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Kruger Safari Tour Companies?

New York
posts: 5
Kruger Safari Tour Companies?

Hello, I am planning a trip to South Africa in late August and we are planning to fly into Joburg. From Joburg, we'd like to take a 2-3 day safari tour at Kruger National Park. What tour companies would you recommend that has decent safari accommodations for those on a budget. Thanks!

Gold Coast
Destination Expert
for Kruger National Park
posts: 3,118
reviews: 22
1. Re: Kruger Safari Tour Companies?

Hi Sue

Have you considered driving yourself to Kruger.

You will then be able to stay right in the park amongst the wildlife rather than drive in every day. The park accommodation is wonderful for those on a budget, you have options of self catering or using the restaurants.

But best of all you get to enjoy wonderful game drives in the comfort of your own car, You get to find the wildlife yourself [another topic] and importantly you can spend as much time at a sighting as you want, rather than rushing around looking for another member of the big 5 or searching for what someone else wants to see.

You can spend all 12 hours of the day game driving if thats what you fancy, stopping whenever you want at picnic spots and camps for breaks and meals.

If your budget does not extend to a private lodge [which operators on here will recommend first], this is an excellent option and so much fun, as the thousands who do it every year will attest. We generally do a combination of both but you do have to consider your limited time. Perhaps if you give an idea of your budget for safari we can help with any private lodges that will suit.

Kruger National...
posts: 1,163
reviews: 35
2. Re: Kruger Safari Tour Companies?

Good morning over there!

I just have to say I have never been rushed around at a lodge in search of the Big 5 - maybe I have just been lucky!

Sandsman is right - Self driving is an excellent option for those on a v. tight budget, as the accommodation is cheaper.

You can stay at the self catering SanParks (government) units, which you can take a look at here:

http://sanparks.org.za/parks/kruger/

As another option, there are some great budget friendly lodges within the private reserves too.

The private reserves of the Timbavati, Klaserie, Sabi Sands and Balule are connected to the public Kruger via unfenced borders, allowing the animals to wander in and out as they please.

When staying in a private reserve, your rate is all inclusive (all meals, teas/coffees, snacks on game drives, dawn safaris, dusk safaris, optional bush walks), with game drives being conducted on open sided safari jeeps.

In a private reserve, you are lead by a team of two; your game ranger and game tracker. They are there to find and educate you about any wildlife you may encounter along the way. Further to this, they are also able to go off road, which you cannot do in the public Kruger (self drive).

If that option interests you, here are some budget friendly options:

- Gomo Gomo (Klaserie reserve)

- Africa on Foot (Klaserie reserve)

- Umkumbe Lodge (Sabi Sands reserve)

- Elephant Plains (Sabi Sands)

- Umlani Bush camp (Timbavati)

- Sausage Tree Camp (Balule reserve)

- nDzuti Lodge (Klaserie reserve).

If you have a specific budget in mind, perhaps we on Trip Advisor can help to suggest fitting options?

All the best,

Jacqui

-Owner-

Lodge Trackers

Safari Specialists

South Africa
posts: 1,345
reviews: 14
3. Re: Kruger Safari Tour Companies?

Hi Sue, August is a great time to go on safari! There are a number of companies that offer guided safaris to the Kruger National Park from Johannesburg. There are basically three ways to "do" Kruger. The cheapest way is to do it on your own, self-drive. The advantages of this are total independence and flexibility, and of course budget. The disadvantages is that you have to drive yourself (obviously) and that you don't have the benefit of an experienced guide who can make the safari experience so much more rewarding and interesting.

The second way is a guided open vehicle safari with a tour company who specialises in this. One benefit of this option is that you have an experienced guide and driver to conduct your safari, help you spot and identify many animals, and interpret their behaviour. They know the difference between a normal animal sound and an alarm call, they understand the ecology and how different species interact in the bush and why animals behave in certain ways, they can share many interesting facts and stories during game drives, and around the fire in the evening. Another benefit is that your game drives are not in a small rental car like when you drive yourself, but on an open safari vehicle which provides a better view and is a much nicer way to experience the bush. The downside of a guided safari is that, unless you book a private vehicle or private departure just for yourself, there may be other people on board with you and there will be a fixed itinerary for the safari, so slightly less flexibility. This is still a very affordable way of seeing Kruger and there are many companies that offer this, so shop around and check out their reviews here on Tripadvisor. Google 3-day Kruger National Park safari or something like that, and see what comes up. Note that some of the cheapest tours that are named Kruger Park safaris are actually not based inside the park, but use accommodation outside the park and go in for the day. Others do not have scheduled departures with a fixed group and may drive back to the entrance gate during a game drive to pick up new guests on day 2 or day 3 of your safari, which is not ideal in my opinion. Still others use closed vehicles instead of open vehicles. So compare your options before you decide, and if possible, try and find out how experienced the guide is. Some guides are excellent, very experienced and have good hosting and people skills in addition to their bush knowledge. Others are less experienced, may struggle a bit with English or lack people skills or bush knowledge. The quality of the guide makes a huge difference to the overall quality of the safari experience.

The third way to enjoy a Kruger Park safari is at a private game lodge, either inside Kruger on a private concession, or on an adjacent private game reserve. This is quite different again, and in most cases a safari at a private game lodge is more expensive than a guided open vehicle safari based inside Kruger at one of the regular Sanparks camps. Lodge prices range from below $250 per person per night, to well over $1000 per person per night, depending on the lodge, location, standard of luxury, etc. This does not include transport to the lodge and reserve entrance fees. At a private safari lodge, all meals and game drives are included in the cost (same as on a guided safari) but the game drives will typically be a bit shorter and the daily itinerary is fixed. Usually it will be a 3-4 hour morning game drive, and another 3-4 hour afternoon and evening game drive. On most private reserves, the game drives are allowed to go off-road and this is probably the biggest advantage of private lodges. Another advantage is that the accommodation is more luxurious than on a typical guided safari in Kruger. In Kruger, many companies use the Sanparks bungalows which are comfortable and have aircon and en-suite bathroom, but they are not as spacious and luxurious as the accommodations at many private game lodges.

