Kruger National Park. Useful information for low-cost travellers.

We visited South Africa during a 3 months roadtrip through Southern Africa
(South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland).
October - December 2014.

Average Exchange rate: 1€ = 14 Rands 

Kruger is the most famous and biggest national park in South Africa, almost 500 km from north to south. Huge! One of the biggest and more complete parks of Africa.
It´s wonderful, vast and wild life is there, easy to see. You have the "Big 5" in the park, and YES, we saw all them here! Very lucky! Fantastic time in Kruger!




Just check the South Africa National Parks website and you will find all the complete information. www.sanparks.org
Maps, openning time, accommodation, bookings, etc.



   IS KRUGER NP FOR LOW-COST TRAVELLERS TOO?  

If you are a low-cost traveller, don´t worry. Yes, you can do a safari in Kruger!

Kruger is quite affordable compared with other parks in Africa like those in Kenya or Tanzania (Masai Mara fee is 80 $, Serengeti similar).  

Kruger´s day fee is less than 20 €! And you can visit the park on your own, self-driving is allowed, even with a sedan car. Yes, you can be the explorers and feel free discovering the animals. Easy! We did it, you don´t need to be an expert. You just need a car to enter the park.

And renting a car in South Africa is cheap (easy to find a small car for less than 20 €/day... just check www.rentalcars.com in Nelspruit, for example, the biggest and closest city... and you can always share it with more travellers). And petrol is less than 1€/l.

You can camp inside the park (2 people with a tent pay less than 20 €/night) and even enjoy a swim in the pool to cool down. Do some shopping in the supermarkets before entering the park and cook (there are even BBQ).




If you go for the day from Nelspruit, 2 people renting a car (renting one day only should be around 30 €)... it will be around 80-90 € in total. Less if you find 2 more buddies.
If you have time, stay in Kruger a bit longer...

So, yes, even if your budget is tight, you can visit Kruger!  Easy to do it on your own. And you will have fun. Recommended!

Or you can always join a safari tour. Big offer at the backpackers in Nelspruit and Hazelview and Kruger surrounds, but the day visit will be around 100 €/pp (including fee), so quite expensive and you just will spend a few hours in a limited part of Kruger. Maybe a plan if you are a solo traveller... Or consider talking with other travellers around... to share a ride... or rent a car...and try to stay a bit longer in Kruger for the same money...


  OUR VISIT IN KRUGER FOR CHRISTMAS  

We stayed in Kruger during 4 days (3 nights), during December (23, 24, 25th), just for Christmas, super high season, the camps were fully booked, big holidays in South Africa and winter in Europe.

Despite that, it was really good, we enjoyed a lot there. 

In fact, most of the people stay on the main tarred roads in the southern part of the park. Most of the gravel secondary roads were empty. And we enjoyed the animals alone most of the time. Except the lions traffic jams! People have radios and information flies quick (like in all the tourist Africa game parks!).



True, the camps were busy, but there are big, well maintened and organised. So it was fine. We could even swam in the pools. We didn´t have to wait for the shower or cooking. And it was really calm at night.
Did you have a booking for Kruger´s camp? NO. Are the camps fully booked since a couple of months in advance for holidays? YES. This is what the internet booking service shows you. In fact, the campsites still have free areas. We were really lucky... just went to the Skukuza reception just before closing time in the afternoon... and we got a camping site!

The popular picnic areas, specially Afsaal (between Skukuza and Malelane) was crowded, with tours, BBQ... but the lions were still around the area!

We heard some people talking "bad" about Kruger, saying it´s not wild, with tarred roads inside and too much concrete in the camps, private lodges, real estate... Nothing´s perfect, sure.
We don´t agree in general, after our visit there. It`s true than the infraestructure is good, with very good maintenance of roads and camps and services, the rangers do a good job. Kruger is huge, infinite lanscape, with rocks, hills, rivers and the animals are there, many, herds.

Just look at the size of other famous Africa parks (Masai-Mara is really much smaller) and the number of tourists around and the number of private lodges... air landing tracks... Are they wilder because nobody takes care of the roads?


