Game Reserve vs National Park – What’s the Difference?

July 31, 2019

What’s in a name, you ask?

Journeys Discovering Africa, African Safari, National Park, Game Reserve

Guests from Boulders Lodge on a game drive in Sabi Sand Reserve, South Africa © Singita

Well, when it comes to planning your dream safari in Africa, knowing the differences between a game reserve and national park is an important part of making this experience come true.

Game Reserve

Privately-owned and -managed, game reserves uphold an ethos of exclusivity, authenticity and freedom in all aspects of the safari experience.

Journeys Discovering Africa, African Safari, National Park, Game Reserve

A guide leads guests from Boulders Lodge on a walking safari in Sabi Sand Reserve, South Africa © Singita

The number of tourists allowed into the game reserve is restricted and controlled in a way that aligns with the goals of private management and wildlife conservation. Less people coming into this designated wilderness area means a more private experience for those that are there as well as a better chance of preserving the local ecosystem’s most natural state.

Journeys Discovering Africa, African Safari, National Park, Game Reserve

Guests from Loisaba Tented Camp encounter wildlife on horseback in the Loisaba Conservancy, Kenya © Elewana Collection

Game reserves allow for unique and potentially better wildlife viewing experiences. Off-road game drives, walking and horseback safaris get you off the beaten track and into closer range of where the wildlife action is happening. Since there are generally no crowds in a game reserve, wildlife sightings are undisturbed and can be enjoyed for as long as desired.

National Park

A national park is government-owned and -managed, and in most cases, opens up the safari experience to more people.

Journeys Discovering Africa, African Safari, National Park, Game Reserve

Guides stop the game drive to enjoy the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania © Nomad Tanzania

With more tourists in the park come more vehicles, which may create an exciting atmosphere but can also lead to wildlife moving off as a result of increased noise and movement. It also might mean poor visibility at a wildlife sighting spot or other vehicles blocking your line of sight. A safari in a national park is more restrictive in terms of how you can experience the wilderness as walking safaris, night drives and off-road driving are often not permitted.

Journeys Discovering Africa, African Safari, National Park, Game Reserve

A guest from Chinzombo Camp is shown the Luangwa River by boat in South Luangwa National Park, Zambia © Time and Tide

For many, the major upside of national parks is that visitors can explore in their own vehicle and at their own pace on a self-drive safari. National parks may also have private concessions within or just outside there border so you can experience the best of both worlds if that is what you are after on safari.

Contact us to discuss whether a safari in a game reserve, national park or both is best for your specific travel style, interests, budget and time-frame. 

Feature image courtesy of Great Plains Conservation at Selinda Explorers’ Camp in Selinda Reserve, Botswana.


Posted by tfhadmin


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