Top South African Safari Sightings

Country 27: South Africa | This post is part of my 30×30 series. Read more here!

Our sweeping South Africa trip took us from Johannesberg to Cape Town (break for Namibia!) and then back again to the Vredefort Dome, a lush and dramatic area about an hour and a half outside of Jo’Berg. We’d seen some animals in our other travels, but this part of the trip was our first proper safari—we did both a self-guided safari and a guided safari (you can read the pros and cons of both here). While we tried to keep the cameras down and our eyes open to really experience this wild day, I couldn’t resist capturing video of some of our favorite safari moments.

Top South African Safari Sightings

These zebras were the first animals we saw in Pilanesberg National Park. This trio trotted right up and past us, with barely a sideways glance.

A little further on, a man in an SUV waved us down. He gave us the tip that around the next bend was a pack of rare African Wild Dogs quite close to the road. These animals are really endangered throughout most of Africa, so getting to see them in a natural habitat was truly incredible. Read more tips for your self-guided safari here!

Some of my favorite moments starred the Pilanesberg elephants. We spotted a trio of elephants from a decent distance, and pulled over to watch. Since we were self-driving, there wasn’t an pressure to GO GO GO, so we wound up sitting there for a little over 45 minutes. The elephants rewarded our patience by coming closer…

and closer… crossing right in front of our car with little care in the world.

And if we thought that was close, we got even closer later, as we hurried to leave the park and meet our guided tour for the evening safari. We spotted this guy munching his grass by the road, but he didn’t seem to like us passing him—which, frankly, was terrifying. Oh scheisse, indeed.

In the evening, we took a guided tour of the park (the only way you can see the animals after dark). I wasn’t a huge fan of the guided tour, which felt more like a drive-by safari than a deep experience, but the evening hours definitely brought out more animals, like this elegant giraffe.

We ended the evening with a ranger-guided tour booked with the Pilanesberg park. The ranger took us to see some lions (barely visible in the tall grass), rhinos, and finally, this chunky dude, helping himself to a healthy dinner.

Going to South Africa’s national parks and private game reserves was absolute magic, especially for a city kid who’d only ever seen these animals in zoos. If you’re worried that safari is too expensive for you, consider doing a self-guided tour—which was way cheaper, and allowed us the freedom to linger on moments and animals that we particularly cared about.