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Why private game reserve safaris in South Africa
are such a unique experience

Indulging in 5 star luxury in the heart of the African wilderness and the pampering that goes with it, is what makes private game reserve safaris in South Africa so much different from the others. That is the main reason in a nutshell, but there is of course more to it than that.

The fundamental difference between private game reserves in South Africa and its national parks is that in most cases the latter are government owned, whereas private game reserves as the name already indicates, are privately owned. They are in fact two different types of wildlife sanctuaries and therefore the safari experiences they offer are not the same.

The national parks are usually much larger in territory and more accessible because of their budget to mid-range tariffs and rates structure, which allows for a larger number of people and vehicles (guided game drive and self-drive) in the park. During peak periods this can lead to several vehicles being present at a wildlife sighting and therefore a less exclusive safari experience.

With the private game reserves in South Africa, it is generally the other way around. They are smaller in terms of territory and offer a considerably higher quality and standard of accommodation and service, varying from 3 star comfort to 5 star exquisite luxury. Their game rangers are both passionate and knowledgeable about wildlife conservation and rank among the best in the business

There are no cars of other self-drive tourists on the road, just the reserve's own game viewing vehicles each and one with only a handful of occupants, up to 8 at the most, including a professional game ranger guide and often an expert tracker. You can enjoy your wildlife encounters with minimal disturbance.

They will lead you to incredible close-up wildlife encounters on morning, afternoon and night time drives. They are allowed to take their safari vehicles off road and go cross country, knowing where the wildlife moves around and is to be found. As a result the success rate of extraordinary wildlife sightings is very high.

Also, there are no restrictions in terms of Park hours, which means that you can stay with a sighting as long as you want. Back in the camp or lodge between game drives you can enjoy a fascinating bush walk with an armed ranger, laze in the swimming pool overlooking a wildlife water hole, or visit an authentic rural community.

Some of the finest privately owned game reserves in South Africa are bordering the Kruger national Park on its western boundary. Well known names like Sabi Sabi, Mala Mala, Timbavati, Sabi Sands, Manyeleti, Thornybush and Londolozi come to mind, to name but a few. They are all close to or bordering with the Kruger National Park. In most cases the fences between them and the Kruger Park have been taken down, allowing wildlife to move freely across borders.


Private Game Reserves and National Parks comparison guide

Compare 43 national parks and private game reserves in South Africa, with user reviews and ratings, travel guides and maps, pros and cons evaluation and wildlife and scenery evaluation.

read more...

Picture Gallery

Lion encounter on a game drive in Mala Mala private game reserve. The ultimate experience on an African safari is a close-up encounter with a pride of lions on a game drive. Although the wildlife in Africa has become used to game drive vehicles and generally ignore them, there is however always an element of danger. So always stay in the vehicle and follow the advice and directions of your guide. Mala Mala is home to more than 200 animal species. Next to the Bog Five (Rhino, Elephant, Lion, Buffalo and Leopard) they also include Cheetahs, Wild Dogs, Hyenas, Hippos, Giraffes and a variety of Antelope species.
Lion encounter on a game drive in Mala Mala private game reserve
copyright © Mala Mala private game reserve
Lion encounter on a game drive in Mala Mala private game reserve Lion encounter on a game drive in Mala Mala private game reserve. The ultimate experience on an African safari is a close-up encounter with a pride of lions on a game drive. Although the wildlife in Africa has become used to game drive vehicles and generally ignore them, there is however always an element of danger. So always stay in the vehicle and follow the advice and directions of your guide. Mala Mala is home to more than 200 animal species. Next to the Bog Five (Rhino, Elephant, Lion, Buffalo and Leopard) they also include Cheetahs, Wild Dogs, Hyenas, Hippos, Giraffes and a variety of Antelope species.
copyright © Mala Mala private game reserve


An exquisite bushveld dinner is awaiting at the main camp of Mala Mala private game reserve. Announced by the beating of traditional African drums and served in an enclosed Boma under a starlit African sky this is a culinary experience of a lifetime. Mala Mala is a unique and exclusive private game reserve, situated within the greater Sabi Sands game reserve region adjacent to the Kruger Park. It offers Five Star luxury amid unequaled African wildlife experiences.
An exquisite bushveld dinner is awaiting in the boma at Mala Mala private game reserve
copyright © Mala Mala private game reserve
An exquisite bushveld dinner is awaiting in the boma at Mala Mala private game reserve An exquisite bushveld dinner is awaiting at the main camp of Mala Mala private game reserve. Announced by the beating of traditional African drums and served in an enclosed Boma under a starlit African sky this is a culinary experience of a lifetime. Mala Mala is a unique and exclusive private game reserve, situated within the greater Sabi Sands game reserve region adjacent to the Kruger Park. It offers Five Star luxury amid unequaled African wildlife experiences.
copyright © Mala Mala private game reserve


