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What is the difference between the Kruger National Park and the adjacent private game reserves?

This video explains the difference between Kruger and the private reserves.

Let's start with the similarities first. The Kruger National Park and the adjacent private game reserves share the same bush and wildlife. There are no fences between Kruger and the major adjoining game reserves such as the Sabi Sands, Timbavati, Klaserie, Balule and Manyeleti. The animals are free to roam wherever they want within this huge conservation area of over two million hectares. So the wildlife is exactly the same, but there are slight differences in game viewing and in the safari experience.

The Kruger National Park has a huge network of public roads (some of them tarred) that are used by tour operators as well as by the general public (self-drive clients). This provides advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are that you can cover large distances and see a greater variety of landscapes and vegetation types. It also means you can expect to see a variety of animals, often in greater numbers than in the adjacent private reserves.

Two disadvantages of Kruger's roads are potential vehicle congestion (especially near the bigger camps in peak holiday seasons), as well as having to stay on the roads during game drives. No vehicles are permitted to go off-road in the Kruger. Having said that, the animals in the Kruger are used to vehicles and you will often have good sightings right on the road or next to the road.

In the private reserves, the bush and animals are similar but the game drives are limited to a specific traversing area, and will not cover large parts of the game reserve. This puts a natural limit on the number and variety of animals you might encounter on a typical game drive. Also, private game lodges follow a set daily schedule and game drives are limited to two drives per day, lasting about three hours each. Balancing this out, private lodges offer the advantage of being able to go off-road to get closer to the animals, and most lodges continue their afternoon game drives after sundown as a night drive. Many lodges also offer the option of a bush walk as an additional activity.

Another difference is the accommodation. Usually, private safari lodges offer more luxurious accommodation and a more upmarket experience, compared to the standard bungalows in the Kruger National Park.

Having said all that, it is impossible to say which option is better and where you will have the best sightings. Some people prefer our Kruger National Park open vehicle safaris with our legendary safari guides. And in general, you can expect to see greater numbers and variety of wildlife in Kruger itself. Others prefer the private lodges with their more luxurious accommodation and the ability to go off-road during game drives. The wildlife is similar, and either option can deliver exceptional game-viewing opportunities – but there is always an element of luck involved.

Why are some safaris cheaper than yours?

We are often asked why there are some safaris and tours advertised cheaper than ours.

While it's a good idea to shop around and compare quotes, cheaper is not always the best option. There's a reason why it's cheaper. If you find something that looks similar but cheaper than what we've offered you, please ask our advice first, before you book – without obligation.

The cost of a tour is influenced by the choice of accommodation, the location and duration of game drives, the quality of the guide, and many other factors. Please also read “Comparing safaris” for some of the pitfalls to watch out for before you book a safari. For most people, a safari is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We want you to have the best possible safari for your time and money.

What are the Big Five and will I see them?

The Big Five (or Big 5) were traditionally considered to be the five most dangerous animals to hunt in Africa. Today, they are among the most popular animals tourists wish to see in Africa. The Big Five are the lion, the elephant, the rhino, the buffalo and the leopard.

In Botswana, thanks to a successful rhino reintroduction programme, certain areas in the Okavango Delta (like Chiefs Island) are now once again Big Five areas, although most of the other game reserves in Botswana do not have rhinos.

In South Africa, there are various Big Five game reserves (the Kruger National Park is the most famous of these). Even if you visit a Big Five reserve, remember that no sightings are guaranteed – the animals roam freely and part of the excitement of a safari is not knowing what you will find on each game drive. Our records show that we have found the Big Five on over 80% of all our Kruger National Park safaris. So although seeing all of them is not a certainty, we can assure you that you will see at least some of them on your safari.

Our advice is to not only focus on the Big Five during your safari. There are so many other animals and exciting things to see that a drive on which you see none of the Big Five can still be one of the most interesting game drives! Have a go at finding some of the Little Five – elephant shrew, leopard tortoise, ant lion, buffalo weaver and rhino beetle!

