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    Game on: the 5 best safari parks near Johannesburg
    You don’t have to travel far from the airport to go on a safari in South Africa. Here are five wildlife reserves a stone’s throw from Johannesburg – which also happen to be some of the best game reserves in South Africa.
    Elephant by water. Credit: Getty Images
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    A proper African safari is something you’ll find on just about every adventurous traveller’s bucket list. However, you don’t need to spend an entire day travelling to get up close and personal with some of the world’s most magnificent animals. Each of these safari parks offer an unforgettable wildlife experience three hours or less by car from downtown Johannesburg.  

    Mziki Private Game Reserve
    Mziki Private Game Reserve vehicle going through water

    Mziki Private Game Reserve 

    Just two hours from Johannesburg, Mziki Private Game Reserve is a 6,000-hectare reserve where you’ll encounter four of the Big Five animals, as well as an astonishing diversity of birds - with 300 species to spot, it’s a twitcher’s paradise. 

    Other activities include barge cruises along the river Hex, archery and pellet shooting, and for guests with kids, the free of charge mini-ranger course. The only accommodation on the reserve is the Mziki Safari Lodge , which offers affordable, eco-friendly lodgings that blend in seamlessly with the African Bushveld. Choose between the charming, thatched chalets or the traditional African rondavel huts for a cosy and comfortable stay.

    Welgevonden Private Game Reserve. Baby lions

    Credit: Michael Raddall

    Welgevonden Private Game Reserve safari suite
    Welgevonden Private Game Reserve sunset

    Credit: Jonathan Swart

    Welgevonden Private Game Reserve 

    A two-and-a-half-hour drive from the capital, Welgevonden was made a private wildlife reserve and conservation area out of a merger of private farms, completed in 1993. It offers a number of accommodation options, from mid-range to luxury, with child-friendly or self-catered choices available.  

    From your base, you can embark on a three-, four- or five-day safari either via jeep or on foot, where you can try to spot all of the Big Five animals that call this nature reserve home. Keep a look out for other big mammals and snakes like the black mamba or the spitting cobra.

    Dinokeng Private Reserve rhino
    Dinokeng Private Reserve elephant. Credit: Getty Images

    Credit: Getty Images

    Dinokeng Private Reserve 

    A safari just an hour from the administrative capital of Pretoria? Yes, it can be done at the Dinokeng Private Reserve – an ecological reserve with a strong conservation mission. It’s malaria-free, as well as a genuine Big Five reserve, with both white and black rhinos. Self-drive permits are available here (there are even free picnic spots for you to use), but you’ll definitely get the most out of a safari adventure with the knowledge of a professional ranger. There are dozens of accommodation options, which vary from basic campsites to private luxury lodges, and everything in between. 

    Mabula Game Lodge. People sat around a fire
    Mabula Game Lodge. Wildebeest and giraffe

    Mabula Game Lodge  

    Located in Limpopo Province just two-and-a-half hours from Johannesburg, the Mabula Game Lodge combines convenience with a truly wild safari experience, featuring animals and activities galore. From horseback safaris to quad biking, guided bush walks to stargazing, or even an afternoon bush barbecue, Mabula is where you’ll create unforgettable memories. Fancy a hot air balloon over the African plains? They can arrange that for you, too.  

    Pilanesberg National Park. Hot air balloon

    Pilanesberg National Park  

    This 550 square kilometre national park , South Africa’s fourth largest, was formed in the caldera of an extinct volcano that erupted some 1.2 billion years ago. It is located just three hours from Johannesburg, not far from the Kalahari Desert. 

    Conservation in the area earnestly began back in 1979, when Operation Genesis introduced more than 6,000 animals to the area to restore its natural wildlife. Walking tours, driving safaris and hot air balloon rides are all available, and there are also abundant accommodation options, from campsites and chalets to luxury lodges, so you’ll no doubt find the perfect space to suit your needs and budget.

    Hero image: Getty Images

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