The enormous Kruger National Park, in the North East of South Africa is one of Africa’s most renowned National Parks, offering superb game viewing and varied topography as one moves from North to South. Whilst visiting the National Park itself, with it’s rest camps and self drive routes remains the preserve of local visitors, the area boasts a number of private safari areas bordering the park catering for overseas visitors. They provide a private safari experience, with many offering night drives, guided walks and off road driving, all of which are forbidden in the main part of the park. Add to this the fact that there are very few lodges in these reserves and the limits placed on the number of vehicles at any one sighting, these private reserves really do offer South Africa’s ultimate safari experience.
The Sabi Sand is probably the best known of these private reserves, occupying a prime piece of game viewing land, close to the Skukuza region of the main National Park. In fact the reserve shares an unfenced border with the Kruger National Park, meaning game is free to (and does) roam into the Sabi Sand and follow ancient migratory routes. The reserve is named after the Sabi and Sand Rivers, which run through the reserve, creating plenty of dense riverine bushveld which is the preferred territory of the often elusive Leopard. The result is that the Sabi Sand is one the best, if not the best, place in Africa to view Leopard. Often seen sitting lazily in a tree surveying their kingdom or skulking along the roadways in the evening searching to hunt, these majestic creatures are what draw so many people here. Sightings of other members of the Big 5 (Lion, Elephant, Rhino and Buffalo) are also very good, as are those of Wild Dog and, on the plains further to the North of the reserve, Cheetah. The reserve also offers superb accommodation to compliment it’s game viewing, from the small but charming Sabi Sabi Little Bush to it’s eco-friendly sister lodge Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge, in the South to some of the truly out of this world lodges in the North of the reserve. Singita Boulders and Singita Ebony, sights right up their on most traveller’s bucket lists (and of many staff in the office as well) whilst Ulusaba Private Game Reserve, Richard Branson’s South African game reserve offers a quirky take on luxury accommodation with Champagne included in the cost of your stay. For more a modest lodge, look at Arathusa which commands a superb location overlooking a large waterhole, offering superb game viewing in their drier winter months. With easy access from Johannesburg, either via the lodge’s airstrips or by road transfers from regional airports, this is a prime game viewing spot in South Africa and well worth a visit.
Further North from the Sabi Sand you will find the Thornybush Game Reserve, less well known than it’s illustrious neighbour, but still offering a superb collection of lodges and game viewing experiences. The night drives here are superb and give visitors the chance to see some of the less well known creatures of the African bush, such as the Honeybadger, small cats such as Serval and Caracal and possibly even the elusive Aadvark. Whilst these animals are not often seen, the terrain in the Thornybush does heighten your chances of spotting them and searching for them is a great deal of fun. What has made the Thornybush so popular in recent years is the presence of the ultra-luxurious, ultra-exclusive Royal Malewane, which is one of the most beautiful safari lodges in all of Africa, lovingly looked after by it’s team of fantastic staff. Whether you are staying in their main lodge or the private-use Africa House, you will be assured of superb cuisine, wonderful game viewing with your fantastic guides and all round first class bush experience. The guiding is a real feature here, with some of the best guides in Africa, including the countries only Scout, Master Tracker and the recently crowned Southern Africa Guide of the year – an excellent choice for both safari aficionados and first timers.
The Timbavati Game Reserve, close to the Thornybush, offers a very similar type of experience, but with some more affordable options. Motswari Lodge, is a very popular option, offering great game viewing and lovely spacious rooms. The Lion sightings are especially good here and this is definitely an area worth considering if Sabi Sand and Thornybush Lodges are pushing the cost of the trip over and above your budget.
We will finish in the extreme North of the Kruger National Park, where South Africa meets Zimbabwe & Mozambique and you find truly wild, untamed bush on the fringes of the Limpopo River. Not many tourists venture up this far, but when they do, they will be greeted by an extraordinary landscape, ideally suited to dedicated walking safaris, which are rare in the rest of the country. The Outpost, is an ideal location for your stay, a beautifully designed camp which takes advantage of it’s stunning location to offer guests panoramic views across this amazing area. This is an area for experienced and adventurous safari goers, far removed from the other parts of the Kruger Park in a geographical and experiential sense, but well worth the trip if you want something totally unique.
If you would like to book a safari to the Kruger National Park, speak to our Africa Travel specialists on 020 7843 3500. They can organise everything for you, ensuring that your safari holiday is everything you want it to be and more.
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