You can also combine a guided safari in Kruger with one or more nights at a private game lodge, to get the best of both. We call this a combo safari and it is a very popular option for people with 4 or more nights available for their safari.

I hope this helps, good luck with your search and enjoy the safari!

Onne from Wild Wings Safaris

Gold Coast
Destination Expert
for Kruger National Park
posts: 3,118
reviews: 22
4. Re: Kruger Safari Tour Companies?

Thanks Jacqui I forgot to add that link.

Sue the link Jacqui has given you is to the Sanparks website which has all the information you will ever need about staying in Kruger Park. It even includes photos of the camps and rooms plus info about roads, sightings and much much more.

If you are interested in a private lodge it is a completely different experience and much more expensive. Both are wonderful in their own ways. Here is a link to a trip report from our 2011 trip which will give you honest and unbiased information on the differences between the two options.

tripadvisor.com.au/…32374431

Hong Kong, China
Destination Expert
for Hong Kong, Macau, Holiday Travel, World Cup, Bargain Travel, Food and Travel
posts: 19,939
reviews: 3,217
5. Re: Kruger Safari Tour Companies?

Lots of good stuff written above about the various methods of safari making in South Africa. Here is a review we did for KNP last year comparing Self-Drive vs. Private Reserve experiences.

Self Drive vs. Private Reserve

tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g312633-d159…

Have a look if useful and have a great time in South Africa

Gold Coast
Destination Expert
for Kruger National Park
posts: 3,118
reviews: 22
6. Re: Kruger Safari Tour Companies?

Hi again Jacqui

Sorry but when I said rushing around I was referring to the jeeps and trucks that come in to Kruger Park, certainly not one of the lodges.

They are known for thIs and a perfect example from our last trip was when we had the most incredible sighting of a pack of African Painted dog or (wild dog) on the hunt.

Four loaded jeeps from outside the park arrived, one slowed a bit and kept moving, two barely even slowed before they left and only one stayed with the sighting. We followed the dogs for a good half hour it was amazing.

Great for us ! but I certainly would not have been happy to be a paying client on one of those vehicles.

Kruger National...
posts: 1,163
reviews: 35
7. Re: Kruger Safari Tour Companies?

Oh! Yes I definitely agree with you on that - MY Goodness, some of the have NO respect for the the other drivers, let alone the animals!!

When we were in Kruger recently, we were in the que to see a pride of lions over the riverbed, and after waiting patiently for our turn, one of the safari companies *shall not be named* squeezed right infront of us. I literally cried, LOL. Agree with you 110%!

All the best,

Jacqui

Pretoria South...
posts: 10
reviews: 4
8. Re: Kruger Safari Tour Companies?

What nobody has mentioned is that self drive makes it possible to see the area outside the Park. Mostly referred to as the Panorama Route it contains some of the most outstandingly beautiful places in South Africa. It contains the amazing Blyde River Canyon not to mention the many waterfalls and viewpoints and old goldmining locations. On the way to the park you can drive over the very scary but stunningly beautiful Long Tom Pass!

A trip should include one night in this area just outside the park on your way in or out.

Personally I do not recommend self drive too much for game drives inside the park. One should avail of at least two or three game drives in the open safari vehicles with the trained rangers. In an open safari vehicle (preferably 10 seater not the big 25 seater trucks) you get a greater feeling of immediacy and proximity to the nature and animals. There is interaction with fellow visitors and (I know there are rare exceptions) the game ranger adds immensely to the experience.There is the huge amount of information your ranger and guide can impart. He/she is also skilled at finding the animals and spotting them with the trained eye. Then there is the higher seating position in the vehicle to see and manouverability to take pictures.No glass in the way! These days with the grass high, what can you see from down low your little hire vehicle? Plus of course you are not allowed to do night drives in your own car you have to use the Parks Board Rangers. So my recommendation, self drive to get there but use the open Safari vehicles inside the Park, private or Parks Board.

New York
posts: 5
9. Re: Kruger Safari Tour Companies?

Thanks everyone for the information! I will have to do some more research but from the responses, we don't want to do a self-drive but think the guided open vehicle safari with a tour company is the best option, and depending on our budget, we will try to add a night or 2 at a private reserve and do a combo safari like Onne mentioned. Our budget will be around $200 per person per night and we'll be a group of 4 people so hopefully we can find something in this price range. We are OK saving money and staying in budget accommodations, and spending the extra money on increasing our experience sighting wildlife.

Also, are there certain areas of Kruger that is recommended for maximal wildlife sightings during August? I heard that the northern and southern parts of Kruger might be better certain times of the year...

Gold Coast
Destination Expert
for Kruger National Park
posts: 3,118
reviews: 22
10. Re: Kruger Safari Tour Companies?

Hi Sue

Yes there are differences in different areas of the park.

The Sanparks website Jacqui has provided will give you the best information on the park itself.

The south is more game rich and therefore much more crowded, and most of the 'guided tours' stick to these parts.However we have had some of our best sightings in the north and of course we do not get crowded out, but time may be an issue for you.

Unfortunately north or south is a moot point anyway because unless you are hiring your own private game vehicle to take you into the park you are likely to have no choice/flexibility in where you get taken to.

Ensure you take very warm clothing for August, the early morning game drives on an open vehicle are extremely cold especially with the wind chill factor.