When planning a safari holiday, there are a number of factors that need to be considered. When deciding where to book your safari experience, you will most likely have to choose between National Parks and Private Game Reserves. Both present their own set of pros and cons. The Safari Index offers the following expert advice to consider when planning your next safari adventure:

Vehicles: In a private game reserve, your safari game drives will usually be conducted under the leadership of a trained guide, in modified vehicles whereas in a national park (such as the Kruger National Park), you will generally utilise your own vehicle for a self-drive safari experience.

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Sundowners stop at Gorah Elephant Camp

Service: When undertaking a self-drive safari in a national park, your experience is planned and carried out by you. Accommodation is usually self-catering and you utilise your own equipment. At a private game reserve, game drives are usually complemented by sundowner stops or free beverages at a scenic spot.

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Game drive at Sanctuary Kusini

Game Drive Times: On a self-drive safari in a national park, you are afforded the luxury of determining your own preferred start time, end time, and length of your safari. However, your choices will be limited within the park’s opening and closing times (which are usually strictly enforced). Private game reserves, not subject to opening and closing times, have the benefits of being able to schedule game drives in the early mornings and at night to no set time limits, allowing the opportunity of spotting nocturnal wildlife.

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Elephant on a game drive at Sanctuary Olonana

Knowledge: In a national park, one has to rely on ones own knowledge of the park’s wildlife and plant life when partaking in a self-drive safari. Game drives in private game reserves are usually guided by trained professionals who will be able to provide you with detailed information about the flora and fauna encountered.

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Photo opportunities on a game drive at Mostwari Lodge

Photo Opportunities: Due to road access in national parks being restricted in most places, there will not always be the opportunity for that perfect wildlife photo. A guided game drive in a private game reserve will generally offer you a closer look at any given animal sighting for vastly superior photo opportunities.

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Spotting lions on a game drive at Inyati Game Lodge, Sabi Sands

Unobstructed Views: In a national park, there are no limits on the amount of vehicles allowed at an animal sighting, which means that crowding is a possibility. Private game reserves generally place a 2-3 vehicle limit at a sighting; however, the amount of time allowed at the sighting will also be restricted.

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Game Drive and sundowner stop off at Singita Ebony Lodge

Likelihood of spotting animals: Spotting well-hidden animals on your self-guided safari in a national park relies on your own knowledge (and luck). The guides in a private reserve will be able to use their knowledge and experience to spot camouflaged wildlife and are often accompanied by and ably assisted by a tracker in this regard.