The Greater Kruger National Park is South Africa's premier safari destination: it's the largest wildlife conservancy in Africa, set in one of the most accessible yet unspoilt wilderness areas in South Africa. It encompasses the Kruger National Park and a number of adjoining private reserves which share unfenced boundaries with the park; including Sabi Sand, Timbavati, Klaserie and Balule Game Reserves, which are home to a wide variety of private game lodges, each with its own brand of style and luxury.
- One of Africa's top safari destinations
- Big 5 game viewing
- Self-drive and guided safaris offered
- Wide variety of accommodation to suit different tastes & budgets
- Consistent year round game viewing
- 5-Hour drive or 1-hour flight from Johannesburg
- One of the best yet most affordable safari destinations in Africa
Greater Kruger offers some of the most prolific and diverse game viewing in Africa. Kruger has the largest number of mammal species of any national park in the world. Besides Kruger National Park, the adjacent private reserves offer a wide variety of safari lodges from basic tented accommodation to cabins, chalets, meru-style safari tents and luxury villas offering the ultimate in privacy and luxury.
There are basically 4 different ways to experience Kruger:
- A self-drive safari, staying in self-catering accommodation in one of the Sanparks camps. Cheap and cheerful, but without a guide or open vehicle game drives.
- A guided Kruger Park open vehicle safari, staying inside the Kruger National Park. These are scheduled small group safaris or private safaris with an experienced guide. Game drives on open safari vehicles. This is also a budget-friendly option.
- A safari at one of the concession lodges inside Kruger. These lodges use their own road network in their concession area, as well as some of the public roads in Kruger. Generally these lodges offer upmarket accommodation at a higher price.
- A safari at a private game lodge in one of the adjacent private reserves. These private safari lodges have their own traversing area, and offer game drives on open safari vehicles, which are able to go off-road to get close to the animals. They range from basic budget lodges priced below $400 USD pp per night to high-end luxury lodges costing over $2000 USD pp per night.
Differences between Kruger National Park and the Private Game Reserves
What is the difference between Kruger and the adjacent private reserves? This is one of the most commonly-asked questions we get, especially for first-time visitors to South Africa. Here are some of the differences:
- In Kruger National Park, all vehicles must stay on public roads, some of which are tarred. In the private reserves, most of the roads are dirt, and the vehicles are allowed off-road so you can get up close & personal to the wildlife.
- In Kruger, accommodation ranges from camping to luxury guesthouses. On our guided Kruger Park safaris, we use standard bungalows which are clean and comfortable, basic and affordable, with air-conditioning and private bathroom. At private safari lodges, accommodation ranges from rustic to super luxurious, and is usually more expensive.
- In Kruger Park, unless you join a guided safari, you will need to self-cater, or dine at the camp restaurants. On our guided open vehicle safaris in Kruger, we cater for two meals per day (a mid-morning breakfast or brunch, as well as dinner). If you stay at private lodges, all meals are usually included and catered.
- In Kruger, you'll get a feeling of its vastness, and have an enormous area to explore, covering different landscapes and vegetation types. Most of the private reserves have a limited traversing area, with a limited area permitted for game drives.
- Due to the size of Kruger, you are likely to see a greater number and variety of animals on safari in Kruger compared to the private reserves. On an average day, the overall game viewing in Kruger is usually better than at a private reserve.
- Because vehicles from different lodges stay in radio contact, you are likely to see more prime sightings such as predators at private reserves, and can often get up close to big cat sightings, especially in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, which is famous for its excellent leopard sightings.
- In the Kruger National Park, there can be many vehicles at a sighting, especially at a popular one such as a predator kill on one of the main tar roads. Congestion is worse during the peak holiday seasons (South African school holidays). In the private reserves, you are not permitted to drive your own car so there are much fewer vehicles at sightings, and even the lodge vehicles are limited to maximum 3 vehicles per sighting.
- In Kruger, you have electrified perimeter fences at the rest camps, and you can view night prowlers like hyenas with spotlights from the safety of the camps. In private lodges, there are often no fences and the wildlife visitors are free to roam through the lodge area. At night, you will be escorted to your room by an armed ranger.
