As part of the price of the safari with Viva Safari we received 5 game drives. One sunset drive, one early morning drive, two afternoon drvies and one Kruger Park drive (for more on the Kruger Park Drive see my tip on transporation tip).
Inside the Balule Reserve the only way of getting out of the lodge is by taking a drive as the lodge is "gated". The game drives are dependent on the length of your stay. Having a ranger take you on the guided safari allows you to keep your eyes open looking out for the wildlife. The ranger does encourage everyone to share any sightings.
Our ranger was excellent, he is an employee of Viva Safari and was a wealth of information. The four drives in Balule Reserve were on average 4 hours long (time does go by quickly) and the ranger does know his way around and where to find the animals, so we did get to see a variety of animals.
Inside Balule Reserve we saw elephants, hippos, giraffe, zebras, monkeys, many, many impalas, waterbuck and the prize of them all, a 14 member lion pride. (See my travelogue for more on the lions of Balule).
The game drives are much more personal and up close and although I enjoyed visitng Kruger Park I was happy to have the opportunity to have the private reserve drives.
Our lodge (nThambo Tree Camp) offered two guided safari rides each day, one at 5am and a second in the late afternoon, usually starting at 4pm. A large jeep, as in the attached photographs, was used and it was manned by a driver and a tracker, who sits on a special seat at the very front of the car. On each ride, we set off all over the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve looking for animals and stopped whenever we saw any. The driver remained in communication with other jeeps in case rare animals were spotted elsewhere, in which case we raced to the location before the animals hid from view - this would typically happen for lions or leopards.
You should take a game drive that is guided. You must remember that spotting animals is a matter of luck and no one can very well predict spotting them, but given the abundance of wildlife in Kruger, save for the big cats like Lion and Leopard, you have a high probability of seeing all the other animals. The driver guides have very good knowledge and provide useful information about animals, birds and the forest in general. They are well trained and have a keen sense of hearing and observation. Our driver and guide by name Solley in Berg en Dal was simply too good. If ever you go there,try to go in his vehicle. He is wonderfully talented.
There are specific times at which they offer guided game drives --
*Early morning game drive starts at 5,30 a.m. sharp. It is a good time to spot animals. We saw plenty of animals in this drive -- giraffe, zebras, elephants, imphalas, kudus, hyenas, buffaloes,rhinos -- could all be seen easily.We saw the Big four and could not see the Leopard.
*The Sun set Game drive is the best one to spot all the animals. It lasts for 3 hours starting at 5.30 p.m. We saw all the big five in this drive!! It was so exciting... 5 on 5!!!
*There is one game drive in the afternoon too, when they try to spot animals coming out to drink water in the hot afternoons, but this is not the best time is what the guides say.
I would suggest that you take the Sunset drive for sure. If you are unable to spot animals at that time, then take one more guided trip.We just indulged ourselves and our boys and did three game drives.
*The Late night game drive is for 2 hours and starts at 6,30 p.m. This is also a good chance to see animals.
Apart from this do take your own vehicle for self driven game drives!
It certainly is worth taking a guided drive in one of the landrovers. Not only do you get good views from being up slightly higher than when in a car, you also benefit from the rangers knowledge.
Taking an organised trip also means you get to go where the general public are not allowed to go.
We stayed at the rest camps inside the park and they all offer early morning and evening game drives. You are taken out in a small, open-air bus and drive around for 3 hours looking for animals. The morning drives leave before sunrise, at 5:30 AM and the evening drives leave just before sunset at 5:00 PM.
We were there in May, and even though it was comfortably warm during most of the day, the morning drives were COLD! The evening drives weren't much warmer. If you're there in the cooler months, you'll need several layers to stay warm. Bring a hat, sweatshirt, windbreaker and long pants!
I have to say, there wasn't much that we saw on the game drives that we didn't see driving around on our own. We saw a rhino, some jackals and a hyena, which we didn't see on our own. But all of the rest, (lions, elephants, buffalo, etc.) we did see on our own and in higher concentrations. So you don't HAVE to get up early to see good stuff, but you never know what you might miss if you don't!
Sunset dam is a great place to watch hippos, crocodiles, and various water birds. You can find spoonbills, grey heron, yellowbilled stork, openbill stork, egrets, yellow weavers, black crake, blackwinged stilt and, African jacana to name a few common to the region. You can find many vantage points along the dam and get very close to the water.
Sunset is located on the lower sabie road H4-1 about 1km north west of lower sabie.
Starting very early in the morning, they pack you in a Jeep and drive you around the Nature reserve.
Since there are several Camps and Jeeps and all are connected with radio equipment, they inform each other, if they see anything interesting.
So here is your best chance to see the "big five" (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, buffalo and elephant) real close up, but in the wild.
Also you get all the information you need and want to know.
Isn?t that lion just the cutest?
I am not going to rub its belly anyway, sorry.
Safari tours that usually take place early in the mornings and late in the evenings and last 4 hours. After two hours of 'hunting' your ranger and his tracker stop and you are allowed to step out of the jeep right to the wilderness to enjoy a nice evening cocktail or morning breakfast. But beware of wild animals that can pass you nearby without notice!
Rise and shine the animals are up and are in full view. In an open air Jeep you are experiencing not only the sights and sounds but the smells as well. The jeeps and guides can communicate with radios and go off road on to trails so that your viewing pleasure is enriched.