The malaria-free game reserves of the Eastern Cape make a great safari add-on to a Garden Route holiday while the beaches offer water-based fun and relaxation.
We stayed in Kariega game reserve for 4 nights. We had Wilmie as our guide, she was lovely, extremely knowledgeable and we learnt a lot about the environment, the fauna and flora. She also coped well with the British sense of humour!
The Eastern Cape is an easy drive from the Garden Route and there are dozens of reserves where you can take part in twice-daily 4x4 safaris and stay in your choice of lodges. Each reserve has its own highlights, outlined below. The absence of malaria and special programmes for children make these great family destinations. The beaches of the 500km Sunshine Coast are ideal for relaxing, the perfect end to a busy holiday.
- Addo Elephant Park: Just a 30-minute drive from Port Elizabeth, Addo is known for its 500 or so elephants and is also home to lion, leopard, buffalo and rhino, so has all the Big 5, as well as giraffe and zebra. You can self-drive here along a 120km network of well-maintained roads so it’s easy to add on to a driving holiday along the Garden Route. If you prefer there are guided safaris and walks and the chance to spot the Addo flightless dung beetle found only in this park.
- Amakhala Game Reserve: Amakhala is another Big 5 reserve and your days here revolve around morning and afternoon drives led by experienced naturalist rangers which leave you free to enjoy each wildlife encounter. The scenery is varied including savannah, woodland, coastal dunes and waterholes and no two drives are the same. There’s a wide choice of lodges and camps to suit all tastes and pockets.
- Kariega Game Reserve: This family-owned and run 10,000-hectare reserve is a fine example of committed conservation and since the introduction of lions and elephants in 2004 has been home to all the Big 5. Two rivers provide vital water and add to the stunning scenery. A handful of lodges provide top notch accommodation and activities include bush walks, canoeing and fishing as well as 4x4 safaris.
- Shamwari Game Reserve: You can visit the Wildlife Rehab Centre and the Born Free Big Cat Sanctuaries during a stay at Shamwari to see conservation in action, as well as enjoying Big 5 game drives, guided nature walks and bird watching and there are special bush activities for children. Take your pick of luxurious lodges or a wilderness bush camp for an immersive and memorable experience.
- And more: Other game reserves such as Pumba with its white lions, Kwandwe where you can join rhino trackers, Samara with a star bed sleep-out option and Lalibela with its large herds of plains game, offer yet more options, so you’re sure to find your perfect safari in the Eastern Cape.
- Coast & beaches: The Sunshine Coast with its reputed 320 sunny days a year, is the ideal spot for some R&R and watersports. Popular beach resorts include family-friendly Kenton-on-Sea, St Francis Bay for swimming and boating and Jeffreys Bay which offers great surfing and there are many other unspoilt beaches and villages along the 500km Sunshine Coast well worth exploring.