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Guided or Self-Drive Safari in Kruger?

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Guided or Self-Drive Safari in Kruger?

I'm a solo female traveler planning to visit SA in October. I'm sort of on a budget but at the same time, don't want to miss out on an awesome experience. Would it be super stressful to do a self drive safari for two or three days, would I likely feel like I missed out on something? (I know it wouldn't be the same quality). If so, can anyone recommend a budget safari operator from personal experience?

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1. Re: Guided or Self-Drive Safari in Kruger?

Hi there

Whatever you do in Kruger you will have an awesome experience either way.

Firstly there are usually three most popular options to see Kruger which are as follows. The first two I presume are what you are looking at.

- Hire a car and self drive staying in the ‘main’ Kruger Park. This means in the national park accommodation, basic but clean and very well priced, choose from various bungalows, camping etc. I presume this is the method you are considering which is incredibly popular and done by thousands every year. When you say stressful I am not sure what you are referring to but certainly looking for game is not stressful, quite the opposite.

There is nothing like the thrill of finding animals yourself and of course you get all the flexibility you want. Such as stopping for meals and breaks whenever you like and spending as much time as you like at sightings, not getting rushed around on a set timetable. You can even drive for twelve hours a day if you like. You do not have to stay in the park but it is by far the best option, beats going in and out the gates every day and missing the best sightings times. You can either self cater or eat in the camp restaurants, we usually do a mix of both, all great fun. Many camps also offer evening, sunset and dawn game drives into the park when all the other cars are off the roads.

Obviously the downside of this in your case would be because you are solo you need to watch for game and drive at the same time. It would not be hard as you drive very very slow but still it is no doubt an advantage to have eyes on both side of the car.

You will find however that a lot of the sightings are found by just coming across other cars stopped on the road, you just pull over and join them watching whatever they are looking at!

- Another option is to use a tour group that takes you into the park, usually picks you up in an open jeep or truck or similar, this will give you a guide if that’s what you want, but of course no flexibility. This can be an issue with who wants to see what or if you want to spend longer at a sighting, some people only want to tick off the Big 5 [which is really sad], so you may get rushed around with this goal and miss so so much.

The trucks incidently are not allowed to use radio so have to find animals the same way you do.

You will get many different opinions on this option, personally this would not be our choice but its different for everyone, especially for you as you would have company on the trip which would be nice presuming that is what you want?

- Third option is to stay an adjacent private reserve, or concession, where you will find there is a huge difference in costs. You can pay from several hundred to several thousand dollars per night for this option. But everything is included from all snacks and meals, drinks and laundry sometimes, two game drives per day with experienced and qualified trackers and rangers. The extra cost in these lodges generally gives you a more intense wildlife experience in a short time period, one of the reasons they are so often popular with overseas visitors, although what you will see will always come down to luck on the day. Usually for big sightings you are taken off road if needed.

Having said that though, you do not get the quantity of wildlife that you get in the massive Kruger Park. Private reserves range from roughly around 3000 sq hectares up to 50000, Kruger itself is some 20000 Sq Kilometers.

This is a great option for those on limited time as you do not have to cover so much ground but is expensive. Sometimes however the expense can be watered down by combining it with self drive in Kruger.

<<<I know it wouldn't be the same quality>>>

Do not think that at all, definitely not higher quality just different. The thing is for a solo traveller there are pros and cons with both options. Perhaps provide a bit more info about what you think you would like to get further detail on what may suit you

As for a budget safari operator, do be careful there, sometimes you get what you pay for. Whatever way you go try to stay in the park accommodation as above, you know it will be ok and you will get to meet lots of other people.

And I do have one Major concern, if you are talking about October 2013, you will already have possibly missed out on some of the best park accommodation and would maybe have to stay outside the park [not definite but probable]. Still doable of course but just so that you know. Same goes for private lodges. All the best accommodation, especially in Kruger where it is cheaper, starts booking up one year in advance.

Kruger is awesome and you will love it either way, I hope this has helped. Do have a think and come back with your thoughts.

