South Africa’s flagship game reserve, Kruger National Park, which at 2.5 million hectares is nearly the same size as Belgium, offers the quintessential safari experience: abundant wildlife, diverse landscapes, from savanna to the Lebombo Mountains, thick forests to dramatic gorges and those perfect sunsets. In Kruger you’ll find Africa’s iconic wildlife that you’ve dreamed of seeing: lion, leopard, rhino, hippo, zebra, cheetah, buffalo, giraffe and elephant in sixteen ecozones, which are also home to 500 bird species and 140 other mammal species. The wildlife spotting is so easy that many people spot most of the Big Five in just one day of driving around the park. Even if you aren’t that lucky, there’s no way you’ll be disappointed with a trip to magical Kruger. It’s the kind of place that can start a life-long addiction to the African bush!
How to travel to Kruger National Park on a budget
Unlike some of Africa’s other famous parks, such as the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, Kruger National Park is a budget-friendly destination. It’s fairly easy to get to (a five-hour drive from Johannesburg or a short drive from Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport near Nelspruit), and with a rental car (which costs about $15 a day) you are able to drive yourself around the park on an excellent and extensive network of roads. Entrance fees are also much lower than in some other parks – around $20 a day for international visitors.
Kruger National Park has no shortage of budget accommodation choices in several rest camps spread around the park, with the cheapest option being the campgrounds – a campsite sleeping six costs around $20 a night – where you bring your own tent and cook your own food over barbecue grids.
While Kruger National Park is a great option for independent travellers, the easiest and most budget-friendly way to see the park is on an overland tour. On our budget Kruger Park tours, which range in length from four days to several weeks (as part of a longer overland trip through Africa) you travel through the park in a 4×4 open-top game drive vehicle or an overland truck, with your guide pointing out plants and animals, and camp at night as a group in one of the park’s campsites.
What to do on a budget Kruger National Park safari
The main thing you’re going to be doing is seeing wildlife and lots of it! If you’re driving yourself around the park, it’s best to get up early and hit the road just after sunrise for a good chance for spotting animals. Follow the map to find waterholes, which you can park yourself off at and wait for wildlife to show up. Otherwise just drive slowly around the park, taking in all the majestic scenery and bird life.
Walking safaris are a great way of seeing the bush from another perspective, and there are many on offer in Kruger, from short walks of just a few hours from the bush camps to multi-day wilderness trails, where you camp out in the wild.
There are also lots of archaeological sites scattered around the park, which are well worth a visit to learn about the fascinating history of the area.
If you want to splurge, you can do an elephant-back safari or a hot air balloon flight over the park.
When to go on a Kruger National Park safari
The best time of year to visit Kruger National Park is during South Africa’s winter months, from May to September. This is the driest time of year, which means the animals tend to congregate around waterholes. That, coupled with the fact that the vegetation is drier and sparser, makes the animals easy to spot! If you can’t make it to Kruger in winter – don’t worry! The park is amazing year round, whether you’re there during the summer rains when the vegetation is green and lush, or in spring, when animals are being born.
Inspired to plan a Kruger National Park trip? Check out our Kruger National Park tours, adventure packages and budget safaris to start planning your safari holiday!