People never learn anything by being told, they have to find out for themselves. Paulo Coelho must have been talking about a safari experience in the Kruger National Park when he said those words, right? No, probably not – but that doesn’t mean it’s not true.
If there’s one thing we always say, it’s that each and every sighting on a safari is unique. It really doesn’t matter how many times you’ve seen an elephant splash around in a puddle of rust-coloured mud or a cackle of hyenas (cackle is so appropriate, isn’t it?) lazing around on the side of the road on a game drive, you’re still sure to be mesmerised by the way in which they go about their daily lives – wild and free.
Ask any Kruger enthusiast (and any guest that’s been on a Kruger wildlife safari, for that matter), and they’ll tell you that observing these beautiful animals in their natural habitat – in other words, leaving our homes and stepping into theirs – is a humbling privilege.
That’s also a big part of the reason that we do what we do – you could read about the Kruger National Park, or speak to friends and family that have been there and hear the tales they have to share about what they saw, but none of it will ever truly illustrate the vivid, rich and detailed nature of the South African bush – details that can only be experienced with your own eyes.
Having said that, please do keep reading this blog… we’re givers by nature and we always do our absolute best to give you valuable information, first-hand accounts of safari sightings and helpful tips for your first (or next) Kruger safari, and you’ll always need those.
So here’s the thing – each type of safari experience in South Africa (whether it be at a National Park, a Private Reserve or a concession in a National Park) offers you something different.
There’s also a raw, untamed (excuse the pun) feel about it. The Kruger National Park is unpredictable, vast, completely detached from the bustling, busy, city vibe that some of us are used to. It’s beauty also lies in the peace that it offers, which is why guests come from all over the world to enjoy a few days here and to get back to the simplicity of spending time in nature.
And trust us when we say that nothing beats the anticipation of setting out on a game drive in Kruger Park. You just never know what you might find!
The Private Reserves in the Greater Kruger area (in other words, just outside the Kruger National Park) are notably smaller in size, however, they do offer an element of exclusivity, which makes your safari experience all the more unique.
Private Kruger safaris usually make use of luxury lodges (as you’ve probably guessed) within that Reserve, so they’re very exclusive and they offer you the opportunity to experience those gorgeous lodge living, safari snapshots that you see on Instagram, in real life (yes, the scenery really is that spectacular!)
On a game drive in a Private Reserve, you probably won’t see any public vehicles either – this is because only safari vehicles go out on game drives. It’s a great way to ensure that there’s minimal congestion at sightings. Private Kruger safaris also usually do night drives, have a tracker along for the game drives and are allowed to go off-road if there’s a possibility of a good sighting.
On that note, have you seen the video, taken at Sabi Sands (a Private Reserve bordering Kruger Park), of a dwarf mongoose playing dead when it spots a hornbill nearby? It’s the cutest and most hilarious thing you’ll see in a long time!
So, when it comes to deciding whether to do a Kruger safari or one in a Private Reserve, that’s a pretty tough choice… so our advice is, why not do both? At the end of the day, it’s about giving you variety and more to experience – the one can’t possibly replace the other. You’ll get to enjoy the best of both worlds and a fairly well-rounded South African safari experience.
Right about now, you may be asking yourself how this works exactly? How many days would you need to spend in the Kruger National Park and how many on a private Kruger safari? Which Private Reserve would you go to, how do you get there and what’s the accommodation like on both of these safaris?
Well, let’s see if we can help answer most, if not all, of your questions…The best part about opting for a combined Private Lodge and Kruger safari is that it’s something that you can customise and make your own – you get to decide how many days to spend in Kruger Park and how many on a Private Reserve.
We make use of a number of phenomenal Private Reserves, like Sabi Sands, Manyeleti and Kapama, to name a few. Just a little added information on them – Sabi Sands is a well-known, 65,000 hectare reserve, bordering the Kruger National Park. Manyeleti covers about 23,000 hectares and Kapama, 13 000 hectares. Each one (as well as many other Reserves in the area) boast a range of stunning luxury lodges and a host of wildlife.
Now if, after all this, your brain is battling information overload (having this many amazing options will do that to you), don’t fret – help is never far away. Here’s a basic look at the ‘what, when and how’ on a private Kruger safari with Kruger Wildlife Safaris (and the best part? We take care of everything for you!)
Getting to Kruger Park and to a Private Reserve is fundamental on a safari – if you’re busy trying to figure out which transport service to use, where they need to pick you up from and when, you’re more than likely to miss out on some of those memorable safari moments that would otherwise make your trip worthwhile… after all, what makes the experience is what you make of it.
Your journey from Johannesburg to Pretoriuskop Rest Camp in the Kruger (basically, our base) takes several hours by vehicle, but make no mistake, the excitement builds the closer you get to the Park.
With us, your first game drive takes place soon after you arrive, and could either be an afternoon drive, a SANParks Sunset Drive or a night drive.
