Kruger Park in South Africa is one of the largest wild game reserves on the African continent. One of the must-see places in South Africa where you can see multiple wild animals roaming around freely. Sounds great - nature at its best - but what it is really like in real life? In this post you will find an honest review of our experiences in the park - all the pros and cons, how we managed to visit it in just 2 days (traveling from Johannesburg) and how lucky we were to actually see the "Big Five" and much more in just one day!
How to Get to Kruger Park
There are two possibilities to get to the Kruger Park - you can drive there or take a tour. Driving gives you an advantage - it will be cheaper and you can drive your own car inside the park - you will be given a detailed map of the roads with the places marked where there are the best chances to see a certain type of animals.
The second option - you can take a tour. We did it this way as driving was not an option for us. From our experience, you must book a tour in advance as they do sell out quite quickly and, unfortunately they are not cheap. A 3-day round trip from Johannesburg usually start at 500-600 USD per person. The trip also usually includes a stop at the amazing Blyde River Canyon or some other attractions.
Although our itinerary was super tight and we did the whole safari in only 2 days, we also managed to stop at Blyde River Canyon. However, as it was the rainy season, we saw absolutely nothing - the canyon was completely covered by thick fog. What a disappointment! But we did have a chance to do something else - a sort of bungee jumping - it was a thrilling experience! I'll write about it in a separate post.
Note that not many companies agreed for us to do the whole trip in 2 days - one way from Johannesburg to the Kruger Park Reserve takes way over 6 hours. So we had only one evening and the next morning to spend in the park. Nevertheless, we finally managed to find one tour guide who agreed to do all this in 2 days. His name was Daniel - he was a local guide and knew a lot about all the animals and where to spot them. You can find his details here. You can send him a message and he will tailor the tour according to your needs.
What is the Big Five in a safari?
The Big Five is the term that describes the five of the most dangerous and sometimes difficult to spot animals. They are: the elephant, rhinoceros, leopard, lion and buffalo. We had only one day and our guide had warned us that we might not see many animals - because of the weather and the short time we had. But we were extremely lucky and we did see the Big Five!
Right at the entrance of the park we spotted a rhino and a buffalo. Then we saw elephants crossing the road. Sometimes they seemed annoyed by the cars so you must take care when you pass them. In the evening, during the sunset ride which was included in the tour price, we saw a leopard walking side by side next to us - completely ignoring the trucks carrying tourists. The only flaw in the whole story is that we didn't see the male lions with a mane - but we did spot a group of lionesses - in the dark, almost when we had already given up the hope of seeing a lion. I consider it a very lucky day!
The experience of visiting the Kruger Park
The tourist tent to focus only on the Big Five when they visit the park. However, there are many more animals that you can spot. We also saw giraffes, a warthog, zebras, beautiful birds, some snakes, monkeys, hyenas and many impalas - the antelope existence of which everyone seems to ignore - and there are a lot of them everywhere! There are so many impalas in Kruger Park that our guide told us that the park rangers must get rid of some of them to control the population.
The meat from the killed impalas does not go to waste - it can be bought and eaten in the restaurants of the park - it's organic and delicious - especially the slowly cooked stew.
Pros and Cons
Of course, the best advantage of the park is that it's so easy to reach it and how abundant in all sorts of wildlife it is. If you love to see animals in their natural surroundings - that's the place for you! Another good thing is the accommodation and the restaurants where you can try some game meat.
The park also has a few not so good sides. First one is the paved roads - they are perfectly well maintained so when you see the animals, sometimes it does seem that you are just in the zoo and not in their natural surroundings - especially during the rainy season when all the bushes are green and the reserve looks a bit like an ordinary city park. Kruger Park does not appear to be wild - you won't drive into the bushes or some wilder areas - you can only follow the roads. But this is actually a good thing - in order to protect the territory of wild animals.
The next thing is that unlike in the zoo, the animals won't wait for you to see them and won't pose for the photos. At times, you must drive for hours before spotting any animals, and the monotonous landscapes of the park combined with being locked in the car - it can get really boring! So you must keep looking and be patient!
The last disadvantage is unfortunately the price. If you take a tour, it can get quite expensive. But overall it is worth it! I would definitely say yes - the experience is really good although it might not feel as wild as in other, less known African nature reserves.
Author: Tom @ Adventurous Travels
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