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1st timer to SA, need advice for Kruger

1st timer to SA, need advice for Kruger

Old Jan 7, 19, 10:02 pm
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1st timer to SA, need advice for Kruger

Hi all,

I am planning my first trip to SA with my wife (both around 30 y.o). And here is the itinerary for now,
SIN - JNB
JBN - SZK
SZK - CPT
CPT - JNB
As I have the Marriott Platinum, planning to stay at Protea, seems quite close to SZK. Not sure if this is a good choice.
And for the Kruger safari, I understood there are quite a few gates and I am not planning to drive myself. Would rather just join one of those safari trips...Any good to recommend?

Any suggestions are welcome. Appreciated.
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Old Jan 7, 19, 10:16 pm
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When are these flights and how many days in each location and for each location?

Does this journey end in JNB or are you returning to SIN?
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Old Jan 7, 19, 11:05 pm
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Originally Posted by Yoshi212 View Post
When are these flights and how many days in each location and for each location?

Does this journey end in JNB or are you returning to SIN?
Thanks for reply. I'm planning to stay at Kruger for 3 nights and last flight will be from CPT to SIN. Will stay in CPT for 4-5days I guess
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Old Jan 8, 19, 9:36 am
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See my thread(s) about Kruger and SA, one of which is in Trip Reports, just returned from 18 days there, best time I had.

In terms of Kruger, if you stay inside in the camp, then join Sunset Drive and Morning Walk, plus one more activity on third day. Considering that each activities last 3+hours (morning walk could be 5h or more) better to have one of each for separate day and rest in between.
All these activities can be booked and paid on National Parks website - do it now, if you want to get in, usually everything is quite filled up quickly.
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Old Jan 8, 19, 12:11 pm
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Originally Posted by cjwy814 View Post
As I have the Marriott Platinum, planning to stay at Protea, seems quite close to SZK. Not sure if this is a good choice.
The main decision here is whether to stay inside or outside the park. If you go for the latter (you have no alternative if you wish to stay at a Marriott property) then the Protea is a good choice. It is directly across the Sabie River from the KNP, and right at the bridge to Paul Kruger Gate.

Yes, Skukuza is the closest airport, but note that it is located inside the park. You can't just walk out and catch a cab to the hotel.There aren't any. You will need to arrange a road transfer beforehand. The hotel will undoubtedly be happy to oblige.

You can take morning, afternoon or full-day game drives into the park straight from the hotel, they can book those for you too.

Johan
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Old Jan 8, 19, 5:17 pm
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Originally Posted by johan rebel View Post
Yes, Skukuza is the closest airport, but note that it is located inside the park. You can't just walk out and catch a cab to the hotel.There aren't any. You will need to arrange a road transfer beforehand. The hotel will undoubtedly be happy to oblige.
Johan, even if one does not stay in the park but arrives at SKZ, do they need to pay park entrance/conversation fees?
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Old Jan 9, 19, 3:42 am
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Originally Posted by invisible View Post
See my thread(s) about Kruger and SA, one of which is in Trip Reports, just returned from 18 days there, best time I had.

In terms of Kruger, if you stay inside in the camp, then join Sunset Drive and Morning Walk, plus one more activity on third day. Considering that each activities last 3+hours (morning walk could be 5h or more) better to have one of each for separate day and rest in between.
All these activities can be booked and paid on National Parks website - do it now, if you want to get in, usually everything is quite filled up quickly.
thanks mate. Read your post and saw you rent a car at JNB and drove all the way to Kruger.

My question is, within the Kruger park, did you drove yourself as well? I am worried won't be able to identify any animals without a fuide since this is my first time there. Can we hire a tour guide and still drive ourselves?
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Old Jan 9, 19, 3:44 am
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Originally Posted by johan rebel View Post
The main decision here is whether to stay inside or outside the park. If you go for the latter (you have no alternative if you wish to stay at a Marriott property) then the Protea is a good choice. It is directly across the Sabie River from the KNP, and right at the bridge to Paul Kruger Gate.

Yes, Skukuza is the closest airport, but note that it is located inside the park. You can't just walk out and catch a cab to the hotel.There aren't any. You will need to arrange a road transfer beforehand. The hotel will undoubtedly be happy to oblige.

You can take morning, afternoon or full-day game drives into the park straight from the hotel, they can book those for you too.

Johan
Thanks Johan. Very useful info.
Two questions:
At Skukuza, do they have any car rentals? I don't mind drive myself if safe there...
Other than hotel transfer, what are other options? Any agency can arrange beforehand
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Old Jan 9, 19, 5:59 am
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Originally Posted by cjwy814 View Post
My question is, within the Kruger park, did you drove yourself as well? I am worried won't be able to identify any animals without a fuide since this is my first time there.
Dure I did and was my first time as well. There are holy wars going all over forums where to stay to see animals, but I do not think anyone is going to dispute that animals are everywhere. On my second day I stopped counting girafes, elephants and zebras - they were so many. Predators are obviously more difficult to spot but we did see two lions and a cheetah with four cubs.
Originally Posted by cjwy814 View Post
Can we hire a tour guide and still drive ourselves?
I don't know if National Park offers such service, they do offer tours on their own vehicles.

I think the problem is not with external guide (which obviously can help) but actually when you start your day. You need to start your day as early as possible. Everyone here and other forums said that if you are staying outside of the park, you need to make sure that you are at the gate before the gate opens (in our case it was at 5:15AM) AND have your day visit pre-paid and indemnify forms filled and signed.

