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My Trip Report

New York City, New...
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My Trip Report

Hello everyone!

First things first- A big THANKS to everyone who helped me in my trip here- both on and off the forum. All your tips and advices helped me formulate my trip.

Disclaimer. Everything I say here is based on my one trip on the areas from OR Tambo straight to Hoedspruit/Kruger Area. As such, what I say may not be the norm.

Items I learned

1.CELLPHONE- I bought the B4Igo package online and got my phone no. 2 weeks before I left. There were 4 people ahead of me when I went in and I was the first out among them. I showed my email and they just brought the sim out and put it in the phone. I was done. Funny thing. I always wondered how they registered it and got a phone no. I think I know. I received 3 text messages immediately. 1st txt- I have won R450,000 in the RICA sweepstakes. Wow! my trip was turning out to be a lucky one. The second text stated " you have inserted your sim card in another cellphone. to request cellphone settings, reply yes (free SMS) and Vodacom will send the settings to you. " So B4igo must have activated the SIM by putting it into another phone.

The 3rd was " we have detected you have incorrect device settings. press yes to have your new vodacom settings installed for free. " I did click reply " yes " several times. I never got those settings until April 30 when they send me 3 txt messages that installed settings onto my phone.

Another thing I found was that in order to txt or call back to the US, I had to simply put the + sign and dial my home phone no. (ex. +1-212-xxx-xxxx) For a few days before I discovered that, I tried using the " 011 access, then country code (1 for the US) and then the number " which never worked.

2. CASH

Cash- the Nedbank money exchange stated exchange rate R10.3506 to 1 USD. Commission R72 + R10.08 VAT; Administration Fee 72 with VAT 10.08. Final amount I got was R1906.00 for a grand final exchange rate of USD1 : R9.503.

ATM- Nedbank- my bank account showed a debit of $189.63 + $3 ATM fee. total $192.63 for an exchange rate of 10.3826.

The next day at Hoedspruit I changed money at a bank with the initials ALCI ( or something like that) R2000 = $189.01+ $3 ATM fee for an exchange rate of 10.4161.

Incidentally I found "slimline" ATMs at the camp shops in Satara, Skukuza, and Lower Sabie. There was a sign that said the daily limit is R800. You also have to ask the cashier after 11. a.m. before you withdraw money. I did not try it but I suspect it was to find out if there was money in the ATM.

Conclusion. My little experiment shows what everyone is saying. USE THE ATM!!!!

3. CAR

Chose Avis. The thing that pushed me in this direction was that they have more branches in places that I was going. This helped me when my car had a problem. Avis also had good reports here at TA.

4. CREDIT

Credit cards are somewhat widely accepted. In supermarkets, they were processed at the checkout counter. At gas stations, including the ones inside the Kruger camps, they brought out a portable scanner and processed it in front of you. Once, I think in Satara, the attendant was going to bring it inside the building but I asked for the machine to be brought out. At the Kruger camps, there is a large sign (when credit cards are to be used) in the offices that the credit card must be processed in front of the client..

5. Mosquito-

Saw A mosquito at Mist of Gold and quite a few during our sundowner drinks on my second night at Africa On Foot.

6. Malaria

After reading up here on TA, seeing what others did, and asking around, I decided to take malarone- once a week. I tested myself with a dose way before my trip to see if I would get behavioral changes but my friend said I was already crazy enough to want to meet and feed a hippo. I also used mosquito repellent thruout the trip.

7. GPS

Please change the units from miles to KM. It was funny to see the GPS telling me to drive so many miles while I was looking at signs and the trip meter in kilometers. I had a Garmin NUVI unit. I bought a " Southern Africa " SD memory card for $30. The map was very accurate- even showed the secondary roads of Kruger Park. You can get this map from ebay. The map code is 010-11595-00. Was the GPS necessary? Well, the signage of the SA roads were very good. You could probably get away without it. But I felt more at ease with it especially when I was going back to OR Tambo. I personally recommend it. It would show you a turn off or intersection way before you can actually see it.

I'll be posting more along the way as a reply to avoid having too long an OP

Edited: 17 May 2014, 20:57
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21. Re: My Trip Report

Here is the Kruger National Park portion of my trip report.