In our opinion, Kruger is a good game park. Diverse, the landscape changes, vegetation, rivers, the roads are interesting. There are many animals, easy to see them. You have the "big five", even if it´s always luck to see all of them. We did: rhinos, elephants, buffalos, lions, and one leopard. Even wild dogs, wildebeests, hyenas, hippos, big birds, thousand of different antelopes... 

December is supposed to be the raining season til march. But this year is was coming late. We had hot and sunny days. The park was quite dry, only main rivers had water and many animals were around. We didn´t see so many animals around waterholes (even with water), animals prefer rivers and lagoons. It was easy to see the animals as the vegetation was not high.
Not many mosquitoes. Just normal precautions. They told us no malaria at Skukuza for many years...


   HOW TO VISIT KRUGER NP ON YOUR OWN  

As we told before, even if you are on a budget, it´s easy and affordable to visit Kruger on your own. It´s really great, you will be free, to explore and discover the animals yourself! 100% recommended!

We did more than 700 km inside Kruger in 3 complete days and one short morning! It worth it, so many animals! Long safari game drives, from sunrise til sunset, but we didn´t get tired, the wild life is a joy!
Don´t rush. Take your time, discover. Stay at least one night in the park: you can explore for sunrise and til sunset.


Kruger has a great tourist infraestructure, good roads, signs, camps, picnic areas. It´s really easy to move around. Main roads in Kruger are tarred. You can reach the gates following tarred roads coming from different towns and directions.



Plan your visit in Kruger. The park is  huge, more than 500 km from north to south. So, if you want to see something, you really need more than 1 day. For a complete visit, at least one week.

Have a look at a map in advance. You can check with google maps (gates and camps and park roads are there).
Choose the gates and zones and camps. The distances are big and inside the park you can´t drive very quick.

Camps get busy. Book in advance for a room or camp or take the big risk!

You can buy a map (nothing is free in Kruger), you should not to get lost (if you want to explore around, there are many small roads). At the gates, a brochure costs 40 R. At the camps shops, a simple map is 30 R and more complete brochures are 60 and 90 R.

Most of the tourists visit the southern part of Kruger (the widest area, very easy to access from Nelspruit and the airport), a few reach Satara and Orpen Gate and heading up north further you will be really alone. You need time to go further.

The more you drive, the further north you go... will I see more animals?
With wild life, it´s always luck when spotting animals. In the southern part of Kruger, there are many animals, don´t worry. Heading north, it´s more about exploring, seeing different landscapes, less crowded camps, driving hundred of km in the wild. It will depend of the time you have and if it´s you first visit or not to the place... But northern Kruger is not necessary the place where there are more animals.

Malaria in Kruger:
It´s not a free-malaria zone, but Kruger is huge too. South African people told us you have to take precautions, more around rainy season.
In december, not many mosquitoes around.
The staff in Skukuza told us that malaria free camp for many years.
You find repelent in the South Africa supermarkets and Kruger shops, quite cheap.



 For Kruger, you just need:

We recommend you rent a small sedan car (cheap, around 20 €/Day), carry a tent (you can always buy one in Nelspruit, at the supermarket, cheap) and some food, and do camping inside Kruger at least one night...

Don´t forget the animals spot boards! There are boards at the gates, camps, picnic area, where people mark their animals spots. It will help you, to have an idea of where the animals are.
Don´t worry. There are many animals in Kruger, specially in all the southern section. Lions love Skukuza-Lower Sabie-Afsaal areas. Leopards love the forest surrounding the Sabie river, between Skukuza and Lower Sabie. Many elephants, big herds. Rhinos... It´s luck! Enjoy!


Access to Kruger: 

Kruger Gates:   
There are different gates (quite distant between them):
- Malelane and Crocodile Bridge (south).
- Numbi, Phabeni and Paul Kruger (southwest).
- Orpen and Phalaborna (west). 
- Punda Maria and Pafuri (northwest).

