Note that this post about the Kruger National Park is not written by Johnny but rather his wonderful girlfriend Erica!
Taking my first opportunity to visit Johnny in South Africa, I booked my trip almost as quickly as he arrived to his new home in South Africa. He couldn’t take any time off work as he just started his new job so I decided I’d go solo to maximize time. For the first 72 hours I would be on a safari in Kruger National Park, which is one of the largest game reserves in Africa. Kruger is roughly the size of Belgium! I was super nervous about encountering animals so closely and I really didn’t know what to expect, so of course I didn’t sleep the night before they picked me up!
This post is about my experience in the Kruger. For a comprehensive guide on everything involving the kruger, please read the Kruger Safari guide.
Kruger National Park Facts
Booking a safari
I knew nothing about how to book and I was in a time crunch. After a few Google searches, I found African Budget Safaris, a company hosting a variety of safari options (including Overland Tours). I booked an Outlook Safari that would be staying at Skukuza Rest Camp. In total, it cost me about 500$ for this 3 day trip. There are cheaper options for people that want even more basic accommodations and of course ones that cost 10 times as much to stay in a luxurious lodge! The communication with the travel agent was good throughout my trip.
Each traveler in on their own for deciding how many days you want to travel, staggering the days each person would be there game reserves in Africa. Kruger is roughly the size of Israel! I was super nervous about encountering animals so closely and I really didn’t know what to expect, so of course I didn’t sleep the night before they picked me up!
It was similar to trips that I have taken in other foreign countries outside of major cities, a large van, stops are made as necessary and there are plenty of chances to eat along the way. I was picked up from where I was staying in Johannesburg around 7am in the morning. We then drive around town to pick up the other people in the group. It took several hours (about 6) to arrive to Skukuza Rest Camp in Kruger National Park. I had lots of time to catch up on sleep and chat with my fellow travelers from around the world.
Skukuza Rest Camp
There are several ways to stay at this camp and most safari rest camps. You can bring your own camping gear and camp in a tent or trailer; stay in a permanent tent or chalet (bungalow) on your own – or you could book your stay and travel through a company such as Overlook. I booked a permanent tent, which had beds, electricity, a fan (not needed), and a refrigerator, which seemed great – I didn’t even need a sleeping bag. I was a little surprised after the driver dropped everyone off at their chalets and I was the only one staying in a tent! That obviously set off a few alarms!! Especially after the warning we received from the park rangers about mean baboons running amuck in the camp and stealing stuff; wart hogs just chillin all over the place and supposedly hyenas at night.
I am not exactly into nature, so I knew I would be terrified and not sleep a wink at night (which was definitely the case). I assumed it would be like camp and I would be sharing a tent so I wouldn’t get lonely, but I guess strangers don’t want to share tents with other travelers. Prepare for the season, it was freezing in the tent at night and in the morning. I am assuming it would be sweltering in the summer. After a night of terrier I thought I should give the chalet a try. It was no issue switching and I found it pretty luxuries for such a small price. The chalets had everything you would find in a hotel room and a huge sitting porch.
Kruger Game Drives
Arriving to and settling into Skukuza you get ready to go on your first game drive. This drive is administered by the National Park. It began right at sundown, which provided both positives and negatives. It was amazing to drive into the park as the gorgeous sun was setting, but it became extremely cold quite quickly, thankfully they provided warm blankets. It was also difficult to spot animals, although one of the passengers held a spotlight for spotting. We saw a large bull elephant, a rhino, storks, a giraffe, and various birds.
All other drives were conducted by Outlook, not by park rangers. There were several drivers at one point. Make sure you get in a vehicle with fun people and a knowledgeable driver that is experienced and knows where certain animals might be lurking. A good driver also knows the terrain very well. The other daily drive begins in late afternoon at 3.
They really make or break the drive since there is a lot of down time between seeing animals. Morning drives began when the park opened at 6 and it was pretty cold in the morning! The open aired vehicles do not protect you against any type of weather that may occur during your drive. Luckily we were provided all weather ponchos to keep us warm. The drives lasted about 4 hours. The other daily drive begins in late afternoon at 3. We seemed to see the most animals in the afternoon drives.
There is a certain thrill with not knowing what you will find. None of the drivers carry radios and simply rely on tracking paw prints or tracks and just the luck of knowing the terrain. You really never knew what would pop out. If you were lucky enough to spot an animal walking in front of vehicle, you would simply stop, wait, watch, and snap a zillion photos. It was pretty unbelievable.
Every morning begins with coffee, tea, and homemade biscuits and muffins. Returning from the morning drive, brunch is served. This consists of granola yogurt, fruit biscuits, toast, eggs, sausage, bacon, and grilled mushrooms. In the late afternoon high tea is served before your late afternoon drive and it is really similar to the early morning. Dinner is served later at night and included a main, soup, and several sides. I enjoyed the steak the most and I was extremely impressed that although i was basically camping, I was eating like a king! My camp had unlimited wine and set up a great fire for us to warm up by before dinners. You will not go hungry, trust me. They feed you nonstop.
Highlights of Kruger
A herd of elephants crossing the road was one of my favorite moments. You saw everything from the baby to the bull and they were inches from your car. Running into a lion and lioness, who were just chilling on a dirt road, enjoying the sunshine was really unbelievable. There were 10 or so cars surrounding the lions, which didn’t even seem to notice that everyone was starting.
Discovering that impalas are the McDonalds of Kruger, nicknamed for the “m” shape above their butts and the fact that they are everywhere like McDonalds was another interesting animal fact that I learned! We saw some family of baboons run through the chalet camp area and grab a bag right from a woman’s hand! She screamed and the monkeys took off. It was hilarious. We also saw baboons mating in the park. I was really impressed with the organization of the company and that they stayed on schedule.
Binoculars, an amazing camera with a great zoom (point and shoots won’t help you). Jackets and layers you can peel off during the day as it warms up. Sunglasses! Do a bush walk if you have time; I promise they are not that scary. Go in with an open mind – you might not see the Big 5, but you will see some amazing animals, birds, plants, and scenery.
Reviewed by: Erica – a big shout out goes to Cornelius for sharing such amazing photos. This is why you should invest in your camera before you leave!
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