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Kruger Self-drive Safaris & Tours

4.5/5  –  382 Kruger Reviews

Of all Africa’s great safari destinations, none is so geared toward self-drivers as South Africa’s Kruger National Park. Kruger is easy to get around in a rented or private vehicle, thanks to a well-maintained road system and ready availability of map books, field guides and other interpretive material. A great network of affordable and comfortable rest camps offers self-catering accommodation, camping, filling stations, supermarkets and restaurants. Most importantly, this 19,485km²/7,523mi² tract of African wilderness is home to an impressive variety of wildlife, including lion, leopard, cheetah, elephant, buffalo, giraffe, hippo, zebra, white rhino, black rhino and many other safari favorites.

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1-6 of 6 self-drive tours, trips and holidays to Kruger National Park

5 Questions About Kruger Self-drive Safaris


5 Questions About Kruger Self-drive Safaris

Answered by Philip Briggs

What are the pros and cons of a Kruger self-drive safari?

“The biggest pro over a guided safari is that self-driving through Kruger allows you greater freedom and autonomy. There’s something uniquely thrilling about driving through the African bush on your own, not knowing what wildlife encounter awaits you around the next corner. And when you do have an interesting sighting, you can stay with it as long as you like, or move on when you’re ready. The same sense of autonomy extends to rest camps, where you might choose to eat in the restaurant one night, and fire up a barbecue the next. It also allows you to decide when to leave on game drives, which route to use, and how long to stay out. The main con of a Kruger self-drive safari is that you’ll probably see less wildlife. Most guides working in and around the park know it well and have good instincts about where to find wildlife, and years of experience as spotters. As a result, self-drivers are significantly less likely to tick off all the Big Five than they would be on a guided safari of comparable duration. Self-drivers also need to make their own rest-camp bookings, take charge of their navigation, and deal with any breakdown or flat tire themselves. For the undecided, if you’re the sort of traveler who likes to arrive in a city and wander around discovering it for yourself, then a Kruger self-drive safari is probably the right choice. If you’re more comfortable getting started with a city highlights tour, then a guided safari is probably the better bet.”


Is a self-drive safari in Kruger safe?

“Yes. In fact, it’s probably a lot safer than self-driving outside the park. This is partly because the low speed limits make dangerous collisions unlikely, but also because there’s practically no crime within Kruger. And while first-time visitors might understandably be daunted by the prospect of driving through a vast wilderness alive with fearsome beasties, the reality is that a car keeps you pretty safe from most wildlife-associated dangers. Having said all that, following a few safety tips is a prerequisite for safely driving through Kruger. When you’re in a car, the only animals you really need to worry about are elephants, which can be very temperamental and occasionally overturn vehicles. Treat them with respect. If you find elephants on or very close to the road, keep a safe distance, allow them the right of way, and try to avoid letting other cars box you in. It is both illegal and inadvisable to get out of your car except at designated picnic sites, lookout points and rest camps. Not all picnic sites and lookout points are fenced, so take a good look around before you get out. And don’t even think about disembarking from the car to get closer to or to photograph big cats, elephants, rhinos, buffalo, hippos or other potentially dangerous animals.”


What is the best time of the year for a Kruger trip?

“A self-drive safari to Kruger can be undertaken at any time of year, but in most respects the optimum time for a visit is the winter months of May to September. There are several reasons for this. First and most important is that wildlife viewing tends to be far better during the dry winter months. As temporary pools dry up for lack of rain, animals tend to congregate on perennial dams and rivers, making them easier to locate. In addition, the vegetation tends to thin out during winter, which allows for greater visibility when you’re looking at animals deep in the bush. Winter is also the most comfortable time of year. It won’t get quite so hot in the middle of the day, and there’s less chance of game drives being disrupted by rain. In addition, mosquitoes are far less active in winter, which is a positive in itself, and also greatly reduces the malaria risk. None of which means you can’t visit Kruger during summer. In certain respects, the park is at its best over November to February. This is particularly so when it comes to bird watching, which is far more rewarding in summer, thanks to an influx of migrants from Europe, Asia and tropical Africa. The scenery is greener and more photogenic in summer, and you can enjoy significantly longer wildlife-viewing hours. Another point in favor of visiting Kruger in summer is that it is the main breeding season, so you’ll see cute youngsters all over the place.”


