amongst the vast scenery.

Best Luxury Safari Lodges

South Africa safari lodges have access to some of the richest wildlife viewing in Africa. Set among captivating scenery, these impressive hotels are both stylish and eco-conscious – raising the holiday bar pretty high.

Conservation was the driving force behind the development of many of the private game reserves and the lodges within them. Previously unloved farmland has been cultivated into havens for endangered species, bringing tourism and opportunities to the area. Today that passion continues to lie at the heart of these forward-thinking retreats, which manage to combine sustainability with luxury, thinking of every little detail to make your stay a truly unforgettable one.

Here are five of the best safari lodges in South Africa chosen by our travel consultants (who know them inside and out).

1. Kwandwe Great Fish River Lodge, Eastern Cape


A winding river around a lodge at sunset

Of all the South African safari lodges near Cape Town, the best game reserve to find lodges is Kwandwe in the Eastern Cape. Although near in this case is a six-hour drive or two-hour flight, it’s well worth the travel.

Within its numerous camps, a particular highlight is Kwandwe Great Fish River Lodge. Best suited to those looking for a splash of romance, it’s a slice of eco-paradise (and only allows children over 12).

Overlooking the Great Fish River, the property is immersed in nature, with wilderness as far as the eye can see. Great Fish River Lodge remains rooted in preserving and celebrating the local culture and biodiversity around it. Its interiors have an authentic style that blends harmoniously into the surroundings, plus floor-to-ceiling glass windows to take in those breathtaking views. Add to that impeccable service and fantastic food and you’ve got the perfect safari holiday.

But what makes this one of the top luxury safari lodges in South Africa are the guides, many of whom have been at Kwandwe for years and know every nook and cranny of the private game reserve. They will effortlessly pilot you around to find the best sightings of:

  • Cheetah (which this part of the Eastern Cape is particularly known for)
  • The Big Five
  • Giraffe
  • Zebra
  • Warthog
  • Springbok
  • Kudu
  • Wildebeest
  • Monkeys
  • Meerkat

And maybe even the endangered black rhino!

2. Singita Boulders Lodge, Sabi Sands


A covered outdoor pool surrounded by trees and grass

Singita is a brand synonymous with luxury in South Africa. When the first lodge opened in 1993, it shook up the safari scene by bringing a refreshing new look to the bush. Stepping away from classic colonial interiors, it set the tone for high levels of service, food and facilities. Of all the Sabi Sands safari lodges, Boulders Lodge deserves a special mention as one of Singita’s most popular properties, seeing guests return year after year.

Sitting on the banks of the Sand River and built around a monumental rock (hence the name) the design concept takes its lead from nature. Colours are calming and neutral; copper, ash, brown and charcoal mix with rich textures to create a simple and earthy look.

The sumptuous, glass-fronted suites have viewing platforms to spy some of the best wildlife in South Africa sauntering around – particularly in the dry winter months – like leopards and elephants. Meanwhile, welcoming communal spaces offer up freshly pressed juices, coffees and cocktails while guests swap stories of sightings. There is also a fantastic spa where you can have treatments held on your private deck in your suite or the spa’s dedicated rooms.

Singita is one of the best luxury safari lodges near Johannesburg, although it is a six-hour drive or one-hour flight to the lodge’s airstrip.

Boulder’s lodge is best for families with older kids, with children aged 10 and over welcome, but if you have little ones, you’ll love the next option Little Madikwe Hills.

3. Little Madikwe Hills, Madikwe


 A modern room with wooden, earthy fixtures and patterned rugs

One of the best safari lodges in South Africa for families with young children is Little Madikwe Hills. Central to the malaria-free Madikwe reserve and part of the larger lodge Madikwe Hills, this is an exclusive-use, totally secluded retreat.

The villa sleeps four guests in a two-bedroom suite or can be combined with two suites from the main hotel for a larger group of up to eight. This is an ideal option for families or friends looking for peace and solitude – to have an adventure at their own pace.

Complete with a team including a private chef, guide and tracker, guests frequently comment on the incredible service that makes you feel part of the family. A large pool, outdoor bathrooms and boma complete the package, plus there are many activities for kids, from bug tracking and dung inspecting to treasure hunts, cooking lessons and movie nights.

Nearby Madikwe Hills has a gym, spa and restaurants for your use, and babysitters available too.

4. Tswalu, Kalahari


 A thatched covered outdoor bed with a woman laying down looking out at the wilderness

Tswalu is the largest privately-owned game reserve in South Africa and a safari offering unlike anywhere else. It was the Oppenheimer family’s revolutionary foresight to reinstate the incredible biodiversity of the Kalahari and return overgrazed, neglected farmland into the property it is today.

Now you’ll find a range of unique wildlife such as:

  • Black rhino
  • Cheeta
  • Black-maned lion
  • Pangolin

Tswalu’s savannah is breath taking in its vastness and is made all the more so by the dramatic change in landscape between the seasons. At times it is pure orange sands, dry and dusty, then when the rains come it erupts into life bringing greenery and rolling grasslands.

The lodge is made up of three camps – one tented, a private homestead and a collection of thatched houses – that all slot right into the backdrop and feel completely remote. Private butlers, chefs, guides, trackers, and game drives make a stay here incredibly personal and tailored to your requirements. It also has a restaurant like no other, with celebrity chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen (the first South African chef to be awarded a Michelin star) at the helm of Klein Jan. His restaurant elevates the camp into one of the top luxury safari lodges in South Africa.

Tswalu welcomes families with children of all ages and has fabulous activities for them, including stargazing and daytime meerkat tracking. There are interconnecting accommodation options as well for those who prefer to keep their young ones close at hand.

That said, the Kalahari is also a fantastic option for more seasoned travellers who might have already been on a traditional safari and are looking for something extraordinary.

5. Phinda Mountain Lodge, KwaZulu-Natal


 An outdoor balcony overlooking green trees and mountains

Phinda Private Game Reserve is another remarkable destination in South Africa that’s ideal for those looking for an interactive package and want to get involved not only in nature but in conservation efforts as well.

This is largely due to the fantastic diversity of the landscape in KwaZulu Natal, which sees seven different ecosystems come together bringing a breadth of wildlife including:

  • The Big Five (lion, leopard, black rhinoceros, elephant and buffalo)
  • Pangolin
  • Cheetah
  • Loggerhead and Leatherhead turtles (which nest on the nearby shores of the Indian Ocean)
  • Over 400 species of birds

Phinda is impassioned about protecting the environment and has even managed to get the laws on hunting leopards changed because of the research done by its teams. Guests can get involved by taking part in once-in-a-lifetime kind of experiences like rhino notching, elephant collaring, or pangolin tagging.

There are six lodges within the private game reserve, each with its own character and style. Perched on a hilltop, with 360-degree views of the lush Lebombo foothills, its collection of suites and cottages (which interconnect) come with private decks to soak up the stunning views, plus outdoor showers and private plunge pools.

Phinda Mountain Lodge is one of the best safari lodges in South Africa for families. It has a dedicated WILDchild programme to keep kids enthralled and, along with game drives – complete with morning cappuccinos and evening cocktails – are trips to the beach to see turtles (at certain times of the year), have castaway picnics, and go snorkelling or diving.

Call us on 020 3918 9367 to start planning your holiday

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