September 11

Private Game Reserves – Why we choose them every time

September 11, 2020

A self-drive in the Kruger National Park or a safari in a private game reserve? A question asked by tourists and locals alike, time and time again. Surely the animals are the same? One could even argue that between the Kruger and a private game reserve such as the Sabi Sand one could see exactly the same elephant, since the animals have the luxury of roaming freely between the two reserves. But that’s rubbish. And here’s why…


On a private reserve, travellers can off-road to see animals up close
On a private reserve, travellers can off-road to see animals up close

Experiencing the Kruger National Park

My first ever sighting of a hyena was on a main road in the Kruger National Park – it was a hyena pup. What a sight! But instead of being able to follow the hyena through the bush in a 4×4, as you would do in a private reserve, we were jostling for a vantage point with a hoard of other tourists, In a closed VW Golf. Heads and cameras were outstretched in an ungainly attempt to get a half-decent photo. After half an hour we reached the front of the queue and our reward was a 30 second view of the adorable pup before being hooted at – yes…hooted! Time to move on in search of our next impala.

A real safari is about the overall experience. Tales over pre-dinner drinks from courageous rangers and the sudden use of the flash light during dinner to see the hippo in front of the deck all create the memories that urge us to return at the first opportunity. It’s about submerging yourself in an African fantasy while at the same time seeing real nature in all its spectacular (and at times brutal) glory. It’s about stepping up onto a safari vehicle in search of the Big 5. It’s about the thrill of bashing through the bush after a pack of wild dogs in hot pursuit of an impala.


The luxury of admiring Africa’s wildlife in peace, Photo Credit: Londolozi

In a nutshell, it’s about the experience you will get in a private game reserve or one of the private concessions in the Kruger National Park.

Why is the game viewing better in a Private Game Reserve?

  • It’s private! No cars of tourists in a dazzling array of blinding colours.
  • Safari vehicles can go off road.
  • In a National Park you will be limited to animals visible from the main roads.
  • The best and most knowledgeable rangers in the business work at the private game reserves.
  • Rangers are not restricted to national park hours, which means that they can go on night drives.
  • It also means that you can stay as long as you want on a sighting!
  • Elevated, open-top safari vehicles give you the best view possible so you can get the perfect photo.
  • Rangers can lead walking safaris so that you can get that perfect photo right up the rhino’s nostril!

You might often hear about ‘traversing rights’ in reference to your safari experience. So what are traversing rights? Traversing rights allow neighbouring lodges and reserves to drive on each others’ land which means more space for you to explore and find animals. The larger the traversing area the better! More land = more biodiversity. Phinda Private Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal for instance supports seven different ecosystems – each one attracting a unique variety of life.

La familia More en Lion Sands
The luxury of your own private vehicle, Photo Credit: Lion Sands River Lodge

Why is the food and accommodation better in a Private Game Reserve?

The best lodges in South Africa are located in the private game reserves. Luxury private lodges such as Singita, Lion Sands , Londolozi and Silvan set the standard for style, service and cuisine. Imagine being driven round a Marula tree – after your second or third leopard sighting of the day – to arrive at sundowners and canapés lit by lanterns hanging in the tree, or perhaps a pancake breakfast or a bush braai (BBQ for the non-South Africans) – treats reserved for the private game reserves.

A couple is enjoying their breakfast in the South African bush at Silvan Safari
Bush breakfast at Silvan Safari

The variety of lodges means that there is something for everyone. Whether you are in search of contemporary design, fine dining and health spas at the likes of Royal Malewane or Tintswalo or whether you are looking for a more rustic experience at Nottens. Or how about a luxury tented safari at Ngala in the Timbavati?

Romantic tree houses on safari: Treehouse in the Lion Sands Reserve
Romantic treehouses of Lion Sands, Photo Credit: Lion Sands

Wherever you choose to stay, a private game reserve will create the memories that last a life time. But be warned… Africa will get under your skin, and your next trip could be sooner than you think. Read about our top lodges of the Sabi Sand Private Reserve

The general rule about the safari experience is that you get what you pay for. For many, a trip to Africa is a once in a life time opportunity that is the result of years of putting pennies in a jar on the coffee table and sacrificing those much needed weekend trips to Paris. So why compromise the experience by cutting costs where it counts?

Planning your ultimate safari can be a logistical challenge. Our Travel Experts have first-hand knowledge and will be able to tailor your safari to meet your time constraints, style and budget – they’re here to give you all the advice you need, so contact Rhino Africa today and let’s start planning your African adventure of a lifetime…

Read more about the Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve



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About the author 

Matthew Sterne

Matt discovered a passion for writing in the six years he spent travelling abroad. He worked for a turtle sanctuary in Nicaragua, in an ice cream factory in Norway and on a camel safari in India. He was a door-to-door lightbulb-exchanger in Australia, a pub crawl guide in Amsterdam and a journalist in Colombia. Now, he writes and travels with us.

  • We had a similar experience @ Ngorongoro in the 90’s we were crossing a small bridge & Elly decided he was going first. He set his Tusks on the Bonnet, I let the hand brake of & he pushed us backwards till there was enough room to move on lifted the tusks off gave us a belly rumble and headed of into the swamp. A M azing…….

  • One reason, is that on a private reserve, the guides can go off-road looking for wildlife. It was amazing at Kirk’s Kamp in SA.

  • I was fortunate to experience a tour in the Serengeti during “off season” and migration. I did not see the big five and don’t have a memory for lavish suppers with other guests. I had a beautiful place to stay and pretty much my own driver. It was “quiet”. I had 3 days and 2 of the days were just me and my escort. The experience was incredible! We did not see the elusive hippo but we did see a cheetah approach for a kill. My highlight came one day near evening. Myself and my escort saw a Topi who was clearly separated from it’s pack and was becoming frantic. We followed from a distance with hope in our hearts that he/she would find some pack to join for the night. It was incredible as we saw our Topi friend running and running frantically until finally we all saw a pack of gazelles in the distance. The Topi then settled and made it’s way to the pack. This was greater than the chase for the big 5 and there was nothing “fancy” about my experience -raw and real.

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