Is it Safe to Visit the Kruger National Park, South Africa
7 minute read11 Apr 2020
IS IT SAFE TO VISIT KRUGER NATIONAL PARK?
Kruger National Park is an iconic safari destination in South Africa that attracts over 2 million wildlife enthusiasts to its lush parts every year. It’s the oldest and largest national park in South Africa and combined with Greater Kruger, represents one of the finest and most diverse biospheres in Africa.
Is it safe to visit the Kruger National Park for a Big 5 safari tour. Yes, definitely but your safety is dependent on you practicing good travel common sense and following the usual safety tips to stay safe on a holiday to South Africa.
Emergency numbers for South Africa
To report any safety incidents, visitors can call the following numbers:
112 All emergencies from your mobile phone
107 All emergencies from a landline
10111 South African Police Service (SAPS)
10177 South African Fire & Rescue Service
What is 10111?
10111 is the police emergency number in South Africa. It’s the same as the famous 911 in America.
If you are a victim of a crime, you are witness to a serious ongoing crime or your feel your safety is threatened: call 10111.
A Flying Squad patrol vehicle will be assigned to the case and dispatched with all haste.
KEEPING TOURISTS SAFE IN KRUGER NATIONAL PARK
Kruger National Park is a state-supported national park that is operated by SANParks (South African National Parks). The governing body has put in place strict rules and regulations that are designed to keep visitors, suppliers and staff in Kruger Park safe.
When you enter Kruger Park and fill in the entry form for each member of your travel group, you commit to following the rules and regulations of Kruger National Park by accepting the terms and conditions of entry set by SANParks.
Fines are imposed for visitors who break the rules and in some cases, people have been banned from Kruger Park for bad behaviour. This includes speeding in Kruger Park and injuring or killing a wild animal.
For more information on the Rules and Regulations of national parks in South Africa, consult the official website for SANParks.
SAFARI SAFETY TIPS
Follow these safety tips for a trip to Kruger National Park and your Big 5 safari holiday should be nothing more than wonderful memories of incredible wildlife sightings, spectacular scenery and gorgeous days in beautiful bushveld surrounds.
Common tips for a safe safari holiday
Speak to your doctor or chemist before you travel to Kruger Park for advice on medication and vaccinations that you need for South Africa. This may include a yellow fever vaccination and must definitely include advice on taking anti-malaria tablets.
Travel with a basic first-aid kit to treat minor ailments and injuries; including ointment for burns, antihistamine cream or tablets, anti-nausea and anti-diarrhoea, plasters and bandages and after-sun spray for sunburn
Stay hydrated by drinking lots of fresh water during the hot summer months. It’s safe to drink water in the main towns and cities of South Africa but we recommend drinking bottled water in the rural areas and game reserves.
Pack a wide-brimmed safari hat that covers your face, ears and neck.
Buy a good brand of sunscreen and insect repellent.
Always sleep under a mosquito net if one is provided.
Safety tips for game drives in an open safari vehicle
Stay in the vehicle at all times except when you’re allowed to get off for sundowners or to visit a rest camp or bird hide; always follow your game rangers instructions and ask him/her where you can go when you stop for a bush pitstop.
Don't stand up in the vehicle, hang arms out the window or look out through the sunroof. Keep your arms tucked in; if they’re hanging off the side of a vehicle, they’ll make a tasty morsel for a predator. If you’re caught getting out of your vehicle or standing up to take photos of animals, you will be fined.
Don't talk or laugh too loud. Keep quiet on game drives out of respect for your fellow passengers and so you don’t startle game and birds at wildlife sightings.
Stay close to your guide and group on a walking safari and always walk in single file. Watch where you put your feet while walking in the bush; look out for snakes, scorpions and other things with teeth and fangs.
IS KRUGER NATIONAL PARK FENCED?
Kruger National Park covers an area of 20 000 square kilometres. There is fencing in various sections of the Park but it’s impossible for SANParks to fence the entire perimeter of the national park. The main priority is to fence boundaries that lie adjacent to rural settlements so dangerous wild animals don’t endanger their lives and eat their livestock.
