One of the best areas in South Africa for game viewing is within the Great Kruger, which consists of Kruger National Park and the private reserves neighbouring the park and the private concessions within it. The main difference between staying in the park and the private reserves or concessions is professional guides can go off-roading in the private reserves and concessions so that you are much closer to the animals. In addition, a limited number of vehicles are allowed in an area at any given time. In the park, you can self-drive but must remain in the vehicle and stay on the roads. To visit the private reserves and concessions you must stay in one of the lodges on the property.
We decided to visit two private game reserves on our five day safari to ensure we had sufficient viewing opportunities and to also experience different areas and lodges. The first was the Lion Sands River Lodge in the Sabi Sand Reserve for three nights and then we finished with two nights at the Londolozi Varty Camp.
06:00 Wake-up call
06:30 Tea/coffee & game drive
15:00 Afternoon tea
15:30 Game drive
As this was our first time doing a safari we weren't sure what to expect. We were assigned a guide and tracker for our entire stay who would take us on game drives in an open-top Land Rover. The game viewing at these reserves is amazing. We saw all of the big five (elephant, leopard, lion, rhino and water buffalo) multiple times, as well as many others during our five days there. It was interesting to see the guide and tracker track down the animals and we learned a lot about the wildlife and plant life.
WHEN TO GO
We went during winter which is a great time to go for a safari. Winter is drier so the bush is less dense which makes it easier to see the game. It is also not as hot during the day although it can get chilly in the early morning and late afternoon drives. This wasn’t a problem however as the vehicles had blankets and hot water bottles ready to keep us warm.
The Lion Sands Game Reserve has four safari lodges; two in Kruger National Park and two in Sabi Sand Game Reserve. The lodges have exclusive traversing rights on all the properties. We stayed at the Lions Sands River Lodge, which is located on the banks of the Sabie River. One night was spent at one of the treehouses in a remote area of the reserve. We were given a radio and a mobile phone and left on our own for the night. A generous dinner was packed in a picnic basket along with champagne and wine. We fell asleep under the stars with nothing around us except for the wildlife below.