Extending over a similar area to Wales, Kruger National Park is a 20,000km2 (7,722 square mile) national park that supports more than 160 mammal and 500 bird species, including substantial populations of all the Big Five.
The park is an important stronghold for several of Africa’s most iconic large mammals. It supports more than half the world’s remaining white rhinos, along with substantial populations of buffaloes, elephants, black rhinos, leopards, cheetahs, African wild dogs, giraffes, and one of the few viable lion populations in southern Africa.
Birding in Kruger National Park is also excellent, particularly in the summer. Other wildlife you can see at Kruger National Park includes baboons, warthogs, hyenas, many small predators, and around a dozen antelope species.
Drive yourself around the public sector or treat yourself to a stay in a private concession.
Where to go in Kruger National Park
Balule Nature Reserve on the western border of the Kruger National park encompasses 400km2 (154 square miles) of unspoiled bushveld. This private nature reserve shares unfenced borders with the Kruger and neighboring private reserves allowing animals to roam freely.
One of the largest rivers in the Kruger National Park, the Olifants River, flows through the Balule reserve, and its waters and riverine forests attract high densities of mammals, reptiles, and birdlife. This means that all the wildlife you see on a Kruger safari, including the famous Big Five, can also be experienced in the Balule Nature Reserve.
Balule boasts a wide range of small intimate lodges and camps that cater to those looking for an affordable private getaway, a family-friendly option, or the ultimate in privacy, comfort, and luxury. All-inclusive stays, as well as self-catering options, are available throughout the Balule reserve.
Highlights of Balule
Daily game drives and walking safaris with experienced rangers are the best way to spot the Big Five and learn first-hand about the local ecosystem. In Balule, the rangers can track animals off-road (something not allowed in the Kruger) to provide the best sightings.
There is hardly a more tranquil aerial experience than floating over the African savannah in a hot-air balloon – just one of the activities on offer in the Balule area. If you have the nerves, you can take an adrenaline-filled flight in a microlight aircraft or go white-water rafting. You can book a boat cruise down the Olifants River for a more relaxed afternoon.
Several lodges offer day trips to the nearby Blyde River Canyon, the third-largest canyon on the planet. It’s a break from the bush life in the Kruger and certainly a bucket list destination.
Practical Information for Balule
By car, the Balule Nature Reserve is approximately six hours from Johannesburg. Daily international and domestic flights call in at OR Tambo International Airport. You can catch a connecting flight to a local airport (Phalaborwa, Hoedspruit, Nelspruit, or Skukuza) near Kruger. Transfers to and from your lodge (about 45 minutes) can be arranged.
Temperatures are high during the day, even in winter, so bring sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses. Light, long-sleeved clothing offers protection against the sun and mosquito bites. Pack warm clothing, too, as evenings can get chilly.
Wear neutral-colored clothing like brown, khaki, and beige, as bright colors make it easier for animals to spot you. In turn, dark colors like navy and black can attract insects.
Balule is in an area at risk of malaria. Get advice from your doctor before you travel.
The 130km2 (50 square mile) Kapama Private Game Reserve lies just west of the Kruger National Park and a mere 10 minutes from the town of Hoedspruit. It is not only home to the Big Five, but the sprawling savannah grasslands and riverine forests straddling the Klaserie River in the east of the reserve see more than 40 species of mammals and over 300 bird species.
Kapama has four luxury lodges, each with its flair. The bespoke villas overlooking the Klaserie River at Karula are suited to the discerning traveler looking for the ultimate in privacy and comfort.
The River Lodge, with its contemporary design, is a more social space perfectly suited to young couples and groups of friends.
At the intimate Buffalo Camp, luxury safari tents set amongst the treetops are linked together by elevated walkways. The Southern Camp caters to couples and families alike in luxury suites and villas. Karula and the River Lodge also offer accommodation suitable for families.
Highlights of Kapama Game Reserve
Ditch the big vehicles and strap on some walking shoes for a guided walking safari. Skilled rangers will show you wildlife and share traditional knowledge about tracking, medicinal plants, and birdlife.
Kapama offers a 2-day photography workshop led by a leading African wildlife photographer so you can hone your skills before heading out on game drives aimed explicitly at photography.
The Romantic Sleepout lets couples experience a night under the stars on a private platform in the African bush. You even get a private chef that will prepare a five-course dinner!
Practical Information for Kapama Game Reserve
The nearest international airport is OR Tambo International in Johannesburg, about 6 hours travel time from the reserve by car. OR Tambo is serviced by domestic flights from all over South Africa, so you can also fly to Hoedspruit, the nearest local airport to Kapama. From here, it’s a short transfer by car to the reserve.
Kapama offers the discerning traveler the option of flying directly to the reserve from OR Tambo and Cape Town International airports in a privately owned aircraft.
Bring warm clothing (it gets cold at night), a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen to protect against the heat during the day. Wear muted colors like khaki, brown, or green to avoid being easily spotted by animals. Bright colors can attract insects.
Kapama, like all of the Kruger, lies within a malaria region.
The Klaserie Private Nature Reserve covers a whopping 600km2 (232 square miles) of wilderness on either side of the Klaserie Rivier just west of the Kruger National Park. You’ll come face to face with the Big Five – lions, leopards, elephants, buffalo, and rhinos – as well as some of Africa’s less spotted species, like wild dogs and cheetahs, on your Klaserie safari adventure.
Klaserie’s range of safari camps and lodges cater to families, groups of friends, honeymooners, and discerning travelers looking for exclusive luxury. Families should consider Makumu lodge, where they can book an entire lodge without age restrictions for the youngsters. At the same time, the Klaserie Drift, Senala, and Klaserie Camps offer fully catered or self-catering perfect for couples.
For top-tier luxury, look no further than the intimate riverside suites at Klaserie Sands River Camp or the classy exclusive suites at Baobab Ridge.
Highlights of Klaserie
Some lodges host bespoke bush dinners and traditional barbecues at particularly stunning outdoor spots in the reserve. You can even arrange to camp at certain water holes for a truly immersive night in the African bush.
