What trip to Africa is complete without a safari? Though Heidi had been to Kruger National Park outside of Nelspruit, South Africa on three past occasions, I had never been and she suggested we check it out.
The trip was rather spur of the moment, which meant that all the accommodations inside the park were fully booked, but we decided to wing it and it worked out well.
We took N4 from Pretoria on a long drive northeast to Nelspruit, where we spent the first night at a wonderful little guest house booked with Air BnB. Shelia was a wonderful host and from Nelspruit we were only about 40 minutes from the Numbi gate, where we would enter the park.
Arriving in the late afternoon to the park gates, we opted to check in to our room at the Nkambeni Safari Camp located just outside of the park property. A review of that property will be the next installment of this trip report.
Early the next morning we arose at 5am and left an hour later to enter the park, hoping to catch more animals as they were out feeding in the cool of the morning.
It took much longer to get into the park then we had hoped, one hour to be precise, because of the inefficient way visitors are logged into the park. I realize that poachers are a lingering problem (in fact, according to statistics posted in the ticket office, poaching is way up in recent years) but there must be a quicker way to process entrants than making a copy of each passport and then manually entering into a logbook and onto a computer. The entrance fee was about $20/each (264 South African Rand). This rate goes up to 304 Rand during high season.
Once inside the park, there are both paved and gravel roads, with the speed on paved roads 50km/hour and 40km/hour on gravel roads. The park is immense – it covers over 500 miles – so we barely skimmed the surface in spending about 10 hours driving around the southwest portion of the park. The park also borders (with border crossing) the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique.
A leopard has eluded my wife her last three visits so the objective for the day was to find a leopard. We failed. But we did see this—
Every 50-70km is a camp, with gasoline, lodging, food, and groceries. We stopped for lunch and fuel in Bergen Dal.
Toward the end of the day, we stopped for a drink at one of the rest areas and a man pulled up next to us, rolled down the window, and remarked, “Hey, you want to see a lion?” We answered in the affirmative.
Turns out a lion had come out in a place we had just been about an hour ago – we thanked him and drove back where indeed we found ol’ Leo sitting down and checking his surroundings. We sat for about 20 minutes watching him, but he did not move…it was too early for chow time.
We exited at the Maleleane gate, heading for our next destination, Swaziland.
Read More of My Month in Africa Trip Report
Introduction: A Month in Africa
Review: Houston to Lagos in United Airlines 787 Business
Transit in Lagos: Bribing My Way Out
Review: Oasis Lounge Lagos (LOS)
Review: Gabfol Lounge Lagos (LOS)
Lagos to Johannesburg in South African Airways Economy Class
Setting Up Shop in Pretoria
How to Obtain a South African Police Report
Following! Currently planning a trip to Africa and have no idea where to start. Want to curb costs on a DIY, but also have the “full” experience in parks.
We were there in Oct and stayed near the Crocodile River entrance and stayed at a brilliant place, http://birdsongafricalodge.com/. The owners, Les and Paul, are amazing folks and the two homes they rent are fabulous. They helped set up an amazing guide, Kerry, who picked us up at the house every morning at 5am and didn’t return home until 5 or 6pm. The cost was less than $75 and included entry to the park and breakfast, plus her wealth of knowledge. Every early evening, we had cocktails on our patio and hand fed the zebras and kudus that paraded by each day. It was a trip of a lifetime.
Ditto for me. Availability of award flights might make the difference between South and East Africa for the first trip (of course I always hope it won’t be our last)
Great photos. One of the best things my wife and I have done was a 3 1/2 day safari in Krueger. We used a tour company, but were there in shoulder season, and so our group was maybe a dozen people. We were fortunate to see both lions and a leopard, but missed the cheetah. (Incidentally, one thing that amused me greatly about the park concessions was that wine was cheaper than Coke at dinner.)