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Advice for our 7-day/6-night Kruger self-drive itinerary

Brisbane, Australia
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Advice for our 7-day/6-night Kruger self-drive itinerary

Hello everyone,

After much research, I've put together our 7-day/6-night self drive itinerary for Kruger National Park in September this year. We have already booked our flights too, so we will definitely start and finish at Nelspruit airport.

I'd like some advice on the below itinerary for me and my husband. Please let me know if it looks good for you, or whether I've missed out on something. Or if you would suggest an alternative accommodation/route, and/or the time we should enter/leave Kruger National Park. I am still yet to book the car hire (planning on a 4WD) and accommodation, so any advice on this would be great too. Thank you all in advance!

Day 1: Arrive in Nelspruit airport at 11:55am. Pick up the rental car at Nelspruit airport. Drive to Marloth Park. Overnight in Needles Lodge.

Day 2: Game drives ourselves from Kruger’s Crocodile Bridge Gate. Overnight in Skukuza Rest Camp. Do the night game drive offered at the camp.

Day 3: Second day game drive around Kruger. Exit the park in the afternoon via ‘Paul Kruger Gate’ or ‘Phaben Gate’. Overnight stay in ‘Blue Jay Lodge’ in Hazyview.

Day 4: Self drive the Panoramic Route from Hazyview enroute to Hoedspruit. Visit God’s Window, The Pinnacle, Bourke’s Luck Pothole, Three Rondavels, Blyde River Canyon. Arrive in ‘Guernsey Private Nature Reserve’ for our accommodation of the next two nights in Pezulu Tree House Game Lodge.

Day 5: Join the 'morning bush walk' offered by the lodge. Visit Jessica the hippo in (inside Ndlovumzi Nature Reserve, Hoedspruit) ourselves. The rest of the time relax in the tree house and watch animals come drinking at the waterhole.

Day 6: Enter Kruger National Park via Orpen Gate. Game drive ourselves from here all the way to Crocodile Bridge Gate. Overnight in Marloth Park’s Crocodile Kruger Safari Lodge.

Day 7: Leave the lodge at approx 10:30am for the Nelspruit - Johannesburg flight departing at 13:35.

Edited: 2:12 am, March 02, 2013
Durban...
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1. Re: Advice for our 7-day/6-night Kruger self-drive itinerary

I don't know what your priorities are but I tend to steer clear of nature reserves and I would personally have opted for more time within KNP itself otherwise its all perfectly doable except for your last day where I think you might be cutting your timing a bit fine! Enjoy! Sorry should have added - save yourself the expense on the 4 wheel drive - you don't need it but go for height rather - its way better for game viewing!

Edited: 6:07 am, March 02, 2013
Naracoorte
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2. Re: Advice for our 7-day/6-night Kruger self-drive itinerary

I tend to agree with the above. I would rather two extra days in Kruger than the private nature reserve.

Brisbane, Australia
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3. Re: Advice for our 7-day/6-night Kruger self-drive itinerary

Hello Penny & tryhard, thank you both for your replies.

I suppose the main reason I have my itinerary so far is because the public rest camps inside Kruger Park itself don't look as nice as the lodges outside Kruger that I have selected. The Pezulu Tree House also look pretty cool to me! Also, we are not planning on cooking up food for ourselves, and so the lodges that I selected so far mostly include breakfast and dinner. (ps I'm comparing with the rest camps here).

From what I can see, in Marloth Park and Pezulu Tree House Game Lodge (inside ‘Guernsey Private Nature Reserve’), you can still see quite a few animals there, except lions, rhinos, and leopards etc...In Marloth Park, you can still spot elephants and hippo along crocodile river. Also, as Marloth Park is a residential private game reserve, animals seem to be quite accustomed to humans, and you can hand feed zebras and warthogs at Needles Lodge in Marloth Park. I'd love to do that. (I know it's definitely a no-no in Kruger National Park).

This will be my first trip to Africa...so please forgive me if I'm sounding a bit silly... What is then the main difference between visiting Kruger vs private game reserve? I understand that we won't get to see lions, rhinos, and leopards in Marloth Park, for example. But then that's why I still have a few days game driving in Kruger.

I did read that you don't need a 4x4 to go to Kruger etc. But,will driving on dirt or gravel road in a non-Suv/4WD less comfortable? eg you'd feel the vibration more on gravel road and have to travel and snail speed?

Hermanus, South...
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4. Re: Advice for our 7-day/6-night Kruger self-drive itinerary

Overall you have the essence of a wonderful trip. Just a bit of fine tuning for reasons I shall point out.

Lets just start with your last day planned from Orpen to Croc Bridge. The distance is 175km. Estimated drive time 7 hours. This excludes stops for game viewing, lunch break and so on. It takes that long to drive the distance because of the low max speed allowed in the park. IMHO not doable in one day.

