Beginners guide to a self-drive Kruger Park holiday
It has been called the gem in South Africa’s wildlife crown and tops the bucket list for countless travellers the world over. It is the largest game reserve in Africa (about the size of Belgium) and is home to the illustrious Big 5. What we love most about it though, is that it’s ours.
Welcome to the Kruger National Park.
Established in 1898 on the border of Mozambique, the Kruger National Park borders is home to over 12,000 elephants, 27,000 buffalo, 1,000 leopards, 600 bird species and many, many more. Seeing these animals in the wild is something everyone should experience at least once in their lifetimes. Luckily, for South Africans, the Kruger Park is within reach both geographically and financially, especially on an affordable self-drive safari.
Where to go
The Kruger is divided into 4 regions, which include private concessions (home to private, luxury safari lodges). Each area of the Park provides a different experience. The southern part is the most popular as lions and rhinos are frequently spotted here. The central region is considered the most game-rich area with common sightings of zebra, giraffe and wildebeest. While you’re likely to see the Big 5 throughout the Park, head north for frequent sightings of elephant, buffalo and Tsessebe antelope.
When is the best time to go?
As far as we’re concerned, it’s always Kruger Time! For game viewing, the best time to visit the Kruger Park is during the dry winter (May to October), as the animals tend to populate the watering holes. In contrast, the ‘Green Season’ is when animals are born, birds flourish and the vegetation if rife. From November to February, this is the hottest and wettest time of the year. It is also the busiest time of the year to visit the Park as it falls over the summer school holidays.
All roads lead to the Kruger National Park
Drive in, fly in, or walk in – although we don’t recommend the last one; just get there! Getting to the Kruger is easily accessible. Many choose to fly to the airport closest to their desired region and drive in from there. We suggest you book a flight to the airports listed below and hire a car to drive to the Kruger.
If your desired destination is the Southern Kruger – land at Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport. The closest airport to Central Kruger is the less commercial Hoedspruit airport. The final suggested airport is Phalaborwa airport aimed at Northern Kruger.
Driving in the Park
You’re in the wilderness; remember that many animals, insects and reptiles – including the dangerous ones – call the Kruger home. When driving in the Park, drive slowly – you’ll see more. Animals always have the right of way. If traffic jams or where something significant has just occurred, park in line and switch of your vehicle – to ensure that the tranquil sounds of the wilderness are maintained. No-one wants to view a lion in the wild with a rumbling car engine as a soundtrack.
The lion sleeps tonight – but where do you?
With the Kruger being so vast, there is various accommodation ranging from luxury lodges to campsites and self-catering chalets. You can find accommodation that suits both your needs and your pocket. There are rest camps dotted within the Park that have shops, restaurants, laundromats and petrol stations.
Good to know
While the Kruger is not listed as a Malaria red zone, it is close to these regions, and we’d advise that you take the necessary precautions before visiting the Park. Listen to your ranger at all times; they know the ins and outs better than anyone else. Lastly, have fun! It’s not every day that you’re in the same place as all these majestic animals.