The Secret Safari

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 friendlyMost 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 shoesAs 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.

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16 Responses to The Secret Safari

  1. flip October 2, 2010 at 5:43 pm #

    nice! i’ve always dreamt of seeing the animals in their natural habitat… thanks for sharing!

  2. Connie Hum October 3, 2010 at 6:40 am #

    Wow! What an amazing trip! An African safari is on my bucket list and I’ll keep your advice in mind for when I finally get there! Thanks so much for sharing!

  3. ayngelina October 3, 2010 at 7:07 am #

    Great tip, my concern with Africa has always been cost but it looks like you were able to do it well.

  4. Norbert October 3, 2010 at 11:46 am #

    Wow!! I would love to do a safari like that. Thanks for the tips, they come in very handy.

  5. Luxury Safari October 4, 2010 at 2:51 am #

    I went on one of the ranger-led game drives. It was amazing, they get so close to the animals! I heard some of the private reserves even have walking safaris but i dont know if there’s any truth in this.

  6. A Tramp Abroad October 5, 2010 at 7:22 pm #

    Great images and sounds like a wonderful experience. I’m in Australia at the moment and we did a trip to the country and saw kangaroos, wallabees, wombats and such. It does feel so different and so exciting to see these creatures in their natural habitat.

  7. Arun October 7, 2010 at 7:45 am #

    Nothing can be more tempting than an African Safari. Are leopards commonly sighted at Kruger? I need to add one more place/one more country to my never ending list of places to go. Sigh!

  8. meli October 13, 2010 at 10:35 am #

    Thank you for sharing this post. I have always wanted to go on an African Safari and now through you I can sorta be there. I will go on one before I die.

  9. Tracy December 6, 2010 at 1:02 pm #

    Wow, this has been on my bucket list for a long time! Will have to make it there, it looks like you guys had a fantastic time!

  10. admin December 6, 2010 at 1:28 pm #

    Going through Kruger Nat. Park is the best way to do it on a budget. We had a great time. Thanks for the comment Tracy.

  11. Scuba Diver January 6, 2014 at 8:17 pm #

    How much cheaper was it to do it this way than the 1000$-5000$ per night figure you mentioned? Have always wanted to go to Africa. Has to be somewhat affordable though!

  12. The Fighting Couple January 6, 2014 at 8:20 pm #

    Kruger is really reasonable. Overnight accommodations were in the $100 range. Accommodations were spartan but clean. Park entry runs $20 per day.

  13. Jon January 7, 2014 at 12:24 am #

    That is very reasonable! Thanks for this!

  14. Jennifer December 22, 2014 at 7:58 am #

    Do-it-yourself safari sounds like a great option! Thanks for the information and happy travels

  15. The Fighting Couple December 25, 2014 at 1:45 pm #

    Jennifer-It really is. We saw all of these people with their uber expensive safaris seeing the same things we were!


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