PLANNING A 2 DAY KRUGER SAFARI TOUR
2-DAY KRUGER SAFARI TOUR
Moafrika Tours recommends spending the first day of a 2-day Kruger safari tour in the south-west region of the Park. Your second day can be spent exploring the area between Lower Sabie and Orpen Rest Camp. Moafrika Tours can recommend places to stay and popular destinations to visit in the Kruger National Park if you want to spend more time at this incredible South African destination.
You have the choice of two well-established rest camps for a 1-night stay in the Kruger National Camp. Both are ideally positioned to explore the south-central region of the Park. Skukuza Rest Camp This large, busy rest camp is affectionately known as the “capital of Kruger”, being the administration centre of the Park. The rest camp is located at the point where the H1-1 road and the S1 from Phabeni Gate meet. Remnants of the historical Selati rail line and bridge are located close to Skukuza Rest Camp; an historical landmark built in the early 20th century to help bring development to the area and to service the sugar industry in Malelane. Skukuza Rest Camp is located close to the Kruger National Park staff village that is home to the permanent staff and Park rangers.
The staff village has its own preparatory school with a large public pool, a magnificent 9-hole, 18-tee golf course and is closed located to the main Kruger airport. Skukuza Rest Camp is the biggest camp in the Park and offers additional facilities such as a car wash and service bay, a photographic development shop, medical rooms and a conference facility for up to 158 delegates. The rest camp is well-known for its elegant restaurant with a wide deck overlooking the Sabie River below and has a massive shop that stocks everything from dried venison meat to souvenirs and bush clothing. While staying at Skukuza Rest Camp, guests can enjoy a leisurely stroll along the riverside walkway, a wilderness hike and morning and evening game drives with a knowledgeable tour guide. Lions, wild dog and hyena are common sightings on routes branching out from Skukuza Rest Camp and the usual parade of elephant, antelope and predators are seen in the evenings when they come down to drink at the Sabie River.
Quirky fruit bats hang from the eaves of the shop and the thick-tailed bush babies provide much entertainment as they hop from tree to tree in search of delicious gum that oozes from a species of tree in the camp. Visitors to Skukuza Rest Camp have the choice of safari tents, guest houses, semi-luxury riverside bungalows, family cottages and guest cottages and the historic Kruger rondavels (round huts). The camping site has ample space for visitors who prefer the budget-friendly option of staying in a caravan or tent, with clean ablution facilities and the choice of two pools. There is a 6-bedroom cottage at the rest camp that is wheel-chair accessible, with bath and shower facilities adapted for people with disabilities or in wheelchairs.
Skukuza Rest Camp has been carefully designed to accommodate disabled visitors, with curved paths dropping down to the main area where the reception, shop, restaurants and public toilets are found. The main attraction of Skukuza Rest Camp is the Stevenson-Hamilton Memorial Library, a museum hut, an information centre and an auditorium. The rest camp is rich in history and there are a number of historical sites situated a short drive from the camp.
Skukuza is the nickname given to the first warden of the Kruger National Park, James Stevenson-Hamilton, who spent nearly 40 years helping to create what is today the modern Kruger. The museum and memorial library houses many valuable books, documents and exhibits that provide visitors with insight into the early pioneering days of game ranging and conservation. The skin of the lion that famously attacked Stevenson-Hamilton is found at the library.
Lower Sabie Rest Camp Lower Sabie Rest Camp is set in a picturesque setting on the banks of the Sabie River. It is one of the most popular rest camps and visitors usually book their accommodation a year in advance. Large numbers of animals are attracted to the perennial river and there is an abundance of birdlife which appeals to avid birders. Lower Sabie Rest Camp is family friendly and there is always a lot for children to do after a long, hot game drive. The camp is also designed to be wheel-chair friendly and people with disabilities can request accommodation adapted to their needs.
Accommodation ranges from a luxurious guest house to family cottages, huts and bungalows, and the recent addition of safari tents which are positioned well away from the crowds. Visitors enjoy panoramic views with the Lebombo Mountains in the distance and the lush vegetation that flanks the Sabie River in the foreground. Tree species such as the majestic sycamore fig, marula, Natal mahogany and fever tree provide ample shade and expansive green lawns create a magical oasis. The area around Lower Sabie Rest Camp is well-known for sightings of lion, cheetah, elephant, white rhino and large herds of Cape buffalo. Warthogs are a common sighting as the area boasts the highest density of this quirky creature.
