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IITV’s ‘South Africa with Gregg Wallace’ first episode, which aired on Tuesday, 5th January 2021, showed the presenter experience a safari in the Eastern Cape province. Catch up on the ITV Hub here.
Gregg stayed at Amakhala Game Reserve, which is a pioneering wildlife and conservation area just north east of Port Elizabeth and home to the ‘Big 5’- lion, rhino, elephant, buffalo and the elusive leopard. Gregg was lucky enough to get involved with the health checks of a young leopard at the reserve and said I think this is really quite emotional. I’ve never been this close to anything so beautiful, so dangerous, so powerful, it’s kind of breath-taking in a way. A beautiful thing. Deep in the African bush, not only will you find the highly desirable ‘Big 5’, you’ll also have the chance to get close to many native species including giraffes, warthogs, zebra, elands and impala.
“I think this is really quite emotional. I’ve never been this close to anything so beautiful, so dangerous, so powerful, it’s kind of breath-taking in a way. A beautiful thing.”
OOnce your eyes have feasted on the panoramic vistas and beautiful African fauna, it’s time for your taste buds to take the wheel. Like Gregg, you can spend the night under canvas in the heart of the reserve and enjoy South Africa’s iconic dishes – a potjie (pronounced po-ike) or potjiekos – a stew cooked in a three-legged iron pot over an open fire for many hours. A popular choice is a kudu potjie, a gamey meat from Southern African antelope. You’ll also have the chance to try springbok and ostrich – beautiful, lean meats and South African favourites. Back at your luxury tented accommodation, you too may find the sounds of wild animals outside your tent a little unusual compared to the British countryside, but the advice from Gregg Wallace in his recent episode on ITV may help: "I’ll just clap my hands loud and hope it goes away”.
AAmakhala is one of many game reserves in this part of the country, which is also home to Addo Elephant Park, an area which has many draw cards for travellers to South Africa including the variety of lodges and accommodation options from budget to super luxurious. It is a malaria free area and ideal for families, but also that it makes the perfect add on to a self-drive tour one of South Africa’s most iconic and scenic experiences – The Garden Route. The Garden Route is a 260km of coastal road which starts at Mossel Bay and passes through Wilderness, Knysna and Plettenberg Bay to name a few. With Port Elizabeth Airport just a 90-minute drive from the game reserves, it marks a natural conclusion to many holidays. The best time to visit is September to November or March to May, when the heat of the day is not as strong.
South Africa is home to many diverse safari experiences including, arguably the most famous national park in Southern Africa, Kruger National Park. Situated in the north east of the country it is high on many traveller’s bucket list destinations.
WWhile the Eastern Cape game reserves boast rivers and high ridges, the Kruger is characterised by thick African bush. The Kruger itself covers an area the size of Israel, but the greater Kruger region, which are private reserves whose fences with the national park have been removed, is where you find the lodges and the more exclusive game viewing experience. The climate of Mpumalanga and Limpopo is different to the Eastern Cape and the best time to visit in the dry season from May to October when the bush is less dense, and the days are mild and clear.
Mala Mala is one of the private reserves bordering the Kruger, where you can learn more about a day out in the bush with Bens Marimane, a ranger at the reserve.
WWhile most travellers from the UK will experience South African wildlife in either the Eastern Cape, at reserves like Amakhala or the greater Kruger, the range of climates mean other areas of the country boast rivalling experiences with unique elements. Here are some of our top picks:
Hluhluwe-Imfolozi is the oldest national park and is famous for the rehabilitation of the white rhino population in Southern Africa. Just a few hours drive up the coast from Durban, the park has many game reserves surrounding it and is close to iSimangaliso Wetlands Park which is a world heritage site for its biodiversity and with subtropical dune forests; it is quite the contrast from the dry terrain of Hluhluwe-Imfolozi.
Madikwe Game Reserve, North West
A five-hour drive from Johannesburg, this hidden gem is another malaria free option in South Africa. Right on the Botswana border, the terrain benefits from the open grasslands with single mountains and rocky outcrops, many species prosper in the reserve and it is well known for the African wild dog; a rare and special sight for those lucky enough to see them.
The Waterberg, Limpopo
Situated on an intercontinental divergence zone and probably one of South Africa’ best kept secrets is the Waterberg, an ideal destination for those who are arriving or departing from Johannesburg which is a three-hour drive and a million miles away from the countries largest city. Notable reserves in the region include Entabeni, Welgevonden, Lapalala and Marakele all offering ‘Big 5’ game and stunning scenery. The area is also malaria free making it attractive to families.
Kgalagadi Park, Northern Cape
OOn the Namibia and Botswana borders lies one of the hardest to get to, yet most rewarding safari experiences in South Africa. Right in the heart of the Kalahari Desert, Kgalagadi Park stretches over 38,000 square kilometres and is one of the world’s largest conservation areas. It is filled with species not commonly found in other areas of the country, the most notable being the black maned lion which has evolved to cope with temperature fluctuations which span -8°C in the winter to 50°C at the height of summer. Imagine red sand dunes, salt pans, dry riverbeds aplenty and a clear night sky which has been declared an International Dark Sky Sanctuary. It has some kind of magical quality to it and a perfect place to really get away from it all.
For a taste of the Kalahari, tune in to episode three (19th Jan) of ITV’s South Africa with Gregg Wallace as visits the Orange River.