Kruger National Park: A Safari Guide

Last Updated on February 24, 2023

Kruger National Park: A Safari Guide

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Kruger National Park, South Africa

Are you looking for an amazing safari experience? You should consider visiting Kruger National Park.

Kruger National Park is located in South Africa and is one of the largest game reserves in the country. The park covers an area of over 19,000 square kilometers and is home to over 147 species of mammals, 114 reptile species, 51 snake species, 49 fish species, and a massive 508 species of birds. These numbers that are unrivaled anywhere else in South Africa.

The Big Five are featured at this park: buffalos, elephants, lions, leopards, and rhinos (both black and white), although the latter is extremely rare. Visitors may see various antelope species, giraffes, hippos, zebras, wildebeest, and hyenas in their natural habitats.

Table Of Contents

A Bucket List Destination

A safari in Kruger National Park is one of those incredible bucket list destinations. When most people think of a safari, they picture Africa – and for good reason. Kruger National Park is a paradise for nature lovers, boasting some of the most magnificent animal sightings in their natural environment.

The animals, the game drives, and the weather were all amazing; the entire trip blew our minds time and time again.

Kruger National Park Facts

  • The park covers an area of over 19,000 square kilometers.
  • Since 1926, the park has been closed to hunting.
  • All of the park’s animals are endangered to some degree and at risk of extinction owing to rampant poaching that continues despite active anti-poaching efforts.
  • The Big Five are featured at this park: buffalos, elephants, lions, leopards, and rhinos (both black and white).
  • Kruger National Park is one of the best places in the world to see wildlife in their natural habitat.
  • The park was established in 1898.
  • It is located in South Africa.
  • The park was named after Paul Kruger, a Zulu chieftain who led his tribe’s resistance to British colonial domination in the 19th century. Paul Kruger served as the president of South Africa from 1883 to 1900.
  • The South African National Parks Act was enacted on May 31, 1926, when Kruger Park South Africa was formed by the merger of the Sabie and Shingwedzi Game Reserves.
  • Over 100,000 years ago, there is evidence of homo erectus (prehistoric man) residing in the region.
  • Over 300 archaeological Stone Age sites have been discovered.

Gates At Kruger National Park

  • Crocodile Bridge Gate, near Komatipoort
  • Malelane Gate, near Malelane
  • Numbi Gate, near Hazyview
  • Phabeni Gate, near Hazyview
  • Paul Kruger Gate, near Hazyview
  • Orpen Gate, near Klaserie
  • Phalaborwa Gate, near Phalaborwa
  • Punda Maria Gate, near Thohoyandou
  • Pafuri Gate, near Musina
  • Giriyondo Gate

Read next – 10 African Safari Photography Tips

Why Should I Go On Safari?

If you love animals, then a safari is definitely for you. There’s nothing like seeing these incredible creatures up close and in person. But even if you’re not an animal lover, Kruger National Park is still an amazing place to visit. The landscapes are stunning, the history is fascinating, and the experience is truly one of a kind.

Planning a Kruger safari can be a big task and a bit intimidating, but don’t worry, we’re here to help. In this blog post, we’ll give you all the information you need to plan an unforgettable trip to Kruger National Park. We’ll tell you when to go, what to expect, and how to make the most of your safari experience!

Kruger Safari Options

There are a few different ways to go on safari in Kruger National Park. You can choose to go on a self-drive safari, which means that you will be responsible for your own transportation and game viewing. Alternatively, you can book a guided tour with a reputable company. This option is often more expensive, but it will give you the opportunity to have a professional guide who knows the park well.

When Is The Best Time To Visit Kruger National Park?

The best time to visit Kruger National Park is between the months of May and September. This is the dry season in South Africa, which means that there will be less rain and fewer mosquitoes. The weather is also cooler during this time of year, making it more comfortable to spend time outdoors. Keep in mind that because this is the peak season, accommodation and tour prices will be higher.

We visited in September and it was perfect. Animal viewing was fantastic as the trees were bare, so it was easier to spot wildlife.