ECOSYSTEM AND HABITATS OF THE SOUTH-CENTRAL REGION
The area between Skukuza Rest Camp and Lower Sabie Rest Camp is made up predominantly of Sabie River thickets, characterised by rolling granite and dolerite plains with mainly shallow, sandy soils. Tree species in this region include red bushwillows, raisin bushes and flaky-bark acacia. Other species such as the tamboti, magic guarri and horned thorn and scented-pod acacias are found along footslopes with clay sodic soils. Travelling north from Skukuza and Lower Sabie towards Orpen, visitors drive through a region dominated mixed bushwillow woodlands.
The footslopes are more open, with clay soil that supports tree species such as the magic guarri, russet bushwillow and the scented-pod, red and sticky acacias. These magnificent tree species attract an abundance of herbivores, including the endangered black and white rhino.
Lower Sabie loops Before you set off in a northerly direction for your second day in the Kruger National Park, there are a number of striking waterholes in the area around Lower Sabie Rest Camp that should not be missed. Sunset Dam off the H4-1 is an excellent spot for early morning coffee and rusks, where you can park close to the water’s edge and take some spectacular photographs. A visit to Duke’s waterhole (S137) is recommended if you’re looking for cheetah and wild dog. For birders, there is a well-appointed hide that overlooks the large Nhlanganzwane Dam. You can get out of your car and let the little ones stretch their legs before the next part of your safari journey.
The waterholes are busiest in the early mornings and late in the day when animals come down for a refreshing drink. Lower Sabie to Skukuza (H4-1) The H4-1 takes you on a scenic drive through a stunning riverine forest and thick thorn thickets. The road traverses two eco-zones that attract an interesting selection of grazers and browsers. Magnificent specimens of tamboti and fig trees flank the river, which are home to large groups of baboons and vervet monkeys. There is a good chance of seeing leopard in this area as it boasts the highest concentration of this magnificent cat. For a quick pit-stop, the Nkuhlu picnic site has a small shop for snacks and refreshments. This is found halfway between Lower Sabie and Skukuza.
Lower Sabie to Tshokwane (H10) The main road from Lower Sabie Rest Camp to Tshokwane winds through knob thorn and marula savanna, with wide-open grasslands that are home to an abundance of grazers. This route is regarded as one of the most scenic with the open plains, riverbeds, thickets and wooded forests creating a stunning combination of vegetation. The area is dominated by sweetveld which is delicious grass for antelope, zebra, giraffe, buffalo and wildebeest.
The large numbers of grazers and browsers attract predators and sightings of lion are common in this area. Birders will be interested to know that the H10 road is the best route to spot marabou and yellow-billed storks. A 12-kilometre loop (S122) takes you around Muntshe Hill, or you could head to Nkumbe Hill for stunning vistas and sightings of plains game in the valley below. The H10 ascends into the Lebombo Mountain Range before winding down towards Tshokwane. You can get out at a lookout point that overlooks the perennial Mlondozi River and the expansive savanna grasslands in the valley below. Before stopping at Tshokwane, take the S32 to Orpen Dam. A thatched shelter perched on the dam at the base of the Lebombo Mountain is a great lookout point for game viewing. The landscape is stunning and birdlife in the area is spectacular.
Skukuza loops If you stayed overnight at Skukuza Rest Camp, you’ll start your day with a selection of loops that criss-cross the Sabie and Sand Rivers (H1-2, H12 and H4-1). This area is known for sightings of leopard, wild dog and hyena as well as scenic drives through dense river thickets. You can head to Mathekenyane Koppie which is located a short distance south of Skukuza Rest Camp and offers visitors panoramic views of the bushveld. Or you could make your way to Shirimantanga Hill on the S112 which is part of a scenic collection of hills collectively known as Rhino Koppies. Obviously this is a good place to see rhino. Shirimantanga Hill has special significance as it is where James Stevenson-Hamilton and his wife, Hilda, ashes were strewn.
S36 to Satara Road (H7) This is a good road to take if you want to get off the busy main road to Satara Rest Camp. The Nhlanguleni dust road (S36) leaves the main road at an elephant drinking hole and takes you past a few waterholes dotted along the route which are great for game viewing. The Muzandzeni Picnic Spot is situated on a river bank dominated by dense pockets of Ilala palms.
