Budget safari in the Kruger National Park
The Kruger National Park is certainly the most well-suited safari destination for budget-conscious travelers. More than a century of conservation efforts have made sure 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 the Kruger’s best features for those on a budget is that you are able to conduct game drives in your own vehicle. The well-maintained road network (mostly tarred or good gravel) within the park means you do not need to hire an expensive 4x4 - a regular hatchback or sedan will do the job equally as well.
The cost of accommodation usually takes a large chunk out of any travel budget, but luckily the Kruger has a wide range of affordable options throughout the length and width of the 19 485km2 park. 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 alike. 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 and the main camps of the Kruger all have plentiful 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 though, as many of the camps also offer reasonably priced safari tents, chalets and guesthouses. These are especially good 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 own experience by setting own schedule, planning daily excursions and in many ways seeing the Kruger the way the locals do.
• 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 4x4 vehicles are also on offer and are a good 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.