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3 nights in/near Kruger? or Eastern Cape?

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3 nights in/near Kruger? or Eastern Cape?

Hi,

My husband and I will be visiting Cape Town (to see family), but would like to escape for a few days to a game reserve. We haven't gone to see animals in a dozen years and never in SA (previously in the Masai Mara). All the options are really overwhelming. My husband is a keen photographer and I'd like there to be a pool. We mainly care about seeing animals, though we've both seen the "big 5" before. We'll be going in December, and would like to visit the parks sometime in the week and a half before Christmas for 3 nights.

We'd rather not spend more than $1000 per night (not including flights) if possible. Flying from CPT to Kruger seems to cost about $500 direct, flights to JNB and then Kruger seem to add up to about the same. Does it make more sense to fly direct? Pricing is confusing as some lodges seem to include the JNB to Kruger flight.

Is Kruger definitely where we want to go, or is the Eastern Cape worth considering?

ANY advice on logistics or what lodges to consider would be greatly appreciated! We'd prefer not to self-drive or self-cater.

We're in our mid-30s if that matters.

Thanks so much!

Justine

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Cape Town
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Western Cape, South Africa
Tempe, Arizona
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1. Re: 3 nights in/near Kruger? or Eastern Cape?

Will this be coming at the end of your time in Cape Town? So that you will fly from CPT to either the Eastern Cape or one of the Kruger-area airports - and then on to Johannesburg and then to the US? Your $500 number would be close to the total cost for the two of you to Nelspruit, Hoedspruit, Skukuza, perhaps. For those dates, the lowest fares may be gone and the total could be over $600.

Your budget is certainly enough for a good experience. And, people might be surprised that December - up until about the 20th - is not heavily booked. I see Luxury rooms at Elephant Plains available all the way up to the 20th - and these are maybe the best value there is for upmarket lodging. There are even rondavels open up till about the 15th.

These reserves have space at both their standard chalets and their luxury chalets - http://www.idube.com. Idube is in Sabi Sand, Lukimbi in a huge private concession in Kruger Park. Not easy to check availabilities on Easter Sunday and most offices are closed tomorrow (Monday) also.. but you can be sure that you will be able to have fine safari within that budget.

Dave Patterson - Owner - TheSabiSandSafari

Edited: 20 April 2014, 23:43
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Cape Town
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Western Cape, South Africa
Johannesburg
Johannesburg
Greater Johannesburg, South Africa
Nelspruit
Nelspruit
Mpumalanga, South Africa
Hoedspruit
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Limpopo Province, South Africa
Sabi Sand Game Reserve
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2. Re: 3 nights in/near Kruger? or Eastern Cape?

Hi Dave,

The current plan is to fly to Cape Town, spend a few days with family recovering from jet lag and then fly out to the Kruger-area for 3 nights. We'll then go back to CT for Christmas with the family and then a few days in the winelands before our return to the US at the new year. We're trying to avoid flying to Johannesburg if we can.

Thanks for the tips on the lodges. I will check those out!

Justine

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3. Re: 3 nights in/near Kruger? or Eastern Cape?

Hi Justine, I think your plan is good, the only challenge is that flights will be expensive during that time, especially the flight back to Cape Town just before Christmas. But I still think it's better than the Eastern Cape option (which is also a flight or 9 hour drive from Cape Town).

If you plan on staying at a private safari lodge in the greater Kruger area, I would recommend flying to Nelspruit or Hoedspruit, or via Johannesburg to Skukuza. The choice of flight/airport will depend on your choice of lodge. If you wish to join a guided open vehicle safari in Kruger, you can also fly to Johannesburg which will be cheaper. A number of guided Kruger Park safaris depart from Johannesburg.

Onne from Wild Wings Safaris

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Western Cape, South Africa
Nelspruit
Nelspruit
Mpumalanga, South Africa
Hoedspruit
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4. Re: 3 nights in/near Kruger? or Eastern Cape?

Hi Onne,

Thanks! I've been reading a lot of the TA boards and am now strongly considering a Sabi Sand lodge. I'm going to send out inquiries and see what's available. Then I'll probably be back for more advice!

