What is a game reserve?

The most time consuming part of planning a safari is deciding on where to go. Before you can make any bookings, you’ll need to make decisions about what you’d like to see. Do you have your heart set on seeing the Big Five, whales, birds, or the “great migration”? There are so many options and so many places to see them; from national parks, national reserves and game reserves and it can get overwhelming when trying to decide. There are differences between the various establishments and we’ll tell you a little bit more about game reserves in particular to make your decision a little bit easier.

For a matter of comparison, a nature reserve is an important area, set aside for the value of its fauna and or flora, housing biomes and eco systems. The areas are managed and protected for the purpose of conservation and can be designated either privately or by the provincial government. An example is the Kogelberg Nature Reserve just outside of Cape Town.

A Game Park or Game reserve on the other hand exists specifically for the preservation of wild animals. In these areas, fauna like antelope, rhino and giraffes are protected. There are activities like hiking, game viewing and hunting may also be permitted. If hunting is prohibited then a game park can be classified as a game reserve.

One of the most well-known game reserves in South Africa is the Madikwe Game Reserve in the North West province. This reserve was set aside as a protected area before animals were even introduced to the environment.


It is always a good idea to check where you will visit, what kind of establishment it is and what their policies are regarding game and wildlife. Don’t be afraid to ask your travel consultant before you go to make sure you get to see and experience exactly what you want. Knowing whether you want to visit the Kruger National Park or a private game reserve such as Timbavati Game Reserve can determine what you see. Many would argue that the animals are the same, but often the experiences differ greatly.

Here are a few things about visiting a game reserve that are good to note:

They are usually more private than national parks. So there are less vehicles of other tourists in a dazzling array of blinding colours.

Safari vehicles can go off road. In a national park you will be limited to animals visible from the main roads.

Rangers are not restricted to national park hours, which means that they can go on night drives. It also means that you can stay as long as you want on a sighting!

Rangers can lead walking safaris so that you can get that perfect photo of your favourite wildlife.

Please do let us know if you have any further questions on game reserves.

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