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Recommendation for Kruger NP day visit

Recommendation for Kruger NP day visit

Old Nov 6, 18, 12:54 am
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Recommendation for Kruger NP day visit

Hello everybody,

We are heading to South Africa in one month. Four nights we are staying at AirBnB at Marloth Park which is next to Crocodile Bridge gate entrance at Kruger.

Would you recommend what would be the best day visit of Kruger? Where/what routes to take/drive, pay attention to what, what to take with us in car (drinks, food, insect repellent, anything else?), are there any places where we can not only drive but have a walk/hike as well, etc, etc.

Information over Internet is too diverse so I would prefer to listen to people based on actual experience.
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Old Nov 6, 18, 2:39 am
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The big unknown here is the weather. When planning game drives, rainfall and temperature are major considerations.

In an average years, December will be hot, humid and at times rainy.

The basic rule of thumb is to start as early as possible, especially if a hot day is forecast. In December the park entrance gate will open at 5.30 a.m. By that time, those staying in Crocodile Bridge rest camp will already have a one hour head-start, as camp gates open at 4.30.

Depending on how many vehicles are ahead of you and how long it takes to complete formalities, you should be through the gate in 15 - 30 minutes. Sunrise is just before 5 a.m., so it will be light by the time you start your game drive.

From Crocodile Bridge you have three options:

1. Head straight up the H4-2 tar road towards Lower Sabie.

2. Take the S28 loop along the Lebombo Mountains towards Lower Sabie

3. Head west on the S25 along the Crocodile River towards Malelane

I can't tell you in advance what the best choice will be, it's the kind of decision I would make on the morning itself.

A couple of pointers:

- if it is raining, or wet after plentiful rain, the tar road is probably your best bet. Even if the gravel roads haven't been closed, sticking to the tar makes for easier driving. The bush along this road is mostly thick or very thick, but rain may drive animals out on the road. They don't like moving through wet vegetation.

- if it is dry, and there has not been enough rain in preceding days to fill pans and wallows, then the S25 river road is the obvious choice. Animals move to and from the river to drink, and cross the road in the process. The road also passes through half a dozen eco zones, so the landscape varies a lot.

- the S28 is definitely a clear skies road. Two or three decades ago the landscape was very open, larger animals such as elphants, rhinos and buffaloes could be spotted from several miles away. Since then there's been a lot of bush encroachment, making animals harder to spot. This road would not be my first choice unless I had very good reason, e.g. a confirmed lion kill right next to the road.

In all three instances it is possible to return to Crocodile Bridge by a different route in time for lunch. Should you wish to make it a day drive, there are further options.

Johan
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Old Nov 6, 18, 6:31 am
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First of all, thank for such a detailed answer. We are staying 4 nights, one day is for Panorama Route. So unless there is something else we should see outside of Kruger, we potentially can dedicate three whole days for day trips.

One such day would be to go to Lower Sabie and come back. Second - drive west and exit Melelane gate.

I would really appropriate if you can advise on additional route option for above mentioned drives and for the third day, as well what should we pack with us in addition to sandwiches, water, binoculars and insect repellent. In terms of food - does it worth/makes sense to have lunch at one of rest camps and if yes, which place is recommended?

One more question - any opinion about sunrise guided walks? Brief check of Parks web site shows that they are available only for people who stay at the park and price is definitely not cheap - it is more expensive than entrance fee.

Anything else we should take into consideration? If there are recommended places for dinner too - I'd be glad to hear. I know that BBQ is SA's national pastime but I doubt that after 12h we are going to have enough energy for this...
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Old Nov 13, 18, 6:24 am
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Have you found the SanParks forum? They also have tons of information about routes, what to take and how to get the most from self-driving.

You are right that you cannot do any of the walking activities from the main camps because you are not staying within the park. Since you haven't been on safari before and can only be in the park during daylight, consider going on an 'external sunset drive' or night drive from Crocodile Bridge. It gives you an opportunity to be driven around, ask questions of the guide and use spotlights to look for night-time animals. You need to pre-book.

Johan's advise is of course great. With such long and hot days in December, you may find you want to go for a siesta in the middle of the day, either back at your accommodation or at one of the many rest camps or stops where you can get out. Note that Skukuza has a day-use swimming pool (although it is quite a drive from Croc Bridge and back). Buy the map at the gate, but this one for example shows you lunch spots, hides and other places you are allowed out of the vehicle (e.g. Hippo Pools at Croc Bridge, viewpoints near Skukuza: https://www.safari.com/kruger-nation...south-section/). Of course self-catering will be cheapest. We particularly like to have a thermos of tea/coffee for the mornings to stop at a dam or waterhole or view overlooking a river bed and just sit with the windows open listening to the birds and see what you see. But the picnic sights and main rest camps all offer very affordable food too. Most overlook riverbeds or are at high lookouts. Just get yourself a stick to wave at the baboons if you stop at Nkhulu.

My main advise is to drive really slowly (20 kph or less) with the windows down, don't expect to get very far in a day of driving, and stop at river crossings / bridges / culverts and have a good look with binos up and down the channel. Don't get too hung-up on where you are travelling 'to' because what you see crossing the road will mostly be luck with being at the right place at the right time.

Enjoy.
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Old Nov 23, 18, 3:34 am
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I drove the S25 one morning a few weeks ago, albeit from the Malelane side, even though it had rained on the two preceding days. As expected, the game viewing sucked. I did see a few dozen rhinos, but they were nearly all on the other roads I drove before getting to the S25. Best thing about the drive was that I didn't meet a single car for the first two hours and twenty minutes. Quite an achievement in southern Kruger. People who I met later that morning said they had seen a cheetah on the S28.

I continued to the north of the park, where it had rained even more. The game viewing sucked there too.

