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Animal sightings/high-end lodges only?

Los Angeles
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Animal sightings/high-end lodges only?


We plan to visit SA in late June or early July,2011. The idea is to rent a camper in JNB, go to Kruger, and stay in a rest camp or bush camp. We'd like to see wildlife, of course, but I get the impression from this forum that the only way to do that effectively is at a private game reserve. Is this true? We are not in the 400$ (US) a night bracket.

Any other info about RV camping in SA is always welcome. Thanks!

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1. Re: Animal sightings/high-end lodges only?

Not true at all. The only difference between high end lodges and Kruger is that the rangers can go off road (and of course the accommodation is 5 star). As far as animal sightings it is the luck of the draw (even in private game parks) so some days may be good, others not so good and sometimes every day is a feast. It just depends. To increase your chances of seeing variety you should perhaps look at two different regions, Kruger and Hluhluwe/Mfolozi park, they both are very different vegetation wise and Hluhluwe is near St Lucia estuary which is also a lovely area.


Edited: 12:41 am, October 14, 2010
Pretoria, South...
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2. Re: Animal sightings/high-end lodges only?


Where some of the private lodges have an advantage is that they work in groups, so if one of them find something good they radio it in for other groups.

I would suggest staying in the Kruger and doing a couple of organized tours within the park, these happen early morning and in the evening. You should see a lot of different wildlife, but one is never guaranteed of seeing the Big 5 - and the same applies if you are in a private lodge.

Hope you have a good trip.

Amsterdam, The...
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3. Re: Animal sightings/high-end lodges only?

Hi hi,

Personally I have never understood why people want to pay an incredible amount of money when you can go to a much bigger park with more animals for 1/10 of the price (but hey I'm Dutch and always would go for the cheap option ;-) The great + for me is also that you can drive yourself in Kruger, doing your route and staying as long you want.

I can virtually guarantee that you will see an incredible amount of animals in Kruger. The park is teeming with wildlife. It depends on the place where you are staying and a little luck to see some of the more elusive animals.

Check http://www.sanparks.org/parks/kruger/camps/ for the different camps in Kruger. It would be good to book quiet some time in advance because some camps fill up very quickly.

They also have a very good forum about kruger (and the other NP's) and information about which roads are good for certain animals.

In all the camps they have boards where people indicate what they have seen that day (and yesterday). This way you can have an idea about where the animals are (have been)

We also thought about renting a camper, but switched to a car, because it was cheaper to combine car+ B&B compared to a camper. Furthermore I find the driving easier/faster.

Anyway enjoy your holiday. You will definitely have a great time

Cape Town
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4. Re: Animal sightings/high-end lodges only?

I certainly agree with Kim that you will have fantastic wildlife sightings in South African National Parks. We have just come back from a week self-drive in Kruger and had some amazing sightings. A pack of Wild Dogs in the north of the park near Shingwedzi. Some of the best rare antelope sightings we have ever seen in any park or reserve, Tsessebe, Nyala, Lichtenstein's Hartebeest and Sharpe's Grysbok plus the biggest herd of Sable (40-50 animals) I have seen in Kruger. We were right in the middle of a huge Buffalo herd which we estimated to be well over 500 Buffalo as well as close sightings of a lot of other big herds of 100 or more. Maybe a hundred different Elephant sightings, good Rhino and some excellent Lion including a mating couple that were quite unconcerned that we were siting 5 metres away in our car for maybe 20 mins - just us and them for most of the time when another vehicle arrived. No leopard on this trip but there are 147 different mammal species in Kruger so people who are only interested in ticking off the so-called "Big 5" miss so much. Add to that nearly 600 bird species. Watching a large Snake Eagle catching a snake and fly up with it into a tree and then getting some wonderful pictures of how an eagle makes short work of a 150cm long snake was every bit as exciting as a leopard kill!

I and many other people who visit Kruger either regularly or as a one-off holiday post similar experiences in the TA forums all of the time. So I am surprised at your comment :

"We'd like to see wildlife, of course, but I get the impression from this forum that the only way to do that effectively is at a private game reserve."

