Kruger in April/May

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Oct 2nd, 2013, 06:22 AM
  #1
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Kruger in April/May

A sub-Saharan newbie here.

We're in the early phases of planning a South Africa trip for May of 2015. We're tentatively thinking about 6-7 days in a self-drive of Kruger, staying at the bungalows in one or more rest camps. We're not considering any private camps, due to budget. We're thinking only self-drive in that we're a family of three with a child along. We understand that probably won't afford the opportunities for the very best wildlife viewing but we are fine with the compromise vs not going at all.

We've read a couple of excellent trip reports here, which served as inspiration that maybe we *could* see Africa in our lifetimes. Having knowledge only of those wonderful private camps and their rates previously, we had thought it impossible.

That leaves a couple of questions still (at least).

None of the reports I've seen so far were based around the April-May timeframe. We're wondering if that puts a wrinkle in how we should plan out the trip, to maximize chances of spotting wildlife, particularly lion, giraffe and elephants? Of course, I know one can never predict, but if there's any advice to be had as to where to be, and when...

Would you recommend several camps or just one? We were thinking of starting in a central part area and working south in two or three camps. Is that advisable?

And finally, wondering if anyone could recommend good written resources for planning a self drive like this?

I guess pretty much all advice would be appreciated. We've had the chance to travel around a bit in the past, but this sort of trip will be very new to us.

After Kruger, we'll continue on southwest through more of SA as well as Lesotho.

(ps, we already drive on the left where we live, so that's not an additional worry)

Thanks,
Cliff
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Oct 2nd, 2013, 05:01 PM
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Hmmm... wondering if the time frame is a bad time for a SA trip?
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Oct 2nd, 2013, 05:53 PM
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We can import some experts from the Lounge if you'd like Cliff.
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Oct 2nd, 2013, 05:58 PM
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May would be a good time to visit Kruger, with fine weather both in terms of little rain and mild temperatures. I've never really been disappointed in the game viewing at Kruger. I'd suggest including stops at Lower Sabie and perhaps Satara and/or Olifants.

You can get lots of information (visitors' experiences at KNP) by searching at this forum for Kruger National Park or for Rest Camps Kruger at the SA forum at TripAdvisor. Good luck with your planning.
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Oct 2nd, 2013, 05:59 PM
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LOL. Let's leave outsourcing as a last resort.
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Oct 2nd, 2013, 06:07 PM
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Ah, thank you sbd2. The weather (what with the roads and so forth) was a main concern. But was hoping that conditions weren't such that the chances for viewing were rare. Trip timing is the first major decision we have to lock in.

I'll go do some research on those camps and locations. As I recall from a map, those seem to be in the areas we'd considered visiting (central and south). Hopefully leaving off the north half of the park won't leave us missing too much but we don't want to overstretch and try to do too much either. The north just seemed make less logistical sense.

ps - that outsourcing crack was for colduphere.
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Oct 2nd, 2013, 06:08 PM
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Cliff, here's a little info on the seasons and best times to go.
http://www.go2africa.com/location/6333/when-to-go

I did a green season safari one year and did not like it as well as a fall safari.
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Oct 2nd, 2013, 06:38 PM
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Thanks for that mat - that helps me visualize a lot. They mention May as being the start of dry season, but it seems to me that it'd be a progressive thing, leading to that best viewing in the Sept/Oct period. Explains the timing choices in your's and cary999's reports. Afraid we can't do the same timeframe... but I think I am convinced from that page that April is too soon.

Will confess to trying to balance the wildlife viewing in one part of the trip with not completely freezing our bottoms off in the mountains a week later or CT after that, should we push it out as far as late June or July.
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Oct 2nd, 2013, 07:05 PM
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I've always figured late June/July to October were the best months for Kruger. Regarding the Cape region, June and July are the two coolest and wettest months, on average. But it's weather, so who knows? You could go in either of those 2 months and have fine weather. I think maybe May is a pretty good option for you.
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Oct 2nd, 2013, 08:47 PM
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I have been to South Africa the past 3 years, always sometimes between april and june. I think it is a great time to go, just try to avoid SA school holidays for Easter and their winter break starting towards the end of June. For Cape Town, the earlier the better in general, but we have been very lucky all 3 trips with great weather and very little rain.