Okay, let's consider that Kruger is very special and the fact that you are traveling a long way to experience it. Hence I would make Kruger the focal point of your visit. By that I mean inside the park also to experience the atmosphere at the rest camps. Kruger is much more than seeing the B5. There are restaurants and eateries in the camps and these are affordable, hence you don' t have to necessarily cook. Based on what I have said I would recommend you try to add some more days to being in Kruger. So enter the park from the south as planned- you could even make Berg en Dal or Lower Sabie your first night- travel up to Skukuza for at least 2 nights so that you can explore the surrounding game routes. Then don't exit to Hazyview but rather travel north and stay at Satara. Then exit from Satara at Orpen- 48km,1h40m- and go to the tree top at Guernsey but I would make that only one night. Then do the panorama from the north down and end at Nelspruit

4x4 not necessary as already posted. A vehicle like a SUV that gives slightly higher ride height helps with game viewing. The main routes in the park are tarred and the gravel ones are generally good. You travel slowly anyway so its not a problem.

Happy planning

WK

Brisbane, Australia
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5. Re: Advice for our 7-day/6-night Kruger self-drive itinerary

Hi Willem, thank you so much for your reply. Your advice and the suggested route sound very good! I'm making changes to my itinerary now. :)

Edited: 8:56 am, March 02, 2013
Hermanus, South...
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6. Re: Advice for our 7-day/6-night Kruger self-drive itinerary

Oops, just noticed that your flight out of Nelspruit is mid day. So coming down from the north on the panorama route means you won't make it. So an overnight perhaps at Graskop, a cute little village about 100km from Nelspruit which is an easy drive the next morning

Boston...
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7. Re: Advice for our 7-day/6-night Kruger self-drive itinerary

All the tips above make total sense. As far as a vehicle goes, consider the Nissan X-trail or similar. The height can help but no need to pay extra for a 4x4. If any of the dirt roads have not been graded inside Kruger, they will close those.

Willem's suggestion to focus on Kruger is dead on. Staying inside Kruger is special -- check out the luxury tents at Lower Sabie for example. Kruger's accommodations are clean, comfortable and you will get a hot shower. Food is readily available at the restaurants and the stores will allow you to stock up on snacks for your self-drive safaris. You will be glad you maximized your time inside Kruger.

You want to spend your final night in Graskop, Sabie or Hazyview so you are close to the airport.

A few other pointers: make sure you each have binoculars and buy the Honeyguide Kruger Map upon entry at the gate. A good animal/bird guide is always a good idea as well.

Hope this helps.

Have fun planning.

Cheers,

Heeten, Swagat at Kruger Park Lodge, Hazyview/Boston

Brisbane, Australia
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8. Re: Advice for our 7-day/6-night Kruger self-drive itinerary

Hi all, thanks for your replies!

Just want to clarify one thing, as I've been looking at Nissan X-Trail as a hired car option. Here in Australia, I'm pretty sure X-Trail is a four-wheel drive vehicle. Is it not the same in South Africa?

Melbourne, Australia
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9. Re: Advice for our 7-day/6-night Kruger self-drive itinerary

We are heading to Kruger too at the end of September and self driving. I have also been looking at Nissan X Trails and I agree they are not the same as Australia.

I also queried why 4 WD were not available to rent and its because they don't want tourists off roading and its also not required in Kruger. They prefer you to go in with a guide and vehicle rather than self drive. I spoke to a South African friend and he agreed about not been able to find 4wd to rent.

Check out Driveaway . We are hiring a KIA Sportage SUV from Hertz. We looked at the Nissan X Trail with Budget, but they charge a one-way rental. If you are returning to same location this won't be a problem. Driveaway have a earlybird special that ends at end of March.

Best of luck

Durban...
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10. Re: Advice for our 7-day/6-night Kruger self-drive itinerary

If your budget can stretch to a Vito or similar type bus then it will give you a definite height advantage. Millions of people do their own drives in Kruger very successfully and sometimes this is far more preferable than being on a game viewing vehicle with 8 or so strangers - you have just as much chance of spotting the wildlife on your own. If you see a vehicle stopped either come alongside them very slowly and genuine Kruger Park goers are happy to share a sighting - do not be frightened to ask - what are you looking at? The new maps have most of the mammals you are likely to see as well as a good selection of bird and reptile pictures so great fun can be had identifying what you have found. I live in South Africa and have never heard that Kruger Park prefer people to go in with a guide. BTW the breakeven on the Wildcard is 6 days so if you will be in the Park for 6 or more days it may well pay you to buy a Wildcard as opposed to paying the daily conservation fee.