self-drive itinerary in South Africa

Jan 23rd, 2005, 03:43 PM
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self-drive itinerary in South Africa

My original idea was to have an almost luxury trip to Zambia for about 10 days. Now after an intensive research and contact with a couple travel agent/loges I realized that it is impossible to do it for three adults - me, my wife and 16 years old son with pretty limited budget - about 2,000$ per person. So I am back to self-drive idea through SA. I am planning to have 2 days in Ithala, 2 days in Tluhluwe and the rest in Kruger (may be stop for 1 day in Blyde River Canyon area). I would appreciate very much any imformation about accomodations in these areas, i.e. Kruger safari lodges, Lodges in Ithala and Tluhluwe along with general comment about this itinerary.
bxzhit is offline  
Jan 24th, 2005, 07:32 PM
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bxzhit, where are you going to touch down in South Africa and start driving? In other words, from which city are you going to access your first game reserve? It seems to me it would make sense to travel through the game reserves from south to north or vice versa.

It probably would be best to fly to Durban, drive to Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, drive to Ithala, drive to Kruger, drive through the Blyde River Canyon area, and then drive to Johannesburg.

It may be helpful for you to read Kavey's trip report entitled, "The Long Trip Report : South Africa, Botswana and Namibia." Skip through the initial posts about Cape Town, the winelands and the Garden Route, and get to the ones about Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, Ithala and the Kruger National Park:

Here is the website of South African National Parks, which administers the Kruger National Park:

Beware of other websites belonging to commercial organisations that imply you're dealing with the accommodation camps in the national parks when, in fact, you're dealing with an intermediary.

Here is a website for Hluhluwe. As far as I can tell this is the official website maintained by the KwaZulu-Natal Nature Conservation Service. Again, there are other websites that give the appearance of being "official" when they're not:

Here is the KZN Nature Conservation Service's website for Ithala:

Hope that helps.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Jan 25th, 2005, 07:01 AM
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Judy_in_Calgary: Ohh, I can not say enough how valuable is your reply! The sites are great and very informative!
Now it looks like the only uncertainty I have is to how to split our 10-11 nights between 3 parks. Any advice from anyone?
bxzhit is offline  
Jan 25th, 2005, 08:09 AM
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Don't have much detailed info for you, but we have just returned from a month in SA and Botswana and would like to add that the driving is wondeful. Great roads..even the dirt ones.. and little traffic. Good luck and have a great trip. We just drove from Johannesburg to Sabi Sand and along the wine route.
Mincepie is offline  
Jan 25th, 2005, 08:14 AM
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I can tell you a little about some of the camps in Kruger, based on our visit in May 2004.

We spent 7 nights in three camps, going from the far north to the far south. We entered the park at Punda Milia gate, and ate a picnic lunch at Punda Milia camp. It was small, quiet, and the accommodations were in a motel-like building. We didn't see inside them. The shop was small but well stocked. I don't remember whether there was a restaurant there, but I think not. We then drove to ...

Shingwidzi, where we spent 2 nights. We loved this camp! Our accommodation was a bedroom & bathroom with a little porch. The refrigerator was on the porch, along with a table and chairs. If you self-cater there, you can braai (barbecue) outside your bungalow; there is a shelter with 2 electric stoves and two sinks nearby that you share with several other people. The restaurant at Shingwedzi was very good, with a lovely view over the river. You can rent a "cutlery box" for R10 per day ($1.70) which has pots and pans, dishes, knives & forks, everything you need for self-catering. Monkeys will try to raid your refrigerator; you have to move the table in front of the fridge door to keep them out! We found this out later than we wished.

This camp is in a riverine environment, so there are lots of big trees and shrubs, and baobab trees, which I didn't expect. Driving on our own, we saw one lion, lots of birds, elephants, maribou storks. On a night drive with the park rangers we saw an absolutely incredible lion hunt -- 4 or 5 lionesses stalking an impala herd. We saw the hunt, but not the kill itself. Also saw hyena, owls, elephants, chameleons, etc. We thought the rangers were top-notch.

After Shingwedzi, we headed to Satara camp.

Celia is offline  
Jan 25th, 2005, 08:36 AM
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The drive from Shingwedzi to Satara is 178 K on the main road. We took it part of the way, and secondary roads part of the way. We saw incredible amounts of game all day long, even during mid-day. Impala, guinea fowl & francolins, hippos, many crocodiles, wildebeeste, a herd of a couple hundred buffalo, zebra, baboons, giraffe, and more. This area was teeming with game! There are lovely designated picnic spots throughout the park, and we stopped at a couple.

