A Wildlife safari in Africa is like anything else in life – you get what you pay for!
Like buying a car, you can buy a Chev Spark @ ZAR 139,900 or you can buy the top of the range Mercedes Benz @ ZAR 1 950 900. Or a Ferrari, or a Lamborghini! All will get you from point “A” to point “B”. But it’s how you get there that is the difference and what you’ve paid for.
Like going to a restaurant for a meal, going to a Mc Donald’s drive-thru or going to a Michelin 3 star restaurant. You will leave both feeling full, buts it’s the quality of the food and service that’s the difference and what you’ve paid for.
Like flying from your home town to your safari destination in South Africa, flying economy or 1st Class. Both will get you here, but it’s the luxury, comfort food and service that is the difference and what you’ve paid for.
A Wildlife Safari in Southern Africa, or anywhere in Africa for that matter, is no different – get what you pay for!
You can rent a tent at Skukuza Rest Camp in the Kruger National Park, without doubt, the greatest wildlife reserve in the world, for ZAR 640 per tent, that sleeps two people, per night, tent only. You pay extra to get to Skukuza, you pay extra, per person, for South African National Parks daily Conservation Levy’s, you pay extra for all the safaris, bush walks, and nature activities, you pay extra for all your meals, tea’s & coffee’s, you pay extra for your bar, you pay extra for phone calls, laundry, items of a personal nature and gratuities. And that’s the very basis level of accommodation available.
Or you can pay ZAR 21 950 per person per night at Londolozi’s Private Granite Suite, fully inclusive of everything! www.londolozi.com.
So you see. A Wildlife safari in Africa is like anything else in life – you get what you pay for!
Twenty years ago there were 8 commercial safari lodges in Southern Africa. Today there are in excess of 2 800!
Of the 8 original safari lodges, four are situated in the Kruger National Park area of South Africa, those being Sabi Sabi, Londolozi, MalaMala and Motswari. The other 4 were situated in Botswana and Zimbabwe.
Today every landowner who has a sizable piece of land and game on their property and who has built a lodge (of sorts) now operates a game farm / game reserve / nature reserve offering wildlife safaris.
There are game reserves which are known as “soft” reserves, meaning that they have animals like antelope, monkeys, giraffe etc roaming free, but none of the “Big 5”. The Big 5 are lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo, and were given the name “Big 5” by the early big game hunters as these 5 animals were, and still are, the most dangerous animals in the African bush to hunt.
Then there are game reserves that have all the “soft” game free roaming and the “Big 5” are in separate areas camped off from the other game. This is like doing a wildlife safari in a theme park or zoo at any major city in the world. I’m sure this is not the type of wildlife safari you are looking for?
Then there are the “Big 5” reserves. Game reserves where all of Africa’s wild animals roam free. A wildlife safari in a “Big 5” reserve is what most people dream of when thinking of a wildlife safari in Africa. Make sure you get the safari that you expect. Free roaming lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, buffalo, cheetah, giraffe, wildebeest, zebra and all the rest of the animals you imagine when thinking Africa, all free in their natural environment.
Many land owners have come to realize the wealth in offering wildlife safaris to overseas tourists, after all that’s one of the two main reasons to come to South Africa, the other is her scenic beauty, Cape Town and surrounds. Some of these landowners have “rehabilitated” old farmlands and cattle farms to wildlife game reserves, again offering wildlife safaris. Some of these reserves like Phinda in KwaZulu/Natal and Shamwari in the Eastern Cape, and are quite remarkable in the job that the ecologists have done in converting old cattle farms into pristine African bush. But these are few and far between.
Wildlife safaris are now offered from the southern tip of the African continent, Cape Town, north to the Limpopo Rivers, the border between South Africa and Zimbabwe. There are “reserves” and then there are “reserves” Make sure the safari that you book live up to your expectations of “I dreamt of Africa” It’s interesting to note that the last two elephants in the Cape Town area where shot in the Hout Bay area as long ago as 1689!!
Without doubt, the best areas in South Africa for game viewing and for a real wildlife safari are in the areas that since time immemorial, have been home to all the Southern African wild animals. This is either Hluhluwe/Umfolozi Game Reserve in KwaZulu/Natal (Est. 1897) and the Kruger National Park which was proclaimed a National Park in 1926.
The self-drive option, where we organise a rental car to be waiting for the you on your arrival and organise all your accommodation at different rest camps in Kruger and you drive yourself around the Park, which is huge, over 2 million hectares!!
Option two is staying at a rest camp in Kruger and doing all your game drives with a ranger employed by South African National Parks. The exact camp that you stay at will depend on availability at the time of confirming your booking. Why I don't recommend this option is because you will be on a game drive in a vehicle with between 6 or 19 other people of all nationalities and of differing interests, all in the same vehicle.
The third option is that you stay in Kruger at the same rest camps as in option two but that you will have your own dedicated ranger in your own dedicated "open safari vehicle". This vehicle also accommodates 10 people but you will have it all to yourselves, which means from a photographic point of view you each have a "window" seat. The guide knows Kruger like the back of his hand and knows where to go to find the animals.
Then there are the "private" reserve options. You must appreciate that when staying in Kruger at one of the public rest camps, as per option one, two & three above, you are subject to certain rules and regulations such as you can only leave camp at gate opening time and you must be back in camp at gate closing time.
The programme at these private camps all follow pretty much the same routine. Early morning wake up for tea and coffee before you set off for the dawn safari. You return to camp at about 09h00 for breakfast. The rest of the day is free to either go on a bush walk with your ranger, go to the pool to "chill out" during the heat of the day, go to the water hole to watch the animals come down to drink or to just relax in camp. Lunch is served at about 13h00 and the evening game drive departs at about 16h00. At sunset you stop "somewhere in the bush" for sun-downers and then you carry on into the night looking for the nocturnal animals with the aid of a powerful spot-lamp. The nocturnal animals are the cats such as lion, leopard, civet, serval, genet etc which you don't see during the day. You return to camp at about 20h30, depending on animal activity, for dinner which is usually in the "boma" under the African stars beside a roaring log fire. This is the way most people imagine an African Safari and is definitely the way to get the most out of your visit to Africa.
One of the other main advantages of a private lodge as opposed to Kruger is that the game viewing at the private lodge is usually far better than in Kruger. The private lodges are normally situated in an area where there is abundant water with good grazing thereby with a large concentration of prey species. Where there are prey species there are the predators so at the private reserves your chances of encountering the "Big 5" are far better than in Kruger, due to the pure size of Kruger and the wide distribution of the animals within Kruger.
The best “private” lodges are all situated in the Sabi Sand Private Nature Reserve which adjoins Kruger and which are close to the confluence of the Sabi River and the Sand River with year round water. There are no fences separating the Kruger from the Sabi Sand Reserve so the animals are free to move between the two reserves.