How to choose a safari at Kruger: Private Reserves vs Kruger Rest Camps

What’s the difference between going to a Private Reserve vs Kruger’s Rest Camps? It’s somewhat confusing understanding how it works, we managed to do so by the time we got back, so this could help you.

safaris inside kruger national park

Everything that’s within Kruger belongs to it, hence it’s state owned. Private Reserves are located outside Kruger Park. The options, within Kruger, are as follows.

Rest Camps: basic accommodation, you can either join safaris and bush walks with rangers, or go on your own with your car. Rest Camps typology varies greatly, from total self-catering to luxury tents.

Private Concessions: parts of Kruger National Park given in concession to privates. They offer luxury accommodation, an safaris with rangers are usually included in the package.

In both cases, no off-road driving is allowed, and maximum speed is 50 km/h.

safaris outside kruger national park

Outside Kruger Park you can find Private Reserves, pieces of land owned as private property. They can be right next to Kruger, creating the Greater Kruger Park area, or nearby Kruger.

Private Reserves sharing a border with Kruger: these reserves are unfenced on the side of Kruger Park, and animals can move from Kruger Park to the reserve and the other way around. On the outside they are fenced to avoid lions into villages and poachers into the reserves, even if the latter case rarely works, unfortunately.

Private Reserves in the surrounding areas: they are not confining directly with Kruger hence they are fenced to avoid predators into villages, and poachers into reserves.

In both cases the major difference vs Rest Camps, is that they are private lands. Accommodation tends to be luxury, safari experiences quite unique given off-road driving is allowed. For example, it’s possible to track big cats and rangers drive freely throughout the reserve. If there’s an animal in the distance, you can get closer. This way the probability of spotting animals is higher and the quality of sighting is too.

Besides, in comparison to Kruger, the safari experience is more intimate because only a certain amount of people are allowed in a private reserve at a time. This is true unless you don’t mind sharing the vehicle with other tourists. In turn, Kruger Park can be explored in total freedom, with your own vehicle, at your own pace, and as they often say, ‘it’s the real thing’.

in summary

In our experience, if this is your first safari experience and you have little time available: go to a Private Reserve. Private lodges include 2 safaris per day, offer great accommodation, food, vehicles, have amazing qualified rangers + trackers but, most of all, they allow you to spot more animals in a shorter amount of time as you can go off-road. Be sure that, no matter which Private Reserve you chose, you are going to have an amazing experience!

If this is not your first safari in South Africa and you want to explore Kruger by yourself, or if you are on a budget: go to Kruger Rest Camps. As long as you respect entry/exit timings (no wandering around at night is permitted), you are free to have your own schedule and can go in exploration either with your own vehicle, or with rangers.

The very good thing about Rest Camps is the price, as Private Reserves cost around 400-600 euro per night. Staying in Rest Camps is cheaper. There are various types of Rest Camps with prices ranging greatly based on the type of accommodation, literally from 20 to 300 euro per night for 2 people. Visit this page for more info.

To give you a more precise idea on how to budget, suppose you stay in a bungalow in a Rest Camp. Entrance fee at Kruger Park costs around 20 euro per day, a bungalow can be around 75 euro per night for 2 people, and then add food, car rental and petrol. Safaris with ranger in Kruger cost around 20 euro per person, and bush walks (something you don’t do in Private Reserves) from 30 euros on. All together it would come up to around 100 euro per person per day in self-drive, 120-140 euro per day with guided safaris/bush walks.

In a Private Reserve prices start from 200 euro per person all-inclusive. Considering the comfort factor, not having to cook, and the quality of accommodation – but most importantly – the drives, the difference is not that appreciable. Of course, these two types of experiences are not comparable as we are speaking apples vs pears, so ultimately decide based on your preferences.

Returning from our very first safari experience, for us, it was definitely worth going to Private Reserves to set the tone. It has been a unique experience that has exceeded all our expectations. If you decide to go for private reserves too, why not spending one day at Kruger Park to see the difference? This way you’ll know what to choose the next time you go to South Africa!

more on kruger

Kruger is Kruger. The vastness and diversity of environments and life has no pair in South Africa, and most of the world. Kruger National Park is the size of Slovenia, 20.000 square Kilometres. In this area animals are free to move around, and although they generally tend to stick to their territory, in times of water and/or food scarcity they travel long distances in order to survive.

Kruger’s elephants population has way surpassed the sustainable number. At the moment there are about 17.000 elephants. For who’s going to Kruger to see them that’s great, as you have a good chance of spotting them. On the other hand, the landscape is fairly devastated by their eating and destroying plants. We simply didn’t have a clue Elephants were such destroying creatures! They tear the bushveld to pieces, killing plants eating their roots from where they get nutrients. Considering that elephants need 100 kilograms of food per day, you can imagine how the landscape looks like!

This is a controversial subject at Kruger, as they have tried to move elephants to other areas, like confining Mozambique. Despite this, elephants are territorial creatures and go back to where they come from. Furthermore, they are not the easiest animals to relocate, considering their size and the costs associated with the transportation, and also considering the size of land required to let them live in the wild.

At Kruger, there are a set of rules to adhere to, both to safeguard the environment and the animals, and to protect people from predators attacks. As already mentioned, it’s only allowed to drive on tarred roads at max speed of 50 km/h. Besides this, It’s compulsory to keep car windows shut at all times and do not stand outside the vehicle for any reasons unless you are in the designated areas where you can stop for breakfast/brunch/lunch, for example. Finally, park gates open generally after sunrise and close before sunset, varying from season to season.




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