The one thing they have in common, is that your game drives are guided by a trained ranger, who works closely with a local tracker to find you the animals you want to see. All you have to do is sit back and be amazed! The tariffs are normally fully inclusive of meals, game drives, walks, laundry and sometimes wine and beer.
With such luxuries this may seem like a ‘soft option’ safari, but the thrill of seeing Africa’s wild animals is not diminished by the comfort you are in.
SABI SAND GAME RESERVE
This reserve shares 31miles (50km) of unfenced boundary with Kruger National Park and animals are at liberty to go wherever they wish – but they tend to stay right where they are! This is because the Sand River and Sabi River supply much needed water in the dry season and create an eco-system with one of the highest and most bio-diverse wildlife populations in Southern Africa. This is the reason why it is quite possible to see the ‘Big Five’ (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, buffalo and elephant) in a couple of days, or even a couple of hours in Sabi Sand, as well as numerous other animals and birds.
There are about 30 different lodges in Sabi Sand, most of them very up-market including famous names like Sabi Sabi, Mala Mala and Londolozi. All offer game drives as well as game walks accompanied by an armed ranger, which gives visitors the opportunity to learn about the natural world from the ‘experts’ – who are usually youthful rangers who make up for lack of years with good knowledge and a maturity rarely found outside Africa.
MANYELETI GAME RESERVE
The Mnisi people lived and occupied this land for many generations and in the new South Africa, they instituted a land claim for the return of their ancestral grounds. The Manyeleti Game Reserve is now managed by Mnisi tribe, who are committed to retaining the integrity of the game reserve and unlocking the tourism potential to the benefit of the Mnisi people and surrounding communities. All the lodges within Manyeleti are privately owned and lease a concession of land within the reserve. There are 121 miles (195km) of gravel roads over 9,206 acres (22,750ha).
The most dominant tribe in the area is the Shangaan, and in their language Manyeleti means “Place of Stars.” A clear winter’s night will attest to aptness of this name, as it seems like the sky is bursting at the seams with stars. The fenceless borders it shares with Kruger, Sabi Sand and Timbavati Game Reserves, forms an integral ecological unit where all the animals of the bush can roam free.
TIMBAVATI GAME RESERVE
Timbavati Nature Reserve lies just north of Sabi Sand on the western edge of Kruger National Park and is considered to be one of South Africa’s prime game viewing areas.
The fences were taken down between this reserve and Kruger National Park in 1993 and although visitors to any of the eight private lodges, remain in the Timbavati Reserve, the animals are at liberty to wander where they wish. Expect day and evening game drives and walking safaris amongst the ‘Big Five’.
THORNYBUSH GAME RESERVE
In the heart of the lowveld (low lying bushland) is the Thornybush Reserve – an area of mixed woodland savannah backed by the northern Drakensberg mountains. This area contains a collection of private game reserves and seven lodges in a fenced 28,500-acre (11,500-hectare) estate.
Tracking animals is a speciality of Thornybush and during ‘Art of Tracking’ explorations you are taught how to read the spoor and follow animals without putting yourself in danger. There is no thrill quite like watching Africa’s most dangerous animals, after you have personally tracked them.
MAKALALI RESOURCE RESERVE
This reserve is an hour’s drive west of Kruger with a charm all of its own. Unlike the reserves along Kruger’s borders, Makalali’s bushland is undulating with elevated viewpoints giving panoramic views of the reserve. This expansive area is covered with handsome jackalberry, knobthorn, and maroela trees. The Drakensberg mountains lie in a distant haze, often due to the widespread practice of burning off grass to encourage new shoots.
Big game roams in the Makalali Resource Reserve and buffalo are the only animal missing from the ‘Big Five’. However, this only matters if you are intent on ticking off the species, rather than watching and appreciating them. You are likely to hear lions roaring out their territorial warnings at night and baboons barking a clear warning if they happen to see a lion or leopard. Vervet monkeys chatter in the trees above your private lodge terrace and take any chance to jump down and pinch some sugar or pastries from an unattended breakfast tray.
Makalali is superb walking and game tracking country and clear footprints can be seen in the sand of the dry riverbed. Seeing a large cat spoor gives a new aspect to a stroll in the park.
Rainy Season: The area is subtropical with hot rainy summers and startling thunder storms starting in October and ending around March. The dry bushland comes to life after the rains but game becomes harder to see as numerous waterholes fill up and the foliage becomes thicker.
Dry Season: April to September are the cooler winter months which have lovely warm days but cold nights. Traditionally, the best game viewing is in winter as the vegetation becomes sparse and water is restricted to rivers and artificial waterholes.
PRIVATE GAME RESERVE SPECIALITIES
· Top class accommodation with lots of luxuries
· Knowledgeable rangers and trackers
· Good chance to see the ‘Big Five’
· Excellent photographic opportunities
· Game walks with armed ranger
· Outdoor meals around the boma fire
· Sundowners in the bush
· Night drives by spotlight
This is a malarial area
No self-drive is allowed within the private reserves
Entry is only for visitors who are booked into one of the private lodges
Off road and night driving is permitted