Luxury Kruger National Park Safaris
Luxury Kruger National Park Safaris offer a fully-inclusive package for the discerning traveler, staying at 4- to 5-star establishments that provide an exclusive and personalized service. Return road transfers from Johannesburg, meals and open vehicle safari drives are all included in our luxury Kruger Park Safaris.
Luxury Kruger Park Safari Holidays
Wildlife and nature lovers are spoilt for choice for luxury safari accommodation in the Kruger region. There are 12 deluxe safari lodges on private concessions within the Kruger Park and a wide choice of ultra-luxury lodges in Greater Kruger.
Located in the north-eastern corner of South Africa, Kruger Park covers an area of 2 million hectares. Added to that is Greater Kruger, 180 000 hectares of protected wilderness which lies on the Park’s western boundary. Combined, the Kruger region is the largest and one of the finest safari destinations in southern Africa.
If you’re planning a safari holiday in South Africa, you might be wondering whether you should stay in Kruger National Park itself or at one of the private reserves that lie adjacent to the national park. We’ll help you decide by clearing up the difference between the two wilderness regions and tips on where to stay depending on what interests you and your family or friends.
What is the difference between Kruger Park and Greater Kruger?
Kruger Park is a state-supported national park that is managed by South African National Parks (SANParks). Greater Kruger is made up of 7 private nature reserves that fall under the auspices of Associated Private Nature Reserves (APNR). The seven nature reserves are made up of a collection of about 18 private safari operations.
Although the two wildlife regions lie adjacent to each other, they operate as separate entities and access to the private reserves of Greater Kruger is restricted. Access to the private concessions is also restricted to the public.
The fences around the game reserves in Greater Kruger as well as Kruger’s boundary fence were removed a number of years ago to allow animals to roam freely between the two protected wilderness areas. Timbavati, Manyeleti and Sabi Sands share an unfenced boundary with Kruger National Park.
If you’re looking for luxury accommodation for a safari holiday within Kruger, the deluxe lodges on the private concessions offer facilities on par with the best you’ll find in Greater Kruger. The luxury lodges in both Kruger Park and Greater Park are unashameably marketed to the high-end traveller and come with a high price tag, largely because they follow a ‘high quality/limited tourists’ model.
Luxury safari lodges in Kruger National Park
The luxury safari lodges in Kruger National Park are located on private concessions which is land leased by the government to independent operators. The bulk of the accommodation in Kruger Park is self-catering units managed by SANParks, with prices kept low to make the Park accessible to a large volume of visitors.
In 2002, Jock Safari Lodge was built on the first private concession established in Kruger Park. Six other private concessions were rolled out thereafter. The role of private concessions is to generate much-needed revenue for the Park. Even though Kruger Park is a state-owned national park, it’s primarily run on money generated from tourism.
There are 5 private concessions in Kruger Park and a total of 15 luxury safari lodges to choose from; all as gorgeous and perfect as the next. Where you stay depends on what interests you from a wildlife and nature point of view but you can rest assured, each luxury safari lodge promises you a safari holiday of your dreams.
· Singita Private Concession
15 000 hectares located in the remote and mountainous eastern region close to the Mozambique boundary and at the confluence of two mighty rivers. It’s home to the ultra-luxury Singita Lebombo and Singita Sweni safari lodges.
· Imbali Private Concession
10 000 hectares located in the heart of central Kruger Park and home to 3 outstanding luxury lodges which includes Imbali Safari Lodge and Hamilton’s Tented Camp.
· Jock of the Bushveld Private Concession
6 000 hectares located in southern Kruger Park, where the Mitomeni and Biyamiti rivers meet. The private concession was the first one granted and is home to Jock Safari Lodge and Fitzpatrick’s at Jock, an intimate private camp that caters for small groups.
· Lukimbi Private Concession
15 000 hectares located in southern Kruger and bordered by three rivers. It’s the largest private concession in the Kruger Park and is home to Lukimbi Safari Lodge.
· Tinga Private Concession
5 000 hectare located in southern Kruger with the Sand and Sabie rivers passing through the concession. The area around Tinga is renowned for its strong population of Big Cats which include leopard, lion and cheetah as well as large numbers of spotted hyena and wild dog. The private concession is home to the exclusive Tina Narina Lodge and Tinga Legends Lodge.
Luxury safari lodges in Southern Kruger Park
Southern Kruger is bound by the Crocodile River at the southern tip of the Park and Sabie River to the north. The bushveld is lush and there are many permanent water sources, which means the southern section of Kruger Park has one of the highest concentrations of animals in the Park.