The awesome thing about safaris is that whether you’re in the Kruger or in a Private Reserve, the habits of the different species of wildlife remains consistent.
In the colder seasons, they’ll be up early to catch those first rays of glorious sunshine.
Tip: Most guests opt to go with a tour company when they visit the Kruger National Park because the guides that take you on safari tend to point out things you might miss on a game drive (they’ve been trained to have eagle eyes) and they can impart knowledge to you about flora and fauna alike.
For instance, those late afternoon and early morning game drives offer a great opportunity for guests to try and spot the cats – lions, leopards, cheetah – and wild dogs. They all tend to be more active at dusk and dawn because it’s cooler for them, especially in the summer, and that’s also why you’re likely to find them sleeping during the day (who wants to hunt and prowl in the hot Kruger heat anyway?).
With two game drives daily, there’s time in between to relax, go for a swim or explore your surroundings within the rest camp. Photographers, be sure to bring your cameras along!
Your breakfast and dinner is taken care of with Kruger Wildlife Safaris! Our chefs are the best at what they do, which ensures that your dining experience is always a delicious and divine affair.
Depending on when you’d like to head to a Private Reserve, we’ll take you there in our closed, air-conditioned tour vehicle.
Due to the fact that the Private Reserves are a lot smaller than the Kruger, you may feel that sightings come easier, but the truth is that it really does depend on the day.
Having said that, Reserves like Sabi Sands are well-known for their leopard sightings and most guests look forward to that aspect of their safari if they opt for one there (not to mention hope for the best – leopards are the prize on a safari!).
Private Lodges tend to offer two game drives a day, where your passionate and knowledgeable game ranger will share all that they know about the bush, with you, as well as answer any questions that you may have.
It’s also said that the wildlife and bird life in a Private Reserve have become used to having the game drive vehicles in close proximity, which will hopefully make for awesome sightings!
FYI: Accommodation in Kruger Park is in en-suite chalets with beds, linen, towels and soap. These chalets have a small fridge, air conditioning and mosquito proofing on the doors and windows, and accommodation during your private Kruger safari is in luxury en-suite rooms with beds, linen, towels and amenities, however, facilities vary from lodge to lodge.
There are many ways to make your South African safari as worthwhile as possible! One of the ways we do that is by giving you option of embarking on the Panorama Route tour during the Kruger Park portion of your safari.
It’s a value-add for all our guests that go on a Kruger safari that’s 3 days or more, because it replaces your game drives for the day. The Panorama Route can be found outside the Kruger National Park and offers up several scenic and picturesque sights along the route! Expect to see attractions like the Blyde River Canyon, Three Rondavels, Lisbon Falls and God’s Window.
It’s considered to be a must-do when you’re in the Mpumalanga province and is usually a highlight for many of our guests that opt to do it!
PS: For an added dose on what you can expect, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram – we regularly post sightings that our guests and guides have experienced on their safari.
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I went on Safari with Outlook Safaris in June last year on part of a year out. Everything about the company was perfect, even before booking everything was very well taken care of. When I initially emailed with questions I was replied to very quickly and all the information I received was very useful,Robert was very patient with me. The drivers who picked me up in Jo’Burg were very friendly and professional and made the journey up to the Kruger Park very pleasant.I stayed in the most basic accommodation provided but it had all I needed including a fan and heater because the temperature varied so much. The Skukuza Park is stunning, with beautiful birds, baboons all wandering around. The game drives were amazing.
I just want to say that this was one of the most awesome experiences I’ve had. From the moment I first arrived until the sad last day I had to leave was amazing. Moss driving our group to Kruger National Park that first morning. Not sure if it was the early hour, but everyone was quiet and either looking out of the window, listening to their ipod, or getting some more sleep. I wasn’t sure what to expect. After our first stop for gas and snack some conversations started. By the end of the trip, I really missed seeing everyone every day and sharing those wonderful memories. I had such a good time building friendships and sharing laughs. I think I enjoyed making those new friends as much as seeing all of those wonderful animals in their own environment.
Both my husband and myself have traveled extensively and have had unquestionably one of the best experiences of our lives with Outlook Safaris. The first safari we took was the Classic 7 Day Kruger Park Safari, and this January/February we enjoyed the 5 Day Explorer Safari. Both safaris were wonderful and we were able to see many of the “harder to find” animals. The staff is enthusiastic about their jobs and it shows.Their excitement is only outdone by their knowledge of the bush.I would recommend also an overnight at Outlook Lodge on your return to Johannesburg where Chef and Manager Francois will pamper you with wonderful meals. The downy beds and intimate surroundings are refreshing after a soujourn in the bush. All in all, an experience never to be missed.
– Mary & Jim
An incredible company. Debbie the guide and also game driver has a wealth of knowledge and passion for the wilderness like no other. Being a single female traveller, I felt completely safe. All the staff are friendly, the meals delicious and the experience is second to none! The game drive vehicles are large enough to feel safe but small enough to have an intimate experience with the animals.
– Laura M