The large Kruger Park rest camps are fenced, most of them are even electrified. However, the remote bush camps, satellite camps and bushveld lodges are not fenced or electrified. Be very careful when walking around the unfenced camps and be on the lookout for wild animals, particularly after dark.
The private game reserves of Greater Kruger removed their fences many years ago so game could roam freely between the two regions. Sabi Sands shares an unfenced boundary with Kruger Park on its western border, and acts as a wild bushveld buffer between Kruger Park and Greater Park.
IS IT SAFE TO TRAVEL TO KRUGER PARK WITH CHILDREN?
Older children; yes it is and they’ll love it. It’s not recommended to take babies and toddlers on a trip to Kruger Park for three reasons; they can’t take anti-malaria tablets, you can’t let them out of your sight and it’s stressful trying to keep them quiet so they don’t disturb guests who visit Kruger Park for its peace and tranquility.
Technically, children can take anti-malaria tablets if the weigh over 5 kilograms. The Travel Doctor provides the following information on the different malaria prophylactics on the market:
- Mefloquine can be given from 5kg
- Malanil can be given from 11kg
- Doxycycline should preferably only be given from 8 years
The biggest problem with travelling to malaria areas with young children is, if they do get sick with malaria, they cannot always tell you they’re sick and precious time is wasted before you realise the child is indeed ill and in need of urgent medical treatment. Young sick children tend to deteriorate rapidly which is why malaria can be fatal in very young and underweight children.
It really isn’t worth the risk taking young children on holiday to Kruger Park if they are younger than 5 years old or weigh less than 5 kilograms.
There a many wonderful Big 5 safari destinations in South Africa which are located in malaria-free areas and are great for families with young children. This includes the private game reserves in Pilanesberg, Madikwe, malaria-free areas in KwaZulu Natal and the Western Cape.
Disclaimer: This information is only provided for preliminary research if you are considering travelling to Kruger Park with young children. It does not replace the advice of a medical professional. Always speak to a doctor or professional travel clinic for advice and prescriptions for anti-malaria tablets for the whole family.
The recommended age for children on safari tours is 6 years and older. Of course, hundreds of local families in South Africa take their children to game reserves from a young age but it’s our advice that you wait until they’re a bit older before treating them to a holiday in Kruger Park.
Most of the luxury safari lodges in Kruger Park on the private concessions have an age restriction, which is usually children must be 12 years and older.
One thing to consider is children 6 years and younger are not permitted on the open safari vehicles. Remember this if you’re booked to stay at a luxury safari lodge in Kruger Park that welcome children of all ages, or if you want to book a night drive in an open safari vehicle with a SANParks ranger.
Your best option if you plan to visit Kruger Park with young children is to hire a car or take your own car and go on self-drive game drives.
Child-friendly rest camps
The Kruger Park Rest Camps are child-friendly and there’s lots of space, swimming pools and things to do back in camp between the early morning and late afternoon game drives. During the busy school holidays, the big rest camps like Skukuza often put on entertainment for children such as movies or kiddies’ mini safari tours and walks.
The bigger camps have a well-stocked shop for snacks and refreshments as well as a selection of toys and stationary to keep youngsters entertained.
Fenced rest camps
The main Kruger Park Rest Camps are fenced but most of the Kruger Bush Camps, Bush Lodges and rustic tented camps are not fenced. If you’re worried about young children wandering off with wild animals around, we recommend that you stay in one of the bigger Kruger Park Rest Camps like Skukuza, Pretoriuskop, Lower Sabie and Satara.
National parks and private game reserves in South Africa are regarded as far safer Big 5 safari destinations than those in places like Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania. This is because malaria is localised to the northern region of South Africa (the safari hub of Kruger Park and Greater Kruger) and there is no malaria in the main cities and towns.
