I was intrigued by this relatively “new” Greater Kruger National Park and decided that the only way to find out more about it is to get your back side in a vehicle and go and do a recce trip of the area. The Greater Kruger National Park (GKNP) is joint venture between the Kruger National Park and the Associated Private Nature Reserves. The private reserves add 180 000 hectare to the park and together they have an area of more than 20.000.000 Ha (or more than 20.000 km²), under their joint conservation. The area is unfenced with free movement of animals across this spectacular land.
Kruger National Park was originally declared a game reserve way back in 1898. It was first called the Government Wildlife Park, then the Sabie Game Reserve and finally called the Kruger National Park in 1926. Many of the farms surrounding the KNP were also game farms, but privately owned. Over twenty of them got together and established the Associated Private Nature Reserves, a non-profit organization to uphold the principles and values of conservation. In the early ‘90s, the KNP and the APNR dropped their fences (after ensuring the outer fences were adequately fenced).
The GKNP includes Timbavati, Klaserie, Makuya,, Letaba, Balule, Umbabat, Manyeleti and Sabi Sand Game Reserves. There are a number of lodges in the GKNP and these tend to be more high-end than the lodges found in the KNP. Many of these lodges are owner managed and hospitality is personal and service a priority.
Prices range from just under R 3 000.00 per person per night sharing to R 10 000 and more. I decided to visit four lodges in the R 3 000 and less price bracket and found them in the Timbavati, Klaresie and Balule Game Reserves.
Covering over 50 000 hectares of prime game-filled savannah, Timbavati includes the Motswari, Ngala, Tanda Tula and Umlani Game Reserves. The area is known most famously for its white lions which, if you are lucky, may be found amongst the plethora of wildlife that calls Timbavati home.
We entered the Timbavati at the Enhkulu Control Gate on our way to do a a site inspection at Shindzela Tented Safari Camp, owner managed by Carolien Janse van Rensburg and her husband who grew up in the Timbavati.
Shindzela Tented Camp, situated within the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve in the Greater Kruger National Park in South Africa, offers guests an authentic African wildlife experience. The eco-friendly (solar-powered), affordable camp is unfenced, a place where one can feel part of the bush. They are passionate about conservation and the staff strive to make guests feel right at home. The safari-style tents are situated under grass-roof structures and can be made up in either twin or double-bedded accommodation. The camp can accommodate a maximum of 16 guests in total in 8 safari tents.
From here we moved on to Gomo Gomo Game lodge in the Klaserie Game Reserve where we spend the night. One of the largest privately owned game reserves in South Africa, Klaserie covers 60 000 hectares of land along the Klaserie River. The owners are deeply committed to conservation and the park hosts three amazing projects namely the Ground Hornbill project, Rhino protection and The Elephant Project.
Gomo Gomo Game Lodge is situated on a beautiful large waterhole with a traversing area of 6000 hectares, offering guests varied landscapes with an excellent possibility of coming face to face with the Big 5 and numerous other mamals and bird species in their natural habitat.
Guests are accommodated in fully furnished brick and thatch chalets, all with en-suite fascilities, power points and air conditioning. During the day guests can relax on the patio overlooking the waterhole or cool down in the swimming pool. At night the camp is transformed into an African wonderland with kerosene flares, creating a true safari ambience.
After an early morning game drive and a hearty breakfast we said good bye to some international guests that we met there and headed for Nambu Lodge in the Balule Game Reserve.
Balule Private Game Reserve consist of 40 000 hectares of prime game reserve. It is home not only to the much sought after Big 5, but also an incredible variety of other wildlife – antelope, big cats, wild dogs – and birdlife. With the perennial Olifants River flowing through it, Balule is a prime game-and bird- watching area. We entered at the Olifants West Nature Reserve Entrance Gate and headed for Nambu Lodge.
The Nambu property has been in the Drinkwater family for almost 40 years, passed down through the generations and home to many memories with both family and friends.
The camp has a total of 6 safari-style bedrooms, all of which have double, modern bathrooms and an outside seating area.
During the heat of the day, one can relax by the camp’s poolside or bird watch from the lodge’s vast viewing platform before a mid-day brunch up at the main camp. At Nambu there are two activities per day, situated in a big 5 reserve. You can head out on foot or on safari and explore this vast and diverse landscape, you never know what you may find there in South Africa’s true wilderness.
Nambu’s spacious viewing platform overlooks a dry riverbed and waterhole where many of the bushveld’s inhabitants come to visit, from herd of elephants, towering giraffes, to the nocturnal and elusive predators.
We did our game drives with Rewald Drinkwater who grew up at Nambu Camp and was absolutely impressed with his knowledge of the area and his attention to detail.
There are three main differences between KNP and the Associated Private Nature Reserves;
The parks that make up the GKNP are generally quite strict about how many people are allowed in at a time. This extends to accommodation available, too. This means that your safari experience is much more exclusive and you won’t be trying to get through hundreds of other cars to see a lion kill or take that special photo of a baby zebra.
The GKNP offers safari visitors access to the real Africa safari experience. Experienced guides take visitors not only on safari vehicles (including to off-road areas), but also walking safaris and night drives. You can’t get closer to the wild like this – sights, sounds and smells included!
Safaris in the GKNP come with experienced and knowledgeable guides with superlative tracking skills. This ensures that you see not only the big animals – This is Big 5 Country – but also the birds and the little guys. From the smallest insect to the smaller cats and hares to birds and buck, all the way to the enormous elephant, these guides and rangers know their stuff.
Recognition to Briony Chrisholm who did some of the text on the GKNP