Expert Reviews – Kapama GR

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Expanding their Horizons
Overall rating
3/5

Kapama was for decades an island of a game reserve. Fenced off from its neighbours, it preferred to maintain itself as a small separate entity a stone’s throw from the Greater Kruger Park. However, in late 2011, an agreement was finally reached between Kapama and neighbouring Thornybush to amalgamate the two private reserves into a single larger conservation area. I was thrilled to hear of this development and am a fan of the fact that smaller parks like Kapama are looking to expand their horizons and loose their ‘zoo-like’ feel. After-all, who wants to go on safari and drive along a fence line to see a ‘wild’ lion? Definitely not me. And if you’re travelling half-way around the world to get here, then probably not you either. Kapama is a bona fide Big Five reserve with a choice of four lovely lodges and while it doesn’t feel like the wildest place in Africa [understatement of the year], it is certainly headed in the right direction with some wonderful wildlife-viewing to share with its tourists.

An exciting elephant-back safari
Overall rating
4/5

Kapama’s big attraction is the elephant-back safari. I guess it is a bit of a strange thing to do and I do have some concerns about this type of tourism, but I did it and basically enjoyed it. Aside from the normal game drives, they offer a day and night elephant-back safari. The wildlife in the park is used to the elephants with or without people on their back, so you get a chance to see animals like rhino and giraffe from a very different perspective. Our night-walk turned out to be more exciting than what we bargained for. We had set out late afternoon, enjoyed the sunset, but we hadn’t seen a lot by spotlight on our night-walk. This was until we walked into a pride of lions on our way back to the camp. There were a lot of curious youngsters in the group and they started to circle around the elephants with us on top. I was feeling quite safe on top of my friendly elephant, but our guides were on foot and they were retreating between the elephant’s legs. We would have continued straight on the road, but 2 big male lions were sitting in the middle and they looked like they weren’t going to budge. Having seen elephants chasing-off lions many times, I was starting to get a bit worried that my friendly elephant would have a go at these irritating juvenile lions with me on top. I’m not sure if I would have been able to hold on to his flapping ears. Anyway, the guides wisely decided not to confront the lions in front of us and we returned with our tails between our legs back where we came from.

Home of the elephant-back safari
Overall rating
4/5

Another private reserve set close to the Kruger, this has the disadvantage over Sabi Sands, Timbavati and the likes of being a completely closed artificial ecosystem separated from the other reserves in the region by a tract of farmland and fenced in its entirety. While this inevitably makes it feel a little tame and contrived by comparison to some other private reserves in the area, it does offer pretty good game viewing, with all the Big Five present. Two things distinguish it from other reserves in the area. The first is the opportunity to go on an elephant-back safari – as little gimmicky perhaps, but utterly thrilling all the same, especially if (as happened to us) you find yourself confronting a curious pride of lions. The other is the excellent Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, an educational set up best known for its success in breeding cheetah in captivity for rehabilitation into the wild. This is the one place where you can see the so-called king cheetah, a rare variant – once thought to be a distinct species – whose striking semi-striped coat is associated with an unusual recessive gene.

Average Expert Rating

  • 3.7/5
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

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