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How to plan a trip to Kruger

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How to plan a trip to Kruger

I am planning to head to S. Africa in December/January for 2 weeks. I definitely want to go to Kruger, but the amount of information out there seems to be enormous. Where does one start to narrow it down.

We will be four, 25 year olds who are not high maintenance so very basic accommodations will do and we do not have the largest budget. Any advice/direction will be appreciated.

Cape Town
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1. Re: How to plan a trip to Kruger

Hi alind

A good place to start is here : http://www.sanparks.org/parks/kruger/all.php

This is SANParks summary Kruger start page. Gives you a lot of general background info and it is a good place to start navigating around the site.

Before I go further - a word of warning. If you are talking about visiting Kruger over the Chistmas/New Year holiday you will already find much of the accommodation in the park is already booked. This is the peak South African summer holiday season. All the schools are on holiday and many families move to Kruger for a week or more. Much of the accommodation is booked up in the first few days that booking opens 11 months ahead. That said you will probably be able to find something and as I will explain you can chop and change your booking as many times as you want as better options become available – which they will.

So Kruger is a big park - about the size of the country of Israel. Even at the busiest holiday periods access is restricted so you will always find areas away from the crowd in the quiet of the bush. Accommodation is in about 20 "Rest camps" situated throughout the park. These vary in size from just 8 cottages (Bateleur) up to virtually a small town (Skukuza) accommodating over 500 people with multiple restaurants, shops, a bank, laundry, petrol stations and car repair and even a golf course. The rest of the camps are in-between!

There are many different types of accommodation. Some of it "basic" but most of surprisingly high standard. The simplest is self-camping but this is mostly for locals, unless you are planning to bring camping gear with you.

Next are what are called Huts. These are small individual thatched, traditional style Rondavels with plenty of space and are not really “basic”. Airconditioning/heating plus ceiling fan. A washbasin with hot and cold running water. Up to four comfortable single beds - made up daily with fresh linen as well as fresh soap and towels. Your own fridge-freezer for food and drinks. Closeby access to extremely clean shower and ablution facilities. If you want to cook yourself, the use of a shared kitchen facilities again just a few yards away or an individual Braai site for your own barbecue under the stars and to meet friends! In the larger camps a few minutes stroll to the camp restaurant and shop as well as usually a nice swimming pool – although the pools will be busy in the holidays! A two person hut costs around R300 per night (less than US$45).

Then there are Safari Tents. These are permanent multi room “tents” (really huts with canvas walls). Gives a nice bush feel. Some of these (with shared shower blocks and kitchens) are about the same price as Huts. Others have private bathrooms and are more expensive.

The most commonly booked type of accommodation in Kruger Camps (especially by overseas visitors) is the Bungalow. These are bigger than huts and come at various levels and prices. With or without private bathrooms, with or without their own kitchens, and at different sites within the camps. Those next to the perimeter or with river or open views are a bit more expensive. Some have private terraces (Stoeps) where you can sit in the evening with a cold beer and your meal from the braai and watch the sun go down. Maybe with a few Elephants drinking at the river or the sounds of Lions or Hyenas – not that far away! Bungalows vary in price but are typically around R850 (US$125) for a two bed bungalow with private bathroom and kitchen. BTW all prices are the same throughout the year – no peak season prices – even at Christmas and New Year. Although prices do vary a bit from camp to camp.

Then there are variously larger accommodation units usually called Cottages or Guesthouses. Sometimes these are good for four people – often with two bedrooms and two bathrooms for around R1,300 (US$180 - $45 pppn). This is often the main accommodation in the smaller (bushveld) camps which are some of the best in Kruger.

In all the large camps there are restaurants – which are medium quality. Some a bit better than others. However the great majority of Kruger visitors cook themselves. Either braai out under the stars. Get a fire going – some meat, loads of fruit and lots of beer and you will soon meet up with plenty of others! But, as I say, many bungalows have kitchens with electric cookers and sometimes microwaves. If you are going to cook check the accommodation includes “Utensils” (if they have kitchens they will) otherwise you will need to buy your own. All the bigger camps have small shops where you can buy meat, veggies, fruit and some prepared foods – also beer and wine and cool drinks. Although most people tend to stock up in a supermarket just before they enter the park –cheaper and more choice. One thing you will need to buy is a cool box and freezer packs to carry food to the camps and when you are out for the day (unless you like warm beer!). Virtually all accommodation, even the most basic, has a fridge with a freezer compartment to freeze packs down at night.