Do I need a 4x4 for driving through the park?

“Not at all. Well-maintained surface roads connect all Kruger’s entrance gates and main rest camps, so the park can be explored in pretty much any serviceable vehicle. There are also many unsurfaced back roads and side routes, but even these are almost invariably navigable in an ordinary saloon car. There are a few rare exceptions, but these will be marked as 4x4-only. The only time you might want to take care driving through Kruger without a 4x4 is after exceptionally heavy rains, which might render some roads and river crossings more difficult than normal or totally impassable. In this instance, the park authorities would usually close any such road as soon as they become aware of a problem. Although 4x4 is not required for Kruger, one argument in favor of a traditional 4x4 is that it will have better clearance than an ordinary saloon car. This means that driver and passengers sit significantly higher above the ground, which can make it easier to see and photograph animals lurking deep in the bush.”


How much will this safari cost?

“There is no simple answer to that. The price of a self-drive safari will depend on a number of factors, such as the number of people traveling together and the type of vehicle and accommodation they opt for. But as a starting point, two people in cost-cutting mode should probably budget on at least US$50 per day for the cheapest four-seater car rental and fuel, and US$30 per night for a campsite or US$120 for a twin or double room. To this must be added the daily park entrance fee of US$30 per person, and maybe a similar amount to cover food, drinks and miscellaneous expenses. This totals up to an overall cost of around US$100 per person sharing for a budget self-drive camping safari, and upwards of US$150 per person sharing if you stay in cheaper rest-camp bungalows. This price might increase significantly if you are not sharing, you go for a better car, you stay in pricier accommodation, or you tend to buy a lot of souvenirs and trinkets.”


Kruger Reviews

4.5/5 382 Reviews
Lizzie Williams  –  
South Africa ZA

Lizzie is a reputed guidebook writer and author of the Footprint guides to South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

South Africa’s flagship park with excellent facilities and unrivalled game-viewing

South Africa’s largest park most certainly fulfils most visitors’ expectations of seeing magnificent herds of game roaming across acacia-studded savannah. After countless visits at different times of the year, I have found it can get a...

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Alan Murphy  –  
Australia AU

Alan is a travel writer and author of over 20 Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the guides to Southern Africa and Zambia & Malawi.

Killing time in Kruger

The mothership of South Africa’s parks, Kruger is more organised and has more variety of accommodation than any other park. It also has a HUGE number of animals with the Big Five and every other kind of five you can think of rustling...

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Patricia Drew  –  
United Kingdom UK
Reviewed: Mar 14, 2024

The parks we visited during our stay were varied. The first evening safari we didn’t see the animals we hoped. However the full day drive the following day made up for this. We saw everything we hoped to, mainly the Hippis and Giraffes....

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Ian Matthews  –  
Australia AU
Reviewed: Feb 25, 2024

It is everything that thousands of others have experienced. It is soo big that it would take weeks to discover each region, but we were thankful for seeing the best that we could in a limited timeframe.

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Zandi  –  
United Kingdom UK
Reviewed: Jan 12, 2024

Brilliant glamping experience. The safari tour guide was knowledgeable and we managed to spot the animals. The glamping staff were friendly and they kept the facilities clean. This was a girls trip and we felt safe throughout our stay....

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Yvonne Schmidt  –  
Germany DE
Reviewed: Jan 6, 2024
Once in a life time unforgetable experiance . All staff members were very helpful +HIGHLY capiable.

Viva Safaris kept to their programme, Bushwalk, Great Kruger Safaris with very well trained, friendly guides, Sunrise and Sundown safaris (Bush Braai was unbelievable crowned with an Amarula Liquer Toast). The safari jeeps accomodated very...

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