A walking safari with an experienced ranger is one of the most exhilarating experiences in the African bush. You’ll see animals from a unique perspective and be fully immersed in the sights and sounds of the environment.
Twice-daily game drives in open 4×4 vehicles within the private reserves give you the highest probability of seeing animals. With experienced guides who can drive off-road (unlike in public areas of the Kruger), you’ll tick off Big Five sightings in no time. Some lodges also offer night drives.
Practical Information for Klaserie
The Klaserie Private Nature Reserve is roughly a six-hour drive east of Johannesburg. Daily international and domestic flights call in at OR Tambo International Airport, where you can catch a connecting flight to a local airport near Kruger. The closest local airport is in Hoedspruit; from there, it’s a 45-minute transfer to the reserve.
You don’t need special safari clothes, but neutral colors like beige, brown, green, and khaki are recommended. It makes it harder for animals to spot you and be scared off, and brighter colors attract insects.
Prepare for scorching days and bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Depending on the season, nights and early mornings can be freezing, so pack some warm clothing too.
Ask a medical practitioner about malaria medication before you leave, as this part of South Africa carries a risk. A course of prophylaxis is recommended.
The Kruger National Park is world-renowned for its spectacular wildlife. It’s the largest nature reserve in South Africa and, indeed, one of the largest on the continent.
At 360km (224mi) long and 65km (40mi) wide, the surface area surpasses that of the nearby country of Swaziland! Despite its size, the density of wild animals found here is one of the highest on the planet, making for superb viewing opportunities no matter where you are in the park.
The southern and central regions of the Kruger are most frequented by visitors, and for a good reason: the game viewing is most reliable on a safari here. It’s your best bet for lion and leopard sightings, especially common along the Sabie River between Lower Sabie and Skukuza.
In central Kruger, the open grasslands are stocked with plenty of elephants, while grass-feeders like wildebeest and buffalo attract predators like lions, cheetahs, and leopards.
Finally, in the far north, your reward is not only solitude from the crowds of the south but also an area of outstanding natural beauty as the landscape transforms from subtropical to tropical.
Large concentrations of baobab trees are particularly beautiful. Unfortunately, big game sightings are less frequent in this part of the Kruger, although birding safaris, especially in the summertime, are pretty spectacular.
Kruger caters to all, whether you are a solo traveler, a couple on a romantic getaway, or a family looking for the quintessential safari adventure. Several accommodation options are scattered across the park, ranging from campsites to family cottages, safari tents, and exclusive guesthouses.
The main camps are well stocked with modern amenities, and most have shops, restaurants, pools, and fuel stations.
If you’re after total exclusivity or the ideal honeymoon getaway, head for one of the private concession areas within Kruger. Each concession is home to several world-class luxury lodges that provide five-star accommodation and cuisine, personal game rangers, and tailor-made experiences.
Highlights of Kruger National Park Concessions
The Kruger is one of the few places where you can see the world’s largest land mammals mere meters from your vehicle. The park’s vast network of good roads provides excellent self-drive safari routes.
The park has a superb avian population (over 500 species!), and keen birders can cross off dozens of sightings during a visit. Keep an eye out for the Big 6: the martial eagle, the ground hornbill, the saddle-billed stork, the kori bustard, the lappet-faced vulture, and the unique Pel’s fishing owl.
Many guided walking trails, bookable at all main camps, offer a truly immersive bush experience. Hikers are accompanied by experienced armed game rangers who track elephants, rhinos, and lions on foot. Hikes vary from a few hours to overnight excursions with catered dinners and luxury bush tents.
Practical Information for Kruger National Park Concessions
The Kruger National Park is approximately a five-hour drive from the nearest international airport, OR Tambo, in Johannesburg. Various car rental companies have counters at the airport.
Alternatively, you can fly to a local airport such as Phalaborwa, Hoedspruit, Nelspruit, or Skukuza and rent a vehicle there. Private lodges offer shuttle services to and from all airports.
Book well in advance for popular public camps like Skukuza and Letaba during peak holiday seasons in December and July. Avoid the holiday seasons altogether if you prefer fewer fellow visitors.
Take precautions for sweltering days and cold nights. Bring a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses for daytime temperatures (over 30°C/86°F), and warm clothing for chilly evenings.
The Kruger is a malaria zone, and it’s advised that visitors take prophylactics. Consult your healthcare professional on a course of medication before you travel.
Makalali Private Game Reserve is located on 260km (162mi) of bushveld near the town of Hoedspruit on the western edge of the Kruger National Park.
While the styling of the main lodges at Makalali features more contemporary design elements than your typical safari lodge, the wildlife experiences are as quintessentially African as elsewhere in the greater Kruger area.
Makalali’s main lodge caters to the mid-range traveler looking for a safari experience with a touch of luxury, while the river lodge is a private 5-star affair. The river lodge also caters to families, as do the more luxurious accommodations at Garonga.
The Little Garonga Camp is an intimate and exclusive affair with only three suites, each with its own platform decks overlooking the bushveld. At the Safari Camp, the setup caters to couples with six private luxury safari tents overlooking a dry riverbed frequented by animals.
Highlights of Makalali
Nature walks and game drives in open 4×4 vehicles, led by expert guides, are the ideal way to experience the wildlife of the African bush on a safari.
Take to the skies in a hot-air balloon and experience the stunning African savannah from a unique perspective. The more adventurous can also enjoy flights over the reserve in a microlight aircraft.
Golfing excursions can be arranged to the superb Hans Merensky golf course next to the Kruger National Park. Wildlife like giraffes and hippos can often be seen on the course.
The reserve is involved in a cheetah research project, and a visit to the facility allows you to see the world’s fastest land animal up close. African wild dogs, lions, and wild cats can also be seen here.
Practical Information for Makalali
The nearest international airport is OR Tambo International in Johannesburg. Several daily domestic flights service smaller airports, and it’s possible to fly to Hoedspruit. From here, it’s a short journey to the reserve. Alternatively, some lodges offer direct air transfers.
