Have you been planning a trip to South Africa for a Safari – The time is now! I aspired to do the Safari for years. Always watched so much of it on Discovery and National Geographic. It was a dream come true when I visited the Kruger National Park!
In this blog, I am going to give all the tips I took days to find, a lot of reading and asking around and finally it was a successful and safe trip!
Which Safari/Game Drive?
As you must have heard, South Africa is very famous for its wildlife. There are a hundred parks in SA and which one to go to can be really confusing. All depends on what you want to see! Are you looking for the wilderness – where it can be difficult to spot wildlife but you find them in their natural habitat and form or in captivity – an opportunity to see a lot more animals but they won’t be as wild as what they are in the open (Of course!).
Here is are two I would recommend (one of each type)
- Lion Park Johannesburg – Lifetime opportunity to pet the cubs and take professional pictures with them. 1-hour drive from Johannesburg
- Kruger National Park – One of the largest national parks/game reserves in SA. 6-hour drive from Johannesburg. Make sure you leave by 8-9 AM so you get to Kruger at a reasonable hour. Here you will spot the big 5 – lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants, and buffalos. You will see a ton of mammals and bird species as well. Wilderness extreme!
Personally, I was looking for a natural setup and Kruger worked really well for me – Just what I wanted to experience.
Where to stay?
For the lion park, best to stay in Johannesburg and drive to and fro to the park.
Kruger national park will take a good 6 hour to drive from Johannesburg. Kruger has a couple of gates and you can enter the park through these gates distributed in the north/south/east. I found a great Marriott property 2 mins away from the gate. I think it is very comfortable to stay just by the gate – saves you travel time. Here is where I stayed – Protea Marriott Kruger Gate The hotel was very beautiful with a great variety for dinner. They even pack you breakfast since 95 % you will wake up early to catch the morning drive and the kitchen opens only at 6:30 AM. This is a 4-star hotel and very luxurious for a National Park. Has a nice spa to relax post the Safari!
Picture courtesy for Hotel pictures: Marriott
How to travel around?
I would totally recommend getting a car and a driver rather than drive yourself. Locals always know where not to go and what timings are safe to step out – you really need that in SA! I had a very safe trip taking flights and a chauffeur-driven car. I think their suggestions were very helpful.
Which game drive?
When at Kruger, we took the night drive and an all-day drive (next day). We were very lucky to spot the big 5 and so much wildlife in their natural form. We caught the Lion eating its prey with Vultures around. Lioness protecting the cubs from the Lion – oh what an unbelievable experience it was! The tickets can be purchased at the front desk of the hotel – Protea is very helpful. They will plan the Safaris for you and drive you to the gate from where you would begin the drive. The drive is done in an open vehicle. Looks really cool and is the best way to spot the wildlife – these are tall for obvious reasons!
What to wear?
Always wear comfortable clothes at the game drive. I know how important those pictures are! But casual clothes can be stylish too, right? I ended up wearing a shirt with shorts and sneakers. Comfortable and looked just fine! Dont forget to carry your shades!
At night/early morning, carry a jacket as it gets very windy. The vans are open (and amazing!). You’re gonna get the chills 🙂
Best time to visit?
The best time to visit Kruger National Park is at the beginning or end of the region’s dry season, which falls between April and September. During Kruger’s dry season, temperatures are mostly pleasant (with the nighttime temperature dipping into the high 40s and daytime temperature occasionally reaching into the mid-80s).
I visited from September 12 – 16th. The weather was perfect!
I spent two days in Joburg and two in Kruger. Such was my itinerary –
Sept 12th – Land into Joburg
Sept 13th – Travel to Lion park and explore Joburg downtown
Sept 14th – Keep the day to get to Kruger from Joburg. Night drive at Kruger.
Sept 15th – All day Safari at Kruger
Sept 16th – Drive back to Joburg (and flew to Knysna after!)
Hope this post was helpful! Have a great and safe trip to South Africa y’all. Ping me for any questions – I’d be happy to help!