From it, I could say, use the sightings board before heading out to get an idea of where to go.

Get out as soon as the gates open. You will have more luck that way.

People are very helpful. They will stop their car to tell you if they had seen anything. Return the favour and tell others if you did see something interesting.

Keep to the speed limit within Kruger Park. I saw someone ticketed at a speed trap.

Next- off to Orpen gate and to Satara. Just my own assessment. You can do day trips to Kruger while basing yourself outside of Kruger. But the travel distance just to get inside Kruger, and the early gate closures at this time of the year- they all mean that you will have a relatively short self drive. I am glad that I decided to live inside Kruger. Check in at Orpen Gate was easy. I bought two guide books there. They were listed as the official Kruger guide books. R40 each. Except for the Skukuza area, the maps were accurate enough. Just some S roads around the Skukuza area that was in my GPS but not in the guide book. I suggest to get a guide book. It helps to get an overview of the road system

Satara, as a camp, did not impress me.While the hut was clean, my fridge was rusted inside and out. The safe did not work. Turns out there was no batteries installed.

I did my first self drive but aside from seeing the common animals, I only saw 1 big 5- ellies (they seem to be everywhere and they love to block the roads). Had to rush back as the camp gates close at 530 pm.

One thing I did notice re taking pictures. I took pictures thru the window and windshield of the car. After some blurry or smudged pictures, I learned to clean them every night.

5/3-5/5 Sat-Monday

Tried to get up early but I left past 7. Which is very bad for animal sighting. Just to jump ahead, Whenever I left at 6 am I found more of the "wanted " animals. Once I see a throng of vehicles, I go there. Usually some great sightings.

Today though, I was just getting my bearings doing self drive. Got to a lookout point. Here a minivan arrived disgorging a family. Here a little girl was the victim of robbery. But nobody complained. After all, where will you report a monkey who literally snatched the cookie bag right out of her hands. So far of the big 5- 1/5 just ellies. Where are the lions and cats? I thought Satara was cat country. Turns out no one told me they were having a convention down at Lower Sabie and Crocodile Bridge. Only thing noteworthy was that on the way back, elles were blocking the road. One turned and walked rather fast towards me. Didn't seem like a charge but I backed up real fast. After the elles left the road, I headed back and tried to book a night drive. It was full. I decided to book it for 5/4.

5/4. I was feeling really low. Where are all the animals that posters on TA say they saw? Where are all the animals that other drivers would tell me they saw? BTW- if you stop and roll down your window, the car opposite you will also stop. I guess, stopping and rolling down your window signify that you want to talk. Almost everyone stopped. Once, someone stopped and asked if I needed help. I was at a signpost, flashers on, and looking at my guide book. Everyone was so helpful.

Always check the sightings board before heading out. This gives you an idea where to do the self drive. A clue is better than none. My am and pm self drives were a big zero. On the way back to camp, I dropped by a watering hole on an S (secondary?) road. It was 5 p.m Bingo! Saw a huge heard of Cape buffaloes. After that I rushed back in time for the gate to close. I looked at my watch. 529 p.m. The guard at the gate was smiling at me. I wasn't alone though. This gave me the idea to book a pm safari drive at myLower Sabie.

The night drive (8pm-10 pm ) was bad. The driver tried to take a shortcut to a dam. He went on a secondary road that was marked NO ENTRY ( to us tourist. I'm sure it is ok for them). Problem is that after a long drive, we arrrive at a part of the road wherein the branches were so thick that he had to turn back. By the time we got to the main road, it was almost 10 p.m. We had to turn back. All we saw a flying bat, and barely could make out a civet cat. You could not really see anything even with 3 spotlights. My opinion- forget the night drive. Not worth it.

5/5 left early that morning on a slow drive to Lower Sabie. I arrived there just after noon. Went to eat at ...Mugg and Bean! It was overlooking the Sabie river. I like it better than the Oliphant's restaurant. By far this was my best camp. Better than Satara or Skuzuzua. Fridge in my unit was clean. They advertise their safari drives with dates of the drives AND what animals were seen. I saw in all their drives that they saw rhino and leopard. So I booked an evening drive for tomorrow since nothing was available that afternoon.. I went out on my own afternoon drive, dropping by the sunset dam. I saw 2 wild dogs which I trailed for quite some time. A kilometer or so down the road, they disappeared in the bush. I went back to camp.

