Which is better? Kruger National Park Self-Drive or Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve Bush Experience
One of the largest game reserves in Africa, Kruger National Park is a top pick. Depending on where you decide to stay for safari, you’ll likely fly to Phalaborwa Airport, Hoedspruit Eastgate Airport or Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (KMI).
There are a range of eco huts, luxury villas, and campsites to choose from – so really any budget or any travel type can enjoy this spectacular experience.
Many people ask, what’s the difference between a self-drive in the Kruger National Park or a safari in a private game reserve? I even asked this to myself before planning our trip to the bush.
Surely the animals are the same?
Wouldn’t we see exactly the same animals since they have the luxury of roaming freely?
No, not quite.
Unless your idea of a safari experience is heads and cameras hanging out of car in an awkward attempt to get a half-decent photo, then a self-drive isn’t the way to go. Once an animal has been spotted, you can spend upwards of half an hour to reach the front of the line of all of the other cars waiting to get a glance, only to have the animal take off the moment you get relatively close. There are major traffic jams, no rules, and very little courtesy as the general public will battle for the best angles.
On a private game reserve there is a maximum of two jeeps per animal sighting, the guides jockey for position in the queue and plan their approach so that everyone gets plenty of time to take pictures, learn about the animals, and not disturb them.
A real safari is about the overall experience – not just the animals, but the food, the people, and some true relaxation. It’s about submerging yourself in an Africa while at same time seeing real nature in all its spectacular glory. It’s about stepping up onto a safari vehicle in search of the Big 5 and the thrill tracking through the bush after a pack of wild dogs or in the hot pursuit of a cheetah that you’ve been waiting to see.
A typical day at the Dulini River Lodge was anything typical. Relaxing, impressive, indulgent and surprising all combined into one was a daily affair.
Here’s a few of my favorite photos that highlight the food and indulgence, the relaxation, the impressive view from the lobby and our riverside suite.
So in summary, my vote it private game reserve:
No cars of other tourists.
Safari vehicles can go off road. In a national park you are limited to animals visible from the main roads.
The best and most knowledgeable rangers in the business work at the private game reserves. I’m not sure I can describe how incredibly smart, knowledgeable and professional our ranger Mac and tracker partner, Prince, were each and every day. I would specifically request this duo for any client knowing that they would have hands down the best experience on a game drive.
Rangers are not restricted to national park hours – we went on late night drives and we often stayed longer when trying to track a specific sighting!
Elevated, open-top safari vehicles give you the best view possible so you can get the perfect photo.
Rangers can lead walking safaris – this was an incredible learning opportunity that couldn’t have taken place from a car.
Now, there may be some people who question whether the land that you can cover in a private game reserve is big enough to see all the animals you’re hoping to see. But that is the great part about the reserves within Sabi Sands, almost all of them cooperate with one another and provide traversing rights. This allows neighboring lodges to drive on each others’ land to allow for more space for you to explore and find animals. The traversing rights has specific hours, ensuring that your time at your private game reserve was truly private.
The Dulini River Lodge in Sabi Sands is just the start of options available. There are many more, varying rustic lodges, some of contemporary design, fine dining and health spa focused, some are family friendly and for those brave and adventurous types, tented experiences are the ultimate authentic way to discover the Big 5.
With the help of an experienced travel agent, matching you to the perfect private game reserve is only a call or email away.