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Does Kruger have more authentic off-road safaris?

posts: 6
reviews: 42
Does Kruger have more authentic off-road safaris?

We have been to Kruger once before and it was full of tar mac roads and traffic jams. I've heard that there are places in Kruger park that are more remote with off-road experience. Does anyone have any recommendations? Maybe private reserves are better? Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks

Destination Expert
for Cape Town
posts: 3,516
1. Re: Does Kruger have more authentic off-road safaris?

Maybe you were unfortunate on your previous visit in running into "traffic jams". If a good sighting (say pride of lions) occurs near a "main" (tarmac road) then you can get a build up of vehicles at times. My experiences are somewhat different. Granted we always visit in Oct/Nov which isn't the busiest time of the year but we make a point of getting off the tarmac roads and can often drive for an hour without seeing another vehicle (but plenty of animals !). One year we were told of a pride of lions with a "kill" on one of the dirt roads and we spent time with them in the morning and when we were returning late afternoon we stopped off again to see them. i think we saw two other cars at the site. Knowing the lions would remain with their kill (a zebra) we also drove that way the following day and again saw them.

The tarmac roads are basically "link" roads from entry gates to rest camps with the main H1 road running almost the length of Kruger but turn off at any point on your route and you are on a network of dirt/gravel roads with very little traffic on them.

As far as I know "off-roading" is not permitted in Kruger NP.

With private reserves you can, at your ranger's discretion go off-road and therefore, if the animal(s) you are following head into the bush your ranger can follow them and hopefully get a close-up sighting.

All depends on what you fancy and how much you can afford.

We always have a few days in a private reserve and then spend time self-driving in Kruger. We get great enjoyment and satisfaction from both experiences.

Washington DC...
posts: 2,964
reviews: 11
2. Re: Does Kruger have more authentic off-road safaris?

The occasional 'traffic jams' at good sightings are definitely off-putting to many visitors. No question, it's not the best situation, with cars tightly packed and trying to obtain the best sight-line. But that is not how things are most of the time, and there are many dirt roads radiating from the tarmac roads and you can get some good experiences on them. Note that you can't go off-road in KNP, whether the road is tarmac or dirt.

When in SA I try to do some KNP self-driving followed by a stop at Sabi Sand. I hugely enjoy both, but do prefer the private reserve. The cars in Sabi Sand can go off-road to get you into better and closer position in most instances for better photo ops. With someone else doing the driving and spotting, it's a good opportunity to sit back and relax. The private reserves will cost more, however. And depending on the camp you choose you might be required to queue up to see a good sighting. Queuing is not nearly as bad as the KNP 'traffic jam' but it means you may have to wait your turn to move closer to the sighting. Again, queuing may occur, but it's not the rule.

Johannesburg, South...
Destination Expert
for Johannesburg
posts: 2,167
reviews: 23
3. Re: Does Kruger have more authentic off-road safaris?

Interestingly, after almost a lifetime of annual visits to the Kruger National Park, I, and several of my friends (one of whom is an Honorary Ranger, who visits the park at least 4 times per year), have noticed that there are, on average, better sightings along tarred roads, than along dirt roads.

The reason is, probably, that animals, like us, prefer not to eat food covered in grit.

Also, especially in the winter months, the big cats like to lie on the tar, in order to absorb the retained warmth, just the way your tabby likes to get close to the heater in winter..

Also, creatures like Hyaenas, like to live in the culverts under the tarred roads.

One should try, if possible, to book one's visit to Kruger, outside of the local "high season", in order to avoid "traffic jams".

London, United...
posts: 398
4. Re: Does Kruger have more authentic off-road safaris?

I find Kruger proper beats all the private safaris I have been on. Did not drive much on tar roads, as we had amazing sightings on gravel roads.

posts: 143
5. Re: Does Kruger have more authentic off-road safaris?

