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Best place to stay in Kruger?

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Best place to stay in Kruger?

Hi everyone,

We ( me & my husband) are planning a trip to South Africa in mid September of this year. We will have 4 nights in Capetown, 3 or 4 nights in Kruger, 2n in Victoria & may be 2n in Chobe ( still undecided). Cape town and Victoria is a little easier to plan but Kruger is extremely overwhelming with choices and places to stay. I've been reading all the posts in this forum and been researching like crazy but still can't decide what's the best way to do it so please help!

From Cape town I'm thinking about flying in Nelspruit (or Hoedspruit?). My husband does not want to drive so self-drive is not an option. I'm thinking of :

1_ Doing a package tour

2_ Stay in one of those "budget friendly" private reserved lodge.

3_ Stay close to the entrance and take day tour into the park.

We don't need anything too fancy but we want a nice, clean, comfortable stay. Taking a package tour or stay close to the park probably is a cheaper option, but does it has much more advantages staying in a private reserved lodge? You will go to different area to spot the animal (private reserved area) instead of KNP? which one is better? Our main purpose is to spot the big 5 and any other animal possible (of course!). If we choose a private reserved, what area should we stay? The choices are overly overwhelming: Sabi sand, lower Sabi, Sabi river,Nkambeni,,Timbavati, Klaserie, and another hundreds more....So where is the best place that have a high chance to see the big 5? or what is the best way to do it?

Any advices will be greatly appreciated.

Frankfurt, Germany
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1. Re: Best place to stay in Kruger?

I'm sure you will get a lot of help here.

You probably came arcoss this:

tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g312633-d159…

So in essence, if it is your first, and maybe your only safari, a private reserve wins hands down, especially if you don't want to self drive.

Then the next step to consider is your budget. I read once that it is best to stay as long as you can and spend as much as you can afford.... nice thought, even though I tend to agree, most of us work really hard for our money.

From a lot of online research, and I am following this forum for almost 8 years, it seems to be that Sabi Sand has the highest chances of spotting leopards, the rarest of the big five - hence the high price tag. We have been to Elephant Plains for our honeymoon exactly for this reason, we were not disappointed.

My understanding is, that Timbavati would come close - then Klaseri, Manyeleti and Balule. All of these reserves are open to Kruger National Park, so the animals can roam freely, but game concentration seem to be somewhat lower than in Sabi Sand.

There are also fenced reseves like Kapama and Thornybush, which are huge, but fenced. The animals are wild, but can't roam outside the reserve. The advantage is, that the animals are there, you just need to find them. People seem to be content with their experiences there, it really depends how much of a "safari purist" you are.

At the end, almost everybody is very content with their first safari experince in a private reserve. If you state your budget and interest, people here will give you excellent advice.

As for flights, Hoedspruit is the better airport for almost all private reserves, have a look yourself:

krugerparkreservations.com/Maps/GreaterKruge…

As for stayin outside the National park and doing day trips, a private reserve is much better!!

Edited: 11:55 am, January 18, 2014
Washington DC...
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2. Re: Best place to stay in Kruger?

I'd plan the itinerary this way:

US to Cape Town, 4 nights

CT to Nelspruit to Sabi Sand (Elephant Plains, Arathusa good budget choices) 3 nights. You can arrange for rt transfers from/to Nelspuit.

SS to Jo'burg. You'll need to overnight before going to VF/Chobe.

VF/Chobe, 4 nights

VF to JNB TO US

I'm not a package traveler so have no advice on that. However, if you work with an agent for SS, VF and Chobe they can readily arrange your transfers.

Self driving in Kruger is great fun but with only 3 nights I'd recommend SS where you are likely to meet your goal of the big 5 plus many more.

Florida, USA
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3. Re: Best place to stay in Kruger?

Dudel_ Thankyou for your helpful informations espescially the KNP map so I know & I can tell where is what otherwise I feel like I don't know what I'm talking about :D. Still researching...

steveb108_ I appreciated the suggestion on those private lodges. Lots of people mentioned Elephant plains, but I'm going to look into Arathusa.

About the flight, I think we will flight from either MQP or HDS directly to Livingstone so we won't have to spend the night in Jo'berg

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4. Re: Best place to stay in Kruger?

ATW, regarding your understandable desire to get to VF on the same day:

1. There is a direct flight from MQP to LVI. To use it, however, you will need to forfeit morning activities (game drive followed by breakfast) at your game lodge. I don't consider that a good tradeoff. Game drives may well be the high points of your trip. Spending a relaxing morning at your lodge, leisurely making your way back to MQP for a p.m. flight and having a quiet night in Jo'burg seems to me the better way to go.

2. Please confirm this yourself, I don't believe there are same day itineraries HDS to LVI.

3. Something to consider: in theory if you fly into LVI (Zambia), you will need the Yellow Fever jab to reenter SA, even if just transiting; not the case if you fly into VFA (Zimbabwe).

