"There is something about the safari life that makes you forget all your sorrows and feel as if you had drunk half a bottle of champagne - bubbling over with heartfelt gratitude for being alive" - Karen Blixen.
After eight years of living in South Africa, I got finally an opportunity to travel to Kruger National Park. The reason why it took me eight years is that I was a little bit sceptical about the safari in Kruger National Park after seeing safari in Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia. However, it turned to be one of my greatest safari experience in Africa.
Kruger NP is one of the best-known places to visit in South Africa. If you want the best wildlife safari experience in SA, then Kruger NP is definitely the place to be. Kruger NP is the best place to see the Big 5 (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and Cape buffalo).
Kruger is the oldest and also the biggest National Park in South Africa with 2,000,000 hectares (20,000 km2), so you need at least 2-3 days to take several game drives to see more wildlife. To explore Kruger NP, you can either drive and explore NP with your own car or you can take a private safari ride, organized tours and stay in private lodges.
Guided safari tours vs. self-drive safari:
1. Advantages of guided safari tours:
you don’t need to drive and concentrate on the road, it is more relaxing
you sit higher, so you can spot animals better
you can learn a lot about wildlife from the safari guides. The guides have lots of experience. They know where and when to look for certain animals and they often see them long before you do
you will have better access to some parks, private vehicles are only allowed to drive on certain roads while guided tours have fewer restrictions
2. Advantages of a self-drive safari:
you're more flexible and you can decide where you want to go and how long you want to spent at a certain place
you will have better chance to take pictures of the animals if you don’t have to compete for the best spot with the other people in the same vehicle
self-drive safari is much cheaper than an organized ride
TIP: Combine a visit to Kruger NP with the nearby Panorama Route and Blyde River Canyon.
Great Kruger, comprising the vast Kruger NP, and several private reserves. The main Kruger private game reserves are: Sabi Sand, MalaMala,Manyeleti, Timbavati, Klaserie and Balule.
Meanwhile the Kruger National Park itself is perfect for self-drive safaris, the private reserves offer more exclusive safari experience in open safari vehicles that can head off road for a closer experience.
When is the Best Time to Visit Kruger National Park?
The Kruger NP is an all year round destination, with each season bringing its own highlights. Whatever time you decide to go on safari in the Kruger NP, you won't be disappointed!
Game viewing can be at its best during the dry winters months, however the wet summer season brings full waterholes, many newborn wildlife and the summer migrant birds arrive. The Kruger Park has hot, sub-tropical climate and most of the year it is hot during the day (above 25 ° C).
Summer is the rainy season in Kruger Park and the rains fill the rivers and waterholes. Game viewing is sometimes a bit more difficult in the summer season because the vegetation is dense, making it bit harder to locate and observe wildlife. Towards the end of November and early December, Kruger National Park is filled with newborns and spotting wildlife with their young is a memorable Kruger Park safari experience.
Birding is excellent during this time as the summer migrant birds arrive. If you are planning on visiting the Kruger Park during summer, it will be a good idea to travel in an air-conditioned vehicle and stay in air-conditioned accommodation. It can get very hot during the day with up to a high of 30 degrees celsius. Camping can be a bit unpleasant, but if you are a die-hard camping enthusiast the heat and rain should not deter you.
The best time to visit the Kruger NP is the dry winter season from May to October for the best game viewing and walking safari conditions. The bush is more open allowing for better visibility. The grass is low, the bushes and trees are sparsely leaved and because it is so dry - with no rain - the wildlife will migrate towards the water. You are more likely to spot wildlife in the morning and evening as they come for a drink of water.
The day temperatures in winter are pleasant but it can get quite chilly during the night-time so make sure you pack something warm when going on your afternoon/night game drives.