Kruger National Park is a wildlife lover's paradise. Get quick tips on accommodation options, sightings, and how to get the most from your South Africa safari.
Kruger National Park: Navigate South To North | Southern Kruger National Park | Central Kruger National Park | Northern Kruger National Park | What To Pack For a Safari To Kruger National Park | Kruger National Park Quick Travel Tips
There's something about Kruger National Park. From south to north, the park offers a spectacular diversity of ecosystems and terrains, an incredible array of wildlife and bird species, and accommodation options and experiences that cater for every traveller's appetite. Want high luxury and exclusivity? Kruger has got that. Want to sleep in a dry riverbed on a wilderness walking trail? You can do that in Kruger. From high-paced wildlife sightings in a rental sedan to not-another-soul-in-sight off the beaten track feelings, it's the perfect place for first-time safaris, family safaris, safari camping trips, budget safaris, self-drive safaris, and sure-fire sightings.
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Plan A South Africa Safari To Kruger National Park
Our quick Kruger Park travel advice is (very) general tips for anyone planning a safari to South Africa. We've travelled Kruger from north to south and south to north on a few occasions. Our team has had the good fortune to visit over and over again during childhood, adult years, and the childhood years of our extended families. The bottom line is this: there is no such thing as a bad Kruger safari. It's simply a matter of sourcing the locations, accomodation options, and activities that are a match for your dreams.
We are here to help with answers to Kruger National Park FAQs and quick travel tips for self-drivers to Kruger National Park. We also let you know our thoughts on whether to app or not to app in Kruger National Park to find sightings. Finally, we let you know the pros and cons of Kruger as a destination (spoiler: the scales weigh heavily on the pros).
FAQs Answered: Kruger National Park
- Where is Kruger National Park? : Kruger National Park spans Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces in South Africa, with its northern boundary reaching all the way to the country's northern borders with Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
- How big is Kruger National Park?: Kruger National Park is nearly 20 000 square kilometres and is nearly 360 kilometres long. It is one of the largest national parks in the world and is the largest park in South Africa, featuring 14 different ecozones.
- How Far is Johannesburg To Kruger National Park?: The distance from Johannesburg to Kruger National Park will depend on the gate you are entering. It is an average of four to five hours' drive from Johannesburg to the park and this is done on mostly national roads and good tar.
- Can You Fly to Kruger Park?: Most international visitors to the park fly into O.R. Tambo in Johannesburg. Air transfers to Kruger are available from all major centres in South Africa to Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport in Nelspruit.
- What is Kruger Park famous for?: Kruger is one of the largest national parks in Africa. It is a Big 5 safari destination, with excellent opportunities to view African wildlife.
- What Time of Year is Best for a Safari in Kruger? The dry season is generally regarded as the best time of year to visit, but the truth is that it is worth visiting all year round. The dry season runs from April/May to the end of September, with more moderate daytime temperatures. Particularly between October and March, temperatures can be very high and you can expect regular rainfall. The park is busy all year round, but it's worth looking at local South African holiday season dates as it can be especially busy at these times.
- What Precautions Should You Take When Travelling to Kruger National Park? Kruger National Park is in a malaria area and it is advisable to take malaria precautions and concentrate on insect protection by wearing anti-insect clothing and applying and reapplying a reliable insect repellent. Sun protection is also an important consideration. Follow the park rules for safety when self-driving or around camp - especially when it comes to wildlife.
- How Many Days Are Enough In Kruger National Park? The answer to this really depends on your travel plans. Ideally, aim to spend at least three nights. If you can, an extended visit to Kruger gives the luxury of the chance to explore different camps and areas - with great wildlife sightings along the way.
- Is Malaria Common in Kruger National Park? Kruger is considered a high-risk malaria area - especially during the wet summer months between October and May. It is advisable to take malaria prophylactics and to avoid getting bitten in the first place. Cover up in anti-bug clothing and apply and re-apply an effective bug spray regularly for the best protection. Consult with your medical practitioner if you have any questions around the risks and precautions for malaria.
Quick Travel Tips For Self Drivers: Kruger National Park
- If You Are Self-Driving, Stick To The Speed Limit : The roads in Kruger National Park are considered national roads – and so road traffic laws apply. This means obeying the speed limit of 50 kmph. The speed limits on tar and gravel roads are something to consider when calculating timings when travelling from camp to camp or plotting your game drive routes. Apart from obeying the law, slower speeds are quite simply better for game viewing. If you don’t believe that elephants are easily hidden in even thin bush, it’s true. Slower driving reduces the likelihood of spooking elephants and other wildlife. We’ve also seen a cheetah drop a fresh kill and run away because of thoughtless speeding in Kruger. Don’t be that guy or girl.