This is a sweetveld eco-zone which offers good grazing and supports large numbers of antelope, buffalo, giraffe, zebra and elephant. There are a number of dirt roads that branch right off Nhlanguleni road (S36) which take you to the main road leading to Satara Rest Camp. These roads lead you away from mixed bushwillow woodlands into an eco-zone dominated by Delagoa thorn thickets. The area is associated with duplex and sodic clay soils that support an interesting variety of trees including the Delagoa acacia and magic guarri.
H1-2 to Tshokwane picnic site This is the busier main road that takes you from Skukuza Rest Camp to Tshokwane picnic site. Two stops along the way include a visit to the Eileen Orpen Plaque and the Kruger Tablet. Mrs Orpen generously donated seven farms to the Kruger National Park to extend the Kruger National Park on its eastern borders. A plaque was laid embedded in a large granite rock to express the Park’s gratitude for her generosity. The Kruger Tablets on the road to Tshokwane commemorate Paul Kruger, the late President of the Zuid-Afrikaanse Republiek, who was responsible for the proclamation of the land between the Sabie and Crocodile Rivers. Sabie Game Reserve was proclaimed in 1898 and later incorporated into the greater Kruger National Park.
The Park’s two top water holes for photography are located off the H1-2, namely Leeupan and Silolweni Dams. The surrounding sweetveld merges into the eastern grasslands and attracts large numbers of grazers. The Silolweni Dam is also known for sightings of large numbers of buffalo, wildebeest and zebra. In the rainy season, the grassland around becomes a wetland which attracts a wide variety of birds.
Tshokwane picnic site to Satara Rest Camp Tshokwane is a popular picnic site that can be reached either by taking the H1-2 from Skukuza Rest Camp or the H4-1 from Lower Sabie Rest Camp. The site was named after Tshokwane, a “man of muti” (medicine) who left somewhat of a legacy as a natural traditional healer. You can stock up on snacks and refreshments at the shop or you can spend a bit longer here enjoying a delicious meal of bacon and eggs cooked on a gas braai (barbeque). There are a number of good waterholes along both routes that are good for game viewing. The many loops in the area criss-cross over an ancient route which has been used by elephants for many centuries. There are over 100 rock art shelters in the area that provide evidence that the area was once inhabited by people from the Stone Age.
Satara Rest Camp to Orpen Gate If you have travelled along the H1-3 to Satara Rest Camp, you will take the H7 main road to Orpen Gate to leave the Park. This eco-zone is dominated by marula/knob-thorn open tree savanna, with red clay soil and flat southern basalt and gabbro plains. Leave enough time to visit Rabelais; Hut which stands at the first entry point to the Park. A small museum at the site provides visitors with insight into how the early game rangers lived. Exit via Orpen Gate and continue your journey home on the main national road to either Hazyview or Nelspruit.
Want to stay longer?
Moafrika Tours can recommend places to stay and popular destinations to visit in the Kruger National Park.
WEATHER IN THE KRUGER NATIONAL PARK AND BEST TIME TO VISIT
The Kruger National Park is open all-year round and the tropical climate of the region means that days are usually warm and sunny, although the evenings do get nippy in the winter months between May and September. The winter months are regarded as the best time to visit for game viewing in the Kruger National Park when is at its driest, the bush is not too thick and the waterholes are busier. Birders tend to prefer the summer months (October to April) for birdwatching as the vegetation is lush and many of the migratory birds can be seen in the Park.
The autumn months (March to April) and spring times (September to October) are popular; the weather is mild and pleasant. In autumn, you can see the dramatic rutting of impala, wildebeest and other antelope. November to December is the time most antelope drop their young and herds with nurseries of young buck is a delightful sighting. The spread of malaria has been well managed in the Kruger National Park but in summer, mosquitoes can be quite a nuisance. Take the usual precaution such as travelling with insect repellent spray and wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants in the early evening to cover bare skin.
Consult your doctor about taking anti-malaria tablets, particularly if you are travelling to the far northern regions of the Park. If you experience any flu-like symptoms within three weeks of your visit, immediately see a doctor who may recommend you be tested for malaria.