Self-Drive Kruger National Park Safari, South Africa
Self-drive Safari at Kruger Park is definitely a bucket list activity. Located in South Africa, about 6 hours west of Johannesburg, we easily spent a week here exploring the region
I had never been to Africa or on a large scale safari like Kruger before although it was something I always dreamt of doing. When my partner asked me where I want to go on our next holiday, I told him that I wanted somewhere new that we both would enjoy. Believe it or not, I opened up the maps on my phone which is filled with pins of places I want to see, my eyes focused on Africa.
I immediately said South Africa without thinking much about the reason why then my partner quickly added that we can self-drive in Kruger Park. I spent that evening reading things to know about Kruger National Park and the next morning, we were planning our itinerary and booking our tickets.
How to do a self-drive safari in Kruger
After arriving, and collecting our bags, we collected our rental car from the airport. In South Africa, people drive on the left, which is the opposite of what I am used to in my home country of Vietnam. Our first stop was in Johannesburg to our accommodation and to do our grocery shopping (make sure you buy items like bug repellent and sunhat) and then to catch up some sleep.
The next day, we checked out and packed the car for a long drive ahead to Kruger Park. We already booked a total of six nights accommodation in advance at Kruger Park, our first stop was at Skukuza Camp. It’s located just inside Kruger Park, and near to where we were staying there are some restaurants and convenience stores which sell basics of anything you might need.
There are several gates into the National Park, our camp is the closest to Skukuza Gate. The Skukuza Gate is located in the southern part of the park and is the most popular gate. There are also campsites in the north, central, or even outside the park if you prefer that.
At the gate, we had to show our passports (for any non-South African over 18, a valid passport must be shown, for South Africans, a valid drivers licence is acceptable). This is also where you pay the park fees (for a non-South African adult, this is equivalent to about $22USD per day).
It’s useful to know that if you’re driving your own vehicle into Kruger National Park, that you arrive with ample time, there’s a curfew at 6.00 pm where no one is allowed to drive around the park except the staff.
Not sure about self-driving Kruger National Park?
What was the Safari Camp like?
Our bungalow was well equipped. It had a comfortable bed, hot shower, sink, small fridge and kitchen tools like plates, bowls, cups. There was a common cooking area where we cooked things like vegetables while we grill in the small kitchen right outside our bungalow. Prices for these style bungalows within Kruger Park start at about $100 per night.
It’s also worth knowing that if your accommodation is within the park, you’ll need to pay a permit fee for each day booked.
What to expect on the Safari in Kruger?
Our first night was thrilling, we could hear animal noises all around. While there are fences to keep them out of the camp, the small ones like honey badgers still get inside. We could hear them right outside our bungalow, it was a magnificent experience.
The next day the fun part begins, we start our self-drive Safari in Kruger National Park. In total, we drove for about 6 hours, leaving at about 8.30 am while the park is still quiet and the animals will be wandering around and not hiding away from the heat. That day, we saw about 30 different animals. From giraffes, exotic birds, elephants, to lions. It was wild! We kept stopping to take photos, record videos, and simply just admire them.
My favourite part was when the elephants crossed the road. All the cars just stop and wait for them to cross. Generally, guests are not allowed to get out of their cars except unless it’s a place where it’s marked as a picnic area. We were also not allowed to extend any body parts outside the window both for our safety and the animals’. Feeding the animals is also forbidden.
We knew that the big cats would be elusive, although we did manage to see lions a few times. We got a glimpse of a leopard and cheetah once but they were too far away to get a decent photo.
We moved to another campsite after 3 nights. We chose to do this because we were wanting to explore different areas of the park, and expected some different animals due to the type of plants, water source, or territorial issues against other animals in the part of the park we had already seen.
Our second camp was called Satara. In the park surrounding this camp, we were able to spot rhinoceros a few times and even an alligator chilling on a lake while a hippopotamus was just 10 feet away. We bought this little checklist list at the souvenir shop when we arrived on our first day. In total, we saw over 50 different species of animals in our 6 nights/7 days stay inside the Kruger Park.
Useful information for visiting Kruger National Park
For people who don’t want to drive, that’s also not a problem. We also booked on to an afternoon bush walk which lasted until sunset. There are also tours that can be booked if visitors have limited time. The drivers and staff know the exact places to seek out animals. You don’t have to stay at a camp inside Kruger Park, there are many travel agents outside the park who can assist in booking safari day trips.
I highly recommend checking the weather or climate during the time you plan to visit. Even though Kruger Park is open all year round, I don’t recommend visiting during the rainy season which is from October to April. The rain will cause poor visibility and most animals will be hiding away.
Our self-drive tour of Kruger Park was coming to a close. It was an amazing experience, and certianly something everyone should add to their Africa Bucket List. When we left Kruger Park, we drove back straight to the airport where we dropped off the car and catch a flight to Cape Town filled with memories that will last a lifetime.
About the Author
Mary is a Vietnam based Travel Writer and the face behind Three Week Traveller. Three Week Traveller is a travel blog for seasonal explorers which hopes to encourage people to make the most of their limited 3-week vacation without the need to travel full-time or choose between quitting the job they love in order to travel. The site publishes travel guides and travel tips, from how to prepare, what to pack and complete itineraries.
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