Kruger Budget Safari options

Old Apr 30th, 2008, 08:45 AM
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Kruger Budget Safari options

My dear friend and I (both female-me:47 yo travels alot, 1st trip to Africa DF-64 yo, travels seldom but is adventurous) are heading to Southern Africa in September for 3 weeks.

The first 2 weeks we will be in the company of her daughter, 25yo Peace Corps worker. DFD will drag us thru Cape Town area, Mozambique and Tanzania). We will then go to Johannasburg ourselves for 1 week before returning home.

Our goal for JMB is a Kruger Safari. We are on a limited budget.

I have looked at JourneyintoAfrica.com who offer a 5 day budget Kruger safari with round trip bus transport from JNB, lodging at Tremisana Game Lodge-Balule Game Reserve for 6295R. It looks really nice.

As recommended on this board I am also looking at Go2Africa.com and they offer 4 day overland "Camping experience" for 3250R. I have no idea what "Camping Experience" means.

Does anyone have any direct experience with either outfit or can you recommend another outfit in the price range of $700.00 or less per person for 4-5 days. We have decided not to do this ourselves.

Another question, I notice the high end packages include flight from JNB to Krueger. How long a drive is it? I imagine it is scenic but is it worth it to fly? we will have been all over Mozambique using public transport (peace corp kids are notoriously broke, so DFD knows all the angles for travelling on nothing) and will be used to long bus trips.

Thanks for any and all ideas.

Lynnie
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Old Apr 30th, 2008, 02:43 PM
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Anyone?
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Old Apr 30th, 2008, 03:07 PM
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I think the lack of reaction may be due, in part, to the fact that Kruger is designed primarily for self-drive visitors and you have ruled out the self-drive option. I visited in a 2WD rental car and it could not have been simpler -- I would have enjoyed the park much less if I was restricted to a tour.

Are there specific reasons you have ruled out self driving?
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Old Apr 30th, 2008, 03:47 PM
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I don't know why this idea overwhelms me. I have looked on the Kruger website and cannot figure out how to make a reservation. The places and dates I put in showed unavailable.

Also, the trip reports I read were disappointed with the quality of the game rides within Kruger and I feel that without a guide we will not know what to do, where to go, etc.

How long is the drive from JNB? Krueger seems so vast and huge. How do you know which of the accomodation options are near where you would make your point of entry.

I think if I can just find out exactly what to do, I can handle it.

1. How to make arrangements for car rental.

2. Drive time.

3. Best accomodations for budget travellers.

4. How to see the best wildlife on our own without a guide.

Thanks.
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Old Apr 30th, 2008, 04:29 PM
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Lynnie, try this map:

http://www.sanparks.org/parks/kruger/tourism/map.php

And I couldn't find it on this board, so here is a link to matnikstym's Kruger trip report on another site: http://p099.ezboard.com/feuropetogof...icID=390.topic
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Old Apr 30th, 2008, 04:31 PM
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Sorry, also meant to add that the sanparks site has a very active forum. They were extremely helpful to me when I needed info about Addo National park.
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Old Apr 30th, 2008, 04:39 PM
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Thanks a bunch. I'm going to go for the self drive I think.
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Old Apr 30th, 2008, 06:06 PM
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Lynnie, you won't be disappointed doing a self-drive through Kruger! I just looked at the availability for September and it looks like there is plenty of bungalows available. I found that by going to the main page, then availability, then Kruger Park, then the camps you want and punch in your dates it will tell you how many are available. I've had better luck calling them in person and making reservations, than the online or email option. (Rembember the time difference)

It's about 5-6 hours drive to the southern gate from JNB, and from there into your camp. You must make it to camp before the gate closes. We flew into KMIA, easy transfer from the domestic JNB terminal, think it was about an hour or hour and a half flight. We picked up our car there and drove to camp in plenty of time to unwind and go back out on a game drive where we saw our first rhino! Less than an hour to the gate and another 20 minutes to camp. The minute you get into the park it's a game drive!

For rental cars, Avis is pretty popular in Kruger or you might try www.autoeurope.com Look into an SUV for the height for viewing animals though a sedan is fine. The roads are tar and the loops are gravel-no worries about getting stuck.

