Self Drive Kruger Safari - Travel Opinion

by Sophie

Clockwise: Hamerkop, vervet monkey, impala, giraffe, chacma baboon with baby

Clockwise: Hamerkop, vervet monkey, impala, giraffe, chacma baboon with baby

A safari has always been my dream holiday - I adore animals in any form and there is no doubt in my mind that the flora and fauna of South Africa is as gloriously varied and beautiful as would be found anywhere in the world.

When for my first safari, we visited the Kruger National Park in South Africa, it exceeded my expectations by miles. It was a holiday we had booked ourselves, picking and choosing the separate components, spoilt for choice like a child in a sweetshop.

Sadly we had only booked about 4 days within the park which on reflection was not nearly enough but the experiences we had within those four days were truly astounding.

As I expect will be the case for many of those new to a safari holiday, our sights were firmly set on the big game: I wanted to see lions; I wanted to see elephants; I wanted to have seen the Big Five!

As it happens, we did see all of the Big Five during our holiday: a lioness with tiny 2-week old cub soon joined by the rest of the 12-strong pack; a leopard which stalked directly past our car, disturbed from its sunbathing across the road; many, many elephants, including a pathetically cute baby which could barely stand; adrenaline-inducing buffalo which regard your car with suspicion and superiority and finally a tiny family, 3 strong, of white rhino, placid and beautiful.

So what an incredible holiday it seems. But the message I was left with from my holiday was not the "thank-goodness-we-saw-all-those-animals-let's-check-them-off-the-list" impression.

The beauty of a self-drive is that you are not fettered by the wishes of others or the pressure from your guide to find the next big thing. Yes,they are beautiful and awe-inspiringly powerful but the things that made our safari what it was were those small and unobtrusive miracles: a bushbaby shrieking from the trees; a giant millipede curled quietly at the side of the road; the rapidly vanishing tail of the shy genet; the melancholy call of the distant fish-eagle and brightly coloured roller-birds which glint enticingly from the boughs of a dry tree. Nothing to boast to your friends about on your return but memorable experiences all the same.

Also to enjoy are the insect filled evenings in the Kruger Park camps: self-made barbecues with plastic cutlery and toasting pineapple; the simple and functional accommodation of the tiny rondavel huts; the sheer pleasure of an efficient booking system and quick check-ins that let the stress of what could be a complicated process simply disappear.

So wow ... a safari is so much more than the Big Five photos sandwiched between the glossy pages of a travel brochure. It was heady, intoxicating and desperately addictive. It was the most amazing holiday of my life a fantastic experience for those who have been before and those who are yet to go.

South Africa ... what a place!

Sophie's Safari Details:

Safari company used: Self Drive (make an enquiry)

Parks visited: Kruger National Park in South Africa

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  • Comments for Self Drive Kruger Safari - Travel Opinion

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    Feb 10, 2008
    Thank you for the insight.
    by: Ann Barr

    As we are travelling to South Africa in June and part of our trip will be spent at Kruger this was informative and exciting to read. We will look out for all the small creatures as well. We don't want to miss a thing.

    Jul 28, 2008
    South Africans also find it a treat
    by: Justine W

    we live in Cape Town. I had been to the Kruger Park and Etosha as a kid but didn't remember that much. My husband had never been to Kruger and my kids were very excited.

    To go on holiday from CT to Kruger is quite a trip so many people don't do it as it would involve a 2 -3 day drive or a flight & car hire which all adds up. We flew directly to Nelspruit from CT. Nelspruit Kruger Mpumalanga international airport is very geared for tourists, albeit small. a modern structure emulating the surrounding bush lodges.

    We drove 55mins from the airport to the town of Hazyview where our lovely timeshare, Sanbonani awaited us. We stayed in the self catering chalets so we could bbq (braai)at night - they were cleaned every day. It was only a ten minute drive to the Phabeni gate.

    What a treat, we saw leopard, elephants, rhino's buffalos, zebras you name it but not lions. One night as we left feeling sorry for ourselves, 3 little lion cubs were sitting right in front of us in the road. Then we heard a rustle in the bushes right behind the car & an impala came running out chased by 2 lionesses. It was so exciting.