You’ll see excellent sightings of the Big 5 in the southern zone with guaranteed sightings of lion, rhino and large herds of elephant and buffalo in the triangle of Pretoriuskop, Lower Sabie and Pretoriuskop. There are fewer lions in the southern region as they tend to follow the large herds of antelope that favour the central region.
Southern Kruger is the busiest section of the Park because it’s the easiest to reach from Johannesburg and it has the highest concentration of game. Tourist crowds in the Kruger rest camps and ‘queuing to view’ animal sightings in the busy holiday seasons can be frustrating for travellers who want a more exclusive safari experience, but it’s not a problem when you’re staying at a luxury lodge on a private concession because access to the private land is restricted.
Where to stay in Kruger Park for a luxury safari holiday
There are 15 luxury safari lodges located on private concessions in Kruger Park. Where you stay largely depends on what interests you, and possibly how much time you have for a luxury safari holiday. Kruger Park is divided into 4 tourism eco-zones and each section offers wildlife and nature lovers something unique.
With authentic buffalo dung walls and rustic finishes, Camp Shawu promises guests a real ‘Out of Africa’ experience. Private decks overlook the Mpanamana Dam and beautiful bushveld surrounds. Camp Shawu is the sister camp of Camp Shonga on a 15 000-hectare private concession.
Camp Shonga is a small intimate bush retreat built in the foothills of the Lebombo Mountains, offering views over the African bushveld as far as the eye can see. Camp Shonga shares the same ethos as Camp Shawu but with the added emphasis of guests’ participation in select environmental awareness programmes.
Shishangeni Private Lodge is built on what was the last private concession allocated to private operators in the Kruger National Park. It’s located in the south-eastern region with the Crocodile River on its southern boundary and Mozambique boundary to the east.
Lukimbi Safari Lodge is a 5-star luxury safari lodge located in southern Kruger on the largest concession in the national park. With only one deluxe safari lodge operating in a private area that spans 15 000 hectares, guests staying at Lukimbi Safari Lodge are guaranteed the ultimate exclusive safari experience.
Jock Safari Lodge and Fitzpatrick’s at Jock
Jock Safari Lodge offers luxury safari accommodation on what was the first private concession in the Kruger Park. The luxurious safari lodge exudes old-world charm combined with the distinctive character of the Zulu and Shangaan cultures.
Close to the main lodge is Fitzpatrick’s at Jock. It’s an intimate camp that caters for small parties of friends and families with three luxury suites. Fitzpatrick’s at Jock welcomes children of all ages which is complemented by a popular Kids on Safari programme.
Plains Camp @ Rhino Walking Safaris
Plains Camp is a luxury tented lodge on a private concession that runs Rhino Walking Safaris. The concession operators specialises in wilderness walking safaris in 12 000 hectares of remote, pristine bushveld in a game-rich area.
Tinga Narina Lodge and Tinga Legends Lodge
The two luxury safari lodges are owned and operated by Lion Sands and are situated on the fertile banks of the Sabie River in a rich game viewing area. The area is renowned for its incredible biodiversity and high numbers of Big Cats. The luxury suites are nestled in a grove of magnificent trees on the banks of the Sabie River.
Luxury safari lodges in central Kruger Park
Central Kruger Park is the largest area of the national park and makes up 30 percent of the surface area. It lies between Sabie River and Olifants River. This stretch of bushveld gets higher rainfall which means sweeter grass for grazing and a plenty of browsing trees. This in turn attracts an abundance of antelope as well as giraffe, zebra and wildebeest.
With a plenty to eat, central Kruger is also known as the ‘Big Cat Capital of Kruger’. This eco-zone supports nearly half of the Park’s lion population as well as strong numbers of leopard, hyena and cheetah. It’s estimated that there are at least 60 individual prides of lion in central Kruger.
The vegetation is not as lush as southern Kruger but it’s still a beautiful stretch of wilderness area. Central Kruger is characterised by mixed thornveld and woodlands with sweet-grazing savanna grasslands. Perfect for easy and plentiful game viewing.
Hamiltons Tented Camp offers an authentic safari experience coupled with pure luxury and indulgence. There are 6 superb canvas tents at Hamiltons Tented Camp which lie nested in a grove of ancient Jackalberry trees on the banks of a seasonal river.
Hoyo Hoyo Safari Lodge is an exclusive safari lodge that lies nestled in a lush riverine forest on the banks of the Mluwati River. It offers guests the choice of 6 beautifully decorated air-conditioned suites with luxurious features. The tented units at Hoyo Hoyo Safari Lodge look onto a waterhole and beautiful bushveld surrounds.