Bring warm clothing as it gets cold at night and a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen to protect against the heat in the day. Dull colors like khaki, brown, or green make you harder to spot by animals and don’t attract insects as much as bright colors.
Consult a healthcare practitioner about preventative medication, as the Kruger is a Malaria zone.
There are just three lodges in the 23,000-hectare Manyeleti private game reserve on the western edge of Kruger National Park – which means game viewing without the crowds.
With no fences to separate Manyeleti Game Reserve from Kruger National Park and the private reserves Timbavati to the north and Sabi Sand in the south, the game can wander freely.
As you traverse Manyeleti’s 200km (124mi) of gravel roads in search of the Big Five, you’re unlikely to see many other cars – day visitors are not allowed, and each of the three lodges on the concession has just a few beds.
Sabi Sands is often lauded as the most prestigious private reserve in South Africa, perhaps due to the reserve’s longstanding conservation efforts.
The original reserve was proclaimed in 1898, and by 1949 the landowners had merged their properties (mostly ex-agricultural land) into what is now the Sabi Sands Game Reserve.
The massive 650km2 (251 square mile) private reserve shares unfenced borders on the western boundaries of the Kruger National Park, allowing animals to roam freely between the reserves.
Thanks to the re-purposing of boreholes previously used for the farms into waterholes for wildlife, Sabi Sands can offer a year-round water source not affected by seasonal changes. This means you’re never far away from spotting the Big Five and the hundreds of other species that make up the greater Kruger population at any time of the year.
Sabi Sands is all about luxury and exclusivity, so you won’t find day visitors, camping, or public picnic sites here. The reserve’s wide range of lodges and camps are styled for every taste – some are very affordable, while others offer the crème de la crème in luxury living. Whether you’re looking for an immersive bush camp, a secluded honeymoon suite, or your own exquisite private villa, Sabi Sands has it all.
Highlights of Sabi Sands
Sabi Sands is famous for its leopard sightings and although spotting these elusive cats is never guaranteed, with expert safari guides at your disposal, your chances of a great sighting are arguably higher here than anywhere else.
The reserve has excellent photographic opportunities and guides that understand light, angles, and composition to help you get that postcard shot. Photographic safaris are on offer at several lodges.
Daily game drives in open 4×4’s and walking safaris by expert guides are included in your stay.
Practical Information for Sabi Sands
By road, Sabi Sands is approximately 450km (280mi) from Johannesburg, where OR Tambo International Airport is served by daily international and domestic flights to major cities in the rest of the country. From OR Tambo, you can schedule a charter flight directly to Sabi Sands or a nearby local airport (Hoedspruit, Kruger/Mpumalanga, or Skukuza).
Wear natural colors like khaki, brown, or green to avoid being easily spotted by animals and scaring them off. Remember to bring warm clothing as it gets cold at night and a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen to protect against the heat in the day.
Sabi Sands, like the rest of the Kruger, lies within a malaria region. Consult your doctor before you travel, as it is advised to take a course of prophylaxis.
The 140km2 (54 square mile) Thornybush Game Reserve is located near the town of Hoedspruit on the western border of the Kruger. The famous Big Five – lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo – roam freely in the reserve while great numbers of plains game like giraffes, kudu, zebra, and waterbuck can also be seen.
Highlights of Thornybush
Daily game drives in open 4×4 vehicles with experienced trackers greatly enhance your game viewing experience. Unlike in the public areas of the Kruger, guides are allowed to track animals off-road or at night.
Photographic opportunities are excellent at Thornybush. Your safari experience, including game drives and walks, can be tailored specifically to meet your photographic needs.
Guided nature walks allow you to experience the African bush firsthand, and the rangers are keen to share local knowledge.
With over 300 species in the reserve, birding safaris are excellent. Tailored game drives with an experienced guide will have you tick rare and unique species off your list of bird sightings in no time.
Extensive conservation studies have been done at Thornybush on the ultra-rare Pangolin. This elusive anteater is the most trafficked animal globally and is critically endangered. While never a guarantee, your chances are good to spot one on a night drive at Thornybush.
Practical Information for Thornybush
Thornybush is about 5 hour’s drive from Johannesburg. Several daily domestic and international flights depart from OR Tambo International airport. From OR Tambo, you can fly to a local airport (Hoedspruit, Nelspruit, Skukuza, or Phalaborwa) close to the reserve. From here, a short transfer will get you to Thornybush.
Bring warm clothing as it gets cold at night and a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen to protect against the heat in the day. Light long-sleeved clothing serves as good protection from the sun too.
Thornybush is situated within a malaria region. Speak to your doctor before you travel for advice on anti-malaria medication.
Timbavati Game Reserve is home to one of nature’s most magnificent creatures, the white lion. Ancient folklore tells of a time when the local Shangaan tribe saw a bright light streaking across the sky and crashing on the African savannah.
Shortly after that, the lions of Timbavati began giving birth to snow-white cubs. These unique lions have been regarded as sacred ever since.
Timbavati Game Reserve encompasses a vast 580km2 (224 square miles) of savannah on the western border of the Kruger National Park. The borders are unfenced and allow wildlife, including the Big Five, to migrate freely between the reserves.
An abundance of plains game like kudu, giraffe, wildebeest, buffalo, and waterbuck can be seen, while the endangered African wild dog is also often spotted in Timbavati.
The collection of luxury lodges at Timbavati caters to the traveler looking for a touch of class. Your African safari need not be without spa treatments, private pools, and five-star cuisine!
Walkers River Camp, Jaydee, and Eagle Owl are three exclusive self-catering camps offering families or groups of friends a truly secluded safari experience while still providing all the amenities you’re used to at home.
Highlights of Timbavati
Timbavati is home to the endangered white lion, and sighting one of these unique creatures is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Photographic safaris can be tailored to your needs. Professional photographers with specialized game-drive vehicles will give advice and tips and can arrange additional gear if needed.
Daily personalized game drives and bush walks greatly increase your chance of animal sightings. The traditional knowledge shared by the skilled rangers is invaluable too.
