Private Safari Lodges vs National Park Rest Camps

A safari experience in South Africa – or Africa in general – should be on your bucket list. Here, we discuss the differences between staying in a private lodge or rest camp when visiting Kruger (South Africa) or Etosha (Namibia).

Your budget is a key factor in determining which type of accommodation will suit you best. Private game lodges in southern Africa can be expensive, while national park rest camps are comparatively more affordable. Essentially, how much you’re willing to spend governs the luxuriousness and exclusivity of the accommodation and by extension, the overall safari experience.

Accommodation choice

Luxury game lodges

High-end game lodges are more expensive to rest camps, but it needs to be taken into account that the aesthetically-pleasing, ultra-comfortable accommodation, amenities, extra luxuries and private activities that form part of the experience, have constant running costs. If you’re planning a safari in the Greater Kruger area, the famed Pondoro Game Lodge is highly recommended.

Pondoro Game Lodge offers unrivaled lavishness and exclusivity. The award-winning lodge is situated in the Balule Nature Reserve in the Greater Kruger. The unfenced concession on which it is located allows the wildlife to roam freely in their natural habitat.

An authentic safari experience defines the essence of Pondoro. From lodge décor to the game drives, it lives and breathes the beauty of the wild.

There are five suites equipped with a private patio, lounge area; as well as an outdoor shower and a Jacuzzi. Three chalets that are tastefully decorated with an African aesthetic overlook Olifants River. The lodge also has an overnight treehouse hide that overlooks a splendid spot-lit waterhole – simply sit back, relax and watch the many species of animals that congregate at the waterhole.

National Parks

The Kruger National Park has 12 main rest camps. Each rest camp is equipped with campsites, safari tents and bungalows – certain camps such as Lower Sabie offers two family cottages and a guest house. Campsites have communal ablution facilities, while the other accommodation options have all the necessities: electricity, hot running water, bathroom and even air-conditioning.

At Etosha National Park, you have the option to reside inside – or outside – the park.

Inside: There are three main camps that offer chalets or double rooms. If you prefer to get back to basics, there are also campsites available.

Outside: Accommodation ranges from five-star lodges to campsites.

Game drives and wildlife sightings

Luxury game lodges 

Private game lodges usually have two fixed-time game drives per day – morning and evening/night. The driver is accompanied by an experienced tracker who sits in a jockey seat at the front of the vehicle – this ensures the best game-viewing experience possible.

Pondoro is renowned for its exclusive, luxury game drives. The drives are conducted on open-top safari cruisers and with a maximum of eight people allowed on the cruiser at a time, unmatched wildlife viewing is guaranteed.

The skilled rangers have a vast knowledge of the area and because off-road driving is possible, there is a much better chance that you’ll witness the famous Big 5 (lion; leopard; elephant; rhino and buffalo.)

National Parks

Kruger and Etosha span a massive area – 19,485km2 and 22,270km2 respectively. These sizes allow for larger – and more diverse – populations of wildlife, which heightens game-viewing opportunities. Due to the fact that some private lodges are situated on a small concession, it isn’t always possible for them to have the diversity of wildlife that you’ll find in national parks.

The volume of traffic is generally higher in national parks than in private areas, especially on the paved roads; there is distinctly less congestion on unpaved roads.

The number of people on a game drive in a national park is considerably larger than at private game lodges, so it may not be as comfortable, but as mentioned above, there is a much greater diversity of wildlife to be seen.

The bottom line is that whether you decide to stay at a private lodge or rest camp at a national park, the safari experience will leave an indelible ‘beauty’ mark on your soul.

Mark works for Pondoro, loves to travel and has been writing about his experiences across the globe for a few years now. He is passionate about sustainability and Eco-travel, working hard to educate and inform wherever possible along the way.

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