5 Malaria-free Game Reserves in South Africa
One of the first questions people ask when planning a safari to South Africa is if the game park is malaria-free – especially when there are small children involved.
While game reserves are often believed to be breeding grounds for malaria, only 2 of the SANParks national parks lie in malaria risk areas, namely Kruger National Park and Mapungubwe National Park, and even here the risk is usually low. Malaria transmission in South Africa is limited to the north-eastern region, in the low altitude (below 1000m) areas of Limpopo, Mpumalanga, and Northern KwaZulu-Natal*. There have been instances of malaria in the North West and Northern Cape provinces, particularly along the Molopo and Orange rivers, but you won’t need to take anti-malaria drugs when visiting these areas. That being said, it’s always good to take precautions against mosquito bites. Malaria is also distinctly seasonal in South Africa, with the highest risk being during the wet summer months (September to May), so it’s better to plan a winter safari in these areas if you have younger children.
If you want a South African safari without the risk of bumping into malaria-transmitting mozzies, opt for one of these 5 malaria-free game reserves:
Addo Elephant National Park, Eastern Cape
The Eastern Cape is a completely malaria-free zone with many game reserves to choose from. Our top choice is Addo Elephant National Park, because it’s the only reserve in South Africa where you can encounter the Big 7 – the lion, elephant, rhino, leopard, and buffalo along with the southern right whale and great white shark that can often be spotted off the coast. Addo Elephant National Park is the 3rd largest national park in South Africa, conserving a wide diversity of landscapes, fauna, and flora. The unique Addo flightless dung beetle is almost exclusively found in Addo. Find accommodation.
Marakele National Park, Limpopo
As its Tswana name suggests, Marakele National Park is a “place of sanctuary” not only for those who visit, but for the wildlife that call it home. Unravelling itself amidst the Waterberg Mountains of Limpopo, in the transitional zone between the dry western and moist eastern regions of South Africa, the park supports a wide variety of game, including leopard, lion, elephant, brown hyena, kudu, and less common antelope such as eland and tsessebe. And aside from sightings of rare plant species like the cycad, which grows up to 5m in these parts, you’ll also find the largest colony of endangered Cape vultures in the world with over 800 breeding pairs. Find accommodation.
Pilanesberg Game Reserve, North West
Situated in the crater of an ancient volcano – one of only 3 of its kind in the world – the Pilanesberg Game Reserve stands high above the surrounding bushveld plains of the North West’s Bojanala region. An ideal destination for travellers after a ‘Big 5’ safari experience, Pilanesberg is South Africa’s fourth largest game reserve, covering a massive 55 000ha. And at only 150km away from the Gauteng metropolis, it makes a perfect weekend escape from the concrete jungle. Two popular types of safaris in this area are by balloon and elephant back! Find accommodation.
Mountain Zebra National Park, Eastern Cape
Situated in the rolling emerald landscapes near Cradock, Eastern Cape, Mountain Zebra National Park offers a peaceful wilderness experience teeming with vegetation, wildlife, and fresh air. The park was proclaimed in 1937 to save the dwindling numbers of Cape mountain zebra and today over 700 zebra roam the 28,000ha reserve, along with other game and endangered species like the black rhino and cheetah. Find accommodation.
Madikwe Game Reserve, North West
Madikwe Game Reserve may be one of the lesser known game parks in South Africa, but as the fifth largest and home to the Big 5, it truly is a hidden gem. Madikwe is regarded as one of the best conservation areas in Africa and is home to a thriving population of highly endangered African wild dogs, with 3 hunting packs roaming the reserve. With a selection of luxury safari lodges, Madikwe really is a place where you can get away from it all while still having “it all”. Find accommodation.
Which malaria-free game reserve would you like to visit next?
* Source: Department of Health Guildelines for the Prevention of Malaria in South Africa
Feature image by Derek Keats