I'd book bungalows in the park (the website has some pics) or you can go to my Kodak gallery and see them (www.kodakgallery.com/dennisinzambia) Open the Kruger album. The bungalows are nice and well equipped with fresh linen, towels, soap, dishes, pots and pans, utensils, a bar-b-q, fridge, hot plate etc. Showers are nice with full pressure. All of the camps have shops and restaurants/take out food if you don't want to cook. The food was good in the restaurants and the shops were well stocked.

We started in the South and went North and back due to availability, would have liked to gone down to Lower Sabie for the cat action but they were booked. So if you like cats try for that, if elephants try for Satara or Letaba if time allows. (Skukuza is like a mini city so I'd avoid that one)

Driving is simple, get a map and take any and all of the loops from the main roads and just enjoy the animals and scenery! You can stay out all day or come back to camp for lunch and a swim and go out again later. The organized "guided tours" are not worth it IMO, too many people and too big of a vehicle. (If you read my report you'll see my review of this) You can see everything on your own so I'd skip this.

Any other questions, feel free to ask or you can email me if you'd like. I enjoyed our self-drive so much I'm doing another one this year, though to a different park.
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Old May 1st, 2008, 07:00 AM
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Thanks so much for the input. I loved the trip report provided by 321go by matnikstym. What a trip!!

I am in the planning stages of this. I think we will fly from Maputo to Nelspruit and pick up the car there. It seems only SAA flies this route, and they get us into Nelspruit at 4:50 pm, so I guess we'll stay there for a night before heading into the park. Any reco's for hotel in Nelspruit?

Once we drop off the car at Nelspruit I think we will save $$ by taking a bus to JNB. Has anyone taken this bus? We will have plenty of time, so no problem.
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Old May 2nd, 2008, 01:45 AM
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Lynnie-

I just (last week) went to Kruger with an overland company, and I had a great time. I have to say after doing it with them, I would definitely recommend going with a company as opposed to doing it self-drive. Why? Height is a major reason. We used a truck (which is basically an outfitted 18-wheeler), so we were much higher than a sedan or even an SUV...but sitting down, we weren't able to spot nearly as many animals as when we were all standing around looking for them in the truck.

Also...in your situation you don't have a large family of animal spotters; if one person is driving, that only leaves one person to really animal spot...which will mean you see far fewer of the wildlife on offer. Also...if this is your first time, a knowledgeable guide will make a huge difference if you're unfamiliar with the animals and birds of the area.

Although I'm normally a do-it-yourself person (I've spent the past year traveling alone and this 9-day tour was the only time I took a trip with a company), I have to say Kruger is still one of the only things I've found that is cheaper to do with a company (unless you don't want a guide, night drives, hikes, etc.) and that I would still do with a company again. (I used Bundu Safaris/Wagon Trails)

Jayna
travels at www.ususbaby.com
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Old May 2nd, 2008, 04:18 AM
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Jayne, I am starting to realize that also. It will be quite a bit more $$ to do it ourselves.

I have been communicating with Pierre from go2Africa.com as recommended by someone here and his trip seems very diverse and quite reasonable. 5 Dau Kruger/Private Game Lodge for R5200. Seems like a bit of driving thou. I'll look at your company also.
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Old May 2nd, 2008, 11:50 AM
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Hi LynnieD,

