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Top planning hints for your Kruger visit

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Things we were glad we did / things we wish we had done

Unread postby bobandamy » Mon Jul 23, 2007 8:21 am

I'm not sure if this is the most appropriate place for this post, so I'm hoping the moderator will move it if necessary. My wife and I and our (nearly) 6 year old have just returned from a truly fantastic trip to Addo, Mt. Zebra, and Kruger. I'll be assembling a trip report soon, but I want to "give back" some advice in return for the many tips that we gleaned from this forum in preparation for our trip. A quick summary of the outcome: we saw more than 225 bird species and 51 mammal species (including Homo sapiens) during our 18 days in South Africa - our very first trip to the continent. The trip definitely exceeded even our VERY high expectations!

Things we are glad we did:

1. Read this forum thoroughly. I can't begin to thank all of you who provided advice, either directly or indirectly.

2. Curbed our inclination to cover too much distance. Our early itinerary in Kruger would have had us driving from Malelane to Shingwedzi during our 8 day visit. Based on advice from Forum regulars, we changed the schedule (as cancellations arose) so that all of our time was spent in the southern 1/3 of the park, with 2 days at Berg-en-dal, 2 days at Skukuza, and 2 at Biyamiti. We did plenty of driving as it was - I can't imagine going the distances we had once scheduled. Some day we'll be able to check out the rest of the park, I hope.

3. Booked a couple of sunset drives. We went on 2 drives, both very productive. One was with Lourens - a highlight of our trip. He is a gem - we even have a picture of him for the trip report.

4. Shopped at the Super Spar (Malelane) before entering Kruger. The shops within the park had even less selection than I had imagined, and of course the prices were much higher. Eating at the takeaways and restaurants in the the park was nice and not too expensive, but early morning food and snacks definitely were important.

5. Flew to Mpumalanga Airport from Johannesburg. The airport at Nelspruit was really nice, and we gained an extra full day in the park. Coming from overseas, each day in Kruger was precious.

6. Drove mostly on the gravel roads. Virtually all of our "quality" experiences were away from the crowds. Even the most corrugated roads weren't too bad (at least compared with Wisconsin/Minnesota back roads). We had a rental Hyundai Tuscon mid-sized SUV that worked flawlessly for us.

7. Started the day early. Except for our last day at Berg-en-dal, we were one of the first cars out of the gate. This paid off big time.

8. Exercised patience at prime locations. Toward the end of the trip just about the only "target" species that we hadn't seen (other than sable) was cheetah. We asked whoever we could for tips, and heard that some had been seen at the Mpondo Dam, so we went there. We read a book to our 6 ear old and waited. Wildebeest, waterbuck, zebra, a huge herd of buffalo, impala, and others came and went (like quite a few cars) during our 2+ hours there. Sure enough, eventually we saw a herd of impala running fast and furious, with a chetah close on their heels. The chase was unsuccessful, but exciting. I think the cheetah had been there hiding all along - we just hadn't seen it. (I guess this makes sense. Why would a cheetah in hunting mode be conspicuous?)

9. Stayed at Biyamiti. What a place! If I were a regular at Kruger I would hesitate to mention this, for fear that it would become even more difficult to make a booking.

10. Brought 2 cameras - one with a telephoto, the other with a "standard" lens. Both were ready for action. We also brought a Wolverine card backup system, which gave us peace of mind that our images were safely stored.

11. Packed lightly. We were able to do laundry during the trip, which kept us comfortable. We needed warm jackets and even gloves on the sunset drives. We could have left our shorts at home.

12. Tried some SA Pinotage wine. Hmmm. That was very nice. I am finding it hard to find here in Wisconsin, unfortunately.

I think I could go on, but this is long enough already.

Things we wish we had done.

1. Stopped at the fruit stands on the way into the park from Nelspruit/Mpumalanga. We ran out of fresh fruit fairly early, and didn't find much within the park.

