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Help with Itinerary

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CandideCoating
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Help with Itinerary

Unread post by CandideCoating » Tue Oct 25, 2016 4:49 pm

Hi folks,

I'm planning my first international travel (my husband's first plane trip). We're going on safari in Kruger. Once I saw that you could stay in the park, and how affordable the lodgings were, I was sold. But there's just too many choices to make blindly.

Here's stuff I think I've decided. I'm pretty sure we want to go in mid-September next year. I'm pretty sure we want to arrive on a Thursday morning and leave on Monday night. Initially I thought we wouldn't want a car and we'd just hire a taxi to take us from Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport to whatever camp we picked. Now I'm starting to think a compact car is as cheap as $12/day, seems like we should rent a car. Actually - new question. If we're going to rent a car, should we just fly to Johannesburg or Durban and drive from there instead of getting that AirLink plane that takes us into KMI airport?

If we're going to rent a car, we should probably do a couple of camps for our 4 nights.

I really want to swim in that rock swimming pool at Skukuza, maybe stay in the Talamati bushveld one night. So I'm thinking first 2 nights in a bungalow at Skukuza, (do an afternoon walk, a night drive, drive around and do get out spots solo Friday, do a sunset drive, do a sunrise drive Saturday) and then head out for a cottage in Talamati which should be a five hour drive. (If we spring for the SUV I guess we could take the gravel road and stop at the picnic spot). Arrive at Talamati in time to do a sunset or night drive. Use hides at Talamati during Sunday. Explore surrounding area.

I'm torn between spending our last night at Talamati or a bungalow Orpen - I just don't know what's better. I do know that hubbie and I would love (and probably pay more for) an accommodation with a double bed, but I don't see any of those.

We've got lots of time to make decisions, so please, share your expertise with us. Thank you!

Our biggest question mark is food. What kind of food is available in the camp shops? In the restaurants? I am not a food explorer. If I were to tell you I'll only eat "American" food (OMG I just threw up a little in my mouth at the pretentiousness of that statement) - would you be able to tell me there are options for me?

How bad are the roads? As you see above I mentioned possibly going with the budget compact car - will it be fine on the red roads on the map marked "main roads"? What about the yellow "gravel roads"?

At Skukuza and Talamati we're so close to the gate - should we go out and explore South Africa (and buy "American" groceries we can cook inside?!) - I mean we're here to see the game, not the culture of what I'm sure are a lovely people. Would there be "American" restaurants near the Paul Kruger or Orpen gates?

Ultimately, beyond going (and not really trying any new foods) none of this is set in stone. If you tell me I'll have a much better trip in the north, I'll start planning all over again. Thank you very much for your help and knowledge.

Hippotragus
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Re: Help with Itinerary

Unread post by Hippotragus » Tue Oct 25, 2016 5:31 pm

Hi CandiceCoating and welcome.

I don't quite know where to start!!

First of all - why don't you fly from ORT (Johannesburg Airport) direct to Skukuza?? That will save a lot of time and the possible stress of driving in a strange country, on the "wrong" side of the road. You can hire a car at the airport. You really will need a car to get around the Park - there are no transfers from camp to camp, and it gives you a degree of independence. The roads are good. The dirt (sand) roads can become a bit corrugated, but many people travel in small cars and manage fine.

I would then spend the first and maybe the second night at Skukuza camp. It is the largest camp and is the main "hub" of the Park. There are several roads to explore in that area and a lovely drive down beside the Sabie River. Then Talamati or Satara camps would be a good option - slightly further north but also in potentially good game-viewing areas. Talamati is a small camp with no shop, no restaurant and no fuel station.

The restaurant at Skukuza, The Cattle Baron, has an extensive menu. I don't know what you mean by "American" food - but it sells steaks and hamburgers!! The shop at Skukuza is well-stocked with basic foods and drinks. There is a restaurant and shop at Satara camp, too. There are no restaurants near the Orpen or Paul Kruger Gates (except the Protea Hotel at Paul Kruger Gate - but the food there will not really be any different to that at the Skukuza restaurant, and you will not be allowed out of the Park gate at night to go for an evening meal!)

With such a short stay, I would spend all the time in the Park and save exploring other areas for another trip.

This is an attempt at answering your many questions. I hope others will also comment - but you might become rather confused with different ideas! Just keep firing the questions and we will try to help.
Malelane 12th October 2016
Skukuza 16th October 2016
Lower Sabie 17th October 2016
Skukuza 2nd-5th March 2017
Satara 5th-8th March 2017
Tamboti 8th-11th March 2017

CandideCoating
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Re: Help with Itinerary

Unread post by CandideCoating » Tue Oct 25, 2016 5:40 pm

Steaks and hamburgers - that's the "American" I was looking for! Thanks for that! This is good info to get started.

I had planned to fly right into Skukuza, but then more options leads to questions of what I should do. Looking at distances and roads, I think we will stick with flying right in. Good to know the compact car will likely be sufficient.

Good to know Satara is a better option (for me) than Orpens. I'll keep looking. Thanks for your prompt reply. Happy to hear from others as well.