Typically in a week we will stay in 3 different camps - maybe two.

So that’s where you stay. What do you do? Well you spend the day looking for animals! This is not difficult. Typically in a week we fill a sightings book with at least 20 closely written pages of sightings – animals only, we keep a separate bird book. To get the best range of sightings stay in more than one region of the park. Get out in the park as soon as the gates open at 5:30am. Most people drive themselves all the time although for first timers you can mix in one or two park game drives in open vehicles. You can also book group guided walks in the park accompanied by armed rangers. Very safe and a recommended experience. But mostly you will self-drive. There are viewpoints and picnic spots where you can get out of your vehicle otherwise you must stay in. On average we spend about 10 hours per day in the park. Out early then back to camp around 9am for breakfast and relaxation. Pack lunch and then out again with a stop at a picnic site for lunch. Maybe a break in the afternoon – maybe not. Back to camp – have a shower - open the beers – get the braai going – eat – meet people – off to bed and start again the next morning! There are lots of areas to cover. Kruger has over 3,000 kilometres of road – about a quarter tarred the rest sand and gravel. BTW you just need a normal small saloon not a 4x4 or any particularly high vehicle. Although in the summer be sure you get a car with aircon – it will be hot and humid! For four adults maybe not the smallest car but a standard compact saloon is fine if, as you say, you are on a budget.

So finally tips about booking. I have posted this before but it is good to repeat. Follow this and you will get the maximum flexibility in booking :

Work out from the SANParks Website where you want to book from what is available. Once you have checked availability on the web-site then book with SANParks Central Reservations by phone. If you make a booking now by phone (NOT on-line) you have another 30 days to change your mind. You then pay a deposit and the balance is not due until 30 days before you come - +27 12 428 9111. The people at SANParks reservations are the most helpful and efficient that I know in SA and if you know what you want they will complete everything for you and help you find what you need. They may have access to some recent cancellations which don’t yet show on the site. However, if you book on-line you pay 100 percent straight away!

Two tips - set up a profile on-line before you call if you don't have one. Then they just call this up (using your passport number as reference) and all your information is available to them. Do this by setting up a booking on-line and taking it all the way through but just don’t complete it. You will now have a profile.

Check online availability before you telephone so as you have a firm idea what you want. Second - it is better to make reservations by phone rather than on-line. On-line reservations are binding and you pay immediately. Phone reservations are firm from SANParks side but you don't need to pay anything for 30 days and you can cancel your reservation free of any charge during this time.

The popular camps do get booked up a long time in advance - at peak times within a few days or weeks of being available. The holiday months of June July and Christmas, New Year sometimes within hours.

As people don't need to pay anything for 30 days and you can cancel your reservation free of any charge during this time. Then other accommodation will come available closer to the time. So book up something asap even if it is not exactly what you want. Then check the website frequently, if something better becomes available no problem, phone again, cancel those days without penalty and rebook. Even if you have booked and paid, SANParks still allow you to change your booking right up until the last minute, with no fee, as long as your new booking costs more, as they cannot do refunds. If the accommodation costs less however, just make up the booking with game drives or other activities.

So book asap to get some accommodation on the board - if you want to cancel or change later you can do this easily.

Hope this is useful. II’m sure you will have more questions so come back and ask. Also if you let us know your dates we can give more specific camp suggestions.

Kruger is a fantastic wildlife experience – and as one of our very regular US contributors says – who has had year’s of experience organising safaris from budget level to thousands of dollars per day. Kruger National Park is probably the best VALUE wildlife experience in the World!

Edited: 28 May 2011, 00:52
7 posts
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2. Re: How to plan a trip to Kruger

Wow! Thanks for all that information, I have never been to South Africa in general, so would it be possible to e-mail you directly with questions instead of posting here?

From your post it seems the best idea is to rent a car and drive it ourselves. Where do we rent from? Capetown and drive in and around the park ourselves? How much does that cost/are there certain companies to rent from/stay away from?

