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African Private Game Reserves vs. National Parks

by SANDY SALLE

Some travelers to Africa might not realize it, but there are some major differences between private game reserves and national parks that should be looked at prior to planning your trip to Africa.

Although both types of wildlife areas offer phenomenal game viewing, there are some other differences that may have an effect on your planning decisions.

Below are some of the biggest differences between a private game reserve and a national park in Africa:

Time

Private Game Reserve: When you stay on or visit a private game reserve, time is never an issue. Morning game drives leave before dawn to catch the sunrise and the transition from nocturnal animals to daytime creatures. Also, because a private game reserve has no hours of operation, guests can enjoy night game drives where there is no set time they must end their drive and leave the reserve.

National Park: Because national parks have hours of operation, travelers must abide by these hours and rules during their visit. Morning game drives leave when the park opens and must return prior to closing time. Many of these parks do not offer night game drives since these drives extend past hours of operation—which differ from park to park.

Terrain

Private Game Reserve: Visitors to private game reserves experience much more freedom in terms of explorationthroughout the area. Because there are fewer

safari tours occurring on private game reserves at one time, guides can travel off the road in the safari vehicles, which are generally 4X4 open vehicles. This freedom enables travelers to get closer to remarkable sightings. Often, game reserves will limit the amount of vehicles that can attend a sighting. This ensures that each of the safari-goers experiences a first-class look at a unique sighting without the hassle of looking past a crowd.

National Park: The vehicles that operate within national parks must stay on the road at all times. Since there are more vehicles traveling through national parks than private game reserves, safety precautions require all vehicles to remain on the road at all times. There is also no limit to the amount of vehicles attending one particular sighting. All of these elements might sound like a deal breaker for some travelers, but national parks offer some of the best game viewing in all of Africa and shouldn’t be missed.

Activities

Private Game Reserve: Night game drives are some of the most rewarding types of safari tours and can be experienced at private game reserves since there are no closing hours. Bush walks are also a popular and highly rewarding activity that can be enjoyed in private game reserves because guides and travelers are allowed to travel off the road. Some reserves even allow visitors to walk without a professional guide in certain areas.

National Park: Most national parks do not offer night game drives since there are strict hours of operation for national parks, and vehicles need to return to the entrance of the park prior to its closing. Also, any type of unguided bush walk is prohibited; however, there are a few parks that offer guests the opportunity to experience a walking safari with a professional guide.

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