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Kruger/Sabi Sands

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posts: 19
reviews: 10
Kruger/Sabi Sands

Are safari experiences in Kruger and Sabi Sands really that different?

Is there a compromise between budget and luxury when it comes to safaris?

Thanks for your help!

25 replies to this topic
Kruger National...
posts: 935
reviews: 23
1. Re: Kruger/Sabi Sands

Hi there!

This is a good question, and one that is confronted quite often when trying to figure out a safari experience. Let me break it down a bit for you (I live right here on a reserve in the Kruger area) - I suggest you grab a cuppa, and please excuse the super long post! :) :

There are basically two options when going on a safari adventure. Let's take a quick look at each.


Nothing beats the thrill of finding the animals on your own.

Self drive safaris are conducted within the public area of the Kruger National Park, and area that stretches to the size of Israel or Wales - thus, plenty of room to explore.

When staying in the public Kruger, the accommodation options are government run SanParks self catering units. At the larger camps, there are restaurants and small stores to purchase basic items, along with curio shops and petrol stations (as you do A LOT of driving).

You are also able to book guided game drives through your camp, which stick to the same roads as you do.

Alternitavely, you could also stay outside of the park (close to the gates) at an offering such as http://mykrugerlodge.com/, and drive in and out each day. This gives you access to other attractions too, such as restaurants and nightlife.

The pros of a self drive experience is that it is generally a lot cheaper than the next option, and you do gain a bit more flexibility.


A private reserve, such as the Klaserie, Timbavati, Balule, or Sabi Sands is located within what we call the Greater Kruger Area. All of the above reserves are connected to the public Kruger via unfenced borders, allowing the animals (but not the people) to wander in and out as they please. This allows for equal game sighting in both options.

There are also other private reserves, such as Thornybush, Karongwe or Kapama, but these are fenced off and are not connected to the park.

When staying within a private reserve, your options are generally to stay in a traditional lodge setting, or a luxury tented camp (all operated independently).

Your rate at a private reserve includes;

- Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily

- Tea/Coffee

- Dawn game drive

- Dusk game drive

- Snacks on game drives

- Optional walking safaris daily

- Drinks, laundry and transfers to/from the lodge and nearest airport may also be included, but this is dependent on which lodge you choose.

On the game drives and bush walks, you are lead by a highly qualified and experienced team of a ranger and tracker, who are there to educate you about any of the wildlife you may encounter. The safaris are conducted in open sided safari cruisers, which are allowed to be taken off road to follow/find an animal. Further to this, most areas have a 3 vehicle rule, meaning that only 3 vehicles are allowed at an animal sighting at one time, allowing for clear viewing. This differs to the self drive experience, where traffic jams around animals may often be encountered.

However, it is generally more expensive for a stay within the private reserve, as it is all inclusive and more of a luxury standard than the self drive option.

Now - The quickest and easiest way to get to Kruger is flying. If you choose the public Kruger, Klaserie, Timbavati or Balule reserve, there are direct flights you can get there via Johannesburg (there are two flights every day). From here, some lodges will pick you up free of charge, but others may charge.

Alternatively, if you choose Sabi Sands reserve or other gates of the public Kruger, you can fly into Nelspruit airport and be transferred to your lodge (extra cost).

The most cost effective way would be getting a ground transfer (if you come to the Klaserie, Timbavati, or Balule reserve, there is an excellent service that costs a total of R650 per person each way from Johannesburg).

So, the more budget friendly option is the self drive experience, with the more inclusive, but more expensive option being staying within a private reserve.

Now,when you say differences between the Sabi Sands and Kruger, are you referring to private reserves and the public Kruger, or Sabi Sands reserve and the other private reserves connected to the Kruger?

There are just so many options when trying to figure out a safari experience, it can get VERY confusing and overwhelming! :Lucky we are all here to help :).

In my opinion and experience, Sabi Sands is marketed as a high luxury reserve, with the majority of the lodges pricing from around R3500 upwards. There are one or two budget options within the Sabi Sands too, but for the price of a budget lodge there (R2050), you could get a far better experience in the Timbavati/Klaserie.

The safari experience will be exactly the same in regards to animals - all private reserves listed above are connected to the public Kruger, so have equal chances of game viewing. The main difference will be in the luxury level of the accommodation and the price. This of course comes along with potentially less people in vehicles etc.

However, this is not at all to say that there are no luxury options within the Klaserie, Timbavati or Balule - There absolutely are, and in my opinion, these options are just as good, if not better, value for money :). But this is just my opinion :).

If you have any more questions, please don't hesitate to ask :).