Kiev, Ukraine
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2. Re: Guided or Self-Drive Safari in Kruger?


It was best explanation i've met through the internet. Thank You!

Heading to Kruger in the middle of November, have never tried safari before. I read that animals migrate to the south part of the Park. Is it reasonable to start from Orpen gate and go to the south(we have only 5 days) staying in different camps? In other words, what are the best directions for November?

Thank You!!

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3. Re: Guided or Self-Drive Safari in Kruger?

Very good response from thesandmans, and I echo the advice given. Kruger is indeed awesome, some of my most memorable travel memories are from there.

Perhaps I might value add to the previous response, with some observations:

Personally, I am a big believer in independent travel. Having said that though, one of the best things about travel is sharing. You will see some wonderful sights and it adds to the thrill to share that excitement with someone else. Travelling with a tour group will most likely facilitate this.

Also, in company (with a tour group), there's more eyes to "spot" wildlife. It is absolutely amazing how well camouflaged the animals are - even the biggest! I once drove past an elephant standing within 10m from me and only saw the animal at the last possible moment. Then, of course, you have so many smaller animals like Meerkat and Klipspringertjies, birds like the African Fish Eagle, and more elusive animals like the leopard where more eyes will result in more "spots".

However, if you do choose to travel alone - for more independence - I would recommend you hire a 4WD. The higher elevation will increase your sightlines, particularly in areas where tall "lion grass" may hide, well, lions. As pointed out, the major benefit of travelling independently is that you can do things at your own pace. If you find a nice vantage point looking out over a plan with travelling herds of wildebeest and zebra, you can sit there for hours and watch, which will not be possible with a tour.

You can, of course, combine the options of independent and group travel. Perhaps travelling independently through Kruger and doing a night safari at a nearby private game reserve.

Hope this helps!




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4. Re: Guided or Self-Drive Safari in Kruger?

...and as an aside, you can always look at other game reserves, such as the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve in northern Natal as an option. You'll see a lot of rhino at this game reserve, credited with saving the white rhino from extinction. This is the only place I actually saw all of the Big Five during the one visit.

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5. Re: Guided or Self-Drive Safari in Kruger?

Hi tesksk

You are welcome, glad to be of help

That is wonderful news that you are heading to Kruger for a self drive and your first safari, very exciting for you, and an absolute best choice for someone who has not been before. November is a great time in the park, the grass does not impede game viewing and there are lots of little babies around, especially cute impalas.

My immediate concern however is getting in to the park accommodation. We are booked there ourselves for November and it was difficult to get what we wanted back in March.

Do not worry about migration, unlike some other areas, the animals in Kruger are there all year round. Only the birds migrate in and out of the park.

The reason the south is so popular is simply because the wildlife is more heavily concentrated there, thanks to the rivers and eco systems.

Yes Orpen gate is an ideal start for you. I would suggest as you only have five nights maybe start at Satara camp for 3 nights then the other 2 nights at a camp further south such as Skukuza, Lower Sabie or if you cannot get in you could even stay at Crocodile Bridge, Pretoriaskop or Berg en Dal. Of these Crocodile Bridge does not have a restaurant, for beginners I usually suggest to stay at a camp with a restaurant until you get a feel for the place. Satara is a perfect place to start, and game viewing in that area is wonderful

I can pretty well guarantee you will not get the best located rooms, such as perimeter and riverview but you may still get a bungalow away from the fence.

Firstly thought you will need to look at accommodation options to check what is available.

Start here


You can scroll down and click on the camp links, and from there check on what type of room you would like, start by having a look at cottages and bungalows, then go to availability for your date.

From there you need to register and book, if you find something , do come back if you want so I can help with your booking.

If you find that camps are full you will need to look at staying in one of the towns outside the park and travel in each day. However the camp availability changes each day so hopefully you will pick up something in the park, it really is preferable.

Do act fast, good luck

6. Re: Guided or Self-Drive Safari in Kruger?

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