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South Africa Safaris

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South Africa – fences, farms and the famous

Among the safari countries, South Africa is probably the most comfortable and the most sophisticated, but also the most urban. It is a country where most wildlife roams within fences – notably at the Kruger National Park.

Safaris here are notably well run, well organised and home to a great variety of animals as well as a wide selection camps and lodges. Experienced safari-goers tend to choose the private game reserves on the edge of Kruger - Mala Mala, Londolozi, and Sabi Sabi.

These are small, exclusive reserves are like the designer label boutiques of the safari world: expensive but luxurious. Accommodation here is in bespoke rondavel (based on traditional African-style round cottages). Superb wines and gourmet meals are all part of the package. They are perfect for short stays or if you just fancy a deluxe weekend in the bush. These are also the celebrity favourites - the camps where you are most likely to run into the rich and famous, such as Rod Stewart or Elton John.

In the northern part of Kruger, close to the border with Zimbabwe, the terrain looks and feels more expansive. There is game everywhere, everything is well looked after, and the maintenance is a tribute to South Africa's wildlife conservationists.

They have been trying to establish a trans-frontier wildlife park here for years, aiming to expand southern Africa's areas of biodiversity. As Zimbabwe's wildlife is being eaten by a famished population, this is unlikely to come about until regime change in that troubled country. A similar trans-frontier park is also a welcome possibility where Kruger abuts Mozambique, where continued poaching and land-mined areas pose a risk.

In Natal, Hluhluwe-Umfolozi - once the Zulu king Shaka's private hunting ground - has bush so thick that it is not ideal for animal viewing, but there is nowhere better to see white rhino casually wandering through camps.

There is also a magical little park called the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in the Kalahari desert - the first of southern Africa's so-called Peace Parks, in the north-eastern Cape. This is the place to see gemsbok - extraordinary animals with a capillary system that delivers blood to their heads at three degrees lower than their body temperature. You can also see Bushmen (brought to the world’s attention in the 1950s by Laurens van der Post) here, albeit now more a group of down-at-heel farmers rather than ancient hunter-gatherers.

 South Africa is also home to child-friendly camps in non-malarial areas. Uplands Homestead, for example, is a settler's farmhouse turned one-family safari lodge with pool, guide and luxurious game-viewing vehicle on the Kwandwe private reserve in the Eastern Cape. Madikwe, Kwandwe and Shamwari, Addo and Gorah Elephant Camp are also popular.

As farming becomes more dangerous and less profitable, a lot of farms are being turned into reserves, too. Of course, for a taste of the bush – albeit ersatz – there is always the well-stocked and ever-popular Pilansberg, the game park attached to Sun City.

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