All the best and warm regards,



Lodge Trackers

(Safari Specialists)

Kruger National...
posts: 935
reviews: 23
2. Re: Kruger/Sabi Sands

However - I do just have to add - the Sabi Sands is known for it's relaxed leopard population (as in most other areas, leopards are very skittish) but I have also had excellent relaxed leopard sightings in other reserves too.

All the best,


Maryland, USA
posts: 2,357
reviews: 9
3. Re: Kruger/Sabi Sands

Now that Jacqui's done all the hard work, and done it so well, I'd suggest combining several days of self-drive with a few days at a camp in a private reserve, if your budget's up to it. That way you get the best of both worlds: the adventure of driving and finding your own sightings plus the convenience of having guides take you off-road and very close to wildlife in the reserve. Others will have a different opinion but I like to do a KNP self-drive followed by a stay at a reserve (leaving best for last for me).

New York City, New...
posts: 1,885
reviews: 45
4. Re: Kruger/Sabi Sands

very good post. I just saved it to my SA folder. I'm thinking also of combining private and kruger safari. Maybe one of the more economical private lodges just to fill in the " gaps" on Kruger park safari (can't go off roading). BTW Jaqcqui, the link you posted does not work. I keep getting a " Not Found " message.

Edited: 2:21 pm, March 24, 2013
New York City, New...
posts: 1,885
reviews: 45
5. Re: Kruger/Sabi Sands

As a second question, which would be slightly better ( I know this is an opinion based question) KNP first then private? Or the other way around? I have family who are not really into animals but would like to come along because--- well, its a trip abroad! (and a waste of money in my opinion if they stay in the lodge/hotel just to watch TV. BTW need a lodge with no tv and wifi :-) )

Maryland, USA
posts: 2,357
reviews: 9
6. Re: Kruger/Sabi Sands

BWW, that link doesn't work because the comma (,) became part of the address. Knock off the comma and it'll work.

7. Re: Kruger/Sabi Sands

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posts: 19
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8. Re: Kruger/Sabi Sands

Thank you so much for adding so much clarity to this process! If we were to do the private reserve, then the self-drive option, how does the transportation work? The distances are confusing....i.e., if we would stay at some place in Klaserie at a private reserve, how would we get from JNB to Klaserie and then how/where would we rent a car to drive into Kruger and what kinds of distances would we be covering to get a fair and contrasting experience in Kruger? If it's A LOT of time in the car then I wonder if our safari time (4-5 days) is better spent at a reserve with more concentration of animals??? Thanks to all of you.

Kruger National...
posts: 935
reviews: 23
9. Re: Kruger/Sabi Sands

Hi there,

You are most welcome - it is what we are all here for :).

I can completely understand how confusing it can all be, and this is the one instance where more research only makes one even MORE confused! :).

From Johannesburg, you could get the ground transportation option as mentioned above (R650 per person each way) to the drop off point in the Greater Kruger (either the airport, or Bones Bush Pub right before the main reserves gate), where your lodge will pick you up from. Some charge extra for this, and some include it in the rate.

Or, you could fly in to Hoedsrpuit (Eastgate) airport, where your lodge will also pick you up from. From the airport to the reserve gate is arounf 10 minutes.

After your time in the Klaserie (if this is the 'chosen one'), the lodge can drop you back at the airport, where you can easily rent a car from. From here, the closest Kruger gate is Orpen, at around half an hour away (easy drive) :-).

Most people drive for around 4 hours in the morning, then head back to camp for lunch at around 12. Then, at 2 or 3, when the animals start to move around again (as just like us humans, they get hot and tired in the middle of the day too), the driving begins again.

You can do it anyway you want, drive as little or as much. Maybe 3 nights in a private reserve, and 2 nights self driving would provide enough differentiation for you :).

BUT - it all is a personal choice, as both experiences are very different in terms of accommodation and overall experience. Self driving is all DIY, and private reserve is all inclusive.

All the best,



Lodge Trackers

(Safari Specialists).

Edited: 3:19 pm, March 24, 2013
Frankfurt, Germany
Destination Expert
for Garden Route
posts: 1,188
reviews: 67
10. Re: Kruger/Sabi Sands

I would like to add my 2 rands worth.

I would do a private reserve first, then self drive. First you learn to spot the animals better, secondly, you probably have seen the big 5, giraffes and hippos, so that a lot of stress to spot these animals is gone and you can watch your sightings at your own pace while self driving.

Another idea for a budget friendly Sabi Sand experience woud be Tydon Safari camp. It gets good reviews and seems to be of good value, however, I have no first or second hand experience.

Edited: 4:04 pm, March 24, 2013
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