National Parks, Conservancies, Game Reserves, Concessions, Wilderness Areas & Sanctuaries – the world of safari can often appear to be as complicated and as dense as the deepest jungle, so here at Africa Travel we are pleased to be able to provide a quick rundown of the main differences between these terms.
The Big Daddy of them all, National Parks are the most well-known. Owned by the state and traditionally open to all visitors, famous examples include South Africa’s Kruger National Park and the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, although many smaller and lesser-known ones exist throughout the continent. Being open to all does mean that big crowds and queues can build during the peak seasons, and although activities such as off-road game drives are normally prohibited, safari-ing in a National Park is normally cheaper than heading to a Game Reserve.
Game Reserves, (or game parks or wildlife reserves as they are also often referred to), are normally, but not always, privately-run and they use this to their advantage to often offer a wider range of activities than state-owned areas of land. Where just traditional game drives are normally offered in National Parks, activities on offer in Game Reserves can include bush walks, night drives and off-road safaris, and with the numbers allowed to enter strictly limited, costs are higher but the experience more personalised. Good examples are the community-owned Mala Mala Game Reserve in South Africa, and Tanzania’s privately-owned Singita Grumeti Reserve.
Between National Parks & Game Reserves lie Concessions. State-owned land, which normally sits within or adjacent to a National Park, is divided up into areas and leased to operators of small private safari lodges. Strict conservation and behavioural rules are attached to the leases and the reward for the visitor is access to a wider range of activities than are available in National Parks. The Botswanan Government has used this concession model to great success, strictly limiting tourist activities and enabling a high-value, low-volume tourism model to prosper.
The final category, Conservancies, are areas of land managed by groups of private landowners or the local community with the aim of conserving the wildlife and of ensuring the local population benefits from tourism. Making sure the locals can see the financial gains which can be made ensures that the wildlife population is carefully managed and protected. Kenya’s Masai Mara leads the way with over a dozen conservancies, but there are numerous other examples in Africa, such as the Save Valley Conservancy in Zimbabwe.
So putting pedantics to one side, all of the above phrases and terms add up to mean the same thing – a habitat where Africa’s finest creatures can survive and ultimately thrive in a safe and controlled environment. Wherever you want to head to in Africa – be it a Game Reserve, National Park or even a beach or city – contact the experts at Africa Travel to help plan your next adventure.
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