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Re: Help with Itinerary

Unread post by Hippotragus » Tue Oct 25, 2016 6:14 pm

Another camp to look at, if you really want to experience the bush feel, is Tamboti. It is near Orpen (you check in at Orpen) and is a bit further north than Talamati. It is a tented camp - permanent tents, some with shower and wc and basic cooking, some with communal ablutions and communal kitchens. The tents are situated just inside the camp fence alongside the Timbavati River (often dry). If you are lucky, an assortment of animals might wander along the river bed while you are there. I once had a wonderful experience with 2 male lions roaring, face to face, in the river bed right outside my tent!!! Again, no shop and no restaurant (small shop at Orpen, though).

It is one of my favourite camps!
Malelane 12th October 2016
Skukuza 16th October 2016
Lower Sabie 17th October 2016
Skukuza 2nd-5th March 2017
Satara 5th-8th March 2017
Tamboti 8th-11th March 2017

cheetahlady
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Re: Help with Itinerary

Unread post by cheetahlady » Tue Oct 25, 2016 7:15 pm

Hello CandideCoating

I agree with Hippotragus regarding car hire, and flying into KIA or Skukuza.

Car hire: you will need a vehicle. I have traveled to kruger in a regular sedan and my parents usually hire a small compact car. The tar roads are easy, gravel roads are accessible (excl 4x4 trails). Sometimes a bit bumpy, but that can feel worse in a 4x4. I would definitely fly into KIA or Skukuza as driving on the left hand side of the road can be challenging if you are not used to it, in addition, you will waste the best part of a day driving to and from Johannesburg. As it looks like a short visit, I would fly.

Food: Most of the main camps have restaurants. Cattlebarron (Skukuza) is a steakhouse, Wimpy (Pretoriouskop) is similar to Denny's, Mugg & Bean (Lower Sabie, Satara, Olifants, Letaba) has an extensive menu (great breakfast and coffees) http://www.muggandbean.co.za Satara also has a pizza take out. The park shops are reasonably well stocked. You can buy food to self cater. Barbecue meat is available (steak, chicken, pork, lamb, venison). Fruit, vegetables,bread,milk etc are available. Skukuza, in particular, has a big, well stocked shop with a wider range than most of the other shops.

Picnic sites: Tshokwane, Afsaal and Nkhulu sell food. All other picnic sites are self catering only. Boiling water is usually available. Most hire out gas (propane) skottles (like a big, round camping griddle) and you can cook your own food.

Camps: Given the relatively short stay, I would stick with Lower Sabie, Skukuza or Satara as these camps have a variety of good came viewing routes to choose from. Talamati is nice, as is Tamboti - both have no shops, restaurants, gas stations.

Timing Avoid the later part of September. There is a long weekend just before the school holidays start so the park will be very busy from the 22nd September and accommodation may be difficult to come by.

Another option some people use is a private tour guide. I have never used this so have no more info on how it work or recommendations on companies to use.

Enjoy your planning, but book accommodation ASAP as bookings have already opened for September 2017.
Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better
Albert Einstein

KNP June 2017 Mopani, Shingwedzi, Letaba, Satara, Pretoriuskop, Berg-en-Dal

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Re: Help with Itinerary

Unread post by Meandering Mouse » Wed Oct 26, 2016 5:32 am

A very warm welcome CandideCoating. :gflower: That is an interesting name.

Cheetahlady and Hippotragus have given excellent advice.

If a private guide is out of your budget, it is well worthwhile to do a sunset drive. This will give an added adventure to your itinerary.

You sound very excited. I am sure that you will have a fabulous experience.
The bird doesn't sing because it has answers, it sings because it has a song.

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Re: Help with Itinerary

Unread post by Elsa » Wed Oct 26, 2016 9:20 am

Warm welcome to the forum CandideCoating! :clap:

Apart from the advice you have already been given I would advise, especially as you are still in the early stages of your planning, to have a look at the various Topics in the KNP Index where you will find a wealth of info and advice.
Camps & Roads Index
KNPActivities and Sightings
But please do ask if there is anything futher you would like to know. :thumbs_up:
Kruger - 16th Feb to 6th March 2017

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Re: Help with Itinerary

Unread post by Captainron » Wed Oct 26, 2016 10:00 am

First off, I am so glad that you are choosing South Africa for your husbands first trip abroad. You guys will have an absolute ball!

So by the looks of things you have 4 nights in Kruger. Thursday night through Sunday night. Skukuza for 2 nights and Talamati for 2 nights should be fine although Talamati doesn't have much of a shop or any restaurants. If you guys are looking to eat out then Satara might be a better option further north? It has a restaurant and a better stacked shop. On the food front, luckily for you South Africans like their red meat! You should be alright for 'american' food wherever you go in the park.

You should hire a car and self drive. Driving on the left hand side of the road isn't that tough. You will get used to it pretty quickly especially if you pick it up at Skukuza airport. The speed limit and traffic density is far lower than if you got it at OR Tambo. The roads in Kruger are actually very good. Animals also tend to use them as highways because they offer the path of least resistance. The tar roads also shed their water so the grass tends to be lush on the verges which encourages grazers to be close to the road. I would try and hire a car which had good ground clearance like an SUV. This should give you a better view from the vehicle. Drive slowly with your windows down and take it all in!

