South Africa is blessed with many wonderful game reserves as well as countless game farms. Most reserves are readily accessible and have excellent accommodation facilities, making them easy and pleasurable places to visit.However, before setting out, take a few moments to review game reserve etiquette, the code of behaviour that's sensitive to the needs of fellow visitors, animals, and the environment. Adherence to this code will make your visit, and that of others, so much more enjoyable.
Think Before You Book
Take time to choose a game reserve that suits your interests. If you want to enjoy peace and quiet, find a reserve or game park that's a bit off the beaten track. But, if you want to see the big five, have limited time available, and don't mind sharing your holiday space with others, there is no better place in South Africa than Kruger National Park.
Tailor Your Expectations
When touring in a game reserve, remember game sightings are unpredictable, but if you are patient and go out at the best times of the day, you are likely to have excellent sightings. Avoid the temptation to rush from one place to the next as you will see much more if you drive slowly and stop often. It's amazing how frequently you will see something new when you wait a few minutes.Take into account the needs and interests of your party. If you have small children they have limited patience, so keep your game drives short so they don't become too restless. Avoid the heat of the day when animals are resting in dark shade where they are difficult to see. The best times are as early as possible in the morning and towards the end of the afternoon, and this will allow you to rest and socialise in camp during the hottest parts of the day.
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Quiet and Slow
Animals have excellent hearing and, as their lives depend upon recognising danger, are easily spooked by sudden noises and movement. Avoid loud, excited chatter and don't move around or wave your arms especially if you're in an open game viewing vehicle. At hides, be quiet and move slowly so as not to distract the game. (All general rules of the road apply within the Kruger National Park. The speed limit is 50 km/h on tar roads and 40 km/h on gravel roads.)When you stop, pull to the side of the road so other people can get past. If you have to manoeuvre your vehicle for a better view, do so slowly with as little noise as possible. It's a good idea to switch your air conditioner and vehicle engine off — you'll hear all the intriguing sounds of the bush and avoid distracting the animals.
Children love game reserves and, although naturally boisterous, particularly enjoy the thrill of seeing wild animals, especially larger game. However, take care to plan your activities so as to keep your children interested.Children always enjoy hides, but be sensitive to the needs of other occupants and keep your visits short enough so your children don't become restless. If they need a break from the car, choose a route with picnic spot where they can get out and stretch their legs without disrupting reserve etiquette.If you don't have children, be patient with those who do. Welcome the colour youngsters bring to rest camps and encourage them to learn more about the wild.
Understand Dangerous Animals
Everyone wants to see the big five, but remember these animals are dangerous. They may look benign when you see them, but lions can respond in a flash and elephant or rhino charges are frightening to watch and even worse and extremely hazardous when you're on the receiving end.In the presence of carnivores such as lions and hyenas, be very careful about leaning out of open windows. Larger animals like elephants, hippo, buffalo, and rhino can be unpredictable and if accidentally provoked could cause severe damage to your vehicle and yourselves.So, when viewing them, be quiet and still. Do not get too close, especially to elephants, and if they approach your vehicle, slowly reverse out of harm's way.Although you may see tour guides getting quite close to these animals, remember they've had extensive training in reserve etiquette, understand animal behaviour, and know how to read animal body language and warning signs.
Take Your Turn
When you arrive at a kill or some attraction where vehicles have collected, don't push in. First, identify what people are looking at. Then, remembering that those who were there first have the right to an unimpeded view, park where you can see without obstructing the view.
Have Fun Enjoying Nature
Use your time in the reserve to reconnect with nature and to appreciate the wildlife. Observe reserve etiquette, enjoy your game viewing, and don't be too ambitious. Arrange your days around the best game watching times, and have fun with family and friends.