Top 10 Wildlife Sanctuaries In South Africa - Updated 2024

| 5 min read

Just like many African countries, South Africa is an excellent tourist destination for wildlife lovers. The country has put a lot of effort to conserve its wildlife from human encroachment and other factors that threaten its existence. In South Africa, you do not need to go deep into the jungle to discover its beautiful heritage. A number of top-rated reserves are situated just a short drive from major cities like Pretoria and Johannesburg. This setting is convenient, especially for visitors who do not wish to spend a night in camping centers. Either way, a day in South Africa’s sanctuaries guarantees unique encounters with the world’s most beautiful creatures. For more on what to expect, read through this article of top wildlife sanctuaries in South Africa.

Tip from tour guide


South Africa

Amatungulu Amatungulu

While exploring the outdoors in South Africa, keep an eye out for Amatungulu. Carissa macrocarpa is a shrub commonly found in tropical and southern Africa. It is known as the Natal plum (or the large num-num in South Africa). In Zulu, as well as in the Bantu tribes of Uganda, it is called Amathungulu or umThungulu oBomvu. Meanwhile, in Afrikaans, it is called noem-noem.

1. World of Birds Wildlife Sanctuary & Monkey Park, Cape Town

Swinhoe's Pheasant RWD
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Dick Daniels used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Many people are used to visiting parks, but have you ever considered touring a bird sanctuary? World of Birds Wildlife Sanctuary & Monkey Park welcomes you to one of the largest birds sanctuaries in the world to admire and interact with over 400 bird species. Some of the magnificent birds you will see here include endangered jungle fowls, barbets, cassowaries, and pheasants. Other than birds, the park also showcases a variety of reptiles and mammals. To boost the experience, the sanctuary has walk-through aviaries all over the facility for visitors to easily maneuver while viewing the amazing collection of bird species.

World of Birds Wildlife Sanctuary & Monkey Park

Address: Valley Rd, Hout Bay, Cape Town, 7806, South Africa

Website: World of Birds Wildlife Sanctuary & Monkey Park

Opening hours: 9am – 5pm (daily)

Price: Adults: 8 USD; Children (aged 3-16): 3 USD; Students: 5 USD

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2. Kevin Richardson Wildlife Sanctuary, Cullinan

Nyalas in the bush
Source: Photo by user Tambako The Jaguar used under CC BY-ND 2.0

Many people have zoophobia, which is understandable considering some animals can be dangerous in their natural habitat. Kevin Richardson Wildlife Sanctuary offers visitors a chance to overcome this fear, especially in regard to members of the large predatory community. The sanctuary is home to the big five, so you should expect to see and take pictures of lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards, and buffalos. Filming is also accepted, and with the right arrangement, you can make a great documentary here. Besides animal viewing, Kevin Richardson Wildlife Sanctuary educates guests on different aspects of wildlife preservation. This education is key to addressing the carnivorous population’s rapid decline in different parts of the world.

Kevin Richardson Wildlife Sanctuary

Address: Cullinan, South Africa

Website: Kevin Richardson Wildlife Sanctuary

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3. Addo Elephant National Park, Port Elizabeth (from USD 131.95)

wildlife sanctuaries in south africa | addo elephant national park, port elizabeth

A short distance from Port Elizabeth lies another sanctuary called Addo Elephant National Park. As the name hints, elephants are one of the major highlights of Addo. The park is home to over 600 elephants that often roam the facility feeding and doing mud baths to regulate their body temperatures. Addo is also home to the endangered black rhinos — take many pictures of the beautiful wildlife because such opportunities don’t come every day. As the third-largest national park in the country, Addo provides sanctuary for big five animals, including antelopes, zebras, and rare dung beetles that are exclusively found here.

Tip from tour guide


South Africa

Addo Elephant National Park
In Addo Elephant National Park, there are more than 600 elephants, 400 Cape buffaloes, and 48 endangered black rhinos (Diceros bicornis michaeli) as well as a variety of antelope species. Lions and spotted hyenas have also recently been re-introduced to the area. The largest remaining population of the flightless dung beetle (Circellium bacchus) is located within the park too.

Tip from Content Creator

Addo Elephant National Park Addo Elephant National Park Addo Elephant National Park

Photos of Addo Elephant National Park shared by content creator from the United States, Faye.