From Nelspruit. The most popular way to reach Kruger.
A big town, close to Kruger NP (south area), Swaziland and Mozambique (Maputo is only 200 km away), well connected with Johannesburg (also public transport). You find everything you need in Nelspruit, backpackers to sleep, banks, supermarkets and many malls. 

Nelspruit it´s 55 km to Numbi gate and 70 km to Malelane gate. So, you have to leave the town early morning if heading to Kruger. It´s quicker to take the N4 (highway, toll gate, 54 Rands) til Malelane.





The Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport is 30 km north of Nelspruit (Numbi gate is 40 km north from the airport).

From Swaziland.
You can reach Nelspruit or go directly through secondary borders to Malelane and Komatipoort.

From the Panorama Route and Blyde River Canyon.
You can reach Hazyview (80 km from the lookouts) and Numbi and Phobeni Gates are not far from Hazyview (15 km).

From Polokwane.
The town is the capital of Limpopo province, 200 km west of Phalaborwa Gate.

From Mozambique and Zimbabwe:
Now Kruger is becoming an international park, sharing new protected areas between South Africa y these 2 countries. It´s the Limpopo Transfronter Park. Tourism is still not very developped in the neighbor countries areas. Right now, there are 2 international gates-borders with Mozambique, Giriyondo and Pafuri. If planning this route, inquire in advance to know about the situation.



General information about Kruger:

Prices: 
Kruger entrance fee is 264 R for foreigners(around 20 €), valid for 24 hours. Half price for SADC and a quarter for locals. No extra fee for the car.
Included with the Wild Card. 
Note: in 2014, the Wild Card for 2 people was 2.610 R. So if you plan to stay in Kruger for a few days and plan to visit other areas and parks in South Africa, it can be interesting to purchase the Wild Card. We bought it.

Opening/closing hours:
Gates open from 5:30 till 18:30 (summertime). The camps open 4:30 (summertime). Yes, there are also gates in the camps (and they control).
Complete schedules at the San website.
Around sunrise and sunset



Driving in Kruger: 

Speed limit: maximum is 50 km/h on tarred roads and 40 km/h on gravel roads.
Notice: Don´t go faster, there´s even police inside the park, and they specially control near the gates and main camps, mostly before closing time when people are in a hurry!

Services:
  • Main roads are tarred and in very good conditions, they connect all the main camps. Loops are gravel roads but fine for a sedan car. Not many cars on the loops, great, and so many more animals there! Closer to nature!
  • Shops, in the main camps (open from 8:00 til 30 min after gate closes). Prices are correct, you find almost everything needed. Alcohol is only sold to residents.
  • Picnic areas, with BBQ and WC. Well maintained. Even restaurants there.
  • You can book activities at the camps or online.For example, a game drive (3 hours) costs 250 R (around 20 €). There are many jeeps.



   WHERE TO SLEEP INSIDE THE KRUGER NP   

Kruger is huge and there are many camps spread out on several km.

Kruger is always busy. Most of the time, the accommodation in Kruger is fully booked, specially during holidays. Have a look at the SAN website to check about the situation (you can check camp by camp), very useful.

There are different kinds of accommodation: camping, tented camps, bungalows... depending of your budget and number of people. Easy to access or far away. Quality is good! Well equiped.
There are also private concessions inside the park, most of them luxury and expensive.


Accommodation can be booked 11 months in advance. 
Many travel agents have cuotas... and then the camps are not always really 100% full but the booking service will not let you book!
If no booking, you can always ask, when entering the park, at the gate if any cancellation. Good luck!

Rooms are always very busy, so plan well in advance, specially if visiting on holidays. The southern camps are always busy.
Tented Camp costs around 500 R/ 2 people/day (35 €), bungalow around 1.000 R/2 people/day (70 €) and 2.000 R/4 people/day  (140 €).

Camping: the cheapest option, so it´s great having your tent. Around 250 R/2 people/day (20 €).
For holidays, the campsites are also fully booked. Check or take the risk as we did.




