We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Driving from Johannesburg to the Kruger park

Pretoria
Level Contributor
1,042 posts
4 reviews
Save Topic
Driving from Johannesburg to the Kruger park

As I have warned several times on this forum, it is a dice with death if you drive from Johannesburg to Kruger at night.

An Irish tourist narrowly escaped death Thursday night when his car crashed into a hippo on the N4 highway.

After the crash the hippo attacked the vehicle, throwing it over. The car is more or less a write-off.

This happended east of Nelspruit while the Irish tourist was on his way to Kruger.

His holiday is, well, over.

I know of several other incidents of people crashing into hippos and crocodiles on the N4 highway.

Don't do it, it is not worth the risk

Edited: 04 March 2011, 23:52
Cape Town
Level Contributor
10,087 posts
Save Reply
1. Re: Driving from Johannesburg to the Kruger park

Navigator

Fortunately the tourist wasn't injured except for a small cut on his hand.

However you more seriously “dice with death” every time you get into a vehicle – day or night – anywhere in the world!

I checked the stats via the Mpumalanga Department of Transport. There are approximately Thirteen Million Vehicle Journeys per year on the N4 in Mpumalanga. Unfortunately no breakdown of day and night but certainly a few million journeys a year during the hours of darkness.

So how many of these have serious accidents by hitting Hippos or Crocs? As you say “several”. Over how many years? How many deaths? The actual chances of this happening would seem to be close to one in a few million or at least several hundred thousand.

So are Hippos and Crocs the big risk when driving this route? Well no they are not! A risk hundreds of times more likely than this is an accident involving a much more dangerous species – another Human Driver and his vehicle!! A “normal” traffic accident which happens many, many times every day and night.

So I assume that because of this much greater risk – which is not only “dicing with death” but all too often ends in it – you would advise people never to get into a car - or bus or taxi or any other vehicle, day or night? And not just on the N4 but on any other major road in the world.

Sure it is important that as a driver you are aware of all possible risks. That is why the highway authorities put up warning signs along the highways – including warnings of Hippos. These signs mean that you should use your headlights at dusk or dawn. Keep your peripheral vision to each side operating and be aware. Although that figure on the edge is much more likely to be a cow or a pedestrian than a Hippo – also risky. The signs do not mean that you should not drive.

If you want to stop driving because of a one in a million chance that’s your decision. But you also need to stop driving for the one in a few tens of thousands chance that you might kill someone or even yourself in a “normal” traffic accident on any road – “it’s not worth the risk”!

Tempe, Arizona
Destination Expert
for South Africa, Sabi Sand Game Reserve
Level Contributor
8,529 posts
58 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Driving from Johannesburg to the Kruger park

Well said - most posts on this forum that are responses to questions about driving - already advise against driving at night. Not because of hippos - but precisely for the reasons in the post above. South Africans - like Arizonans where I am here in the US and people everywhere - will sometimes drink too much to safely drive. No need to find out the hard way that one of them was in your path (or vice versa). Plan the trip to get off the roads by dusk - enjoy your evening, and the 2nd 'B' (of your B&B) the next morning and set off again.

Pretoria, South...
Level Contributor
1,802 posts
18 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Driving from Johannesburg to the Kruger park

Although I strongly recommend not driving at night (as do the other posters), I too would certainly not agree with the analogy of "dicing with death".

The N4 is a major through road carrying a huge amount of traffic of all types. It is also not the only route to Kruger Park (in fact the N4 east of Nelspruit is a little used route to Kruger).

Major dangers at night include pedestrians, livestock, other vehicles and drivers, breakdowns, unroadworthy vehicles, debris (like the stuff falling off trucks), potholes on side routes, winding roads, policemen, and vehicles stopping to take photos of hippos.

But that doesn't stop people driving at night. Sometimes it is necessary.

Edited: 10 March 2011, 06:44
Cape Town
Level Contributor
10,087 posts
Save Reply
4. Re: Driving from Johannesburg to the Kruger park

I too don't drive long distances at night out of choice but, as Bushkid points out, on major routes sometimes the journey is neccessary (or more convenient). The real risks that are mentioned are not unique to South Africa - well posibly Hippos! But I think we agree that cows and other animals are a much bigger risk and they stray onto roads all over the world.

I used to live in Ashridge Forest in the UK. Only 50km from the middle of London but we had completely unfenced roads with a high Deer population. A much bigger risk than Hippos on the N4 - but it didn't stop people driving in the dark and never going out at night! We took heed of the warning signs and kept aware. I had a few near misses but personaly always managed to avoid collisions when one (or more likely several) ran across in front of me.

Then, as I posted on another recent thread on this subject, we should remember that during the World Cup last year, tens of thousands of overseas soccer fans from all over the world based themselves around Joburg and drove every night to the next game. Places like Nelspruit, Polokwane, Rustenburg or Bloemfontein. Nobody posted on here that they had any problems with the drives - other than big traffic jams to and from Rustenburg!