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Addo Elephant National Park All Inclusive Full-Day Safari

Duration: 9.0 hour

457 reviews

4. Elephant Sanctuary Hartbeespoort, Hartbeesport (from USD 241.0)

Elephant Sanctuary Hartbeespoort offers a unique opportunity for visitors to get up close with some of the most dreaded animals in the jungle, especially elephants. Here, the elephants have been tamed using positive reinforcement approaches so that they enjoy interacting with visitors. What’s more, the sanctuary allows guests to touch or even feed the elephants. Clearly, there is nowhere else you can experience such moments. And that’s not all — at Elephant Sanctuary Hartbeespoort, you will be taught many fascinating things about behavior, conservation, and biology of the animals. The guides are well-informed, friendly, and take great pleasure in explaining every detail to visitors.

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South Africa

Elephant Sanctuary Hartbeespoort Elephant Sanctuary Hartbeespoort
We visited Elephant Sanctuary with Yves from France. If you want to experience the best of Gauteng, you have to include this place. It will introduce you to these gentle giants.
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Elephant Sanctuary Tour from Johannesburg or Pretoria

Duration: 6 hours

13 reviews

South Africa Tour Guide

Thabang Molefe

Thabang Molefe

My name is Thabang Molefe, Director/ Owner of Tsalanang Travel & Tours. I’m a qualified National Tourist Guide in South Africa, born and breast fed in Johannesburg. I have worked in the sports & events industry where I discovered my passion for traveling, and later worked with some of the TOP destination management/operators in South Africa. I love meeting people, and exchangin... Read more

Tours by Thabang

South Africa Tour Guide



Jakes is registered and accredited with FET Certificate Tourist Guiding. He is competent to advise clients on all essential aspects of travel in South Africa having passed the SA Specialist course from South African Tourism. As a good story teller, he makes any historical situation or site come to life; and this is what makes him to stand out as a knowledgeable and exciting guide. “I’m always a... Read more

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5. Mbidi Resort & Animal Sanctuary, Grobersdal

Posted by Werner Pretorius on Sunday, 30 December 2018

Not a long drive from Johannesburg and Pretoria is another must-visit conservatory for animals called Mbidi Resort & Animal Sanctuary. This animal sanctuary takes care of injured and abandoned animals for the future generation. While here, the animals are treated and trained to interact with people freely without creating much tension. For families, Mbidi Resort & Animal Sanctuary is a great place to learn and truly disconnect. Through these interactive programs, adults, as well as children, learn to overcome their fear of animals such as snakes, lions, and tigers. One thing you should know about Mbidi is that the facility does not condone activities such as hunting and other exploitive sports.

Mbidi Resort & Animal Sanctuary

Address: Stoffberg Road, Loskopdam, Groblersdal, 0470, South Africa

Website: Mbidi Resort & Animal Sanctuary

Opening hours: Mon - Fri: 7:30am – 4pm; Sat - Sun: 7:30am – 5pm

Price: Adults: 4 USD; Children (under 12 years old): 2 USD

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6. Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, Hoedspruit

Hoedspruit Research and Breeding Centre for Endangered Species
Source: Photo by user Dror Eiger used under CC BY-SA 2.0

The rapid increase of the human population had a significant impact on wildlife. People are continually encroaching to forests and other natural habitats; thereby, displacing wildlife from their homes. As a result, the animal population is dwindling at an alarming rate. Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre intervenes by saving endangered animals and providing them with a safe haven from such threats. Over the years, the facility has rescued and rehabilitated countless lions, white rhinoceros, and African elephants back to health and they continue to attract tourists all over the world. Once the animals are fully rehabilitated, they are usually released back into the wild, notwithstanding their revenue generation potential. Come, interact, and show your support to this noble cause.

Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre

Address: Endangered Species Centre, R40, Hoedspruit, 1380, South Africa

Website: Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre

Opening hours: Mon, Wed, Fri: 9am – 5pm; Tue, Thu, Sat - Sun: 8am–5pm

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7. Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Upington

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park - springbok
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Jaro Nemčok used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park holds a fantastic selection of wild animals that wows visitors with their striking beauty. Some examples of animals that are easy to spot in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park include the black-maned Kalahari lions, raptors, ostriches, and African wild dogs, among others. Also — although not always — the park experiences seasonal migration of wildebeests and springboks in search of green pastures and water. This natural phenomenon is always fascinating to watch. The fun doesn’t end there as Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park has serene camping and picnic sites where you can truly unwind in nature’s lap.