Imbali Safari Lodge has 12 spacious private suites. Each suite has a private wooden deck and plunge pool and overlooks the N’waswitsontso riverbed. Activities include daily morning and evening game drives, guided bush walks and spa treatments in the comfort of your private suite.
Singita Lebombo Lodge and Singita Sweni Lodge
Singita Lebombo sets new standards in contemporary game lodge style and design. It offers state-of-the-art luxury accommodation in beautiful bushveld surrounds. The dramatic lodge has 13 deluxe suites and one private villa located in an area teeming with game. Raised off the floor of the lush river bank, Singita Sweni Lodge lies nestled in a grove of ancient trees on the edge of the Sweni River. The intimate lodge is a hidden jewel and offers guests the perfect blend of elegance and graceful luxury with bold contemporary African-chic design. It’s the smallest of the Singita safari lodges with only 6 decadently-furnished suites.
Luxury safari lodges in northern Kruger Park
Northern Kruger is vastly different from southern and central Kruger Park and attracts a different set of wildlife and nature lovers. It’s receives very little annual rainfall and is semi-arid and stark. What saves this section is the five major rivers that forge a path across the valley, the two notable rivers being Olifants and Letaba.
These permanent water sources create a tapestry of lush riverine forests and attract animals to their fertile river banks. Game viewing along the river banks is fantastic and you’ll likely to see leopard in the massive sycamore fig, tamboti and apple leaf trees that line the banks.
Northern Kruger is home to almost 60 percent of the total hippo population of Kruger and at last count, there are over 9 000 elephants in the northern belt. The area around Olifants Rest Camp is famously known for its Big Tuskers, the incredible elephants who are part of the Magnificent 7 for their record-breaking, astoundingly-long tusks.
Currently, there are no private concessions in northern Kruger Park. It’s home to Olifants Rest Camp and Letaba Rest Camp, which are both very popular for their incredible views and incredible diversity. These two rest camps are booked up to a year in advance.
Luxury safari lodges in far-north Kruger Park
Far North Kruger is remote and far to reach so it’s one of the quietest sections of the Park and popular among avid nature lovers for its pristine, untouched wilderness. It’s also the “Birding Capital of South Africa”, if not the whole of southern Africa.
This outstanding eco-zone centres around Punda Maria Rest Camp and Pafuri Camp, and extends to Crookes Corner on the northernmost tip of Kruger where it shares a boundary with Zimbabwe and Mozambique. The concentration of animals is lower in far-north Kruger Park but it’s reputation for outstanding birding is its biggest drawcard
The Outpost is located in the extreme north of the Kruger Park in the Makuleke region which is borders to the north by the Limpopo River and Zimbabwe and Mozambique to the east. It offers luxurious accommodation in a spectacular setting which is renowned for its incredible biodiversity and prolific bird life.
Where to stay in Greater Kruger for a luxury safari holiday
High-end travellers have a wide choice of luxury accommodation in Greater Kruger. A few of the nature reserves are the oldest conservation areas in South Africa and to legendary Big 5 safari destinations such as Londolozi, MalaMala, Sabi Sands, Singita and Timbavati.
Those are the most famous names in Greater Kruger but there are many more private game reserves and luxury lodges that have joined the northern safari collection to offer exclusive, outstanding African safari destinations for high-end travellers.
Here is a list of the 7 private nature reserves that make up Greater Kruger and the total collection of 25 game reserves or conservancies that fall within the protected wilderness. Each game reserve and conservancy is unfenced and has its own collection of luxury safari lodges. Access is restricted to paying guests.
As you can see from this extensive list of safari destinations, visitors are spoilt for choice of places to stay in Greater Kruger.
- Greater Olifants River Conservancy
- Olifants West Game Reserve
- Olifants North Game Reserve
- York Game Reserve
- Parsons Game Reserve
- Grietjie Game Reserve
- Mohlabetsi South Nature Reserve (include Jejane Private Nature Reserve)
- Mohlabetsi River Nature Reserve
- Motswari Game Reserve
- Ngale Game Reserve
- Tanda Tula Game Reserve
- Umlani Game Reserve
- MalaMala Game Reserve
- Djuma Game Reserve
- Lion Sands Game Reserve
- Sabi Sabi Game Reserve
- Londolozi Game Reserve
- Singita Game Reserve
- Ulusaba Game Reserve
What do luxury safari lodges in the Kruger region offer travellers?