- Stay in Your Car: Don’t leave the car except at designated spots. It goes without saying – don’t get out of your car at a sighting. Kruger has well-signposted areas where you can alight from your car. These include viewing areas, hides, picnic sites, historical spots, and within demarcated points on certain bridges. Many of these are unfenced, so scan the area carefully before getting out of the car.
- Remember Courtesy At Sightings: This is especially the case at busy sightings. The rule of thumb is that the first person to spot an animal sets the distance – but this is not always observed. Good manners apply: wait your turn, don’t put your car between other game drivers and the animals for the sake of a photo, and – even if you’re not planning to stop at a sighting – give bird-watchers and game-viewers a chance to observe their subjects until they move off.
- Factor In Drive Times and Time For Sightings Into Self-Drive Times: What a lovely problem to have! The enormity of Kruger National Park means planning game drives and where you’re going to stay carefully around drive times. Don’t only take distance and speed into account. You’re not going to want to leave that leopard sighting any sooner than you need to, so factor spending time at great sightings into your travel times. The camps have strict gate opening and closing times and, while you have some grace, it’s better to stick to the rules.
- Do a Walk or Go On a Drive: Self-driving is wonderful, but take a break and enjoy the guided experience if you can. Great guides have the power to transform an experience and, after doing a guided bush walk in Kruger, I will always factor this activity into my Kruger travel plans.
- Gratuities: If you go ahead with a guided experience, take some cash along as a gratuity. Bear in mind that a bush walk will always be with two guides. From these bush professionals to the people who clean your room or barbecue stands, a gratuity is a great way to say thank you.
- Driving With Elephants: Of the big game you will encounter on safari, elephants command the most respect when driving. When elephant sightings go wrong, it can mean rolled cars or tusks through metal. The unpredictability of wild animals is something to keep in mind, but the following are a few rules of thumb when driving around elephants. Don’t get too close. Watch out for red flag behaviour like head tossing, trumpeting, and – in some cases – the more subtle dust kicking or mock feeding. Don’t separate calves from the rest of the breeding herd and beware the teenager who is learning about the power that comes with size. Try not to get surrounded by a herd, leaving yourself a gap to retreat. We have learned that trees are no obstacle for an unhappy elephant. Bulls go through a hormonal condition from time to time called musth, which can come with aggressive temperament. Signs of musth include temporal leaking and urinating on himself. Give these bulls an extra wide berth.
- Picnic Sites and Spots: The layout of the park means you could game drive with great stops along the way. Picnic sites have ablutions and the option to rent a gas barbecue stand for cooking breakfast, brunch, lunch, or an early afternoon snack between sightings.
- Staying Outside the Park: What You Need To Know: There are many accommodation options on the outskirts of Kruger gates. If you are staying at independent lodges, these operators will arrange game drives on your behalf. If this is you, be aware that this can involve time on tar on the back of open game viewers. Packing a waterproof, warm layer and windproof accessories is a must – especially during the rainy season and winter months. These drives can also be all-day affairs, so dressing in layers and dressing comfortably is the best way to get the most out of the experience.
- Peak Season: Something we found out recently through experience is that Kruger has a quota for the number of people in the park. If you are day tripping from outside the park, you’ll have to get to the gate early if you’re going to get into the park at all on busy days. Kruger also has a pre-booking system on the SANParks website where you can pay to enter at an allocated time slot and within the quota. This is unquestionably worth doing to avoid long queues. The park is especially busy during South African school holidays and the Festive Season, so do your research about these dates if you are looking to avoid congestion.
- Wild Cards: If your travel plans involve extended stays in a SANParks park or visits to multiple SANParks locations, it may be worth getting a Wild Card. You pay a membership fee that means you don’t have to pay the daily conservation fee when entering the parks. International visitors may only acquire an International All Parks Cluster that gives them access to more than 80 parks in the SANParks Southern African network of parks. Do the maths according to your itinerary beforehand to see if this has benefits around travel costs.
- Where To Book and Checking In To Satellite Camps and Sleepover Hides: If you are booking a stay at a satellite camp or at a sleepover hide, you either book online or at the nearest large connected camp. For example, you’ll head over to Berg-en-Dal if you are camping or staying in a rondavel at Malelane Satellite Camp.
