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Advice on SA trip

Advice on SA trip

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Old May 15, 19, 12:27 pm
  #31  
 
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Originally Posted by johan rebel View Post
In the KNP, all vehicles (self-drive, SANParks guided drives, commercial guided drives) may use the public roads from the time the gates open in the morning, until they close in the evening. That means sightings are a first-come-first-serve, free-for-all, self-regulated show. The result may occasionally be chaos and mayhem, but usually not. It is equally possible, probably more likely, that the number of vehicles at a sighting is fairly low, or if you are lucky only one (you). On public roads, you are welcome to stay at a sighting for as long as you feel like. I've known people to stay for the whole day.

In the KNP, SANParks guided drives may and do use roads not open to the general public, and may drive outside of gate hours. That means they have sightings to themselves, i.e. one or maybe two vehicles max.

In the KNP, certain lodges on private concessions are also allowed to use a number of designated public and management roads outside of gate hours.

On private land, the land owners and/or lodge operators make up their own rules. They can be very imaginative and creative, the rules can be very numerous and vary depending on a host of factors. Quite a few are also, in my opinion, downright silly. In any case, they usually boil down to this:

- the number of vehicles at a specific sighting is restricted to X (usually between two and four)

- If the number of vehicles responding to a sighting exceeds X, the incoming vehicles have to "take a standby".

- If there are vehicles on standby, the vehicles at the sighting will have to make room for waiting vehicles after Z minutes (10 or 15 is common).

There are any number of refinements and exceptions to these rules, differing from reserve to reserve.

Private lodges on concessions in National Parks operate on the same principle. As they are constrained by SANParks regulations, they have a bit less leeway to make up their own rules, but when it comes to behavior at sightings the differences are small.

At private lodges game vehicles do not drive in a caravan. On the contrary, they spread out in as many different directions as they can in their endeavor to find as many interesting animals/sightings as possible. A specific sighting will therefore almost always be found/tracked down/chanced upon by a single vehicle. If interesting enough, other vehicles will be notified and may then choose to respond. Depending on the size of the reserve, the condition of the roads and their location, they may take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour to get to the sighting. That means that sightings often become partially self-regulating, in the sense that various vehicles will arrive at various intervals, thus allowing for a fairly regular turnover at the sighting. It is in reserves with a very high density of vehicles (Madikwe immediately comes to mind) that sightings can become ridiculously congested, even to the point where the standby list becomes oversubscribed. This issue is exacerbated when all these vehicles mostly utilize certain parts of the reserve where game concentrations are much higher than elsewhere (Madikwe comes to mind again).

As an aside, I know of a few instances where private game viewing lodges have resorted to "caravan" game drives, albeit against their will. These all involved large groups of Chinese tourists chaperoned by a asssertive guide who insisted that "all guests must see same animal!". The guests were then packed into half a dozen or more OSVs, which all drove single file down the same roads.

On one occasion, such a large group had also booked a game walk. The solution was to march all 40+ of them through the bush single file, with armed rangers inserted into the column at seven-guest intervals. For some funny reason, they did not see that many animals.

Finally, there's no such thing as a "single vehicle drive". Well, in a sense all drives actually are, but I suspect you are referring to sole use of vehicle (SoV), which usually comes at a (steep) extra. SoV just guarantees you that you will not share the vehicle with any other guest than those belonging to your party. It does not guarantee you that you will have all sightings to yourself for as long as you want.

However, enough money will buy you almost anything. There's a lodge on a concession in Kruger that will charge you an arm and a leg, but also bend over backwards to accommodate your wishes. They have a regular guest who has stipulated that on her sole-use-of-vehicle game drives no other vehicles should be encountered, not even glimpsed in the distance. The lucky guide assigned to drive her around has his work cut out for him, as he is kept extremely busy on the radio coordinating with all the other vehicles out there to make absolutely sure they do not meet. It also means they are invariably the last ones at any sighing, as they can only approach when all the other vehicles have left, and only along an empty road.

