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Mozzies are a nuisance. But in a malaria-area they can be more than that – a serious health threat for travellers. Avoid the worry at the following malaria-free safari destinations in South Africa.

Transmitted through the bite of a female Anopheles mosquito, malaria is the major medical factor to take into consideration when booking a wildlife safari to South Africa, especially during and just after periods of rain. Although malaria can be easily prevented with medication, some travellers prefer to steer clear of malaria-areas, just to be safe. While malaria is present in some popular safari destinations in South Africa, there are enough malaria-free Big 5 areas to keep everyone happy.

Big 5, malaria-free safari, South Africa
© Simon Espley

Here are six stunning malaria-free safari destinations in South Africa, five of which offer the Big 5 (rhino, elephant, lion, leopard & buffalo):

Madikwe Game Reserve, North West Province

Madikwe Private Game Reserve, nestled on the border between South Africa and Botswana, is a lesser known gem that is completely malaria-free. Extending 76,000 hectares, this wild and remote paradise is one of the largest reserves in South Africa and is home to the Big 5 plus a thriving population of the endangered wild dog and other sought-after species such as cheetah and brown hyena. Bird-watchers will enjoy about 360 species in this dry Kalahari ecosystem.

While some travellers overlook this reserve in favour of more popular parks such as Kruger National Park, Madikwe also has plenty to offer, without the crowds.

Waterberg, Limpopo

Often described as a best kept secret, the Waterberg district is just a 3-hour drive from Johannesburg, making it one of the most accessible malaria-free safari destinations in South Africa. Stretching over 150,000 hectares, the area is known for its rugged mountain landscapes, rich tapestry of varied habitats and for private game reserves that offer the Big 5.

In addition to this, Waterberg is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and considered one of South Africa’s most significant archaeological and palaeontological sites for its 3-million-year-old humanoid fossils that have been discovered there, as well as the ancient rock formations and thousand-year-old San rock art sites. Despite its proximity to the urban hub of Johannesburg, the Waterberg has the ability to make you feel worlds away.

Pilanesberg National Park, North West Province

Home to an abundance of wildlife, including Africa’s famous Big 5, Pilanesberg National Park is a beautiful 50,000 hectare, proudly malaria-free reserve just a few hours’ drive from Johannesburg. Situated in the ecologically rich transition zone between the dry Kalahari and the wet Lowveld, Pilanesberg is centred around an extinct volcano crater.

This totally unique setting fosters lush bushland vegetation and an array of intriguing wildlife and bird life that wouldn’t necessarily be found living together normally. This makes Pilanesberg one of the most fascinating parks in South Africa and an ideal option for a malaria-free safari.

Addo Elephant National Park, Eastern Cape

Now the third largest national park in South Africa, this 360,000 hectare biodiverse ecosystem is home to the Big 7! Situated just an hour’s drive from Port Elizabeth in South Africa, not only does Addo Elephant Park host malaria-free safaris, but it also offers marine life viewing to provide the opportunity for guests to witness the famous Big 5, plus the two most popular ocean citizens – southern right whales and great white sharks.

Home to a large population of elephants, Addo Elephant National Park is the perfect malaria-free destination for elephant lovers and nature enthusiasts. There are numerous private game reserves in the Addo area, also offering Big 5 encounters.

Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park, KwaZulu-Natal

Established in 1895, the 96,000 hectare Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park is the oldest National Park in South Africa. Located in Northern KwaZulu-Natal, just a few hours’ drive from Durban, Hluhluwe iMfolozi is a convenient and accessible safari destination. The hilly terrain hosts the Big 5, as well as elusive species such wild dog and cheetah.

This was the home of “Operation Rhino” in the 1950’s when white rhinos were saved from the brink of extinction. While not technically considered to be malaria-free, Hluhluwe is a low risk malaria-area and infections are extremely rare.

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, North West Province (not Big 5)

Combining the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa, and the Gemsbok National Park in the extreme south-west area of Botswana, Kgalagadi Transfontier National Park is one of the largest conservation areas in Africa, at 3,8 million hectares.

Despite its harsh semi-arid environment, the park boasts an abundance of animals and is well-known for its spectacular lion, cheetah and leopard sightings, making it a popular tourist destination. There are no elephants, rhinos or buffalo in the Kgalagadi, therefore this is not a Big 5 area.

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