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 Post subject: Planning our first trip to Kruger - confused!
Unread postPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2014 5:25 pm 
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Joined: Wed Jul 09, 2014 5:11 pm
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Hi,

My husband and I are doing a backpacking/budget trip to few countries. We will be in South Africa from end of March 2015 thru April mid 2015. We are flying to Johannesburg and will be in that area for 9 days and thn leave for Cape Town.
In order to get a tourist visa, I have to book accomodations soon. We both are nature lovers and ofcourse Kruger is on our top to-do list. I need advise on where and what type of accomodation to book for best Kruger experience.
1. Is it better to stay in Kruger Park accomodation or stay outside the park and book safari tours? We are budget travelers so we would prefer decent and cheap accomodation.
2. If we stay in Kruger, which rest camp location would be the best? and How many day stay would give a complete experience? I looked at the sites and liked huts in Pretoriuskop.
3. Being a first time visitor, is it better to book a safari tour or take the guided tours offered within the park?
4. What is the best means of transportation from Johannesburg to Kruger? We both are not planning to rent a car. Are public transportations a feasible option?

Look forward to hearing from experts here! :)

Thanks


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 Post subject: Re: Planning our first trip to Kruger - confused!
Unread postPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2014 5:48 pm 
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Legendary Virtual Ranger
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Hello And welcome...
There are plane flights though to Skukuze from Johannesburg and I know folk who catch a bus . But Kruger is a self drive Park . One can take tours but they can be fairly pricy with Private organizations An alternative is to book a wilderness trail eg the Bushman's trail and get a taxi into the berg 'n dal camp . the trail lasts 3 nights and its a walking trail but all accommodation is comfortable A frame huts and all meals are provided , You are taken on bush walks with two guides . ( their are also other trails available)
Otherwise stay just outside the park and then travel from one of the gates on morning drives or evening drives in Sanparks open vehicles.
It would be best if you hired a car for the time you are in Kruger . no need for a fancy big one just a small hatchback will do ( I have done the Park in a mini many years ago)
And time needed to take in all of Kruger ... same question as How is long is a piece of string .... One always wishes that the holiday is longer .. But at least 5 nights will give you a taste and if you have a car stay 2 nights in one camp and three nights in another .
Just a point to remember South Africa has not the best transport system and some places buses not too regular. Cape Town has an excellent bus system If you need advice on the mother city just PM me

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 Post subject: Re: Planning our first trip to Kruger - confused!
Unread postPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2014 5:59 pm 
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The very best way to visit Kruger is to self drive and this is the recommendation you will get from here.

However there are some alternatives.

So the first question is - can either of you drive? If you can't then this will reduce your options.

If you can drive then there are ways to reduce the cost. There is a long distance bus that stops in Nelspruit, the nearest city to Kruger. There are numerous rental car firms there and I am sure one of them will collect you from the bus stop. Hire the smallest car you can get - you often get an upgrade if the car you booked isn't available and if not it is perfectly possible to drive around Kruger in a small car.

Will you be bringing your own camping gear? If so the cheapest accommodation is a camp site without power. All the big rest camps have camping sites and there are a few small camping sites as well. Next cheapest is camping sites with power and then Huts. I believe huts are available in Malalane Camp, Croc Bridge, Pretoriouskop, Lower Sabie and Balule. Or safaris tents in Crocodile Bridge, Skukuza, Letaba and Tambotie are reasonably priced. For all these you would use a communal Kitchen and bathrooms. Next up in range are rondavels/bungalows with a communal kitchen but its own bathroom and then the same but with a kitchen and bathroom.

If you can't drive then staying in the park is going to be almost impossible. You could do it by getting a lift to one of the perimeter camps like Crocodile Bridge or Malelane and booking the drives that SANParks offer from camps in the morning and evening. But other times you would be stuck in camp. Your best bet would be to stay in one of the towns near to the entrances - Hazyview, Malelane, Komaatipoort or Phalaborwa and book onto one of the many trips that take people into the park for the day. You could also get on a SANParks drive from one of the gates like Crocodile Bridge, Malelane, Phabeni and Phalaborwa. Give me a couple of hours to get home and I will PM you some details. Or if you stay at one of the many backpackers places nearby (see my earlier list of towns) they will have information to help you out and be able to organise trips into the park.

Having said all this I really would recommend hiring a car, it gives you so much freedom to come and go as you please.

Hope this helps and if you have any other questions please ask, we are all here to help.

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 Post subject: Re: Planning our first trip to Kruger - confused!
Unread postPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2014 8:31 pm 
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Thank you so much for this useful information! We both can drive but thought it might be cheaper to use public transportation. After reading your response, seems like car would be better than relying on public transportation. So our plan now is to take bus to Nelspruit and rent the car from there. Get to the Numbi gate, stay in that area for 2-3 days and head north and stay in Letaba for two days. After that head to Phalaborwa stay there for a day or so and return to Johannesburg from there. Does it seem like a good plan?
Also, to enter the park I am assuming there is a fee. In addition to that, we have to pay conservation fee everyday for each person, correct? Does it make sense to buy the wild card? Since we will be in Kenya and Tanzania before South Africa?
I looked at the game reserves and even though they all have private tours and other amenities, the cost is way high. Based on your experiences, would staying in national parks be equally amazing?