April is not too early at all. In April 2011 we were in Kruger for 6 days, Sabi Sands for 3 and Cape Town for 6 (early to mid april). We had one day of rain in Sabi and I think one in Cape Town. Game viewing was fanastic.

In 2012 we spent 3.5 weeks (late May to mid june) in Kwazulu-Natal, Garden Route and Cape Town. Vey hot in Kwazulu-Natal but no rain, a couple days of rain on the garden route, and one in Cape Town.

This past year we were there late April to late May. We started with a 17 day North to South Kruger trip, just fantastic. One day of very light rain and one big storm during the night. There is a huge temperature difference from day to night, a couple days ranging from 31 in the day to 9 at night ! Wonderful sightings including lions mating on the very first day and wild dogs on the way out of the park (and much much more). After we spent 2 days in Blyde River Canyon (hot in the day, cold at night) and 5 days in Cape Town. Beautiful weather in Cape Town avg temps about 23 but they had snow the week after we got back !

I am leaving for work but will try and post later about the rest camps where we stayed. Lower Sabie is a sure favorite, especially the tents, but if you choose those make sure you are ok with sharing with various critters, lol.
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Oct 2nd, 2013, 09:01 PM
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I forgot to add the sanparks site :

http://www.sanparks.org/

a ton of excellent information, especially the forums (in case you haven't seen it yet).
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Oct 2nd, 2013, 10:06 PM
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I have not been to Kruger in May but have three times in Sept. However, in 2007 I was 10 nights total in the Timbavati and Sabi Sand reserves which border Kruger (south west side). So was like being in Kruger. Nice and green grass and trees but not so much foliage as serious obstruction for game viewing. Only minor problem was that May is the start of winter there and for a few days it was uncomfortably cold, even my room and camp facilities (Leopard Hills, Sabi Sand). Here is link to my Fodor's trip report. http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=35016274

regards - tom
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Oct 3rd, 2013, 03:11 PM
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sbd2, kelley and tom - thanks all for the replies. You've definitely helped fill in some blank spots. I'm/we're still on the fence. Weather sounds a lot like it will be back here (southern Australia) at the same time. But would be nice with some much outdoor time or sleeping in bungalows, to not be cold all the time. It honestly doesn't sound like there's ever a time when it's really bad game viewing at Kruger. I think this is kind of how we arrived at thinking May might be good. Not the rainy season but not as cold as it could get.

Kelly, yes, definitely - any other thoughts you have on camps would be most welcome. Lower Sabie looks like a winner, from my reading.

tom - another great report. Thanks for that. Ok, that alleviated concerns over us maybe picking the wrong time. Doesn't seem like it would be too bad. Not the perfect season, but ok.

tom (or anyone). Crazy question(s) but the typical bungalow setup at Kruger - there are electrical outlets, yeah? Blankets? I haven't fully worked out what's included and what that kind of looks like when you get there. Would it be an odd idea to pick up a little space heater and some blankets in one of the towns or cities on the way to the park? (still not sure if we'd rent a vehicle in Johannesburg or fly closer, then start driving. Airfare & rental cost differences and timing will dictate.)

A quick visit to a SA version of K-Mart for cheap basics?
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Oct 3rd, 2013, 08:36 PM
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You will be surprised how well the bungalows are equiped (for the price I certainly was). I don't think you will need anything like that. There were always extra blankets and you can ask for more if needed. Of the 17 days this year, there were only 2 (in a row) that we were pretty cold at night, but this was in a tent in Tamboti (highly recommended). More about the camps soon.
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Oct 3rd, 2013, 10:13 PM
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Ok, that's good to know. Really wouldn't want to go overboard. But with a young'un, you just want to make sure you don't get caught out. Can live with the occasional complaint they're not entertained enough.. but not that they're not warm enough to sleep. Sounds like you have someone to turn to if you need something while staying in a camp. Sometimes that part of things isn't quite so obvious. Probably makes a lot more sense once you've been there.
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Oct 4th, 2013, 04:20 AM
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Kellee is spot on: all bedding is provided, along with electrical sockets in all the SanParks bungalows/cottages/rondavels. Note that you'll need a South African plug adaptor with the 3 thick prongs though - we usually bring a 4-way multi-strip from home and connect our gadgets through that.

