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Kruger National Park

If you have traveled to South Africa and have not visited Kruger National Park, then my friend you really need to make another trip back solely for Kruger National Park. We have done self drive safari in Kruger National Park on a budget. Planned everything on our own so here is our Kruger National Park Itinerary on a Budget.

Private or Public Kruger?

Kruger Budget Itinerary
Leopard in Kruger

Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa, sharing borders with Mozambique to the east and Zimbabwe to the north. The park is a combinations of Savannah, thorn veld and woodland eco-zones. The main national park run by Sanparks or Government. In addition, it has few private reserves adjacent/inside the park, run by different private bodies.

Private reserves are having limited boundaries, giving more probability of animal sightings but are ridiculously expensive. On the other hand Kruger National Park is HUUUUGE, and you might not see all the animals but it will be affordable. Confused? What to choose? As a budget traveler here is our guide to make the maximum out of your money and missing the least. On our Kruger Budget Itinerary, we will be covering only budget option so private game reserve doesn’t come under that, so in short we will cover details on Kruger National Park, one of the South African National Parks (Sanparks).

How to Reach Kruger National Park?

Tortoise crossing the road Kruger National Park
Tortoise crossing the road

There are many ways to reach Kruger:

  • Fly to Johannesburg. After that, hire a car and drive to Kruger National Park. Usually, it takes 4-5hrs of driving to reach Kruger, depending on low traffic. Remember on weekends/ long weekends it might take longer.
  • Fly to Johannesburg and then take another domestic flight to Nelspruit or Hendrik Van Eck. 

Kruger on a Budget? Our recommendation would be get a car rental and drive to Kruger through Hazyview, rather than the highway this drive will be scenic.
What we did? We drove to Kruger National park through Hazy view and stopped at pot holes for lunch.
Most importantly there are many entrance gates in Kruger park, based on your route you can choose any gate to enter.

When to visit Kruger?

Waterbuck near a water hole
Waterbuck chilling

Kruger remains open through out the year, and anytime is good time to go to Kruger. But, there are two main season Wet Season and Dry Season.
Dry Season:- The winter months are considered to be the dry season and best time to see animals. Because there will be less vegetation and water bodies, causing the animals to get near the watering holes. April to September remains dry and cold, thus it would have been too cold for us.
Wet Season:- The Summer months are considered to be the wet season, October to March is the rainy season. It is going to be hot these days and if you are from India or South East Asia then it won’t bother you.

The wet season is budget friendly, but you can chose the season up to your wish. We went January first week and encountered some drizzles and heavy rain but it wasn’t all day. But, it didn’t impact our game drive.

How many days needed for Kruger Budget Trip?

Bird on a tree
Bird on a tree

This is the most trickiest question to answer, frankly it depends on your interest. We stayed in Kruger for 4 days, and had an amazing time and sightings.
Now our suggestion is 2 nights stay inside the park is minimum one should do on a self drive safari. In case you are fond of wild animals and safari then we would recommend 4days in Kruger.
Remember as in any safari, the sightings depends on your luck you might be able to see all the wildcats in a day or none during your entire stay.

Where to Stay in Kruger on a Budget?

Kruger Budget Itinerary
Kruger Rest Camp

If you are driving all the way from Johannesburg as we suggested, then we would recommend you to stay that night either in Hazyview or outside Kruger Park. You can see the Pot Holes, Blyde River Canyon and Gods Window on the way to the park.
Next day early morning get inside the park and stay there for 2-3 nights. We learned this from our mistake, so unless you’re flying to Kruger keep a day in hand outside Kruger, else you’ll waste your time & money.
There are many stay option inside Kruger National park, which will be little expensive than staying outside but there are few benefits staying inside the park.

  1. You are inside the park in an enclosed wired area. There are high probability of spotting wildlife from your rest camp.
  2. The entry to the park for the folks staying inside opens an hour early than the outsides. How cool is that?
  3. A thrilling experience
  4. No need to be in queue everyday to get inside the park.

Sanparks provide variety of accommodation inside the park and the rates vary based on the type(For Example, Camping, Hut, Safari Tent, Bungalow, Cottage, Family Cottage) you choose. The price ranges from Rand 333-2512, i.e INR 1533-13552 approximately. You can book online.

How much is Kruger Entry fees?

African Buffalo
African Buffalo

Kruger National Park charges Rand 331 per day, i.e. INR 1786 conservation fees plus rand 41, i.e. INR 221, subject to change every year, you can check here the latest rates of the park.
There are two ways you can pay for the park.

  1.  Reach the park gate and at the time of entry pay the entire amount for your stay.
  2. Pay for the wild card- Wild card is valid for a year to a cluster of 80+ South African Parks, once applied you don’t need to pay at the park gate. Wild card costs Rand 2450, i.e 13218. Click here to know more on Wild Cards.