Our bungalow in Satara was sort of unremarkable inside, (like a basic inexpensive motel room) but the porch was great, with plenty of room to eat dinner, and sit and enojy the evening. The bungalows are in circles, so you can see what your neighbors are up to, and talk with them if you want. But the camp didn't feel at all crowded. Here is what I wrote in my journal about the restaurant: "we had dinner in the restaurant -- self-service with food beautifully displayed, an attentive but unobtrusive waiter, lovely ambiance, but the food was just average." The other two nights there we did our own braai. Cooking was organized like at Shingwedzi -- rent a cutlery box, braai at your unit, cookhouse nearby. In addition to the restaurant, there was a place to buy sandwiches, potato chips, ice cream bars.

The gift shop was excellent, lots of quality souvenirs, books about wildlife, clothing.

We took an evening drive with the rangers here too, and again it was superb. I won't recount all our sightings, but the most interesting and novel was an African wild cat. They are about the size of a big house cat, colored like a lion, but with stripes on the hind legs.

Satara has a laundry, and there are several different kinds of accommodations including a section for tent campers. We met and talked with several South Africans at the laundry, and in the area of our rondavel.

The camp is bigger than Shingwedzi, and has more of a bustling feel, but the bungalows are arranged in sections separate from each other, so you still feel like you're close to the wilderness.

After Satara, we headed south to Lower Sabie ...

Celia is offline  
Jan 25th, 2005, 08:58 AM
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As you go south in Kruger, the environment changes, getting drier and more savanna-like. We again saw lots and lots of game on the drive from Satara south, including hyenas, elephants, a whole troop of baboons with juveniles playing in the trees and jumping around and being lovingly teased by older ones.

We picnicked on the way, and here is what I wrote about the picnic spots: "these are great. There are tables and chairs, sometimes under a thatch roof, sometimes open air. Ther are toilets, and sometimes a place to wash your dishes. You can rent a gas braai for R1 per hour. They are manned by a park employee, sometimes with his wife or her husband and their kids. At every one we've visited people are picnicking; sometimes with a sandwich like us, sometimes with an elaborate meal for an extended group of family or friends."

At Lower Sabie we stayed in the safari tents. These were pretty rustic, but very very comfortable. On the porch was a refrigerator and sink, table and chairs. Inside was a bedroom with twin beds, and a bathroom with shower and toilet and sink. The tents overlook the Sabie river, and you can hear the hippos snorting and calling to each other really loudly. The restaurant at Lower Sabie was beautiful, with a verandah overlooking the river too. Ambiance and service at the restaurant were terrific. As I remember, the food was pretty good too.

We took an early morning game drive with the ranger here, and again we were impressed with their knowledge and professionalism. We saw lions, duikers, giraffes, many crocs and many hippos, etc. etc., and all with intelligent commentary on the behaviours we were seeing.

Kruger has many different kinds of accommodations, and sometimes it's a little hard to know exactly what you're going to get (e.g. is a rondavel the same thing as a bungalow?), but I found the Sanparks web site to be very helpful. We did all our booking over the 'Net. Depending on how many days you'll be in the park, it might be worth getting a Wild Card, good for a whole year of entrance and conservation fees. For our particular trip, it was cheaper than the daily fees would have been.

We drove over to Skukuza one day and had lunch. It's the busiest camp, full of people and day trippers and buses, and has the feel of a small town, not really the wilderness at all. But it has a good grocery store and good information about all of Kruger and the other national parks.

I highly recommend the Kruger camps. They're beautifully maintained, not too expensive, the rangers are super, and you meet lots of interesting people (if you want to -- you can be as private or as sociable as you want).

I hope these comments are helpful. I may have gotten carried away describing game sightings, but I couldn't help it.
Celia is offline  
Jan 25th, 2005, 09:02 AM
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Within Kruger, I have stayed at Skukuza and Satara, both of which are among the larger lodges within Kruger. I selected them since they are in two of the best game viewing areas of the park, and I was not disappointed -- saw the Big 5 over the course of two days. Kruger is a great park.
thit_cho is offline  
Jan 25th, 2005, 03:22 PM
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Celia: great info, thank you!
bxzhit is offline  
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