Kruger National Park tips?

Discussion in 'Destination Guide' started by JohnM, Nov 7, 2011.

  1. JohnM

    JohnM Established Member

    Jun 7, 2006
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    Hi all

    I'm thinking of a trip to Kruger National Park in S Africa next year as part of a DONEx.

    Thinking of flying into JNB, renting a car and driving to and within the park then back to JNB to continue on the DONEx.

    Has anyone done similar and do you have any tips? How long to allow to cover the park?

    Cheers
     
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  2. juddles

    juddles Established Member

    Aug 2, 2011
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    Hey there,

    have you spent much time in South Africa before? Personally I would recommend that a better way to see Kruger is to go on a small group tour. Not as free and flexible as self-driving, but far less risky. As far as time needed, really depends on personal taste. About a week is the period I would suggest, as lets you get into the swing of things, but not so long that you get thouroughly sick of just gawking at animals.
     
  3. casanovawa

    casanovawa Established Member

    Jan 17, 2011
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    I met a girl in Zambia who had stayed at this place in Kruger NP, i think it was like an organisation where students might go to study wildlife, forget the exact description but was relatively cheap and they took her out on game drives all day and into the night etc, she saw some amazing sights... I think she may have flown out to a town a couple of hours away from Kruger NP and they came and picked her up and brought them to their base etc...

    I ended up doing Chobe up in Botswana on a 2 day/1 night camping safari... Everyone is different of course but you get all excited the first day you see one lone Giraffe or Hippo and by the second day when you have seen herds and herds of them and elephants and all the rest, its like not another wildebeest or impala etc, etc.. :p
     
  4. lovetravellingoz

    lovetravellingoz Senior Member

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  5. casanovawa

    casanovawa Established Member

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    Also depends on the standard of luxury you are accustomed to/expecting as well...

    Different options at different price points, but you can certainly spend a bucket over there on guided tours and fancy 5 star lodges...

    Also depends what you like seeing etc, in Chobe we were in a national park and so there were strict rules about not annoying the wildlife and staying on designated roads... So certain animals that especially might sleep most of the day you could only see if they chose to come to you... We didn't see any lions, only one hyena and only part of a leopard lolling under a plant/tree that didn't want to come out and do a cameo for us... :p

    A private reserve or game park probably offers a lot more freedom to see these animals or go and find them, but it doesn't have the whole 'true nature" thing about it...
     
  6. JohnM

    JohnM Established Member

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    Thanks for the replies, everyone.
     
  7. bigjobs

    bigjobs Active Member

    Jun 4, 2005
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    Hi there ... I hope what follows helps you out. PM me if you want more info.

    after living in Sth Africa (Phalaborwa) earlier this year my wife came over and we had a number of weeks going around Sth Africa. We did this on our own, driving and flying ourselves from one end of the country to the other.

    to answer your questions about KNP specifically though here is our experience.

    We flew into JNB (Tambo) from Cape Town late one afternoon. We had an airport hotel (City Lodge I think - I could confirm) for that night. Next morning we picked up an X Trail from Thrifty at Tambo Airport. we walked a few hundred meters to the hotel and then to the airport car park for this hire car. Its a good set up, just like here for example.

    We drove ourselves to KNP. leaving OR Tambo you take the R21 towards Boksburg, follow the signs onto the N12, follow N12 until it merges with the N4 at Witbank. The N4 will take you all the way to Melelane, drive through Melelane for a few kms and turn left onto R570 which takes you to the gate. this route will take you about 4 hours, a bit more depending on how much you stop. it is basically freeway all the way with only traffic lights in Melelane.