Another thing to think about when planning a trip to Kruger Park with children is access to medical care and doctors. There is a medical centre at Skukuza Rest Camp in central Kruger Park that treats minor ailments and injuries. For anything more serious, you have the option of a two private hospitals in Nelspruit which is anything from 1 to 4 hours away, depending how far north you are staying in Kruger Park.
It’s highly recommended that you take out travel insurance which includes good medical cover for a holiday in South Africa. The public state hospitals are not recommended for foreign travellers and private hospitals in South Africa are expensive. They also require quite a hefty deposit before they’ll attend and treat a foreign visitor.
Travelling to South Africa with young children
Kruger National Park is located in the north-western region of South Africa. The majority of safari tourists arrive in South Africa via OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.
South Africa has strict regulations regarding entering and exiting South Africa with minors. The immigration law for minors is strictly enforced and you may be refused entry if you can’t provide the required documents for any child under 18 travelling with you.
For any child 18 years and younger, you must be able to produce an unabridged (long-form) birth certificate and a valid passport. An unabridged birth certificate is only valid if it shows details of both parents, including their names, identity numbers, birthplaces and birth dates.
Consult the official website for the Department of Home Affairs for details on travelling with unaccompanied minors and other issues such as travelling with only one parent or children with one or more deceased parents. The website provides regular updates on the requirements for children travelling through South African ports of entry.
MALARIA IN KRUGER PARK
Malaria is a life-threatening disease that can be fatal if not diagnosed and treated early. The disease causes more than 300 million acute illnesses and kills at least 1 million people every year. However, these numbers are significantly reduced from what they were two decades ago, thanks to medical advances in malaria prophylactics, early diagnosis and effective treatment.
Where does malaria occur?
Malaria is typically found in tropical and subtropical climates where the parasites thrive in the warm, humid conditions.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that malaria is found in up to 91 countries around the world. Over 90% of malaria cases are recorded in Africa.
Kruger Park is regarded as a medium-to-high risk malaria area. The risk increases in the rainy season between October and March when the temperatures are high and there is a lot of stagnant water.
Countries in Africa that are regarded as high-risk malaria areas are:
- Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
- United Republic of Tanzania
How malaria works
Malaria is typically transmitted through the bite of an infected Anopheles mosquito that carries the Plasmodium parasite. The parasite is released into your bloodstream when an infected mosquito bites someone.
Once in your bloodstream, the parasite travels to the liver where it matures. After several days, the mature parasites re-enter the bloodstream and begins to infect your red blood cells.
Within 48 to 72 hours, the parasites inside the red blood cells multiply which causes the infected cells to burst open. The parasites continue to infect your red blood cells, causing symptoms that occur in cycles that last two to three days at a time.
Malaria symptoms do not appear immediately. It can take between 10 to 15 days for the first symptoms to appear. If not diagnosed and treated early, malaria can become a life-threatening and often fatal disease.
If you have visited a malaria area and experience any of the following symptoms 10 to 15 days after arriving in the area, you need to see a doctor straightaway. It’s extremely important that people do not wait and mistake these symptoms for the common cold or flu. The earlier you seek medical attention, the better.
- Fever and chills
A high fever is the first and most common symptom of malaria. It’s the first sign that your body is fighting an infection brought on by the parasites infecting your red blood cells.
A fever is any temperature 38 degrees C (4 degrees F) and higher. The reason your body’s temperature spikes is nature’s way of fighting and infection because bacteria and viruses cannot survive at higher temperatures.
A fever is usually accompanied by chills and this is your second warning you have contracted malaria. Chills is another defense mechanism your body uses to increase your natural body temperature.
Fever and chills are usually accompanied by a headache because pain-sensitive structures in your body such as blood vessels, muscles and nerves are overactive. The headache is either caused from the parasites and disease itself or in response to other symptoms of the disease.
A seizure is a sudden abnormal electrical activity in the brain which may result in loss of consciousness along with muscle contractions. It’s a frightening sign that you may have malaria and needs to be taken seriously. The intensity of a seizure is dependent on where the source of the electrical disturbance is and whether or not the brain is affected.