Accommodation that has a kitchen (most do) also have a basic set of cooking utensils, crockery and cutlery. We always bring our own can/bottle opener and barbecue tongs though as these invariably seem to have disappeared. Otherwise you can buy these items in the camp shops (for an inflated price of course). If you are self-catering,. I strongly recommend you visit a supermarket (Woolworths, Pick'n'Pay etc) before entering KNP to stock up. The camp shops have a much more limited selection and prices are higher.

Aircon / fans are provided also - we've only ever been in September thru November, when the weather was warm/hot enough to warrant cooling not heating.

We found it very useful to bring a collapsable coolbag for transporting food when you move from one campsite to another. Put a small bag of ice in the bottom and it will keep food fresh for hours while you are on the road. You can then re-freeze the ice in the freezer compartment of the next bungalow.

Speaking of fridges/freezers, for some reason the SanParks places often have the kitchen equipment located in an open space "outside" the rondavel. The snag with this is that you often get monkeys opening your fridge and pinching your food (sounds funny but its a PITA). The way round this is to physically rotate your fridge when not using it so the door faces the wall, or secure it with a bungee cord.
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Oct 4th, 2013, 05:05 AM
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Ok, I confess I laughed - it does sound funny, the monkey in my fridge thing. But much appreciated advice. Wouldn't be all that funny when the dinner's missing. Clever idea to swing it around. Thanks for not letting us learn that lesson the hard way.

Thanks too for helping me out visualizing what to expect. I've taken to looking at lists of amenities but after a number of times renting holiday apartments, you don't always know what "blankets provided" or "equipped kitchen" really means until you show up. Or a good soul fills in the blank.
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Oct 4th, 2013, 12:18 PM
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I think you will love driving yourselves in Kruger, and I'm sure you'll see plenty of wildlife. Of course no one can guarantee the big cats, but I've been to Kruger more than a dozen times in the last 30 years, and have seen lions every time.

I got out my journal from a trip in May 2004. (That's the only year we were there in May.) We started in the north of the park and worked our way south, staying in Shingwedzi, Satara, and Lower Sabie. On other trips we've stayed in Skukuza, Oliphants, and many of the other camps.

I won't list everything we saw every day, but I will say it was a lot: lions, elephants, lions on a hunt (this on a night drive with the ranger), lions mating, hyena, hippos, zebras, wildebeest, crocodiles, huge buffalo herds, giraffes, baboons, lions on a kill (we didn't see the kill itself), African wild cat, many kinds of buck, and of course impalas everywhere. Also lots of bird life!

The Kruger accommodations differ in what they provide, but the crockery and cutlery are listed on the Sanparks website, and they're accurate, in my experience. If your bungalow (tent, rondavel, whatever) has kitchen facilities, there will be everything you need. If it doesn't have a kitchen there won't even be a coffee cup. In that case, you may be able to rent a cutlery box, or you may not, but that's stated on the website, I think. If not, you can email the camp and ask.

As to blankets and electricity, yes, they have them. The showers are hot, and the accommodations are scrupulously clean. The Sanparks website has pictures of the inside and outside of all the different types of accommodations. This stuff is a little hard to find on that website -- you have to go to Kruger, then to each camp, then "travel", then "accommodations".

The only thing missing in the kitchens is champagne flutes. You have to drink your bubbly in red wine glasses.

Celia
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Oct 5th, 2013, 05:13 AM
  #19
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Celia - that helped a LOT. Gosh, if we saw half that list during our stay, I'd be a pretty happy guy. We've sat and stared at a three toed sloth in Nicaragua for an hour and they don't get up to much. lol. Animals are fascinating to watch. We'll probably miss more than we see just for lack of not moving on.

For some reason, I've had the visual of the old vacation cabins in the Ozarks not far from where I grew up. And I'd be fine with that for just myself. But wine glasses? That's pretty incredible. Even without flutes.

Thanks for the visual picture on the accommodation. That was more informative than anything I've seen on a website so far.
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Oct 5th, 2013, 05:32 AM
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You're welcome!
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