Do you read the reports from the actual visitors to Kruger and other South African National Parks or just the recommendations from the many Travel Agents who post on here pushing the two thousand dollar plus a night for a couple, celebrity private reserves for which, of course they receive very fat commissions!

Come to Kruger with your RV. Spend time travelling the 3000kms of roads throughout the park (some tarred but the vast majority good gravel and sand roads). Away from the main tourist tracks and peak holiday times vast areas of Kruiger are quiet and you may drive an hour or more only seeing one or two other vehicles.

Book up each night at one of the very well equipped rest camps/caravan sites - there are more than 20. Good pitches with hardstanding, electricity, water, spotlessly clean shower and ablution facilities, good kitchens and braai (barbecue) sites (if you don't want to cook in your vehicle), shops to buy a good range of food supplies or bring your own from outside the park plus perfectly good restaurants in most of the camps.

Camp site fees are R150 (US$20) per night per vehicle - one hundreth of the cost for two people at some of the celebrity private reserves. Both will give you wonderful (but different) wildlife experiences. In private reserves you will meet visitors from all over the USA, Asia and Europe. On Kruger camp sites you will be mainly meeting South Africans, who will be only too keen to help you with routings through the park and point you to where the best sightings may be the next day, as you sit around the braai with a beer or a glass of wine listening to the night sounds of the African Bush

Edited: 4:49 am, October 14, 2010
London, United...
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5. Re: Animal sightings/high-end lodges only?

Not one single animal in Kruger is aware how much you've spent to stay there!

Los Angeles
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6. Re: Animal sightings/high-end lodges only?

Thank you, everybody! I really appreciate your advice and comments.

Maybe I haven't dug sufficiently far back in the forum to find comments on the non-luxury end .. or maybe, as suggested, I'm not too good at spotting travel agency plugs! It's a shame these frauds keep posting,

We do plan on visiting Hluhluwe, and hopefully Ndume as well in the St. Lucia area. Is the latter a good destination in June/July?

Looking forward to the trip, and thanks again.

Gold Coast...
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7. Re: Animal sightings/high-end lodges only?

Hi Sweiserw

Can only speak from one experience but just returned from Kruger where did some of both.

Admittedly most of our time was spent in private lodges but after that we spent just one day driving through main Kruger Park and we saw absolutely heaps of animals just along the main road. Giraffes, zebra, rhino, hippo, nyala,crocs. So as others say, you would see plenty over a longer period and covering a lot of area as VDC has, and it is such a thrill when you are in your own vehicle.

However the flip side is that we did have some special sightings that we would never have seen had we not been able to go off road, as Devillires said the radio contact between vehicles ensures you see things you would otherwise miss, for example a cheetah with fresh kill or a baby leopard with its mother, a long way from any road.

But as you say cost is an issue and we saved long and hard for this special trip, like many others we are not able to visit on a regular basis and we took this into account. Yes we blew our budget but we think it was well worth it.

Port Elizabeth
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8. Re: Animal sightings/high-end lodges only?

Reasons to go to a private reserve

1. If it is your first trip and dont know where to start

2. If you only have 2 or 3 days available

3. If you want a special experience, e.g. on honeymoon

4. if you are used to luxury.

5. If you dont know the difference between a Cheetah and a Leopard, or a Kudu and a Steenbok

6. If you dont want to self-cater or have dodgy meals in SAN Parks restaurants

7. If you want to avoid crowds and leopard traffic-jams

8. If you dont want to self-drive and want good, knowlegable guides

9. You want a more exclusive experience

10. You get to go off-road

Reasons to go to a National Park

1. It is way cheaper

2. You have done the private lodge thing before

London, United...
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9. Re: Animal sightings/high-end lodges only?

...and 3. You get to drive your own car and weave in and out of herds of elephants crossing the road....


Hazyview, South...
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10. Re: Animal sightings/high-end lodges only?

and 4.

if everyone thinks you see animals only in private reserves one may as well close the Kruger Park.

and 5.

or maybe one should just call KNP private reserve, increase the rates by 300-600% and yep, we all are happy again?!?!?!


-Owner Abangane Guest Lodge-


Edited: 2:39 pm, October 15, 2010