Recommendation for a Safari Camp in Kruger Park

Aug 5th, 2013, 07:39 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2013
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Recommendation for a Safari Camp in Kruger Park

We will be staying at the Zulu Nyala Game Reserve at the end of next month September and departing about Oct. 2. We plan on driving from Durban or Richards Bay to this park. We'd like to consider a second camp. Would appreciate any suggestions. We'd like to go for 3 nights. If not far maybe another 3 hours we could drive or we would just return the car and fly out of Durban or Richards Bay to 2nd camp. From the 2nd camp, we would fly to Capetown and finish up our trip there. There are so many camps to choose from, I have no idea which one to choose. We cannot afford luxury, Sabi Sabi sounds wonderful, but it's way out of our price range. We'd like some comfort, not bare bones. Any ideas? Could definitely use some suggestions. thanks
Wandy1 is offline  
Aug 6th, 2013, 05:09 AM
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>>We cannot afford luxury, Sabi Sabi sounds wonderful, but it's way out of our price range. We'd like some comfort, not bare bones. <<

Have you considered the official SanParks accommodation inside KNP itself (rather than the super-expensive concessions on the edge)? See The SanParks cottages and rondavels are clean and functional with en-suite bathrooms and daily maid service. Most have kitchenettes so you can do your own food, but the larger camps all have restaurant facilities as well. Not luxurious (who needs a butler on a safari holiday anywhay?), but economical and well-located - most camps are in areas rich in wildlife and some have fabulous views. I always put in a word for SanParks here on Fodors, but it seems to fall on deaf ears as most US visitors to SA are looking for luxury accommodations.
Gordon_R is offline  
Aug 6th, 2013, 08:35 AM
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I second Gordon's recommendation. I've stayed in many of the Kruger Park camps over the last 30 years. They cost about $100 a night for two people, depending on size and style. They range from safari tents (really fun!) to huts, to cottages.

Do look at the website for complete info about what's available.

Celia is offline  
Aug 6th, 2013, 10:54 AM
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I third the recommendation ! I greatly prefer self-driving, I just love the freedom. A couple months ago we did a Kruger north to south trip in 17 days, fantastic. If you are only planning 3 days, you should stay in the south at only one camp. My favorite camp is Lower Sabie. We have stayed there twice, this last time for 4 nights in the tents which are the best, IF you don't mind being close to nature (we don't)we had all sorts of visitors in and around the tent. It is a very popular camp so it may be hard to get in, but people do cancel and you can change if something comes up. If you can't get into Lower Sabie, Berg en Dal is really nice too. I haven't stayed at Crocodile Bridge but stopped by, they have tents to but not restaurant so you would have to cook. Skukuza is much bigger and busier but it is also in an excellent game viewing area.

It is a long all day drive from KZN up to Kruger so you should plan on flying if possible to maximize your time.

kellyee21 is offline  
Aug 6th, 2013, 05:00 PM
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Agree with above about Kruger.
We're from USA and been on safari in many $$$$ private camps over the last seven years. Kruger National Park, driving yourself on good park roads, remains one of our favorite safaris.

I know GR gave you a link to Kruger NP and here's another on same KPN web site but directly into the Skuduza camp, the parks headquarters.

regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Aug 6th, 2013, 05:51 PM
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thank you all. I will definitely check the websites. I thought I read that it's awfully crowded right in the park, with lots of tourists? I would prefer a bit more secluded. I doubt I will have the energy to make any meals. I will check out this option as well. appreciate it
Wandy1 is offline  
Aug 6th, 2013, 09:25 PM
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"energy to make any meals"
Every main camp has a reasonably priced restaurant and a general supplies store.

Although I've never been in the southern area around Sukuza, the central area, Oliphants, Satara, Morami, have not been crowded. But hear that school holidays can be busy. Check - for a listing of holidays.

regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Aug 7th, 2013, 12:53 AM
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"Crowded" is not an expression I would ever associate with KNP. Granted, there will be times during school holidays when the rest camps are fully booked and there are significantly higher numbers of day visitors (mainly in the south-west of the park), but the park is bigger than many countries and there's plenty of roads for people to disperse once out of the camps. It's not unusual at all to drive for 30 to 40 minutes on one of the minor roads without seeing another soul. Self-driving is easy and great fun, and you'll see plenty of animals that way (even the "big five").