Timbavati is aiding rhino conservation by micro-chipping their rhino population. Guests at the Kings Camp can participate in the tracking and darting process.
Practical Information for Timbavati
The Timbavati reserve is roughly a six-hour drive from Johannesburg. Daily international and domestic flights call in at OR Tambo International Airport, where you can catch a connecting flight to a local airport (Hoedspruit, Nelspruit, Phalaborwa, or Skukuza) near the reserve.
Some of the lodges in Timbavati have private runways, and you may opt to travel (approx. 1 hr 30 min) by scheduled flight directly from Johannesburg to your accommodation.
It gets scorching in the day so bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. You’ll also need to pack warm clothing, as evenings and early mornings can be chilly.
Malaria is a risk in this part of Africa, so it’s advised to speak to your doctor about a course of prophylaxis before you travel.
Experience our Tailor-made Tours in Kruger National Park
When is the best month to travel to Kruger National Park?
Kruger National Park in January
The Kruger is at its hottest during January. You’ll want to be in the shade during mid-day as temperatures regularly soar over 30°C/86°F. It’s also the rainy season which brings mild humidity and afternoon thunderstorms. Evenings are generally warm and pleasant.
The holiday season in South Africa lasts until the second week of the month, so to avoid the crowds, it’s best to head for the north of the park, one of the private concessions within Kruger, or the several private reserves along its borders.
Besides, the oasis of a luxury lodge is the best place to be in the summer heat. Game drives in these areas deliver better results than self-driving in the Kruger, as the expert game rangers can track animals off the beaten track.
The rainwater turns the African savanna beautifully lush and green, but it also means animals are harder to spot.
More available water keeps them from congregating at larger water holes too. Birding safaris, however, are excellent since large numbers of migratory species can be seen.
Daytime temperatures remain in the high 20°C/68°F and can sometimes rise into the mid 30°C/86°F. February sees the last of the summer rainfall, and the occasional late afternoon thundershower can occur. The evening temperatures are usually mild.
Birding safaris are excellent during the summer months, and the far northern regions (Punda Maria and Pafuri) of the park are especially exceptional since they see many migratory species.
Since the vegetation in the park is very dense this time of year, game viewing is better done in the private reserves where expert game rangers can track the animals off-road, something taboo within the Kruger.
Summer weather makes game viewing harder for several reasons: animals have plenty of water and are not drawn to larger water holes, they prefer to stay put in the shade during the day, and thicker vegetation makes them harder to spot.
On the flip side, the greenery is excellent for landscape photography, birding is good, and many summer-born animals can be seen.
March is the last of the summer months in the Kruger. While daytime temperatures are dropping, you can still expect hot days, pleasant evenings, and the occasional afternoon thundershower.
March is generally a quieter time in the Kruger than the months leading up to it, so the southern and central regions see much fewer visitors. Head for the roads that run along the riverbanks between the camps of Skukuza and Lower Sabie (Sabie River), Olifants and Letaba (Letaba and Olifants Rivers), and Olifants and Satara (Timbavati).
You’ll see fewer visitors in the Kruger, and the thick green and leafy vegetation make for beautiful landscapes, but it also makes game viewing harder. Furthermore, the abundance of water throughout the park means fewer animals congregate around larger water holes.
April brings autumn to the Kruger, and the vegetation in the park gradually fades from lush bushveld to a dry brown and yellow palette.
Rainfall decreases, but the occasional afternoon thundershower still occurs. Daytime temperatures remain hot while nights are getting cooler but not cold.
For the best probability of seeing animals, the private concession areas and game lodges on the western border of the Kruger are a good bet. Here the expert guides can track animals better in the thick vegetation.
April is also the last month in which a birding safari is still good in the northern regions of the park – as soon as winter begins to arrive, the migratory species depart for warmer climates.
April often has good weather with clear skies, so it’s a pleasant month in terms of weather, but the park (excluding private concessions and reserves) gets very busy during the Easter weekend at the end of the month. Finding accommodation in the public camps of the park can be difficult.
May heralds the turning point where the Kruger’s climate starts to transition into winter. Towards the end of the month, the rain begins to dry up, and the landscape becomes dry and dusty. Daytime temperatures remain warm and pleasant, while evenings start getting cooler.
Cooler temperatures make venturing to the far north of the park more pleasant, and the thinning vegetation helps in spotting the less dense populations of animals here.
May is generally your last chance to see the landscape flourishing before winter sets in, turning the vegetation dull and brown. However, the central and southern regions see fewer visitors this time of the year and, due to higher populations of animals, still offer the best game viewing opportunities.
Flights tend to be cheaper this time of the year before going up for the June/July holiday season. The park also sees fewer visitors in May.
On the flip side, if you enjoy sweeping green landscapes, this is not the time of the year to visit, as the impending winter season turns the vegetation brown, leafless and dull.
June is both the coldest and driest month in the Kruger. Daytime temperatures are mild, and humidity is low, but evenings and early mornings can get quite cold.
The southern and central regions of the Kruger are best for game drives during winter since there are more rivers and other water sources, meaning these regions carry a higher population density of animals.
There are also more accommodation options here (besides camping), and you might be interested in staying indoors in the cold evening weather.
From June onwards, the Kruger’s animals, specifically the elusive big cats, become easier to spot in the sparse vegetation and tend to move around a bit more in the cooler temperatures.
Evenings and early morning game drives are quite cold, and the bushveld is not as pretty as in the summer months.
July is second only to June as the coldest month in the year and equally dry. ‘Cold’ in the Kruger, however, only really applies to nights and early mornings since the daytime temperatures are usually quite comfortable and even fairly hot on some days.
The northern parts of the reserve receive fewer visitors, which makes it a good option if you want to avoid crowds. However, there is a greater density of animals in the south, especially when it comes to predators, which makes it your best bet for good sightings. Explore the areas adjacent to the Sabie River: Satara, Skukuza, and Lower Sabie.
