The Garden Route and its surrounds are not only home to spectacular beaches and forests. Some of South Africa’s most prestigious safari lodges and game reserves are scattered along this stretch as well. Offering the closest ‘real safari’ experience to Cape Town and located in malaria-free areas, the Garden Route safari lodges are popular with locals and foreigners alike — an ideal combination of beach and bush.
While many of the reserves, such as Kwandwe Game Reserve and Shamwari Private Game Reserve are situated close to Port Elizabeth at the eastern end of the Garden Route, others such as Idwala Game Lodge and Gondwana Game Reserve are closer to Cape Town at the western end, giving travellers plenty of options.
Popular safari destinations on the Garden Route
Kwandwe Game Reserve flanks both the north and south banks of the meandering Great Fish River. The Indian Ocean’s breeze turns Kwandwe’s south-facing slopes into dense forest-like thickets of Euphorbia trees whilst the north-facing slopes span out into bushveld. Meaning ‘place of the blue crane’ in the Xhosa language, Kwandwe is home to South Africa’s national bird along with all of the Big 5.
Addo Elephant Park’s claim to fame may be its dense elephant population, but the park offers much more than just these gentle giants. The park spans an impressive 180,000 hectares, stretching down from the semi-arid Karoo and over the Zuurberg Mountains to the coast. Adding to its allure, Addo is the only national park in the world to play host to the Big 7 — the Big 5 plus the southern right whale and great white shark — in their natural habitat.
The rumble of the regal lion’s roar reverberates across the plains, answered by the distant beating of scattering hooves. Jackals perform a suppertime serenade while the brown hyena scavenges under the cloak of night. A natural extension to the scenic Garden Route, stretching along the Bushman’s river, the Shamwari Private Game Reserve covers 25,000ha of prime natural terrain.
A convenient three-hour drive from Cape Town along iconic Route 62 and the Klein Karoo wine route, Sanbona Wildlife Reserve is one of the Western Cape’s premier safari destinations. Rugged bushveld populated with an array of wildlife including the Big 5, incredible rock formations adorned with San rock art, and the lush greenery surrounding the reserve’s Belair Dam all make for an exciting getaway.