- In Kruger, the camp gates open at sunrise and close at sunset (actual times vary according to season). During the day, you can stay out on game drive as long as you want to. On our guided Kruger safaris, the game drive times are flexible and we do sometimes stay out all day, or for a large part of the day, to maximize game viewing time. In the private reserves, most lodges have a fixed daily itinerary which includes a morning game drive and an afternoon game drive which continues after dark as a night drive (drives are usually 3 hours long).
- In general, Kruger is a lot less expensive and is a great safari option for those on a tight budget who want to see a variety of different landscapes and wildlife. The private reserves cost more and are great for those who want a more exclusive, luxury safari experience with the chance of some great close-up sightings.
Our Advice for this Conundrum?
We often advise clients to do both. Especially as a first-time safari visitor, it's a great idea to spend a few nights in Kruger and then a few nights at a nearby private lodge if time permits. That way you get to experience the best of both worlds and decide for yourself which style of safari you prefer. An example is our popular 5 Day Kruger Park and Private Lodge Combo trip idea. which can be fully customised to suit your requirements.
Our consultants have all experienced Kruger Park safaris and have visited almost all the private safari lodges we recommend. They'll be happy to share their first-hand knowledge with you, answer your questions and discuss your options. Contact us for more info.
Satara Camp is one of the most popular camps in the park, in one of the best game viewing areas.
Skukuza Camp is the biggest and most popular camp in the Kruger Park, in the game-rich southern region of the park.
The Sabi Sand Game Reserve is adjacent to the Kruger National Park. It is a collection of privately-owned game reserves which have dropped their fences by mutual agreement. There is also no fence between the Sabi Sand Game Reserve and the Kruger National Park, allowing the free movement of animals through the reserve. It is known as South Africa's top luxury safari destination, and the best place in the world for viewing leopards in the wild.
The Timbavati Game Reserve is most famous for its white lions, which are still spotted in this area from time to time. The Timbavati is a collection of privately-owned game reserves which share an unfenced boundary with the Kruger National Park. It is a vast Big 5 game reserve situated to the west of Kruger, and to the north of the Sabi Sand Game Reserve. The bush and game viewing in the Timbavati is similar to what you will find in the Kruger National Park.
The Klaserie Game Reserve is a privately run game reserve which forms part of the Greater Kruger Park. You'll find a variety of safari lodges here, ranging from rustic bush camps and walking trails to luxury game lodges. Klaserie offers a tranquil, private and unhurried safari experience. Guest numbers are low and the lodges are small and intimate.
Balule Private Game Reserve is a collection of private game farms and reserves with no fences between them, allowing for free movement of game throughout the 2 million hectare Greater Kruger conservation area. The perennial Olifants River flows through the centre of the reserve, which attracts a wide variety of wildlife to this plentiful water supply.
Thornybush Game Reserve recently dropped their eastern boundary fence and now forms part of the Greater Kruger conservation area. Thornybush has a diverse collection of safari lodges.
Hamiltons Tented Camp in the Kruger National Park offers luxury accommodation in six luxurious, fully-equipped safari tents. Styled according to an African safari of the early 20th Century, Hamiltons captures the romance and elegance of a bygone era. The lodge is situated in an excellent game viewing area, within a private concession in the Kruger National Park.
Imbali Safari Lodge is situated in one of nine private concessions in the famous Kruger National Park, South Africa, and offers guests a fantastic African safari experience. The lodge offers luxurious 5-star accommodation, with private deck and jacuzzi. At Imbali you can enjoy open-vehicle game drives through some of the best wildlife areas in Kruger.
Built in traditional ethnic style, Hoyo Hoyo Tsonga Lodge is situated in a 10 000 hectare concession in the world-renowned Kruger National Park, South Africa. The lodge is built on an ancient elephant trail and offers luxury accommodation in true African style. Guests can view the area's abundant wildlife from open safari vehicles or even from the comfort of their private decks, as the lodge overlooks an active waterhole. Guests have the opportunity to interact with the local Shangaan or Tsonga people.
