Africa’s vast National Parks are wondrous places to experience animals in the wild. Visitors flock from around the world to search for the Big Five and are often equally impressed by the rest of the flora and fauna on offer. A recent trend on the rise is the establishment of private conservancies around the borders of these big parks. A conservancy can often provide a more exclusive experience while still providing the thrilling wildlife viewings that draw visitors to the continent.
Conservancies are designated areas for wildlife owned by private individuals, as opposed to owned by and cared for by the government – like national parks. On a conservancy, the owners are allowed to make their own rules (within limits), these rules usually pertain to off-road driving and “open hours”. A conservancy is usually home to one or two small lodges or luxury safari camps. Guests staying at these lodges will have exclusive access to thousands of hectares of wilderness. Game viewing in a conservancy is a decidedly less crowded affair than a popular national park during the high season. There is also no long line to get into the park in the morning and then out again in the evening. And if the spoor of the animals lead to a point further off the road, game rangers in conservancies are able to go off the tracks and give guests a closer look.
Conservancies also offer additional game viewing activities not allowed in the main reserve, such as walking safaris or night game drives. Guests can experience the bush on their own two feet on a guided safari walk, which comes with the added thrill of being slightly more exposed than when in a safari vehicle, while still being protected by their experienced (and armed) guide. They might also see and notice things they wouldn’t have from the comfort of their car. Night game drives allow guests to see the bush in a completely different light, it’s when the nocturnal animals come out and guests could spot new wildlife such as the rare pangolin, or even some thrilling kills – lions and leopards are nocturnal after all.
Another wonderful safari experience that can only take place on a conservancy is dining under the stars at a Boma dinner or a special temporary set up in the bush. Some lodges even have star beds, where guests can sleep under the open skies with only a mosquito net between them and the wildlife. Some star beds are even located close to a waterhole, like The Eye at Elephant’s Eye Hwange, which allows for some beautiful game viewing experiences in the early morning – right from the comfort of a warm bed.
Very often, a conservancy will share an unfenced border with a national park, this means that the animals are able to move around of their own volition. Guests will be exposed to the same wildlife but have a more intimate and exclusive experience. They can also easily visit the national park if they so wish. Conservancies that don’t border larger parks still provide an intimate, exclusive experience, and might be in an easier to access area or combine two wonderful attractions such as beach and bush.
As you can see there are many benefits to conservancies, especially for guests looking for a more exclusive experience. When you are planning your African safari, why not consider a conservancy?