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Address: R360, Upington, 8800, South Africa

Website: Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Opening Hours: 7:30am - sundown (5am or 6pm, depending on the season, daily)

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8. Lion and Cheetah Sanctuary, Welgedacht

Nothing beats a relaxing morning at the pool...

Posted by Lion and Cheetah Sanctuary on Saturday, 7 September 2019

Contrary to common misconception, lions and cheetahs can be good friends to humans once handled with love and appreciation. The interactive sessions at Lion and Cheetah Sanctuary are enough proof that harmony between the two species is achievable. The name is quite ironic because this is not a purely lion and cheetah reserve. As a matter of fact, the sanctuary is also inhabited by other fascinating animals such as servals, antelopes, horses, and hyenas. There is a lot to see here, so come prepared with a nice hat to shield you against the scorching sun; strong shoes to maneuver the African bushes easily; and finally, an HD camera to capture the beautiful memories in the Lion and Cheetah Sanctuary.

Lion and Cheetah Sanctuary

Address: 25°28'06. 28°28'10., Plot 45 Welgedaaght, 1000, South Africa

Website: Lion and Cheetah Sanctuary

Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)

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9. Drakenstein Lion Park, Paarl

White lion SA
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Ctac used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Another fantastic place in South Africa to admire and interact with the animals — especially lions — is Drakenstein Lion Park. Established over two decades ago in the scenic Cape Winelands, Drakenstein Lion Park has always been committed to rescuing, treating, rehabilitating, breeding, and giving lions a lifetime home far from human persecutions. It is also the one place in South Africa where you cannot leave without spotting a lion. Besides the large numbers of local breeds, the park also harbors the rare white lions, which makes the viewing experience truly memorable. Also, in recent years, the sanctuary has taken in other animal species like chimpanzees to spice up the viewing experience.

Drakenstein Lion Park

Address: Old Paarl Rd, Paarl, 7625, South Africa

Website: Drakenstein Lion Park

Opening hours: 9:30am – 5pm (daily)

Price: Adults: 4 USD; Children: 2 USD

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10. Kruger National Park, Phalaborwa (from USD 395.0)

wildlife sanctuaries in south africa | kruger national park, phalaborwa

Kruger National Park is an excellent place to start your exploration of the African bushland. In this park, it is advisable to take a safari vehicle because some of the big five animals like buffalos are very territorial and once threatened, can react violently. For visitors interested in seeing the predators, the best time to visit is in the early morning before they disappear to their hideouts. That, however, doesn’t imply that there is nothing to see during the day. You can hang out in the onsite restaurant that offers delicious food and refreshing drinks before returning to the bushes to check out the giraffes, zebras, and much more magnificent wildlife. If you feel like extending your adventure into the night at the end of the day, the park has excellent accommodations options for you.

Tip from tour guide


South Africa

Kruger National Park

Photo of Kruger National Park shared by South Africa tour guide, Thabang Molefe.

Tip from Content Creator

Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park is the most famous park in South Africa and should be on everyone’s bucket list. Stay in a lodge for at least 3 nights to be able to explore the park and surrounding areas. Also, I recommend traveling to South Africa during the winter season in Europe because it will be the summer season in South Africa. Rent a car to be flexible and go on a safari.
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Full-Day Private Big 5 Safari in Kruger National Park

Duration: 10 hour

9 reviews

South Africa’s gold

Clearly, wildlife is an important contributor to the African economy. Come and support this noble cause in by visiting these top wildlife sanctuaries in South Africa. Furthermore, a visit to these sanctuaries will be an excellent opportunity to meet, interact, and fight your phobia of the world’s most beautiful — and sometimes, dreaded — animals.

Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.


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Josiah Ndung'u is a Mechanical Engineering graduate and a travelling enthusiast who loves networking with new people, learning new cultures, having fun (especially at the beach), and sampling new...Read more

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