If you’re looking for a unique escape into nature that combines relaxation, adventure, and culture, then the Eastern Cape of South Africa is calling you.

From gorgeous hiking trails to safari adventures, and adrenaline spiking activities (like bungee jumping!) to World Heritage Sites, the Eastern Cape offers visitors a highly diverse African safari vacation experience.

The Eastern Cape is home to a handful of exceptional game reserves and lodges that are amongst the most highly acclaimed in South Africa. These reserves and accommodations provide visitors on a trip to South Africa with an incredibly distinct experience that can be had nowhere else on earth.

Below are the top five game reserves to explore while on a South African safari vacation:

Kariega Game Reserve

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Image above of a suite at Settler’s Drift Lodge in the Kariega Game Reserve, taken from the Kariega Game Reserve website

With 10,000 hectares of lush wilderness to explore, Kariega Game Reserve is one of the best places in South Africa to witness the Big 5 (which include elephant, rhino, leopard, lion, and Cape buffalo). The Reserve also has two rivers traversing its land, which makes it a hotspot for wildlife looking for a fresh sip of water (or bath!).

The Kariega Game Reserve also features five lodges with two catering to families, making Kariega the ideal destination for families, groups, and couples alike.

The Reserve is also malaria-free, so guests do not need to worry about protecting themselves with anti-malaria pills.

Guests at Kariega enjoy both morning and afternoon game drives and can even take part in boat cruises or kayaking excursions for birding safaris. Other activities offered at the lodges in Kariega include fishing, interactive bush walks, and spa treatments.

Mount Camdeboo Private Game Reserve 

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Image above of one of the suites at Mount Camdeboo Private Gavem Reserve, taken from the Mount Camdeboo website

Also malaria-free, the Mount Camdeboo Private Game Reserve allows guests to have peace of mind while exploring the great outdoors of South Africa.

The Reserve is home to three beautifully appointed Cape Dutch guesthouses that sit in a valley surrounded by the Sneeuberg Mountain Range. These unique guesthouses were once the homes of settlers generations ago and have been delicately converted into guest accommodations. The houses offer a historical setting with modern amenities to ensure guests experience authenticity and comfort all at once.

Extremely diverse, Mount Camdeboo offers families, honeymooners, and large groups the opportunity to discover the rich history and biodiversity of the land through a variety of activities. Some of these activities include game drives, guided bush walks, cheetah tracking, visits to the historic Anglo Boer War Site, tours of pre-historic fossil trails, and more.

Throughout the Reserve’s 14,000 hectares of ancient land, guests can witness a variety of wildlife, including cheetah, Cape buffalo, giraffe, zebra, sable, white rhino, and a wide variety of stunning bird species, and much more.

Sibuya Game Reserve 

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Image above taken from the Sibuya Game Reserve website

Home to three stunning lodges – each with their own rustic and luxurious feel – Sibuya Game Reserve provides lavish comfort for guests among some of the most beautiful natural terrain.

For bird enthusiasts, Sibuya is an absolute must! With nearly 400 different bird species, guests on a South African safari vacation can enjoy exciting birding safaris via boat cruise or land safaris. Guests can also witness the Big Five, river otters, and other intriguing wild game during their South Africa safari tours.

In addition to the Reserve’s gorgeous accommodations, Sibuya is also famous for its incredible cuisine. Guests enjoy a variety of menu options each day, sourced from the freshest ingredients. The meals served at Sibuya are the perfect start and end to a day filled with adventure and relaxation!

Samara Private Game Reserve 

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Image above taken from Samara Private Game Reserve

A five-star game reserve, Samara is an absolutely breathtaking sanctuary in the remote reaches of the Eastern Cape. Surrounded by a dramatic mountain range, this 70,000-hectare Reserve is home to a large concentration of free-roaming wildlife.

This malaria-free Reserve also features three accommodations, including the Karoo Lodge, Manor House, and the self-catering Mountain Retreat. Each property boasts gorgeous décor that is inspired by the surrounding landscapes.

In addition to remarkable accommodations, Samara Private Game Reserve also offers guests a variety of activities to explore the far reaches of the wilderness. Some of these activities include a visit to the Khoisan Paintings, planting a spekboom, visiting the Tracker Academy, embarking on a Biome Walk, searching for aardvarks on an aardvark safari (a highly elusive animal), bird watching, and, of course, exceptional game drives.

HillsNek 

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Image above taken from the HillsNek Safari Camp website

Simply enchanting, HillsNek Safari Camp is a romantic retreat in the secluded and malaria-free corner of the Amakhala Game Reserve. With an intimate atmosphere, world-class service, and exceptional views of rolling hills and the animal-abundant Bushman’s River, guests experience complete peace and rejuvenation while visiting.

Guests experience exceptional South Africa safari tours throughout the Amakhala Game Reserve, which covers a span of 18,000 acres. Some of the wildlife frequently witnessed on HillsNek safaris include lion, buffalo, giraffe, cheetah, elephant, wildebeest, zebra, oryx, eland, and white and black rhino.

In addition to personalized game drives HillsNek also offers guests the opportunity to take part in birding safaris, river cruising, guided bush walks, and visits to Amakhala Art & Craft Centre.

And one of the best things about HillsNek is that they only have 4 suites – which means guests experience a highly intimate South Africa safari vacation with every need catered to by hospitable staff. The rooms are absolutely stunning and the perfect retreat for when you’re not exploring the great outdoors.

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