I didn't realize you could fly from CT to Hoedspruit, so that's good to know.

Justine :)

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5. Re: 3 nights in/near Kruger? or Eastern Cape?

The Hoedspruit flight is not a daily flight though, only Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.

Happy planning!

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6. Re: 3 nights in/near Kruger? or Eastern Cape?

Okay. The Hoedspruit flight is significantly more expensive. ($780 a person vs. $500 a person to Nelspruit in my time frame). To go three nights I'd have to fly Thursday-Sunday, which is also when the lodges are pricier. I think that knocks out the reserves that would route through Hoedspruit.

But my understanding is that the Western and Southern lodges are served by Nelspruit? So I could still go to Inyati, Idube, Dulini, Savanna, Nottens, Lion Sands, etc?

Thanks so much!

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Hoedspruit
Limpopo Province, South Africa
Nelspruit
Nelspruit
Mpumalanga, South Africa
Dulini Lodge
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7. Re: 3 nights in/near Kruger? or Eastern Cape?

Hello Justine

Just to add that any of those lodges you have just mentioned will give you a great experience if your budget allows. Some may still have some stay 4 pay 3 offers which can be a big help.

You really won't go wrong with any, Inyati, Dulini, Idube and Savannah all traverse in the western sector and will give a similar game viewing experience. If the number of people in the vehicle is something that is a factor for you then I would look at Dulini or Savannah. Lions Sands also restricts numbers in a vehicle to six, not sure about Nottens. Aside from that all those lodges are fabulous, Dulini is our favorite and the one we keep returning to for many reasons.

Just one other point, you say '' We mainly care about seeing animals, though we've both seen the "big 5" before''. This is really nice for me to hear and it sounds like you might have an appreciation for all sorts of wildlife, big and small! But do remember that many visitors to these private lodges will want to see the big 5 and often this is what the emphasis is on, as people are there for just a short stay and want as much big as possible in small amount of time. The private reserves are only on relatively small tracts of land in comparison to the Mara and Kruger.

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8. Re: 3 nights in/near Kruger? or Eastern Cape?

Thanks! We want to go for 3 nights. Would you recommend staying at the same lodge all 3 nights or would changing lodge make sense? (2 nights at 1; 1 night at another?) It seems like a hassle to switch (and you'd miss out on a game walk potentially), but my husband, who grew up going to the Mara and Serengeti, is worried we might be disappointed if we stay in one place.

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9. Re: 3 nights in/near Kruger? or Eastern Cape?

Well you are correct that staying over three nights in a private reserve you are very likely to cover some ground and tracks over again, but this is not necessarily a problem.

Personally I would not stay at 2 lodges in that time. Apart from the packing up factor you may also need three days to see as much as possible. For example let's say one of the lion prides has wandered on to a neighboring property that you cannot access, they might come back on the third day and you will be gone! Of course this may not happen at all but the same thing could happen in reverse. You may get to a lodge for just one night and miss something that was only there the day before. Three nights in one place will just give you a better chance of seeing as much as possible and this is what a good ranger will try to do for you.

If your husband is used to the Mara and Serengeti, I am not if he will be disappointed but it will most definitely be a different experience, and he does need to realize that beforehand. It's like comparing apples and oranges, the East African parks are massive and like Kruger itself they support many thousands of animals. The private reserves provide more of an intimate and close up experience, wonderful, but in a different way, and certainly without the crowds that you can strike in the east. He should not expect to see masses of game roaming the plains, the private reserves are just too small to support this.

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10. Re: 3 nights in/near Kruger? or Eastern Cape?

Great points. Thanks! I've been working to adjust his expectations. Plenty of time between now and then to do so. He's keen into photography so I think the more intimate proximity to the animals will be appealing. He's been incredulous to see how close game vehicles seem to get to leopards as on the Mara they're very hard to even ever spot.

I think we've decided to book for three nights at Idube. He's excited to spend the savings on lodging on a new camera lens!

Thanks again for all the advice!