Kruger Rest Camps Vs Private Reserves

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Aug 20th, 2004, 12:02 PM
  #1
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Kruger Rest Camps Vs Private Reserves

As far as the animal viewing goes, how do the rest camps compare to staying at private reserves? If you sign up for a safari drive at the rest camps, do the driver's go off road?
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Aug 20th, 2004, 12:51 PM
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I may be alone in this view, but I found the animal viewing in Kruger proper better than the private reserves. Kruger is much, much larger with a more diverse ecosystem, with many more opportunities to view animals. However, you will not go off road in Kruger.

But in Kruger, you can go on safari in your own 2WD car and needn't go on safari with a guide.

I've been on 5 safaris and have been to most of the major national parks in East and Southern Africa, and the private reserves are one of my least favorite areas (others will vehemently disagree, but I didn't get the sense of being in the middle of Africa).

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Aug 20th, 2004, 02:03 PM
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thit_cho - I hear you and understand where you are coming from. While I've only done safari on private reserves in SA, I've done my other safaris in East Africa and prefer the latter.

Some might disagree with me also, but as much as I enjoyed my private reserve safaris at Sabi Sands (Singita) and Manyeletti (Honeyguide), they are somewhat "sanitized" versus having an entire game reserve available to go almost wherever one wants.

Whether I would want to do my own driving or hire a guide/driver I cannot say, but do believe I'd prefer the entire Kruger then just one of the private reserves. The only negative, might be the number of other vehicles which you don't get on the private reserves. But I guess this would also be different depending on the particular season one is traveling.

My personal opinion only.
 
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Aug 21st, 2004, 02:37 AM
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We stayed at three rest camps at Kruger (Olifants, Letaba and Berg en Dal) and had fabulous game viewing experiences. We did a combination of game drives organised by the camps (night drives, bush walks and morning drives) and drove around in our own vehicle during the day. The drivers didn't go off road but they did take various trails that park visitors aren't allowed to access.

The southern end of the park is much busier (more visitors and vehicles), but this is also because game is more plentiful. And to be honest, the other vehicles never spoiled our game viewing. We took some fabulous pictures.

What was most fun about Kruger was the "unexpected" side to game viewing. One morning we drove for what seemed like hours along a deserted gravel road (saw no other vehicles at any point!) when suddenly we rounded a corner and there were throngs of zebra, wildebeest, impala and giraffe, everywhere! We had the spectacle all to ourselves.

I stayed at a private game reserve the year before, and although the viewing was excellent (off road, close up), there were fewer surprises, as you knew which animals the driver and tracker were looking for. So when we saw a pride of lions, for example, we knew that's what we were going to see.

If you have time, why not combine the two options? Stay at a rest camp or two for a couple of nights and then spend a couple of nights at a private reserve. That way you'll have the best of both worlds!
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Aug 21st, 2004, 06:49 AM
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Hanl,

Thank you so much. That was exactly the kind of information I was looking for.
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Aug 23rd, 2004, 10:18 AM
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I can only compare our experience at Olifants (in Kruger) and Chitwa Chitwa (on a private reserve just outside of Kruger). Both were fantastic and I wouldn't have missed either one. The great thing about Kruger is indeed the element of surprise. One evening we were driving on a gravel road on our way back to Olifants, in a hurry to return before the camp gate closed, when we saw something walking toward us on the road. We pulled over, stopped the car, rolled down the windows -- and watched a lioness walk right by us. It was so wonderfully quiet, and exhilerating to see up close with noone else around. During most of our time at Kruger we were amazed at how few other vehicles we saw. It is fantastic to just get in your car each day with a map and drive yourselves wherever you like -- the independence is fantastic. You can stop and take photos or video for as long as you like, and not worry about inconveniencing anyone else. You can pack a picnic lunch and stop at a picnic area and eat lunch with the sound of the hippos in the background and watch elephants sparring with noone else around. Another great thing about Kruger was that we saw massive herds of elephants -- much larger herds than we saw at Chitwa Chitwa. And a game walk with a park ranger at Kruger was a highlight -- seeing elephants take a mudbath while standing only a few feet away from them gave me goosebumps.

At Chitwa Chitwa, on the other hand, we enjoyed remarkable leopard sightings on our evening game drives (including watching a leopard eat a kill, and seeing leopards mate). We probably would never have seen anything like this at Kruger, for two reasons -- (1) in Kruger you can't go off-road (although on guided safari drives with a ranger you may go on smaller roads that you are not allowed on unless you are with a ranger), and (2) you can't drive around Kruger by yourselves after dark. Also, the food at Chitwa Chitwa was excellent, while at Kruger the food left something to be desired. And obviously the accommodations at Chitwa Chitwa were much more luxurious than the relatively basic ones at Kruger (of course, they were also much more costly).

The game viewing is just totally different. In Kruger, you're either by yourself in your own vehicle, or with a large group on a guided walk or drive. At Chitwa Chitwa, we were never on our own -- but were never with a lot of other people either. It was always us, the ranger and tracker, and 1-4 other couples in the vehicle. So you have less control over your own destiny in terms of how long you stay at a particular game viewing site. I will confess to sometimes finding the constant radio messaging among the various rangers to be a little annoying, although that is also what allows you to see leopards and other hard-to-spot animals, so one can't complain.

I also liked the scenery in Kruger better than at Chitwa Chitwa. Kruger had more wide open spaces -- the scale was huge, and the possibilities for drives seemed almost limitless. At Chitwa Chitwa, they were limited in their traversing rights (you have to stay within a particular designated area), and the area was fairly dense with brush.

If I had to choose one, I would choose Kruger. But I think the best is a little of each.
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