As mentioned above there are restaurants at the larger camps (the one in the old railway station at Skukuza is always fun). I have to say though - you just haven't experienced the real South Africa until you've cooked your own Boerewors on a braai washed down with a few Windhoeks

Our favourite camps is Oliphants - we've stayed in one of the rondavels direclty overloooking the river. We could see and hear hippos bathing in the water directly below us. Sure we had to book well in advance, but it was amazing value at around R1000 a night. To get that sort of view in a private reserve, you'd be looking at an eye-watering amount of money.
Gordon_R is offline  
Aug 7th, 2013, 06:45 AM
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Oh, Gordon, you've made me hungry! (Only I want to wash my boerewors down with a nice Pinotage, not a beer.)

Celia is offline  
Aug 7th, 2013, 08:18 AM
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Crowded. It can sometimes become crowded when a big cat is sighted. Cars will line up both sides of road, maybe 20 of them, all wanting a glimpse of the cat(s). The big herd of eles that wander across the road all around you are a delight, just turn off car engine and enjoy. Agree about camp Oliphants, try to get hut/rondavel closet to river. Not actually on river but best view of river.

regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Aug 7th, 2013, 10:09 PM
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With a limited budget and limited time, I'd head to Tembe Elephant Park, Zululand Rhino Reserve and/or Hluhluwe National Park. Mkhuze is in Zululand, too. All are easy on the budget.

It's a full day drive from Zululand to Kruger, or an overnight in Swaziland (easy). Flights go through JoBurg, so a full day travel for just three days. I'd go to the very nice options in Zululand, plus St Lucia. Don't try to do too much with limited time.
christabir is offline  
Sep 26th, 2013, 08:23 AM
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Inserting a comment to bookmark. Finally a SA thread that doesn't throw budget to the wind and it wasn't that easy to find!
CounterClifton is offline  
Sep 26th, 2013, 11:33 AM
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I agree with Christabir about checking out some places in the Kwazulu Natal. I just booked an entire 15 night itinerary for less than the price of 3 nights at a top Sabi Sands lodge. Of the 15 nights, 8 nights are at game lodges, 4 nights at one of the most exclusive beach lodges in South Africa and 3 nights at a 4 star hotel in the city.

The Tripadvisor website was key in helping my planning and I saved a bundle by finding one of my desired lodges on the Luxury Link website.

Self driving is also going to add to the savings and add to the flexibility.

I would just suggest going here and clicking on the "specialty lodging" link to find a safari lodge that may work for you as Kwazulu Natal is quite large.

My lodges in Kwazulu Natal will include Leopard Mountain Lodge, Isibindi Zulu Lodge, Thonga Beach Lodge and Mkuze Falls Game Reserve. All of them are a mere fraction of the price of lodges in the Sabi Sands game reserve.
Roccco is offline  
Oct 1st, 2013, 06:59 PM
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Just booked 10 nights in Kruger for September 2014 for under $1100. Was last there in 2007 and it wasn't crowded at all.
matnikstym is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2013, 06:54 AM
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Look beyond Sabi Sands reserve for more affordable private lodges.

Some options;

- Pungwe Bush Camp in Manyeleti reserve.
Pro; at about 175$ pppn an absolute steal
Pro; 20000+ Ha traverse (whole reserve)
Con; Offers no luxury at all (but very good comfort level)
Con; (perhaps) walks in the morning, drives in afternoon.

- Simbavati River Lodge in Timbavati Reserve.
Pro; shares traverse with camps that are at least twice as expensive. Total more than 8000Ha.
Pro; very good level of comfort, even a tad luxurious (like electric blankets in your tent, lol).
Con; stone buildings not very authentic. Go for one of their tents.

- Shindzela Camp in Timbavati reserve.
Pro; amazing price (less than 200$ pppn)
Pro; amazing guides (I had both the owner Dave and Jason. But now Johan smalman from Gomo Gomo joined their team)
Con; (perhaps) semi-walks in the morning, drives in afternoon.
Con; no traverse with others. But their plot is rather big (3000Ha) and contains the biggest dam in the center of the reserve. Tip; they got a hide at that dam, where you can sleep out.
Pro; amazing tents and camp location (close to perfect in my book, with the exception of storage space).

