Located 205 mi/330 km northeast of Johannesburg, Kruger National Park, South Africa, is unquestionably one of the world's great wildlife reserves. Kruger has the "Big Five" animals—rhino, buffalo, lion, leopard and elephant—as well as plenty of others.
An untouched wilderness of scrubland broken by acacia and mopane trees, its waterholes and riverbeds are home to more than 500 varieties of birds and nearly 140 species of mammals. Make reservations as early as possible, especially if you're visiting during high season or over a holiday.
Scattered through this gigantic park are 18 rest camps, which range from basic camping sites to luxury lodges. Something we love about Kruger is that hikers can trek (with rangers) on wilderness trails (one to five days in length—advance reservations are strongly recommended, as these treks are very popular).
The adjacent Sabi Sands Game Reserve is composed of a handful of small, jointly managed private conservancies that share an open border with each other as well as with the Kruger. Although they come at a price, the reserves in Sabi Sands offer superb Big Five viewing in open four-wheel-drive vehicles driven by professional ranger-guides, and boast an exceptional success rate when it comes to locating the elsewhere-elusive leopard and other nocturnal predators.
One of these reserves is Sabi Sabi. Its lodges are both informal and very good (they're on a river near a water hole and provide excellent animal viewing).
Mala Mala Game Reserve, also part of Sabi Sands, has lodges that have been ranked among the best in the country.
Londolozi Reserve also offers luxurious accommodations. Whichever you choose, stay at least two nights (to allow for weather problems and to see as many animals as possible).
Situated to the north of Sabi Sands, Timbavati, yet another reserve sharing an open border with the Kruger, offers a chance to see rare white lions. The reserve offers a choice of lodges.
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