Johan
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Old Dec 5, 18, 12:22 pm
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Just to add that central Kruger remained bone dry until Wednesday last week, when it rained torentially. That screwed up the game viewing, which had been excellent up to then. More rain last Sunday afternoon and evening, but not that much.

The Lower Sabie area remained mostly dry, lots of game there.

Johan
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Old Dec 5, 18, 10:31 pm
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Johan, thanks.

A question - do you know what are road conditions outside of Kruger? Is there a resource where actual information is posted?

I am planning to drive from JNB to Marloth Park after arrival and one day is dedicated to Panorama drive. 1.5 years ago when I was driving from Hazyview some roads could serve a pothole avoidance course....

Also, on TripAdvisor there are several stories how corrupt (or fake) police officers are following rental cars, stopping them and demanding money.
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Old Dec 6, 18, 12:49 am
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I've only very rarely been stopped by cops, the last time was an evening a few weeks ago in Hoedspruit. They were looking for drunk drivers, and the officer proudly told me that he had already arrested two, but that his goal was to get five! Not a very ambitious target in a country like SA.

When I get stopped I always courteously greet the cops in Shangaan, which (wrongly) disabuses them of the assumption that I am a tourist, and invariably breaks the ice.

I drove from the Timbavati to ORTIA on Monday, (Hoedspruit - Ohrigstad - Lydenburg - Dullstroom - Belfast - Witbank - JNB on the R527 / R36 / R540 / N4 / N12). Although the bit up the Drakensberg escarpment is pretty cool, it is not a drive I enjoy.

In Limpopo the roads are fine, as are the N4 and N12, it's Mpumalanga that's the problem, i.e. the bit from about 25 km before Lydenburg (which city has gone from being a third-world dump to a certified hell hole in just a few years) to the N4. The good news is that almost all the potholes have been filled in or patched (albeit badly) so instead of being borderline suicidal that stretch is now just uncomfortably bumpy.

I haven't done the Panorama route since the early 90s (the pretty views don't really change much, so once or twice is plenty enough), but by all accounts the roads have only gotten worse. It is once again Mpumalanga that's the problem.

Johan
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Old Dec 18, 18, 10:40 am
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Day visits in December from Crocodile Bridge gate - observations

Ok, at Marloth Park right now, after 5 nights here, have done two day visit/drives and one 'external sunset drive' booked at Crocodile Gate camp.

Regarding day drives - during all our time here and previous weeks there was dry weather. On the first day drive we arrived at the gate at 6:15AM. Despite the fact that I paid all fees online and had indemnify form, it took 45 min waiting before the bridge to get in to the line to get to the bridge, cross the bridge and wait at the gate to process paperwork - office was not open for some reason. Then, machine at shop was down and everything was done by hand, so it took another 15 min waiting in line to buy map. So we started driving at 7:15AM.I don't know if it was already getting late, or some other reasons, but on S25-S26-S23 until H3 the only animals we saw were giraffes (well, not counting impalas). Nothing else. Turned north, arrived at Skukuza, had lunch (was 1PM already) and headed back via H4-1 to Lower Samie and then on H4-2 back. During the drive on the main road again - nothing, but we drove off to S137 towards Duke's and there were bunch of elephants, zebras, giraffes. No predators and rhino/buffalo, but the day was not entirely wasted.

Today, learning lesson from yesterday, we arrived at the gate at 5:35AM, this time crossing the bridge and processing was faster, but it still took 25 min. By 6AM we already have been on road. This time we took S28-S137-Duke's-H4 to Lower Sabie for breakfast at 8AM, on the way there we saw a lot of elephants, zebra and giraffes on/around the road. Continuing on H10 to north was the most rewarding because we saw two lionesses from 20m from the road across the small stream. And except us there were just two other cars, so we can see them clearly. Compare this to sightings of leopard or lions at H4-2 and H3 where bunch of cars pile of on both side of the road blocking traffic and people who arrive at the scene later neither can see animals, nor they can drive past. So the second day was rewarding.

And separately needs to be mentioned the sunset drive we booked at Crocodile Gate. On that drive we could see cheetah with four cubs, rhino, buffalo, elephants, giraffes, leopard (part of) during that 3h. And considering that we had this drive before our self-drives and during 3h we could see much more than during 10h spent on self-driving on first day, that could explain why the first day it felt disappointing.

But I'd like to mention, especially for first timers, that you should not expect that you will see all or even majority of animals during self drivers. Self drives are long, monotonic, tiring/boring - especially after 6 hours, and you need to start them as early as possible. Because if you start at 8AM, it is already late - it is too hot and most animals will look for a shade. I am not sure about night drives and what can you see during these, but if you have a chance to go on sunrise/sunset drives - do it. You will have qualified driver and the guide which will spot these animals you would not be able to find on your own.

As for me - I think I'm done with safaris. This was a new experience for me, I spent right amount to time and resources and my companions shared the same sentiment.

But again, I would like to thank everyone who shared their suggestions and observations.
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Old Dec 18, 18, 11:51 am
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Originally Posted by invisible View Post
I am not sure about night drives and what can you see during these.
The same animals as on a sunset drive.

The difference is that night drives start later, which improves your chances of seeing strictly nocturnal animal, whose peak activity period starts an hour or two after sunset (there are exceptions, it varies from species to species).

There's also usually much less traffic on the roads compared to the sunset drive.



Yes, starting your drive at 7.15 a.m. is too late, unless it is a cloudy and cool day. There's are reason why camp gates (not the entry gates) open at 4.30 a.m. from November through January.



Your conclusion is therefore spot-on: hit the road as early as possible, especially in summer.

Your experiences at the entry gate don't sound like much fun. Something to be avoided, by the sound of it, certainly during school vacations.

Johan
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