Perspective on Kruger National Park, SA?
October 13, 2008 1:04 AM   Subscribe

Need help getting a handle on the many options for a self-arranged trip in Kruger National Park, South Africa.

We've been doing pretty extensive research for a planned trip of 7-10 days, and while it's fairly easy to find specifics, we're feeling a little daunted by the scale of things. Wondering if any of you have visited recently and have opinions about the shape of trip we should be trying to do. We are 2, driving a small rental car. We're heading out of/returning to Johannesburg. We'd like (we think) to do a combination of some time in private reserves adjacent to Kruger, and a lot of time in the public park. We're thinking of trying to spend some time in each of the three areas (north, middle, south), and we're interested in possibly hiking as well as game drives and walks. Any tips on the booking process in Kruger itself (for drives and walks going out of the camps, for instance) greatly appreciated.
posted by Mngo to Travel & Transportation around Gro├čbadegast, Germany (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You can book for the public park via the South African National Parks website.

If you're visiting Cape Town/Durban before you go to Johannesburg then it might be easier to fly from Cape Town/Durban directly to the Kruger/Mpumalanga Airport in Nelspruit which is right next door.
posted by PenDevil at 2:49 AM on October 13, 2008

It's a long drive -- if you leave Jo'burg before lunch you won't hit Nelspruit till evening -- so I hope you've factored that in. But there are plenty of places to stop along the way, so be sure you do. In fact, the more breaks you take along that stretch of road, the better (SA drivers can be mental, and drink driving is par for the course).
posted by macdara at 8:30 AM on October 13, 2008

The drive from Johannesburg to the Kruger isn't really that long - I think it's around 4 to 4.5 hours to some of the west gates. Although I would agree with the suggestions that there are some nice places to stop on the way. The last time I went a few months ago we didn't take the N4 all the way to Nelspruit but took a more scenic route through Dullstroom, Lydenburg and Sabie. We stopped in Dullstroom for some lunch but it looked like a nice place to spend a couple of days. Our final destination was Hazyview by the west entrance of the park so YMMV. I am not sure how much of your time you were planning on spending inside the park and doing game drives but even 7 days sounds like a long time to spend just around the Kruger. I would say 3 to 4 days in the park itself is enough.

The Blyde River canyon to the west of the park has some nice sites and mountain views, God's window and Bourke's Luck Potholes are some examples. Pilgrim's rest is another town in the area that we enjoyed stopping for lunch in, although it is very touristy.

There are lots of activities that you can sign up for in and around the Kruger; elephant rides, quad biking, big swings etc. but I found them all quite expensive (or maybe I'm too cheap).

I've always wanted to go to Swaziland but haven't had the chance to yet. It's close to where you'll be though so is worth investigating.

Also, what dates are you looking at going? If it is during peak season or around school holidays then it will affect how much you have to plan ahead.
posted by Gomez_in_the_South at 10:45 AM on October 13, 2008

I went to Kruger from Pretoria about a month ago. There may be quite a bit of congestion on the roads, as the highways are currently getting upgraded. I think it will take you at least five hours from Joburg to the Pretoriuskop gate, which is closest.

You need to call in advance and book places at the camps. That goes for tent spots as well as huts. I agree that 7-10 days sounds like a lot. We spent three days in Kruger, staying all the time at the Pretoriuskop camp, and saw all animals I care for except wild cats. Lots of giraffes, even though they're not supposed to be that far to the south.

You book organized drives and hikes directly with the camps. Call in advance, and check which camps offer the things you want before booking your stay there. Everything is expensive inside the park so bring all stuff you think you'll use.

As you leave the gates of a camp, check its closing time and respect it. You may be heavily fined if you come late.

If you want to enter Swaziland, remember to bring registration papers for your car, they won't let you in otherwise.
posted by springload at 1:25 PM on October 13, 2008

Belated thanks to all who responded. We wound up combining several days self-driving with a few much more posh days at a private place in the Manyeleti reserve. Our general feeling was that every single day was great, but that 8 days was probably more than most people needed to spend. This was the dry season and game was easy to see. The main advantage of the private place was that the organized game drives went further afield. A disadvantage was that the new SA firearms law had left the rangers temporarily disarmed, so no walks for us! (This is probably resolved everywhere by now).

Anyone finding this with similar questions in future, feel free to memail me--we have lots more specifics.
posted by Mngo at 12:22 AM on December 21, 2008

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