I did think of doing one single post for South Africa but realised it would just get too long. Also spending the first part of our holiday in Cape Town and Johannesburg and the second part in Kruger, South Africa almost made it seem like two separate holidays since its was such a different atmosphere. So then why not two different posts? This one covers Kruger and the next will cover Cape Town and Johannesburg.
The main thing we wrestled with (or rather DJ, my husband wrestled with since I had zero input planning this holiday) is whether to go to Kruger first or at the end of the trip. We decided to go at the end of the trip and spent 2 nights and 3 days in the Kruger National Park. In hindsight, we would definitely recommend this. Kruger is tiring because you do need to get up early so if you go at the beginning you might be just too spent to enjoy the rest of your trip. So we would recommend going to Cape Town and other places you want to visit in South Africa first and then fly to Kruger. We thought 3 days was the optimum amount of time to spend there. Its enough time to get into the routine and see most of the animals and still not long enough to get bored of eating the same food.
If you have done any kind of research into safaris you will know they are expensive. And its easy to see why – there has to be accommodation, food and drives planned everyday in the middle of nowhere. From the cursory research I have done, Kruger does seem to be one of the more budget safari options. At least there are more budget options than there seem to be available in other parks in Africa. But a warning: a safari is expensive – we paid about £500 each including transfer from and to Johannesburg, accommodation, food and safari drives for the 3 days. We spent more on the 3 days safari than we did on almost the whole week we were in Cape Town and Johannesburg. But I will also say another thing – I did think it was worth every penny. The magic of seeing these beautiful animals and spending time in a park like Kruger does not rub off easily!
We are the types who prefer to research quite a bit before spending money. DJ did look up a number of Safari companies and finally went with Nhongo Safaris. They were definitely not the cheapest but all things considered they were the best choice for us. They were professional and everything was as expected.
Drive to Kruger
One of the reasons we chose Nhongo Safaris is because they were happy to pick us up from Johannesburg and drive us to Kruger. The drive is a long one, about 3 – 4 hours. We left Johannesburg around 7 am for the drive to Kruger. Some of the scenery is great but we did sleep a little on the way. The van was super comfortable.
The van dropped us off at a petrol station where our guide Amanda was waiting for us with her jeep. The jeep fits about 9 people at the back and two in the front. Since DJ and me were the only people in the jeep its was pretty luxurious! We drove another hour or so to Kruger. We went in and parked for a bit while Amanda sorted out permits. She warned this could take upto an hour but luckily it was done in about 20 or so minutes. Once this was sorted we were off to our camp, Skukuza and this is what we saw on the way.
Camp and Accommodation
The camp Skukuza which is the oldest and the biggest camp in Kruger. It is highly recommended that if you are going for 2-3 days you stay in Skukuza. We were in one of the huts which can actually sleep 3 people. It not luxury accommodation but way better than what I had actually expected. There is running water, electricity and air-conditioning so its not basic by any standards. The camp has a spa, swimming pool, gift shops and restaurants.
I had expected the worst when it comes to food. I naturally assumed that since the camp was miles away in the park, the food wouldn’t really be for taste but more for sustenance. It was a great surprise – the restaurant in Skukuza had great food. This was also one of the reasons I recommend staying here. On the last day we went to another camp for breakfast and saw that camp only had a Wimpy’s outlet for food options. I knew – the food snob that I am I could not have survived on Wimpy’s only.
Weather and Clothing
Don’t be fooled – its cold! Mornings and evenings are cold and its quite breezy. Amanda thankfully kept a few blankets in the jeep for us which I used since I am cold all the time. The daytime is hot! So getting a jacket is a good idea. And more than anything you need a pair good quality shades and a hat which sits tight on your head. The one day I went on a drive without my hat my head was burning. The hat also kept my hair out of my face which was convenient.
And sunscreen. Lots and lots of sunscreen.
One of the first things our guide recommended is to go for a night safari. Most predators hunt in the might and rest during the day so this makes sense. This night safari was in a bigger bus than the jeep and was about £15 extra each and again, totally worth it. We saw this beautiful lion resting on the side of the road.
It kept yawning and looked extremely sleepy and grumpy. Then suddenly it started burping and growling and that gave me chills! See the video here.
Early Morning Safari
The day in Kruger, South Africa starts extremely early. We were out by 5:30 am driving around. Its really beautiful driving around the park at that time of the morning.
We drove around for a bit and then had breakfast in a cafe on one side of the park. There were a whole lot of monkeys playing up hell and stealing food and it was absolutely hilarious!
The Big Five
The big five was originally a hunting term used to imply the five animals that were most difficult to hunt. The term is definitely outdated but now used to imply the five must see animals in Kruger. We saw all of them except the rhino – lions, leopards, elephants and cape buffalos.
Of course the lions and leopards we saw were magical but my favourite remains the zebras. They were just beautiful.
Most Intense Moment
It has be seeing this huge elephant appear almost out of nowhere. I have to admit – it was tense.
We were sad to leave Kruger, South Africa. We did a drive around in the morning, had breakfast after which Amanda dropped us off at the petrol pump. We were once again picked up in a van and dropped off to the airport in Johannesburg where we caught our flights back to London.
There are a lot more pictures on our Facebook Page and on our Instagram. Also make sure you check our travel highlights on Instagram to see the Kruger pictures and videos. I would highly recommend a safari and Kruger is definitely one of the best places to start. I am honestly wondering when I can start planning my next safari! Make sure you are following us on Facebook and Instagram – Bidisha is currently in Thailand so will be great to check out what she is upto on Instagram stories.
Any questions give me a shout if you have any questions about Kruger, South Africa – would love to provide any help or suggestions.