“Should I book a safari in the Kruger Park, or the Greater Kruger Park?”
This is a regular question received by the consultants at African Budget Safaris. We have a whole blog detailing what the differences (and similarities) are between the two.
I, however, recently went to Kruger, staying in GKNP. These are my take-out thoughts regarding the two. I’ll set the blog out with the ‘theory’, followed by my personal experiences.
Theory: GKNP vs. KNP
To summarise the definition in our previous blog: The Greater Kruger National Park (GKNP) refers to the over twenty private reserves to the west of the Kruger National Park (KNP) which add 180 000 hectares to the reserve. In total, the whole area covers 20 000 000 hectares of unfenced, wild reserve with free movement of game across this spectacular land.
The parks are next to each other and there are no fences between them, so the animals and birds who call the area home can roam freely, and are found in both. In saying that, however, the area is large, so habitats differ and of course animals gravitate toward whichever habitat is best for them. Some areas are better known for their leopard sightings, others for elephant, etc.
Accessibility, insider knowledge and accommodation are the three main differences.
Theory: The GKNP offers access to the real African safari experience. Experienced guides take visitors not only on safari vehicles (including to off-road areas), but also walking safaris, dawn and night drives. You can't get closer to the wild than this - sights, sounds and smells included!
Personal Experience: When I say off-road, I really mean off-road. Our sundowner drive on Day 1 included driving down the banks of a river (over a tree pushed down by the elephants) and stopping in the river bed to watch said elephants eating their dinner.
The pre-dawn walk, watching the sun rise as hippos played in the river below us was beyond description in its magic. Fresh animal spoor, the morning birds’ chorus, our guide’s knowledge of who’d been where overnight was so special.
Theory: 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 Five country - but also the birds and the li'l guys. From the smallest insect to the smaller cats and hares to birds and buck, all the way up to the enormous elephant, these rangers know their stuff.
Personal Experience: Driving back from our bush barbecue, in the pitch dark, with only the incredible African night sky above us, our guide suddenly stopped and leapt out of the car, moving slowly to a tree about 10 m off the road. He came back holding the most beautiful chameleon that he’d spotted, despite the inky darkness. This happened twice.
A little further, a female cheetah napping next to the road under a tree.
Communication between guides is maintained with radios, which means that if there’s something special to see, you won’t miss it.
Theory: There are a number of lodges in the GKNP. These tend to be more high-end than those found in the KNP. With limited numbers of guests at each, you are assured of a far more private and exclusive experience. Hospitality is personal and service is a priority, to ensure that you get the best possible safari experience.
Personal Experience: This, I think, is the biggest difference between staying in one of the large camps in KNP and the smaller ones in GKNP. The place we stayed accommodated just over thirty people in chalets dotted about a pretty garden (with welcome pool for cooling down). Meals were eaten together and, by the end, new friends were made.
Equally, the staff quota is small, allowing one to get to know them. We were treated extremely well, and fed even better!
Best of Both Worlds
Theory: The best thing about GKNP vs. KNP is that you can, actually, have both. Staying in the Greater Kruger Park allows you to experience all of its pros. Most safaris include a day visit (or visits) into the Kruger Park, allowing you to have your cake, and eat it!
Personal Experience: We spent one of the days driving around KNP. While it was wonderful, and we saw plenty of game, our game sightings were shared with six or seven other vehicles at the same time, whereas in the GKNP, it was like we were the only people on earth!
So, really, staying in the GKNP, with a day visit (or two) into KNP, truly is the best of both worlds!
Speak to one of our ABS consultants to find the package that suits you best.