Hi everyone -
We had an outstanding trip to South Africa and I'd like to share a few highlights with you.
To start, we flew from Chicago, IL, USA to Amsterdam, then to JNB. We got in about 9:00 pm so we spent the first night at the hotel right at the airport in Jo-burg. (at the City Lodge right on the airport grounds). The next morning we got our small SUV from Hertz, and set off. We also visited the Vodacom store to get my iphone 4S set up as a hot spot. In the car, the steering wheel and driving were both on the opposite side for us, which took a bit to get used to. We had our Garmin GPS with a SA maps, so we put in Malelane, and it took us exactly there.
We visited during school break (not intentionally) but didn't find that to be a problem at all.
At Malelane, we stopped at the Super Spar for supplies, and then went to our first camp, Berg en Dal. We saw elephants and rhinos (and impala) once we entered the park and what a absolute thrill that was! We saw an elephant super close by the path by the fence in Berg en Dal that evening too. Our first morning walk was the next morning and we really enjoyed it, despite the early start.
After Berg en Dal, we were off to a night at Skukuza. Our bungalow was right by the river so that gave us outstanding opportunities to watch (and hear) the hippos. We had dinner on the patio overlooking the river, which was so beautiful. After we left Skukuza, we saw two cheetahs along side the road. This was the only time that we felt the road was busy - it was packed with cars watching them, and coming in and out. We got a few photos and hit the road!
The next stop was Satara where we had another morning walk and a sunset game drive the afternoon before. The morning walk guide tracked and found two female lions feasting on a fresh kill about 50-75 feet away during the drive in the vehicle. We started our walk by climbing a hill that gave us great views of the surrounding area and we could see elephants and giraffes amongst the trees. Our guide Irving was really outstanding for explaining what we were seeing - tracks, etc.
After the walk, we set off for our normal daily activity of driving around and looking for animals. We especially enjoyed the watering holes and watching the animals come in. We spent alot of time on the gravel roads, and were surprised at the variation in the vegetation in the areas of the park.
Our last stop was Olifants for two nights. We were in a bungalow overlooking the river, and really thought that was special. We did a morning game drive and then the next morning, a morning walk. We were the only two people on the morning walk, and we went with Julius and Patrick by the Olifants. We got close up and personal with some hippos in the water there. Very neat!
Here is a link to my husband's blog about the trip. This shows a few of our many photos and gives more commentary.http://themadisonpackard.blogspot.com/2012/10/a-super-south-african-self-safari.html
After KNP we spent two nights in the Blyde River Canyon area before heading back to JNB.
I hope more Americans try the self drive option, rather than spending so much money at the private reserves. It was so much fun and so exciting to find the animals ourselves, and we enjoyed driving around in air conditioned comfort, stopping when we wanted for as long as we wanted. With the map of the park, it really seems impossible to get lost.
Many thanks to all of the forum members for their input and advice. It was really helpful in planning our trip. Hopefully we will return to KNP again!