As mentioned, the luxury safari lodges in the Kruger region come with a high price tag but the trade-off is an exclusive, authentic safari experience with low tourist numbers. No crowds at the lodges and no traffic queues at animal sightings; it’s bliss. And with the current South African exchange rate, this kind of safari holiday is relatively affordable if you have Dollars and Pounds to spend on a safari tour of your dreams.
The accommodation is immaculate, the service is exemplary and the safari experience is exceptional. In fact, the décor of the luxury safari lodges in South Africa has earned its own design category because of its stylish combination of modern elegance and contemporary African safari chic.
It can safely be said that anything on offer in the luxury safari category in South Africa is comparable to any award-winning safari lodge located in Africa’s world-renowned destinations such as Okavango Delta, Serengeti or Maasai Mara. Actually, maybe even better because Kruger’s luxury safari lodges are more accessible and affordable.
Ease of access and affordability
This, of course, is relative as the luxury safari lodges in South Africa are priced for high-end international travellers. However, they are more affordable when compared to the likes of safari lodges in Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park in Botswana and those in Tanzania and Kenya.
The reason for this is the Kruger region is accessible from Johannesburg by car or tour vehicle, whereas for a safari tour to say Botswana; overseas visitors must pay the extra cost of an expensive private charter flight to the remote nature reserves on top of a long-haul flight to Africa and a connecting international flight to Botswana. The same applies to safari destinations in the rest of Africa.
It’s a scenic 5- to 6-hour drive from Johannesburg to Kruger Park or Greater Kruger and while many visitors opt to fly-in and fly-out on chartered flights, it’s not necessary if you need to keep the cost of your safari holiday down.
Exclusive access to private land
Guests are taken on daily game drives in open safari vehicles with a dedicated ranger and tracker. The vehicles have exclusive access to their private land and unrestricted access to the public roads in Kruger Park.
The main difference is guests staying in Greater Kruger are driven from the private reserves to the closest Kruger Park gate and pay a fee to enter.
It’s a win-win situation if you’re staying in Kruger Park because the game rangers have exclusive access to the private concession as well as the public roads of Kruger. There’s no need to drive an hour to the closest Kruger Park entrance gate.
The fences have been removed from the private game reserves in Greater Kruger but this doesn’t mean it’s a ‘free for all’ to traverse each other’s property. The rangers taking guests out in the open safari vehicles have to stick to their property but this isn’t a problem because the private reserves are huge and there are plenty of animals and birds to see.
Professional rangers and trackers
It’s widely known that the professional game rangers and trackers in the Kruger region who work for the private reserves and concessions are some of the best in southern Africa. Their knowledge of the bushveld is extensive and their approach to client care and safety is faultless.
The intimate environment back at the safari lodges means your ranger usually spends time with you in camp. Those that want game viewing to continue can join their ranger after brunch for a guided walk in the surrounding bushveld. That’s when you’ll really appreciate the knowledge of your guide when he or she spends time talking about the little things in the bush that are so vital for the ecosystem.
Guaranteed animal sightings
The best thing about a luxury safari holiday in the Kruger region is the rangers and trackers go out of their way to find brilliant animal sightings. When you’re paying top dollar for the best safari accommodation in South Africa, the rangers make sure you see the best game.
The game rangers communicate with each other by radio and call in exciting sightings so nobody misses out seeing the Big 5 and other excellent sightings. Greater Kruger is renowned for being the ‘Leopard Capital of South Africa’ which makes it a sought-after safari destination for wildlife photographers. They’re territorial creatures and the rangers and trackers usually know where to find them.
Heavenly bushveld surrounds
It’s rare to find a luxury safari lodge in South Africa’s safari hub that doesn’t boast splendid bushveld surrounds, usually situated on a river bank or an escarpment overlooking the vast savanna plains. The luxury lodges are often situated overlooking a large waterhole which draws animals close to the buildings and provides great ‘sofa game viewing’.
Where you stay in Kruger depends on what interests you. There are the popular areas that are rich in game and then those that are the finest birding destinations. Other areas focus on guided wilderness walking trails in remote areas and others that place an emphasis on the Big Cats and photography. Kruger is vast and the wilderness offers up an endless selection of sights and experiences.
The topnotch safari lodges always come with topnotch chefs and the food and wine is often as memorable as the animal sightings. Many of the luxury safari lodges in Kruger employ award-winning chefs who specialise in unique South African cuisine.
The luxury lodge rates are usually ‘all-inclusive’ so you can expect three delicious meals a day, mouthwatering pastries for High Tea and yummy South African snacks for sundowners.