The winter landscape is dull and dry, but that’s a good thing for game viewing as the vegetation is sparse and the grass low, making animals easier to spot.
The cooler weather and low humidity make for delightful days in the park. Still, South African school holidays and European summer holidays make July the Kruger’s second busiest time of the year.
Things are slowly starting to warm up during August, but rain is still absent, and the climate remains dry. Humidity is low, daytime temperatures sit in the mid 20°C/68°F, and evening temperatures are mild.
August is the middle of the dry season, and water sources for the animals are scarce. For the best game viewing opportunities, it’s best to stay in the central and southern regions of the park, where there are more water sources and a higher density of animals.
August is a good month for game viewing on safari since the rainless winter season thins out the vegetation, making it easier to spot animals. Camping can be uncomfortable in the colder night temperatures.
Spring arrives a little later in the Kruger, so the flora does not experience a colourful transformation this month. Vegetation is still sparse and colorless after the rainless winter. Temperatures during the day are hot and humid, with little to no rain expected.
At the end of the dry season in September, the vegetation in the Kruger is at its sparsest. For this reason, it’s the best time of the year to visit the Kruger, and any of the large permanent water holes make for good animal sightings. Stick to the southern and central regions for the highest density of animals.
The risk of malaria is low, and you’re likely to find large concentrations of animals at watering holes at this time of the year, but the days are often uncomfortably hot, dry, and dusty.
The last month of the year is extremely hot as well as the wettest in the Kruger. Expect plenty of rain with hot and humid conditions as daytime temperatures climb well above 30°C. Evenings can be equally hot and humid.
December is high season, so the whole of Kruger gets pretty busy. Head for the northern parts of the reserve where fewer visitors venture if it is solitude you are after. However the north has lesser densities of animals, so for the best game-viewing opportunities, you might consider the private concessions in the park and the private luxury reserves on the Kruger’s western perimeter. These areas provide exclusivity and much less crowded game viewing.
Many baby animals are born this time of year to coincide with the abundance of water and food sources. This makes for special sightings even though the lush vegetation makes game viewing harder than in winter. The downside is that this is peak season and the park is packed with visitors. Additionally the hot and humid weather might not suit everyone.
There are plenty of different accomodation options in Kruger National Park, ranging from luxury safari lodges to simple safari camps. Examples of this include; Imbali Safari Lodge, Hoyo Hoyo Safari Lodge, Nsala Safari Camp and much more.
Travel along the N1 through Polokwane (Pietersburg). Link up with the R524 at Makhado (Louis Trichard) and follow this route for 140km. This will bring you to the gate.
Allow 5 to 6 hours for the journey to the gate. Pafuri Border Camp is about 70 kilometres from the gate.
Allow plenty of time for the drive to the camp, especially if you want to take advantage of the game viewing opportunities!
Safari/bucket showers are common in mobile or tented camps where there is no permanent plumbing. They are an effective yet environmentally friendly way to shower where water is at a premium and provide plenty of hot water to wash comfortably.
Generally, there is an en-suite private shower stall within your tent with a “rainfall” style shower head at which you can control the water flow. Outside the tent, there is a large waterproof bag or bucket which is filled with about 10 to 15 litres (5 US gallons) of hot water before being raised with a pully/rope system to either connect to the shower pipe or fill a cistern.
The water is delivered at the ideal temperature so it is best to use it as soon as it arrives. Staff typically fill the showers at a pre-arranged time of day, or you simply need to give them a few minutes notice so they can get it ready.
Safari lodges have guest rooms similar to a hotel with en-suite bathrooms. They are comfortably furnished with facilities normally associated with a hotel rooms, except your rooms are normally set in beautiful wilderness settings, with nature and wildlife around.
Tented lodges have rooms which are tents on a platform and with a roof and also have en-suite facilities with showers, flush toilets and hot water. Basically all the amenities of a hotel room, except canvas walls and roof.
The boutique lodges and camps can be very stylish and smart in terms of design and decor, often with very spacious rooms and even going so far in some cases as having plunge pools for each room.
Eco-camps and smaller tented camps have insect-proof tents with en-suite facilities including a safari shower and flush toilet. They give a more authentic safari experience but the tents are comfortably furnished with proper beds and you don’t need to bring your own sleeping bag! The emphasis is usually on having excellent guides and great wildlife viewing away from the crowds. Guests often eat together and people travelling alone usually say that they found the atmosphere friendly and enjoyed meeting other like-minded travellers around the campfire in the evening or at dinner.
The Adventure Camps are a budget option with guests bringing their own sleeping bags and towels. Accommodation is in small dome tented with a mattress on the floor. Each tent has its own nearby cubicle with a flush toilet, safari shower, and wash basin. The Adventure Camps are suitable only for those who don’t mind “real camping” and can put with some degree of “roughing it”. Apart from the accommodation in simple dome tents, the meals and the guiding are the same standards as the higher quality camps and game drives are in 4x4 safari vehicles. For those on a limited budget, the Adventure Camps are a good alternative to the big tourist lodges and minibus tours for those for whom the safari experience is more important than hotel accommodation.
Most lodges and hotels will have safes for your valuables either in your room or at the reception.
The local currency is the South African Rand (ZAR). There are numerous currency exchange outlets and the main credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, Amex and Diners) are normally accepted everywhere.
Most petrol stations and toll roads take credit cards, but always have a small amount of cash on you for tips etc. Numerous ATMs can be found in all the big towns.
Electricity in Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and in most of the continent is 220/240 volts.
Most safari lodges and camps are not connected to an electrical supply. Solar lighting (backed up by batteries) is common, with many lodges having a generator, which runs part of the day (morning and late evening when guests are out on their activities).
Lanterns also provide light at night. In many camps running on solar power, you will not be able to use a hairdryer.
Some areas won’t suit the family and it's also wise to be aware of malaria in others, however, South Africa has a few malaria-free safari locations and there are other safari lodges and bush camps throughout Africa that cater to young children and toddlers, just do the research beforehand.
