Marakele National Park, South Africa

A narrow tar road winds to the top of the Waterberg massif. From here, the view is spectacular, sweeping across the Limpopo province’s plains and the Matlabas River. Wedged between the dry western and humid eastern regions of South Africa, this varied habitat offers good chances of spotting the big five (lions, leopards, Cape buffalos, black rhinos and elephants). Rare antelope species have also settled here; birdwatchers should seek out the colony of regal Cape Griffon Vultures, the largest in the world.

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When to go

Summers (September to March) are hot but, in spite of soft rain and heavy thunderstorms, the area doesn’t suffer from stifling humidity. Morning and nights can be cold in winter (from April to August), but pleasant day temperatures make for ideal game-viewing conditions. For a peaceful stay, avoid mid-December to January, when South Africans evacuate their cities and Europeans and North Americans flock here for some winter sun.

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Getting there

  • Planes

    Charter flights can be arranged from Johannesburg to the Marakele airstrip.
  • Automobiles

    Cars can be hired at Johannesburg’s Tambo International Airport; the journey takes just over four hours on the R21, N1 and N4. Newly refurbished roads mean you won’t need a 4x4, but make sure you leave plenty of time to get to your lodge: there’s no driving in the park after 6pm.