If you’re planning an African safari, you’re bound to have a few travel health questions. Chief among them could well be the risk of contracting malaria, which is often a source of pre-safari worries. The high-pitched whining of mosquitoes can be an irritation, but a bite from one of them can cause serious complications. Insect repellent, sleeping under nets and taking prophylaxis as prescribed by your physician can all help reduce the risk substantially but – especially if you’re travelling with young children – you may want to choose malaria-free safari destinations in Africa for complete peace of mind. Here’s our selection of the best of them (with mosquito nets retained for a romantic, decorative touch!):
1. Madikwe Game Reserve
Madikwe Game Reserve, hard up against the Botswana border in South Africa’s North-West Province, ticks all the safari boxes including being malaria-free (which is not quite the same as being mosquito-free, although in the winter season they’re one of the rarer species). Madikwe is an incredible conservation success story. It was once farmland, but thanks to a massive relocation exercise (which saw over 10 000 animals introduced into the reserve) it is now a thriving ecosystem with several luxury safari lodges and opportunities to see the famous ‘Big Five’. Madikwe today is particularly noted for its thriving wild dog population.
2. Etosha National Park
Namibia’s premier national park, in the far north of this desert nation, is renowned for its concentrations of animals at the waterholes which ring the vast salt pan. Some of the pans feature sunken hides, from which you can watch thirsty creatures come to drink (and take unique photos of details like elephants’ toe nails!). The waterholes are also used by predators to spring ambushes, leading to some intense wildlife action at close quarters. The aridity of this part of Etosha – with animals appearing to ‘float’ in the heat haze – makes it completely malaria-free.
3. Kariega Game Reserve
Situated in South Africa’s lesser-known Eastern Cape Province, Kariega is free of malaria – but that’s about the only natural element that’s missing. The ‘Big Five’ are all present, and Kariega’s location on the famed and pretty Garden Route means that it is very accessible as part of a driving or coastal holiday. Mountains and fast-flowing rivers form the perfect backdrop for game drives and guided walking safaris, with so much to see that insect bites will be the last thing on your mind. Kariega offers an all-round safari experience including authentic cultural interactions and opportunities to engage with and assist local communities.
4. Kwandwe Game Reserve
Also on the Garden Route in South Africa’s pristine Eastern Cape Province, Kwandwe is a large private game reserve that not only provides a sanctuary for endangered species, but also plenty of opportunities for human beings to find a place of rest and relaxation. With a number of accommodation options including chic family villas, Kwandwe is the perfect setting in which to enjoy close encounters of the herd kind. Kwandwe is noted for being on the banks of the Great Fish River – this is a reserve where it’s true that a river runs through it – and for having a very high ‘land to guest’ ratio.
5. Masai Mara Game Reserve
If you close your eyes and picture Africa as golden savannah punctuated by lone, flat-topped trees and populated by restless herds and tribespeople in colorful wraps, then you’re imagining Kenya’s most famous reserve. The Mara, as it’s known, is so quintessentially East African that you might be surprised to learn that it’s a malaria-free safari destination. What’s keeping you safe here is the elevation – the Mara is around 6,000ft above sea level. The Mara is best-known for the annual spectacle that is the Great Wildebeest Migration, when thousands of antelope and zebra are on the move, but it is also a wonderful year-round destination.
6. Shamwari Game Reserve
Shamwari is one of South Africa’s best-known private game reserves, and not just because it’s malaria-free. We’re back in the Eastern Cape (also home to Kariega and Kwandwe), just 50 miles from Port Elizabeth (also known as the Friendly City). Shamwari prides itself on combining luxury safari accommodation with a long record of successful conservation initiatives which means that you can choose to indulge in relaxation, or head out into the bush in search of wildlife. Shamwari is an excellent example of the ‘new breed’ of private game reserves which take wonderful care of their guests as well as of the environment.
7. Tswalu Kalahari Reserve
Tswalu Kalahari Reserve is South Africa’s largest private game reserve, covering some 282,000 acres – that’s around twenty times the size of Manhattan. While the Kalahari Desert is more associated with neighboring Botswana, it also extends into South Africa. In addition to the desert-adapted wildlife which was already there, other endangered species such as black rhino and impressive, black-maned Kalahari lion have been introduced. Despite the vast size of this reserve, it hosts a maximum of 30 guests at a time, and can be experienced on foot, on horseback or by vehicle. If you have an urge to be a desert explorer and see what a truly big sky looks like, the Kalahari is a must.
8. Phinda Private Game Reserve
Phinda uniquely encompasses inland and coastal habitats, with seven distinct ecosystems (including rare tracts of sand forest) protected within its boundaries. Phinda is lusher and greener than some of the other reserves we’ve looked at in this blog, thanks to its coastal rainfall patterns. It is still safely removed from any malarial areas, however. Phinda’s diversity of habitats invites exploration, and there is abundant wildlife to be seen as you traverse its forests and grasslands – including cheetah and the threatened black rhino. If you like a bit of ‘surf’ with your ‘turf’, you can combine an ocean safari with your game drives.
9. Thanda Safari Private Game Reserve
Thanda is in a low-risk area for malaria, but the last reported case here was over a century ago – which is a reassuringly long time back! Thanda is also in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal Province, but further inland than Phinda. The name Thanda means ‘love’ in the local isiZulu language, and Thanda has a deep and abiding commitment to the Zulu culture as well as to the wildlife which makes this such a special safari destination. Thanda is known for its guided walking safaris, which allow experienced guides and trackers to reveal some of the secrets of the bush including flowers, butterflies and the tracks of the Big Five (all of which are found here).
Interested in planning a malaria-free safari? Reach out to our team to get started!