Southern Africa is a hot wildlife destination. There is a world of luxury bush camps, lodges and Eco-friendly tourist establishments in the heart of wildlife heaven.
The Kruger National Park offers a surprising array of mid-range safari options for the traveler who wants to avoid roughing it but is not partial to having the utmost in luxury.
Part of making your visit to the park more affordable lies in how you put your trip together: shave off a spa treatment here and a five-course dinner there, and soon you’re left with most of the luxury but much less of the cost one on your affordable Kruger Safari trip.
Instead of taking a charter flight or shuttle service directly to your lodge, hire a car at the airport and make a road trip out of the journey to the Kruger National Park.
The world’s third largest canyon, the Blyde River Canyon, is en route to the Kruger and certainly worth a visit, not to mention other nearby sites like Sabie’s Waterfall Route and the quaint village of Pilgrim’s Rest.
A great way to enjoy the Kruger National Park is to split your stay between one of the public camps of the park and a lodge within one of the private concession areas. This means you’ll have time to enjoy self-drive safaris in the park, which is a great hands-on game-viewing experience.
Once within the exclusive concession area, a seasoned guide will use their expertise to show you the very best of the African bushveld. As a bonus, these guides are allowed to conduct game drives outside of their concessions into the park’s public areas to give you an optimal chance of spotting elusive species such as the enigmatic leopard.
Several of the private luxury reserves along the unfenced western border of the park, known as the Greater Kruger, contain affordable lodges, guest houses, and tented camps aimed at a mid-range budget. Self-catering is an option in some of the camps and guest houses, many of which you’ll have exclusive use of if you book the whole camp or house.
Stay at these, and you’ll save on some of the over-the-top frills while enjoying treats like guided game drives and walking safaris. Here guides are allowed to track animals off-road and at night – something you are not allowed to do on your own in the public areas of the Kruger.
Practical Information for Affordable Safaris in the Kruger National Park
Travel in the off-season when both flight and accommodation prices are lower. The winter season (May to September) is less busy in the Kruger yet still excellent for game viewing. Keep an eye out for package deals, as many of the lodges offer free nights and discounted offers.
Rent an SUV or a 4×4 vehicle, as the added height is helpful for game viewing, especially in the summertime when the grass in the Kruger stands tall. The extra interior space is also welcome on long drives and for luggage storage.
Several rental companies offer fully kitted vehicles that are camp-ready with rooftop tents, awnings, kitchen setups, chairs, and tables. Larger vehicles also cater to groups or families.
Staying just outside one of the park’s main gates – in Hazyview, Phalaborwa, or Nelspruit, for instance – and making day trips into the Kruger is often comparatively more affordable.
The Kruger National Park is certainly the most well-suited safari destination for budget-conscious travelers. More than a century of conservation efforts have ensured that the magic of the African bush and its incredible wildlife is accessible to all who visit the Kruger.
Getting to the park is easy – from the nearest international airport, OR Tambo International in Johannesburg, a comfortable drive along the N4 highway will get you there in under five hours. All major car rental companies have counters at the airport offering a comprehensive range of rental options.
One of Kruger’s best features for those on a budget is that you can conduct game drives in your own vehicle. The well-maintained road network (mostly tarred or good gravel) within the park means you don’t need to hire an expensive 4×4 – a regular hatchback or sedan will do the job on your budget Kruger safari tour.
The southern regions around Lower Sabie, Skukuza, Berg-en-Dal, and the central regions near Letaba and Satara offer more bang for your buck in terms of facilities and game viewing opportunities.
These regions are also more easily accessible than the far north, meaning that you spend less time traveling to and from your destination and more time experiencing wildlife or leisure time at camp.
Camping is the most affordable accommodation option. The Kruger main camps have ample facilities such as restaurants, swimming pools, and grocery shops that make for a most comfortable stay without breaking the bank.
Traveling in the Kruger on a budget doesn’t necessarily mean you have to camp, as many camps also offer reasonably priced safari tents, chalets, and guesthouses. These are excellent options for groups of friends and families.
While there is no denying that a luxury safari lodge is an experience bar none, there is plenty of benefit in a more hands-on approach. You curate your experience by setting your own schedule, planning daily excursions, and seeing the Kruger the way the locals do.
Travel Tips for Affordable Safaris in the Kruger National Park
Book accommodation well in advance if you plan on traveling during Easter, the school holidays in late June/early July, or the month of December. The park is at its busiest during these periods.
Many car rental companies offer camping-ready vehicles that are fully kitted with all equipment needed for setting up a campsite. This is a much more convenient option than sourcing camping gear separately.
The park offers guided bush walks from all the main camps, which are an exceptional way of experiencing the wildlife of the Kruger. Game drives in open 4×4 vehicles are also on offer and are an excellent way to supplement your own game viewing.
Several overland and hop-on-hop-off bus tour operators offer all-inclusive travel packages to the Kruger National Park. These tours typically include transport to and from major cities, accommodation (camping) in the park, and game drives.
The Kruger National Park consistently ranks among Africa’s best luxury safari destinations. The private concessions and game reserves here spare no expense when it comes to absolute opulent living in the heart of the African bush.
While the vast expanse of the Kruger National Park public areas is meant to cater to all, you’ll want to head to one of the private concession areas if all-out indulgence is what you’re after.
Here all your needs are taken care of from the moment you set foot in these exclusive sections of the park to the moment you leave. The concessions are set in prime Big Five country and are unfenced, meaning you can experience exceptional game viewing minus the crowds.
The private game reserves on the western perimeter of the Kruger, many of whom share unfenced borders with the park, are arguably a step up from the concession areas. The lodges, luxury tents, and villas are set in the most spectacular environments possible, and the views from your suite or villa are often worth the trip alone.
Most lodges offer personal guides, housekeeping staff, and chefs and customize your stay according to specific needs. Expect private swimming pools, wine cellars, libraries, rooftop viewing areas, five-star spa treatments, therapeutic massages, and wellness centers.