Frankfurt, Germany
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5. Re: Best place to stay in Kruger?

Hi again,

Arathusa and Elephant Pains are 2 lodges really covering the same area. Both would be best accessed via HDS.

As for you ongoing trip to Vic Falls.

There are direct flights MQP-LVI, but as steve said, you will need a yellow fever vaccination. The WHO says that Zambia is not a yellow fever area, but the SA governmet is of a different opinion and will ask for a vaccination proof on your way back from Zambia.

I don't know flight times and fares, but I would consider to fly HDS-JNB-VFA (Zimbabwe) to avoid problems with transit on your way back. We have been to Vic Falls. The vast majority of the falls are on the Zim side. We took a helicopter flight to seen the Zam side (would do this either way).

As for Vic Falls (ZIM), if you are intereseted in the falls, 2 nights are more than enough. Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe) is a tourist entity, unless you are interested things like gambling, walking with lions, rafting, conoeing etc. not too much to do - and the dining sceen outside the hotels is less than impressive.

Spend two nights in Chobe!!! It is stunning, a completely different safari experience to Kruger, totally worth it. However, I can't comment on Livingston (Zambia) haven't been there for the reasons stated above.

From most private reserves (other than Southern Sabi Sand) to MQP you will need at least 3 hours of driving, something to consider...

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6. Re: Best place to stay in Kruger?

Dudel is spot-on with several points:

1. HDS is the airport of choice, particularly when leaving. As far as I know, there is only one Kruger region airport that accepts nonstop flights from CPT and that's MQP. So, arriving you need to look at whether you do a nonstop with some extra driving (assuming you choose Arathusa or EP or Timbavati) or go through JNB with a change of planes and some extra time in the airport.

2. Two nights in VF is more than enough, with one night being plenty for me. Plan on seeing the falls during the day and taking a sunset cruise on the Zambezi in the evening. BTW, If you follow advice to go to Zimbabwe, I can recommend the Ilala Lodge.

3. Spending time in Chobe will likely be more worthwhile. Botswana tends to be pretty expensive so steel yourself for sticker shock.

Good luck planning!

Frankfurt, Germany
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7. Re: Best place to stay in Kruger?

FYI - there are direct flights CPT-HDS

eastgateairport.co.za/flight-information/…

Happy planning!

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8. Re: Best place to stay in Kruger?

Thanks for schooling me, Dudel! That makes HDS a no-brainer.

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9. Re: Best place to stay in Kruger?

Thankyou so much Dudel & steveb108, lots of helpful tips!

steveb108_Thankyou for the yellow fever vaccine required, I know that you only need it if you go from Zambia to South Africa. I forgot all about the connection back to SA (JNB) before another fly home, so that really is a big help! I think we'll fly into VFA instead, plus in September the fall is kind of dry on the Zambia side anyway. We probably spend only one night there (enough for me too) and going on to Chobe.

I might have to reconsidered whether to skip the morning game drive to fly to Vic fall in the same day to save some times or not...hmm...difficult decision..

Dudel_Thankyou for your helpful info. Still undecided where we're going to stay so don't know if it will be MQP or HDS that we're flying in.

Could you please tell me how different it is between Kruger & Chobe? All I know is it has a lot of elephants!:D

Is it easy to get to Chobe from Zimbabwe?

Frankfurt, Germany
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10. Re: Best place to stay in Kruger?

Hi, so we are more or less planning together. I tend to get overmotivated, so with everything I say, bear in mind that it is YOUR holiday!

So, first of all, airport wise, if you don't have many,many $$$$ for the most expensive lodges of Sabi Sand (probably all more than 1000US$/night, except maybe for Idube), HDS will be better, because the affordable lodges are accessed through Gowri Gate in the North, near Hoedspruit.

As for Vic Falls, I second Ilala Lodge. We wanted to stay there, but it was fully booked. The grounds are beautiful, it s the closest hotel to the fall, and the restaurant was the only one worth "writing home about". We have stayed 4 nights in VF, because we wanted to relax, but in retrospective, even one night would be okay.

As for transfers to Chobe, we did a daytrip, but there are many companies offering transportation, best to let your Chobe lodge organize this. Upon entering Zimbabwe make sure to get a double entry visa, so you pay less and don't have to queue twice.

Chobe is different to Kruger. First there is the possibility to do a boat safari. You will see many more crocodiles, hippos and other game (especially birds and antilopes) living near the river. Also, Chobe is more savannah like and the Sedudu section in almost flat, just different scenery, wilder and untamed. Also I have a picture of 48 elephants on one image, one of my favorite safari shots.

The only thing I regret about our honeymoon a year ago is that we did not stay overnight in Chobe!