Travellers often ask us about budget-friendly Big Five Safaris near Cape Town. And, who wouldn't want to hop straight off a beautiful sun-kissed beach onto a thrilling Big Five game drive?
The simple answer: yes! There are affordable Big Five game parks close to Cape Town.
The good news is that the Big Five game parks in the Western Cape are all malaria free, unlike Kruger National Park and many of the bigger reserves with high-risk malaria seasons. The not-so-good news is that the game parks closer to Cape Town are generally smaller with less spectacular wildlife viewing (in terms of diversity and numbers) than the more famous game reserves of Mpumalanga and Limpopo. Nevertheless, there are game parks closer to Cape Town which offer a good introduction (especially for first-time safari-goers) to the African bush and wildlife including the Big Five - rhino, leopard, elephant, buffalo and lion.
This is not lion country
Cape Town is situated in the Western Cape Province of South Africa, with the Atlantic ocean along the western shoreline and the Indian Ocean to the east. The climate is distinctly Mediterranean and the region is home to the unique Fynbos biome which boasts an incredible biodiversity found nowhere else in the world.
Whilst spectacular in its own right, the Cape Peninsula is very different to the typical African savannah that your average lion would happily call home. Nevertheless, if your time is limited and you are unable to travel to the bigger reserves outside of the province, then there are a few good affordable safari options offering Big Five game viewing within easy travelling distances of Cape Town.
Budget Big Five Safari Destinations close to Cape Town
- Inverdoorn Game Reserve - 2½ hours drive from Cape Town
- Garden Route Game Lodge - 3½ hours from Cape Town
- Aquila Private Game Reserve - less than 2 hours from Cape Town
There are other affordable game parks with plenty of large mammals, including members of the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo), but none of these is home to all of the Big Five. There are also other reputable Big Five game parks in the Western Cape, but these cater to the high-end market which means that it would be more affordable to fly from Cape Town to South Africa's leading safari region for a budget safari in a world-famous reserve like Kruger (we'll come back to this later). Getting back to the three top Big Five game reserves close to Cape Town...
This is a good option for two reasons: the proximity to Cape Town compared to other Big Five parks and the relatively good size of the reserve. It is not the very cheapest of the budget options, but the quality of the safari experience is worth the little extra spend.
The 2½ hours drive from Cape Town makes Inverdoorn easily accessible as a day visit, but it is a full day out. The reserve is open to day visitors, costing about R1650 per person, including lunch and game viewing (excluding transfers).
- Home to the Big Five, giraffes, cheetahs, hippos, zebras, eland, gemsbok, kudus, impalas, springbok, wildebeest and more.
- Covers 10 000 hectares of semi-arid wilderness in the Klein (Small) Karoo near Ceres.
- Hosts a renowned cheetah rehabilitation sanctuary - Western Cape Cheetah Rehabilitation Centre.
- Early morning walking safaris to encounter giraffes (for overnight guests only).
- Return transfers between Inverdoorn and Cape Town or the International Airport can easily be arranged.
Safari Activities: Cheetah Rescue & Rehabilitation Centre visits; Morning and afternoon game drives; Guided bush walks with giraffes (depending on conditions); Stargazing in the Little Karoo.
Inverdoorn Game Reserve on TripAdvisor: 415 reviews, 253 of which rate Inverdoorn as very good or excellent, with 13 very poor reviews (01 March 2018). For more insight visitInverdoorn on Facebook or Inverdoorn on Twitter.
Safari Lodge Accommodation:
Visitors stay at the Iziba Safari Lodge, the lodge on Inverdoorn Game Reserve. The lodge caters for various budgets, from mid-range to high-end, offering different accommodation styles.
The most affordable option is the 3-star guest house costing about R3000 per person (for two adults sharing) per night and the 4-star chalets at about R3700 per person for two people sharing per night. These rates exclude single supplements for solo travellers, so expect to pay more if you are travelling alone. The rates include breakfast, lunch and dinner, two safari activities a day and welcome drinks. The chalets are air-conditioned (the guesthouse rooms only have fans) and en-suite. Facilities include a swimming pool, restaurant, lounge, boma and gift shop.
If you plan on visiting Inverdoorn, you need to make a reservation in advance, especially if you want to stay overnight.
Book a Budget Safari to Inverdoorn Game Reserve
We feature three well-priced package deals to Inverdoorn, including transfers from your accommodation in Cape Town to Inverdoorn and back again, as well as accommodation (where applicable) and meals at the lodge.
- 3 Day Budget Cape Town Big Five Safari
- 2 Day Budget Cape Town Big Five Safari
- Full Day Cape Town Big Five Budget Safari
Another excellent-value option is our Cape Town Big Five Safari & City Stay Package which combines a full-day Inverdoorn Wildlife Safari with a full day Cape Peninsula and Cape Winelands Tour, including B&B accommodation in Cape Town.