Prices: most of the year, it´s high season and prices are a bit higher. There´s also a short low season (end of january til end of march, rainy season) and shoulder season (part of october and november).

Warning:
Don´t risk sleeping outside the camps. There are rangers and they control. You can get a fine!

Kruger camps are: 
  • Near the gates: Berg-en-Dal, Crocodile Bridge, Pretoriuskop, Orpen and Punda Maria. 
  • In the middle of the southern part: Skukuza (the biggest and main camp) and Lower Sabie.
  • Up north: Satara, Letaba, Mopani, Shingwedzi, etc.
In our opinion, it´s better to stay a bit far away from the gates, more in the wild. Even if the animals like the fences sometimes. 

All camps have swimming pools, except Crocodile bridge and Olifants. Reserved for "camp residents" of the camp… but you can always try… specially if it´s very hot (we did it in Satara... we were "park residents", weren´t we?).





FULL BOOKED IN KRUGER: try camping in Skukuza. We were lucky!

We don´t like to book in advance as we usually travel without a fixed schedule.
We knew we would visit around Christmas, crazy time in Kruger.
Weeks in advance, we had checked the SAN website and saw that for december 2014 (extra high season), all the accommodation inside the Kruger was fully booked. 
Sure, for a room is hard. But maybe camping easier?
 
We carried our tent and camping stuff and took the risk and a chance.
Once at Malelane Kruger gate in the morning, we asked. No cancellations and fully booked. The park staff  recommended us to ask in the camps directly at the end of the day. Better at Skukuza, the main and biggest camp.
This is what we did. And guess what... Yes, they allowed us to stay at Skukuza not only for 1 night but for 3!!!!  
In fact, the camp was not 100% full (even if the website and the official version said that), there were many empty sites. So, take your chance! You always can try ... we did it and worked.


   WHERE TO SLEEP OUTSIDE THE KRUGER NP   

It can be a good option if everything´s fully booked in Kruger and not possible to stay inside (that´s what we recommend, camping for 2 people is around 20 €)... or at arrival or departure of Kruger´s area.

The problem, if your budget is tight,  is that there are many private reserves in the surrounds, most of them really expensivespecially in the area between Paul Kruger Gate and Orpen Gate (SW). So you will have to look somewhere else, trying to overnight not too far away from one of the Kruger´s gates, not too loose too much time of driving.

If you are low-cost traveller, you can try to camp or find a dorm, in these backpackers and lodges:

  • Marloth Park (south, between Malelane Gate and Komatipoort-Crocodile Bridge Gate), with new lodges.
  • Hazyview (south-west, 15 km to Numbi and Phabeni Gates): it´s where you find more budget options, as it´s also close to Panorama road. Gecko Backpackers 165 R/pp dorm and 80 R/pp camp, Big Five, Hazyview Adventure Backpackers 120 R/pp dorm, 60 R/pp camp.
  • Klaserie: near the dam, there a few campsites, but Orpen Gate (west Kruger) is at least 50 km away.
  • Phalaborwa: just outside the Phalaborwa Gate, Phalaborwa Safari Park (a Forever campsite, not that cheap), camping is 200-300 R/2 people. 
  •  
And then, you have Nelspruit, the biggest and closest city to Kruger, it´s 55 km to Numbi gate (west Kruger) and 70 km to Malelane Gate (south Kruger, toll road). There are a few backpackers there: Funky Monkeys Backpackers 150 R/pp dorm, Nelspruit Backpackers 150 R/pp dorm and 90R/pp camp, Old Vic Travellers 145 R/pp dorm and some owners have also Crazy Kangaroos a bit cheaper.

Couchsurfing in Nelspruit:
There´s a small community in this city and also in some towns in the surrounds like White River (near the airport).
We were very lucky as Irene let us her nice appartment while she was on holiday. Incredible! Thank you Irene, you gave us a wonderful Christmas! 

2 comentarios :

Safari Embassy dijo...

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Unknown dijo...

I wanted to thank you for this great read.

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