Convulsions is the abnormal movement of the whole body that occurs as a result of a seizure. Someone with malaria will experience convulsions where his or her body will shake uncontrollably and the muscles will tighten and relax repeatedly.
Convulsions can cause you to feel extremely dizzy, anxious, have a serious and painful headache, a weird taste in you mouth, continuous drooling, rapid eye movement and eventually losing control of your bladder and bowel.
Patients with malaria get chronic diarrhea because of the infection in their gastrointestinal system. Your bowel movements become loose and watery; you lose a lot of fluid in a short space of time which can lead to sever dehydration. It’s important to drink a lot of water or rehydration drinks to replace lost water from severe diarrhea.
- Nausea and vomiting
Vomiting occurs as a result of nausea where your body wants to eject any food or liquid in your stomach. A person with malaria may vomit several times a day; often retching or dry heaving when there is nothing left in the stomach to bring up. Severe vomiting will cause you to become dangerously dehydrated.
Anemia is caused when a lack of healthy red cells in your body makes you feel extremely drowsy and exhausted. All types of malaria will cause some level of anemia because the malaria parasite infects healthy red blood cells.
Anemia is very harmful for babies and pregnant women which is why people with young families or women who are pregnant or planning to fall pregnant are discouraged from visiting malaria areas.
Jaundice occurs at a point where your body has lost a substantial amount of red blood cells. Symptoms of jaundice include yellowish skin and the white areas of your eyes turn yellow. The yellow colouring is caused by a buildup of bilirubin which is a waste product that is eliminated by the body.
Jaundice can be treated by increasing the amount of iron-rich food you eat, such as red meat, beans and some seafood. Iron helps to rejuvenate and increase red blood cells in your system.
- Muscle pains
Muscle pain occurs because the parasite infects and destroys the soft tissue in your body. You’ll experience deep muscle pain which also causes extreme fatigue, insomnia and anxiety. If you have malaria, you’ll find that your legs, arms and feet are very numb in the morning, tingle and are sensitive to touch.
A malaria-infected person may also experience irritable bowel syndrome and pain in their urinary system. This will feel like a sharp, deep throbbing pain throughout the entire body that emanates from your digestive system.
- Rectal bleeding
An early warning sign of malaria is blood in your stool. This is called rectal bleeding and is when red blood mixes with your stool. Depending on how advanced the malaria disease is, rectal bleeding will be moderate or severe. You may even see heavy blood clots in your stool.
A person with severe rectal bleeding is in great danger. It can cause your blood pressure to decrease rapidly and it’ll make you feel exhausted and weak. You must seek immediately medical treatment if you notice blood in your stool after you have visited a malaria area. You may require a blood transfusion if the disease is advanced.
Source of malaria information
Can malaria be prevented?
Malaria is easy to prevent if you follow the recommended advise to prevent being bitten and take anti-malarial drugs. The high number of recorded cases of acute illness and deaths from malaria are typically from poor regions in Africa that suffer from inadequate healthcare and have limited or no access to modern medicine.
You do not need to fear malaria. As long as you are aware of the risks of visiting a malaria area like Kruger Park and do what is recommended to avoid contracting the disease, you’ll be fine.
Talk to your doctor or visit a travel clinic before you leave for your holiday in the Kruger National Park.
If you are a family with young children or are pregnant, speak to your doctor at the time you are planning a trip to Kruger Park because you more than likely will be advised not to visit Kruger Park because of the risk of malaria for babies, toddlers and pregnant women.
Your doctor will advise you on whether you can take anti-malaria tablets and when drug is suitable for the area you’ll be visiting. Anti-malaria drugs are not recommended for pregnant women, children younger than 5-years old or children who weigh less than 5 kilograms.
It’s important that you are prescribed the right anti-malaria tablet for the region you are visiting. A doctor will also take your medical history and will determine how soon before your trip to Kruger Park you must start on the scheduled drugs.
