Tailor-made and personalised specifically for you.
Tailor making your itinerary gives you the freedom to create a personal safari. This is about doing it your way. Our Essence Collection safari itineraries have been honed and crafted over the last ten years to offer a fantastic balanced safari experience, especially for first time visitors to South Africa. However, if you’re already safari savvy, or just prefer to do things you’re own way and wish to enjoy a bespoke five star safari experience, then our Platinum Collection is perfect for you. Will and Carol have over twenty five year experience in wildlife safaris and will advise and offer suggestions based on their regional expertise to tailor make a safari package for you, and without the premiums that are often associated with tailor made products.
We focus on the Greater Kruger Park region of South Africa, which is our operational base and where we have built up a network of hand-picked lodges and game reserves.
You may also like to add whale watching (in season), which is based in Hermanus near Cape Town, where our local guide will guide you through that region.
We are also able to offer you safaris in Botswana’s Okavango Delta or Chobe National Park, or perhaps the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.
So how does it work?
As a starting point, all you need to do is to contact us and let us know more about you initial preferences:
Greater Kruger National Park region private game reserves
The map above shows the private game reserves that we have hand picked and recommend. Each has been selected to offer different styles of safari lodges, habitat and wildlife experiences. Most of these privately managed reserves have removed fences between them and the Kruger National Park, allowing animals to free range across a vast area.
The Kruger National Park itself is open for public access, which is why we prefer to visit the privately managed areas which form part of this eco-system, however we can of-course visit the public area of the National Park.
Protected natural areas in South Africa can be divided into two types. Firstly there are the state parks, run by the national or provincial governments (Kruger Park being the most famous). These parks can be explored by visitors in their own vehicles. Although they do provide a good wildlife experience, state parks can be quite busy and visitors must abide by strict rules.
For example, vehicles must stay on the roads and visitors must be in camp by sunset.
Secondly there are the private nature reserves managed by private landowners, which we prefer. Although all protected areas are dedicated to the preservation of flora and fauna, different rules apply in the private game reserves. Visitors explore the reserve with a qualified ranger in an open 4x4 safari vehicles. The ranger's knowledge of his area and the bush in general will result in better game-viewing than when searching for game in one's own vehicle on a marked road in the state parks.
And the ranger explains more about the intricate complexity of all aspects of the bush, not only animals but also soil, flora, stars, geology, medicinal use of plants, etc.
The ranger is often assisted by a tracker who reads the animal tracks thus increasing the chances of finding good sightings. In addition, vehicles in private game reserves may under certain circumstances drive off-road, bringing visitors closer to the game and the afternoon game drive continues until well after sunset, thus offering the opportunity of seeing nocturnal wildlife.
It is always surprising how busy the bush is after dark! In addition to game drives, many lodges in the private game reserves offer the opportunity of bush walks.
WildRivers Nature reserve
Rukiya Safari Camp is our safari home in the Lowveld (Kruger Park area) and base for much of our work in leopard conservation.
Rukiya is an intimate, luxury tented camp situated on the confluence of the Blyde and Olifants Rivers in the heart of Wild Rivers Private Nature Reserve. The development of the camp was done with a least-impact footprint with a variety of green or eco-friendly principles employed during the construction process. A large part of the area comprises of deck and canvass that has a minimal effect in contrast to conventional brick and mortar. The operation of the camp follows the ecological-sensitive philosophy by utilizing environmentally friendly products that does not contain harmful chemicals. Up-cycled drift- and pallet wood were used to furnish and decorate the camp and were sourced from local suppliers in support of the community. Following a holistic approach to contribute to an ultimate nature experience, great care is taken to provide guests with all the special touches, pampering and comforts during their stay. Safaris and bush walks are part of the offering of all-inclusive packages. The iconic tented accommodation fortifies the African experience that allows guests to immerse themselves in the beauty of the magical Lowveld. Six en-suite luxury tents have been carefully placed underneath the shade of gaint Jackalberry trees with wonderful views to the river.
Rukiya offers a unique and intimate wildlife experience and the opportunity to take Big Five game drives in the adjacent Balule game reserve (Kruger Park). When entering Wild Rivers Nature Reserve, expect to be immersed in the vista of endless woodland set against the back drop of the majestic Drakensberg mountains that change colour as the day walks on. This 2,600 hectare reserve is bordered by both the Blyde and Olifants Rivers and boasts a diverse landscape with rocky outcrops and savanna where plains game roam freely. Leopard wander and riverbanks are frequented by hippo and crocodiles.
