After a recent visit to Sabi Sand (adjacent to the Kruger National Park), Portfolio’s Shana spills the beans on what awaits when you escape to a private game reserve like Cheetah Plains Private Game Reserve.
If it’s a hassle-free, game-full and thoroughly enjoyable bush experience you’re after, then very few things will come close to the all-round safari encounter you’ll have when choosing a lodge in a private game reserve. Here’s what you can expect…
You’ll be well looked after
From the moment you arrive at your reserve you can expect to be treated as if you’re the only guest. Friendly and welcoming staff takes care of your every need with everyone going out of the way to make you feel at home. While you sip your refreshing welcome drink, your bags are carried to your room while the daily schedule is explained to you. Impeccable service and attentiveness is something that goes hand-in-hand with a private game reserve experience – it’s the royal treatment in every way.
Everything is planned for you
And we mean everything! All you have to do is show up when you’re meant to and you’re good to go. Most private camps offer twice daily game drives, as well as at least two meals (usually brunch, served after the morning game drive, and a hearty dinner after the evening one). In the afternoons you’ll have free time to do what you want – this is a great time to take a nap as the early mornings can take their toll.
Benefit from the knowledge of experienced rangers and trackers
Our tracker, Ephraim, has about 20 years of experience, so it wasn’t surprising when, on our first drive, after following her tracks, he took us right to the tree where leopard Thandi was hanging out. At one point, he even got out of the vehicle to take a closer look. There was no fear there – just confidence and calm. Being with an experienced guide only enhances your bush encounter as they share their knowledge with you, and, of course, almost always give you the opportunity to get up close and personal with incredible game.
See amazing wildlife
And speaking of incredible game… The main reason anyone goes on safari is to see the wildlife, for which Africa is so famous, in the flesh. The Big Five (elephant, buffalo, leopard, lion and rhino) is usually top of the list, with anything extra being an added bonus. We ticked four of the five off (the rhino eluding us), but that’s why it’s recommended you go for a minimum of two/three days, so you have the best chance of seeing everything.
We managed to see hyena, giraffe, antelope and hippo too, and had the privilege of following two lion brothers through the bush for most of our morning drive. There’s nothing like listening to an elephant munching on some leaves just a few metres away, or having a stare-off with a herd of buffalo. Animal sightings in a private reserve are guaranteed so remember to take your camera with you – you’ll definitely want to document this.
Enjoy chats around the fire
The boma is without a doubt the social hub of any private reserve. It’s where you’re likely to enjoy your dinners and engage fellow guests in conversations beside the fire. It’s not only a fantastic chance to mingle, but also a great time to relax under the stars and reflect on the glorious day out in the bush you’ve just had.
Indulge in delicious cuisine
Close encounters with wildlife isn’t the only reason you should choose a private game reserve – the food alone would be enough to get me there. After the morning game drive, you’ll be treated to a scrumptious brunch with both hot and cold options, and after working up quite the appetite out in the bush, it’s most welcome. A three-course dinner is what you can look forward to following your evening game drive. During check-in you’ll be asked which option you’d prefer for your main.
Note: Most private game lodges offer lunch on request and a sort of afternoon tea is served before you set off on your evening game drive.
Experience the very best sunsets
If you think a Lowveld sunset is something special, then it’s even more so when you get to witness a Lowveld bush sunset. Your ranger/tracker will find a suitable spot to park towards the end of your evening game drive where you’ll get to enjoy drinks and snacks (think dried mango, biltong and nuts), all while the sun dips down low below the horizon. It’s truly something.
Tip: Remember to take warm clothing with you on your evening drive. It won’t feel too cold when you set off in the late afternoon but as the sun goes down, you’ll feel more of a chill.
Pampering is an additional option…
A lot of private game lodges offer spa facilities, so if you’re keen on treating yourself to a spot of pampering, then you’re in luck. Otherwise, most have swimming pools where you can enjoy an afternoon dip before going on your second game drive of the day.
Please note: Many private game reserves are located in malaria areas, so speak to your doctor before about taking the necessary medication. Don’t forget to pack that mosquito repellant too.
With so many private game reserve accommodation options available, the best idea is to connect with our travel experts at Portfolio Journeys so that someone can recommend the perfect bush retreat for you. Alternatively, we'd happily tailor-make an entire itinerary for you - just let us know what you're thinking and we'll make it happen.
Images: Shana Trope; south-african-lodges.com; safarinow.com