This same lady, when she feels like having a meal, will first phone the restaurant to make sure no other guests are in. If there are, she will have the meal served in her room instead.

The really upmarket lodges get more than their fair share of eccentrics!

Johan
That sounds terrifying for the resort... that lady better be paying & tipping really, really well.

What I actually meant by "single vehicle drive" was "not driving in a caravan" - if you're saying all private grounds game drives DO NOT drive in a caravan, then that's definitely what we'd prefer! Would you say both concession & public/SANParks game drives are more commonly in caravans? What would you say is the main difference between concession grounds & public grounds drives, or animal sightings for that matter? I'm still a bit confused if concession grounds are more like public grounds or like private grounds.
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Old May 15, 19, 4:50 pm
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Johan Rebel - have you been to a private reserve. Some of what you say is true but not everything.
For example 'Rare is the private reserve where you can have six or seven sightings in one game drive".
Pure BS! I have done literally dozens of private game reserves drive and six or seven sightings per drive were on the low end. But these weren't cheap trips and they were taken with friends.
Have never had a drive where I was a in the car with strangers. But there were a group of us on the trip. In a a group of 6 or 10. Trip in October is 16, for a friens 60th birthday. So we'll be in 4 vehicles.
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Old May 16, 19, 1:25 pm
  #33  
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Originally Posted by Swanky Safari View Post
Johan Rebel - have you been to a private reserve. .
No offense implied or intended, but that's the funniest thing I've been asked in years!

I don't really keep track, but when I casually made a list about a decade ago, I stopped when I reached 115 visited National Parks and game reserves of all kinds. That's African ones only, I wasn't counting those I've visited in South America, Europe and the US.

I've done literally thousands of game drives, at a rough guess about half of them in private game reserves. The whole gamut from super fancy 5-star to plain vanilla. I figure I pretty much know what I'm talking about by now.

You may have misunderstood, but when I wrote "Rare is the private reserve where you can have six or seven sightings in one game drive", I was of course specifically referring to lions and leopards. And by "six or seven sightings", I meant exactly that. So not six or seven lions or leopards, but seeing six or seven different (prides of) lions in different locations in one game drive. That's almost impossible to do in a private game reserve, simply because the traversing area is not large enough for so many lions. In the KNP, on the other hand, it can be done, and does happen. It is a function of Kruger's size (huge) and high animal densities (not everywhere). It also really helps if you know the park well, plan your game drives very carefully, have plenty of experience spotting game, and keep your eyes peeled.

Kruger records (there are undoubtedly people who have done even better):

Leopard:

- Six different sightings in one morning drive (just driving down the tar road from Skukuza to Afsaal).

- Seven different sightings in one night drive from Byamiti, all on one single road.

Lion:

- Eight different sightings in a day.

- 67 individual lions driving down the tar road from Letaba to Skukuza in one morning. I can't remember the number of sightings, though.

So much for pure BS. Thanks for the compliment, though!

Johan
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Old May 16, 19, 2:11 pm
  #34  
 
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Well glad I could make you chuckle, I aim to please.

Your a pro then. The OP has never been. I just want him to have a great trip and feel he got his moneys worth.

Maybe he should hire you to take him on safari. You sound more than qualified.
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Old May 16, 19, 3:16 pm
  #35  
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Originally Posted by Swanky Safari View Post
of the reserves I have been at have been under the 'And Beyond' (AB) umbrella
See . . . there's the rub! Not all lodges use their template.

&Beyond is not only lodge operator out there. Try broadening your horizons, you will discover that other lodges do things differently. There are those that are several rungs higher on the luxury ladder, and many that are lower down.

As for the vehicles, they come in a whole host of configurations. There's a tracker seat at the very front (if the lodge uses trackers, not all do). Then there's a seat next to the driver/guide. Lodges don't like allocating that one, but it does happen. Some guests actually ask to sit in front, because they are old and infirm, suffer from a bad back, or whatever. You also get groups of ten people who all want to go on the same vehicle.

