Eastern Cape game reserves near Port Elizabeth

  • 01 May 2014 | By Kolosa Vuso

With its stunning game reserves, the area around Nelson Mandela Bay abounds with the Big 7 and other wildlife – and they are not to be missed. 

Addo Elephant National Park

addo elephant park

 The Addo Elephant National Park is the only park in the world that is home to the Big 7

The Addo Elephant National Park is the third-largest national park in South Africa. It is the only park in the world that is home to the Big 7 (lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo and leopard, as well as the great white shark and Southern right whale). It offers guided and self-drive game drives, guided horseback trails, birding (there are over 400 bird species found in the park), and so much more.

WesleySheehan wrote this review on VirtualTourist: “We love the fact that you can do safari in your own car and at your own pace as there is a well maintained road that runs throughout the park. We saw so many amazing animals and had amazing experiences. The most memorable of these is when we came around a corner and were faced with a huge elephant in the middle of the road. They have camping spots and chalets there with good facilities. A definite must when visiting South Africa.”

Lalibela Big 5 Game Reserve and Safari Lodge

lalibela game reserve

Nature at Lalibela. Image courtesy of Jim Howard 

Besides the Big 5 (lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo and leopard), Lalibela Game Reserve is home to cheetah, hyena, impala, giraffe and lots more. An hour away from Port Elizabeth, the game reserve and lodge is the perfect place to visit as it is also not very far from Addo Elephant Park. The game reserve is also able to tailor-make tour packages around the Garden Route and Cape Town, should you wish to see more (the wine routes are a favourite among many tourists).

CheryllnLondon from London visited the game reserve recently and only has high praises. She wrote on TripAdvisor: “I only have praise for Lalibela game reserve – the customer service was excellent throughout. The booking and enquiry process was very efficient, the reception staff really welcoming, lodge manager very hands on and offered good advice and the rangers really were exceptional. The rangers are so knowledgeable and will use their expertise to refine each game drive according to sightings, special interests of guests and making the most of fading light and fitting in sun-downer drinks too. This place is suitable for all types of travellers and the staff will do all they can to accommodate any particular needs you have.”

Shamwari Game Reserve

shamwari game reserve

Fun times at Shamwari Game Reserve. Image courtesy of Andy Flisher 

The Shamwari Group consists of a range of eco-lodges and game reserves that operate independently across Africa. The group strives “to maintain not only a high standard of hospitality and service ethics, but also a superior safari and wilderness experience for all our guests”.

Shamwari Game Reserve is about 75km from Port Elizabeth. It offers experiences such as the “Shamwari Explorer Camp”, where guests are taken through a walking experience and staying in a campsite. “Kids on Safari” provides a special itinerary for children: they get to visit the Shamwari Animal Rehabilitation Centre and the Born Free Foundation Big Cat Rescue Centre, among many fun activities.

Pumba Private Game Reserve & Spa

pumba game reserve

Male lion at Pumba Private Game Reserve. Image courtesy of …your local connection 

The game reserve boasts five-star status with over 60 different species of mammals to see, including the Big 5, and over 250 bird species.

Its Soul Spa offers massages, facials and different therapies, all aimed at “rejuvenation and soothing of body, mind and spirit”.

A top favourite for weddings and honeymoons, its visitors highly recommend the reserve and its facilities.

Says Barry H on TripAdvisor of his Pumba Private Game Reserve & Spa experience: “Everything was top draw from the safaris to the food, service and accommodation. We also used the spa which very good. Our guide was very knowledgeable and we saw almost every animal it was possible to see. The white lions and the elephants were the stars of the show. I cannot recommend this highly enough.”

Kariega Game Reserve


Getting up close and personal. Image courtesy of alcuin lai 

Located 80 minutes from Port Elizabeth, a typical day at one of the Kariega Game Reserve lodges involves an early-morning game drive or river cruise, a walking tour, a spa treatment, canoeing, hearty meals in between and, just before supper, a scenic game drive.

Be sure to bring your camera to capture the wildlife up close; as Andy P says of TripAdvisor: “The lodges are great (we stayed at Ukhozi Lodge) and both the staff and food were first class. Very small and personal feel about it and perfect for taking very close up photos of the animals as the vehicles are all completely open and the game wardens get VERY close to them.”

Amakhala Game Reserve

Amakhala Game Reserve

Amakhala Game Reserve is a 7500ha Big 5 safari destination, which is also home to 16 species of antelope, zebra, giraffe and other species.

TripAdvisor user, Magie M from the United Kingdom, wrote of Amakhala: "This was our first safari and we were not disappointed. We stayed in the Jackal Buzzard lodge and were pleased with the accommodation. The staff could not have been more attentive and as we were the only guests on our first night and it was my husband's birthday, we had a private dinner which was beautifully prepared. The birthday cake that the chef made was excellent and became dessert at lunch the next day for us and the other guests that had arrived by then. We ate a lot of high quality food during our stay!"

Get your pass!

Some wildlife experiences in Nelson Mandela Bay are discounted when you buy a Nelson Mandela Bay Pass. Read more about this.

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