Take the anti-malaria tablets when the doctor tells you to start them, do not skip days or stop taking them during your holiday to South Africa; always finish your course of anti-malaria tablets.
The prophylactic drugs for malaria are not guaranteed to be 100% protective and must be combined with other protective measures to prevent being bitten by an infected mosquito.
How to prevent being bitten by an infected mosquito
Anopheles mosquitoes are most active before dawn and right after darkness sets in. Dawn and dusk are when mosquitoes start becoming a nuisance and when you’re most likely to be bitten by a malaria-carrying mosquito.
It’s recommended that you take precautions throughout the day to prevent being bitten but these times are when you need to be particularly vigilant, particularly if you are travelling with young children.
- Stay away from mosquito hotspots
Either stay away from where mosquitos like to lurk or eliminate what attracts them. You’ll find more mosquitoes around stagnant water and marshy, humid places like reed beds and swampy ponds.
If you’re having sundowners at a river or lake, move back from these mosquito-infested areas and try to sit where there is a nice breeze on you.
When you pick up a damp, musty towel that’s been left on the floor or pick up a heap of jackets and clothing, you’ll might see a swarm of busy mosquitoes fly off. Keep the room or lodge that you’re staying in tidy and neat and keep cupboard doors closed.
- Use insect repellant
Insect repellant that is made with DEET is one of the more effective ways to prevent being bitten by an infected mosquito. Most people liberally spray themselves and children with insect repellant in the evenings as the sun is setting but it’s a good idea to spray yourself early morning and later in the day.
If you don’t like the spray, you can apply the repellant with a stick or cream. You also have the option of burning candles made with DEET-infused insect repellant.
Buy a good quality insect repellant from a supermarket chain or pharmacy. Apply it to exposed areas of skin and also spray your clothes.
If you’re travelling around Kruger Park in your own car, it’s a good idea to liberally spray the interior with insect spray a half hour before you set off. Those pesky mozzies love dark hiding spots like under seats and the dashboard.
- Cover up at certain times of the day
As mentioned, mozzies are most active in the early morning and early evening and are a pesky problem at night. This is because mosquitoes don’t like heat and wind and at these times, the temperature is usually cooler and the wind has dropped.
If you’re out and about in Kruger Park on a safari tour, make sure you apply your insect repellant as soon as you get back to camp as the sun is setting and get everybody changed into their anti-malaria clothes.
This includes long pants, socks and takkies or slip-ons, and a long-sleeved shirt. The less area exposed, the less area to bite. We know that this isn’t always realistic because on hot, humid nights, you don’t want to wear long pants and long-sleeved shirt.
That’s why it’s a good reason to invest in some lightweight safari clothes before arriving in Kruger Park. You’ll find a great selection of safari outfits in the towns close to Kruger Park or you can order them online.
Do your best to cover up in the evenings, otherwise regularly spray yourself with insect repellant. This is particularly important if you’re outside at the boma enjoying a star-lit dinner.
- Sleep under a mosquito net
Sleeping under a mosquito net (a good quality one with no holes) is one of the best ways you can prevent being bitten by mosquitoes. There’s nothing worse than having a pesky mozzie buzzing around your ear, so most people are only too happy to use the nets provided by the safari lodges.
Put them down early in the evening and spray inside and around them with insect repellant as an added precaution. Keep the sides tucked in under the mattress and your feet and arms inside the net.
We’d go as far as saying, don’t book to stay in a safari lodge or camp in the Kruger Park if they don’t provide mosquito nets or at the very least, have mozzie netting on the windows.
- Sleep with a fan on
An overhead fan or standing fan is a great way to keep mozzies off you at night while sleeping. Mosquitoes don’t like wind and a blustery wind from the fan generally keeps them at bay.
If you don’t have a fan in your room, keep the windows open to keep the air circulating. However, only do this if there is mosquito gauze on the open windows.
- Wear clothes with light colours
This is another good excuse to buy yourself those popular safari shirts and pants that are light-coloured beige. It’s a known fact that mosquitoes are attracted to dark colours which is put down to the fact that dark clothes contrast against your surrounds.