In back you get several rows, usually three, sometime two, very rarely four. each row seats two or three guests.

Some lodges will put 3x3=9 guests in back. Others keep the middle seat empty. so 3x2=6. Yet others have bucket seats, so accommodate either 3x2 or 2x2, for a total of six or four respectively.

Originally Posted by Swanky Safari View Post
The most I have ever seen AB put in a vehicle were 2 unrelated couples.
I'll take your word for it, but once again, you may wish to consider broadening your horizons. Other operators do things differently than &Beyond. Really!

The majority of lodge guests are couples, families and groups, with a sprinkling of singles. Unless you have booked sole use of vehicle, most lodges will allocate your party to a specific guide (and therefore vehicle) for the duration of your stay. Unless your group is large enough to occupy the whole vehicle, you will share with other guests. If you stay for longer than a day or two, you will usually witness a steady stream of other guests coming and going.

Some really small lodges only have a single vehicle, so all guests share by definition.

Originally Posted by Swanky Safari View Post
Maybe because its not our first time and have been educated by the ranger
Be careful, the standards of guiding have been slipping over the years. The safari industry has grown at breakneck speed, the number of guides has increased commensurately, their quality has gone down. Don't take a guide's word for what he says, especially the talking encyclopedia kind who can't shut up. They are not always right, not even at the most expensive lodges.

Originally Posted by Swanky Safari View Post
You guarantee something will happen, blah blah blah. BS. You are only aware of what goes on in your life. That is the only guarantee you have to offer.
I'm not at all sure I understand what you are saying here. Actually, I'm clueless. (Yes, I do know what "BS" stands for. Pretty vulgar in my book, but hey, we all have different standards).

[QUOTE=Swanky Safari;31029985]Share the And Beyond property you have stayed at?[/qoute]Only because you asked so nicely:

Grumeti, Manyara Tree, Ngala, Kirkman's, a bunch of Phinda lodges. I could come up with a few more if I were to wrack my brains, but I'm not about to. Besides, it gets confusing, because their lodge portfolio has changed any number of times over the years, as has the name of the company.

Originally Posted by Swanky Safari View Post
Agree there are private reserves and then their are a more luxury professional private reserve where the ranger would never pull over to watch lions sleep for an hour.
Oh, come on, give me a break here!

At a luxury professional reserve, the guides will bend over backwards for their guests. If these guests want to watch sleeping lions for a hour, the guide will be more than pleased to indulge them. Provided of course that all the guests are in agreement, and that he does not have to make room for a vehicle in the standby queue.

I've been to a (very expensive luxury) lodge where guests can stay with lions for as long as they like, day and night if they feel like it. The lions in that locality specialize in killing elephants and hippos, and some guests are so bloodthirsty and so keen to see a gory kill that they stay with a lion pride almost continuously, returning to the lodge for only a brief nap. Sometimes meals are even brought out to them in the veld. Personally I think it is crazy, but to each his own.

Originally Posted by Swanky Safari View Post
Can you go on safari at night in Kruger?
Of course you can! What on earth gives you the idea you can't?

I've been on hundreds of night drives in Kruger.

Originally Posted by Swanky Safari View Post
I'm sure you are aware that at night the noctrenal animals come out.
Yeah, I've heard rumors that they do. Thanks for the heads-up, though!

Originally Posted by Swanky Safari View Post
The private reserves have no tar roads.
Some actually do, here and there, I regularly drive one that's something like 40 kilometers long. But yes, most private reserve roads are gravel or tracks.

Originally Posted by Swanky Safari View Post
A ranger job is to find or know where these animals are or were last located.
That's actually primarily the tracker's job. The ranger drives the vehicle and entertains the guests.

Most trackers have far more experience, and know the reserve far better than the guides do. That's because guide turnover is generally high, whereas trackers usually stay in one place far longer, getting to know it better than the backs of their hands.