2. Re-arranged our luggage for the flight from J'burg to Nelspruit/Mpumalanga. The plane was small and had no overhead compartments, so my standard carry-on (with all of my camera gear + binoculars) had to be stowed underneath the cabin. I was not comfortable parting with this stuff, although everything was delivered without a hitch.

3. Kept the fuel tank on our car closer to "full" than
"empty". I had a close call one of the last days because I thought Lower Sabie would have an ATM machine for petrol-funds. Unfortunately it is just a mini-ATM that does not accept foreign cards. We ended up going back to Skukuza for cash and filling with petrol there - the tank was nearly empty.

4. Planned "bladder-stops" more strategically. This seemed to be a recurrent problem for us.

5. Spend more early-morning time between Croc Bridge / Lower Sabie. We didn't do very well in this area, but I think it was partly due to time of day. One desired bird species that we missed was Kori Bustard, which seems to be reasonably common in these open areas.

It's late here, so I'll end with only 5 points. This is appropriate since I think we did more things right than wrong in retrospect.

I will send more details in the trip report.

All the best,
Last edited by bobandamy on Wed Jul 25, 2007 6:34 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Top planning hints for your Kruger visit

Unread postby Bush Baptist » Sat Nov 08, 2008 2:44 pm

I so often give the same advice to first timers to Kruger.
Maybe this thread will be a repository for the best advice.

1. The most important.
Unless you have at least two weeks in the park, don't try to see it all.
Book 3 or 4 camps.
If you have 6 or less nights, book 2 camps.

2. Try to avoid just 1 night in a camp.
Spend at least 2 nights in each camp.
This is linked to no 3.

3. Try to spend the very early morning and last thing in the evening out in the park.
These are the best viewing times and often give great sightings.
You don't want to spend this time packing and unpacking because you have only 1 night in a camp.

4. Decide on your level of accommodation.
There are 4 levels.
Firstly, the luxury, for those who are prepared to spend the most.
The sponsored houses etc are more swish than most people's homes, with most mod cons, like microwave etc.
Next, the comfortable, like cottages, with most things you need.
Thirdly, budget, like huts, safari tents etc, with no utensils and NO ABLUTIONS OR KITCHENS.
You have to use the communal ones, which I have always found clean and acceptable, but you pay a lot less.
Lastly camping, where you take everything you need and use the communal facilities.
There are also trails etc.

5. Time of year.
Avoid school holidays if you do not HAVE to go then.
The park will be full.
Each month has its attractive features, so research this.

6. Security.
All the camps are fenced, most with electric fencing, to keep the big and hairy out.
Very occasionally something potentially dangerous gets in, but not often.
You are likely to see some antelope that have sought refuge, inside some camps, and at night, nocturnal species can be seen in some camps.

7. Decide on priorities of what you would like to see.
There are no guarantees, but certain areas are hot spots for species.
Browsing the forum is one way of getting a broad picture.

8. Broaden your view.
It is NOT just about the big 5.
You might see a great rarity and not know it.
Get to know the birds, trees and other things.
There is nothing in Kruger so sad as the mugus who just drive around looking for lions.

9. Bring reference books and preferably familiarize yourself with what you are looking for/at beforehand.

10. Expect the unexpected
You might have a great sighting within half an hour of arriving - or 100 metres from the exit gate.
Enjoy what Kruger serves up, she will not disappoint.
Do not try to dictate to her, just be alert to possibilities.

Hope this helps you as you prepare for your first visit to a very special place.
Last edited by Bush Baptist on Sun Nov 06, 2011 6:18 pm, edited 6 times in total.
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Re: 10 Top planning hints for Kruger

Unread postby p@m » Sat Nov 08, 2008 6:56 pm

Well done BB :clap: :clap:

Add to that :

1 You do not need a 4X4 for Kruger -- a higher clearance vehicle is nice during seasons when the grass is long, but not a necessity.