We are just back from our family holiday of 3 stunning weeks of touring South Africa, which included one week self drive in Kruger. A detailed trip report will follow soon, but I felt I should briefly add something here on the Kruger self drive experience as it seemed relevant to your thread. Self driving was easy and a lot of fun. The park accommodations were very comfortable and well appointed and since we had booked early we had choice rooms with stunning views. We always felt very safe and secure, and navigating was extremely easy. Kruger is wild, very wild, and big, and self driving allowed us to spend a lot of time in the bush, to stop and wait in places as long as we wanted to. We saw 4 of the big five which included lots of lions and also the rarer black rhino. Only the leopard eluded us, but then we also did not really try too hard because we do see plenty leopards in my own country Sri Lanka. I actually do think I saw one in tall grass but do not count such a fleeting glimpse as a positive sighting. If your really nwant to see leopard you need to concentrate around the Skukuza area which we did not do. Lions were a priority for us and spotting big black maned lion out alone in the bush was awesome! We saw lots of other animals, birds etc., On one day we noticed a very skittish heard of zebra at a waterhole and suspecting lions in the vicinity we staked it out for a long time and were rewarded with some amazing moments. I’d hate to think what my frustration level would be if I were stuck in a shared vehicle and had to move on from a sighting where I wished to spend more time. For me, the ability to stay put at a place and just watch the behavior of a particular animal or bird is so important. There are several beautifully made and very rustic “hides” built at strategic spots like river banks, water holes etc where one can sit quietly and watch life pass by. Most of the time we had the hides all to our selves – eerie and I must admit scary sometimes when you realise that is is real wild lion territory! Even at sightings especially on the gravel tracks we rarely had more that a couple of vehicles and many a time we watched lions just by our selves. One of the best things in Kruger was the overall lifestyle and the ability to interact with many locals who are serious wildlife lovers. I found South Africans to be wonderful and friendly people and I made some real good friends on this trip and learnt so much from them. To summarize it, Kruger was wild and free, self driving was so easy, and the Kruger life style awesome. At the end of seven days and after just exiting the park for a luxury lodge on the Blyde River Canyon I asked my kids whether they were tired and fed up of the rough jungle life and they chorused back - "we can do another week in Kruger"! We hardly ever ate in the restaurants although we had originally planned to do so because we so enjoyed doing our own BBQ's (sometimes in the company of watchful hyenas!. Cost of Kruger for a family of 4 worked to about US$ 3000 for 7 nights, including accommodations in very nice rooms, a very nice SUV car with "total" insurance cover from Hertz, plus all food and sundry expenses and we did eat and drink very very lavishly. All that said I also think one needs at least 5 to 7 days to feel and enjoy Kruger. If one has just 2 or 3 days and you want to quickly see all the big five you are probably better off in a private reserve.

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Old May 2nd, 2008, 11:55 AM
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Mohammed, that's a great testimonial about Kruger, and captures very well some of my favorite things about Kruger (and self-driving).

For what its worth, I saw the Big 5 on my first day, including an excellent leopard sighting off the S-100 near Satara.

Looking forward to your more detailed report (and photos, hopefully).

Michael
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Old May 2nd, 2008, 11:25 PM
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Hi Michael and firstly, thanks so much for the wonderful help, advice and ecouragement you gave me in the past months. It really gave me the confidence to go on this trip.

Ai man, that S-100 is a great road. We were in Satara for 2 nights, and did one night game drive there too. Saw lions twice on the S 100, once all by our selves and wow it was exhilarating. They were so close and the big male stood up and looked me in the eye. Adrenalin pumping! We also missed two leopards on the S 100 which were sighted just after we had passed. Also the one I think I saw in tall grass was on the S-100.


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Old May 4th, 2008, 03:12 AM
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If you are still looking for a place to stay in Nelspruit, you might try
http://www.whitehouselodge.co.za/
located in White River (which is just as close to the Nelspruit airport as Nelspruit).
White House Lodge is a lovely, small place in a serene parklike setting with very reasonable rates. The owners will pick you up from the Nelspruit airport, if you like, and take you back in the morning so that you can pick up your rental car (they did this for us).
A hearty breakfast is served. You can also arrange for dinner or lunch for a nominal extra fee. They also offer a day trips into Kruger or the Drakensberg Mountains.
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Old May 4th, 2008, 08:04 AM
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Another Kruger self-driver who just got back from visiting there. What a holiday! I'll be writing a more detailed report later, but in summary, we saw 4 of the big 5 from our own car, and saw a leopard and a serval during a sunset drive. Also saw wild dogs from our car.

Lynnie, I took the Intercape Bus from Malelane (just outside the park, near the Berg-en-Dal rest camp in Kruger) to Maputo. This bus goes from Pretoria to Maputo, and vice versa. The bus is very nice and I think you would have no trouble going from Maputo to Nelspruit.

