Malaria-free safaris are increasing in popularity as young families, pregnant ladies, and others unable or unwilling to take anti-malarial medication still want to experience an African safari.
Whatever the reason for wanting to avoid taking anti-malarial precautions or medications, the good news is that there are many excellent malaria-free safari destinations open to you. These malaria-free safari destinations are spread across ecologically diverse regions of South Africa and Namibia, with some of the best national parks in the world and world-class game viewing.
So, if you want to have a true safari experience and see the big five without worrying about malaria medication or precautions, here’s our list of the very best destinations for malaria-free safaris:
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- Eastern Cape malaria-free safaris
- Northern Cape malaria-free safaris
- Waterberg (Limpopo) malaria free safaris
- North West Province malaria-free safaris
What is malaria?
Malaria is an infectious disease carried by female mosquitos that affects humans and other animals, and can be transmitted by just one mosquito bite. Symptoms usually begin ten to fifteen days after being bitten by an infected mosquito, and typically include fever, tiredness, vomiting, and headaches. (Read one travellers’ experience of getting malaria in Uganda.)
In severe cases, malaria can cause yellow skin, seizures, coma, or death, though the high mortality figures of malaria are primarily a reflection of the poor health care in many parts of Africa. The vast majority of tourists who get malaria have fast access to medicine, doctors, clean water and food, and make a complete recovery.
Malaria Free Safari Destinations in South Africa
Malaria is present in many parts of South Africa, and some of the best national parks and game reserves in South Africa – such as the Kruger National Park and others in the north-eastern regions of Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal – are not in the malaria-free zone. However, many award-winning game reserves in South Africa have been established in other regions over the years, relocating large numbers of animals with healthy populations of the big five, wild dog and cheetah, resulting in some phenomenal game-viewing.
South Africa’s Eastern Cape
A safari in the Eastern Cape offers the ideal opportunity to combine a drive along South Africa’s world-famous Garden Route with a malaria-free safari experience at one of the many high-quality private reserves. All game reserves in the Eastern Cape are completley malaria-free and tend to be fully inclusive. This means that meals, game drives, and other safari activities are included in the per night cost.
1. Addo Elephant Park, South Africa
One of South Africa’s most scenic national parks with rolling green hills and lush, evergreen forest make this a perfect year-round malaria-free safari destination. Addo Elephant Park is home to around 500 elephants roaming freely across the 125,000-hectare reserve; the greatest density of elephants per square kilometer in Africa. Other wildlife includes the rest of the big five, zebra, kudu, red hartebeest, over 400 bird species, and the endemic, protected flightless dung beetle. The park extends to the coast where South Africa’s second-largest African penguin colony can be seen, and sightings of whales, great white sharks, and southern right whales are common.
Accommodation around Addo: There’s a good choice of accommodation in and around the park, from luxury lodges and forest cabins and chalets to pitched tents or camping spots. Find prices & book >>
2. Kwandwe Private Game Reserve, South Africa
Big 5 destination Kwandwe Private Game Reserve covers 54,000 acres of private wilderness area. The reserve includes 30 kilometers of the Great Fish River, meaning a diverse landscape and varied wildlife sightings. The reserve has some great family-friendly safari options offering child-focused wildlife activities such as making plaster casts of animal footprints and visits to animal orphanages, to help make your safari more meaningful
Accommodation at Kwandwe: There are four properties in the reserve with 22 beds in total, meaning not too many other people or safari trucks around when you’re doing your game drives. Melton Manor and Uplands Homestead are exclusive-use lodges for families or small groups. Find prices & book >>
3. Samara Private Game Reserve, South Africa
Set amongst wildlife-rich rivers, mountains, and open plains, luxury private game reserve Samara offers guests some of the most breath-taking landscapes in South Africa. Home to a very successful cheetah regeneration program, the reserve gives a good chance of spotting these beautiful cats, alongside the big 5 and large herds of eland.
