This summer I had the pleasure of visiting South Africa. It was an amazing vacation. We planned our South Africa Itinerary to include two parts- the Cape Town area and, of course, we had to do a safari in South Africa too. After all just thinking of Africa brings to mind amazing animals and wide open plains. My husband did a little research and found that one of the best places to go on a safari (an expedition to observe animals in their natural habitat) is Kruger Park because Kruger National Park is unrivaled in the diversity of its life forms- 336 trees, 49 fish, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 birds and 147 mammals. I know we loved our Kruger Park vacation and were blown away with all the wild animals we saw. It was truly like nothing else I have ever experienced.
Details For Planning Your Kruger Park Safari Vacation
Travel To Kruger National Park In South Africa
What is the airport for Kruger National Park?
Flights within South Africa are pretty reasonable so we flew from Cape Town to the Johannesburg airport. Getting from Johannesburg (or Jo-burg as some were calling it) to Kruger park is the next step. You can book yourself into a Safari tour and take a bus. However, my husband is very independent and he likes to have control over our travels and not be subject to a tour guide, so we just rented a car at the airport.
We got a compact and it was able to handle the roads at Kruger fairly well but there were a couple of spots in the roads that made me wish we had a SUV or 4×4 vehicle. I was almost certain we were done for at one deep rut and I pictured us finding the lions right about then! The drive time from Johannesburg to Kruger is about 4 and a half hours and the GPS we had was a little out dated in one spot. (I should mention- they do drive on the left side of the road in South Africa- so be aware!)
Accommodations Close To Kruger
The accommodations in Kruger Park are pretty basic so my husband chose an accommodation close to Kruger for the first night after our drive there. All Kruger Park gates close about the time it gets dark- between 5:30-6:30, depending on the time of year and even within Kruger Park you must be inside Camp gates at that time so my husband opted for a nice romantic lodge just outside of the Kruger Gate Kruger Park Entrance. He chose the Abangane Guest Lodge in Hazyview in the Mpumalanga province of South Africa. I just had so say Mpumalanga because it is so much fun to say!
Abangane Guest Lodge is a luxurious Bed and Breakfast and we just loved it. My only regret was we just had the first night there and then we went off to safari so early. I could have relaxed there all day…if the excitement of Kruger Park had not pulled me away. Plus, it was July (which is winter in South Africa) so I could only imagine swimming in the pool! Breakfast was delicious with a small but fresh buffet and made to order omelettes as well. I would love to stay there again- only I would book directly with them, as we booked with Expedia and we did not know there is a check-in cut off time!
Kruger Park Entrance Gates
There are several Kruger Park entrance gates. No- you can not just enter any where as they have the park fenced off to protect the animals and the people. We entered through the Paul Kruger Entrance Gate. You have to park your car and go inside to pay the Kruger Park Entrance Fee and you can buy a Kruger National Park Map there so you will know where you are going. Kruger Park is a huge national park, (7,523 sq mi) about the size of New Jersey, and you can just drive around and view wildlife from your vehicle. You can exit through other gates and you can leave and come back but they always ask to see your Kruger Park entrance fee payment receipt- so hold on to that!! We exited through the Malelane Entrance Gate.
I snapped a few pictures at the Kruger Park Entrance Gate on our way in. I was amazed by the huge cactus bushes and the beautiful flowers the grew off of an otherwise dead looking tree- the Impala Lily blooms are pink and white on a small, succulent tree.
How Much Time To Spend At Kruger National Park
We spent about 2 and half days and loved every minute. There when a few times when I thought I had seen as many animals as I was going to see and then I would see more and even more up close. It is just so magical to see these wild animals in the actual wild! Even with 2.5 days, we still did not get to see a leopard or a cheetah, maybe if we had stayed a bit longer!
Kruger Park Accommodations- Kruger Park Rest Camps
If you want to stay inside of Kruger Park itself, there are Kruger Park Rest Camps. Within the Kruger Park rest camps, there are various options ranging from Luxury Lodges (my husband never mentioned those) to the more basic main rest camps. Each rest camp is a bit different with a small general store or a larger store, some even have a restaurant. There is actual camping or there are huts to rent that are like little hotel rooms in a hut shape with AC and a fridge and ours had a bathroom.