Originally Posted by Swanky Safari View Post
They don't call them 'And Beyond' properties for nothing.
The company used to be called Conservation Corporation Africa. That actually meant something that made sense. When they changed their name to &Beyond, everybody was baffled. Why did they pick that name? Beats me!

Originally Posted by Swanky Safari View Post
Or someone forgot to lock the door, a babboon walks in your room while you are laying on your bed
So who forgot to lock that door? The maid that tucked you in, or did you perhaps forget? I strongly recommend that you remember next time.

Baboons are not to be messed with, you do not want them in your room under any circumstances. A frightened baboon can wreak absolute havoc, and can end up getting shot dead because somebody made the mistake of leaving the room open.

Originally Posted by Swanky Safari View Post
How many leopards or wild dogs have you seen in Kruger?
I've never bothered to count, but very many. As in hundreds.

It is not that unusual for me to see between one and four leopards on a single game drive in Kruger. Then of course there are drives and days when I see none.

There are some private reserves that are known to offer consistently good leopard sightings. Then there are some that also offer really good sightings, yet are not that well known. For example, I can recall racking up 21 leopards once in the Timbavati. On the other hand, you get quite a few private reserves where the leopard sightings pretty much suck.

Kruger is one of the best, if not the best, place to see wild dogs. For starters Kruger is very big, so it has a sizeable population. The wild dogs in Kruger have also adapted to the road network, and use them for hunting. That obviously increases your chances of encountering them.

Private reserves can offer excellent wild dog viewing, but . . . wild dogs move over very large areas, and private reserves are pretty small (at least compared to Kruger). Wild dogs can run straight across a private reserve in an hour or two, and will then perhaps not be seen again for weeks. The exception is when the dogs are raising pups in a den, they then stick around that area until the pups are big enough to move with the pack. The lodge that has the den is the lucky one.

A good example is &Beyond's Ngala. Wild dogs den on Lilydale some years, but in other years they den on Avoca, which is in the Timbavati. When they do, Ngala is out of luck for months.

Originally Posted by Swanky Safari View Post
Lions in the areas we go are very abundant.
And so they are in Kruger. In certain areas of the KNP, the lion density is higher than just about anywhere else. There are places in the Masai Mara/Serengeti ecosystem where lions are more abundant, but not by much, and then of course there's the Ngorongoro Crater.

Originally Posted by Swanky Safari View Post
And they let the rover get very close to them.
Most Kruger lions are totally blasť about vehicles, they see far more cars than those in private reserves do. If you know what you are doing, and circumstances permit, you can get extremely close to lions in Kruger. Close enough to touch (I would not recommend trying).

Originally Posted by Swanky Safari View Post
But I can tell the private reserves he mentions, he groups them all as one.
On the contrary, I just don't group them all as &Beyond.

Originally Posted by Swanky Safari View Post
I'm flying business class across the Atlantic
And in what way exactly does flying business class across anything contribute to your knowledge and understanding of safaris, game viewing and safari lodges?

Finally, I appreciate and fully understand your enthustiasm for African Safaris. I've been at it for some 30 years, and I'm just as keen as I was on the first day. I try to put in at least six weeks of game viewing a year, that's some 80 to 120 game drives anually. I would do more, if it weren't for the fact that there are many interesting nature reserves on other continents too.

Johan
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Old May 16, 19, 4:12 pm
  #36  
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Originally Posted by Smiley90 View Post
What I actually meant by "single vehicle drive" was "not driving in a caravan" - if you're saying all private grounds game drives DO NOT drive in a caravan, then that's definitely what we'd prefer! Would you say both concession & public/SANParks game drives are more commonly in caravans? What would you say is the main difference between concession grounds & public grounds drives, or animal sightings for that matter? I'm still a bit confused if concession grounds are more like public grounds or like private grounds.

Right, let's see if I can clarify this.