This lodge is slightly more budget-friendly and has loads of great reviews. It is an hour further away from Cape Town than Inverdoorn Game Reserve. At 3½ hours drive from Cape Town, the Garden Route Game Lodge is probably just too far for a day tour from Cape Town. However, day visitors are allowed into the reserve free of charge and can join the daily game drives at 11 am and 2 pm. The daily game drive options are ideal for the footloose, travelling along the Garden Route.
- Home to the Big Five, cheetah, giraffe, zebra, bontebok, red hartebeest, kudu, eland, impala, springbok and more.
- Transfers between the Garden Route Game Lodge and Cape Town International Airport or George Airport can be arranged.
- Family safaris and facilities ideal for families with children.
Safari Activities: Game viewing drives; guided tour of the Reptile Centre and the Cheetah Conservation Centre.
Garden Route Game Lodge on TripAdvisor: 1116 reviews, 635 of which rate the Garden Route Game Lodge as excellent and 203 as very good, with only 4 very poor rating reviews (01 March 2018).
Safari Lodge Accommodation:
Overnight guests stay at the 3 Star lodge on the game reserve which is located in a scenic spot along the Langeberg Mountain Range. Accommodation rates start at about R5200 per twin room per night. There are a variety of lodge rooms, chalets and suites, including family units. The rooms are en-suite, air-conditioned with modern amenities. Facilities include two swimming pools, restaurant, lounge, spa and feature garden.
The Garden Route Game Lodge also runs various special offers, such as family discounts and discounted three-night stays.
Under 2 hours from Cape Town - this is the closest Big Five Safari destination to Cape Town. The prices are relatively good and if you are not expecting the rolling grasslands of quintessential African safari country then Aquila should meet your expectations.
Aquila is open to day visitors, offering daily transfers between Cape Town and the game reserve. An afternoon safari costs about R1450, including welcome drinks, a buffet lunch and one game drive (excluding transfers which cost about R890 per person).
- Home to the Big Five, giraffe, hippo, antelope and over 170 bird species.
- Covers 7 500 hectares of Karoo wilderness between the Langeberg and Outeniqua Mountains.
- Four-star lodge with various accommodation options.
- There is an Animal Rescue Centre at the reserve.
- Horseback and quad bike safaris available.
Activities include: game drives, sunset champagne drives, horseback safaris, quad bike drives, 4x4 trails and fishing.
Aquila has two TripAdvisor pages totalling about 547 traveller reviews, with 181 excellent reviews on TripAdvisor. Of the travel reviews, 43 visitors rate Aquila poorly, many of whom felt the reserve was too much like a zoo. To get a better sense of what Aquila is like, visit Aquila on Facebook and Aquila on Twitter.
Safari Lodge Accommodation
The most affordable rooms at the lodge cost about R2000 per person sharing per night and the cottages about R2400 to R3400 per person sharing per night (depending on the season). Again, the rates exclude single supplements, so expect to pay more if you are travelling solo. The rates include breakfast, lunch and dinner, two game drives and an optional visit to the animal rescue centre. Facilities include two swimming pools, dining areas, bars, gift shop and children's area.
Book a Budget Safari to Aquila Game Reserve
Our budget safari deals include three excellent-value packages to Aquila. These tours include return transfers (between your accommodation in Cape Town and Aquila), game drives, meals while on safari, and accommodation for the two overnight itineraries.
- 3 Day Budget Cape Town Big Five Lodge Safari
- 2 Day Budget Cape Town Big Five Lodge Safari
- Budget Cape Town Big Five Day Safari
For some of the best Big Five Safaris in South Africa, catch a cheap domestic flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg, or to one of the three airports servicing Kruger National Park directly and do a budget Kruger Safari.
A short two-hour flight will get you from Cape Town to Johannesburg, the base for safaris to Kruger Park and the private game parks in the Greater Kruger Park area. Flights to the Kruger airports cost a bit more and take slightly longer, about two-and-a-half to three hours (depending on the airport) but the direct flights do cut out the 5 to 6-hour drive from Johannesburg to Kruger.
Flying to Johannesburg or Kruger will, of course, take more time than doing a safari in the Western Cape closer to Cape Town and cost you a local air ticket, but there are plenty of affordable Kruger Park Safaris that offer excellent cost savings which make it worthwhile. Our consultants at African Budget Safaris can help you to book domestic flights between Cape Town and Johannesburg or Kruger directly, even providing you with a quote for fly-in Kruger Tours inclusive of flights and transfers.
There are Budget Kruger Park Tours on our website which list fly-in price options (inclusive of flights), such as the 3 Day Kruger Park Camping Safari, 5 Day Kruger Park Budget Camping Safari and 6 Day Budget Kruger Park Camping Safari.
Our budget Kruger Tours generally include transfers from the O.R. Tambo International Airport otherwise these can easily be arranged when you book your safari at a small extra cost. Some of the Kruger Safaris include pick-up at the airports closer to Kruger as well if you plan on flying directly. Simply ask our team of travel experts and we'll design the ideal safari for your budget, travel requirements and preferences.
