Basically, safaris can be placed in two categories – National Parks which are open to the general public, and private lodges which are more exclusive. There are pros and cons for both experiences depending on the priorities of your trip. In the bush, as with most things in life, you generally get what you pay for.
An important part of any big five safari adventure is the wildlife aspect – what you see and how you see it. In this regard, there is no comparison between a national park and a private safari experience. As a general rule, private safari field guides are of a higher quality, with a better understanding of what will give you the best game-viewing experience. What you really pay for on private reserves, besides outstanding service and accommodation, is expertise
The area requiring revision for a national park safari is the lack of vehicle limitation in sightings, often leading to congregations around certain species. This can influence animal behaviour, obscure your view or photographic opportunity, and can lead to tension in what should be a calm and soulful interaction.
On private reserves, usually sometime towards the midpoint of a morning game drive, a carefully thought out spot will be selected and adorned with a neatly setup tea table. On offer will be a variety of teas, plunger coffee and even hot chocolate for those with a sweeter tooth. All of this will be personally prepared by the guide, paying close attention to any special requirements. And to top it off, a freshly-baked pastry or muffin will keep your hunger at bay until your return to the lodge for a fully cooked breakfast. A similar but unique experience will also be offered in the evenings.
On the other side of the coin, national parks will generally not stop for drinks but if they do, this will only happen at designated stop points that are well-trodden by the masses. In my opinion, this does not do the African bush experience justice but rather detracts from the adventure of going off the beaten track.