Africa is on just about every one’s list as places to see. With that said, one of the primary barriers that prevent folks from going on safari is the hefty price tag. Our initial search for safari providers yielded prices ranging from $1000 to $5000 a night! Ouch! Perhaps one of the best kept secrets to going on safari is Kruger National Park in South Africa. Envision a national park the size of England. It is the self-serve safari.
Here is the drill. You drive your own car between the different camps in the park. You simply map out in advance where you want to stay. Each area has its own character. There are basically three different types of camps: Main camps, Bush camps, and overnight hides. Each has its own level of accommodation, cost, and comforts. We stayed at Sirheni, Olifants, and Skukuza. We made stops at Mopani, Punda Maria, and Satara. Let us know if you have quesitons about any of these. Our favorite was by far Sirheni. Some camps offer morning and evening walks and drives with park wardens. Candidly, we saw more critters on our own. But the wardens did offer interesting insights.
Going it on your own in an air-conditioned car, also allowed us to see exactly what we wanted to see. We set our own pace. Taking some back roads, we even got caught in a herd of water buffalo!
Ok we must offer this caution disclaimer. DO NOT GET OUT OF YOUR AUTO. You are very safe in your car. Kruger is not Disneyland . It is not a zoo. You are on the turf of some of the most dangerous animals on the planet (hippos being one of the most dangerous?!). There are snakes. There are large predators. STAY IN YOUR CAR. As two people that are prone to fights, we were concerned about the danger in our car as well as out. Interesting enough, being cooped up together for four days passed uneventful. The dramatic beauty and adventure that is around every corner in Kruger prevented any blowups! AMAZING!
So do you really get to see the animals especially the Big 5? YES! Take a look at a few of the animals we saw:
Must haves for doing Kruger:
Food-One of the downsides of doing Kruger is certainly the food. Many of the Bush camps don’t have restaurants. If they do have a restaurant, it tastes like cafeteria food. You can bring your own food and barbecue or cook at any of the camps. We did this one evening and should have done it every evening.
A good auto-Make sure your auto is good working order. Make sure you have a spare tire(s). You are truely on your own. Some roads are very rough. You don’t need a Range Rover, but you do need something that wont leave you in a lurch.
Updated GPS-we used a garmin NUVI. Worked great. Not all roads appeared. But enough to get us between camps and even a quick jaunt into Mozambique.
A better than average Zoomer-A good camera with a 250mm+ lens is mandatory. You will not be getting out of your auto. So you must let the lens do the walking.
Be friendly–Most of the people we met were also doing the self-serve safari. Slow down and ask them what they’ve seen and share what you’ve encountered close by. On one back road, we got tipped off that there were lion cubs just a few miles away. Most likely, we would have driven past and never seen them. On another adventure, someone pointed out a leopard!
Cash-We were not prepared for this. Much of what you do in the park takes cash. There are ATMs but they are all from one provider bank so if your card doesn’t work with that carrier, they wont work anywhere. (see Africa fight #5)
Bring shower shoes–As a self diagnosed germ-a-phobe, I can say most of the camps were clean, with the exception of the showers. I was glad I brought some flip flops!
Kruger is amazing. A great safari is within your budget.