In addition to the conservation fees one need to pay Rand 581, i.e.INR 3135 vehicle charges.
When we visited the conservation fees were less Rand 304 last year, also the conservation fees were charged per night basis, that means if you are in the park for 2 nights 3days, 2 nights charge will be taken. For Example, you entered the park 15th Mar 5.30AM in the morning, stayed the night and left 16th evening 6PM, you need to pay only one day’s conservation fees. Please check if this rule is still valid before planning either by email or at the gate.

Where to eat in Kruger Budget Itinerary?

Skukuza Camp Restaurant
Skukuza Restaurant

The park has many restaurants located inside their rest camps and public picnic spots. They serve both food and alcohol, and doesn’t charge a bomb. Once or twice you can halt for lunch any of the rest camp on your way and use these facilities. The prices are a bit higher considering other South African restaurants, but they are definitely not looting you. You can find shops as well inside the camps, which has everything from dairy, alcohol, meat, fruits and veggies.

Our Kruger Budget Itinerary, would suggest to cook your own meal. You will save few bucks as well as get more time in game viewing. Don’t want to cook then eat at the camp restaurant or make a BBQ for yourself.

Safari timings?

Giraff in Kruger
Giraff

Make sure you abide by the below timings, if you are late you’ll be fined so keep that in mind while driving. Above all the park timings are strictly followed irrespective of where you are staying.

Gate Times JanFebMar AprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Entrance Gates Open   05:3005:305:30 06:00 06:0006:0006:0006:0006:0005:3005:3005:30
Camp Gates Open 04:3005:3005:30 06:00 06:0006:0006:0006:0006:0005:3004:3004:30
All Gates Close 18:3018:3018:00 18:00 17:3017:3017:3018:0018:0018:0018:3018:30

Which car choose for Driving in Kruger Budget Itinerary?

Vehicle We took for Safari on a budget
Our ride for safari

Roads of Kruger National Park are pretty good, the main road is tar road and really well maintained. The off routes are gravel roads, therefore can be bumpy and scary at times. We would recommend to hire 4X4 vehicle as it will be best for both tar and gravel roads, but the main reason will be the height of the vehicle that gives you more visibility to look far behind the bushes to spot the wild life. Our ride was audi A4, however hatchbacks were doing fine in tar roads.

Which map to follow?

Elephants crossing Road A guide to Kruger National Park
Elephants crossing Road

During our trip we used offline google maps. Download google offline maps for navigation as it works brilliantly. Please do not rely on cellphone networks because there are zones where there will be no network. You can also buy park map from the Rest Camp which is expensive. Kruger on a budget itinerary suggests, choose to take a printout prior from their website.

Guided Safari:

Safari Vehicle in kruger itinerary
Guided Safari

Our Kruger Budget Itinerary, would be book at least one evening safari with your rest camp, that increases your chances to see the big 5 as the officials have access to roads which won’t be accessible to you otherwise. Also, they are real experts on these animals, the experience itself is going to be fun. Check here for guided safari.

Rules to be followed while driving?

Driving in Kruger National Park on a budget
Self Drive Safari

When you drive please make sure to follow the below points else you will be fined:

  • Please Do not litter, keep the park clean
  • Feeding animals are strictly prohibited
  • Under any circumstances never get out of the car
  • Make sure not to get out of the sunroof or the windows for better visibility, keep your self inside the car
  • Over speeding is a crime, follow the speed limit mentioned 50km/hr
  • Respect not to enter not entry/restricted zones, watch out for signs on the roads
  • No loud music in the car

Things to Carry in a trip to Kruger?

Make sure you carry the below in your drive

  • Binoculars
  • Sunscreen
  • Google Offline Maps
  • Plenty of Water
  • Dustbin Bag
  • Food 
  • Camera
  • Zoom lens
  • Comfortable camouflaged clothing
  • Caps

Our Experience in Kruger on a Budget

Lion in Kruger
Lion

We consider our self the lucky ones, spotted every animal we ever wished for. In other words we named an animal and we spotted one in Kruger. For instance, Lion, Cheetah, Leopard, Hyena and wild dogs. In addition from these cats, elephants, Buffalo, Hippo, Rhino, giraffe and zebra paid us many visits.

Zebra in Kruger National Park on a budget
Zebra in Kruger National Park

Similarly, we saw beautiful birds like Sterling, Roller, Kingfisher, Hornbill, Vultures and Eagles.Last but not the lease, we spoke about Honey Badger and the guy next day gives us a visit just by our Bungalow. How cool is that?

If you would want to feel our journey go check out our Kruger video.
More questions, feel free to comment below and we will provide all the information we can on your Kruger Budget trip.

Kruger vlog

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