Both the concession lodges and private reserve lodges offer activities not found elsewhere in the park, such as nighttime game drives, off-road tracking of animals, and activities specifically developed for children. Several lodges offer tailor-made experiences that might focus on photography, romantic getaways, birding, and even fine dining.
Speaking of dining, the luxury lodges’ cuisine is world-class with a distinctive African flair. What’s more, meals are often set in spectacular bush settings.
Ever had breakfast while overlooking a waterhole teeming with wildlife? How about high tea under an ancient African acacia tree? You simply must try a lavish five-course dinner prepared by your personal chef with the Milky Way shimmering over an atmospheric lantern-lit banquet.
Practical Information for Affordable Safaris in the Kruger National Park
Most lodges offer direct air transfers to and from the nearest international airport, OR Tambo, in Johannesburg. However, some lodges offer direct or connecting flights from other popular destinations such as Cape Town, Victoria Falls, Vilanculos, and Mauritius.
Several lodges offer private and secluded villas for exclusive use. This option caters to the discreet individual, couple, or family by providing personal housekeepers, chefs, and game rangers for your stay.
A host of personalized activities and excursions in the Greater Kruger and nearby regions can be arranged from your lodge. These include, but are not limited to, helicopter, hot-air balloon, and microlight flights over the stunning Blyde River Canyon, golfing at the world-class Hans Merensky or Leopard Creek Golf Estates, and customized photographic, horseback and birding safaris.
Holiday Styles and Options in Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park Safari
Picture this: A red sun kisses the horizon as the last rays of daylight bathe the camelthorn trees around you in a warm glow. At the waterhole in front of you, a mother elephant helps her newborn take a mud bath while an elegant giraffe kneels nearby for a drink.
You sip a sundowner and watch as a troop of baboons grooms each other, a pod of hippo snort in the water, and a herd of impala antelope nibble away at an early dinner on a grassy embankment. As the day’s heat fades, a palpable serenity descends on the world, and another glorious African day ends.
This is not just some idyllic scene from a nature documentary; this is daily life in the Kruger National Park.
It’s easy to see why the Kruger National Park is consistently rated as one of the top safari destinations in Africa. The enormous 20000 km2 (7,722 square mile) park is not only home to the famous Big Five (elephant, rhino, cape buffalo, lion, and leopard), but it also boasts an incredibly diverse African savanna biome.
More than 140 species of mammal, including oddities such as the shy aardvark and the fierce honey badger, call it their home, while over 300 species of trees stand proudly scattered across the landscape.
The Kruger National Park is a birder’s paradise, so be sure to pack your binoculars and keep an eye out for a large variety of raptors, vultures, storks, kingfishers, and weavers among the 500-odd species.
Each season brings its own flavor to the Kruger, changing the features of both the landscape and animals, meaning no two visits are alike. Summers are hot, humid, and full of rainfall that drapes the landscape in a lush green grassy cloak. Winters are a dry affair but much cooler and excellent for game viewing.
While wildlife is certainly the main attraction, the Kruger has another major drawcard: its world-class lodgings. Since becoming South Africa’s first official national park in 1926, the Kruger has systematically established a wide range of accommodation options in a dozen main camps, several bushveld camps, private lodges, and four remote satellite camps.
Whether you fancy camping, self-catering cottages, family units, guest houses, luxury lodges, or even your very own private villa, you’ll be spoiled for choice throughout the park.
Besides the accommodation within the Kruger, a host of private game reserves on the park’s western perimeter share unfenced borders with the Kruger, which means you can also experience the park’s abundant wildlife from several exclusive 5-star luxury safari lodges.
Here you’ll enjoy everything from personalized game-viewing experiences and spa treatments to exceptional cuisine and more, all with little to no other visitors.
Ease of access completes the trifecta of Kruger’s best features. The park lies a mere four to six hours from the nearest international airport (OR Tambo in Johannesburg), making travel to and from the reserve a breeze.
You can even travel via a charter flight and cut travel time to under two hours. An extensive network of tar and good gravel roads makes it easy to get around in the park. You won’t need a 4×4 or a GPS to find your way here.
The Kruger National Park is a place that you can visit for a lifetime without ever running out of sensational experiences. Thanks to nearly a century of conservation efforts, Mother Nature’s circle of life remains largely untouched in the reserve. Best of all, you can easily and comfortably observe it without needing a David Livingstone-style expedition.
The Kruger is, without a doubt, a place where the warm heart of Africa still beats strong. Spend enough time here, and you’ll soon find your own heart beating to the same rhythm.
There is something intrinsically romantic about the African savannah, one of the last vestiges on Earth where the majesty of nature so effortlessly inspires a sense of connection. It’s no wonder the Kruger National Park is the quintessential South African safari destination for couples.
The park’s proximity to the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg (only a 5-hour drive away) means that you could arrive in South Africa in the morning and watch the sun set over the African savannah by the end of the day.
All major car rental companies have counters at the airport, and self-driving allows adding other scenic destinations, like the Blyde River Canyon, on the way to the Kruger. Alternatively, scheduled flights to local airports near the Kruger cut travel time significantly.
The budget-conscious traveler might choose to stay at one of the various self-catering chalets, guest houses, or lodges and do self-drive game viewing in a rental vehicle.
However, for the ultimate in privacy and luxury, it’s best to head to one of the dozen-or-so private concession lodges within the Kruger or the collection of private luxury reserves on the western edges of the park.
Here you’ll enjoy opulence to the finest detail. Secluded suites with sensational views, private pools, outdoor rose (or champagne!) baths, and exquisite cuisine set the scene for the best romantic getaway.
Several private game reserves offer treehouse experiences: a night under the stars on a secluded raised platform in the bush. There’s no better way to spend an evening with a loved one, not to mention the fine dining provided by your own personal chef.
Speaking of meals, why not try traditional gourmet cuisine under the open African sky? Various lodges offer a bush banquet set in the open bush framed by lantern light and the Milky Way overhead.
Spa treatments are a quintessential luxury on any honeymoon, and when you stay at one of the luxury lodges, you can expect the very best. Want to keep active during your stay? Most lodges offer gyms, yoga classes, and wellness centers.