I will be interested to hear your experiences in Maputo. We just spent 2 1/2 days there--very different from South Africa. Not many tourists, unless you go to the far eastern edge of the city. Take a chapa if you can--it's quite an experience.
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Old May 5th, 2008, 07:57 AM
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Gritty, Thanks for the info on the Intercape bus. It looks as though we can take the bus from Maputo to Nelspruit for 130r and it will take about 4 hours.

This puts a whole new spin on the safari aspect. We can rent a car in Nelspruit. The bus arrives at 11:30 am so we should have ample time to get to the airport to pick up the rental car and make it into Kruger by 6 pm. Any comments on this?

We can then return the car to Nelspruit and take the bus to Joburg and arrive there at 5:30 pm.

I've been leaning towards a guided tour from Joburg just because of transportation issues and cost, but this really solves that problem.

Does anyone know where the bus depot in Nelspruit is?

Gritty, please write your report soon. Can't wait to hear the details of your self drive. WE will be in Maputo since DF's daughter is stationed in Mozambique so that will kind of be our base for the 2 weeks prior to the safari.
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Old May 5th, 2008, 02:15 PM
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I am now seeking information on which area of Kruger to stay in. We will have 4 nights and will probably enter at Nelspruit or maybe Malelane. This will depend on which bus we take from Maputo.

Which camps would be best if we do not want to do alot of driving from camp to camp. I have checked and it seems we will have to cobble together safari tents and huts at 2 or 3 camps in order to book this at this time.
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Old May 5th, 2008, 05:52 PM
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Lynnie-Yes, if you arrive at 11:30 you will have plenty of time to get your car and get to camp. (our flight got in at 11:05) Since you only have 4 days, I'd stay in the lower camps-Pretoriuskop, Lower Sabie, Berg-en dal or even Skukuzu, maybe 2 nights in two camps. From there you can plan an all day drive up to Satara if you want, though you'll have plenty to see around the lower area of the park. Staying at a camp near one of the gates will be easy to get out to catch your bus.

Don't know where the bus station is but you might ask the rental car company to pick you up. Avis took us from Skukuzu to Mala Mala free of charge.

I think you'll be happier doing it by yourself as opposed to an organized tour. It's so easy and you set your schedule and times at sightings etc.
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Old May 6th, 2008, 01:58 AM
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Lynnie,

Yes, you'll have plenty of time to reach the park if you leave around 11 or noon. While I have not yet personally driven from downtown Nelspruit to KNP, I would estimate that it would take about 1 hour to get into the park from there.

When shopping for bus services, I noticed that Greyhound and Intercape both did the same Joberg-Maputo-Joberg route at about the same time. They also seemed to stop at the same spots. There may be others (Translux, Panthera Azul) that do this route as well.

Your idea of renting a car from downtown Nelspruit is a good one. I made the decision of dropping off my car at the Avis office in Malelane, because it is much closer to the park and I could still catch the Maputo bus there. However, I found out that the Avis Malelane office is located at the municipal airport that is affiliated with the sugar factory in the area. Their office was very small and no one was manning it; either they were at lunch or don't staff this office full-time. I assumed beforehand that it would be no problem to have someone call a taxi for us to go the short 7 km to the bus stop, but we had difficulties getting someone to help us. A very kind lady that works at the airport ended up driving us to the bus stop!

I'll telling you all of this because renting from Malelane is the quickest, easiest way for you to get to the park IF you are able to talk to Avis to make SURE that someone will be at that office and can make arrangements for you to get from the bus stop to their office. Otherwise, just rent from downtown Nelspruit.

As for KNP rest camp options, the camps that matnikstym recommended are all good. I would personally recommend Lower Sabie if you can get a spot there. I also like Berg-en-Dal; the hills/mountains there are really neat. Pretoriuskop is old but charming. Skukuza is the biggest camp in the park and less peaceful, but it makes up for it with great animal sightings and plentiful road options. Also, the Lake Panic bird hide outside Skukuza is not to be missed.

Lower Sabie has some of the cheapest accomodations in the park. Another cheap (but great) option is safari tents, which can be found at Skukuza and Lower Sabie. You can hear all of the bush sounds at night!

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