Understanding Fully-Inclusive vs. Private-Use Lodges

You’re planning a grand getaway with family and friends. The excitement stirs, and you go online to start looking for the right accommodation. You bear in mind that it will have to accommodate a larger group of people, as well as your budget. So far, you’ve ruled out camping – too high-maintenance. Guesthouses – not big enough for a large group. Hotel rooms – too detached with no communal space. So, what’s left?

There are two types of accommodation PERFECTLY suited to a fun, group-weekend away with your friends and family; fully-inclusive and private-use.

Royal Madikwe Safari Lodge

Alright. Both sound super fancy – so what’s the difference?

Let’s start with the bare necessities. ‘Fully-inclusive’ is used to describe a lodge or establishment whose rates includes accommodation, three meals per day, a set amount of activities, and in most cases – soft drinks and alcoholic beverages.

Private-use’ establishments focus primarily on the EXCLUSIVITY factor. Facilities are created for your group’s personal and private use, excluding other guests from your space, facilities and features.

So, let’s delve a little deeper into the benefits and disadvantages of these two favourite accommodation types.



Establishments boasting a fully-inclusive offer will provide you with everything you could want during your stay – all except the clothes on your back. There is no need for you to cater or provide groceries and utensils. If you’re a camper – you’ll be familiar with packing everything, NOT excluding the kitchen sink! This makes packing a suitcase an absolute delight.

Imbali Safari Lodge

Staying in a fully-fledged establishment immediately increases the number of people in the area; both staff and other holiday goers. This can make you feel less exclusive – however, the benefit is that larger establishments host more people, and therefore offer more facilities; like babysitting services, spa facilities, room service and an onsite gym. These you are most likely not to find at an exclusive-use establishment.

At one of these facilities, other guests are also included in additional activities on offer – making your itinerary less flexible as each activity will have a set departure time. However, if you chose to follow this itinerary – your holiday has even less planning to sit on your shoulders and weigh you down. Just have someone point you in the right direction and off you go.

Madikwe Hills Private Game Lodge

Just be sure to note the activity rules of your lodge as most won’t allow children on game drives or bush walks, purely for the consideration and enjoyment of other guests.

Fully-inclusive is great for the ‘kick-back-and-relax’ type of holiday, but you have to compromise on the full-personal aspect of your trip as certain rules apply. Delicious meals are catered and accommodated, and dietary specifications adhered to, but don’t expect to wave a magic wand and get your favourite home-cooked meal.

Rates are charged per person sharing – which can become a bit costly in a big group, but makes a better choice for a couple’s steal-away.

The Commodore Hotel

Our favourite FULLY-INCLUSIVE options:




Basically, private-use translates to VIP! Or at least that’s how it makes you feel. You don’t have to stay somewhere with so many stars that it makes you feel dizzy, but private-use offers you the entire lodge at your disposal.

Buffalo Thorn Lodge


This means you can be loud and proud, without concerning other guests. Especially if you like your rock and roll, or have a toddler that likes to tell the neighbourhood that they’re hungry, or just like the full peace-and-quiet effect.

These are most often self-catering establishments which require a string more planning, but some even include a private chef who will lovingly cook each of the meals that you have catered. This comes in handy when you’re catering for fussy children, allergies, religious boundaries – and best of all – your budget!

Speaking of a private chef – you also have the added benefit of your own private game-drive vehicle and professional guide. This loosens up your itinerary tremendously and often strips the banning of young children on activities. You decide when, where, how long and how many!


You aren’t likely to have any of the extra options like a spa, gym, or babysitting facilities, but you will have a staff member available to you 24-hours a day.

One of the biggest things about exclusive use is the RATES. This confuses many people, but the way it works is that you pay for the entire lodge. Space, beds, parking, vehicles and activities. It’s then up to you to split the cost between the number of guests – one or two guests – even more exclusivity at a higher cost. The more the guests – the more times the cost is divided. Providing you with great facilities at great savings!


Our favourite PRIVATE-USE options:



While both have very convincing benefits, it all boils down to your needs and desires. None-the-less, enjoy your weekend away with the people you love! Whether that means spending an effortless weekend where all your needs are catered for, or in absolutely private luxury where you are the master of your own unforgettable holiday.

At Specials4Africa you’ll find the latest accommodation specials from around South Africa. Check them out here.

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