- Plan Accommodation With Distances in Mind: Kruger is enormous. If you are planning to travel the full length of the park, firstly, allow me to give you a big thumbs up. You sound like my kind of person. The only caveat is that you plan your accommodation around the distances you will have to travel in a day to reach the different camps. If you have the luxury of time, aim to spend at least a couple of days in every area to truly get a feel for it and to explore all its nooks and crannies. Booking as you go can be risky – especially during peak season – but it’s certainly possible. Try and book a little in advance to plot your routes without the stress of a rush.
Southern Kruger National Park:
Something changes the moment you drive through the gates at Kruger National Park. Get destination inspiration from the southernmost camps of Berg-en-Dal Rest Camp, Malelane Satellite Camp, Crocodile Bridge, and Biyamiti up through Pretoriuskop and Skukuza. Read the Southern Kruger National Park story.
To App or Not To App? Latest Sightings at Kruger National Park
The Latest Sightings app allows Kruger National Park visitors to upload and share their sightings in real time. This gives you a dynamic source of game-viewing information around your location. For anyone with limited time or who is feeling the pressure of seeing as many species as possible, this is one way to maximise the already amazing game viewing on offer at Kruger.
Our only warning here is that the sightings reported here are, more often than not, very busy. In my opinion, it also detracts somewhat from the pleasure of seeking and taking the time to enjoy a sighting. I have been at sightings where almost every person present had their eyes on their phones. I have also seen people leave lion sightings to get to the next thing on the app – great for those of us left behind, but it has often meant missed action.
Sightings boards are a central part of Kruger tradition. These boards give you an idea of what wildlife was seen where on that day and the day before. The movement of animals means it may not lead you to the species in question, but it gives a Kruger buzz that doesn’t bring technology into the bush.
Central Kruger National Park:
From all-night lion roars to stretching views, there's so much to experience in the heart of the park. Get destination inspiration for the areas around Orpen Rest Camp, Letaba, Satara, and Olifants Rest Camp in the Central Kruger National Park story.
Kruger National Park: Pros
- Kruger is Accessible: Most international guests to Kruger National Park fly into OR Tambo International in Johannesburg. From here, travellers can get connecting flights to Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport, Hoedspruit, or Phalaborwa – or via scheduled flight into Skukuza. While Kruger is well-connected for flights, it is also a self-driver’s dream. If you rent a car in Johannesburg or one of the other big centres in South Africa, the freeways make this wonderful, wild destination a breeze.
Camp amenities also mean the park is accessible for disabled persons on safari.
- Kruger National Park Has Pricing For Every Budget: This adds to the accessibility of Kruger National Park. In general – and certainly if you choose SANParks accommodation – you get an authentic African bush experience for significantly less than many other African safari destinations.
- The SANParks Experience Is Consistently Excellent in Kruger: I am always impressed with the great work done by SANParks after every visit to Kruger National Park. Accommodation standards and amenities are uniform throughout the park. There are also a range of activities on offer including morning and evening drives, guided walks and walking safaris, and bush braais or barbecues. Depending on the region you visit, different activities may be on offer.
- Kruger Park is Well Connected: Remote and hybrid working are on the minds of many a modern worker. If you are a digital nomad looking for a safari destination with good connection, many areas of Kruger National Park have good mobile data connection speeds. (Disclaimer: this is not true of every camp, so do your research before making a booking.)
- Easy Sightings - Even On The Tar: One of the hallmarks of Kruger National Park is how effortless sightings can be. Sightings boards, the Latest Sightings app, or communicating with other game drivers all add to the ease of locating sightings. In my experience, leaving busy sightings can sometimes yield exclusive and very special sightings a little further down the road. You never know, of course. With such giant tracts of wilderness between the blocks, the game you’re hoping to see could be well and truly buried in thicket. All the more reason to game drive all day long, I would say.
- Kruger is an Amazing Wildlife Destination: The diversity of species is a big pull for many nature-lovers who travel to South Africa. Kruger features the Big 5: lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant, and rhino – as well as many other exciting species like African wild dog, cheetah, antelope great and small (147 mammal species in total and an astounding 508 species of birds). The nearly 20 000 square kilometre conservation area is the third largest conservation area in Africa. Kruger is also part of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park, linking parks in South Africa, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe – allowing for free movement of game between each.