5/5-5/7

Most of my drives from Lower Sabie covered the area to the south to Crocodile Bridge. These were among my most productive drives. I saw 3 female lions feasting on a kudu. Good thing I arrived early as there were a lot of cars after I arrived. It was here that I could see the advantage of having an SUV for a higher viewing platform. My afternoon safari drive with Lower Sabie was very productive. We saw monkies on the road, a large bird (forgot the name) and finally a male lion on the road. The driver tried to make the lion move by moving the safari vehicle towards the lion but he did not budge. Did not even blink! Turns out he was guarding 3 cubs that we saw on the right side of the road. This was around 520 pm. Had I been self driving, I would have been racing back to the camp. At least a p.m. safari drive conducted by the camp is worth it. You get to be out on the roads when there are supposed to be no more cars and the animals are active- at dusk (and at dawn). We turned off a secondary road and saw a dead hippo by the shores of a pool. In the pool was another hippo. I could have sworn he had a smirk on his face. I made a review here on TA for Kruger National Park. I have a picture of it there. We also saw a hippo eating. when we shone the light on it, it looked at us and run off into the dark.

5/7-5/9

Next day, I packed and left Lower Sabie. I went back to the dead hippo, hoping that carnivores would be feasting on roughly two million free calories. Strange, it was still intact. I had to make a decision whether to just stay there till noon or so and go to Skuzuza or just do more self driving. AFter about two hours, I decided to leave the Hippo. Had I more days in Lower Sabie, I would have sat there and waited for the feast to begin.

I arrived at Skuzuza- literally a small city. My accomodation was priced the same as that in Satara but it was much cleaner, fridge spotless, and with utentils. I was feeling tired upon arrival. I still have not seen a leopard nor a rhino. Well, I did see a leopard across a water hole atop a dam. In order to be able to see it, I had to use binoculars. For me anything not up close does not count. So I told myself, forget your pm self drive. REst. But a voice told me. YOu did not travel all the way here to sleep. So around 3 pm I left. The sightings board did not give me any tip as to where to go. I was driving slowly, almost alone. I was thinking why is it others could see thru all that foliage and see the animals and I can't? At around 4 or 430 pm I saw something huge to my left about 50 feet into the bush. Rhino!! One-two- three rhinos! I opened my windows and slowed down and prayed that they won't move away. They were moving slowly until I realize that there were 5 of them. I was literally screaming out to myself and thanking the divine. That was not it. One of the rhinos saw me. Drat! its gonna go deeper into the bush. Then,as if guided by an angel, it came close to my car. Literally about 20 feet away. Looking left, looking right, like it was posing for photos. I have a pix at my KNP reveiw here at TA. My blessings did not end here. About 50 feet further right by the roadside, were two baby hyenas! (px at KNP review). I was feeling giddy- and hating myself for wanting to just stay at the camp.

I went back to camp and asked about an a.m. drive. I decided not to do it as it starts at 430 a.m. ( 5 a.m. in Satara and Lower Sabie) and you have to be at the meeting point at 415. Too early for me. The next day, I stayed out the whole day. I managed to see 2 cheetahs but as I stopped and took my camera out, they moved out of position. I managed to get only a poor picture of them

My last night was decision time. I originally wanted to wake up a bit late, get out thru Paul Kruger gate, go down R40 and take N4 to JNB. But there was that "last self drive" by going down to Malelane and getting N4 from there. Should I do it? The lessons of yesterday was still on my mind. I decided to do one last self-drive. I woke up and left skuzuza driving at a good pace (50 km/hr). At that speed it would not be easy to spot animals by the side of the road. But I got lucky It did not take me long though. I saw hyenas sitting on both sides of the road and then on the corner of my eye- crossing the road- a leopard! It took a cursory glance at me and look at the side of the road. I believe it was hunting. I quickly took a picture of it thru the windows. Did not have time to open them. For a minute it was looking and crouching and finally bounded deep into the bush. Finally - the big 5 was complete.

All because I pushed myself to do these self drives when I felt so frustrated.

At that instant, I was at peace with myself. My journey back to JNB was uneventful.