Balule Private Nature Reserve
Balule is a remote natural paradise hidden amongst the hills and valleys Limpopo (the northernmost province of South Africa). Balule encompasses 45,000 hectares of wilderness, and is rich with wildlife, including the Big Five and shares open borders with Greater Kruger, so the animals can wander freely across the land. The perennial Oliphant River flows through the centre of the reserve, keeping the landscape lush and providing a much-needed water source for the thirsty animals of the region.
The lodges of Balule are sprinkled sparsely across the reserve, so you’ll see few other vehicles on your game drives. While less vehicles means that there are less eyes and ears around the reserve at any one time to spot and report animal sightings, it makes a safari here a very exclusive and personal experience.
Accommodation available from four to five star.
Klaserie Private Nature reserve
The Klaserie Private Nature Reserve (KPNR) is one of the largest privately owned nature reserves in South Africa
The reserve lies to the west of the Timbavati Game Reserve and covers 60,000 hectares along both sides of the Klaserie River.
The private nature of this wilderness sanctuary enables visitors to embrace the unspoilt bushveld and focus on the bush and its ecosystems.
The area is renowned as a home to the Big Five and offers incredible game viewing opportunities.
Guests can expect to an abundance of wildlife and incredible birdlife, whilst experiencing it all on guided walks, off road, and at night.
The handful of safari camps located in this reserve focus on offering affordable, intimate safaris.
As it is one of the least commercial reserves of the Greater Kruger, guests get to spend longer at the special sightings. In addition, the reserve is ideal for walking safaris.
Game is highly populated in the Klaserie, which is home to some endangered species, such as the African wild dog, Southern ground hornbill, white-backed vulture, and white lion.
Accommodation available four - five star).
ThornyBush Private Game Reserve
Thornybush Game Reserve is approximately 14,000ha of game habitat: open savannah woodland with pat Hectares of tangled thicket and thorny scrub. It is a well established reserve and perfect habitat for Africa's famous Big Five as well as a host of other animals (eg. cheetah, African wild dog, hippo, crocodile, giraffe, zebra, various antelope species, porcupine, aardvark). Thornybush is home to 147 mammal species, 114 types of reptile, more than 500 bird species, dozens of fish and amphibian species and 336 types of trees, as well as countless grasses, insects, etc.
Game viewing in the reserve ranks as some of the best in Southern Africa with a near perfect year round climate.
Guests can enjoy off road close-up views of special sightings and once darkness falls, you'll be treated to thrilling spot-lit night drives in search of rare nocturnal creatures and big cats on the move. Guided nature walks complete the spectrum of safari activities.
From Thornybush the Drakensberg escarpment is visible in the distance, rising up from the lowveld in the west (on top is the famous Panorama Route).
Thornybush is a favoured safari location for movie stars and the rich and famous and some of the high end game lodge rates reflect that notoriety. However there is also reasonably priced accommodation available and the best news of all is that all lodges share the same access to the reserve and wildlife sightings.
Accommodation available from mid to ultra-high range (Platinum Collection five star +).
Sabi Sands Game Reserve
The Sabi Sands Game Reserve is located in the southern section of our principle operating region. It is a reserve that our CEO Will knows very well, having worked there regularly since 2010 directing live TV safari shows.
The Sabi Sands is a 65,000 hectare reserve, pioneered by local landowners in the 1950s, and shares a border with the world-renowned Kruger National Park.
Today, many of these families are now third and fourth generation land owners, their legacy being the successful conservation of the highest density of big game in South Africa. Even though there is a 50 kilometre unfenced boundary with the Kruger National Park, wildlife in the Sabi Sands Reserve is well habituated, resulting in extraordinary close encounters and prolific sightings, particularly of the elusive leopard. The Sabi and the Sand Rivers run through the reserve, which add further dimension to the bio-diversity of this area.
The Sabi Sands is in particular well known for its amazing leopard sightings. The most elusive animal of the Big Five is frequently spotted when going on a game drive in the reserve. Beside the Big Five, other game species occur in great numbers, among which are more than 300 bird species.