    Driving yourself is easy and the most simple way to go. I would not do an organised tour. the stories you hear about personal security are real but outside of the big cities and Gauteng (province Joburg is in) you will be fine if you don't stop on the side of the freeway for any reason. only stop in the servo's that are beside the freeways and there are plenty of these.

    when you get to the park it is very safe and you won't have any security concerns. there are other ways to get to the park also. I personally drove from O R Tambo to Phalaborwa when I first arrive and this is a spectacular drive through the Drakensburg escarpment. Again, just be sensible when you are driving - don't stop unless at a large servo, drive day time hours only etc.

    in the park there are a range of accommodation options. there are upmarket private resorts through to rest camps run by SAN Parks. we stayed at the SAN Parks rest camps at Lower Sabie, Pretoriuskop, Skukuza over a 5 night period. SAN Parks rest camps are cheap (100 per night for 2) in our own private bungalow. Rest camps have a store where you can by food, restaurants, bar, petrol stations, ATM's ... everything you need. we cooked our own Braai on each night - do this! Most of the camps are located on rivers that run through the park and any water source brings animals. I remember having lunch while an elephant was bathing in the river probably 60 meters or so from where we were sitting at the rest camp restaurant. I would recommend staying at SAN Parks rest camps over the fancy private resorts.

    KNP is the size of Wales, so moving around was important to us. I would recommend staying at various rest camps. The parks geography and wildlife changes as you move around (more birds up north, the south is known by locals at 'the zoo' and this is where most big game is). you can only be in the park from 0600 to 1800 - regardless of where you stay. you can go out on night drives, early morning drives etc with guides from the place you stay (private resort or SAN Parks). we did a night drive and early morning drive and they cost about 50 bucks per person - cheap!

    In the park there are tarred roads and dirt roads. all suitable for run of the mill passenger cars. we had an x trail to get a bit higher up and I would strongly recommend this sort of vehicle. you will be too low down in a passenger car. you cannot get out of your car in the park unless at an authorised 'get out' point (you could get eaten - literally). The maps of the park are comprehensive, easy to understand and follow. Speed limit in the park is 50k on sealed and 40k on unsealed roads - this is too quick to see the wildlife, you will miss Elephants at 50kms per hour! you will end up driving much slower. the roads are set out in loops and all connected back to camps etc.

    the wildlife is simply prolific. we saw the big 5 plus heaps of other wildlife. you need to look hard for lions and leopards but if you know where, when and how to look for them you will see them. I think 4 - 5 nights is about right for the park but this will only get you around the southern end of the park. to get up the northern part of the park you'd want a few extra days I think. I saw much of the north when I was living in Phalaborwa for a bit, so we stuck to the southern end for our trip together. The southern part of the park is most accessible from Joburg and the other big cities. It can be quite a drive to the northern areas of the park. Take a look on google maps and study maps of the park available online - you'll get an idea of how what I am saying here fits together.

    at the end of the stay in KNP we simply drove out of the park at the Paul Kruger Gate and followed the signs back to OR Tambo airport where we returned the car, stayed with some friends in Joburg before driving again out to Rustenburg area for some work I needed to do for a couple of days and then drove back to Tambo for our flight out.

    I have loads of photos - we had an elephant walk right up to our drivers side window, baboons on our car, a leopard walk in front of our car while stopped on the road, saw 2 rhino's with a baby 10 mins after entering the park ... it is a wonderful place that will leave you gobsmacked in terms of it's beauty, wilderness and wildlife (in a country that seems to be slowly destroying itself).

    PM me if you want some more info or if there is some question you have as a result of reading this.

    in summary - drive yourself, you'll be fine; stay at a number of SAN Parks rest camps, flexible, cheap, clean, neat and tidy (I have some photos of the accommodations), allow 5 days or more, get an X Trail or similar car for better vision and spotting (4WD is not required, people go in regular passenger cars). when you see animals in the park, turn off your engine and be quiet - you will be amazed at how close they will pass you by.
     
  8. JohnM

    JohnM Established Member

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    Hi Bigjobs

    Thank you so much for a truly comprehensive reply. It's exactly what I was hoping for :D.

    I have driven myself in the Cape region previously and had no problems. I prefer to rent a car and travel independently. I was hoping that there would be game-spotting drives from the camps that could be joined easily, so great that you confirmed that.