HOW TO KEEP SAFE ON A TRIP TO KRUGER PARK IN SOUTH AFRICA
Use common travel sense that applies to any big city in any country around the world. Kruger National Park is safe to visit but you will be staying elsewhere in South Africa and visiting popular tourist attractions.
It’s important you know what the more risky aspects are of a holiday to South Africa in general and how you and your travelling party can keep safe.
Book day and overnight tours to Kruger Park with a reputable tour operator such as MoAfrika Tours.
This is not a marketing line but wise advice, considering the fact that tour operators make the safety of their clients a priority.
Firstly, MoAfrika Tours has been taking foreign tourists to Kruger Park for over 20 years and the guides and drivers know the national park and surrounding areas so well. They know areas that should be avoided and will never put their clients at risk.
Secondly, there is safety in numbers and if you are travelling solo South Africa and want to visit a Big 5 safari destination; you’re better off booking a tour to Kruger Park. It’s not only safer but you’ll enjoy the company of fellow wildlife lovers.
Car hire safety
Car hire is very reasonable for overseas visitors and having your own car gives you the freedom to come and go as you please. For this reason, many people visiting Kruger Park opt to hire a car from a reputable car hire company and enjoy a self-drive holiday.
This is perfectly fine as an alternative to joining a tour group for a safari tour of Kruger Park but make safety a priority. Road safety in general is a problem is South Africa and car accidents tragically claim many innocent lives.
Stick to the main highways and main roads and avoid driving in areas with poor lighting. Keep to the speed limit and be aware of other drivers so you can take corrective action quickly.
Top tips for driving from Johannesburg to Kruger Park in a rented car
- Keep the windows shut, particularly driving through built-up areas where you’re stopping at traffic lights and intersections. Hire a car with air-conditioning so you don’t need to wind down the windows on hot days.
- Keep the doors locked. Do this as soon as you get into the car and make it a habit. This is to avoid petty criminals at traffic lights opening one of the car doors and grabbing valuable items.
- Keep valuable items out of sight. Preferably, hire a rented car with a proper boot. This is so you can put items such as your camera and laptop in the boot while you’re driving. You don’t want to keep them on the seat because this makes you a target for a ‘smash and grab’.
- Top up your fuel tank regularly. Don’t risk breaking down on the side of the road because you’ve run out of petrol. Play it safe and fill up before driving off for an outing. That way, if you misjudge the distance, you won’t have a problem with an empty fuel tank.
- Know where you are going. Hire a car with a GPS device or download an app like WAZE that you can use for directions to the places you are visiting. Before you leave your hotel, put the destination into the GPS app and familiarise yourself with the route.
- Avoid travelling after dark. Plan your day so you’re back at your hotel before or just after the sun goes down. If you plan to go out for dinner, choose a restaurant close to your hotel so you’re not travelling far and on unknown roads after dark.
- Park your car in parking lots that are well guarded. The big shopping malls employ full-time guards to watch cars and all they expect is a nice tip when you return to your car.
If you go out at night, only park in well-lit parking lots that are right next to the restaurant you’re going to or in underground parking that has good security.
- Keep important numbers on your phone that you can call if you get into trouble, such as a breakdown service or the local police number. Car rentals should provide you with the names of tow companies that clients are allowed to use. Don’t hesitate to contact the car rental company if you’re concerned that the car you’ve hired has a mechanical fault.
South Africa has a well-functioning train system but it’s not recommended for foreign tourists. There have been incidents of muggings on the Cape trains and more recently, incidences where trains have been burnt during protests over service delivery.
Uber is available in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban. Uber the safest mode of transport for tourists in the main cities of South Africa who don’t want to hire a car. However, it’s your responsibility to use the international driving service with caution.
Uber is not available elsewhere and certainly not in the towns close to Kruger Park. Don’t rely on “catching an Uber” if you find yourself in places like Nelspruit, White River, Hazyview and Hoedspruit which are the closest towns to Kruger Park.