We started our drives at Crocodile Bridge and by 5:30AM, the time when gate opened, it was already 1.5h wait time for these who did not bother to go online and pay for day visit. These who already did it - were given first entry to the park, but still it took another 30 min until we were allowed to cross the bride and arrived at the checkin point.

Originally Posted by cjwy814 View Post
At Skukuza, do they have any car rentals?
I would be very surprised if there are not. Avis definitely is at Hoedspruit airport where I dropped of my car during my previous visit and obviously both Avis and Hertz are at MQP which is the major gateway.
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Old Jan 9, 19, 11:17 am
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Originally Posted by invisible View Post
Johan, even if one does not stay in the park but arrives at SKZ, do they need to pay park entrance/conversation fees?
If you enter the park at SKZ and then drive out one of the official park gates, you pay the same as any day visitor. The only exception is if you are heading for one on the private lodges in the Sabi Sand Wildtuin, get picked up by a lodge vehicle, and exit the KNP through the back gate, which is about 25 meters from the airport.

Johan
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Old Jan 9, 19, 11:29 am
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Originally Posted by cjwy814 View Post
At Skukuza, do they have any car rentals?
Yes, Avis.

I'm sure the other major rental agencies will deliver a vehicle to the airport on request, and at an extra charge.

Driving in Kruger is safer than just about anywhere else in South Africa. You do get traffic accidents, including a surprising number of fatal ones (two visitors were killed last October, that's the most recent fatal MVA I know of), but compared to outside the park it is very safe indeed.

Originally Posted by cjwy814 View Post
Other than hotel transfer, what are other options?
Do you mean transportation?

You can:

-hire a car.

- arrange for a friend or relative who is already in the park with a car to pick you up.

- be met by a vehicle from one of the private lodges that use SKZ as an access point.

- book a private safari (i.e. a guide and vehicle to drive you around the KNP, staying at various public rest camps) to pick you up.

Johan
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Old Jan 9, 19, 11:37 am
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Originally Posted by cjwy814 View Post
Can we hire a tour guide and still drive ourselves?
I think it should be possible, although most tour guides provide their own vehicle, which is optimized for game viewing.

SANParks public rest camps offer guided morning and afternoon drives daily, but it is also possible to book a full-day drive. This is not an officially marketed product, so on request only, and subject to availability of both a vehicle and a guide. Prices vary, you will get quote upon application directly to the camp you are staying at. Advance booking advisable.


Originally Posted by cjwy814 View Post
I am worried won't be able to identify any animals without a fuide since this is my first time there.
That's a legitimate concern.


Knowledge and experience make a huge difference. Knowing what to look for, as well as where, when and how to look obviously makes game viewing a lot easier. I recommend getting a basic field guide + map, and making sure to study them before you go on your first drive. If you then stick to the central and southern parts of the park you will not be the only one on the road. Other visitors are usually more than willing to point animals out to you, assist with identifcation, and give recommendations on where to drive next.

Johan

Last edited by johan rebel; Jan 9, 19 at 11:45 am
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Old Jan 9, 19, 11:59 am
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Originally Posted by invisible View Post
I do not think anyone is going to dispute that animals are everywhere.
Well, I will!

Sure, there are animals everywhere, but not necessarily in large numbers. Or even in small numbers. There are huge geographic and seasonal variations in abundance and distribution, more so for some species than for others.

The bottom right corner of the KNP (Crocodile Bridge, Lower Sabie) is generally very rich in game, although even there you get conspicuous variations betweens seasons.

There is far less game on the western side of the park where granite soils dominate, i.e. for most of its length. The Mopani shrubveld on the eastern side from about Olifants upwards has an even lower carrying capacity.

I can assure you that it is possible to drive for over 50 km in Kruger without seeing a single large mammal, because I've done it. It is also possible to drive over 200 km in a day, and not see any zebra. Not one. That happened to me last November. There are places in Kruger where you can go for weeks or even months without seeing a giraffe. There are places where you will not see a single elephant after the first good summer rains. And so forth.

Johan
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Old Jan 9, 19, 12:05 pm
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Originally Posted by invisible View Post
Everyone here and other forums said that if you are staying outside of the park, you need to make sure that you are at the gate before the gate opens (in our case it was at 5:15AM) AND have your day visit pre-paid and indemnify forms filled and signed.
True.

The other option is to book a guided tour in an open safari vehicle (OSV). The guide will take care of all the paperwork, and OSVs are allowed to enter the park 15 minutes before the gates open, so they get a headstart on all private visitors.

Johan
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Old Jan 9, 19, 9:52 pm
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I remember that at Crocodile Bridge there was list of options of hiring 4x4 and or guide. Rates are quite expensive - like starting from US $500 per day.

So if you are staying at the Marriott place, you need to clarify what are options to be picked up and drop off at SKZ and do not pay day visit fee if you do not plan to to the park that day. Probably the best option, if such is available - would be to be picked up and dropped off by lodge vehicle on your arrival and departure at SKZ. You can do this as well for the days you want to do self-drives.

Not to dispute what Johan says, he has much more experience in this matter. My experience driving up and down from Crocodile Bridge to Skukuza and back. plenty of giraffes, zebras and elephants. Here is one photo taken early in the morning alongside S28/S137 road.

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Last edited by invisible; Jan 9, 19 at 10:10 pm
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