Game Reserves and National Parks:What is the difference?


By Anton Clasquin

What is the difference between a national park and a private game reserve in Africa?

And, more importantly how does this affect your safari? It’s quite a simple difference but one that can have a big effect on your experience. A national park is owned and managed by the government, whereas a private game reserve is owned and managed by the lodges within it.

The biggest benefit of staying in a private reserve is exclusivity. Some popular national parks have over 100 lodges within them, and even more on the outside that run day trips into the park every day of the year. Even though the parks are enormous, as you can imagine if there is an animal sighting things can get pretty crowded very quickly.

With everyone wanting the chance to see that elusive leopard or a river crossing with the great migration it can be a dampener on the moment if you have to wait in a line of safari vehicles for your turn to see them up close.

Remarkable Wildlife Viewing

Along with exclusivity, private concessions offer more flexibility as there are few vehicles on the road and less restrictions in place. Many concessions offer night game drives and take the vehicles off road to be able to get closer to the animals. This can be a huge benefit as night game drives allows you a much better chance to see animals that you wouldn’t get to see through the day.

Also It can be frustrating on safari to see an animal off in the distance but not be able to get any closer, and unfortunately the animals are wild so they don’t hang around near the roads a lot of the time!


So with all these great things about private concessions, what’s the catch? And why would anyone want to stay in a national park instead?

One reason is undoubtedly cost. With less lodges in the concessions this means that all costs involved in the upkeep of the region is shared between fewer camps and visitors. That being said, not all lodges in concession are very expensive and depending on the time of year and how long you stay there are deals to be had. Another reason is that sometimes the best spots for animal viewing are in the national parks.


For example, the Ngorongoro Crater is a one of a kind opportunity for wildlife viewing and it’s a national park so there is no chance to see something like this in a private concession. Or if you wanted to see a Mara River crossing of the great migration you will have to venture into the national parks and its well worth it do so!

Migration River Crossing
The Great Migration

Keeping all this in mind what should you do? Stay in a national park or private concession? Well the good news is you don’t have to choose! Why not share your time in between both and get the best that both have to offer.

The great thing about booking your safari with a tailor made destination expert like Eclipse Travel is that we know all of the destinations, parks and reserves inside out, and can custom make the perfect trip that suits your interest and budget to make sure you have the most memorable African safari experience possible.

You can see the African Safaris we offer here.

If you want to find out more about the destinations in this article, or have any questions in general please contact us.