February 20

Private Game Reserves: Why We Choose Them Every Time

February 20, 2024

A self-drive in the Kruger National Park or a safari in a private game reserve? This is a question asked by our guests 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 Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve, you could see exactly the same elephant since wildlife has the luxury of roaming freely between the two reserves. But that’s not the case, and here’s why…

Cheetah sighting while on a game drive

Guests on a safari vehicle observing two cheetahs, Image Credit: Shumba Camp

One Hyena Pup – Too Many People 

Let me paint you a picture. My first ever sighting of a hyena was on a main road in the Kruger National Park – it was a pup. What a sight! But instead of being able to follow the hyena through the bush in a 4×4, we were jostling for a vantage point with a bunch of other tourists.

In a closed Volkswagen Golf, our 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.

La risa de la hiena, mucho más que un inocente sonido

Fighting for hyena views in a closed car – the struggle is real, Image Credit: Simon Watson

Private Reserves Take Experiences to New Heights

A real safari is about the overall experience. Tales over pre-dinner drinks from rangers and the sudden use of the flash light during dinner to see the hippo in front of the lodge deck all create the memories that urge us to return at the first opportunity.

It’s about immersing yourself in Africa while at the same time seeing real nature in all its spectacular (and at times brutal) glory. It’s about stepping onto a safari vehicle in search of the Big 5, and about the thrill of marauding through the bush after a pack of African wild dogs in hot pursuit of an impala.

Löwen im Überschwemmungsgebiet des Chobe Nationalparks

Safari vehicles become chariots in the quest for the elusive Big 5, Image Credit: Camp Savuti

So, Why Go for a Private Game Reserve?

In a nutshell, it’s about what makes a private game reserve experience different. Countless advantages come with this, and we've distilled some key highlights that stand out.

1. Game Viewing is Better in Private Game Reserves

Why would game-viewing be better? Well, it's private! No cars of other tourists in a gaudy array of blinding colours. Furthermore, safari vehicles can go off-road, whereas in a National Park, you'll be limited to animals visible from the main roads. The best and most knowledgeable rangers also work here and are not restricted to hours. Therefore, they can go on night drives and stay as long as you want on a sighting!

Reisetipps für Sambia: Der Süd-Luangwa Nationalpark ist ein Paradies für Afrikas Tierwelt

Walking safaris led by rangers bring you close for that picture-perfect photograph, Image Credit: Puku Ridge

2. Best Photo Opportunities 

Sitting in an elevated, open-top safari vehicle gives you the best view possible to get the perfect photo. Or, if you stay closer to the ground, rangers can lead walking safaris and other exciting activities so you can get that photo right up the rhino's nostril! Some luxury lodges even have game drive vehicles adapted specifically for photographers and their equipment. 

3. You Get Traversing Rights

You might often hear about "traversing rights" in reference to your safari experience. So, what are traversing rights? It allows neighbouring lodges 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 equals more biodiversity. For instance, Phinda Private Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal supports seven different ecosystems – each one attracting a unique variety of life.

classic sundowners on a safari at Phinda

Simply magical, classic sundowners on a safari at Phinda, Image Credit: &Beyond Phinda

4. Private Game Reserve Lodges Are World-Renowned 

The best (and often award-winning) lodges in South Africa are located in private game reserves. For example, luxury private lodges such as SingitaLion SandsSilvan Safari and Londolozi set the standard for style, service and cuisine. 

Imagine being driven around 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). Well, these are treats reserved for the private game reserves.

Bush dinner at night at Lion Sands River Lodge

Romantic dinner under the stars, Image Credit: Lion Sands River Lodge

5. There's Something for Everyone 

A variety of lodges means there's something for everyone. Whether you're in search of contemporary design, fine dining and health spas at the likes of Royal Malewane or Tintswalo, or you're looking for a rustic feel at Nottens, African chic at Rhino Post Safari Lodge or a luxury tented safari at Ngala – you'll find an abode perfectly suited to your needs and likes. 

Many lodges are also family-friendly, with kids' programs to keep the little ones entertained so you can enjoy some well-deserved relaxation. 

Royal Malewane pool

A royal setting in the bush, Image Credit: Royal Malewane

6. Private Game Reserves Are All About Luxury

Wherever you choose to stay, a private game reserve will create memories that last a lifetime. But be warned… Africa will get under your skin, and your next trip could be sooner than you think.

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-lifetime opportunity resulting from years of daydreaming and sacrificing those much-needed weekend trips to Paris. So why compromise the experience by cutting costs where it counts?

Sundowner drinks on safari

Enjoy luxury experiences on your safari in South Africa's private game reserves, Image Credit: Singita

Ready for Your Own Private Game Reserve Safari?

Our Travel Experts have first-hand knowledge and will be able to tailor your safari to meet your style. They're here to give you all the advice you need, so contact us today and let's start planning your African adventure of a lifetime!

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Kruger National Park, Private Game Reserves

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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.

  • After a recent trip where we spent our time in Sabi Sands at Londolozi (private reserve) and time in Zimbabwe in a national park (I won’t name the facility), there is no comparison. The private reserve wins, hands down. I will return to Africa but will only stay on a private reserve.You are sooooo correct.

    • Hello Michael,

      Thank you for adding your voice to the conversation. We’re glad you found value in this post and could also resonate.
      Londolozi is an exceptional place, one of several favourites in Sabi Sands.

      Thank you once again for your input and see you on safari.

      Best regards

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