There are:

- Game reserves owned by the state. These can be National Parks, such as Kruger, or for example provincial reserves.

- Private game reserves on private land.This means the land is owned by a private citizen or company. The game lodge(s) operating on that land may be owned by the landowner, or by somebody else who pays the landowner a fee for the right to run the business on his land. In the Kruger area, this category includes all the lodges on the private reserves bordering the Kruger NP, such as The Klaseri, The Timbavati, Sabi Sand, Balule, etc.

- Private game reserves on concessions. A concession is a part of a national or provincial park that has been allocated to a private individual or company. They build one or more lodges in the concession, and have exclusive use of the allocated area. The lease is typically for 15 or 25 years. Examples of such lodges in Kruger are: Rhino Post, Plains Camp, Jock of the Bushveld, Lukimbi, Hamilton's, Hoyo Hoyo, Singita Lebombo, Singita Sweni, Shishangeni, Shona and Shawu. One could also include Parfuri Camp, The Outpost, Pel's Post and Eco-Training. The latter four are a special case, because they are located in the Makuleke section of Kruger, which is a Contract National Park, not a concession. But they operate in the same way.

The differences between private lodges on private land and those on concessions are not something guests really notice. SANParks has stricter rules on where and how many roads and tracks may be built, and on when and how vehicles may drive off road. This can at times make finding and viewing game a bit more difficult. But the bottom line is that concessions are to all intents and purposes the same as lodges on private land.

Game viewing in caravans does not occur anywhere, not even on public roads in Kruger. Nobody does it at all (except maybe for some funny Chinese tourist groups).

The difference between game viewing at a private lodge (including concessions) and game viewing in Kruger is very big!

At a private lodge, all the guests go out at the same time in the morning, and then again in the afternoon. The vehicles head out in different directions, and sometimes meet again if there is something exciting to be seen, or perhaps (but rarely) just driving down the road. Depending on the number of lodges in the area, and how big they are, there is a limit on how many vehicles are driving around. In a very large reserve such as Madikwe it can be up to 64, but usually it is far less.

In the Kruger NP, people can drive whenever they like when the gates are open, and wherever they like as long as they stay on the designated public roads. Many of the public rest camps (lodges) in Kruger are very large, so there are many hundreds of cars driving around. Fortunately, Kruger is a very big place, but since people can drive any public road they choose, and since some roads are more popular than others, it can sometimes get very busy. For example, there could be some lions sleeping near the road, or a leopard in a tree, and before you know it, there are ten, 20, 30 or even 40 cars all trying to get a view. That's not much fun. But on the other hand, you could be watching a pride of lions with only one other car, or even none.

To sum up:

- at private lodges (including concessions) you get a pretty standard product. You by and large know what to expect, and the guides are good at finding the local animals, so you can generally look foward to consistently good game viewing.Unless it rains, snows or whatever. Sometimes the game viewing really sucks, even at the very best private reserves.

- In Kruger there are lots of animals, but it is also a very large place, and compared to private lodges there are fewer roads. So it is more hit and miss. On really good days the game viewing can be far better than what any private lodge can offer, but not all days are really good.

Another difference is that you can see more different kinds of animals in Kruger than in private reserves. For most people that probably doesn't matter, unless they really want to see something like a Roan Antelope or Selous' Mongoose.

As far as the quality of the game viewing goes, the private lodges (including concessions) have the advantage that they can drive off road. They can get closer to animals, and they can look for animals that are nowhere near a road. In Kruger you have to stay on the road at all times. So if the lions are feeding on a buffalo 150 meters from the road, your view may not be all that good, even if you have binoculars. On the other hand, many animals, especially predators such as lions, leopards and wild dogs, are very fond of the tar roads in Kruger. So if you are lucky, you can get very close indeed.