Of course, certain areas are known for certain animals. For example, if you want to see leopards, go to the Sabi Sands Game Reserve. For wild dogs, try Madikwe or the Moremi Game Reserve. For cheetah, your best bet is the Serengeti in Tanzania, Maasai Mara in Kenya or Phinda Private Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal. Lions and elephants can best be found in the Kruger National Park or Sabi Sands Game Reserve in South Africa, Moremi Game Reserve or Chobe Game Reserve in Botswana, Etosha in Namibia, or Hwange in Zimbabwe. Rhinos are most common in the southern Kruger National Park, Phinda or Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve (KwaZulu-Natal).

Let us know what your game-viewing expectations are, and we will recommend the best possible destination.

Is it safe to visit South Africa?

In our experience, South Africa is a safe tourist destination

South Africa has a reputation as an unsafe destination, but visiting here as a tourist is much safer than most people realise. Have a look at this blog post, which specifically answers the question: Is it safe to visit South Africa as a tourist?

Keep in mind that news headlines and social media often only report bad news, especially crime. Good news, unfortunately, does not sell newspapers. You are not likely to hear about the millions of tourists who visit South Africa each year without incident.

We have conducted tours and safaris in South Africa since 2005 and have never had an incident of violent crime on any of our safaris. Having said that, crime is a worldwide phenomenon and the key is to use common sense and avoid potentially dangerous situations or known high-risk areas. For the latest travel advice from the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office, including security updates, click here.

At Wild Wings Safaris, the safety of our guests is paramount – we'd never recommend a destination or activity that we consider to be unsafe. We believe that South Africa remains a safe tourist destination. The high crime statistics generally come from the poorest areas. Most areas frequented by tourists are perfectly safe. If in any doubt, please ask us.

Is it safe to go on safari?

Safety is a top priority for us, and we will never recommend a destination or activity we consider unsafe for tourists. Visiting South Africa or the Victoria Falls as a tourist is quite safe. We consider South Africa to be as safe – if not safer – than many other major tourist destinations around the world.

Many visitors are concerned about crime, but we have never had any problems or incidents of crime on our safaris. Crime occurs in every major city in the world, and the key is to use common sense and avoid risky situations or known problem areas. We have no problem recommending a visit to Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwean side.

Going on safari is also quite safe. As long as you abide by the rules and stay in your vehicle or with your safari guide, there is no need to be concerned about wild animals. In the Kruger National Park, each camp is safely fenced with an electric fence. At private lodges that are not fenced, you will always be in the company of a trained ranger or safari guide.

Your accommodation is usually designed to be as insect-proof as possible.

I have limited time available. What can I see or do in this time?

Each destination has a range of available activities. We can send you a list of things to do in Cape Town, Victoria Falls, the Garden Route, the Panorama Route, and other destinations.

While on safari in the Kruger National Park or at a game lodge, the main activity is game viewing, either by vehicle, by boat or on foot. Other activities at lodges include stargazing, birding, guided interpretive bush walks, spa and beauty treatments, working out in the gym, games rooms, reading or video lounge, mountain biking, horseback riding, elephant-back safaris, boat cruises, and more. Or, you may simply want to relax around the pool or on the game-viewing deck.

The activities you can do will depend on your choice of lodge, interests, available time and budget.

Where do you recommend for a honeymoon destination?

With so many options available, which lodge or destinations are the most “romantic” for a special time away together?

That's where you can rely on our expert destination knowledge. We'll help you plan the most memorable honeymoon, as we've personally visited all the lodges and destinations and have a good feel for those that will make you feel especially pampered and taken care of during this wonderful time in your life.

In fact, we put together a blog on the "10 most romantic Valentine’s and honeymoon safari destinations". Please read it to get a few ideas to discuss with us.

A number of upmarket lodges offer unrivaled privacy and exclusivity, and have only a few suites. These are popular, if expensive, honeymoon safari destinations. But many of the more affordable lodges also offer honeymoon packages or have a dedicated honeymoon suite, which offers more luxury and privacy than their standard rooms.

How far is the Kruger National Park from Cape Town/Johannesburg?

The Kruger National Park is in the north-eastern corner of South Africa, along with the border of Mozambique. Please see our Africa map page to orientate yourself and get to know the region.

