Private Game Reserve or Private Concession for your Kruger safari?

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It can be a very confusing issue on how to choose your Kruger safari. Your budget will dictate where you can go and for how many nights so it may be worthwhile exploring both a private lodge coupled with a rest camp.

There are so many options for your Kruger Safari. So this is where I think a specialist tour operator that knows the various areas and camps can really prove their worth. African Safari Experts has experience of both sides of the coin and working closely with you can advise you on the best course for your budget as well as what you as our guest would like to experience.

What is the difference between the Kruger National Park safaris ?

Private Game Lodge

Pierre has worked at many private game lodges, one of his best was Simbavati Hilltop Lodge. A private game lodge in the Timbavati Game Reserve which has open borders with the Kruger National Park.

Simbavati Hilltop Lodge is a great. Well priced with friendly staff and great food. Being in the middle of the Timbavati, it offers great game viewing. You can be virtually assured of seeing an incredible amount which will likely include the Big 5. Even a leopard up in a tree carefully preserving its impala kill from the waiting hyenas below.

Game drive at the Private Game Lodge

During your game drive, if your ranger sees an interesting animal or sighting he or she is permitted to leave the road, engage 4X4 and head into the bush to get closer to the sightings. Being in an open vehicle means that everyone will get a  great opportunity to take photos. Because you can go off road, you will have more flexibility for the guide to position the vehicle so that everyone on board gets that perfect picture.

Another advantage is that most of the private lodges will limit the number of vehicles allowed at a sighting at any one time so you will never feel that you are crowding the wildlife.

All the lodges in the immediate of where you stay will work together (using radio contact) to communicate their sightings. This means that you will get to see a lot more as you have several ears and eyes in the bush looking for the wildlife.

When you stop for your sunset drink you will also likely be the only other vehicle for many miles around you, this really makes a big difference as it allows you to really immerse yourself in the experience of the African bush.

Kruger National Park Private Concession

Pierre also worked at Rhino Post Safari Lodge. This is one of the Kruger luxury lodges in the southern part of the Kruger National Park itself. About 30 mins drive north of Skukuza. Private concessions are allowed to conduct game drives on their own concessions and also on the public roads of the Park. BUT they have to abide by the rules of the park – with some exceptions. They are allowed to stay out in the Park after the self-drive visitors have to be back in their rest camp grounds (which ranges from 5.30 pm to 6.30 pm depending on season.) They are allowed to stop for sun-downer drinks and get out of the vehicle and, within their concessions, they can go off road for prime sightings (though this is highly regulated and so does not happen very often at all.)

Rhino Post is a comfortable camp set on the banks of a dry river bed. Well-appointed rooms with outdoor shower and private deck.

With the exception of Singita Lebombo, Singita Sweni, and The Outpost in the far north of the Kruger, which tend to stay in their own concessions for game-viewing, staying at one of the Kruger private lodges is not an exclusive experience. Most of the private concessions will use the public roads for game-viewing because that’s where the game is! So on your game drive in an open vehicle you will definitely see people driving around in their own vehicles. And if there is something good to see you will be crowded within seconds with self drive visitors who also want to see whats going on.

So Kruger safaris can be very good with large herds of elephant and buffalo grazing by the rivers and plentiful game. Unlike the private game reserves which tend to be bushier, the eastern Kruger has large open tracts of land ideal for cheetah which are extremely rare to see.

If given the choice I would always opt for a private game reserve bordering Kruger National Park. The experience of working within Kruger was limiting and I felt affected my guests experience.

Game drive in Kruger National Park

The Rhino Post vehicles are in constant radio communication with one another so when I was out on game drive with my guests and we found a huge male lion roaring his heart out, I was able to inform my colleagues who were able to get their guests there in time to experience this magic. But this is true for private lodges as well.

I have also been on game drives with my guests on the Kruger Park public roads and found really great sightings that have been over crowded within in minutes and this has really ruined the experience for everyone concerned. Self drive visitors do not know how best to approach sightings, they don’t know how best to interact with animals and can sometimes be rude and inconsiderate.

I found the “jeep jockeys” that bring day visitors into Kruger the worst and they have extremely bad reputations.

I hope this gives you some insight into the workings of private concessions bordering Kruger and private lodges that operate on private concessions within the Kruger Park boundaries. If you ask my opinion then I will always advise being adjacent to Kruger - after all, the fences are down and you may as well be inside Kruger National Park. The animals don’t know the difference and it wont break your budget.