Kruger’s Private Game Reserves
“To get lost is to learn the way.” My husband and I had the privilege of an unforgettable week away in the Kruger Private Game Reserves and this African proverb perfectly describes the start of our self-drive safari adventure.
Timbavati Private Reserve
The Timbavati Private Reserve was our first destination. The drive from Johannesburg was soon behind us as we began to enjoy the spectacular panoramic views of Mpumalanga. In fact, we were so distracted by the views that we missed the gate to Timbavati! After calling the lodge and re-directing our route along a back road, we found ourselves quite literally in the thick of it: stuck in the mud – our first day in the Kruger! With nowhere to go, we sat there but it wasn’t long before two rangers doing their daily activities saved the day. They quickly pulled us out of the mud and pointed the way to our first camp.
Kruger directions – lesson 1: When self-driving in the Kruger Park, DON’T follow GPS directions; this was a warning that we heard from all the camps throughout our journey!
The gentle hills and plains of the Timbavati are covered in open savannah and woodland vegetation ranging from scattered thorn trees to dense riverine forests. The game viewing did not disappoint: we saw plenty of hippo, lions in action, plus elephant, giraffe, zebra and hundreds of buffalo.
Klaserie Private Reserve
The Klaserie Private Reserve was our next destination. It is a similar savannah landscape with a diverse mix of open plains and thorny bush savannah with pockets of woodland. It’s a great place to observe at close quarters the natural relationship between predator and prey, with lion, leopard, hyena and even African wild dog often seen. When we were there, we saw lions stay with their buffalo feast for two days.
The Klaserie Private Reserve shares an unfenced boundary with the Kruger National Park and neighbouring private reserves so the Big 5 and many other species move freely throughout the reserves.
Sabi Sand Private Reserve
The Sabi Sands Private Reserve: we were half way through the adventure and were finding it difficult to choose our favourite part of the Kruger area. Every lodge and area we’d visited had offered something unique and we fell in love with it all. For example, the Sabi Sands is especially well known for its amazing leopard sightings. The most elusive animal of the Big 5 is frequently seen during game drives in the reserve. As such, the Sabi Sands offers perhaps the ultimate Big 5 photographic safari one can think of.
We were exhausted after a long and bumpy ride. Driving through the rural areas outside the reserves gives one a new appreciation for everything we have. Avoiding all the potholes required much driving skill, so I would recommend guests to opt for transfers instead of a self-drive. The local transfer drivers are much more familiar with the surroundings and the road conditions. But once we arrived in the Sabi Sands, we knew we would enjoy the breath-taking waterhole. We even got to experience a dinner in the bush under the African stars. It was spectacular.
We became avid bird watchers through the journey. Other guests shared their knowledge of bird watching while on game drives so we could not help but take notice of them all around us.
We stayed at a variety of private lodges and experienced the same passion and enthusiasm from all the rangers wanting to showcase the natural beauty of Africa. We experienced what we felt was exceptional service from the heart, and everyone was always willing to go the extra mile. And needless to say, every lodge we left made sure that we had the correct directions to the next lodge. So, like the proverb says, getting lost the first time definitely did help us learn the way!