If at all possible at night, I stay off minor rural roads that I don't know well. But I don't have a problem with main inter-city routes when a journey is necessary. If you would do a similar drive at home it is little different here.

Edited: 10 March 2011, 07:39
Pretoria, South...
Level Contributor
1,802 posts
18 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Driving from Johannesburg to the Kruger park

I suddenly thought of an issue though that may be relevant to this thread.

One of the major routes to Kruger and the Panorama route runs through Dullstroom and Lydenburg. Although this is a stunningly beautiful drive, the road conditions have deteriorated so badly that I considered calling for a boycott of this particularly route (and thought of charging the "responsible" officials with criminal negligence).

On this particular route, the potholes have got so bad that you could hide a herd of giraffes in them (so beware if you notice two or more little horns sticking out of the road surface). Be particularly careful at night, as this is when the giraffes come out to hunt.

I did write to the tourism authorities warning them that we would consider taking that route off our itineraries, and got some response at least.

They are busy repairing the road in some areas, but it will now be a very long process (and I question the general approach they've adopted; they should have temporarily filled the dangerous potholes first). Nevertheless, they are eventually doing something.

Travellers on this route should exercise extreme caution (particularly if driving hired vehicles - burst tyres (or serious accidents) and stone damaged windscreens are common (and will really hurt your pocket).

Please avoid newly-repaired road surfaces if you still notice some horns sticking out of them. They probably forgot to remove the giraffe, and will come back to redo the job later. Lol!,

Edited: 10 March 2011, 08:10
Cape Town
Level Contributor
10,087 posts
Save Reply
6. Re: Driving from Johannesburg to the Kruger park

Hi Bushkid

LOL! Living in the Western Cape where, I have to say, the authorities are generally very quick to fill potholes - especially on main routes - I sometimes forget that other provinces are sometimes a tad slower! However, as you say, even the Mpumalanga Department eventually get round to things and at least seem to be doing a thorough, if sloww, job!

I always find that it is the slightly less deep potholes that are the biggest problem. Leaving a metre or so of the giraffes head and neck sticking up in the middle of the road certainly presents a major traffic hazard - lol! Those big eyes, however, act as very good emergency hazard reflectors !

But back to the N4 - which is what this is about. When I drove from Malelane back to Joburg a few months back, admittedly during the day, I didn't see a single pothole! I must also say that the brand new freeway stretch, just opened and totally by-passing Nelspruit, was an extremely impressive stretch of road engineering.

Edited: 10 March 2011, 10:56
Paris, France
Level Contributor
844 posts
28 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Driving from Johannesburg to the Kruger park

BushkidO - Coincidentally I was going to post a warning re the R36 between Dullstroom and Hoedspruit - it has about 200 kms of lethal potholes and is getting to be totally undriveable and a danger to lives. Hard to understand why one of the major routes to the Kruger remains unrepaired - yes I also heard that if we saw eyes in the road at night it would be a giraffe standing in a pothole!! BTW thank you for your recommendation to stay at Blyde River Wilderness Lodge at the end of that route, we loved it.

Isle of Man, United...
Level Contributor
37,202 posts
360 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: Driving from Johannesburg to the Kruger park

A foreigner writes.

It is common ground that driving after dark is hazardous. More so in Asia and Africa due to livestock lying on the tar for warmth and kamikaze dogs trying to bite tyres. Wildlife is generally, but not always, wary of roads but getting a Kudu in your headlights is a bit fraught as the silly bugger$ try to jump between the headlights into the dark bit. You are quite safe from Giraffe infested Potholes in the wet season as they cannot swim that well.

Now my serious point is to Dave in Arizona. Drunk drivers are not strictly nocturnal so you are just as much at risk from them in broad daylight as you are at night. If we all had to get off the roads at dusk how would we get home from work?

Drive safely, within the bounds of your ability, and treat every other user as a potential homicidal maniac!

Georgetown, Colorado
Level Contributor
3 posts
324 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: Driving from Johannesburg to the Kruger park

The thread has pointed out the traditional dangers of drinking, sight and impact with animals, and potholes. That information is very important and extremely helpful but the press and other travel websites mention the human criminal element in and around JNB. As a first time traveler to South Africa with a desire to rent a car and drive to Kruger, how much danger is there in regard to carjackinngs, basic stop light robberies, or other human to human dangers while driving from point to point?

Sorry for the wimpy question but I am trying to start our JNB to Kruger transportation knowing as many potential risks for a first time visitor.

Thank you,

psgeorockclimber9@gmail.com

London, United...
Destination Expert
for South Africa
Level Contributor
650 posts
6 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: Driving from Johannesburg to the Kruger park

I know violent crime has fallen dramatically over the last few years, according to United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime verified crime stats.

I have never had a problem driving anywhere in South Africa and neither have any of my friends and family there - I wouldn't worry about it - just enjoy the lovely drive and stop by at the Blyde River Canyon en-route for a scenic break...