The idea of a safari is a strange concept for me because living in Africa we tend to go at least once a year, but sometimes it’s a lot more than that. We don’t think of it as a safari but more of a couple of days away in the bush, but to all intents and purposes, it is a safari. So if you need a safari travel guide then this should tick all the boxes.
Here are my tips for you to make the most of your visit to the Kruger National Park. I have tried to include options for all budgets. Just because you are not able to afford 5-star prices should not mean that you still should not have a fantastic game viewing experience.
My Safari Travel Guide
The Kruger National Park covers a little over 2 000 000 million hectares. This is just a little bit smaller than Belgium and about a third of the size of Ireland
Kruger is 360 km (220 miles) long and 65 km (40 miles) wide
It has 9 gates to allow entrance to the park and about 1800 km (1118 miles) of road. Not all roads are tarred, but the main ones are.
The luxury safari lodges, on the whole, are situated along the western boundary of the park. These are mostly privately owned. In simple terms, there is a large block of land divided into individual reserve areas. These are exclusive and expensive. If you can afford this it is a great option for the ultimate safari experience; however, I have chosen to do this only once and stayed at the fabulous Mala Mala Game Reserve. The advantage of staying at any of the luxury lodges is that you will almost certainly see the Big Five (Lion, Elephant, Rhinoceros, Water Buffalo and Leopard).
These are exclusive areas in the park itself. The standard of accommodation is high as is the guiding. This also allows for night drives and up close sightings of nocturnal animals that you otherwise would not see. Staying here means that the drives can go into the heart of the park, instead of just a defined reserve area. This is a complete list of these concessions in the park.
Parks Board Accommodation
This covers the chalets, hides and camping areas managed by the South African National Parks ( SAN Parks). Details of accommodation available and bookings can be made on their official site which offers a wealth of information. This is my go-to option when I visit Kruger.
Other accommodation options
If you are not able to find accommodation in the park then why not stay in one of the surrounding towns that are close to the numerous gates? My favourite of these is Hazyview which is a gateway to the southern part of the park. We normally stay at Kruger Park Lodge, set on a golf estate. There is a wonderful waterhole where you can sit and watch the antics of the hippos as you watch the sunset. This accommodation can easily be found on Airbnb. There are also many other options to suit all budgets in the town.
The 3 Regions
There are 3 distinct regions within the park. Southern Kruger Park, Central and Northern Kruger. They all have their own charm, but the area with the highest concentration of game is in the south. This is savannah land and offers most of the accommodation options in the park. The biggest rest camp is Skukuza, on the banks of the Sabie River. There are too many people around this rest camp for me and as a result, I prefer to stay at Lower Sabie rest camp with a view of the Lebombo Mountains and fewer people.
The Central and Northern areas of the Kruger National Park are hilly and tropical making it more difficult to spot game. It is a great place if you want to go off the beaten track. It somehow feels more remote, with fewer travellers venturing into this area. My preference for a stay here is at Olifants (Elephants) Camp, perched on a hilltop above the Olifants River. There is a breath-taking panoramic view of the bush and you frequently see large herds of elephants drinking at the river below.
Eat, drink and be merry
All the rest camps in the park have food and drinks available. Some rest camps have large restaurants while others have small shops or kiosks. If you are camping you can get most of the basics at the shops so when you are planning how to safari in Kruger you don’t have to stress if you forget to pack something.
Bring your passport. You will need it to get into the park.
Focus on one region of the park. It is impossible to cover all of it.
The Kruger National Park falls within a malaria risk area, although it is low. I have never taken anti-malaria medication, but this is a risk I am prepared to take as I do not like the side effects. Medication is recommended. Mosquitos are around most in the mornings and evenings so cover up and use a mosquito spray.
The best way to find animals
Talk to game rangers you may see along the way and ask them what they have seen and where the sighting was.
Check the sighting boards at the rest camps. It will give you a good idea of what is in the area.
Head to water holes. They are an interesting place to sit and watch the animals. All the animals head to the water for a drink, so you never know what you will see apart from the usual suspects.
Get moving early it’s the best time of day for game viewing.
Remember that it is not a zoo, so don’t expect the see everything the park has to offer. On my last 3 visits I have seen no cats, but almost everything else.
What you need in your car
A pair of binoculars is always useful.
It is advisable to take a drink with you in the car as it can get really hot during the day.
A map of the park and a guidebook is always great to have on hand.
Be patient. This will go a long way to enhance your experience.
I always carry sunscreen as well.
Planning your day
Stick to the speed limit. It is there for a reason. You could come screaming around the corner into a herd of elephants. I am sure you have seen what an upset elephant can do to a car.
Do not underestimate the time it takes to drive a relatively short distance. If there are animals on the road you can be stuck for an hour or more so allow ample time to reach your destination. I speak from experience. The brochure you are given on arrival has good information on times and distances. As a guide allow at least 1.5 hours for 50 km
Very important rules
Do not miss the gates closing times. This will result in heavy fines and will spoil the experience.
You are not able to go out at night unless you are in a registered safari vehicle
Follow the rules of the park. Do not get out of your vehicle in an undesignated area. It’s asking for trouble!
Once you have smelt the dust, seen an African sunset or watched the moon rise over the veld, heard the haunting call of the fish eagle or stumbled on a herd of elephants you will be hooked.
Hopefully, this safari travel guide has got you heading to your diary to check when you can pack a bag and head into the wilds. Being under African skies is the ultimate bush experience. Once you have been on safari it will always have a special place in your heart.
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