Our Ultimate Guide to Kruger Private Game Lodges

The iconic Kruger National Park in South Africa is perhaps the epitome of the classic game drive safari. But the Kruger Park is also a vast wilderness area the size of Wales, with hundreds of lodges to choose from. While game viewing throughout the park is amazing, there are some areas that are just that little bit above average and - dare we say it – perhaps even the best game viewing areas in the whole of Africa! But what is the best game reserve in Kruger National Park, and which are the best private game lodges near Kruger?

In this comprehensive guide, we list our top private reserves near Kruger, as well as the best Kruger luxury safari lodges out there. If you book your safari at any of these private game lodges near Kruger National Park, we guarantee that your journey into the heart of the South African wilderness will be nothing short of extraordinary!

Private Game Reserves near Kruger National Park

The western and southern boundary of the Kruger Park are bordered by privately managed nature reserves, most with an uninterrupted open boundary to the vast wilderness of the Kruger. This means that these game reserves near Kruger National Park offer the best of both worlds: the wildness of a vast open area where wildlife is free to roam, and the flexibility offered to visitors by the numerous dirt roads, off-roading ability, and top-notch trained guide and tracker teams!

Out of these reserves, we have a firm favourite (not in the least because many amongst our team have spent a good chunk of time guiding or working here!): the Sabi Sands. World renowned for its leopard viewing, the Sabi Sands region is named after the two rivers that transect it. The Sabie River in the south and the Sand River that runs from west to east across the southern Kruger region. These rivers are the lifeblood of any property that is lucky enough to have traverse along these stunning waterways. Most properties along the Sand River boast four or five km of river frontage, which means the entire area is teeming with wildlife of all shapes and sizes and offers some of Africa’s best Big Five safari experiences.

While the Sabi Sands will always be close to our hearts, the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve is a close second, recently having established itself as a prime safari destination with consistently good game viewing and charming, family run safari camps. The lower rates in the Timbavati also work in its favour!

The Sand River, one of the two life giving rivers in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve. Can you spot the two Big Five species?! Photo Gareth Poole.

If you are unsure about why you should choose to go on safari in the private game reserves near Kruger; here are a few reasons:

1. Exclusive Wilderness Experience: Imagine traversing vast expanses of untamed landscapes teeming with Africa's iconic wildlife, away from the crowds. Due to their often-exclusive traversing areas, the number of other vehicles you’ll encounter is limited, offering a more immersive and authentic safari adventure. No rushing into wildlife sightings, surrounded by 20 other game viewing vehicles pushing to get to the best spot... Besides your viewing comfort, this is also a much more considerate and animal-friendly way to experience wildlife close-up.

2. Luxurious Accommodation: From lavishly decorated tented camps to opulent safari lodges, Kruger Private Game Reserves redefine luxury in the heart of the wilderness. Indulging in world-class amenities, gourmet dining, and attentive service amidst breathtaking natural surroundings truly is one of the world’s greatest pleasures!

3. Expert Guided Safaris: Embark on expertly guided game drives and bush walks led by experienced rangers and trackers. This does not only mean you’ll gain profound insights into the intricate ecosystems of the African bush, but also guarantees wildlife encounters that will leave you in awe, topped off with hilarious campfire storytelling to end the day! If you really want to make the most out of your safari experience, consider hiring a private guide to host you throughout your travels.

4. Exclusive Activities: Beyond traditional game drives, privately managed reserves have the freedom to personalise your safari experience beyond your wildest dreams (pun intended!). Choose from a myriad of exclusive activities to make your African safari truly unique, including hot air balloon safaris, bush dinners under the stars, and visits to local communities or wildlife conservation projects.


Why Choose Private Game Lodges near Kruger National Park?

