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Big Cat Safari Tour in South Africa - 9 Days

Big Cat Safari Tour in South Africa

Kruger & Sabi Sand Reserve Big Cat Safari Tour

This is a 9-day Big Cat Safari Tour to South Africa’s Greater Kruger National Park and is a relaxed-paced trip available as a set-departure tour (or on request) where you can expect to see around 30 mammals, including three big cat species and over 300 species of bird.  This safari offers undoubtedly the most readily accessible big cat safari holiday in Southern Africa, as well as some of the finest game viewing and photographic opportunities.  This is especially true when it comes to the big cats and other magnificent wildlife like elephants and rhinos, all to be seen on this unique safari in the Greater Kruger National Park.

"We very much enjoyed our week exploring the South Cape region, Western Seashore Park, and Little Karoo and week and a half adventure from Johannesburg through Kruger National Park and back! It was the fall season but still we saw 350 species of birds and about 20 species of mammals. Excellent, experienced and well informed tour guides." -Teresa Norris.

Covering a huge swathe of remarkably diverse woodland savanna in the north-east corner of the country, this park and the adjacent private reserves are easily accessible by road and air. Unlike some other large parks in the sub-region, there’s no need for expensive charter flights or bone-jarring road journeys and, after landing at Skukuza Airport, one can be on your big cat safari in Kruger Park and game viewing minutes later!

The park is some 350 kms long from north to south and offers a wonderful array of different types of landscapes, from the well-wooded hills and rock outcrops of the south-west to the open basalt plains in the central region, and is home to over 500 bird species, 137 mammal species, 119 reptile species, 33 species of amphibians and nearly 50 species of fish.

This big cat safari ventures into the Sabi Sand Game Reserve and offers a cherry-on-the-top experience, with close-up encounters with big cats that have been known to be highlights of a lifetime for participants. Photographic opportunities abound and keen photographers are known to return from a 9-day tour with 10 000 plus images stored on their memory cards and hard drives.

Big Cat Safari highlights include:

  • Look for big predators on open-sided vehicle safaris in the Kruger National Park
  • Spend time photographing mammals and birds from our photo safari vehicle
  • Experience the scale and diversity of the Kruger National Park
  • Get up close to big cats in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve
  • See cats moving after dark on night drive

Please note: this set-departure tour is also available as a private or custom tour on request. Please submit an enquiry with your preferred dates and group size.

If wonderful wildlife experiences are what you are looking for but you are keen to explore different places then what about the Essential Namibia Wildlife Safari Tour? It will be sure to provide you with a fantastic time.

Alternative Tour Name: Focus on Predators: Kruger and Sabi Sands in South Africa
Day 1
Days 1&2 - The Kruger National Park, Skukuza

Meet your guide at Kruger / Mpumalanga International Airport near White River, a small town on the south-western corner of the park, and then head straight in to the Kruger National Park via Phabeni Gate and make our way to Skukuza Rest Camp on the banks of the Sabie River. Skukuza is the park’s headquarters and though rather large it offers a great base from which to explore the surrounding region.

The perennial river attracts a lot of game during the dry season and provides a focus of predator and prey activity. We have two nights at Skukuza, spending time in the mornings and afternoons out in the field photographing birds, mammals and anything else that attracts our interest.

Day 3
Days 3&4 - The Kruger National Park, Satara

For our next two days we’ll head north to the central regions of the reserve. This area is drier and more open, with large areas of grassy plains. These attract large numbers of Zebra and Wildebeest, and game viewing in the region can be superb. Satara is particularly well known for great Lion and Hyena sightings and is reported to have the highest densities in the whole park of these two apex predators.

The open savannah habitat also makes for great photographic opportunities and our two night stay here should produce many full CF cards! The program will remain the same as that followed at the previous rest camp.

Day 5
Days 5 to 8 - The Sabi Sand Game Reserve

After a last morning activity in the Kruger we’ll exit via Orpen Gate and enter the adjacent Sabi Sand Game Reserve, a 65 000 hectare private conservancy that is contiguous with the neighbouring national park. We’ll check-in in time for lunch and have time to relax before our first afternoon safari, lead by an experienced field guide and tracker.

The Sabi Sand Game Reserve offers what is widely considered the best cat viewing in Africa, with regular close-up encounters with both Lion and Leopard to be anticipated. Cheetah and Wild Dog are also found in the reserve, though they are usually fairly nomadic within their large home ranges which takes them out of the reserve and into the neighbouring Kruger National Park and Manyaleti Game Reserves, so the chances of seeing these two predators depends on them being in the area at the time of our visit.

Over and above the wonderful animals we are likely to see here, a true highlight will be observing the Shangaan tracker practising his craft as we track the big cats. Superb wine and cuisine will be enjoyed in the evenings after the afternoon safari, and all together this will add up to a truly awesome experience. We have four nights in the reserve, divided between two different camps, which will give ample time out in the field photographing our subjects.