Uber prices are quite reasonable for foreigners but you might find them a bit hefty in peak holiday periods. Ask the Uber driver to quote you on the estimated cost of the drive before you take off. Uber uses a ‘dynamic pricing’ model during busy seasons which go up heavily when the demand is high and are reduced massively when demand is low.
Uber introduced a call-line to an incident response team for all Uber passengers in South Africa. The call-lien links you to Uber’s Global Incident Response Team and they’ll get in touch immediately with the police or response team if you find yourself in trouble on an Uber ride.
It’s wise to have this help-line number in your phone on your Uber app to call in any emergency. If you feel uneasy when an Uber driver pulls up, don’t get in the vehicle. Always check the driver matches with the driver’s details sent to you via the Uber app.
How to access customer support line
- Open the Uber app
- Select the menu button (top left-hand corner)
- Select HELP
- Select CALL SUPPORT
- You’ll then be connected to the support team
Can’t access the Uber app?
If you’re a driver looking to get in touch, please dial 0800172957.
Riders can access the support line by dialing 0800172956.
In an emergency where a crime has been committed, call 10111.
or use the in-app emergency button which connects you to Uber’s third-party security providers.
The most important safety tip is ‘don’t flash cash’ when you’re out and about in South Africa. Tourists stand out like beacons to robbers at the best of times and if you’re ‘flashing your cash’, you put a target on your back. Visit the main tourist attractions with just enough cash to pay for entrance fees and snacks and refreshments and use a banking card for other purchases.
Like any country in the world, it’s a good idea to bring with you a travel banking card. This should have enough money transferred into it for daily activities and purchases. If it’s swiped or skimmed, you won’t lose too much money.
If you need to withdraw money, avoid using an ATM on a street; particularly in remote or isolated areas. Rather, go to a large shopping centre and withdraw money from an ATM inside the banking mall. Don’t withdraw large amounts that get people’s attention. Draw less, more often.
Keep your wallet in a handbag or travel backpack that you can keep close to your body and won’t be pick-pocketed. Tips like ‘don’t hang your handbag over the back of your chair’ are common sense, regardless if you’re on holiday in South Africa or going out in your hometown.
Jewellery and valuables
Just like cash, don’t flash your expensive jewellery and valuable items when travelling around South Africa. Leave your expensive diamond rings and gold chains at home and keep your cell phone, laptop and big camera out of sight in your backpack.
In case you were worried, wild animals don’t roam the streets of South Africa. Animals with big teeth and sharp claws are kept safely behind fences in the national parks and private game reserves. You don’t have to worry about walking into a lion on a trip to the shops.
The most famous wild animals in South Africa are known as the Big 5. These are the ones to avoid on a walking safari or a holiday at any of our Big 5 safari destinations. The Big 5 include lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino and leopard.
The term “Big Five” originally referred to the difficulty in hunting the lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and African buffalo. They were also the wild animals most feared by hunters in the bush. These famous five large African mammal species are regarded as the most dangerous and it was considered a feat by trophy hunters to shoot one.
Today, the Big Five is more a marketing term and is extensively used in safari promotions and advertising. This is because the Big 5 are still the biggest drawcards for safari tourism and most foreign visitors want to see the Big 5 on a safari tour.
Most people think hippos are part of the Big 5 purely because they’re so big. They’re not one of the Big 5 but they are definitely one of the most dangerous animals in the bush to encounter. They’re highly aggressive and unpredictable and are responsible for hundreds of deaths. Keep well out of the there way and don’t swim in lakes and waterholes that are home to hippos.
South Africa has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world which is why hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers descend on places like Durban, Cape Town and the Garden Route for a fabulous beach holiday. The Atlantic Ocean on the west coast of South Africa is icy cold and isn’t great for swimming but the Indian Ocean is warm and inviting.