We stayed at the Crocodile Bridge Camp and The Malelane Camp. The Crocodile Bridge Camp was amazing because we saw wart hogs getting chased out of the camp and we had monkeys over the fence to visit our hut in the morning. In the Malelane Camp, I saw a hyenna slink by the outside of the fence in the evening. The rest camps are a surprisingly great place to view wildlife!
Kruger Park Night Game-Drive Safari
You must be in your Kruger Rest Camp by 5:30pm for lock down (depending on the time of year). We stopped at Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp the first night and did an evening safari because they can take you outside of the gates after lock down in their approved vehicle with the ranger. It was a very cool experience. Not only did we have a guide to tell us about everything we saw, we were also able to spot so many unusual night animals like a jackal and a honey badger.
Animals You Can See In Kruger Park
Kruger National Park is a great place to see the Big 5 game animals that most people look for on safari- lion, elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros. A day in Kruger Park passes so quickly. You will be busy spotting amazing wildlife up close in the wild- a truly remarkable experience.
This medium-sized African antelope was the most common animal we spotted in Kruger Park. They are beautiful and the males with their huge horns are striking.
Of course, the African elephant is just amazing to see in the wild.
Spotting an Elephant troop like in the photo above was pretty amazing and special but I was just shocked when they crossed the road in front of us. Kruger Park makes for a very exciting vacation!
And look at this elephant, right outside my car window. Wowzer. Kruger Park is an amazing place to go on safari!
The Kudu are amazingly cool looking animals with their unusual shape, colors, and the beautiful horns on the males. Kudu are a large antelope species. We spotted a female the first day and a male the second day.
When I saw the first giraffe, I was amazed and I felt so lucky. “Let me just watch it for awhile since we might not see anymore,” I told my husband. As it turns out we saw so many I had difficulty picking just a few photos to share with you. We even saw one being eaten by lions!!
We spotted our first wildebeest on the evening of the first day. We were actually on the evening safari tour and that vehicle is much further up off the ground. I got my hand in the picture because I couldn’t resist showing that was actually me right there witnessing that scene I have watched on Nature but never in real life before!
The second animal we saw when we entered the park was a field of resting African Buffalo. Then we didn’t see any more again until the second day. Do you see the bird sitting on the buffalo- they help eat pest off the buffalo.
Another big 5 animal we saw was lions!! The first day we saw some specks we could tell were lions only with binoculars. The second day we saw this female lion off through the brush- so far away and yet still exciting to spot a Lion in the wild. The third day- we had two amazing lion encounters but I had run out of batteries in my camera! Ugh. But I will have the images in my head forever so no worries! On the third day we were driving down the road looking out both side when in the distance I noticed an animal standing in the middle of the road and it was a big animal. I thought maybe it was a female Kudu but as we got closer, I realized it was a youngish male lion! Wow. We slowed down and stopped all together when we got close. The lion was roaring but not in an aggressive way, in a calling way that ended in breathy grunts that trailed off. Roooarr- oar – oar- oar- oar. And he was looking around but not moving out of the road. Then we saw a female running down the road behind us toward him and they met and walked off into the woods together. Very romantic!!
The other close lion experience was encountering a giraffe kill right on the side of the road. The lions had already had their fill and were resting while keeping three hyenas at bay. Amazing site. Woah. Really amazing.
We also saw warthogs. The first day we saw a whole family from a distance and I thought it was special but the second day we had even more close up views of warthogs.
We saw some Chacma Baboon crossing the road a few times. We had seen this same type earlier during a Cape Point excursion we took from Cape Town.
Kruger Park has both White and Black Rhinoceros. The rhinos are a big 5 animals that are pretty hard to spot because they look like big boulders. We were so proud of ourselves for spotting them a few times and then suddenly we drove up where some were right near the road and we were beyond excited! Wow!
Kruger Park Vacation- It’s Wild!
We had so much fun visiting Kruger Park and I hope to take my kids with us next time! We saw so many animals and so many species of birds too(like the hornbill above, lilac breasted rollers, and hummingbirds). Are you planning a safari in South Africa? Do you think you will include Kruger Park in your vacation plans?