3 reasons to ditch a solo drive and go on a guided safari

A guided safari drive getting up close to wildebeest. Picture: Unsplash

A guided safari drive getting up close to wildebeest. Picture: Unsplash

Published Mar 19, 2024


Most safari territories are vast and places like the Kruger National Park cover an expanse of some 20 000 square kilometres.

The truth about game drives is that there is a possibility that you might not see any animals. Safari aficionados are privy to the knowledge that weather can have an impact on animal sightings.

For instance, on very windy days the animals don't move about much, because their ability to pick up scent and detect predator or prey is more difficult.

To save time and make sure that you get the best possible experience, it is therefore advisable to navigate the space with the assistance of a safari guide.

Guided tours are one of the best ways to learn about places and things from experts who are committed to sharing their intimate knowledge of a topic. As such, it’s a fast and cost-effective way to embrace a new experience.

Exploring Kruger National Park or Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park with a knowledgeable safari guide guarantees an enhanced, more intimate experience.

According to Kruger Gate Hotel CEO, Anton Gills, safari guides are passionate and informed. They understand their destinations and have great stories to share that make the tours so much more intimate.

Here are 3 reasons why Gillis recommends you opt for a guided safari when visiting the Kruger or any other safari destination.

In on the secrets

According to Gillis, a safari guide is a connection between the visitor and the wonders of the park. They are there to bring the magnificence of the landscape, the animals, the birds and the flora to life.

“Most safari guides are very eager to share their knowledge and insights, and enhance the visitor experience in that way. Don’t shy away from asking them questions - the more you ask the more Kruger comes to life,” said Gillis.

He said that interesting questions to ask a safari guide could include the daily routines of the animals, what one is likely to see on a night safari versus a day safari, and in how seasonal changes impact the movement of the animals.

“Many safari guides will also have insightful views on topics like conservation and changing weather patterns, and almost all of them have fascinating stories about close encounters with the animals,” he said.

The greater good

Gillis highlighted that the safari industry in South Africa was an important economic enabler creating employment opportunities for hundreds of people from the local communities surrounding safari territory.

Tourism provides an opportunity for economic growth by creating jobs, and employment in the safari industry has a knock-on effect, supporting not only those directly engaged but also sustaining the livelihoods of their families.

What’s more, many safari guides are skilled professionals with dynamic skill sets and in-depth knowledge of the bush.

“A guided safari is about so much more than driving tourists and pointing to the odd giraffe or buck. They understand the park’s ecosystem and the nuances within.

“They have a wealth of knowledge that ensures that guests not only witness extraordinary wildlife sightings but also gain insights into the intricate web of life that makes Kruger National Park such a captivating destination,” said Gillis.

He said that opting to experience a safari destination with a safari guide is a way of showing an appreciation for the passion, experience and expertise of not just an individual guide but indeed an industry of safari guides who, beyond sharing their knowledge of paradise with visitors, also contribute to conservation efforts and research undertakings that are crucial to maintaining the status of the Kruger as a world-class wildlife destination.

Personalised experiences

And, lastly, Gillis said that with personalised experiences in travel being all the rage, a seasoned safari guide can curate an experience to match the client’s interests and preferences.

Whether it’s nature photography or bird watching you’re into, or if you’re keen to learn more about the trees of the Kruger National Park, a safari guide can help ensure a more intimate encounter with these interests.

Enock Mkansi, a guide at the Kruger said that curating a personalised experience for guests around their interests was one of his favourite things about working as a guide at Kruger Gate Hotel.

“I love it when I can make the guest’s experience more special by showing them more of what they are personally interested in. My job also allows me to share my knowledge and understanding of Kruger National Park with others. It’s such a special place and it’s great when guests get to see that too,” said Mkansi.

What’s more, for those keen to do a self-drive safari, a guided safari is a great way to acclimate to KNP before taking on the thrill of doing it yourself, at your own pace.

“One could view a guided safari as a short course on how to best go about your safari, taking the lead from those who do it every day,” said Gillis.