But remember, if you are in Kruger and go on a game drive organized by SANParks, then they can drive on roads that are not open to the public. They may not drive off road, but I've known them to do so anyway on more than one occasion. (Just for clarity SANParks = South African National Parks = the government authority that runs the Kruger National Park. They offer game drives and walks from the official rest camps in the park, so have their own rules that give them more options that people driving in their own cars, or commercial operators taking guests on drives in safari vehicles).

I've been to Kruger more times than I can count, and I can say the same thing about private reserves. I like both, and on a visit I mix both categories for the sake of variety.

It is not easy to recommend what to choose, but in general I would say that somebody going on their first safari should not do a self-drive in Kruger. The choice would then be between a private lodge (including concessions), or staying in Kruger and going on guided drives. In that case, you may want to consider picking a private lodge, simply because you get a consistent product at a set price that includes just about everything. All you have to do is pitch up, and from that moment on everything is organized for you.

As for the question of which private lodge to choose, that's a tough one. A lot will depend on your budget, how much you can afford will set a limit to the options you can consider. But once you have determined a price range, there will still be plenty of choice.

Do some research, see what's on offer out there, and when you have found some lodges that appeal to you, list them here. I'll be pleased to give you and opinion on each and everyone of them. There's a good chance that I've personally been there. If not, I'm usually well familiar with the area, and have inside information.

I hope all this makes sense. If not, just keep the questions coming.

Johan
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Old May 17, 19, 6:46 am
  #37  
 
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OK John, you win! You the safari man. Seriously, you need to hire yourself out. Wasn't me who didn't lock my door but a couple on our trip. I think they were just exhausted and plopped down on the bed, not thinking. Baboon wasn't interested in them. He obviously had been in the rooms before and knew right where the minibar was. Stole all the fruit and candy items.

I will say And Beyond is a great 'marketing name.' Staying in their camps was beyond my wildest dreams of what I would experience. I have NEVER went out and not had a great experience. But I have heard people say they saw nothing. Who is higher on the scale than And Beyond?

I heard people complain on African Forums that Kruger locks its gates at night. Maybe in the area they were in.

OP I don't think you'll be disappointed in Tanzania. We are headed there and Kenya this October, on a fabulous trip.

Maybe John will stop picking apart my posts ( ) and give you some great insight into Tanzania. I'd like to know too.
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Old May 17, 19, 8:03 pm
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Originally Posted by johan rebel View Post
Right, let's see if I can clarify this.

There are:

- Game reserves owned by the state. These can be National Parks, such as Kruger, or for example provincial reserves.

- Private game reserves on private land.This means the land is owned by a private citizen or company. The game lodge(s) operating on that land may be owned by the landowner, or by somebody else who pays the landowner a fee for the right to run the business on his land. In the Kruger area, this category includes all the lodges on the private reserves bordering the Kruger NP, such as The Klaseri, The Timbavati, Sabi Sand, Balule, etc.

- Private game reserves on concessions. A concession is a part of a national or provincial park that has been allocated to a private individual or company. They build one or more lodges in the concession, and have exclusive use of the allocated area. The lease is typically for 15 or 25 years. Examples of such lodges in Kruger are: Rhino Post, Plains Camp, Jock of the Bushveld, Lukimbi, Hamilton's, Hoyo Hoyo, Singita Lebombo, Singita Sweni, Shishangeni, Shona and Shawu. One could also include Parfuri Camp, The Outpost, Pel's Post and Eco-Training. The latter four are a special case, because they are located in the Makuleke section of Kruger, which is a Contract National Park, not a concession. But they operate in the same way.

The differences between private lodges on private land and those on concessions are not something guests really notice. SANParks has stricter rules on where and how many roads and tracks may be built, and on when and how vehicles may drive off road. This can at times make finding and viewing game a bit more difficult. But the bottom line is that concessions are to all intents and purposes the same as lodges on private land.

Game viewing in caravans does not occur anywhere, not even on public roads in Kruger. Nobody does it at all (except maybe for some funny Chinese tourist groups).

The difference between game viewing at a private lodge (including concessions) and game viewing in Kruger is very big!

