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Best to do Kruger starting from North or South?

Fredericton, Canada
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Best to do Kruger starting from North or South?

Hello all,

Thank you everyone for your advice! TA is the greatest thing ever.

My fiance and I are going to the greater kruger area for 3 weeks in June. We are from Canada. We are hoping for a mix of Kruger with private reserves, but on quite a limited budget. We want to hike, camp, and really experience the outdoors. We are renting a car out of Johannesburg.

We were originally going to start South and work upwards, but do to trying to schedule some things in, we may do it from North to South. What are your thoughts on this?

Possible itinerary may be...

June 3-6 Shindzela

6-7 self drive/camp in middle part of Kruger

8-11 Purfuri tented camp "walking trail"

12-14 self drive/camp in middle Kruger

15-18 Kruger backpacking tail hike (Olifants, lonely bull, or Mphogolo)

18-19 Elephant plains

20-23 self drive/camp in south Kruger


Thank you!

- Tara

Fredericton, Canada
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19 posts
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1. Re: Best to do Kruger starting from North or South?

In addition to my above message.....

Does anyone know how quickly the backpacking trails (such as Olifants) fills up? I am think of doing it June 15th. Do I still have hope? I believe the only way to book is via email, and I have just been awaiting a response.

Thank you,


Fredericton, Canada
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19 posts
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2. Re: Best to do Kruger starting from North or South?

New possible itinerary (due to no availability of campsites on June 14th near Olifants)

Flight in early June 3rd to Johannesburg

June 3-6 Shindzela: 3 nights

6-8 self drive/camp in middle part of Kruger

8-11 Olifants backpacking trail (if has availability?): 3 nights

11-13 self drive/camp in middle Kruger towards north

13-16 Pafuri trail (and will hopefully avoid the crowds) : 3 nights

16-18 self drive/camp north towards south

18-19 Elephant plains: 2 nights

20-23 self drive/camp in south Kruger

Hermanus, South...
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3. Re: Best to do Kruger starting from North or South?

To answer your question: North to South would be more practical because you can then exit KNP say at Berg en Dal which means an easy distance to Jhb.

One or two observations: Whilst Shindzela and Elephant Plains are within the greater Kruger conservancy you are actually outside the 'borders' of the KNP from a tourist perspective and this means you have to formally enter at the designated gates e.g. Orpen/Phalaborwe/etc. This means from Shindzela you enter KNP but later on your trip you would have to exit in order to get To EP and then enter Knp again to travel the southern section. Would thus suggest you schedule the two private lodges back to back and then go into KNP proper starting in the north and winding your way down. It might be an idea to travel north first outside of the park and enter at Punda Maria as this will be very much faster than trying to get to Pafuri at the slow park travel speeds. Pafuri is about 290 Km from Satara -say 11/12 hours drive - to give you an idea.

Notwithstanding how you schedule the trip, you have an exciting trip and am sure you will have a greatest experience.


Edited: 02 March 2014, 14:50
Gold Coast...
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for Kruger National Park
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4. Re: Best to do Kruger starting from North or South?

Hi there

What a great trip you have planned. We never have any trouble filling in three weeks in the Kruger area!

However I do think as you have already discovered your itinerary will be to a certain degree determined by camp availability. You really need to look at your booking as a matter of urgency. I say this about the Kruger camps but I think you may also need to check now the availability at Elephant Plains. It's very popular being one of the more budget friendly camps in Sabi Sand. Also consider calling Sanparks direct, sometimes its just worth it to be sure you can get in.

So you need to look at availability immediately then work around that. I tend to agree about staying in the two private lodges back to back. We have done that more than once, and it would be really a lot easier for you, just me but I don’t really like the idea of going in and out. You could do the private portion either before or after Kruger depending where you can get in, and also depending on when your flights come in and out of JHB.

Like many others we prefer to do the private lodge at the end, that way you are working up rather than down lol. We have done Kruger then left via Phalaborwa and into Timbavati, and from there travelled south into Sabi Sand for the final few days.

It seems you are planning about a week in private lodges and about two weeks in Kruger, which a great plan. Love it.

If you are starting from and returning to JHB then it's not such a big issue whether you go north to south or vice versa, as either way you will have a longer trip in one direction. We always leave JHB very very early in the morning and enter the park at Malelane gate, therefore work south to north, This would suit you also if you stay at the private lodges after Kruger. You can start with a few days in the south. Again it will depend where you can get in but all the camps are in good locations, the very popular bush camps like Biyamiti may be booked up but there are plenty of other options.

Then north to the Satara area, you can stay at the main camp, or Olifants or Talamati. We love this area for its prime game viewing and you will have no trouble filling on your time, there are so many great roads to drive, and dams and waterholes to spend time at.

You could also consider doing the Sweni Trail which goes from Satara, especially with all the game and predators in this area.

Personally we love the perimeter bungalows at Satara that overlook the waterhole but again you would first have to check availability. From there it is a lovely and not too long game drive up to Olifants and Letaba area, where you may be able to get into a trail. Satara is a big camp but for good reason, you don’t even have to leave camp to watch wildlife, and June will be good there, as being dry season the animals will coming up to the camp waterhole.


Again depending on booking, you can then head north on to Mopani/Shingwedzi/Pafuri. Or of course all this can be completely reversed and you can travel north to south, you could even enter north as suggested to save time if need be.

If you need to, I wouldn’t worry about 'doubling back', there are so many loop roads you can take and once south of Olifants there are even more options away from the main road. However often the main road can very productive itself so you will enjoy driving it again.

To plan a proper itinerary is very difficult at this late stage as first you need to check which lodges, camps and trails you can get into, then we can work things out better. Plus of course which level of accommodations you are looking at within the park.

Remember as well as the trails, there are also bushwalks and other activities done from the camps.



Do have a read here for Wilderness Trails FAQs, fantastic information and also always interesting to reads others thoughts, and as you will see, the walks are very popular


Please let us know how you go and where you can get in for your dates. And one more thing, you should find you will be better off getting a Wild Card for your stay in Kruger Park rather than paying the daily conservation fee.

Johannesburg, South...
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5. Re: Best to do Kruger starting from North or South?

I'd look at booking the Sanparks camp ASAP...June is a very popular time, so you might have to organize your itenirary around availability. And then other more budget friendly lodges you can consider for your private reserve stay include: Gomo Gomo, Africa on foot, Nthambo, Simbavati river lodge. I agree with Sandmans to first do Kruger self drive and then end your time at a private reserve.

6. Re: Best to do Kruger starting from North or South?

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