    Now I can get planning in detail!

    Cheers

    John
     
  9. nzdiver

    nzdiver Junior Member

    Sep 9, 2011
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    I spent 8 days there in June and loved it (originally from SA, I spent a lot of time there as a kid). We saw the big 5 (leopard 4 times, lion at 5) plus cheetah, honey badgers and black rhino.
    Bigjobs explained most of what you need to know. If you're going by yourself, join more of the game spotting drives, as it is quite difficult to spot some things (particularly big cats!) whilst driving unless you've got a lot of experience.
    Book your accomodation in the camps early, particularly if you're going during school holidays. Look at some of the smaller camps that have their own private roads, the roads are quieter and you might be lucky in spotting a few of the more rare animals.
    If you are doing any self-drive spotting, be first in the queue to leave the camp when the gates open - dawn can be a great time to spot the more nocturnal animals. Bring a flask of coffee/hot chocolate to help wake you up :p

    Have fun!
     
  10. bigjobs

    bigjobs Active Member

    Jun 4, 2005
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    as mentioned, be at the gate of the camp when it opens to get out and see the animals at dawn and early morning. stay out as long as possible into dusk. there's more activity around these times. depending on the season you're there (Summer) most animals might simply be resting during the day because its stinking hot.

    at the SAN Parks rest camps you just go into reception and book yourself on the game drives. you can book them at any rest camp for all other rest camps so you've got it planned out. you can also book it all online when booking your accommodation.

    sounds like you know about driving yourself around over there. Driving in the Cape is not that much different to driving in Gauteng and Mpumulanga
     
  11. JohnM

    JohnM Established Member

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    Thanks, folks.

    I'll be going in late August/early September.

    nzdiver: did your 8 days include enough time to go to the northern part of the park? If so, is the wildlife and scenery sufficiently different to warrant it?
     
  12. nzdiver

    nzdiver Junior Member

    Sep 9, 2011
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    We covered most of the park, including a few days up north. The northern part was very dry when we went, and we personally didn't see all that much when we were up there, but we spoke to others who had been there at the same time or a few days different and saw all sorts of animals.
    We also spoke to people who were south at the same time as us, and they'd seen up to 4 sightings of lions a day, but no elephant, while we saw close to 1000 elephant on one day and hadn't seen any lions at that point.
    The amount of wildlife in the different parts of the park can change depending on the conditions (wet/dry) so it's difficult to know long term what it will be like.

    p.s. The most reliable way to find the big cats in Kruger is to look for the traffic jams :mrgreen: when you see 5+ cars stopped, it's probably lion/leopard/cheetah (biggest jams are for leopard and cheetah usually).
     
  13. JohnM

    JohnM Established Member

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    I'll aim to do it all.

    It's the same in Yellowstone - traffic jams are where the bears are!
     
  14. dajop

    dajop Senior Member

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    We did a few days self driving in the park in 2004, and echo what others say, we stayed in a bungalow in the park operated camps and did go on a couple of game drives out of the camps as well (dawn and dusk). The other useful thing I found was the maps that people put different coloured pins in where they had sighted particular animals, and certainly helped us find lions and rhinos. The priceless moment was driving back to the camp to meet curfew - after no luck with finding lions all day - there were two sprawled across the road in front of us. It took a while and some lateral thinking to encourage them to move to allow us to pass.
     
  15. JohnM

    JohnM Established Member

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    Trip to Kruger is fast approaching. I'll be there last week of August - first week of September and I aim to cover the park end-to-end.

    I'm wondering about malaria prophylaxis. The risk season is defined as September-May.

    What did others do?
     
  16. Admin

    Administrator

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    Another option is to fly from Johannesburg to Kruger Mpumalanga (MQP). It's about a 30 minute flight and well serviced by local airlines. You can pick up a hire car there and then drive to the Kruger park. The travel time from the airport to the Park, depends on which entry gate you enter the Park from. From memory it an easy and scenic hour drive.
     

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