- Africa On Foot in Klaserie reserve.
Pro; amazing price (less than 200$ pppn)
Pro; amazing guides and trackers (like Francois & Enoch)
Con; (perhaps) walks in the morning, drives in afternoon.
Pro; traverse with all other lodges around (6000Ha+)

- nThambo in Klaserie reserve.
Pro; best accommodation I had yet (in that budget range it stands out). Something magical about those semi-woo, semi-canvas tents on high platforms
Pro; amazing guides and trackers (like Rein & Isaac)
Pro; same traverse as previous camp.
Pro; all drives (in contrast to previous camp). Might be better if you want to optimize your chances of seeing lots of big game.
Con; a tad more expensive than previous lodges (about 300$ pppn now), but given the level of comfort, and given that it's an all-inclusive camp (no tab for softdrinks/beers/wines) it's still very good. In fact, this is my favorite camp in the lowveld.

I agree with others that a self-drive in Kruger NP can be quite fun as well. I guess it all depends what you're looking for. If you don't want to lose time with cooking & washing, if you are not that good at spotting your own animals, if you want to be able to go off road for big 5 sightings, and if you want to be able to drive after dark and look for nocturnal animals, then IMHO the private reserves are the way to go.


pixelpower is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2013, 07:20 AM
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It's all relative of course, but I would not consider 200$ pppn (assuming that means USD) to be "an absolute steal" - it's a prohibitively expensive amount of money to many travellers. That's where the Sanparks accommodation and self-driving come in. This hasn't stopped us seeing the big five, and countless other unique animal sightings as well that we can take at our own pace. I agree it's true you can't self-drive at night within KNP (for fairly obvious safety reasons), but the main camps do offer guided night-time safaris which are generally very good.
Gordon_R is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2013, 02:49 AM
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I hear you, Gordon.

But I mention these camps because the topic started mentioned Sabi Sabi. This lodge, as well as similar lodges in the Sabi Sands reserve (Mala Mala, Singita, Londolozi, ...) easily charge 750-1000 USD pppn. Or more! So then 200-300 USD surely is better.

The reason some camps can charge 750 USD or more is because, when it comes to safaris on private property, the average prices are around 500USD pppn. This is the case in the less known camps in Sabi Sands, in most lodges in Timbavati reserve, etc. But in fact, it's also the same in less know private parks in South Africa, like the ones near Addo / Port Elizabeth, like the ones in the Waterberg region, Mashatu, etc. And if you look beyond South-Africa; it is also like that in Zambia (check all camps in S Luanga), in Zimbabwe (check Mana Pools), in Namibia (check the private reserves near Etosha, or in Damaraland).

And if an area gets very popular, prices go beyond that. Sabi Sands is a good example. So is the Okavango Delta. Or the camps around the Mara crossings on Tanzania side. Top (I think) is Mombo in the Okavango Delta. 1800$ pppn top season, I believe.

In view of all what I wrote above, I just wanted to point out the "lower end" of the private camps that are available. The other end of the 750-1000$ Gauss curve, so to speak.

Is 200 USD pppn a steal? Well... you have to consider the following: in that price is included;

- your room
- three meals a day (far from what you throw together yourself at a restcamp in a national park)
- water, tea, coffee, ... Sometimes soft drinks & spirits are not included, but the camps do not charge that much. I pay 1 USD for a soft drink, and 10-15$ for a good bottle of wine.
- all staff that (room cleaning, make up the beds, wash the dishes, ...). It looks silly to mention this, but it's stuff you do yourself when at a restcamp. At a private lodge you do not lose time doing these things.
- Your game drive vehicle, better adapted for sightings/photography than any rental vehicle.
- A guide and tracker that drive you around and spot animals for you.
- Three safari activities per day (morning, afternoon, night).
- The fact that you can go off-road, and that there are no crowds at sightings (2 to 3 vehicles max) is also worth something.
- park entrance fees.

If you consider all the above, and think about what popular lodges can charge, then IMHO 200 USD _IS_ a steal.

I recently did a trip to Paris. I parked my car at the airport (cheaper than downtown). I bought a ticket for public transport for the weekend. Booked a hotel room (B&B basis, centre town). Then bought museum tickets. And I kept all my restaurant bills of that weekend. Guess what; on a per day basis I spent MORE than what I spend in those "cheap" private lodges I mentioned in my post above.

Now, Paris was fun. But if I have to choose between one day of fun in a city and one day of up-close-and-personal encounters with animals in the African bush... the choice is easy. ;-)


pixelpower is offline  

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