Self-drive Kruger Safaris
A self-drive Kruger National Park Safari may provide the ultimate African adventure and shared experience with your nearest and dearest if you want to spend time together as a family in the wilderness of Africa.
A Self-Drive Safari gives you the freedom to drive your own vehicle around a game reserve. It is the most cost-effective way to visit any park and provides you with the flexibility and thrill of spotting wildlife at your leisure.
The purpose of a Kruger Park family self-drive excursion is to bring the family together and share a special adventure. Guests can enjoy a variety of comfortable accommodation options in beautiful African bushveld settings, as well as an abundance of wildlife sightings, in South Africa’s largest national park.
Kruger National Park is possibly Africa’s best destination for a self-drive tour, which is ideal for families because you can travel at your own pace in the comfort of your own car. A self-drive safari will also significantly reduce safari costs.
A self-drive private vacation is a popular option for guests, and with accommodations spread across a number of rest camps, each with its own selection of rooms, you can tailor-make the ideal safari.
Although it can be difficult to keep children entertained on long game drives, the exciting aspect of a Kruger holiday is that you never know what you might see on a game drive, which allows for exciting family fun such as “treasure hunts.”
Children and their parents can compete to see which animals they can spot while learning more about what they see, such as bird and tree species, watering hole names, and points of interest. The game component will entertain children while also teaching them about the country’s natural heritage and history.
Driving to the Kruger National Park on your self-driving safari
Driving from Johannesburg to Kruger should take about 5-6 hours in ideal conditions. Driving from Johannesburg to Kruger is completely safe, but keep an eye out for construction, toll booths, speed traps, and potholes that could severely damage your car. The larger freeways usually are in good condition, but the more rural roads may require more attention.
The most direct route from Johannesburg to Kruger is to take the N12 to the N4, which will take you through Mbombela (Nelspruit). There are several ways to get to the park from there, including the Malelane Gate and the Crocodile Bridge Gate.
While you can take the shortest direct route from Johannesburg to Kruger, if you have the time, consider taking a side trip through the incredibly scenic Panorama Route, where you can spend a full day touring around places like Sabie and Graskop with their beautiful waterfalls, as well as the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve.
You may also leave and re-enter the Kruger Park during the day to visit some of these locations, subject to the opening and closing times of the entrance and camp gates. At a gate, you must show proof of your accommodation booking as well as your entry and exit permit, and the permits (stamped by the gate official) must be shown again upon your return.
Best options for staying in Kruger National Park for self-driving families
For self-driving guests, the majority of rest camps have lovely private family accommodations, and some also have kids’ clubs or other forms of childcare.
Accommodations range from basic tented camps to family chalets and a luxury lodge or hotel with en suite bathrooms, depending on the type of trip you prefer. Others prefer an all-inclusive vacation with catered boma dinners under the stars, while some prefer a self-catering, family-friendly stay with evenings around their own campfire.
The Kruger National Park offers a variety of traditional lodging options, including:
Camping – sites for caravans or tents are available. Some sites have defined boundaries and their own water taps, and a perimeter site can now be reserved specifically at some camps.
Safari Tents – Several camps provide permanent canvas tent lodging. Some have shared kitchens and restrooms, while others are fully equipped and luxurious.
Bungalows- Most camps provide single bedroom units with a bathroom, some with their own kitchenettes and basic kitchen equipment, and others with access to communal kitchens. Some bungalows have views of the river or the perimeter, while others have been upgraded to luxury status.
Family Cottages – For families, camps offer multiple bedroom units with a living room, bathroom, and kitchen.
Guest cottages include fully equipped kitchens and at least two bathrooms, one of which is usually en suite.
Guest Houses – These multi-bedroom and bathroom units, often with lounge areas and a private view, offer the ultimate classic accommodation for families at a low cost.
Self-driving on Kruger roads
The majority of those who travel to Kruger National Park on a regular basis agree that the southern to the central portion of the park is the best location for observing wildlife, whilst the northern half of the park is probably the best area for viewing birdlife.
Because so many of its roads are paved, Kruger can be experienced best from the driver’s seat of a sedan vehicle. There are more than 3 000 kilometres of public roads in Kruger, and even those roads that are not paved but instead are sand or gravel are typically acceptable for driving a sedan car.
It is just the greater ground clearance of an SUV or LDV that may be advantageous when self-driving on dirt roads, as well as the fact that it normally affords a better vantage point to see the animals in certain situations.
Because Kruger is a national park and not a zoo, there is no fool-proof method to locate species in any area. Waterholes and hides are wonderful places to see wildlife, particularly during the dry months, as the animals and numerous birds will come in search for water.
Examine the sightings boards located at the various rest camps and picnic spots, engage in conversation with other tourists, drive slowly, and keep your eyes and ears open for potential sightings. Never go above the posted speed limit, maintain extreme patience, and keep a close eye out for any motion in the surrounding brush.