The temperature can be mild during the day, but it may become extremely chilly at night. This means that your sunrise or sunset game drives will be very cold – bring something warm to wear. You should have blankets in your vehicle, but you will appreciate a sweater too.

October – December

This is the beginning of the rainy season in South Africa. Flash rains are likely to bring about a lush jungle that is thicker, making animals more difficult to spot as a result of this.

Spring is a pleasant time to visit. Day temperatures can reach 40 degrees Celsius, and evenings are cooler, but they are not particularly chilly. Spring provides the opportunity to view new babies of all kinds of animals, as well as newborns.

January – April

While the rest of South Africa is warming up, Kruger experiences torrential downpours. The scenery comes to life in vivid hues, from the vibrant green of the forest to the deep blue of the waterways and lakes.

This also means that Lodges and camps are the cheapest at this time.

What Can You Expect To See On Your Safari?

You can expect to see a variety of different animals on your safari, including lions, elephants, rhinos, buffalo, and many others. The best time to see wildlife is early in the morning or late in the afternoon when they are the most active.

The leopards are most active in the early morning and late at night, thus sunrise and sunset tours are popular. Expect to be woken up early and to have some late nights. It can get exhausting, but you will be fueled by all of the excitement!

What Is The Cost Of A Safari In Kruger National Park?

The cost of a safari in Kruger National Park will vary depending on the type of safari you choose, the time of year you visit, and how long you stay. A self-drive safari is the most affordable option, while a guided tour is the most expensive.

Before you embark on your safari, it’s essential to factor in the cost of Kruger National Park. Here are just a few expenses that should be taken into account:

  • Entry
  • Accommodation
  • Activities (game drive tours, bush braais etc.)
  • Food (self-planning or eating out)
  • Car rental
  • Petrol

Entrance/Exit Times For Kruger National Park

Kruger National Park is open all year round, but the hours vary depending on the season. The park is open from 05:00 to 18:30 in the summer (November to February) and from 06:00 to 18:00 in the winter (March to October).

The gates open just before sunrise and close after dark, regardless of whether you’re a day visitor or stay for an extended period. You may be fined up to $300 if you are late to return to the entrance gate.

You can’t go on solo nighttime drives and need a SANpark game warden to join you.

Entry Fees For Kruger

If you go on drives in the park with official SANpark game rangers, the fees will be included in your drive’s costs.

If you take an independent drive, or self-drive, through the Kruger Park, you’ll have to pay entrance fees.

As Of January 2023, the fees are:

International visitors: R460 per adult per day, and R230 per child per day. This is about £22/USD26 per day, or £11/USD13 per day.

South African Citizens and Residents (must take ID): R115 per adult, per day and R57 per child per day.

You can buy these at the gate by visiting the small adjacent hut and filling in some forms. The SANParks site here has further information on entry fees and other formalities.

As you can see, a trip to Kruger National Park may get costly after several days; nevertheless, it is well worth the effort!

How Many Days Should You Spend At Kruger National Park?

We recommend spending at least three days in Kruger National Park. This will give you enough time to explore the different areas of the park and see a variety of wildlife. If you have more time, we suggest staying for five days or longer.

If you are able to stay at least three days in Kruger, you will be able to enjoy some downtime between game drives. You’ll be amazed at how much wildlife you see from your lodge!

How To Get To Kruger National Park

The best way to get to Kruger National Park is by flying into Johannesburg and then renting a car for the drive. The drive from Johannesburg to Kruger takes about five hours. You can also take a bus or a train, but these options are not as convenient.

If you are really looking to splurge, you can also fly into Kruger. The main airports are Nelspruit, Hoedspruit, and Skukuza.

Once you’re in Kruger National Park, it can still be quite a drive to your lodge or other accommodations.

Which Area In Kruger To Visit?

There are a few different areas of Kruger National Park to choose from, and the best one for you will depend on your budget and what type of safari experience you are looking for.

The most popular area is the southern part of Kruger, which is where you will find the majority of lodges and hotels. This area is also the most expensive.

If you are looking for a more authentic African safari experience, we recommend staying in the northern part of Kruger. This area is less developed and thus more affordable. It is also home to a greater variety of wildlife.