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 Post subject: Re: Planning our first trip to Kruger - confused!
Unread postPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2014 9:32 pm 
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Personally I'd go for Satara or Balule rather than Letaba but its a good choice if you like elephants. Seriously its a good choice but try to make a day trip down to the Satara area as it's big cat country.

The entry fee is also known as the Conservation Fee, so just the one charge. We figure you will work out even with a Wild Card after about 6 nights. You can also use it as a day visitor so would be worth investigating more. If it makes sense for you to get one you can buy the Wild Card before you go but if you'd rather cut down on the paperwork to take you can buy a Wild Card at the park gate or camp.

The private reserves and concessions in the area offer a different experience. You are driven around and should be in relatively small groups. It's a little too "posh" for my personal taste but if you want a treat and to be looked after following backpacking around Africa it might be worth looking into. Personally I love the freedom to come and go as I want to. So if I want to stay at a sighting for 2 hours I can. Don't worry too much about seeing stuff - when you find your first animal the buzz you get will bowl you over. There is nothing in this world quite like it.

Do a comparison of the cost of bus fare + hire car from Nelspruit versus hiring a car from Joburg + petrol + tolls to drive to KNP. Joburg airport has many hire car firms so competition keeps the price down.

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 Post subject: Re: Planning our first trip to Kruger - confused!
Unread postPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2014 10:32 pm 
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You also say you are going to Cape Town well you can use the wild card for Cape Point , the westcoast national park and boulders beach . plus anything to do with Cape Nature . If you do the garden route there are National parks along the way and again you use the wild card .
I would not go in at Numbi gate as the road there is in a shocking state rather go in at Malelane . Phabeni or Kruger gates . I would not stay outside the park at all but in the park camps .. If you are going to Kruger at a busy time then you would have to pre-book your visit as a day visitor as they have a daily quota and even if you arrive very early ( 5 .30 am ) you might not get in .
Have fun planning

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And when someone breaks our wings,
we simply continue to fly...usually on a broomstick.


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 Post subject: Re: Planning our first trip to Kruger - confused!
Unread postPosted: Thu Jul 10, 2014 9:19 am 
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There are so many options which make it difficult to plan and decide. I would like to mention some more options:

There is a direct flight (with SAA) between Cape Town and Nelspruit (Mpumalanga/Kruger International Airport) and though the fare is not cheap you may save money in other respects. You will definitely save time. You may find cheap flights from JNB to Nelspruit (much cheaper than to the other airports close to Kruger) so flying at least one way could be an option.

The big car rental companies in SA offer a very low extra fee for one-way rental (like to or from KNP), generally corresponding to the petrol cost. They also have offices in Nelspruit town as well as at the airport if that would be advantageous. Most main roads in SA are of very good standard and you can easily self-drive. The roads in Kenya, that is a completely different story. The traffic in SA is heavy and fast. I would not like to get into technical problems neither in KNP nor along the roads so if you hire a car chose a reliable company with good support. Avis has an office even in Skukuza. Better safe than sorry.

Good luck with you planning.


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 Post subject: Re: Planning our first trip to Kruger - confused!
Unread postPosted: Thu Jul 10, 2014 2:36 pm 
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Thanks everyone for your suggestions....it has really helped!

I decided to go for staying in KNP for five nights....two nites in Pretoruiskop and one night each in Letaba, Satara and Mopani. I also went ahead and booked a few guided drives/walks. We will probably rent a car with Avis from Nelspuit and return in Johannesburg. For remaining nights, I am thinking of staying one night in Nelspruit and rest in Phalaborwa to check out places closeby. If you know of any budget accomodations in these areas and other must do things, please share :)
I found out about city bug that has buses from Johannesburg to Nelspruit....is this bus service reliable and good? Since we will be driving, are there any hidden costs (eg toll etc) that we should be aware of?

Thanks a ton!!


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 Post subject: Re: Planning our first trip to Kruger - confused!
Unread postPosted: Thu Jul 10, 2014 5:36 pm 
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A warm welcome WanderYears. :gflower:

If you are using the city bug, you should not have to worry about tolls. It will be included in the fare. I have not heard any bad reports about the city bug services and it would be great if you could give us feedback. It looks a good option for city to city travel. I have heard really good reports on the baz bus which is a similar system on the coast.

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 Post subject: Re: Planning our first trip to Kruger - confused!
Unread postPosted: Fri Jul 11, 2014 10:36 am 
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A warm welcome to the Forum WanderYears.