Accommodation at Samara: Samara offers two exclusive onsite lodges – the Karoo Lodge and Manor House. Find prices & book >>
4. Amakhala Game Reserve, South Africa
The Amakhala Game Reserve is an 18,000-acre joint conservation effort where a former farming area has been rewilded. Wildlife likely to be encountered on game drives in the reserve includes the big five, as well as cheetah, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, and plenty of antelope species.
Accommodation options: There are 10 owner-managed properties across the reserve, ranging from restored country homes to tented camps, ensuring there’s something for everyone. An all-inclusive safari experience and a range of wildlife-focused activities are offered at each property. Find prices & book >>
5. Kariega Game Reserve, South Africa
Kariega is a family-owned and run big five reserve incorporating 10,000 hectares of pristine African wilderness and two large rivers – the Kariega and the Bushmans rivers – giving access to the sea. The reserve offers abundant game viewing, and in addition to the big 5, game to spot at Kariega includes hippo, hyena, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, eland, kudu, waterbuck and a variety of other antelope, as well as a myriad of bird species.
Kariega is a particularly family-friendly game lodge offering a daily children’s programme at the Kids on Safari center.
Accommodation at Kariega Game Reserve: The reserve offers five safari lodges at a variety of price points, though all are at the high end, with quality and service to match. Find prices & book >>
6. Shamwari Game Reserve, South Africa
Big five reserve Shamwari prides itself on being both friendly (the name means “my friend” in Shona), and child-friendly. Childminding services are available on request, along with a host of kid-specific activities to keep them occupied – including the conservation focussed ‘Kids on Safari’ program. What’s particularly nice (and somewhat unusual) about Shamwari for young families is that children from four upwards are permitted on game drives. Just a 2 hour drive from Port Elizabeth, Shamwari is easily accessible.
Accommodation options: Shamwari has seven lodges and one explorer camp, each with a distinct vibe. From exclusive tranquillity, effortless family enjoyment, or the back-to-nature appeal of a luxury tented camp. Find prices & book >>
South Africa’s Northern Cape
South Africa’s Northern Cape offers tranquility and huge open spaces with some of the largest national parks in Africa. The legendary Kalahari Desert makes up a large portion of the Northern Cape, with the Gariep River winding to the Atlantic and providing a water source to the varied wildlife in the region.
7. Tswalu Kalahari Game Reserve, South Africa
Tswalu Kalahari is the largest privately owned game reserve in South Africa – 100,000 hectares located in the Southern Kalahari, close to the Botswana border. Although the reserve is huge, visitor numbers are kept to just 30 at a time, with all guests enjoying a private guided experience to optimise their time there. Aside from the excellent game drives, activities include horse riding, habituated meerkat colony walks, sleep-outs under the stars, and black rhino walking safaris. Children of all ages are welcome, and for families, Tswalu makes for a truly unique and memorable (malaria-free!) safari experience.
Accommodation options: Accommodation is luxurious with a choice of two lodges, the secluded Tarkuni (a private home with 5 suites), and The Motse (a spacious lodge with nine suites). Find prices & book >>
8. The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is one of Southern Africa’s largest and is shared between both Botswana and South Africa. Wildlife includes some of the largest lions and antelope in the world, plus leopard, cheetah, and both brown and spotted hyenas – along with plenty of meerkat colony activity! Self-drive safaris are very much on offer in this park, making for flexible and self-paced game drives.
Accommodation options: There are three rest camps in the park with a range of accommodation types to suit a variety of tastes and budgets including, chalets, family chalets, and campsites. Find prices & book >>
9. Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park, South Africa and Namibia
Ai-Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier National Park is a beautiful desert park on South Africa’s far northern border with Namibia. The landscape is barren at first glance, but on closer inspection, home to an abundance of wildlife adapted to the harsh terrain. With some good luck over 50 species of mammals – including leopard, hyena, and zebras – lizards, tortoises, scorpions and 200 species of birds can be spotted!