Sharks are only a problem if you go swimming and scuba diving in areas that are not protected by shark nets and shark spotters. The main beaches in Durban, Cape Town and the Garden Route are generally safe but check with locals on ocean conditions and currents before getting into the sea for a swim or surf.
Swim between the red flags and on the beach side of the shark nets. This will keep you safe from dangerous currents and insight of the lifeguards.
Nightlife in South Africa
Like any country in the world, South Africa has its fair selection of nightclubs and party spots that are notorious drug dens. Either stay away from these areas on a night out on the town or be extremely careful when you visit these popular party streets.
The biggest problem is drink spiking, where drugs or alcohol is added to someone’s drink without their permission with the intent of doing something nasty. This could be anything from sexual assault and robbery to kidnapping.
If you’re a party person and want to experience South Africa’s vibrant night life, be very, very careful. The clubs, pubs and popular night clubs are notorious for drugs and drink spiking,
Follow the same rules and common sense you would back home. Never walk around on your own after dark, buy your own drinks, never accept a drink from a stranger and never let your drink out of your sight. Party with friends you trust and if you’re on your own, be very careful who you make friends with because not everyone can be trusted.
WHERE IS THE KRUGER NATIONAL PARK?
Kruger National Park is located in the far north-eastern region of South Africa in Mpumalanga Province, otherwise known as the Lowveld. Mozambique lies on its eastern border and Zimbabwe on its northernmost boundary.
If you walk out into the middle of the dry riverbed at Crooks’ Corner at the very top of the national park where the Luvuvhu and Limpopo rivers merge, you’ll find yourself standing on the three-way junction of South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
The Kruger National Park covers an area of 19 485 square kilometres (7 523 square miles), and stretches over the provinces of Mpumalanga and Limpopo. It’s 360 kilometres (220 miles) from north to south, and 65 kilometres (40 miles) from east to west.
The closest towns to the main entrances of Kruger Park are Nelspruit, White River, Hazyview and Malelane. You can fly from Johannesburg to Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (KMIA) in Nelspruit and take a shuttle transfer to Kruger Park, or fly direct to Skukuza Airport (in Kruger Park). The drive from Johannesburg to the most accessible entrances in the southern section takes between 5-6 hours, with a refreshment stop along the way.
Where is Greater Kruger?
Greater Kruger lies alongside the Kruger National Park, on its western boundary adjacent to the central section of the Park. The closest access point that links Greater Kruger with Kruger Park is Orpen Gate. Sabi Sand Game Reserve shares a 50-kilometre unfenced boundary with the national park, and acts as a wild buffer between the national park and the unfenced private reserves of Greater Kruger.
Collectively, the unfenced private reserves of Greater Kruger cover an area of 1 800 square kilometres (180 000 hectares/695 square miles) of land dedicated to conservation. The fences that prevented free movement of game between the private reserves of Greater Kruger and Kruger Park were removed in 1993.
Hoedspruit and a number of popular private game reserves in the area are often marketed as Greater Kruger destinations but they aren’t formally part of the protected APNR conservation area.
The closest large town to Greater Kruger is Hoedspruit. It’s the central tourism hub of the region and you can fly there directly from Johannesburg to Eastgate Airport. Most travellers drive to Greater Kruger; it’s a 5-7 hour drive depending on where you’re staying, with a refreshment stop along the way.
KRUGER NATIONAL PARK COVID-19 UPDATE
Kruger National Park attracts an estimated 2 million tourists each year but the Covid-19 crisis of 2020 saw these numbers plummet in an effort to flatten the curve and contain the coronavirus outbreak.
A travel ban was imposed on the country and the whole of South Africa was put into lockdown in March 2020 under instruction by President Cyril Ramaphosa. Like the rest of the world, we wait with bated breath for the crisis to abate so we can welcome back foreign visitors to Kruger National Park.
For the most up-to-date Covid-19 safety information for South Africa, please consult the WHO.
For information on travel to Kruger National Park in 2020, consult the official website for the Western Cape Government.
For the latest updates on Covid-19 in Kruger Park, visit the official website for SANParks.