It seems as tho you have received some very good ideas and suggestions from the professionals already so all that is left for me to say is Enjoy your planning and your trip to this part of the world.
We will also be looking for a trip report around May 2015

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Shingwedzi 27/12/14 to 30/12/14
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 Post subject: Re: Planning our first trip to Kruger - confused!
Unread postPosted: Fri Jul 11, 2014 1:01 pm 
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I've a colleague who has made use of the CityBug service between Nelspruit and Pretoria/Johannesburg several times and she said the service and ride was fine and reliable.


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 Post subject: Re: Planning our first trip to Kruger - confused!
Unread postPosted: Fri Jul 11, 2014 2:22 pm 
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Thanks again everyone!! you all are awesome :) I am now planning rest of my stay in South Africa....really looking forward to being there!


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 Post subject: Re: Planning our first trip to Kruger - confused!
Unread postPosted: Sat Jul 19, 2014 2:57 pm 
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Hi The WanderYears,

You are making all the right decisions!
Just back from Kruger yesterday, so would like to add a few thoughts.
If you have just come from Kenya/Tanzania, you can NOT expect the same experience in Kruger. You will see far fewer animals here, not as concentrated as Ngorongoro or Maasai Mara etc.
Kruger is "tame" compared to East African parks, with tar roads, restaurants, a golf course etc.

But Kruger = family/self-drive country, NOT only tour operators etc.
You have more options to do your own thing and picnic everywhere.
March is not the best time of year for large numbers of animals, and malaria is then at its worst potential after the rainy season.
I just spent 5 nights at Pretoriuskop, and it is very special indeed -- my favourite camp in the park. The game viewing was not that hot, and the grass will be very long in March, so you will need to travel longer distances towards Skukuza to see more game...

The north -- Mopani & Letaba. is heavy mopani tree country, with even less animal sightings, but more elephants and buffalo. It is worth seeing, but don't go for the animals after East Africa -- you will be disappointed.

Everybody has a special favourite camp, so please let me give you my latest one -- Balule. We slept there for 3 nights, and it was VERY special (only 6 huts, no electricity, but cell reception) because of all the night sounds and fish eagles calling during the day. It is only an hour's drive to Letaba, and the same for Satara, so you have the best of Satara and Letaba and Mopani in one camp. Bookings are hard to come by, but very special indeed. Do NOT forget tented camps like Tamboti near Orpen gate that give a similar bush feel, with plenty of night life and animal sounds.

What are you hoping to see in Phalaborwa and Nelspruit -- honestly?
You are wasting 2 valuable African days in boring places... Rather stay over somewhere like Lekgalameetse Nature Reserve near Tzaneen, or Blyde River Canyon/Pilgrims Rest near Orpen gate.

Have a lovely holiday, and let us know the rest of your itinerary!

God bless,

Friedrich von Hörsten

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 Post subject: Re: Planning our first trip to Kruger - confused!
Unread postPosted: Mon Jul 21, 2014 2:47 pm 
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Thank you Friedrich! Glad to hear I made the right decision about Pretoriuskop. And good to know what to expect there! We decided to stay in Nelspruit more because we are reaching from Johannesburg and I read park gates close early so thought it would be a good idea to start for Kruger early next morning. And Phalaborwa, because it will be a break between Kruger experience and Cape Town so we will explore nearby areas a bit but relax there before we catch our flight from Johannesburg :) But I will check out the places you suggested to see if we can make a day trip from Phalaborwa.
Did you stay in the national parks in Kenya and Tanzania as well? Seems like we are late in booking accomodation in Tanzania park, most of it is already full! Any budget accomodations you can recommend there?

Thanks!!


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 Post subject: Re: Planning our first trip to Kruger - confused!
Unread postPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2014 5:51 pm 
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Hi theWanderYears,

Yes, I had the privilege of touring East Africa overland from Cape Town with my family, but that was a while back, and I seriously was on a very limited budget (16 000 km in 9 weeks on a teacher's salary lol!), so we could not stay in the national parks!

Did day trip into Ngorongoro Crater from Karatu, same for Serengeti to see the migration after Oludvai Gorge around Naabi gate; camped in Nakuru (stunning) and Lake Bogorio (stunning), and had 24 hours in Amboseli (really unbelievable), and could not afford more!

Saw so many amazing things, and at least 200 000 wildebeest in a day; had 3 different lion sightings in Ngorongoro, huge tuskers in the Lerai forest, black rhinos, huge herd of buffalo etc.

My son recently tried to organize a trip for us, and came across some local tour organizers that take you camping on say a 10 day circuit from Mweru/Arusha to Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Lake Manyara and whatever else you want to see. It worked out a lot cheaper than if you did it yourself -- seems like they get "local" rates as local safari operators, and that seemed a very good option. Still thinking of doing it in December (sons pay for the safari, we pay for the aeroplane tickets)...

Sorry I can't help any more than that. Hope you enjoy it so much!

God bless,

Friedrich von Hörsten

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