No matter which area you choose, you are sure to have an amazing safari experience in Kruger National Park!

We stayed at Jock Safari Lodge and had a safari experience that we will NEVER forget. We cannot recommend Jock Safari Lodge highly enough! The staff, the rangers, the food, the property. It was all incredible.

Staying Safe On Your Safari

When on safari, it is important to follow the rules of the park and your guide. Do not get out of the vehicle unless you are in a designated area, and be sure to stay on the trails. Do not approach animals, as they may be dangerous. If you see an animal that you would like to photograph, use your zoom lens.

Public Game Reserves Vs Private Game Reserves

Kruger National Park is a government-owned organization dedicated to preserving South Africa’s wildlife. Animals are entirely unrestrained in Kruger National Park, which is a national park run by SANparks.

A private game reserve is on privately-owned land and is enclosed by fences. While you may find the same wildlife, the smaller ground area of the private land could mean that you see more animals.

When you visit a private game reserve, keep in mind that you’re not really in Kruger National Park. You’re in the region known as Greater Kruger National Park, which embraces all of the reserves adjacent to the national park as well as those within.

Private game reserves are often limited to luxurious lodges, but public game reserves will have a variety of options to appeal to a wider range of guests.

High-End Private Lodges In Kruger National Park

If you’re looking for a luxurious and intimate safari experience, consider staying in one of Kruger’s high-end private lodges. You’ll find that the accommodations are top-notch, the service is excellent, and the prices are sky-high. But if you can afford it, it’s worth every penny! Top-rated lodges include Lion Sands Ivory Lodge, Sabi Sand Game Reserve, Savanna Private Game Lodge, and Singita Boulders.

Lodges And Hotels Outside Of Kruger

For a more affordable option, consider staying in one of the lodges or hotels outside of Kruger National Park. You’ll still be able to enjoy all the safari activities, but you won’t have to pay the high prices of a private lodge.

For our safari, we chose Jock Safari Lodge as we noticed a steal of a deal that we could not pass up, making a luxury safari an affordable one. Jock Safari Lodge is a public game reserve. The property is located in the Kruger National Park and shares a border with the world-renowned Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve, giving Jock Safari Lodge guests the best of both worlds – an authentic African safari experience without forgoing any luxury.

Great lodges to choose from for your safari adventure:

What To Wear On Safari

One of the most common questions we get asked is “What should I wear on safari?” The answer is not as simple as you might think. It really depends on the time of year and what part of Africa you’ll be visiting. If you’re going to be in Kruger during the summer months (November to February), the days can be quite hot, so you’ll want to dress in light, natural-fiber fabrics that will keep you cool. Khaki is always a good choice. You should also pack a hat and sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun. If you’re going to be in Kruger during the winter months (March to October), the days can be cool, so you’ll want to dress in layers. A light jacket or sweater is a good idea. You should also pack a hat and scarf to keep yourself warm. In general, you’ll want to avoid wearing anything bright or flashy. Stick to earth tones like khaki, olive green, and brown. Not only will you blend in with your surroundings, but you’ll also be less likely to attract the attention of insects. And speaking of insects, be sure to pack insect repellent! When it comes to footwear, closed-toe shoes are a must. Sneakers or hiking boots are ideal, but if you don’t have either of those, any closed-toe shoe will do. Just make sure it’s comfortable enough to walk in, as you’ll be doing a lot of walking if you do a walking safari.

Remember, your safari is in an open vehicle. The wind might really whip up and surprise you when the jeep starts to move, how chilly it can feel! While your vehicles will have blankets available too, having layers is always the best option!

Health Risks In Kruger National Park

As with any travel, there are some health risks to be aware of before you go. The most important thing you can do is to make sure you’re up-to-date on all your vaccinations. There are no required vaccinations for entry into Kruger National Park, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all travelers be up-to-date on the following routine vaccinations:

Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), Diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (DTaP), Varicella (chickenpox), Influenza, Polio and Rabies, Meningitis, Polio.

Malaria is also a risk in Kruger National Park. The best way to protect yourself is to take antimalarial medication and to use insect repellent. If you’re pregnant or have a medical condition that prevents you from taking antimalarial medication, it’s important to talk to your doctor before you travel.