If you have any chance of lengthening your trip to Kruger I would take it!!

Ask away of you have any more questions
10000k's away and longing to be there

Skukuza - 15 Jan 17
Satara - 16/17 Jan 17
Berg en Dal - 18/19 Jan 17

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Re: Help with Itinerary

Unread post by Meandering Mouse » Wed Oct 26, 2016 4:10 pm

Just a little weather warning. I have experienced extremes in weather in September. One year I was so warmly wrapped up that I felt like it was the middle of winter . The temperatures in the early morning went to below freezing. I have also experienced sweltering hot weather where the temperatures went into the high thirties. I would possibly take this into consideration when choosing a camp. Talamati and Tamboti do not have air con, only fans. It was actually at Tambotie where I experienced minus six degrees, due to the close proximity to the river bed.

Also, I am not sure how you feel about self catering. The bush camps and smaller camps do not have restaurants. CaptainRon has given some good advice in that regard.
The bird doesn't sing because it has answers, it sings because it has a song.

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Re: Help with Itinerary

Unread post by CandideCoating » Wed Oct 26, 2016 4:52 pm

Thank you everyone for the warm welcomes and the helpful tips.

I have something crazy to say. I could stay longer, but I'm afraid we'll get bored. I know, that's absurd, it's a once in a lifetime experience, but beyond looking at the animals, there isn't much to fill the days. I'm concerned that after 3 days of not much besides eating, driving, and looking at animals, we'll both be ready to get back to the real world. Isn't that sad?

We've never really been on such a vacation before and I definitely want to leave with a feeling of "I wish I could stay" rather than be there and be feeling "Is it time to return yet."

Again, I know how ridiculous this sounds, as, to me, this is probably one of the coolest places on Earth.

Weather- thank you for bringing it up. I picked September because I read that winter was better for viewing animals and I HATE cold, so I thought being on the cusp of the changing seasons we'd get a little of both. But with no heat, and the likelihood of bringing a warm blanket being zero, I'd MUCH prefer to be what others call "uncomfortably" hot than wake up to freezing temps. Should I wait a few more months and go in December?

CandideCoating
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Re: Help with Itinerary

Unread post by CandideCoating » Wed Oct 26, 2016 5:04 pm

Now I'm getting granular (pun intended) - I love pasta. I could live on pasta, is uncooked pasta a thing I could buy at the camp stores to cook myself?

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Re: Help with Itinerary

Unread post by Meandering Mouse » Wed Oct 26, 2016 5:06 pm

[url][/url]If you don't mind heat, I would rather look at November. There are a lot of babies around and the grass is still short.

November is actually one of my favorite months.

It is very possible to get pasta in stores.
The bird doesn't sing because it has answers, it sings because it has a song.

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Re: Help with Itinerary

Unread post by Hippotragus » Wed Oct 26, 2016 5:11 pm

Candice - I can guarantee you will not get bored! There is so much to see and appreciate beyond "just animals" - birds, trees, landscapes, geology, insects, grasses etc. etc. Get hold of as many books as you can, so you can identify these things. Animal behaviour is also fascinating - I can just sit and watch animals interacting with each other.

Last week I drove on my own from 5.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m., with a couple of very short "loo breaks" - 240 kilometers. I saw a lot, but there were stretches with not much in the way of animals, but I just absorbed the scenery and atmosphere. I am lucky and try to get to Kruger 5-6 times a year and I am always sad to leave and just itching to get back.

Regarding temperatures - they can always vary, any time of year. In an October I have had 20 deg C one day and over 43 deg C the next and back to 20 deg C the next! The trick is to pack so you can dress in layers - pile on the clothes when it is chilly and wear shorts and T-shirts when it warms up.
Malelane 12th October 2016
Skukuza 16th October 2016
Lower Sabie 17th October 2016
Skukuza 2nd-5th March 2017
Satara 5th-8th March 2017
Tamboti 8th-11th March 2017

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Re: Help with Itinerary

Unread post by Meandering Mouse » Wed Oct 26, 2016 5:22 pm

Hippotragus is right about boredom. The thing is, each day is different and unexpected.

I love to go on walks, that is another interesting option. You do not need to be super fit.

There are also a number of places of historical interest. Skukuza, in particular offers a wide variety of things to do.
The bird doesn't sing because it has answers, it sings because it has a song.

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Re: Help with Itinerary

Unread post by MATTHYS » Wed Oct 26, 2016 5:39 pm

I have something crazy to say. I could stay longer, but I'm afraid we'll get bored. I know, that's absurd, it's a once in a lifetime experience, but beyond looking at the animals, there isn't much to fill the days. I'm concerned that after 3 days of not much besides eating, driving, and looking at animals, we'll both be ready to get back to the real world. Isn't that sad?

What would be sad, is if you can't repeat this experience, Candide.
Be prepared to start saving for the next trip and for falling in love with Kruger :D
A warm welcome to the forums from me too :gflower:
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