Please also consult the page on Game Reserves & Game Lodges in South Africa.
What is the difference between the National Parks and the Private Reserves?
Answer: The national parks are administered by South African National Parks which ensures a standardised level of accommodation and facilities and the rates are usually kept low. These parks are mainly self-drive destinations with self catering accommodation although the larger parks like Kruger Park have restaurant facilities.
The game watching in the private parks is of an equal standard to that of the national parks, but the accommodation is usually far more luxurious and the service very attentive. Private game parks offer game drives with trained guides, bush walks, bush dinners and various activities as part of their service. The luxury comes at a price, but the private lodges are a good choice if you would like to be spoiled.
Question: How far is it to the Kruger National Park?
Johannesburg / Pretoria - about 420 km (to the southern gates)
Durban - about 752 km
Cape Town - about 1 842 km
Bloemfontein - about 834 km
Port Elizabeth - about 1 436 km
Upington - about 1 207 km
Please consult the Kruger Park map and distance table.
Question: Can I visit a game park on my own?
Answer: Yes - the South African National Parks have designed all the National Parks to cater for self-drives with an excellent infrastructure of roads, hides, waterholes for easy game viewing and restcamps where you can rent a chalet.
Private game parks are not open to the public.
You may get more out of your stay if you opt to do one or two escorted drives - available at most National Parks. This is an activity the private parks specialise in and one of the reasons some visitors prefer the private game reserves.
Question: Where can I see the Big Five?
Answer: The Big Five
- lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo - is present in the Kruger Park and most of the Private Game Reserves around its borders, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve in Kwazulu Natal, but there are Private Reserves spread throughout the country that offer visitors a look at the Big Five.
Even close to Johannesburg you will find reserves catering especially for the tourist, but larger reserves can be found in the Limpopo, North West and Eastern Cape.
Question: Do I need a 4 x 4 or off-road vehicle?
Answer: No - although there are areas and routes within the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (Kalahari), Marakele National Park and far northern Zululand where access is limited to 4-wheel drive vehicles. You may be required to drive on dirt (gravel) roads, but those are normally in a good condition.
Question: Will I see the big five?
Answer: It is possible. Many reserves have the big five but it's not that easy to see them all, particularly leopard. Leopards are nocturnal, secretive and well camouflaged. It also depends on the length of your stay. The chances of seeing all big five increase substantially the longer you stay.
However, there is a large number of other animals, reptiles and birds in the parks which are often even more exciting than a procession of lions and elephants - ensuring a wonderful experience.
Question: What is the accommodation like?
Answer: Most of the national and provincial parks have self-catering chalets and camping and caravan sites, with electricity and hot and cold ablutions. Some also have catered accommodation or a restaurant on site.
Accommodation in the private parks varies from 5-star luxury at some of the world-renowned private game reserves to budget accommodation in bush camps. Please check the various web pages on this site for details.
Question: Which is the best time to view game?
Answer: This is not so easy to answer. The summer brings a multitude of beautiful migrant bird species and many newborn antelope species in thick green bushveld.
In winter with limited water sources, activity is generally around water holes, the bush is dry and thin and visibility generally better. You'll get an excellent idea what to expect every month of the year by studying the guide prepared by Mala Mala Private Game Reserve.
Question: What temperatures are we likely to experience?
Answer: The South African summer covers the months October through March with mid winter being May, June and July. In main game viewing areas (Mpumalanga, Limpopo and KwaZulu Natal) summer temperatures range from 16C to 32C and in winter from 5C to 24C. In isolated cases summer maximum temperatures can exceed 40C.
These areas have a summer rain season and and whilst not common, very light showers do occur in winter.
Summer days and nights are generally hot and humid outdoors and winter days are mild and comfortable with evenings and early mornings being cold.
Please consult the monthly temperature & rainfall chart.
Question: What clothing and accessories should we bring along with us?
Answer: Dress is informal. For safaris and bush walks bring along clothing of neutral colours, a pair of good walking shoes (sandals are not recommended) and a wind proof jacket for winter mornings and evenings.
A high SPF sun block should be brought with you especially if you require a specific hypoallergenic brand as well as a cap/hat.
A good camera is essential and 100 or 200 asa film. On safari it is not often possible to keep the land rover dead still for those shots requiring powerful tele-photo lenses and it is suggested that the most versatile lens should be capable of ranges between 70 to 210/300. Both slide and print film as well as batteries are available in the curio shops.
Video cameras are ideal to capture sights and sounds and a pair of binoculars is a must for keen bird watchers.
Question: Where can I see game in a malaria-free area?
Answer: The Eastern Cape, the Western Cape, the Northern Cape, parts of the North West Province and the Waterberg area of Limpopo province are free of malaria. Of these, the best game viewing is Addo in the Eastern Cape, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in the Northern Cape, Madikwe and Pilanesberg in the North West and Limpopos Waterberg.
Question: What are the wilderness trails?
Answer: The walking safaris are escorted foot safaris deep in the wilderness areas of big game parks such as the Kruger Park Wilderness Trails and the Umfolozi Wilderness Trails in KwaZulu-Natal. Advanced booking is essential.
Question: What is an open safari vehicle?
Answer: A modified four wheel drive vehicle designed to carry between 6 and 10 guests is used to bring you to within close proximity of the game. The vehicle does not have a roof or sides and allows for maximum all-round visibility. it should not alarm you getting close to big game as long as you observe the "rules" laid down by your ranger.
Question: How long should I stay?
Answer: A minimum of a two-night stay is recommended to really enjoy your African bush experience.