As far as the park goes, does it matter where we stay? Obviously we want to see as many animals as possible, especially the big 5. Should we take a guided tour one day and then a self tour the next or just go explore on our own the whole time?

Thanks again.

Balule Nature...
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3. Re: How to plan a trip to Kruger

Do you want to stay the full 2 weeks in the Kruger Park?

On your way to the Kruger you could do the panoramic route (Graskop-God's Window-Bourckes potholes-Blyde river canyon), in and around Hoedspruit you can visit the Cheetah project (Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre), Moholoholo rehabilitation centre, do the Boattrip on the Blyde canyon, Elephant back safari etc.

If you start in the south and make up your way to the north, then in the central area (Letaba-Olifants-Satara) you can leave the park to Hoedspruit.

My favourite camps in Kruger are: Lower Sabie-Satara-Olifants-Letaba-Mopani. The north has a less density of game but has the old classic out to africa atmosphere, no crowds of people like in Skukuza (the biggest camp of the Kruger), open wide area's with valleys of Baobab trees etc.

On www.wheretostay.co.za you can easily compare the prices.

Enjoy your preparations, half the fun already :).

Regards from the bush,


Owner Amukela Game Lodge.

Balule Nature Reserve.

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4. Re: How to plan a trip to Kruger

No, we are thinking of doing 2 nights in Joburg, maybe 4 days in Capetown, 3 dyas in Durban, and 3 in Kruger. Some kind of combination of that if it is at all possible.

Thanks for your input.

Marietta, Georgia
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5. Re: How to plan a trip to Kruger


Need your help. Did you got to go to kruger/ I am in a jam. I am traveling to Johanesburgh with my 15 yrs son and 10 yrs daughter. I work for a major airline, so i fly stand-by....what i mean by that is that i may be able to go or not.

So my questions are:

**If a rent a car at the airport, Johanesburgh, the trip to kruger should be fine? I have no problems driving on the other side of the road, I have done so in Sydney and Melbourne.

**Should i be able to find accomodations once i get to kruger?

** Can i find affordable tours or guides or safaris once i am in there ( Kruger)....and you can recall prices? So far i have been able to get a quote for three nights, including game safari and lodging fo 23,000 ZAR from Johanesburgh or if i can make it to the park on my own, they will charge me only 17,000 ZAR fo the three of us.

Please help!!!!!!

I am just a happy dad trying to show the world to my kids! Thanks a million.

Pickering, United...
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6. Re: How to plan a trip to Kruger

"No, we are thinking of doing 2 nights in Joburg, maybe 4 days in Capetown, 3 dyas in Durban, and 3 in Kruger. Some kind of combination of that if it is at all possible."

Whoa, slow down. SA is huge like the USA. The Kruger, CT and Durban are the three extreme points of a triangle so distances are large - about:

CT to Durban is about 800 miles

JHB to CT is nearer to 1000 miles

Cape Town to Kruger Park 1200 miles

Durban to Johannesburg 450 miles

Roads are not always good. Planes are not always frequent with poor timings and long waits at airports. Getting around is not as easy as you are probably used to in the States.

For example, 3 days in Kruger would become one day largely travelling, one day there and another travelling. IMO, choose one of cities that you are so bothered about and drop it from the itinerary.

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7. Re: How to plan a trip to Kruger

Drive drive drive all the way its the only way to see South Africa....flying is ok but you dont see anything...you will see all sorts I promise..

I drove durbs to jhb to cape town to port elizabeth tto durba for the world cup...unreal...also

do Kruger on your own without a guide...you can drive all day going anywhere you want to stopping anywhere you want to....just follow anyone that looks like they are speeding towards something and low and behold there will be a lion kill or something like that....drive from joburg to kruger is easy...

stay at skukoza in a safari tent they are nice and cheap with your own bbq.

any questions about travel around SA just ask.

cape town to joburg is very very long split it up if poss.

Isle of Man, United...
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8. Re: How to plan a trip to Kruger

<<just follow anyone that looks like they are speeding towards something and low and behold there will be a lion kill or something like that....>>

Every time I tried that I wound up in a Bar. Avoid anybody speeding. They are usually running away.

Durham, North...
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9. Re: How to plan a trip to Kruger

Glad you don't intend to stay 2 weeks at Kruger.



10. Re: How to plan a trip to Kruger

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