We have had the most awesome sightings in Kruger - some on tar roads and some on dirt. One of the most memorable was a pack of wild dogs which killed a very large impala ram in the river bed at the Croc Bridge causeway. We have also had wonderful sightings over the years in private game reserves.

A lot of the concessions that operate from within Kruger National Park spend at least 80% of their drives on the KNP roads.

There are now very strict rules in place regarding off roading (sadly not obeyed by all guides). You are only allowed to go offroad for a big 5 sighting that has been confirmed by the guide and/or his tracker having gone in on foot and confirmed that there is a sighting. You are not simply allowed to drive through the bush looking for a sighting. The same access tracks made by your vehicle have to be utilised both in and out of the sighting. There are certain sodic soil areas which are never permitted to have off road sightings and during the wet season off roading can be cancelled alltogether as it does do a fair amount of damage.

We have sometimes become desperate to pass on a sighting on a road when absolutely no traffic was present and we did not wish to leave without passing on to the next person. Anyway its all about being in the right place at the right time wherever you are!

posts: 2,383
6. Re: Does Kruger have more authentic off-road safaris?

As many of the above posters have mentioned, you could be lucky to be treated to some great sightings in the public areas of the Kruger National Park. You could even be lucky enough not to encounter too many traffic jams. I think though that the type of off road safaris away from public vehicles that you are referring to, would rather be a safari at one of the lodges in a private reserve that forms part of the Greater Kruger National Park. here only guests staying at the lodges may go on the game drives, so no public access if you are not staying at one of the lodges. Game drives are only done by the rangers of the lodges, in open game viewing vehicles. Various good reserves to choose from, i.e. Timbavati, Sabi Sand, Klaserie and Balule.

Tanya * owner * AFrica Direct

London, United...
posts: 398
7. Re: Does Kruger have more authentic off-road safaris?

I did not encounter a single jam on any road in Kruger. Personally I found the private lodges too expensive, and you cannot choose/plan your own routes and how long to stop at a sighting. Also, other tourists seem obsessed with the big5 and not interested in enjoying a different sighting in my experience. People seemed impatient to move on to find the big5!

Stick with Kruger and drive the gravel roads! I have only seen lions on gravel roads for some reason? Stop and enjoy a magnificent kudu bull for as long as you want!

Johannesburg, South...
posts: 668
8. Re: Does Kruger have more authentic off-road safaris?

Hi to the OP(Myholidays1 London)

The Kruger Natiional Park has its own magic, but being a National Park one is limited to the tourist roads, and yes depending on when you are there and how full the park is, there can be traffic, and traffic jams especially at a big sighting. You definitley do have more freedom and flexibility to do what you want and be as long as you want at a particular sighting be one of the big 5 or something more common or even bird sightings, if thats where your interests are.

Private reserves/safari lodges will offer you a very differerent and equally unique experience in that along with guide and tracker you will be taken off road to get up close to big sightings. They will also share of there unbelievalble knowledge and experience. From a photographic point of view this will give you more opportunity to get great pics, if this is a factor for you. Also, you do not have to be out all day, and between morning and afternoon/evening drives you can relax at the lodge or go on a bush walk after breakfast.

There are options of private concesions in the Kruger Park itself, as well as private reserves bordering the Kruger like the Sabi Sands, Timbavati among others. In summary, if your budget allows give the private reserves/lodges a try or even do a combination of both.

I hope my info has been valuable to you.


Brett | Owner | Safaris For Me | South Africa

posts: 6
reviews: 42
9. Re: Does Kruger have more authentic off-road safaris?

Hi all,

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, I really appreciate your views. All very helpful advice. Really looking forward to the trip!

Thanks again!

Tel Aviv, Israel
posts: 2
reviews: 2
10. Re: Does Kruger have more authentic off-road safaris?

Hi Brett, would one be able to book just the private off-raods tour in the private reserve parks but sleep outside? I am asking as I have already booked my stay outside the park but from your reply I understand we should try to get the experience of the private ranger 4X4 drive.