Planning your safari at a Kruger Luxury Safari Lodge means exclusivity and luxury amidst the pristine wilderness of South Africa. Unlike public rest camps, these private game lodges offer discerning travelers a more intimate, luxurious and personalised safari experience. These are our top six private game lodges near Kruger National Park:

1. Singita Lebombo: Suspended aloft the N’wanetsi River in the Kruger National Park and set within 33,000 acres of pristine wilderness, Singita epitomizes understated elegance and conservation excellence, offering discerning travelers an exclusive safari experience. Each tailormade exploration with your personal field guide celebrates the freedom to spend unfiltered time in wide-open spaces. If you are looking for world-class guiding, service, hospitality, wining and dining, Singita is the luxury safari lodge for you.

  • Rates: R45,560 (2024) – R49,205 (2025)
  • Availability for 2024: Good

Mala Mala camp, main area

2. Mala Mala Rattray’s Camp: Tucked away in a forest of green, on the banks of the world-renowned Sand River, MalaMala Rattray’s Camp offers an intimate glimpse into an era long lost, when travelers from afar married the magic of the African bush with elegance and refinement. Recognised world-wide as the blueprint for the African photographic safari, Mala Mala is celebrated for its rich biodiversity and iconic Big Five sightings, offering true wildlife enthusiasts an intimate safari experience with unparalleled game viewing and photographic opportunities. Read more about why we love Mala Mala so much, in our dedicated blogpost.

  • Rates: R31,000 (2024) – R37,200 (2025)
  • Availability for 2024: Limited availability in Oct, Nov and Dec 2024

3. Tanda Tula: Meaning to love the quiet, Tanda Tula has been operational for more than 30 years and thanks to their very recently completed revamp (2023), offers world-class accommodation. Strategically positioned on the banks of the Nhlaralumi River, this stunning lodge integrates seamlessly with awe-inspiring views of the surrounding wildlife and natural landscapes of the Timbavati. All lodges in the area adhere to strict game viewing protocols which ensure the sustainability of the bushveld and sensitivity to the wildlife, making for an authentic and unspoilt safari experience.

  • Rates: R25,000 (2024) – R28,750 (2025)
  • Availability for 2024: Good

4. Londolozi Varty Camp: Renowned for its leopard sightings and commitment to conservation, Londolozi offers a harmonious blend of luxury and wilderness immersion.  Game drives at Londolozi are taken by professional, passionate and knowledgeable rangers and trackers, traversing over 16,000 hectares of unadulterated wilderness. No two days are the same at Londolozi and your experience is completely tailored to suit your individual preferences and expectations.

  • Rates: R22,950 (2024) – R24,950 (2025)  
  • Availability in 2024: Limited availability in Nov and Dec 2024

5. &Beyond Ngala Tented Camp: Nestled between the dense riverine forest and the sandy bed of the Timbavati, lie nine intimate and luxurious tents, making it a perfect exclusive-use option for a small group of family or friends. Ngala Private Game Reserve offers an intimate game viewing experience due to their exclusive traverse on 14,700 hectares of wilderness. Sensitive off-roading by rigorously trained guide and tracker teams means top-notch game sightings of the little five, Big Five and everything in between.

  • Rates: R22,500 (2024) – R24,100 (2025)
  • Availability for 2024: Nov-Dec 2024 only

6. Walkers Plains Camp. Owner-run and -managed, this intimate family camp is located in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve. With decades of combined experience as guides, twin brothers Steve and James Walker have developed an intimate connection with the African bush and a passion for sharing their knowledge with others. Their innate understanding of the land and its inhabitants is unparalleled, allowing them to offer guests an unforgettable adventure.  

  • Rates: R11,450 (2024) – R12,600 (2025)
  • Availability for 2024: Nov-Dec 2024 only

When you are ready to embark on your journey of discovery and adventure as you delve into the untamed wilderness of Kruger’s private game reserves and lodges, let us know and we will help you plan your dream African safari to suit your needs and budget. If you are looking for more safari inspiration, have a look at our Classic South Africa itinerary, our South Africa look book featuring more top lodges or peruse our other blogposts.  

Written by Evelyn Poole

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