Self-drive Kruger Safari from Kruger Park Lodge

Planning a Kruger Park safari can be inundating and overwhelming but the self-drive Kruger safari experience is easier than you think. Basic online research into the topic can be even more confusing since many of the all-inclusive private camps in the Greater Kruger area dominate the search engines. Visit the travel forums and you may still not get a full picture of what Kruger offers. Read long enough and you start believing that a self-drive safari leaves you alone among the wild animals, forcing you to fend for yourself. You start to imagine yourself driving aimlessly, not knowing where to look and not knowing what you are looking at. While a private, all-inclusive safari is an amazing experience, it is not the only way to go if you really want to experience a true safari. 

We are Heeten and Jenny and our aim is to help you discover Kruger Park in a fun, easy and affordable way. 

Heeten is from South Africa and Jenny is from Sweden. Both our families love wildlife and are passionate about going on safaris -- we have been on safari in Kenya, Tanzania, and -- of course -- South Africa. We are so "wild" about Kruger National Park in particular, that we even got married at a bush camp in the park! Heeten is a qualified field guide and a back-up trails guide and will gladly provide additional tips to make your safari a memorable experience.

To us, being in Kruger Park is at once peaceful and exhilarating: it is wonderful to be disconnected from the buzz of the internet and telephones, and to just take in the unique sounds, sights, smells, the air. And nothing beats the excitement of being the ones to spot a leopard or hear a herd of 200 buffalo thundering past the car. There is truly a satisfaction and excitement in spotting animals on your own, feeling like you are really in a wildlife documentary.

Over the years, we have convinced many to visit the Kruger Park and fielded hundreds of questions. From talking to many of our friends, we have tried to answer some common questions below. We hope you find them useful. We invite you to contact us, and we look forward to wishing you "Welcome", "Välkommen", "Ngiyanemukela", "Welkom", or "Swagat", meaning welcome in Gujarati.

If you are looking for comfortable, modern and spacious accommodations, explore our Kruger Park Lodge accommodations here.

Our aim is to help you sort through your questions so you are best armed to make decisions for a memorable safari that suits your needs and budget. Please click on the frequently asked questions below to help with you Kruger safari. 

Going on an African safari need not be an exclusive experience reserved for a select few. If we treat the wildlife and nature with respect and reverence, then it is there to be enjoyed by all. With a little planning, and affordable accommodation like Swagat, you can enjoy the unique adventure of what it's like to be in the midst of Kruger Park. We want to spread the word and make it easy for everyone: you can do this too! While most South Africans realize how convenient and rewarding a self-drive safari can be, many from abroad feel that a safari is beyond their budget or a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We’d like to dispel you of that myth and encourage you to explore a self-drive safari in one of the world’s largest game parks ~ the Kruger National Park.

Renting a self-catering chalet and self-driving is the most affordable way to experience the wilds of Africa. Unfortunately, fewer places are offering the self-drive safari option and Kruger remains the flagship park to offer this amazing opportunity. 

In case you are wondering, you do not need a safari vehicle. Any rental car will serve you fine but we do recommend a vehicle that is higher i.e. minivan, combi, SUV, to improve your viewing angle and chances of spotting game where the bush is dense.

Established in 1898, Kruger is called home by 147 types of mammals, 114 reptiles, 507 birds, 34 amphibians, 49 fish and 336 trees. In addition to the fauna and flora, Kruger offers visitors the chance to view rock paintings and visit the ancient archaeological sites of Masorini and Thulamela.

The Kruger National Park in South Africa is 315 kilometers/196 miles from north to south and approximately 60 kilometers/38 miles wide, covering almost 2 million hectares (larger than Ireland or the state of Connecticut).

Kruger Park accommodations offer comfortable guest houses and family cottages that easily sleep 4-10 people at almost all the main camps. Smaller, more rustic camps exist for those that want to truly get away. If Kruger accommodations are fully booked, the private reserves are not your only other choice. Explore your options by looking at places like Swagat at Kruger Park Lodge in Hazyview with easy access to 3 gates in and out of Kruger Park.

The Kruger Park has a well-developed road system (main tarmac roads and secondary dirt roads) with rest camps and picnic spots dispersed throughout. This infrastructure coupled with an amazing diversity of game, birds, flora and sub-ecosystems, makes the park ideal for both self-drive and guided safaris. Each gate and camp sells a detailed map with dams, picnic spots, hides, distances, and an animal and bird indentification guide. Within fifteen minutes of entering the park, this map will be your new best friend.

For the adventurous ones, Kruger offers seven different 3-night walking trails and three back packing trails conducted by experienced, armed rangers who take you off the beaten track. Overnight camps, situated away from other tourist activities, allow you to experience the bush sounds and sights like never before. You can also sign up for the popular 4x4 eco-trails or spend a thrilling overnight stay at one of the hides. Cyclists can enjoy mountain biking on wilderness trails from Olifants Camp or you can simply enjoy a bush braai in the bushveld surrounded by lanterns and taking in the smell of food cooked on open fires. 

The Park sells a detailed, user-friendly map with all the routes, distances, historic sites, water holes, dams and camps clearly marked. We highly recommend the Honeyguide Map which can be purchased at any of the entry gates or camps. The map also includes several pages of beautifully-drawn animals and birds to help you identify what you are seeing. You will be pleasantly surprised at how quickly your eye will begin to spot animals. However, we strongly recommend that you drive slowly, between 20-30 km/h, for best spotting opportunities. We are continually reminded how easy it is to drive right by an elephant when driving 40-50 km/h.

