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Private vs public reserves

NYC, NY
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Private vs public reserves

Hi all . Planning a trip to SA this feb for 2 girlfriends and me. Reading many ppl advise doing a split between public and private (like sabi sands) reserves. I did a budget camping safari in Tanzania (best experience ever) and wondered why this recommendation to do both is typically made. Is it to cut down on the rather pricey private reserve costs yet still get to at least experience it? Or does it have to do with the self drive ability? Or other reasons I may be missing like better guides or spotting animals or ?? Right now the only thing preventing me from doing all private is costs. But curious if there is something else I may be missing. Thanks!

7 replies to this topic
Naracoorte
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1. Re: Private vs public reserves

The two experiences are so completely different. Many people who are repeat visitors continue to divide their time in this way to optimise their experience. For ourselves, having done both, we prefer to self drive. The essence of the self drive experience is very hard to put succinctly. However some of things that make it special to me are:

* YOU are in charge of your experience - you decide where you go, when you go and how long you stay at a place or sighting for.

*the thrill of finding your own incredible game sightings

*privacy

*the sheer scale of Kruger to explore with much more diversity of landscapes

*taking your own drinks and snacks and stopping somewhere to just savour the sights and smells on your own with your own thoughts

*learning to observe flora and fauna and behaviour of animals and identify animals, birds and plants without a guide

*being in the park at night in camp; walking around with a torch; listening to the sounds of the bush at night

*lighting the braai and pouring a drink at sunset and revelling in being somewhere magical with someone close to you

These are just some of the wonderful highlights of self drive. If you can set aside a few days do give it a go. You will never regret it.

Johannesburg, South...
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2. Re: Private vs public reserves

Hi annmarie1122,

I think there are probably multiple factors which would push one either to Private or self drive in a National Park or even a combination safari

The 1st is cost. Private lodges are considerably more expensive as you seem to know, but then almost everything is included. The 2nd is a desire to do a self drive safari, which some people are just not comfortable to do or don't want to do. National Park accommodation is relatively basic although comfortable and clean, and some people prefer the luxury experience more. The other major difference between the 2 is that private safari lodges offer 2 daily game drives in open 4 x 4 game viewing vehicles with expert guides and trackers. Having the ability to go off road, you often get really close to the wildlife, which in Kruger National Park is not always possible as vehicles are not allowed to leave the tourists roads for any reason, so how close you get is really the luck of the draw, and depends on how close the sighting is to the road.

There are positives to both, and that's why a combination will give you the best of 2 completely different and fantastic experiences and is so popular and so often recommended on the forum. This does also balance out the cost a bit.

What is your budget? There may be options which will allow you to do all private if you wanted. Private lodge rates range from about ZAR2000 to ZAR12 000 per person per night sharing.

At the end of the day its a personal preference, and that's why there are different opinions on the forum based on personal experiences.

Regards.

Brett | Owner | Safaris For Me | South Africa

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3. Re: Private vs public reserves

Thanks everyone. This was incredibly helpful. I agree a self drive could be spectacular. For me for sure it would having camped in Serengeti. For my friends it may be a bit much to literally land in SA and then hit the public reserve especially for 2 girls that have never been to Africa, the bush or camped. All pressure would be on me to perform! Lol I will share this with my friends and decide. Elephant Plains has availability for our dates, can fit us 3 in 1 room and I have read all the reviews and am pleased. It's also on the less expensive end of the luxury privates. I clearly see the "why's" and differences now with the parks, costs but mainly the desire to self drive. Much appreciated!

Johannesburg, South...
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4. Re: Private vs public reserves

Hi again.It's a pleasure. Glad to help.

Elephant Plains is a nice value for money option. I'm not sure if they will allow 3 adults in a room though, especially in the smaller rondavels. It's possible in the luxury rooms though. You can also look at Arathusa, Cheetah Plains Or Nottens which is more expensive, but a very nice lodge.

Regards.

Brett | Owner | Safaris For Me | South Africa

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5. Re: Private vs public reserves

@brett

Is it possible to get a guide for Kruger if you did not want to self drive? Would their jeeps be open top? I assume they need to stick to the roads just like self drive drivers. If one did not feel like doing the self drive, would you recommend staying in the privates but maybe splitting time between 2 areas? Sabi sands and another?

Gold Coast...
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6. Re: Private vs public reserves

Hi there Annmarie

Just a brief opinion because I am in Kruger right now and have limited data.

I am a great believer in a combination of both for many reasons stated in the past and completely agree with all Tryhards reasons for spending time in the main park.

However the important thing no one has mentioned is how much time you have? If you only have a couple of days maybe just stick to private reserves but if you have say a week, go for a combi. Kruger is simply massive and you really need as long as possible to appreciate it.

Most definitely drive yourself if you can, we have been watching the safari jeeps over the past week and I am more convinced than ever to go for the flexibility of self drive for so many reasons. You certainly do not need a guide to spot the wildlife, I would even go as far as saying we have seen more than some of the people getting rushed around in the jeeps.

Anyway that's my opinion, if you are interested in more, please have a look at some of my past posts on this very subject, I have had plenty to say about this !

We are spending a few weeks driving in the park right now and will follow with a few days in Sabi Sand at the end. What we have seen so far after less than a week has been amazing, different to private lodges but to me such a shame to travel so far and miss the true experience of Kruger, which is why of course so many get hooked and keep returning.

Johannesburg, South...
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7. Re: Private vs public reserves

Hi annmarie1122,

I fully agree with thesandmans advice. They have spent much time in Kruger and have a wealth of experience and knowledge.

I think the best way to experience Kruger is self drive, which gives you a lot of flexibility to do what you want, and for how long you want. In answer to your question, there are tour operators who offer a guided Kruger experience, but quite honestly and re-iterating thesandmans advice, you don't need anyone to find the animals for you, and they are also equally limited to the tourist roads.

I self-drive is not the experience you want, then a private lodge is the way to go, and whether you stay in one lodge or split your time between 2 lodges in different reserves or even in different areas of the same reserve will depend on how much time you want to spend on safari. With 3 nights, I would recommend a single lodge, with 4 or more nights it is more viable to split the nights if you wanted. Just one thing to keep in mind, is that if you split the nights between different lodges, depending on which lodges there is a good chance of having to consider transfers between lodges, for example, between lodges in the Northern sector of the Sabi Sands and the more Southern to central lodges will require a transfer of some sort as the north and the south are not accessible to each other through the reserve. The same obviously applies to lodges in different reserves for example a Sabi Sands lodge to a Timbavati / Klaserie / Balule lodge.

I hope this answers your question and gives you more clarity.

Regards.

Brett | Owner | Safaris For Me | South Africa

Edited: 31 October 2013, 18:13
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