Dan & I stayed in a private game reserve (Vuyani Lodge) on safari, but we took a full-day trip into Kruger National Park to experience one of South Africa’s most famous attractions! We went through our lodge with one other couple and one of the lodge’s guides in a large van. Above are some of my favorite sightings and shots from the day! My favorite thing about Kruger compared to a private lodge is the opportunity to see large groups of animals in such an expansive, natural location.
For those unfamiliar, Kruger National Park is a HUGE game park located in Northeastern South Africa and bordered by Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
There are nine entrances to the park and it is impossible to see the entire park in one day!
For our day- trip, we lined up at the Orpen gate at 6:15 and entered at 6:30 a.m. – right when it opened! The park only lets so many cars in a day and we wanted to be sure we were one of those cars! It was also Easter and expected to be super busy! There’s the line at 6:15 a.m. No joke!
Upon entering the park gate, we stopped to sign in (name & nationality) and then proceeded through another gate, where guards checked most cars for alcohol, among other things. There is strictly no outside booze allowed in the park. They are very serious about this. They also check for any sign of poaching, specifically Rhino poaching, on the way in and out. Poaching rhino for their horn is a HUGE problem in Africa and Kruger is very serious about preventing it!
Once through the gate, there are a number of roads right through the park and you are free to drive wherever you wish – as long as its on-road. There is absolutely no off-roading in Kruger!! The animals walk across the roads, on the roads, near the roads…they really aren’t scared of the cars at all. There is also a strict policy of not getting out of your vehicle (expect in special areas or on special tours). This made for some interesting picture taking:
But we still had great sightings and got some great shots! My favorite – a baby zebra with brown stripes!!
Also normal zebra:
We also saw a herd of over 100 elephants that crossed the road right in front of us! Scary and amazing!
Including a BABY ELEPHANT:
And some HUGE elephants while eating breakfast, which reminded me so much of the Amarula elephants! See?!
Lots of hippos in the water, and one coming out!
African Monarch butterflies:
Some cool birds, the shiny blue one was my favorite:
Including a white vulture:
The tallest and prettiest giraffes:
Cape Buffalo (one of the BIG 5):
This adorable mountain-goat-type animal:
Lots of monkeys & baboons:
Yeah, we had A LOT of great sightings and Dan and I loved our day trip! If you are close to Kruger and you have never been, I truly think its a must-do! Kruger is home to the Big 5 (elephant, lion, leopards, cape buffalo and rhino) and is a great place for sighting them; however, keep in mind that sightings are never guaranteed and very much dependent on luck. If you are dead-set on seeing a specific animal on your trip, you may consider researching companies that specialize in that certain type of animal. Also, on your day-trip, the early morning and late afternoon will most likely be the most exciting part of the trip (because the animals are moving then when the temperatures begin to drop). Bring something to keep you occupied during the day (I napped…).
In terms of food, we did not see a lot of restaurants from which to purchase water or food (look this up before you go!) but the rest area at the Orpen entrance had a store that sold snacks and camping supplies. We stopped for breakfast and lunch at two of the picnic spots throughout the park and used the park’s grills to make breakfast and lunch! In those areas, its safe to get out of the car and eat in the open.
Some thoughts and tips:
1. Bring a lot of water and some food (for yourself, not the animals). Finding places to buy food and drink seemed difficult…
2. Get in early in see the animals and to be sure the car quota isn’t met before you get in!
3. If you drive yourself, study up on what to do if you see an animal close-up. We relied on our guide, who was super knowledgeable, but it could have been scary without him!
4. You can stay in Kruger park through one of its own rest camps (which includes a variety of options from tents to luxurious accommodations) or through a private tour that goes through Kruger over several days.
STEAL OUR TRIP:
Kruger National Park (lots of information on their website!)
The Vuyani Safari Lodge (where we stayed and who organized our tour)