South Africa landed on my list of places to visit because of Shark Week – seeing great whites swimming was great – but it became so much more. We split our time between Cape Town and Kruger and it was perfect. We got to see a bit of the town before going on safari in hopes of spotting the big 5 safari animals (spoiler: we did!). South Africa was the first time I felt homesick after returning home. It really is a magical place that I recommend everyone to visit. So, without further ado, here is my guide to visiting Kruger National Park, South Africa.
Where is Kruger National Park?
The Kruger National Park covers approximately 20,000 square kilometers of land in the northeastern corner of South Africa. It is five hours east of Johannesburg and about an hour from the Swaziland border. Google Maps sometimes describes Kruger as a “huge game reserve”, that’s to say its size.
How to get to Kruger National Park?
There are two ways to reach Kruger National Park: by air or by land.
If you want to get to Kruger by plane, it is best to fly through Johannesburg. Johannesburg offers direct flights to Kruger from all over the world including USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, France, Germany, Sweden, Norway etc. .
Many safari packages include a stay in Cape Town and transport to Kruger.
However, if you have plenty of time, you can take a road trip! The trip from Johannesburg to Kruger takes 4.5 hours and goes through the Panorama Route. This is a beautiful drive through the Blyde River Canyon.
When is the best time to visit Kruger National Park?
This is still one of the most common questions I get asked. In all honesty, it’s a year-round destination. Each season offers different experiences. I visited the park in mid to late May, which is spring in South Africa, and we had amazing weather. Although we were warned about mosquitoes, I don’t believe I saw one, thanks to our bracelets and mosquito spray.
The summer season, which is also the rainy season, extends from November to April, where average temperatures are between 15°C and 25°C. During this period, rainfall averages 100-150 mm per month. The landscape is very green, but spotting game can be difficult.
The winter season runs from May to October. It is also the dry season in South Africa. Temperatures tend to be mild, day and night. The lack of rain causes the animals to head for the waterholes and rivers, allowing you to go on a breathtaking game viewing safari.
Kruger National Park Map
There are three general sections of the park: the northern section, the central section and the southern section. The northern section is the least popular. There are fewer camps and less game. However, it allows for incredible bird watching. The middle section has more camps, like Olifants, Satara, and Letaba Camp. There are plenty of grassy plains here, which means more sightings of herd animals (zebras, buffaloes and antelopes) and their predators (lions!). The southern section is easily accessible from Johannesburg and is the most popular. It shows the shortest distances between picnic sites and rest camps. More than half of Kruger’s gateways are here. The majority of luxury private reserves also border this section (more on that later). The southern part is where you are most likely to see the big 5 safari animals.
What is the entrance fee to Kruger Park?
If you are on a guided safari, these costs are usually included in the price of your safari. Otherwise, the entrance fee (daily conservation fee) is paid each day you enter the park. If you are staying in the park, you can pay it online once before your arrival. For non-South African residents, the price is around 400 rand (30 USD) for adults and 200 rand (15 USD) for children.
What are the amenities inside Kruger Park?
There are a number of main rest camps in the park. These camps have shops, restaurants, ATMs and gas stations. There are also basic groceries, snacks and souvenirs. As we were on a guided tour, we did not visit a rest camp. There are also picnic sites around the park which are great for taking a break or watching the game at the waterholes.
Is there malaria in Kruger National Park?
Yes, it’s simple. It is recommended that you take malaria prophylaxis (i.e. malaria pills) before visiting South Africa. We chose to take the risk because of the side effects of the drugs. This is a personal decision based on your comfort and health or personal situation, so don’t hesitate to discuss it with a healthcare professional.
It may also depend on when you are traveling. Our Kruger safari in mid-May, before the rainy season. I equipped myself with these mosquito repellent bracelets (wrists and ankles) and lots of insect repellent with DEET. I think we saw maybe two mosquitoes in total.
How many days should I spend in Kruger National Park?
Honestly, that’s the million dollar question. Kruger is the first place I felt homesick for after leaving. I’m sure some people would say you have to spend weeks tracking down and photographing wildlife and nature in all its beauty, but most of us don’t have that much free time.
I think four days is enough to see the big 5 animals! This is a total of 8 car rides, giving you plenty of opportunities to spot animals. I’d say on day 3-4 you’re not as excited about the impala as you were on day 1. That’s why I think four days is a fair amount.
Where can I stay near Kruger National Park?
There is a wide variety of accommodation available. Government run campgrounds. Private (read: more expensive) lodges inside the park, or hotels near the gates. I will be posting a detailed review of our stay at Lion Sands Sabi Sands soon!