Accommodation options: SANParks run a handful of basic rest camps across the park, some with cabins and others with campsites only. You’ll need to bring your own supplies and drinking water. Find prices & book >>
South Africa’s North West Province
One of South Africa’s smallest provinces, the North West Province is bordered by Botswana to the north and is made up of scattered trees and grassland, providing the ideal habitat for a big 5 South African safari.
10. Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa
Located on the Botswana border a 3.5-hour drive from Johannesburg, Madikwe is a wild and remote reserve that’s home to the big five, and is famous for its thriving population of wild dog, as well as gemsbok, springbok, zebra, giraffe and over 340 species of birds.
Accommodation options: The reserve has a large selection of camps and lodges, including the lovely Jaci’s Lodges, Mateya Safari Lodge, Madikwe Safari Lodge, and Little Madikwe Hills. Find prices & book >>
The Waterburg Region, Limpopo Province, South Africa
The Waterberg Region is a malaria-free district of Limpopo Province, in an area teeming with wildlife, spectacular scenery, and many private game reserves with excellent accommodation offering truly intimate safari experiences. Here’s our pick of the best:
11. The Ant Collection, South Africa
Two family-owned and operated lodges – Ant’s Nest and Ant’s Hill – located in their own spectacular private game reserve. The reserve is a real haven for animals (over 40 species) and people looking for a wonderful, malaria-free safari. As well as game drives, there’s horse riding, elephant safaris, and swimming available, amongst other activities.
Accommodation options: The Ant’s Nest and Ant’s Hill offer very family-friendly, luxurious accommodation that is intimate and homely. Find prices & book >>
12. Entabeni Safari Conservancy, South Africa
Entabeni means ‘place of the mountain’, a private reserve spread over five ecosystems including wetlands, grass plains, craggy escarpments, and cliffs. Large animals such as elephants and rhinos are plentiful, along with leopards, cheetahs, and buffalo.
There’s a choice of activities other than game drives to keep you entertained, such as bush walks, sunset lake cruises, horse riding, and helicopter air safaris. Children are welcomed but must be six or over to join a game drive.
Accommodation options: Lodging includes Lakeside Lodge on the shores of Lake Entabeni and Wildside Safari Camp. Find prices & book >>
13. Jembisa Bush Home, South Africa
Multi-award winning Jembisa is a stylish bush home in its own private wildlife reserve, offering a unique safari experience in the beautiful Palala River wilderness. There’s a plethora of wildlife (though no elephant or lion from the big five, which can be viewed on an off-site excursion), and a wide range of wildlife and safari activities (mountain biking, river walks, and tracking classes) that are flexible to suit all ages and interests.
Accommodation options: Jembissa Bush Home has a colonial safari atmosphere with excellent staff and guides providing a flexible, family-friendly bush experience. Find prices & book >>
14. Leobo Private Reserve, South Africa
Leobo Private Reserve is encompassed by rugged rocks, mountains, bushveld savannah, rivers, gorges, and an abundance of wildlife, and is one of only a handful of sole-use private reserves in Africa – allowing guests full access to the entire estate and all its facilities. Teeming with plains game, as well as hippo, there’s also a wide array of activities for all ages including paintballing, quad bikes, shooting, fishing, and more.
Accommodation options: The lodge has luxury 9 chalets with views over the Palala valley – and a stunning swimming pool built into the side of the mountain. It’s fully staffed and rented exclusively, so is perfect for families or groups of friends. Find prices & book >>
15. Mabalingwe Nature Reserve, South Africa
The Mabalingwe biome, made up of 8,500 hectares of bushveld, provides wonderful game-viewing opportunities year-round. The reserve is very family-friendly, and the rolling grasslands make game-viewing a breeze. Home to the big five, and also hippo, giraffe, hyena, and sable, the reserve has a variety of family and child-friendly activities to go alongside their day and night game drives.