- Short on Time? This is no Problem in Kruger: Kruger National Park simplifies the bush and beach offering of South Africa as a travel destination. Whether taking in the beaches in Cape Town or along the South African east coast, Kruger is easily accessible by road or air when the time comes for the bush leg of your adventures
- Kruger is Diverse Enough To Cater For Every Kind of Traveller: If you are a high-end luxury traveller, you should consider Kruger. If you are a self-drive camper on a tight budget, you should consider Kruger. If you are somewhere in between, you should consider Kruger. How is exclusivity possible in such a place? A system of concessions and private game reserves in the Greater Kruger region means some operators are removed from the Kruger hubbub. That said, the offering at every level is set to impress. From first-time safari-goers who are looking to play it safe to seasoned African travellers, the beauty and diversity of Kruger’s wild places are a crowd pleaser.
- Kruger is Easily Navigable and Relatively Safe: The road network within Kruger National Park is well-signposted and easy to navigate. Pick up a map at the gate or use a map app to find your way. There are also options to go off the beaten track or even to enjoy some 4x4 adventures, but the interconnected road system always maximises the enjoyment of driving in the park.
Kruger is also relatively safe. With wildlife, it is always a good idea to take precautions, but familiarising yourself with the park’s driving regulations and taking in advice about driving with elephants, for example, all add to the park’s safety score. Should the worst happen, many camps are a short distance away from medical services – whether by road or air. Skukuza also happens to have a resident doctor.
- Kruger is a Big 5 Reserve: For many safari-goers, seeing the Big 5 marks the success of a safari. While we believe you should try to take pleasure in the small stuff on safari, Kruger National Park is proudly home to the Big 5 and the chance of seeing these notable species is always exciting.
- There are a Range of Kruger Activities on Offer: SANParks provides so many different ways to experience the magic of the bush. Enjoy drives with a guide on early morning, sunset drives, and night drives with experienced guides or go on a guided walk for a fully-immersive bush experience.
- Kruger is Accessible All Year Round: As with many safari destinations, the dry season is the most popular time to travel. Unlike some Southern African locations, however, Kruger National Park is open and accessible all year round. The bush may be a little thicker during the rains and the temperatures may climb, but green season means migratory birds, young animals, and stunning green landscapes.
- Kruger is an Attraction for its Wildlife and Historical Sites: The natural heritage of Kruger National Park is well-known, but the area is rich in history too. From enduring cultural traditions to pioneer and trade history, game drives take you past monuments to the past.
Northern Kruger National Park:
There's something special about that transfrontier feeling - something that strengthens as one travels north through Kruger National Park. Get destination inspiration in our Northern Kruger story - traversing the park from Mopane and Tsendze, up to Shingwedzi and Punda Maria. Read our Northern Kruger National Park safari story.
Kruger National Park: Cons
- Malaria is a Consideration in Kruger: Malaria is a concern throughout Kruger National Park – and that means taking insect protection precautions to prevent bites and possibly malaria prophylactics (please consult your medical practitioner).
- Sightings Can Be Busy: especially around big camps and areas around park gates, you can expect some traffic on the roads and around sightings. This means a whole lot of patience is required (and, occasionally, tolerance for bad behaviour or bad driving). Exclusive sightings are not really the norm. That said, it is certainly possible if you are willing to leave the madding crowd and go off the beaten track. We have been in Kruger over the Festive Season and seen only a handful of cars on some of the secondary roads around major camps.
- Kruger's Popularity Means There Can Be a Scramble For Bookings: Particularly in the case of SANParks accommodation, popularity sometimes means limited bookings for last-minute travellers. The reservations staff are incredibly helpful and flexible when it comes to this, but it sometimes means a bit of strategy around where you’re going to stay in the park and for how long.
- In Some Locations, You're Not Too Far From the City Lights: In Malelane Satellite Camp, for instance, you can see lights and farmland across the river. For some, this doesn’t feature as a negative – and I have stayed in this camp with no complaint – but this may get under the skin of some safari-goers. Post-script: some fellow campers saw leopard through the fence at Malelane Satellite Camp at lunchtime during the summer months, so there’s no question about the level of wild in these camps.
Safari South Africa Links:
Kruger National Park: Navigate South To North | Southern Kruger National Park | Central Kruger National Park | Northern Kruger National Park | What To Pack For a Safari To Kruger National Park | Kruger National Park Quick Travel Tips | Kruger National Park: Top 7 Self-Drive Safari Essentials | Kruger National Park: Self-Drive Safari Tips | Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park | Quick Travel Tips for Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park | What To Pack for a Safari to Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park