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
- Five-hour drive or one-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 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 a 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 a maximum of three 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 your 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.
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.
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.
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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Our popular 3-day Kruger 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. This 3-day Kruger Park safari is sometimes called our Kruger Quick Safari. We offer regular scheduled departures from Johannesburg or Nelspruit. Custom departure dates and private departures can be arranged on request. Book early to avoid disappointment!
The 4-day Budget Kruger Park Safari is easy on your budget and 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!
Our 4-day Kruger Park and Panorama Route Safari combines two of South Africa's most popular destinations in one affordable fully-guided tour. Go on small-group open safari vehicle game drives in the Kruger National Park and explore scenic Panorama Route highlights in an air-conditioned minibus while overnighting in comfortable, air-conditioned bungalows. Feel free to ask us about group discounts.
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 each at 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 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.