Day 9
Day 9 - Departure

After a last morning safari we will leave the reserve and head back to the airport in time for departures.

Wildlife species expected to see:

Species to see on this epic South African safari include: Lion, Leopard, Cheetah, African Wild Dog, Spotted Hyena, Honey Badger, Black-backed Jackal, Side-striped Jackal, African Wild Cat, Elephant, Buffalo, White Rhino, Giraffe, Hippopotamus, Greater Kudu, Nyala, Bushbuck, Common Warthog, Slender Mongoose, Banded Mongoose, Dwarf Mongoose, White-tailed Mongoose, Smith’s Bush Squirrel, Plains Zebra, Blue Wildebeest, Impala, Common Duiker, Steenbok, Nile Crocodile, Common Waterbuck, Chacma Baboon, Vervet Monkey, African Civet, Large-spotted Genet, Small-spotted Genet, Klipspringer, Martial Eagle, Tawny Eagle, Lappet-faced Vulture, Verreaux’s Eagle Owl, Lilac-breasted Roller, White-fronted Bee-eater, Purple Roller, Southern Ground Hornbill, Southern Red-billed Hornbill, Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill, Green Wood-hoopoe, African Fish Eagle, African Hoopoe, Burchell’s Starling, and many others.

What is included?

  • Accommodation
  • All breakfasts and dinners in Kruger
  • All meals in Sabi Sands
  • Entrance fees
  • Ground transport
  • Bottled water in Lawson’s vehicle whilst travelling
  • Personalised checklists
  • Specialist guide fees

What is not included?

  • All airfares
  • Travel and medical insurance
  • Lunches in Kruger
  • All drinks
  • Optional excursions where applicable
  • Gratuities
  • Items of a personal nature
Wildlife Reviews
5 stars
- based on 5  reviews
  1. Wonderful!
    Kaye O'Riordan21 Jun 2018







    Awesome! Fantastic experiences in Kruger on one trip and Kwa Zulu Natel on second trip. Great times and great value!
  2. Wonderful tour company!
    Teresa Norris21 Sep 2016







    We very much enjoyed our week exploring the South Cape region, Western Seashore Park, and Little Karoo and week and a half adventure from Johannesburg through Kruger National Park and back! It was the fall season but still we saw 350 species of birds and about 20 species of mammals. Excellent, experienced and well informed tour guides.
  3. Northern Kruger Trip
    Chris and Rosey Thompson01 Mar 2018







    My wife and myself have just been on a custom tour of the northern Kruger Park with Lawson's and what a great experience it was. We have used Lawson's before for birding day trips into the Kruger, which we can also highly recommend so we had no doubts about asking Lawson's to arrange an extended trip. Everything was perfect, Leon, our guide, was brilliant. We would highly recommend Lawson's to anyone who wants a great wildlife or birding safari.
  4. Lawson's. Without peer
    Graham Knighton20 Jul 2018







    Have travelled with Lawson's many times and regard them as friends. While they are bird specialists they are outstanding experts on all wildlife. They treat all clients as friends and do everything possible to ensure that all requests are covered.
  5. Johannesburg to Kruger Wildlife Tour
    Brenda and Tony Hovell16 Nov 2017







    We were escorted on a private tour by Leon at Lawsons from Johannesburg through to Kruger, stopping off at Dullstroom and Blyde Canyon. I can honestly say it was one of the best holidays We have ever hD. Everything was sorted by the guide, accommodation was wonderful and the best bit of all the tour was amazing, lovely wildlife, birds, insects so much to see, absolutely brilliant

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Why book with Lawson’s Birding, Wildlife and Custom Safaris?

In 2020 we are celebrating our 30th year of running birding and wildlife safaris in Africa. So we have plenty of experience in the game, and pride ourselves in creating incredible wildlife holiday experiences for our clients from across the globe. We offer quality wildlife experiences through set-departure and custom safaris, guided by fun and experienced birding and wildlife guides. Like our motto says, "you'll want to return to Africa with us time and time again!" See more on our website.

How does the payment process work?

A deposit will secure your place on the tour, with full payment due 8 weeks before the tour starts. Terms and Conditions apply, we'll give you all the info during the inquiry process.

Is this tour for me?

This tour is primarily a wildlife tour, with a focus on mammals first of all, though we will be doing a certain amount of bird watching as well, though this will mainly be restricted to big, colourful and photogenic species. Photography is a main element of this tour as well. We will also look at / observe any other forms of wildlife / natural history that are of interest. If you would like more of a bird focus then perhaps some of our other birding tours will be a better bet, speak to one of our consultants for advice.

What does a tyical day on the tour involve?