Travel Tips for a Romantic Safari in the Kruger National Park
Most of the luxury lodges offer all-inclusive packages specifically aimed at couples. Book one of these, and you won’t have to worry about a thing from start to finish. Honeymoon packages that include activities and experiences aimed explicitly at couples are often offered at a discount.
Combine a trip to the Kruger with a visit to one or more of Southern Africa’s other top attractions like Cape Town, Victoria Falls, and Mauritius. Several lodges and tour operators offer such combo packages.
Scheduled flights from OR Tambo arrive and depart daily from local airports (Hoedspruit, Nelspruit, Phalaborwa, or Skukuza) near the Kruger, which cut travel time to under 2 hours. From here, a short transfer gets you to your lodge. Several lodges have private airstrips, so direct flights are possible too.
Who is Travelling to Kruger National Park with you?
Family Safari in the Kruger National Park
The Kruger National Park sits right at the top of family-friendly safari destinations in South Africa. The park prides itself on being accessible to young and old alike, and many South Africans will confess to cultivating a life-long love for the African bush from an early age in the Kruger.
A family holiday in the Kruger is best done in one of two ways; either self-driving or choosing an all-inclusive package at a private lodge. Both options have their own unique appeal depending on the type of holiday experience you’re after.
Long hours in the car are always a concern when traveling with children, but the Kruger is only an easy five-hour drive from the nearest international airport in Johannesburg. All major car rental companies have counters here and offer vehicles suited to families. Alternatively, you might opt for a shuttle service when staying at an all-inclusive luxury lodge.
En route to the Kruger National Park, whether self-driving or by lodge transfer, there are plenty of rest stops, and you can even turn it into a scenic road trip of sorts by including some of the sights on the stunning Panorama Route. Once inside the park, the vast network of good tar and gravel roads makes getting from one place to another equally comfortable.
Exploring the park in your own vehicle means your family stays together, and you can plan outings according to personal preference. If you’re traveling with toddlers, this is the only way you can take them on game drives in the reserve, as children under the age of 6 are not allowed on the game drives in open 4×4 vehicles (for safety reasons) provided by the park. Similarly, only children over 12 may join guided bush walks.
The southern and central regions of the park are more family-friendly than the far north since distances between rest areas are not so spread out, the landscape is more varied, and animals are more abundant. Skukuza, Satara, Lower Sabie, Letaba, and Berg en Dal camps are superb family-oriented accommodation options since they offer restaurants, shops, swimming pools, child-friendly activities, museums, and movie screenings.
Although staying at a luxury lodge is naturally more costly, the experience is more personal with offerings such as private family villas, your own guide in an open 4×4 game viewing vehicle, and special activities for children.
Travel Tips for Family Safari in the Kruger National Park
Rent an SUV or a 4×4 with good ground clearance for your visit to the park. The additional vehicle height makes for better game viewing, and the extra space will come in handy for luggage and make the time spent in the back seat more comfortable for the youngsters.
Some rental companies offer fully kitted camping vehicles with enough equipment and tents for the whole family. This is a great all-inclusive option if you plan on camping in the Kruger.
The kids might not like getting up early on holiday, but it’s worth it in the Kruger. The early mornings are best for game viewing, not to mention cooler than during the day. The same goes for late afternoon game drives.
Grab a park map at an entrance gate or a camp shop. You’ll need it to navigate the park when self-driving.
When traveling with small children, bring some games, puzzles, and books to entertain them during leisure time in camp or long drives in the car.
All the main camps have restaurants with reasonable prices and small shops for self-catering, so there’s no need to over-pack your car with food supplies.
There is a very particular kind of adventure that comes with solo traveling. It takes you to unimaginable new places, experiences, and people and also affords the opportunity for calm, uninterrupted self-reflection. The vast expanse of the Kruger National Park offers you plenty of both.
Kruger National Park might be one of the wildest places in Africa and home to the biggest land mammals on Earth, but that doesn’t mean that it is out of bounds for the solo traveler. The extensive network of tar and good gravel roads makes getting around a breeze, and a wide selection of accommodations suits every budget.
The myriad of campsites is a great DIY option, while safari tents, chalets, and guest houses offer all the creature comforts (plus the marvel of air conditioning) you’re used to at home.
If you’re looking for a touch of exclusivity and personalized service, take your pick from one of the private concession areas within the park or the multiple five-star luxury lodges that border the Kruger.
In the private concession areas and private game reserves, you’ll arguably get a more personal experience than going solo in the park’s public areas.
Daily game drives with an experienced ranger come as standard at most luxury lodges, birding and photography excursions can be tailored to your preference, and shuttle services to and from airports eliminate the need to rent a vehicle. Last but not least, all meals are taken care of.
The southern and central regions of the Kruger National Park are your best bet for spotting large populations of animals and having access to comfortable accommodation facilities like restaurants, fuel stations, and shops.
If you’re a veteran of solo travel and have the time, then the northern part of the park is much less populated with stunning, unspoiled landscapes.
Travel Tips for Solo Travel in the Kruger National Park
If you plan on spending multiple days in the reserve and/or plan to move between different camps, you’ll need a vehicle. The roads are superb, so any vehicle will do, but if you’re planning to camp, you may want to consider renting a camper van or kitted-out 4×4.
A larger rental vehicle like an SUV or 4×4 can aid game viewing since it has a height advantage, especially in the summer when the grass is tall.
There’s no public transport within the park. If renting a vehicle is not an option, or you prefer not to drive, stay at one of the private lodges in the greater Kruger, where shuttle services and daily game drives are included in your stay.
Be sure to buy a map of the reserve at the entrance gate or a camp shop. You’ll need it to navigate through the Kruger on your own.
All the main camps have restaurants with reasonable prices and small shops for self-catering. You can also book guided drives and walks with rangers from here.
Several overland and hop-on/hop-off tour operators offer multi-day guided trips to the Kruger. Join one of these, and you’ll meet fellow travelers, and your accommodation, meals, and game drives in the park are included.