Affordable safaris in the Kruger National Park
For the traveller who doesn’t want to rough it, but is also not partial to having the utmost in luxury, the Kruger National Park offers a surprising array of mid-range safari options. 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.
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.
Blyde River Canyon
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 self-drive in the park which is a great hands-on game viewing experience. Once within the exclusive concession area, a seasoned guide will use his or her 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 public areas of the park to give you an optimal chance of spotting elusive species such as the beautiful leopard.
Several of the private luxury reserves along the unfenced western border of 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 still being able to enjoy treats like guided game drives and walks. 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.
• Travel in the off-season when both flight and accommodation prices are lower. The winter season, from 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 4x4 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 and chairs and tables. Larger vehicles also cater for groups or families.
• Staying just outside one of the main gates of the park – in Hazyview, Phalaborwa or Nelspruit for instance – and doing day trips into the Kruger is often comparatively more affordable.