At a private lodge, all the guests go out at the same time in the morning, and then again in the afternoon. The vehicles head out in different directions, and sometimes meet again if there is something exciting to be seen, or perhaps (but rarely) just driving down the road. Depending on the number of lodges in the area, and how big they are, there is a limit on how many vehicles are driving around. In a very large reserve such as Madikwe it can be up to 64, but usually it is far less.

In the Kruger NP, people can drive whenever they like when the gates are open, and wherever they like as long as they stay on the designated public roads. Many of the public rest camps (lodges) in Kruger are very large, so there are many hundreds of cars driving around. Fortunately, Kruger is a very big place, but since people can drive any public road they choose, and since some roads are more popular than others, it can sometimes get very busy. For example, there could be some lions sleeping near the road, or a leopard in a tree, and before you know it, there are ten, 20, 30 or even 40 cars all trying to get a view. That's not much fun. But on the other hand, you could be watching a pride of lions with only one other car, or even none.

To sum up:

- at private lodges (including concessions) you get a pretty standard product. You by and large know what to expect, and the guides are good at finding the local animals, so you can generally look foward to consistently good game viewing.Unless it rains, snows or whatever. Sometimes the game viewing really sucks, even at the very best private reserves.

- In Kruger there are lots of animals, but it is also a very large place, and compared to private lodges there are fewer roads. So it is more hit and miss. On really good days the game viewing can be far better than what any private lodge can offer, but not all days are really good.

Another difference is that you can see more different kinds of animals in Kruger than in private reserves. For most people that probably doesn't matter, unless they really want to see something like a Roan Antelope or Selous' Mongoose.

As far as the quality of the game viewing goes, the private lodges (including concessions) have the advantage that they can drive off road. They can get closer to animals, and they can look for animals that are nowhere near a road. In Kruger you have to stay on the road at all times. So if the lions are feeding on a buffalo 150 meters from the road, your view may not be all that good, even if you have binoculars. On the other hand, many animals, especially predators such as lions, leopards and wild dogs, are very fond of the tar roads in Kruger. So if you are lucky, you can get very close indeed.

But remember, if you are in Kruger and go on a game drive organized by SANParks, then they can drive on roads that are not open to the public. They may not drive off road, but I've known them to do so anyway on more than one occasion. (Just for clarity SANParks = South African National Parks = the government authority that runs the Kruger National Park. They offer game drives and walks from the official rest camps in the park, so have their own rules that give them more options that people driving in their own cars, or commercial operators taking guests on drives in safari vehicles).

I've been to Kruger more times than I can count, and I can say the same thing about private reserves. I like both, and on a visit I mix both categories for the sake of variety.

It is not easy to recommend what to choose, but in general I would say that somebody going on their first safari should not do a self-drive in Kruger. The choice would then be between a private lodge (including concessions), or staying in Kruger and going on guided drives. In that case, you may want to consider picking a private lodge, simply because you get a consistent product at a set price that includes just about everything. All you have to do is pitch up, and from that moment on everything is organized for you.

As for the question of which private lodge to choose, that's a tough one. A lot will depend on your budget, how much you can afford will set a limit to the options you can consider. But once you have determined a price range, there will still be plenty of choice.

Do some research, see what's on offer out there, and when you have found some lodges that appeal to you, list them here. I'll be pleased to give you and opinion on each and everyone of them. There's a good chance that I've personally been there. If not, I'm usually well familiar with the area, and have inside information.

I hope all this makes sense. If not, just keep the questions coming.

Johan
wow, just... wow. Speechless! I think this is some of the best, most detailed advice I've received online in... a long, long time. Thanks so much! This is super informative, and I think combining 2/3 nights public with SANParks game drives and 2/3 nights private/concession might just be the combination we're looking for. I will definitely take you up on the offer once I've nailed down specific lodges we're interested in, but as I'm sure you're aware there's... a lot out there. Your info has been super helpful though!
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