The park is an easy five-hour drive or a one-hour flight from Johannesburg. From Cape Town, it is best to fly to Johannesburg or to Nelspruit, the closest city (Nelspruit Airport/Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport). Cape Town to Nelspruit is a three-hour flight, and from Nelspruit, it is another hour by road to the Kruger National Park. It is also possible to fly directly to Skukuza, inside the Kruger National Park, from Johannesburg or Cape Town

Some other distances:

  • Cape Town to Johannesburg is a two-hour flight or 12 hours by road
  • Johannesburg to Durban is a one-hour flight or six hours by road
  • Cape Town to Port Elizabeth via the Garden Route is a 90-minute flight or eight hours by road
  • Johannesburg to George (Garden Route) is just less than a two-hour flight.
  • Johannesburg to Victoria Falls is a two-hour flight
Should I be worried about malaria?

Don't be worried about malaria, just be informed. The risk of malaria should not stop you from going on safari –malaria is preventable and treatable. The only people who should perhaps avoid malaria areas are pregnant women, small children and those with a compromised immune system, e.g. no spleen. There are plenty of exciting malaria-free safari options available – please ask us for details.

If you're going to visit the greater Kruger National Park, northern Botswana, or any safari destination in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania or Kenya, we recommend that you take anti-malarial prophylactic medication as prescribed by your doctor or travel clinic, before travelling to Africa.

Preventing mosquito bites is the best way to avoid malaria, so remember to bring insect repellent with you. Most (but not all) game lodges and safari camps have mosquito nets over the beds, and even the basic bungalows in the Kruger National Park have mosquito screens at the windows and doors. Electric fans and air conditioning are also effective in keeping mosquitos away. Read our blog, "The best way to prevent malaria ..."

Please also see our malaria information page for practical advice, malaria-free safari options and a map showing areas where malaria can occur.

Is it not cheaper to book direct instead of with us?

No, in fact, it costs less to book through us. Because of our buying power, we negotiate bulk discounts and, most often, our rate is slightly less than the normal rate at the lodge or hotel of your choice. We add no booking fees or credit card surcharge, and there are no hidden costs.

That means, for no extra cost whatsoever, you can make use of our local expertise and have us make all the arrangements on your behalf, ensuring a seamless trip for less effort and less money than if you book everything directly. And if something does go wrong during your stay at a lodge or hotel, you have someone in your corner to intervene on your behalf. For a more detailed answer, please see our page about comparing safari options and operators.

When and how should I book flights?

We recommend that, if possible, your flights are booked after your itinerary is planned, which gives you a good deal more flexibility.

With regard to international flights, it's best to book these yourself, and it often works out cheaper to book your domestic or regional flights at the same time.

Should you require local flights, we will specify exactly which flights you need and direct you to the airline's website, where you can book directly. You may also be able to secure a better rate by making your own booking directly on the internet. Alternatively, we can refer you to our reliable ATOL partners, who will gladly assist you. If you need assistance with booking flights, please let us know. Our UK office does not have an ATOL and does not book any flights. Only our South African office can assist with booking flights, using a registered travel agent.

There are several airlines offering domestic and regional flights in South Africa:

  • SA Airlink
  • SAA (South African Airways)
  • SA Express
  • Kulula (low-cost airline owned by BA)
  • Mango (low-cost airline owned by SAA)
Wild Wings Safaris is a tour operator. How is that different from a travel agent?

The difference between a travel agent and a tour operator does seem to cause some confusion.

Put very simply, a travel agent is someone who sells and books all your travel arrangements as a package – flights, hotels, holidays and tours (offered by various tour operators) to destinations all over the world. They don't package or operate the tour themselves, they just sell it. Travel agents usually belong to international/national bodies like IATA (International Air Transport Association), ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents), and our local body, ASATA (Association of Southern African Travel Agents). In the UK we are a member of ABTA – the Association of British Travel Agents, which includes financial protection.

On the other hand, a tour operator is someone who usually operates their own tours and, like us, may also provide custom tours by booking and arranging all the details, such as accommodation, transport, transfers, meals, guides and optional activities. Tour operators create tours by packaging various services and attractions into an itinerary, and quite often they are land operators who physically conduct the tour, using their own vehicles and guides. Many tour operators don’t book international flights – rather, the focus is on your travel arrangements once you arrive, which may include booking domestic or regional flights.

In Southern Africa, tour operators usually belong to SATSA (Southern Africa Tourism Services Association). We have been a member of SATSA since 2006.