Again, thanks to everyone who helped me plan my trip.

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22. Re: My Trip Report

Can you give me an idea of the cost of the camps per night, and the drives that you took with the guides. Thank you so much for your report, it really is a great help.

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23. Re: My Trip Report

Great trip report. Kept me reading right through! Also shows how even in animal rich KNP some days can be sparse.

Frankfurt, Germany
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24. Re: My Trip Report

Great report!

Sorry that everything work out perfectly, but you seemed to have a good time. For people reading this, we have been to Kruger in December (supposingly a not so good month becaus of the high gras) and drove through from Orpen Gate to Kruger Gate, in 8 hours we saw:

A couple of impalas and warthog right after entering Kruger, an elephant herd at a lookout on Timbavati River, Cape Buffulo and storks on Sweni road, a Cheetah, a rhino and a giraffe on the Satara-Tshokwane road, loads of hippos and crocs on the H4-1 and a leopard on the road from Skukuza to Kruger Gate and 2 elephants on the Sabi River before finally exiting Kruger - all in less than 8 hours.

So either we were very lucky, or you had bad luck.

But it seemed you had a good time after all and are planing to com back? Bitten by the Africa bug?

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25. Re: My Trip Report

Dudel, guess I was just unlucky- or a newbie at spotting game.

MGM- thanks for your support in reading. Makes it worthwhile.

Ceadmill, Here are my KNP accomodations and the description of each

Satara BG2 (BUNGALOW): 2 single beds, Aircon, Communal Kitchen, Fridge, No Smoking, No utensils, Wc and shower. R 902.5 per night

Lower Sabie EH1 (HUT): 1 single bed, Aircon, Communal ablutions, Communal Kitchen, Fridge, No Smoking, No utensils. R 266 per night

Skuzuza BG3E (BUNGALOW): 1 bedroom with 2 single beds, 1 Sleeper Couche, Aircon, Closed Veranda, Communal Kitchen,Fridge, No Smoking, Utensils, Wc and shower. R. 902.5 per night

At Lower Sabie, I found the communal ablutions to be very clean.

For the drives with the Camp Safari, I only had the evening and night drives. The ff. are the information that I copied from the back page of the paper they give you with a layout of the camp.

sunrise 5-8 a.m. R222.20

(430 in skuzuza)

sunset 430 pm-730 R222.20

night 8-10 pm R191.90

I found, my short one time experience, that you are not able to book the drive for the day but should be able to book for the next day. Best to book as soon as you arrive. You have to sign a liability waiver and bed at the meeting point at least 15 minutes early. In my two drives, the driver was also the guide.

Hope this gives you an idea.

Cornwall England
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26. Re: My Trip Report

Sorry did I understand correctly one Malarone once a week?!?!! This is not the recommended dose, which is one a day for two days before you go, one a day whilst away and one a day for a week on return home. What sort of Malarone were you using? C

Edited: 14 June 2014, 19:37
New York City, New...
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27. Re: My Trip Report

Hi charlie, I just went to the left over tablets I had. I apologize. It was not Malarone but mefloquine- tradename Lariam. Apologies to everyone. Mefloquine is once a week.

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28. Re: My Trip Report

Malarone is (1) a day for two days before entering the malaria zone.

Then, (1) a day while in the malaria zone.

And finally, (1) a day for 7 days, after leaving the malaria zone.

People may possibly go to other places after leaving the malaria zone, and thus may be done with the post zone 7 days, before arriving home.

For example , we will be in JHB for 2 days before arriving in a malaria zone. So, we will take Malarone for the 2 days while in JHB.

Additionally, we will take it for the 7 days that we will be in the malaria zone.

And will take it for the 5 days we are in Capetown (non-malaria zone), thus will have only 2 days remaining to fininsh the medication course.

Edited: 15 June 2014, 05:15
Cornwall England
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29. Re: My Trip Report

Well yes CTM7943 of course there may be variations, many!, on when you start and stop. I did not mean 'home' in the literal sense. I was more concerned about the one a week and that readers might be put at risk.

Thanks bigwawao for making the correction C

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30. Re: My Trip Report

Thanks charlie for bringing it to my attention. I got confused with malarone and mefloquine. Both M's