The Southern Region is the best for sightings, but it can get pretty busy, which makes it difficult to spot animals when there are a lot of automobiles gathering together at one location. Central Region is home to an abundance of cats, while the plains areas are home to antelope species, which in turn pull in a variety of predators. There are fewer opportunities for other kinds of wildlife sigthings in the Northern Region, but it is a fantastic place to go bird watching.
In spite of the fact that it is inhabited by a high number of top-level predators, Kruger National Park is considered to be one of the safest places in all of South Africa. There is a low incidence of crime committed against visitors and tall fences that is equipped with electric current keep animals out of camps.
A self-driving safari in Kruger National Park is a perfectly safe way to visit the park as long as you follow the SANParks rules and some very basic precautions, such as:
- Obey the speed limit – Traffic accidents do occur in Kruger, either amongst tourists or when a vehicle collides with an animal. On paved roads, the speed restriction is 50kph, while it is 40kph on gravel roads. You would likely want to travel at a slower speed so you can observe the wildlife!
- Do not exit your vehicle. There are clearly indicated spots where you may exit your vehicle; otherwise, it is against the rules to exit your vehicle. Keep in mind that these are dangerous creatures, so keep your car doors and windows closed if they approach.
- Maintain a respectful distance from wildlife – By law, animals have the right of way in Kruger, so give them plenty of space. Avoid approaching elephants too closely because they may charge.
There are a few designated 4×4 trails throughout the park that allow self-driving families to get off the beaten path and explore areas of the park that are rarely seen.
The trails are self-guided and must be completed at the participant’s own risk. Participants should be aware that there are no facilities along the routes.
Tips for a self-driving family safari
Self-drive safari vacations are excellent choices for families with young children for the following reasons:
- A self-drive trip can be one of the most rewarding and enjoyable educational experiences.
- Going on safari allows you to get up close and personal with African animals in their natural habitat.
- Witnessing an African sunset and falling asleep to the sound of a lion roar is unlike any other family trip you have ever taken.
- Seeing these magnificent animals up close will help your children understand animal conservation.
- While travelling, you can engage your children in educational activities.
Preparing and packing the right clothes and equipment for your Kruger safari is essential so keep the following in mind:
- Because the Kruger National Park is located in a malarial area, consult your doctor about malaria prophylaxis before travelling and remember to pack it.
- Remember that Kruger’s weather is typically warm to very hot, but winter mornings and evenings can be quite cold.
- Choose clothing made of breathable, neutral fabrics that can adapt to changing temperatures.
- Choose clothing items that can be mixed and matched in terms of colours, accessories, and functionality.
- A high SPF or sun protection factor of 30 to 50 will protect you and your children from sunburn or sunstroke.
- A wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses will shield you from the sun’s glare in the middle of the day.
- A small medical kit containing pain relievers, enough chronic medications for the trip, insect repellent, vitamins, lip balm, and a small bottle of moisturiser can help you save time.
- Eco-friendly toiletries, mosquito repellent, and bug-spray containing DEET are a plus, particularly if you camp in a tent.
- Pack items that can be washed by hand and dried quickly, especially for the children.
- Long-sleeved shirts and trousers are essential for keeping mosquitoes and other insects at bay on chilly evenings.
- A good pair of sneakers or hiking boots or pair of sandals in summer will suffice.
- It is always a good idea to bring a small flashlight with you.
- The best time to visit Kruger National Park is between April and September, at the beginning or end of the region’s dry season.
- During the rainy season (October to March), subtropical rainstorms may occur, making game drives uncomfortable.
- Do not forget to bring your camera, charger, and extra memory cards.
Can one do self-drive safaris in the Kruger National Park?
Yes, one can self-drive throughout the park on designated routes and roads. All the roads are either tarred or gravel and suitable for most types of vehicles. You may however never drive your vehicle off-road to get closer to any animals.
Why is a Self-Drive Safari a good idea?
You can discover the Kruger National Park at your own leisure, stay at any accommodation in the park you may fancy. It is also the most family friendly and budget friendly option.
Am I allowed to alight from my car when self-driving in Kruger?
No, you may only get out at clearly indicated designated areas or in the camp. While you stay inside your vehicle the wild animals will not fear you and allow you to observe them in safety but as soon as you step outside your vehicle you become a threat to them.
What will happen if I experience a breakdown of my car?
You can call the Kruger Emergency call centre or if you do not have a cell phone, or are at a spot with no signal coverage, wait for another car but don’t get out of your vehicle and never try walking to the camp.
If I am tired of self-drive game viewing, are there any guided game drives?
Yes, you can also book guided morning, sunset or night game drives in Kruger Park and use the opportunity to relax and let your expert guide seek out the best wildlife.