Alternatively, you can book online through one of the budget domestic airlines flying from Cape Town to Johannesburg, such as Kulula, Mango or FlySafair. For direct flights to Kruger, the two most frequently used airports are Hoedspruit Eastgate Airport (HDS) and Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (MQP). You can book flights from Cape Town to either airport with Airlink and to Hoedspruit (HDS) with SA Express. Take note that Kruger Park covers 19 485 km² (about the size of Israel) so when choosing which airport to fly into, you need to consider which part of Kruger you plan on visiting - Hoedspruit (HDS) for example lies further north.
Whether you prefer to visit Cape Town first and then Kruger or the other way around, you can easily fly into one of the cities and fly out of the other. The multi-city air tickets are often surprisingly well-priced making this an attractive option!
Take an Affordable Road Trip - Cape to Kruger
Another fantastic way to combine Kruger and Cape Town, if you have more time available, is to do a self-drive tour overland. South Africa is a popular self-drive destination given the established infrastructure, high standards of accommodation and stunning scenery.
One of the best road trip routes in the country traces the southern coast, from Cape Town along the Garden Route, before winding up north to Kruger Park, via Natal, Swaziland and Lesotho.
Several of our budget-friendly overland tours journey from Cape Town to Kruger Park, ending in Johannesburg or vice verse. For example, this 20-day Cape to Lesotho, Swaziland & Kruger Overland Camping which includes transport, accommodation, almost all of your meals and an exciting mix of activities at well-selected destinations. Plus, this Overland Camping Tour currently comes with a free 2-day Cape Town City Stay package, as do some of the other similar tours.
The Garden Route & Beyond - Couple Cape Town with Eastern Cape Game Reserves
Although the Garden Route game reserves are mostly not Big Five destinations there are a few exceptions including Garden Route Game Reserve (discussed earlier) and the Gondwana Private Game Reserves, which do host the Big Five. Otherwise, there are plenty of beautiful, malaria-free game reserves that bring you close to nature, host some game (mostly smaller animals and antelope) and offer a great variety of outdoor activities. Excellent non-Big Five options include Buffelsdrift Game Lodge, Botlierskop Private Game Reserve, Keurbooms River Nature Reserve, Bontebok National Park, Outeniqua Nature Reserve, Agulhas National Park, and the Garden Route National Park.
If, however, you have your heart set on seeing the Big Five then there is Addo Elephant Park which lies just beyond the Garden Route. One of South Africa's largest and most popular national parks Addo Elephant National Park is located at the eastern end of the Garden Route. This family-friendly game park is well worth visiting and falls in a malaria-free region. Home to the Big Seven - elephant, rhino, lion, buffalo, leopard, the southern right whale and the great white shark, Addo hosts one of the densest elephant populations on the planet.
Browse our extensive collection of affordable Addo Park Safaris. Two of the cheapest tours (priced at about R6500), are our 6 Day Cape Town, Garden Route & Addo Backpacking Safari and Garden Route Adventure Tour from Cape Town - Accommodated. In addition to Addo, top-notch safari destinations include the Eastern Cape Game Reserves, such as the Big Five Lalibela Game Reserve, Shamwari, Kwandwe Reserve and Kariega Game Reserve. These are private game reserves and lodges which tend to be more expensive and luxurious, yet offer great value-for-money.
In conclusion, when it comes to Cape Town and Big Five Safaris the possibilities are endless, given some time and a bit of budget. With a little extra effort, it is completely viable to combine your time in beautiful Cape Town with superb Big Five game viewing in South Africa, be it in a nearby Big Five game reserve, the famous Kruger Park or the more remote Eastern Cape.
Ready to book a Big Five Safari close to Cape Town?
Take one of our excellently-priced Budget Big Five Safaris to Inverdoorn - 3 Day Budget Cape Town Big Five Safari, 2 Day Budget Cape Town Big Five Safari and Full Day Cape Town Big Five Budget Safari. And for something slightly different, the bush and city tour, which combines the Cape Winelands and Cape Peninsula with Inverdoorn - Cape Town Big Five Safari & City Stay Package.
For even better prices, head to Aquila Game Reserve on one of our budget Cape Town Big Five Safaris - 3 Day Budget Cape Town Big Five Lodge Safari, 2 Day Budget Cape Town Big Five Lodge Safari and Budget Cape Town Big Five Day Safari options.
Take a look at our Cape Town Tours or broaden your search to Safaris in South Africa, to get a sense of what is doable and play around with ideas. Or, for help with your search - contact us and we'll help you to keep it simple and find your ideal Cape Town and Wildlife Safari combination.
[Just a note, regarding the drought in Cape Town the crisis point of Day Zero has now been moved out to 2019. For more information about the water shortage see our Cape Town Water Crisis: FAQ]