2. You do not need a GPS -- the roads are well sign-posted and the maps obtainable from the gates and camp shops are more than adequate.

3. Most shops accept credit cards -- petrol is CASH only. (unless you're a Saffie with a garage card)

4. Read, digest and obey the rules printed on the back of your entrance permit -- just because someone else is doing it, it does not mean it's allowed.

5. You DO need binocs, camera, hat, sunblock and insect repellant.

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Re: 10 Top planning hints for Kruger

Unread postby Guinea Pig » Sun Nov 09, 2008 8:12 am

Get hold of a map of KNP way ahead of your planned trip.
You know which camps you're booked at and what time of year you'll be there, right?
I plan my routes weeks ahead of the trip using Trip reports and such on the forum.
Plan at the slowest speed possible it'll take so long to get from Point A to B.
Not 100% accurate but it works.
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Re: 10 Top planning hints for Kruger

Unread postby Richprins » Thu Nov 27, 2008 8:46 pm

If I may add one, especially for foreigners or relatively new tourists...

Should one be in Kruger between September and March, beware the heat!

Try to get an air conditioned bungalow and rental car!

It could make a Huge difference!

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Re: 10 Top planning hints for Kruger

Unread postby DuQues » Fri Nov 28, 2008 12:24 am

Don't try to cover huge distances! 25 km/h is about the speed you'll drive at, so use that for planning. Crocodile Bridge to Punda Maria is really out of the question, even Olifants is a long drive!

Don't forget that herds of elephants, or just 1 playful young bull can effectively block a road for a very long time, allow for that in your planning!

In the rainy season the gravel roads may be closed, allow for that in your planning.
Even allow for roads becoming impassable, which means you have to backtrack!

Want to do photography?
Get up early, and get into camp almost at the last moment, those are the Golden Hours!
But plan your drive that way as well!
Don't do the S100 early morning from Satara, you'll be driving into, not with, the light.
Rather head for Orpen from there.

Bring two, not one, cameras!
Dust, mechanical failure, software failure, dropping it, all can happen.
And with just 1 camera that means....

Remember you're on holidays, don't cram too much into your days...

In camps you can see / photograph a lot as well, often the little things you can't see from your car, like grasshoppers, or at night bushbabies.
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Re: 10 Top planning hints for Kruger

Unread postby Meandering Mouse » Fri Nov 28, 2008 5:25 am

Nice thread :thumbs_up: and good tips..

my little bit:

if you are going to do a night drive or early morning drive, dress warmly, very warmly, no matter what the weather.

keep hydrated at all times. Don't be tempted to think that beer will do the trick, trust me, it doesn't. :redface: I often freeze bottles of water or sports drinks and keep them in the car to defrost through the day.

I want to stress that cash is king in the Park. Always have some on hand. There can sometimes be power failures and credit cards are then useless.

never leave doors and windows open at look out points. Monkeys are often waiting for their chance to redistribute your wealth.
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Re: 10 Top planning hints for Kruger

Unread postby Xmantis » Fri Nov 28, 2008 9:46 am

We like driving with the windows open rather than having the aircon on.
So what we do is take a wet cloth and put it into a zip lock plastic packet, then freeze it overnight.
Put that into the cooler for when you're really feeling hot the next day.
It works wonders just behind the neck :)
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Re: Top planning hints for your Kruger visit

Unread postby Ladyhawke » Thu Dec 03, 2009 12:52 pm

To add on the useful things to take with to the park,
we take spray bottles, file them with water, keep them in the cooler box when not using them and spray ourselves when we are getting to hot,
Dec 2012 - Hluhlwe Umfolozi then Swaziland then KNP

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Re: Top planning hints for your Kruger visit

Unread postby Meandering Mouse » Sat Dec 12, 2009 6:59 am

I am not sure of your plans for eating.
When I travel alone, I tend to snack and eat one main meal.
I would count on spending about *R100 a day/per person.
I try to buy colddrinks and snacks outside the Park, as they are much cheaper and have a better selection. Fresh produce is also not always available in the Park.
I do like to buy fresh fruit in season from the vendors, but be careful of things like Mangos as they can ripen very quickly.

