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How do you choose the right safari?????

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How do you choose the right safari?????

This is a bucket list trip for me and a friend and I want to ensure we have the experience of a lifetime on safari. How does one pick a location/operator/resort? There are so many to choose from and I have no idea where to start.

We are looking at mid-range pricing and probably at least 4-5 nights. I would love a location where we are truly with the animals and not in a traffic jam struggling to see the lion laying in the road. I want authenticity and a "real" experience. I have read about places in the trees with tents etc and that sounds perfect. We are not looking for a rustic experience, and running water would be nice. We are 2 women so those "extras" would be nice!

Any advice is welcomed and very much appreciated.

Thank you


Northampton, United...
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1. Re: How do you choose the right safari?????

Hello and you should consider KwaZulu Natal. There are lots of choices for places to stay and the wildlife is great. There are mountains, different sorts of bush and of course the beaches are amazing. I have stayed at Springbok Lodge in Nambiti which has lovely tents. Up in Zululand on the Pongola River and Jozini Dam is White Elephant where you also sleep under canvas. My free info web site has lots of ideas on the province.

Mark - Owner - SafariKZN

Kruger National...
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2. Re: How do you choose the right safari?????

Hi there Lisa,

I can completely understand the confusion and frustration that all come along with planning a safari, especially a dream one at that. The bush is great, but there really are SO many options! It is sometimes tough to figure out exactly which lodge suits your needs, wants, and budgets the best. And, in this case, doing research sometimes actually makes one just MORE confused! Anyway, we are all here to help you through this :).

I live on a game reserve in the Kruger Area, so hopefully I can help you out.

OK, so let's get down to business! Your main needs/wants are comfortable accommodation and a 'wild' feeling, and above all great wildlife viewing!

As this is your bucket list safari, I would above all recommend the Kruger National Park. It is MASSIVE (the size of Wales/Israel) and there are no fences for miles and miles. It was established in the late 1800's, so is absolutley steeped in history. Holding 147 mammal species, over 300 bird species, along with hundreds of tree species, reptiles, and so on, the Kruger really is world famous for a reason!

The easiest way to begin sorting through these is to come up with a budget. This will help us to figure out what we can suggest for you. Because mid range to one person may mean mid range to another :). Though we can already help with some suggestions with this budget description - you will find these below :)

In the mean time, let's break down the two general options when coming on a safari in South Africa.


Nothing beats the thrill of finding the animals on your own.

Self drive safaris are conducted within the public area of the Kruger National Park, and area that stretches to the size of Israel or Wales - thus, plenty of room to explore.

When staying in the public Kruger, the accommodation options are government run SanParks self catering units. At the larger camps, there are restaurants and small stores to purchase basic items, along with curio shops and petrol stations (as you do A LOT of driving).

You are also able to book guided game drives through your camp, which stick to the same roads as you do.

The pros of a self drive experience is that it is generally cheaper than the next option, and you do gain a bit more flexibility.


A private reserve, such as the Klaserie, Timbavati, Balule, or Sabi Sands is located within what we call the Greater Kruger Area. All of the above reserves are connected to the public Kruger via unfenced borders, allowing the animals (but not the people) to wander in and out as they please. This allows for equal game sighting in both options.

There are also other private reserves, such as Thornybush, Karongwe or Kapama, but these are fenced off and are not connected to the park.

When staying within a private reserve, your options are generally to stay in a traditional lodge setting, or a luxury tented camp (all operated independently).

Your rate at a private reserve (anything from R2000 per person per night upwards) includes;

- Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily

- Tea/Coffee

- Dawn game drive

- Dusk game drive

- Snacks on game drives

- Optional walking safaris daily

- Drinks, laundry and transfers to/from the lodge and nearest airport may also be included, but this is dependent on which lodge you choose.

On the game drives and bush walks, you are lead by a highly qualified and experienced team of a ranger and tracker, who are there to educate you about any of the wildlife you may encounter. The safaris are conducted in open sided safari cruisers, which are allowed to be taken off road to follow/find an animal. Further to this, most areas have a 3 vehicle rule, meaning that only 3 vehicles are allowed at an animal sighting at one time, allowing for clear viewing. This differs to the self drive experience, where traffic jams around animals may often be encountered.

However, it is generally more expensive for a stay within the private reserve, as it is all inclusive and more of a luxury standard than the self drive option.

Now - The quickest and easiest way to get to Kruger is flying. If you choose the public Kruger, Klaserie, Timbavati or Balule reserve, there are direct flights you can get there via Johannesburg (there are two flights every day). From here, some lodges will pick you up free of charge, but others may charge.

Alternatively, if you choose Sabi Sands reserve or other gates of the public Kruger, you can fly into Nelspruit airport and be transferred to your lodge (extra cost).

The most cost effective way would be getting a ground transfer (if you come to the Klaserie, Timbavati, or Balule reserve, there is an excellent service that costs a total of R650 per person each way from Johannesburg).

Now, as for actual recommendations, I would suggest checking out the following lodges/tented camps for your mid range budget:

- Gomo Gomo Game Lodge (Klaserie Reserve)

- Elephant Plains Game Lodge (Sabi Sands reserve)

- Arathusa Lodge (Sabi Sands)

- nThambo Tree Camp (Klaserie reserve)

Out of all of the above options, nThambo Tree Camp would be my top pick for your needs. Why? Because as stated, you would love to experience a 'place in trees with tents' - Well, here is your chance! nThambo Tree Camp offers 5 private tree house style tented chalets that are built on tall wooden stilts, looking out onto the eternal plains. We had a fantastic time on our site inspection there, and the game viewing was second to none. Further to this, the staff, accommodation and general atmosphere were just outstanding!!


If you have any further questions, please don't hesitate to ask.

All the best, and warm regards,



Lodge Trackers

Safari Specialists

Hong Kong, China
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3. Re: How do you choose the right safari?????

Hello travellingwinotoo

You ask a good question. Method of safari selection is not much difference general holiday selection. A lot of it comes down to personal choices based on lots of research into what is available.

What I suggest is to read up on forum safari providers regularly mentioned on this forum and also give some thought into your intention of doing self drive vs. private safari lodge experience. If you understand which of these two you prefer, you can better target your research and better learn what is available. Again, read through the forum posts as pretty much all has been discussed many times over here as well as other forums like the Botswana, Kenya and Tanzania forums.

Here is a resource that might be worth a quick read, discusses the self-drive vs. private reserve safari consideration. Have a read if helpful.

Self-drive vs. Private Reserve


Hope this is useful and that you choose a great safari experience

Birmingham, United...
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4. Re: How do you choose the right safari?????

We Stayed 3nights in Gomo Gomo and 2 in Kapama southern.

We saw BIG5 in both and Cheetah in Kapama.

If you decide to book them..trust me you won't regret it!

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5. Re: How do you choose the right safari?????

Like thegreatA,

We've also had some lovely experiences at Gomo Gomo in the past. See links if interested.

Gomo Gomo Game Lodge


Leopard photos taken at Gomo Gomo last summer


Hope this is useful.

6. Re: How do you choose the right safari?????

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