Trust us, your patience will always be rewarded in Kruger. You will also see other vehicles stopped/game watching and this is usually a clue that something is up ahead. We also recommend checking out the ‘sightings board’ at every rest camp and picnic site and purchasing a good mammal and bird book. Talk to other visitors and game rangers and ask what they have seen, where, what time and if the animal was on the move or not. A leopard walking in the bush is unlikely to be there 5 minutes later while a pride of lion on a kill could be there for days.

Social media is rapidly changing how people share sightings and we are happy to present a link to the Kruger Sightings website. The following social media tools allow you to share and see what others in Kruger are seeing via Twitter  Facebook  WhatsApp and Instagram  We strongly encourage you to join these groups for your trip to Kruger. You can also download the Apps here. 

Most of the local safari companies in the Hazyview area offer half-day and full-day game drives into Kruger. They will pick you up at the Kruger Park Lodge reception. You may want to book one of these drives and get a feel for what you can enjoy on your own. You will learn a lot from an experienced guide but do not underestimate what you can discover by yourself on your own time and schedule. If you choose to spend 3 hours with the elephants, you can! We work closely with local safari companies so feel to ask us for recommendations. 

We highly recommend night drives offered by the Kruger Park from Phabeni Gate. It is not possible to self-drive after sundown (the Park is very strict about closing times); book a night drive early in your trip. Night drives expose you to the nocturnal life and sounds of the African bush. You will also get a chance to view the magical night sky of the southern hemisphere.

To book night drives through the South African National Parks please visit www.SANParks.org  Their site is a wealth of information on camps, day visitor areas, the various biomes and distances between gates and camps. 

Having a fully-furnished kitchen at your disposal offers you the flexibility many look for in a vacation. Whether you are traveling with kids or not, access to milk and juice in the fridge, cereal in the cupboard and bread to toast is both economical and convenient. Whether whipping up simple or complex meals is your forte, any one of the major supermarkets located minutes from the lodge will have what you are looking for (from frozen pizza to fancy blue cheese). If you enjoy a good BBQ/braai, use the outside grill, grab a few local beers or some excellent South African wine and enjoy the outdoor patio and deck at our lodge. Our daily cleaning service will clean up the grill and the kitchen for you the next morning while you are out on safari. For your arrival, we can arrange to have the basics in your kitchen to get you started.

So, we have still not convinced you to cook in our kitchen? Worry not! Hazyview has some great restaurants (sit-down and fast food) and a wonderful bakery. Also, Kruger Park Lodge has a restaurant onsite where you can dine at your convenience.

For breakfast, you can enter Phabeni Gate when it opens and be at Skukuza Camp in 1.5 hours for a delicious, full breakfast and good coffee/tea. For lunch, either pack your own sandwiches, snacks and drinks or enjoy lunch at any of the restaurants in the camps. Regardless of what you choose to do, please carry water and snacks in your vehicle. There is nothing worse than spotting some amazing game with your stomach growling and thirst unquenched. Imagine having to leave a pride of lion because you had to have lunch! Be prepared and everyone in your group will be happy. 

In addition to the Kruger Park, Swagat is a convenient base to explore the Panaromic Route with God's Window, Mac Mac Falls, Bourke's Pot Holes and Blyde River Canyon (one of the three largest canyons in the world). You can also hike the local mountains, white water raft on the Sabie, Olifants or Blyde Rivers, trout fish the calming waters, enjoy spectacular views from hot air balloons, interact with elephants at the local sanctuary, enjoy horse-back riding, get your adrenaline pumping on ziplines, and indulge yourself at the local spa with their luxurious treatments.

If traveling from abroad, we highly recommend a few days to the Victoria Falls to complement your safari. Flights depart from the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport to Victoria Falls three times a week and you can fly directly to Johannesburg from Victoria Falls to continue your travels. 

We highly recommend you consider a self-drive safari. Kruger offers almost everything the private camps do besides the high end luxury. The lion or elephant you're looking at does not know, nor does it care, how much you paid for your safari. Kruger Park itself offer a variety of activities, many with experienced guides. In Kruger, you choose your own schedule and activities allowing you to customize your safari experience. This flexibility and the satisfaction of spotting animals on your own are priceless. You hardly hear about this perspective because the South African National Parks is not as self-promotional. So, we have to do that on their behalf.

Yes, it really is easy. All you have to do is rent a vehicle when you book your flights, pick up your car once you land (either in Johannesburg, Nelspruit or at Skukuza inside the Kruger), drive to the chalet, and settle in. Wake up early the next morning, get to Phabeni Gate, pay your entrance fee and your safari adventure has begun!

If you're still not sure, we can help you book a few game drives with others or your own private safari vehicle and driver/guide so you can taste the wilds! We will help you do all this or you can work directly with our local agent. We even offer a service to stock your kitchen with the basics to get you started. We want to make this as smooth as possible for you.

And if you have doubts, take a look at our gallery. All these photos were taken by us on a self-drive safari using a standard digital camera. 

Contact us via email by clicking the email icon below for more information, to book your Kruger accommodations and plan your Kruger safari! If you find this information useful, please 'like' us on Facebook. Thank you!