Understanding Safari Parks and Reserves

Not all safari parks or destinations are the same. They vary in size, habitat, wildlife and experience. And, as if trying to confuse you like lions laying an ambush, they have many different names.

Understanding the difference between a national park and private reserve is important when you’re picking a safari destination. In many ways this is more important than choosing what country for your safari.

National Parks

National parks are the large and legendary spaces where wilderness really thrives. They are a country’s ultimate marker of conservation, a space gazetted exclusively for wildlife and safari tourism. Anyone can visit and the abundance of animals is unrivalled.

However, some national parks can get very busy with visitors during their peak season, particularly famous parks like the Maasai Mara. In most national parks you can only explore on game drives, although smaller and lesser-known parks offer a wider range of activities, including game walks.

Private Concessions

Private concessions typically share unfenced boundaries with a national park. These are smaller wilderness areas dominated by prime wildlife habitat, meaning a superb concentration of animals.

Access is restricted to guests staying at a camp or lodge inside the concession, with this lack of visitors creating a very personal and exclusive experience. That comes for a price of course.

Private concessions offer a stunning wildlife experience, particularly because you can drive off the trails and enjoy a wide choice of activities, but they are the most expensive places to go on safari.

Fenced Private Game Reserves

Most private game reserves are small and fenced, snippets of the wilderness that focus on showing you a variety of animals, rather than a high quantity. These are typically found in South Africa and parts of Kenya and are usually visited as an introduction to safari.

They are places where you can see different animals on a half or full day tour. But they can’t compete with the real thing, the national parks and private concessions where you can fully connect with your wild side.