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Kruger Self-drive Safari

Self-drive Kruger safari or DIY safari is easy from Swagat at Kruger Park Lodge

We are Heeten and Jenny and our aim is to help you discover Kruger Park in a fun, easy and affordable way. We start by telling you a bit about us and answering some common questions below about self-drive South African safaris or DIY safaris

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!

Kruger Park South Africa, Elephant

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.

Thanks for visiting this website and please pass it along to others if you find it useful! After reading this, if you prefer to experience the park with an experienced guide, do let us know and we can easily arrange private and/or organized safari guides and tours that will pick you up at Swagat. 

If you find the amount of online safari information overwhelming and need some advice making the best decisions for your customized trip, we can help you through our travel service:

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.

1) Why a self-drive or DIY South African 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. 

Kruger Park South Africa, Leopard

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. 

2) Do I need a safari vehicle for my Kruger trip?

No, 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. 

3) How will I know where to go and what to look for on my self-guided Kruger safari?

Kruger Park South Africa, Wildebeest

The Park sells a detailed, user-friendly map with all the routes, distances, historic sites, water holes, dams and camps clearly marked. You can buy your map 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 tools on there allow you to share and see what others in the Kruger are seeing via Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp or BBM groups. We strongly encourage you to join these groups for your trip to Kruger.

4) Should I book a guided game drive?

Kruger Park, South Africa, Hippos

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! Safari companies have multiple guests and they have to cater to everyone’s needs and also work on company schedules. 

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 Their site is a wealth of information on camps, day visitor areas, the various biomes and distances between gates and camps. 

5) What if we are reluctant to self-cater since we do not like to cook on vacation?

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. For your arrival, we can arrange to have the basics in your kitchen to get you started. 

Kruger Park, South Africa, Hyena

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. 

6) What else can I do in the Kruger area?

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. 

7) So a South African self-drive safari is easy, right?

Sabie River, Kruger Park Lodge, South Africa

Yes, it really is. All you have to do is rent a vehicle when you book your flights, pick up your car once you land (either in Johannesburg or Nelspruit), 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. We hope you are now inspired to plan your safari and use Swagat at Kruger Park Lodge as your base. 

Contact us for more information and to book your Kruger accommodations and plan your Kruger safari! If you find this information useful, please 'like' us on Facebook and add us to Google+ so others can see it. Thank you! 

© Swagat at Kruger Park Lodge 2012