The luxury lodges in Kruger pride themselves on pairing decadent meals with the finest wines in South Africa. Many have their own cellars with an exceptional selection of local wines, gin, craft beer and spirits.
Pampering and pleasures
You’ll find that most Kruger luxury lodges have their own spa and often a fully-equipped gym. With all those scrumptious meals you eat and snacks you can’t resist, the gyms are welcomed to burn off a few calories.
In between daily game drives, you can treat yourself to a wonderful pamper session under the care of skilled therapists and masseuses. Throw in a beautiful view of the bushveld and you can’t find a better way to spend a few hours treating yourself to ‘me time’.
One glorious day at a luxury safari lodge in Kruger
Every day is different at a luxury safari lodge in Kruger but also refreshingly the same. It’s the predictable soothing routine of the bushveld retreats that allow us to shake off our city stress and completely relax. What does a typical day look like when you’re staying at a luxury lodge? Here’s what to expect:
Early morning wake-up
The earlier you wake up and set off on a game drive, the better. There’s time before setting off for good coffee and rusks, South Africa’s favourite breakfast snack.
As the sun rises, the bushveld comes alive with sound and activity. The early morning is such a wonderful time to be in the bushveld, with the soft glow of the sunrise glistening off morning dew, the soft call of waking birds and the fresh scent of a new day.
3-hour game drive
The early morning game drive is usually about 3-hours long, but it does depends on what you see. You may end up sitting longer watching a regal leopard in a tree or a pride of lions on a kill.
Daily game drives are in an open safari vehicle with a dedicated ranger and tracker. The Kruger luxury safari lodges don’t allow self-drive safari tours.
The morning drive is broken for snacks and drinks at a gorgeous vantage point. Everyone is allowed off the vehicle to stretch their legs but don’t wander off. As the day heats up, the animals retreat deeper into the thick bush and it’s time to head back to the lodge.
Delicious brunch and relaxation
Guests return to the lodge and there’s a hearty breakfast waiting for everyone. Enjoy it on the deck, usually with a wonderful view overlooking a waterhole or river.
You then have a few hours of relaxation that you can spend in your luxury suite, around the pool or you can join a guided bush walk with your guide.
Light lunch and High Tea
Delicious meals and tables laden with pastries are as much part of your Africa safari holiday as the wildlife and scenery. Lunch is usually something light served on the deck and High Tea is served before everyone sets off for game drives.
Late-afternoon and night game drives
Back on the open safari vehicles, you set off to find fresh animal sightings and explore different sections of the private reserve. Self-drive visitors staying in Kruger Park have to return to their rest camp before the gates close but the best thing about staying in the private concessions and reserves is there is no time restriction on evening drives.
Your ranger takes you to a wonderful viewpoint for sundowners and snacks. Sipping on crisp wine or G&Ts, soak up the peace and tranquility of the beautiful bushveld surrounds as the heat subsides and the nocturnal animals start waking up. Enjoy a leisurely drive back to the lodge in the dark and experience the bushveld at nighttime.
Dinner under the stars
Dinner under the stars around a roaring firepit has to be one of the best times on a safari tour in Kruger. Let the sounds of the bushveld night soothe you and enjoy the company of your fellow guests, sharing stories of sightings and tucking into a delicious meal.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can I expect from a Luxury Kruger National Park Safari?
Expect only the best from your luxury Kruger National Park Safari – authentic safari experiences, guaranteed animal sightings, immaculate, stylish and elegant African chic accommodation, exemplary service and the best African cuisine – all of this against the backdrop of a spectacular African setting.
Where are the best luxury Kruger Park safari lodges located?
The best luxury Kruger Park safari lodges are located on private concessions that the South African government is leasing to independent operators. There are currently 5 private concessions in the Kruger Park – Singita, Imbali, Jock of the Bushveld, Lukimbi and Tinga Private Concession.
Is the Southern part of the Kruger Park a good choice for game viewing?
Yes, absolutely! Thanks to the lush bushveld and many permanent water sources this part of the Park boasts one of the highest concentrations of game in the Kruger.
Will I be able to fly directly to a safari lodge?
Yes, there are many daily flights available between Johannesburg and most of the private, luxury lodges surrounding the Kruger National Park. The flight takes about 90 minutes and is the easiest and most convent way to travel to the Park.
Is there a difference between the Kruger Park and Greater Kruger?
Yes, the Kruger National Park is supported by the state and managed by SANParks (South African National Parks) while the Greater Kruger consist of 7 private nature reserves under the auspices of APNR (Associated Private Nature Reserves).