COMING face to trunk with a colossal African elephant is an experience not for the faint-hearted, but it's great for an instant adrenaline high. If you’re driving yourself, your car will suddenly seem alarmingly flimsy; if you’re on a guided safari, you may briefly lament the Land Rover’s lack of a roof or sides. Fear not – Bigfoot will probably saunter past without batting an eyelid. But occasionally, he will look straight at you and lift those massive ears. Mock charge or the real thing – you don’t want to hang about to find out.

Whether it’s an elephant or one of the other “Big Five” (lion, leopard, buffalo and rhino), it’s hard to describe the excitement and awe upon finding oneself in the untouched African bush, where these animals – and countless other species of fauna and flora – exist in their ages-old natural habitat. A South African safari can challenge your wits and your senses, but you can do it all in style. Pick from five-star resorts, luxury lodges and hideaway resorts. It’s all here in this detailed review of South Africa national parks, game reserves and lodges. A luxury hotel in the bush? No problem. But it may have a thatch roof.

Being hosts of the Soccer World Cup (June and July 2010) has lent fresh impetus to the country’s tourism allure and the lodging options are more varied and intriguing.