More driving questions - SA

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Nov 8th, 2004, 08:34 AM
  #1
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More driving questions - SA

Still tinkering with itineraries, but are working on a June timetable for SA. Our general plan is Cape Town - Durban (air) then Durban - Drakensburg - Ithala - Kruger (Skukuza) - Madikwe - Jo'burg by car. A couple of questions have come up, given the time of year.

1. What sort of driving times should we budget for the transits, i.e., Ithala to Skukuza, Skukuza to Madikwe? We don't want to rush, neither do we need to visit every town, village and market en route. One night en route in each case? Two? Or none? Don't want to drive at night, and it will be winter. I think I've seen that traveling from KZN to Kruger via Swaziland adds some time, but not sure how much.

2. What is it like visiting the Drakensburg in June? Poor driving conditions? I'd presume the chances of misty/rainy weather will be there. If the sightseeing potential is low, maybe we'll re-route that part of the trip northward.

Looking at Skukuza rather than one of the high-end Sabi lodges mainly from a budget viewpoint - more days at cheaper places v. fewer days at more expensive ones. Anyone have experience with the river view "luxury bungalows" at Skukuza? Or should we look to other Kruger camps?

Thanks for all assistance - this board is a gold mine of info.
Gardyloo is online now  
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Nov 8th, 2004, 09:41 AM
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Hello Gardyloo,

1(a) - Suggest you overnight in Swaziland en route to Skukuza. Going from Ithala to Skukuza in one day would make for a very long day indeed. I'm almost sure it would force you to drive at night, which you've said you want to avoid.

You can get from A to B more quickly if you skirt around the western side of Swaziland on better roads. However, I believe Swaziland's scenery is pretty enough to warrant an overnight stop.

1(b) - I'm a little mystified by your choice of Madikwe, given how far it is from the Kruger National Park. I have not been in that area since it became a game reserve around 1991. I understand they've done a wonderful job of re-stocking the area with wildlife.

All the same, it's a long way to drive. I don't know how long it would take you, but I would guess upwards of 9 hours.

Your time migh be better spent moving from Skukuza to one of the other camps within the KNP, e.g., Letaba. The KNP is huge (2 million hectares). The environment does vary from one part of KNP to another.

Also, from what I've seen on the Internet, the prices of accommodation at Madikwe seem to be in the same ball park as some of the lodges in the Sabi Sand area. If you wanted to finish off your vacation with a splurge, it seems to me you could do so by going to one of the lodges in Sabi Sand or one of the other private game reserves bordering the KNP.

The area around Pilgrim's Rest, just to the west of the KNP, is scenic. I think it's worth at least a full day driving around and seeing the Blyde River Canyon, God's Window, Bourke's Luck Potholes, Mac Mac Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, etc. I would recommend spending a night in that area.

Spending a night in the Pilgrim's Rest / Lydenburg area does not get you much further towards your goal if you're heading for Madikwe, however.

So, if you still want to drive to Madikwe, you will have to do a pretty long day's drive to get there after Pilgrim's Rest.

If you further want to break up the drive from Pilgrim's Rest / Lydenburg to Madikwe, the choice of overnight stop would take more discussion.

2 - I don't think there's much chance of rain in the Drakensberg in June. Most of South Africa, barring the SW Cape, gets summer rainfall and has dry winters. When I was in the Drakensberg in July, we got a light dusting of snow overnight, but the days were clear and sunny.

The Drakensberg area is very scenic, but the nights do get cold in winter. If you want to avoid those cold Drakensberg nights, you might want to spend the time in the KwaZulu-Natal lowveld instead, e.g., in the Hluhluwe Game Reserve.

3 - Sorry, I haven't stayed in the luxury bungalows at Skukuza, so cannot comment on them.
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Nov 8th, 2004, 10:16 AM
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Would agree on splitting the journey from Ithala to Skukuza - we drove from Ithala to Berg-en-Dal (one of Kruger's southernmost camps) in one day and found it a long day but manageable - we took a stop for lunch where we also browsed a few craft shops and that's it. The border formalities didn't take long but probably added a total of 40-60 minutes to our journey all together.

I'd also recommend including Hluhluwe-Imfolozi if you can. We enjoyed our time there.

Ithala was our favourite self-drive park and I'm glad it's in your itinerary!
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Nov 8th, 2004, 10:15 PM
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Judy, I confess I don't know the Madikwe area, but my gut feel was that 9 hours would get you a long way from Skukuza. So I did a check using the Shell Geostar "plan your route" option, at http://www.shellgeostar.co.za/.

I've known that site to give some strange directions sometimes when it comes down to the finer detail, but I've found it generally accurate with the broader picture. It give a distance of 615km from Skukuza to Madikwe, and an estimated driving time of 6 and a 1/4 hours. That's for the fastest route option, it says that the shortest route is 594km, but 7 hours driving.

But still a long drive.
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Nov 10th, 2004, 05:29 AM
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Thanks for the link, Arthur. That's a great website! I've been looking for that kind of website for South Africa for some time.
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Nov 12th, 2004, 01:55 AM
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Gardyloo,

The Drakensberg is probably at its best in winter as it's not too hot and if you enjoy hiking, this is a good time for it. We get very little winter rainfall here so it won't be too wet. Any rain which does fall merely clears away the dust and makes it even more scenic.

There is always a chance of snow in winter in the Berg but generally it is higher up, very rarely does it close roads or cause traffic problems.

Have fun!
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Nov 12th, 2004, 06:00 AM
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Thanks to all, and FWIW I "knew" it was Drakensberg not Drakensburg all along.

The original reason for Ithala + Madikwe was to avoid malaria areas. Obviously Skukuza negates that advantage, so I may reconsider whether it's worth the time needed to cross the country, when as people point out, there are high-end resorts closer to Kruger that might offer a comparable experience (and cost) without the distances. Still, a couple of the Madikwe lodges, especially the River Lodge, certainly look appealing.

But back to malaria. In winter are mosquitoes an issue anyway? Or do the cool nights and dry days reduce their numbers to the point that one can pay less attention to the problem? If everyone says the nights and mornings in KNP in winter require warm coats, then might one presume it's too cold for the little b*ggers too?

I have been in malarial areas before and am not worried, but my spouse's Dr. suggests we try to stay away from malaria zones if it's convenient, due to a medical condition she's managing. Not ruled out categorically, just one of those things like skydiving. Well, if it were me....

Thanks again.
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Nov 12th, 2004, 06:39 AM
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We were in SA in May and June this year - ie the winter months. We often went to camps where the staff would say that there hadn't been any mosquitos for a while - and I'd be bitten by at least 10 of them on the first night - even with my DEET spray and long sleeved clothes.

Some of us just have too much mosquito appeal.

If you're in a malaria area even in winter it's better to take the drugs because it only takes one bite from the wrong mosquito to transfer malaria to your bloodstream. It doesn't need a whole load of them.

Ithala is a STUNNING park and worth the detour - not high density animal viewing (but interesting anyway) - but the views are to die for.
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Nov 12th, 2004, 07:51 AM
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Gardyloo, when I was a kid growing up in the lowveld of Swaziland, my mom and I contracted malaria in winter. My parents used to take anti-malarial medication and dispense it to us kids too during the summer. They thought we were all safe from malaria in winter, so they suspended the medication. Well, so much for that idea.

If you decide to avoid areas that are at risk for malaria, you could visit Addo Elephant National Park near Port Elizabeth. The drive from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth along the Garden Route is pretty.

As you're already aware, you also could go to Madikwe.
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