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Secret South Africa

There’s a lot more to this diverse country than Kruger National Park. Philip Briggs unveils the country’s top 10 hidden highlights for the wildlife lover
Among the parched red dunes of Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, a pair of lionesses conceal themselves behind some thickets

It’s not exactly breaking news that South Africa’s vast Kruger National Park is one of the world’s most alluring safari destinations. Less well known, however, is that Kruger serves as the flagship for a network of protected areas, including 18 other national parks, more than 100 provincially managed reserves and countless municipal and private sanctuaries. Some of these are, like Kruger, archetypal Big Five safari destinations. Others were created to safeguard niche environments or endemic species threatened with extinction. Collectively, they encompass almost every conceivable habitat: sun-baked desert dunes, windswept montane moorland, coral reefs alive with colourful fish, cloud forest bursting with birdsong, rivers and lakes, grassland and savannah, beaches and flowering fynbos. There’s no doubt that every one of South Africa’s reserves has some ecological value — but here are 10 of the very finest all visitors should consider including on their itinerary.

Pilanesberg Game Reserve

In a nutshell Set in an extinct volcanic crater about 200km north of Johannesburg, this scenic, malaria-free reserve’s savannah habitat supports the Big Five and much else.

Highlights There is good general wildlife viewing on tarred roads that are well suited to self-drive safaris, where elephant, white rhino, giraffe, plains zebra, greater kudu and impala are all common. With a bit of luck, you’ll see lion, leopard, cheetah and black rhino, too.

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About Travel Africa

Essential Luangwa - our guide to one of Zambia's finest reserves • Secret South Africa • Why self-drive in Namibia? • Ethiopia's lost treasures • Beyond the Serengeti migration • Mauritania • Become a Kalahari Bushman • Uganda's adventure capital... and much more!