It can get very, very hot certain times of the year.
If I am not camping, I freeze my drinks overnight and let them thaw through the day.
I use a small cooler box (enough to hold 6 energy drinks) for my frozen drinks.
I do recommend isotonic drinks if you are not used to the heat.

Other extras I sometimes forget to factor in are ice and firewood. If you wish to braai, you would need to stock up about every second day.
Last edited by Elsa on Mon Oct 13, 2014 5:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: *Prices will vary from year to year.
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Re: Top planning hints for your Kruger visit

Unread postby ace717 » Tue May 10, 2011 7:55 am

Hi I'm from the USA and first time to Africa and want to spend 2 days at the park...either Lower Sabie or Crocodile Bridge....suggestions on which is better?
Also is it possible to get to Lower Sabie without a car, can you get a driver once in the park?
I'm leaning towards lower sabie but need to make sure I can actually get there!

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Re: Top planning hints for your Kruger visit

Unread postby DuQues » Tue May 10, 2011 9:39 am

Hi and welcome to the forums!

And I have bad news for you... You really, really, need a car!
Not a 4x4 or such, any small car will do, as long as it's not one with an open roof.

If you do not have a car you'll have to hire a taxi, which can be iffy in SA. That will drop you off in camp, and then.... You can do as good as nothing. All you can do is the sunsetdrive, and the next morning the morningdrive.

As for the camp, I actually think Skukuza would be better as I saw that you have not booked yet, but want to be there in 3 weeks.
Croc bridge and Lower Sabie ar popular camps, and may be fully booked. Skukuza is way larger and should have space. Check here what is available for you.
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Re: Top planning hints for your Kruger visit

Unread postby Cape of Storms » Mon Jul 18, 2011 12:38 pm

I have been to the park almost anually for almost 15 years and last year did my first Trail.
In April I did another and now I am addicted.
I am 34 year old female and moderately fit.
The normal trails provide all you need except for drinks (they do have water and coffee)
It is the best way to see Kruger and if like me you like the peace and quiet you will love it!

Plus the rangers and guides are amazing. Every hour you learn something new!!!

All I can say is GO for it!!!

:D :D :D

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Re: Top planning hints for your Kruger visit

Unread postby ecojunkie » Wed Apr 25, 2012 9:56 am

I have a cheap Bushbaby picnic back-pack which I bought at Checkers. It has 4 place settings and a cool-bag plus 2 bottle coolers. This goes with me in the car for drinks etc, and is my basic camping equipment too.

Also have a thermocooler for cold stuff when travelling, and it plugs into mains for use as a fridge at campsite. Did get a camping freezer too.......but that is because I am based here and use it a lot.
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Re: Top planning hints for your Kruger visit

Unread postby Riaanf31 » Sat Oct 11, 2014 8:14 pm

10 days in Kruger sounds like a good amount of time. As a general rule we tend to spend no less that two days at any one camp.

Another thing to consider is direction of travel. I'd advise to either go from South to North or visa versa.

North to South: Satara-Skukuza-Lower Sabie maybe
Souht to North: Skukuza-Lower Sabie-Satara

Lower Sabie is the hardest camp to get availability for so maybe work around what you can get for that camp and manage your booking that way. There is also nothing wrong with staying in the South and doing Pretoriuskop, Lower Sabie and Skukuza only. Yes there are more people that around Satara, but there are more road options and higher density of general game etc.

We're looking at visiting for a similar length of time for next year and our booking is for Skukuza, Lower Sabie and Lower Sabie.

PS: Even for two people try and get the 3 bed bungalows: BD3's or similar. The price difference to the BD2's is minimal when paying with € and the extra space will come in handy.
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