    The rest stops were amazing too. Lower Sabie is a beautiful stop/restaurant with a massive wooden deck overlooking the river filled with hippos and crocs. Skukuza was lovely, we had lovely meals there and the smaller rest stops were also lovely like Afsaal ("de-saddle") or Tshokwane were very different, much more rough but so neat and organised.

    I was amazed at how clean the bathrooms were considering the numbers of people that go through them, in top condition. we went in 3 days and we felt like we ran out of time each time! we even went in at 6:30am, saw sunrise and sunset by 5:20pm (in winter (July) and although we had been there 11 hours that day we just couldn't get enough!

    We also did a night drive in the kruger and saw bush babies, genets, hyenias and snakes that the guide pointed out. i loved the fact that we did most of it unguided though, you feel like explorers with the map, sightings and the general excitement of the whole trip.

    We appreciated the big 5, what was in between, the enviroment and the smaller creatures. Wow, what a treat! we will definitely be doing this again. The kruger park is supposedly the size of Israel, no wonder we could only do the bottom bit in that time. you need lots more time if you want to see much more but 3 days in the car with kids was just right for us.

    Next time i would like to sleep over at one of the camps. You must get in early in the morning. I recommend Kruger Map & Guide by Andy Tinker. It was sold at the KMI Airport & in the bigger camps in the park and of course in the towns around there.

    What a holiday, really, there is nothing like it. That's coming from Capetonians who live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, surrounded by sea and mountains.

    Have fun if you are going.

    Nov 14, 2008
    Trip of a Lifetime
    by: Elaine & John Sellent

    Have just come back from a trip of a lifetime to South Africa. We did a two-week self drive through Kruger National Park, and we were not disappointed. Saw all of the big five on many occasions and even the elusive leopard in three different locations.

    Wilma and Bruce of helped us through all the bookings of our accommodation, game drives and morning walks in the park. Living in Florida it would have been difficult to arrange our trip, but with their help, it was outstanding. Wilma and Bruce live just outside of the Kruger and spend a lot of time there, so who better to help with our trip? Before we left home they sent us a suggested drive itinerary to see the best game, and they were right on the money.

    Self-drive is the best way to see the Kruger. Many times we watched a lion pride for an hour, while organized safari drives stayed for much less. Accommodation within the park is very well maintained, with maid service and clean towels every day.

    Will we go back, absolutely, and we will ask Wilma and Bruce to help us. So if you are looking for a Safari of a lifetime, the Kruger is the place to go.

    Nov 18, 2008
    Great holiday described earlier, forgot one thing worth mentioning
    by: Justine W

    There is just one thing I should mention if you visit the Kruger area.

    We as Capetonians aren't used to the amazing climate up there but because of that it also is malaria area, so rather be safe than sorry and take the precautionary course of tablets. A doctor needs to chat to you and prescribe what will suit you and /or your budget best.

    Also just to be safe, cover up at night and or use repellants. The doc told me not to use perfume as mosquitos like the smell of that! For foreigners, please know this does not apply to the whole SA, just to that area and surrounds specifically.

    It was well worth it - our whole family took the various tablets, hubby, kids and I.

    Jun 04, 2009
    Self-drive honeymoon
    by: Shaun Cerva, South Africa

    For our honeymoon in December 2003, my wife and I went on a 2-week holiday in Kruger. We rented a car and drove ourselves around but also went on a night drive with the park ranger in a land rover open top.

    I can't remember the name of the camp we stayed in but it was absolutely awesome. Own little self-catering apartment with air-conditioning and en-suite bathroom.

    We saw elephant, rhino, lions, hyena, fish eagle, hippos. Unfortunately no leopard. The highlight was a pride of lions walking across the road in front of our car and also being chased by a rouge male elephant.

    On a typical day we would wake up at about 6am with sweltering heat, open the sliding doors and watch giraffes and rhino forage outside the camp. We could lie in bed and watch the wildlife walk past.

    We'd then get dressed and do a 2-3 hour drive to the next camp where we'd have lunch in a restaurant and then make our way back via a different route. We'd then climb into the swimming pool where we'd spend a good few hours trying to cool down from the 50 degree C heat. And retire early to up early the following morning.

    My advice is to pack lots of sunscreen, lots of water and a hat.


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