On days we aren't moving location or camp, we usually meet up for a cup of tea / coffee before heading out on a long morning activity, returning for late breakfast / brunch. Then we may have a bit of down time before an afternoon activity, returning in time to freshen up before dinner. There are exceptions - on some days we may head out on longer trips, taking packed meals with us and only returning after lunch; or we may have an early breakfast before departure for the next destination. Whatever the exact program we try to keep the pace manageable, after all it is supposed to be a holiday. *Some tours, such as our Endemics tours, are fast-paced overall.

Is the tour suitabe for children?

This tour is not really suitable for children. Many lodges do not accept children under 12 years old. If you would like to o a family safari consider doing a private version of this trip - speak to our consultants for more info.

Credit cards or cash?

In general credit cards are widely accepted in South Africa and across much of Southern Africa, though Diner's Club is the exception (Visa and Master are better options). It is a good idea to have some South African Rands (ZAR) on hand for smaller purchases or times when card machines may not be working. Note that South Africa and Namibia do not accept US Dollars cash, but US Dollars can be used in most of the rest of Africa.

Can we arrange pre-tours and extensions to our set-departures?

Most certainly! We usually recommend coming in a day early to acclimatize and reduce the risk of missing out a day or two due to flight delays or other travel problems, and we are happy to arrange this accommodation for you. And if you would like to extend your time in the country, our consultants are happy to help with suggestions and bookings.

What should I pack?

We send out more detailed packing lists as part of every safari info pack, but basically you'll need comfortable clothing, preferably in neutral colors. In general clothes dry quite quickly for self-washing, and most private places have laundry services, so it's not necessary to over pack. In order to avoid having to tow trailers etc we ask participants to keep their luggage down to one main bag and one day / carry-on bag plus photo / optics gear. We do recommend some warm gear for all safaris, just in case of cooler weather coming through, and especially for safaris entailing open-vehicle drives. Even at 20 degrees Celsius it can start getting a little chilly on a moving vehicle when you are exposed to the wind. Hats and sunglasses are essential. A torch / flashlight is also essential, and we strongly recommend socks and closed shoes after dark. Adapters - make sure you have the right adapters to be able to charge your devices. The 'universal' adapter does not work in South Africa!

What level of fitness is required?

Unless otherwise stated, our set-departures do not require any advanced degree of fitness, as most of the activities are vehicle-based. However, on tours with open-sided safari vehicles, getting into the vehicle does require a some climbing ability - if you have difficulty climbing up a step or two let us know in advance so we can make arrangements such as including steps to help you get up or making sure the passenger seat is available. Where there is any walking involved this is normally an optional activity so you are welcome to sit it out.

Can we cater for special dietary requirements?

In general yes - when using restaurants you are able to order whatever item on the menu suits you. When using lodges doing their own catering then advanced warning will usually enable them to cater for your needs. Please indicate any special needs to us well in advance. Note that the food is very good in general on our trips so you don't need to indicate that you are vegetarian just because you are worried about what meat may be served - for the most part it's beef, pork, lamb and chicken, though game meat may be available as an option. Speak to our consultants if you have any specific questions.

What is the expected weather conditions?

warm to hot during the day. Early morning and evening drives in open safari vehicles can be cool to cold, due to wind-chill factor. Little chance of sustained rain.

What is the tour tempo like?

Medium to medium-plus, depending on the level of interest of the group. The Kruger section is faster-paced, while the private lodge section involves long rest periods between activities.

What are the accommodation standards?

Medium to high: private lodges and National Park's rest-camps.

What is the mammal viewing and other highlights like?

Excellent, especially in the private reserves. Full range of species can be seen, including the Big Five (Elephant, Rhino, Cape Buffalo, Lion and Leopard) as well as Cheetah, Wild Dog and Spotted Hyena. Top class photographic opportunities. Other highlights include great birding opportunities, wonderful scenery and landscapes.

Can we book add-ons to the existing safari?

Those who have more time available can add extra days on to the safari, or extensions to the Cape for the flowers, or to Victoria Falls. Contact us for ideas and prices.

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You can send your enquiry via the form below.

9 Days

Price & Availability

ZAR52,500 / per person
Based on twin/double room
Single Supplement ZAR 12999
Group Discount Available
Group Discount Guide
Refer to Group Discount Terms
This tour is operated by: Lawson’s Birding, Wildlife and Custom Safaris
4.97 based on 21 reviews

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Operator Review Summary

4.97 Based on 21 reviews

Tour Facts

  • Kruger National Park and Sabi Sand Game Reserve
  • Set Departure Tour
  • Set Departure
  • Mammals
  • Maximum of 6 participants
  • No age restrictions but not suited to young children
  • Moderate
  • Kruger / Mpumalanga Airport, Nelspruit
  • Kruger / Mpumalanga Airport, Nelspruit