A summary of our South Africa impressions, the second part of our Southern Africa safari. Read about what to expect of various places in South Africa.

This is the second of a two-part article about a vacation in Southern Africa. The first part of the trip led us to Botswana, which you can read here: Botswana Impressions. The second part of our trip led us to South Africa, which is the topic of this article – South Africa Impressions.

1.Phinda Game Reserve

We didn’t know at that time, but as we moved to other places it became obvious that Phinda is somehow different. Mostly because of its seven distinct ecosystems (have you ever heard of sand forest?), allowing visitors to experience a variety of landscapes. But also for some of the animals you can easily observe at Phinda, like Cheetahs. Already on our first game drive we saw a Cheetah mother with her two little cubs. With the warm afternoon light, it was a perfect scene.

The next day was equally exciting, with three Lionesses at a water hole and another Cheetah mother with two nearly grown-up youngsters. Phinda is very concerned about their wildlife and takes a careful approach. For example, with the week-old cubs, they would allow only two vehicles in the area, at a great distance. Only as the youngsters grow up, they would allow a maximum of four vehicles at closer distances.

If you get the chance, do a bush walk with the experienced rangers. The diverse ecosystems will allow you to see and learn about a variety of plants and trees. You will definitely not regret it.

In my opinion, Phinda manages to balance the needs of the animals and the tourists in a very non-intrusive way. They show a lot of respect for the animals – if you have ever seen what happens in other African countries in comparison, you know what I mean. 

2.Moholoholo and Blyde River Nature Reserve

After a lot of driving north, through Swaziland and the Crystal Springs area, our next stop was Moholoholo. It is located very close to the Blyde River Canyon and Nature Reserve, so there are a lot of nearby places you can go visit. 

Moholoholo is probably most famous for its Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, a “home to many of South Africa’s abandoned, injured and poisoned wildlife”. Some of the animals are released back into the wild after being cured, but some they need to keep and you can watch them from a very close distance. They also have a museum demonstrating the negative impact of mankind on the animals in the area. But beware, some of the exhibits are recommended only for people with a strong stomach…

Another famous attraction is their Vulture Restaurant, where rangers put out carcasses every day, in the afternoon. The Vultures in the area got used to this habit and you can see dozens of them waiting for their daily meal.

The Blyde River Nature Reserve is huge, and it offers stunning places. As the third largest canyon globally, It looks every bit as impressive as the Grand Canyon in the USA, just greener. What I can definitely recommend is a boat trip on the Blyde River. Not only will you be able to see Hippos, Crocodiles and beautiful landscape, but also a somehow hidden Cormorant breeding area, which was my personal favorite.

3.Sabi Sabi Game Reserve

Sabi Sabi is a quite small private reserve, but nevertheless packed with animals. It was also the first place where we were able to observe Leopards. Again, it was an amazing experience to see how close you can get to a Leopard with the Landrovers. They walk so close by your car, you could actually stretch out and touch them. Of course this is strictly forbidden :-)

It was also stunning to see (or rather not) how a Leopard can blend into the environment. We stood less than three meters away from a leopard in knee-high grass and all that was visible was the slightly moving tip of its tail. If you would walk, you would trip over it, for for sure.

But there were so many more animals we were able to see at Sabi Sabi, besides the “Big Five”. Our guides explained that many tourists are just after the “Big Five”, and don’t pay attention to all the other beautiful animals in the park. What a pity, they are missing out a lot.

The only animal we wanted to see but weren’t able to see during our stay at Sabi Sabi was a male lion. Our guides did what they could, but they explained that there are only a few male lions in the whole Kruger National Park. Because of the drought at that time, most of them had moved to the northern part of Kruger. Well, another reason to come back again at some point… :-)


Honestly, the whole Southern Africa trip was a lot more exciting that I thought it would be. It was the total opposite of a relaxing vacation on the beach, but I don’t regret a single moment. I was not really sure what to expect, and I was overwhelmed by how friendly and professional the people were. If I had to guess, this will not be our last vacation in Southern Africa… let’s see ;-)

I have posted a lot more South Africa impressions on Facebook. My favorites are above, but if you are interested, head over to Facebook and look at my Southern Africa 2017 album.

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Picture of Robert Reiser

Robert is an enthusiast amateur photographer from Austria with a preference for black & white and infrared photography. He is an active member of the Austrian Association of Wildlife and Nature Photography (VTNÖ). In his spare time, he likes to take pictures and write about various photographic topics. More about Robert.