Luxurious accommodation at the Sable Camp of Mala Mala private game reserve. With its five stunningly luxurious suites, each one individually decorated, Sable Camp offers privacy and intimacy for those seeking a more personal and exclusive type of safari. The camp is situated on a rise overlooking the Sand River, offering great panoramic views across the surrounding bushveld.
Luxurious accommodation in Sable Camp at Mala Mala private game reserve
copyright © Mala Mala private game reserve
Luxurious accommodation in Sable Camp at Mala Mala private game reserve Luxurious accommodation at the Sable Camp of Mala Mala private game reserve. With its five stunningly luxurious suites, each one individually decorated, Sable Camp offers privacy and intimacy for those seeking a more personal and exclusive type of safari. The camp is situated on a rise overlooking the Sand River, offering great panoramic views across the surrounding bushveld.
copyright © Mala Mala private game reserve


Sundowners in the bush in Phinda private game reserve. The end of a hot and exhilarating safari day with plenty of exciting wildlife encounters. The adrenaline has taken its toll and now the time has come to contemplate and to digest it all. Time for sundowners. A beautiful spot in the bush, a stunning panorama, a beautiful bushveld sunset and ice-cold drinks accompanied by delicious snacks are the perfect ingredients for one of the most magical safari experiences. The 170 sq km Phinda private game research is situated within reach of the Indian ocean between the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park and the Mkuze game reserve in the province of KwaZulu-Natal.
Sundowners in the bush in Phinda private game reserve
copyright © Phinda private game reserve
Sundowners in the bush in Phinda private game reserve Sundowners in the bush in Phinda private game reserve. The end of a hot and exhilarating safari day with plenty of exciting wildlife encounters. The adrenaline has taken its toll and now the time has come to contemplate and to digest it all. Time for sundowners. A beautiful spot in the bush, a stunning panorama, a beautiful bushveld sunset and ice-cold drinks accompanied by delicious snacks are the perfect ingredients for one of the most magical safari experiences. The 170 sq km Phinda private game research is situated within reach of the Indian ocean between the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park and the Mkuze game reserve in the province of KwaZulu-Natal.
copyright © Phinda private game reserve


Exquisite dining at Londolozi private game reserve, one of the Five Star luxury private game reserves that lie in the greater Sabi Sand game reserve adjoining the Kruger National Park. Known for their sublime cuisine which they consider as an essential part of a luxury safari experience, they were the first game reserve in the world to be awarded the French Relais & Châteaux status, which is a prestigious recognition for excellence in the restaurant and hotel environment.
Exquisite dining at Lhondolozi private game reserve
copyright © Londolozi private game reserve
Exquisite dining at Lhondolozi private game reserve Exquisite dining at Londolozi private game reserve, one of the Five Star luxury private game reserves that lie in the greater Sabi Sand game reserve adjoining the Kruger National Park. Known for their sublime cuisine which they consider as an essential part of a luxury safari experience, they were the first game reserve in the world to be awarded the French Relais & Châteaux status, which is a prestigious recognition for excellence in the restaurant and hotel environment.
copyright © Londolozi private game reserve

Video Gallery

Except for Phinda private game reserve which is situated in the KwaZulu-Natal province, the private game reserves mentioned below all lie within the greater Sabi Sand reserve, a region that shares a fenceless border with the north-western part of the Kruger National Park

Mala Mala private game reserve.

Covering an area of 13,300 hectares (33,000 acres) Mala Mala is one of the largest of a number of private game reserves and lodges in South Africa that are situated in the greater Sabi Sands game reserve region. Mala Mala lies in the eastern part of Sabi Sands sharing a 19 km unfenced border with the Kruger National Park. Comprising a huge tract of wilderness with 20 km of river frontage, it is home to a spectacular collection of wildlife, including the Big Five. Activities include daily morning, evening and night game drives with bush walks in between.


Sabi Sabi private game reserve.

Sabi Sabi private game reserve is also one of a number of private game reserves situated in the greater Sabi Sands game reserve, a region that shares an unfenced border with the Kruger National Park. Proclaimed in 1898 as one of the first South African national wildlife conservation, the original Sabi Reserve was in fact the forerunner of the Kruger National Park and the adjacent private game reserves. Sabi sabi consists of four luxury bush lodges, Earth Lodge, Selati Camp, Bush Lodge and Little Bush camp. This reserve also offers the Big Five as well as Cheetahs, Wild Dogs and hundreds of species other animals and birds.




Londolozi private game reserve.

Next to Mala Mala and Sabi Sabi, Londolozi is the third private game reserve located in the Sabi Sands game reserve region that deserves mentioning as one of the top luxury safari destinations in South Africa. The reserve comprises five lodges situated on the banks of the Sand River over a stretch of one kilometer within walking distance of each other. The Private Granite Suites are the crème de la crème, followed closely by Tree Camp and Pioneer camp. They all carry the French Relais & Châteaux status. For small groups and families there are the larger Founders Camp and Varty camp.


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