Camp Shawu is situated in a private concession area within the famous Kruger National Park, South Africa. Named after a magnificent elephant bull that frequents the area, the camp offers luxury accommodation for only 10 guests, with beautiful views over the Mpanamana Dam. In the dry season, a variety of animals gather at the dam to drink. Camp Shawu shares a vast concession area with Camp Shonga and Shishangeni Lodge, in the south-eastern part of the Kruger Park, which has an abundance of wildlife.
Camp Shonga is a luxury tented camp situated in a private concession within the Kruger National Park, South Africa's greatest game reserve. Camp Shonga is a small and cosy bush retreat, featuring only 5 luxurious, air-conditioned tents with en-suite bathrooms. Spectacular views of the African bushveld and its wildlife can be enjoyed from private viewing decks, as well as during game drives with expert guides.
Shishangeni Private Game Lodge is situated deep in the heart of the famous Kruger National Park, South Africa - a wildlife reserve that offers some of the greatest game viewing experiences in Africa. Surrounded by the unspoilt beauty of the African bushveld, the lodge provides guests with luxury accommodation, as well as excellent open vehicle game drives with expert guides.
Luxurious Narina Lodge, Lion Sands Reserve, has a prime location in the Kruger National Park, with access to both the Sabie and Sand Rivers, which makes for an abundance and diversity of game viewing guaranteed to give you a superb safari experience. Various activities include off-road, open vehicle safaris and guided bush walks.
Just 5 minutes away from Kruger’s Sukuza Airport, Tinga Lodge is located on the banks of the scenic Sabie River, in an area offering an incredible variety and diversity of wildlife. Exclusive and luxurious, Tinga offers you the unique opportunity of off-road safaris to get the best game viewing possible.
Singita Lebombo Lodge is an upmarket lodge in a remote part of eastern Kruger, situated on a private concession. The lodge offers sweeping vistas of the rugged Lebombo terrain. Game drives are conducted within a private concession area inside Kruger, as well as on the Kruger's public road network.
Singita Sweni Lodge is luxury private lodge in a remote part of eastern Kruger, situated on a private concession. The lodge offers luxurious suites with breathtaking views over the Sweni river. Game drives are conducted within a private concession area inside Kruger, as well as on the Kruger's public road network.
Rhino Post is a luxury safari lodge set in the 12 000 ha Mutlumuvi Concession Area within the Kruger National Park. This elegant 8-suite lodge was built using only natural materials such as wood, stone, thatch and canvas. It's the main accommodation base for Rhino Walking Safaris.
Plains Camp is part of Rhino Walking Safaris in the Kruger National Park. As the name implies, Rhino Walking Safaris specializes in foot safaris and guided bush walks. Often, Plains Camp is combined with Rhino Post Lodge on the same trip, offering the guest a combination of game drives and walking safaris.
Jock Safari Lodge is named after Jock of the Bushveld, the famous dog from the true story by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick. This luxury safari lodge is situated in a private concession in the southern part of Kruger, and offers game drives on their own concession as well as on Kruger's network of public roads.
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The 3-day Kruger National Park safari is designed for those who want a quick and affordable way to see the Kruger National Park in the company of an expert guide, but are really short on time. We also call it the Kruger Quickie Safari and it departs on set dates from Johannesburg or Nelspruit. Custom departures can be arranged for groups of 4+ (additional cost). Book early to avoid disappointment!
The 4-day Budget Kruger Park Safari is easy on your budget, big on game viewing. This small group, fully-guided safari in Kruger National Park overnights inside the park with scheduled departures from Johannesburg or Nelspruit. Custom departure dates may be arranged (additional cost applies). Book early to avoid disappointment!
The popular 5-Day Best of Kruger Safari is a 4-night/5-day safari in the Kruger National Park offering open vehicle game drives with an experienced safari guide. Includes a night drive and guided bush walk. Spend two nights at each of two different camps, in different areas of Kruger Park, giving you the best game viewing opportunities. Book early to avoid disappointment!
A guided safari in the Kruger Park (using the national park camps) is quite different to a safari at a private game lodge. Both have their advantages. This trip idea combines two nights in Kruger, followed by two nights at a private game lodge for you to experience the best of both worlds. All game drives in open vehicles with expert and knowledgeable guides.