A Beginner’s Guide to the Bush

It’s incredible at how many overseas visitors come flocking to South Africa year after year, in order to experience a once in a lifetime African safari, or as we call it – a bush break.

Experiencing the African Bush is something every South African should do at least once, but there are so many of us that haven’t. Now is the perfect time to start exploring our own country and supporting the incredible local lodges we have on our doorstep.  

A Beginner's Guide to Bush Breaks

Kwandwe Great Fish River Lodge, Eastern Cape

I remember my first trip to the bush many years ago. I was lucky enough to visit the Umfolozi & Hluhluwe Game Reserve in KZN and stayed at the main Mpila Camp in their tented camp. This was a real awakening as a first-time bush goer, as the sounds of the African bush at night can be quite chilling but exciting at the same time! We were lucky enough to have the resident hyenas come pay us a visit at braai time. After that experience, I was hooked! Had I not been travelling with a friend who had visited the reserve a few times before, I think I would have been a little more scared than excited!  

Here is our guide to help you start dreaming about your first – or next – bush break in South Africa: 

To Drive or Not to Drive? 

Driving to a game reserve or bush lodge will all depend on where you have chosen to visit, and what amount of travel time you feel is acceptable. Those in Gauteng are spoilt for choice when it comes to options within driving distance, as well as those residing in KwaZulu Natal, and the Eastern Cape. It’s the Western Cape that has fewer self-drive bush experiences, but still some wonderful options. Most private game reserves do not allow you to drive yourself around within the reserve; you will head out on guided game drives with a qualified ranger and tracker. 

A Beginner's Guide to Bush Breaks

Mala Mala Camp, Sabi Sands

What is a Game Drive? 

Part of your bush experience will normally include two game drives per day. These drives happen early in the morning and just before sunset, to make the most of the animal sightings. You will be driven in a 4×4 open Land Cruiser or similar and accompanied by a ranger, and sometimes game tracker too. Game drives normally include a morning coffee stop and evening sundowners in the open bush, which are priceless experiences. This really is the best way to see the most on your first trip to the bush, and especially if your aim is to try spot the Big 5! The larger national parks, such as Kruger, Umfolozi and Addo Elephant allow self-drives, if you would rather ‘do it yourself’. Just take note your lower-range vehicle won’t give you the same experience or sense of height, than the actual game viewing vehicles. 

What’s included?  

As a first-time bush goer, we would again recommend a safari lodge that caters for all your needs. There will be plenty of time to try the self-catering options, after you have figured out whether this type of holiday is for you! The lodges will include all your meals, which makes planning this getaway hassle free. 

A Beginner's Guide to Bush Breaks

Lion Sands Tinga Lodge, Kruger

What to take?  

There really isn’t much you need. Try and keep it simple, but here are a few of the must haves: comfy walking shoes, a warm jacket, insect repellent, sunscreen, cap, sunglasses, binoculars, and your camera! 

How many nights in the Bush?  

We recommend at least two nights, but those of you who do enjoy being out in nature and on safari, then three nights is ideal, as you really make the most of your time at the lodge and enjoying the various activities on offer. You might even want to consider a longer bush break where you visit two or three lodges in the same park or reserve. 

Shall we take the kids?  

Check in with the game reserve or lodge you will be visiting as to what their child policies are. There are a variety of child-friendly lodges in many reserves across South Africa, but also quite a few that do not allow children, as their camps may not be fenced (this is for safety reasons regarding the wild game, not to keep your children in!). Some camps also offer lovely child programmes, which is a bonus for parents! 

A Beginner's Guide to Bush Breaks

Thornybush Game Lodge, Kruger

Let’s talk Budget.  

There really is something out there for everyone. From self-catering bush villas, SANparks tents and rondavels, to 5-star extravagant safari lodges offering fine dining, and rooms with private splash pools! Ask your Pentravel expert for the best bush break tips and destination ideas. 

Check out all our Bush Breaks holiday packages. 

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