One of the key elements of this reserve are the abundant waterholes, that attract large herds of animals. This to the enjoyment of travellers and large predators alike.
Sabi Sands Game Reserve is home to many different lodges that all have something unique to offer. Some are ultra luxurious, and some are more affordable. As with other private reserves, the rangers are allowed to drive off road so when following a leopard, you ranger is allowed to follow it in the bush. An amazing experience and worth a trip to the bush on its own.
Accommodation available from mid to ultra-high range (Platinum Collection five star +)
Kapama Private Game Reserve
Kapama Private Game Reserve comprises 13,000 hectares between the northern Drakensberg mountains and the Greater Kruger National Park. The Kapama River and the languid Klaserie River flow through the reserve, serving as natural water sources for the resident wildlife, which are regularly seen on guided game drives.
Kapama Private Game Reserve is home to over 40 different mammal species, including the Big Five. Approximately 350 bird species and a myriad smaller species can also be seen here in their natural environment. Twice-daily game drives through the reserve, accompanied by expert guides and trackers, ensure unforgettable wildlife encounters in the African bush.
Named Kapama for the river that runs through the reserve, it is still owner-managed by the Roode family and is the largest private game reserve owned by one family in the area. In addition to luxury game lodge accommodation across four establishments - each with a unique personality - the Roode family also manages the world-renowned Hoedspruit Centre for Endangered Species.
Accommodation available from mid to ultra-high range (Platinum Collection five star +)
Other areas that we recommend to add to a tailored safari
Whale watching - Hermanus South Africa
Hermanus is built along the shore of Walker Bay and is considered the whale watching capital of the world.
Known as the heart of the whale coast, this coastal resort offers the best land based whale watching in the world.
Our five day whale watching package can be taken as an ‘add-on’ to any of our South African safaris, or as a separate stand alone tour.
We start and end at Johannesburg (OR Tambo) International Airport, our price includes flights from Joburg to Cape Town and transfers.
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Victoria Falls presents a spectacular sight of awe-inspiring beauty and grandeur on the Zambezi River, forming the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. It was described by the Kololo tribe living in the area in the 1800’s as ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ – ‘The Smoke that Thunders’. In more modern terms Victoria Falls is known as the greatest curtain of falling water in the world.
Our four day Victoria Falls package can be taken as an ‘add-on’ to any of our South African safaris, or as a separate stand alone tour.
We start and end at Johannesburg (OR Tambo) International Airport, our price includes flights from Joburg to Victoria Falls and transfers.
Okavango Delta or Chobe National Park - Botswana
The Okavango Delta is a unique pulsing wetland, covering between 6 and 15 000 square kilometres of Kalahari Desert in northern Botswana and owes its existence to the Okavango (Kavango) River which flows from the Angolan highlands, across Namibia’s Caprivi Strip and into the harsh Kalahari Desert.
We can offer either a fly in luxury safari excursion to the Okanngo Delta, or you could request one of our Botswana overland safaris, which also visit the Chobe National Park.
The Chobe National Park is the second largest national park in Botswana and has one of the greatest concentrations of game found on the African continent. Its uniqueness in the abundance of wildlife and the true African nature of the region, offers a safari experience of a lifetime. Game viewing is exceptional.
After breakfast you will be picked up by a Tuk Tuk at 11:15, which will take you to Southern Right Charters located at the town harbour. You will arrive approximately 30mins before departure and first have a short briefing by the crew before boarding your whale watching boat.
The whale-watching trip into the bay aims to give you around 1 hour with the whales. As ever in nature nothing can be guaranteed but we very much hope you will enjoy some great sightings and photo opportunities.
Southern Right Whales visit Walker Bay from July until December every year. About 60 to 100 of these magnificent animals arrive from Antarctica to calf, often within 10 meters of the coast.
Once back on dry land you have the rest of the day to yourselves, perhaps taking in the sights, sounds, shopping and cuisine available in Hermanus.
After breakfast you will be picked up by our local agent from hotel reception at 09:30, for a table mountain and peninsular tour, which can also include a visit to the shoreline Penguin colony.
We aim to return to your hotel in time to refresh before dinner. Once again the evening is yours to enjoy as you wish.
After breakfast you will transfer to Cape Town for your domestic flight back to OR Tambo International airport.