Accommodation options: There are many types of accommodation available including chalets, campsites, and bush lodges. Find prices & book >>
16. Pilanesberg National Park, South Africa
A beautiful 50,000-hectare malaria-free national park just a few hours’ drive north-west from Johannesburg. Centered around an extinct volcano crater, its setting is unique and home to the big five along with plenty of other game. You can choose between a self-drive safari and DIY accommodation, or private lodge safari. Either way, the Pilanesberg National Park is a mesmerizing location to take advantage of hot air balloon safaris over the bush at dawn.
Accommodation options: Due to its location near Sun City, there’s a huge range of accommodation options in and around Pilanesberg to suit all tastes and budgets. Find prices & book >>
17. Welgevonden Game Reserve & Marakele National Park, South Africa
Adjoining areas Welgevonden Game Reserve and Marakele National Park are in the process of removing their fences to allow the game to roam in a larger area. Both parks are home to the big five, as well as 30 more mammal species and over 250 species of birds. Marakele is more for intrepid safari-goers than luxury safari seekers – you’ll definitely need your own four-wheel-drive car, whilst Welgevonden as a private game reserve has a focus on high-end luxury.
Accommodation options: Are plentiful and varied inside the reserve, with a host of luxurious and extremely hospitable lodges and camps to choose from. Find prices & book >>
Malaria Free Safari Destinations in Namibia
Malaria is prevalent in eastern and northern Namibia from November to June, but from July to September there’s no malaria risk in Namibia’s northern regions of Etosha or Damaraland. This means that with the right timing, it’s possible to visit two of Namibia’s standout safari destinations with the guarantee of no malaria. Further south in Namibia the Namib-Naukluft National Park is malaria-free year-round.
18. Etosha National Park
Whilst you’ll need to time your trip to Etosha between July and September to ensure a malaria-free safari, these are also the dry months with water sources drying up and wildlife congregating around waterholes – making it an excellent time to spot game. The white salt pan makes for a dramatic game-viewing backdrop, and along the pan’s southern edge is a collection of waterholes that are a magnet for wildlife. Common sightings are herds of zebra and huge elephants, rhinos and giraffe, with the big five all present. Read more about Etosha National Park.
Accommodation options in Etosha: There are three main camps in Etosha giving a range of options – from great camping facilities to mid-range chalets and a few high-end bungalows. Close to the main gates of the park, there is also a range of mid-range accommodation options and full-on luxury lodge-type nature reserves such as Onguma. Find prices & book >>
One of Namibia’s lesser-known gems, Damaraland is a dry, mountainous region in northern Namibia with desert-adapted wildlife including elephant, rhino, giraffe, and lion wandering the fenceless terrain. Seeing wildlife in this beautifully stark environment is a thrilling addition to any safari, and combines well with time in nearby Etosha National Park.
Accommodation options in Etosha: Damaraland is a large area with a handful of luxurious lodges dotted around. Find prices & book >>
At first glance, Sossusvlei and the surrounding Namib-Naukluft National Park seems like a lifeless pan in the south of Namibia. Aside from the shape-shifting red sand dunes and nearby photographer’s dreams of Deadvlei and Sesriem Canyon, there’s actually lots of wildlife on view across the park. Namib-Naukluft provides sanctuary to large mammals such as the black rhino and herds of gemsbok, Hartmann’s mountain zebra, springbok, ostrich and giraffe, and to predators such as spotted and brown hyena, leopard and cheetah.
Accommodation options in Sossusvlei: The only accommodation in the park comes in the form of several campsites in the north, though with minimal facilities – you’ll need to be 100% self-sufficient, with firewood, water, and food. There are plenty of accommodation options around the fringes, particularly Sesriem, which is the best base for trips to Sossusvlei. Find prices & book >>
Map of where to enjoy malaria free safaris
That’s our pick of the very best malaria-free safari options in Africa. Are there any other parks or game reserves you would add to this list? Please let us know in the comments section below!