What Should You Pack For Your Safari?

  •  Insect repellent – You’ll want to have insect repellent with 30% deet or higher for your African adventure. It is a horrible feeling to get eaten alive by mosquitoes!
  • Closed-toe shoes (sneakers or hiking boots) are important to bring because you will be doing a lot of adventuring. Protect your precious toes! Hiking boots are great protection against the elements, especially if you do a walking safari! Ben’s insect repellent works well!
  • Layers of clothing (to account for temperature changes) with light, natural-fiber fabrics. The clothing that works for one time of day likely will not work for another.
  • A light jacket or sweater for cool evenings – Evenings can get chilly during certain parts of the year, so it’s important to bring something warm.
  • Hat and sunglasses
  • Sunscreen is a must. The African sun is hot and it is important to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays. And, keep the sun off of your face and out of your eyes with a hat.
  • Binoculars don’t just magnify your vision, but also bring forth incredible details that you may have otherwise missed. We used our binoculars for more than safari – we utilized them to observe penguins at Boulder’s Beach near Cape Town and on our adventure cage diving with sharks in South Africa! There are endless opportunities for how you can use your binoculars on a Southern Africa journey.
  • Glasses and Sunglasses – Make sure to get the most out of your sightseeing and take in all that you can! If corrective eyewear is part of your daily wear, remember to pack it! Aside from that, don’t forget your sunglasses – the sun can be extremely intense and you’ll appreciate the bit of protection from the glare.
  • Camera With A Zoom Lens – When we went on safari, we saw a ton of people holding up their ipads for photos. If you’re going on a life-changing journey like a safari, take proper photography equipment! Even if you don’t know how to use it perfectly, having a camera and a zoom lens will make all the difference in capturing those special moments. Extra SD cards, an extra set of batteries, and a battery charger should also be packed along for the journey. Capturing impressive photographs while on safari is near impossible with a standard camera phone. You’re spending all that money on a safari, bring a real camera! Personally, we love Canon photography products. Furthermore, some safari lodges have gone as far as prohibiting camera phones during game drives because poaching is a HUGE problem and geolocations just give poachers a map.
  • Any necessary medication – Come prepared!
  • A map of the park – If you are self-driving, a map could come in handy!
  • Plenty of drinking water and snacks – Do not be without food and snacks while you’re adventuring around Kruger National Park. The drives can be long and far away from the necessities, so stock up that vehicle on a self-drive. You may also want to bring some snacks for your game drive, especially if you have dietary restrictions. If you’re on a game drive with a lodge, expect a stop partway through the drive for some (provided) refreshments.

Tips For Self-Driving Game Drives In Kruger National Park

If you’re planning on doing a self-drive game drive in Kruger National Park, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First, always stay on designated roads and trails. Do not veer off into the bush, as this is dangerous and against the rules. Second, be sure to follow all posted signs and obey all traffic laws. The speed limit in Kruger is 50 kilometers per hour (31 miles per hour), so be sure to drive accordingly. Third, remember that you are sharing the road with animals. Drive slowly and carefully, and always yield to animals. Finally, keep your windows up and your doors locked at all times and fill up with gas when you pass a station. Arrive early as they only let in a limited number of vehicles each day for self-drives.

This will help to keep you safe in the event of an animal encounter. Also, give the animals plenty of space.

Our Self-Drive Encounter With Rhinos

We had a day of self-driving around Kruger as we arrived way too early for our check-in. Driving around Kruger National Park, we knew to give the animals a lot of space, and that the animals could cause a traffic jam. We waited and waited for three rhinos to go on their way, and once they started off the road, we slowly continued, driving on the far side of the road to give them extra space. They kept turning around back to the road and bluff-charging us. It was quite the encounter as our hearts skipped a few beats, and we certainly gave them a ton of space! It did not matter how long we sat there to let them move on, or how we waited to give them space, they did not like our presence one bit. After some patience, the rhinos finally decided to move on.

We hope that this guide has helped you plan your safari in Kruger National Park. Have a safe and enjoyable trip!

 

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