Self-Drive Safari: Kruger Day Visitors
Image by Matteo Massacra
Hundreds of thousands of people embark on self-drive safaris in Kruger National Park as day visitors every year. It's a great, low-cost way to enjoy a wonderful safari experience, but it is worth understanding that there are some limitations to this approach as well.
Below we've set out all the important information you should need to decide if doing a Day Visit to Kruger is the right fit for you and what you are hoping for from your Kruger National Park safari.
Kruger Day Visitor self-drive safari guide:
The Basics - Things to Consider
Coming into Kruger National Park for a single day is a superb way to see some of the park for those short on time or on a budget. There are lots of things to know and consider to make it as successful as possible though:
- Time: Day visits are great for people short on time.
- Budget: Day visits can keep costs down for those on a limited budget, although some accommodation options within Kruger, particularly camping or the bungalows in the main rest camps, are very reasonably priced so staying outside the park may not offer much of a saving. It is worth doing your research as you might be surprised!
- Gate arrival: It is so important that you arrive at the entrance gate before gate opening time. This is in order to maximise your time spent in the park, plus the hours immediately after sunrise are some of the best for game driving and see wild animals. Additionally, the southern gates, particularly during holidays or weekends, can get extremely busy with day visitors and so you don't want to be queuing to get into the park for a long time after the gates have opened.
It is also worth noting that there is a daily quota for the number of day visitors permitted through each gate - once this is reached they simply won't let any more day visitors in and your bush day trip will be over before it began!
Your choice of local accommodation outside the park will therefore be extremely important in terms of how long it will take you to actually get to the gate. Additionally, assuming you spend a full day in the park, you will also need to return to your accommodation after dark, while pretty exhausted from an epic day of safari driving, so not having too far to drive will be the safest way to do it.
- Nature: Game viewing success is often a product of spending enough time in the park to level out any unluckily quiet patches with busy patches. This is nature and only spending a day in Kruger naturally limits your opportunities to see wildlife - you might get extremely fortunate of course, but it is worth understanding the realities of this to ensure only coming in for one day is right for you.
- Space & time: Kruger is a vast wilderness, full of an incredible amount of variety. There are some 3,500km of roads and you will probably average about 25kmh driving speed while in the park. Inevitably, a day visit therefore means only seeing a tiny fraction of Kruger. Be aware of this and choose your gate, area of Kruger and routes according to your interests.
- Being your own safari guide: Can you be your own self-drive safari guide in Kruger National Park? Yes you can! Armed with the KrugerExplorer App and by reading the 'Being your own safari guide' section of this website, you will do a great job, learn loads and have a wonderful experience!
Gate times and the location of entrance gates can be seen in the resources below:
Which Area of Kruger?
Kruger is the size of any of Wales / Israel / New Jersey / Belize so how do you choose the area to visit for your day visit?
There's a few key things to consider:
- Where are you coming from and going to? This might drive your choice of gate more than anything else, as you should probably pick the gate nearest to your location before visiting Kruger. Don't overthink this either, if you are near-ish to a gate, then just go with that one, there are no 'bad' areas of Kruger!
- Which animals are you most interested in? The great variety of habitats within Kruger means that if you are interested in certain animals, there is probably a 'prime' area for finding them within the park. Picking a gate that gives easy access to the right area for your interests makes great sense. Download the KrugerExplorer App to learn more about the best locations for all the animals found in Kruger National Park.
Which Gates & Routes?
With over 3,500km of roads in Kruger National Park, deciding which way to go can be a challenge!
It's actually a very important decision too, because seasonality of rains, plants and migration can mean that choosing the wrong road means you end up driving through habitats with no animals, wasting precious hours of your day visit to the park.
We've spent many months in Kruger over the years and have described over 70 of our favourite routes through every region of the park in the KrugerExplorer App, making it an essential companion for your self-drive safari.
If your Kruger adventure is as a Day Visitor, then you will want to maximise the amount of time you spend in the park during your big day. A simple way to enhance this is by choosing accommodation close to a park entrance gate to ensure that you do not have a long drive before or after being inside Kruger park.
It also makes it much easier to be at the gate as early as possible (and before sunrise!) to miss the queues and enjoy some of the best hours of the day for game driving.
We are developing a list of accommodation options near each of the entrance gates and will be sharing it on here over the coming weeks.
One of the great things about Kruger National Park is how accessible it is for all, and that includes a variety of vehicles. The road network within the park is a mixture of tarred roads (H-roads on the map) and gravel roads (S-roads on the map). It is entirely possible to undertake a self-drive safari in a sedan type vehicle by using the tarred roads and choosing the better-maintained gravel roads. Note that some gravel roads may be beyond what is sensible to risk with a sedan car though.
Despite this, it is worth considering your vehicle carefully. Not only will an SUV-style vehicle make more roads accessible, thanks to the higher clearance and potentially 4WD, they are also taller cars that change the angle of viewing for visitors. This latter point shouldn't be underestimated as seeing over tall grasses or dense bush means you are less likely to miss a sighting. You will probably have a clearer view of the animals too.
The size of your group is important too - if you are five in car, then someone is not going to have a window view and it can get incredibly hot in Kruger in the summer months!
Of course, costs and budgets then come into play, with SUVs being more expensive to hire and less economical on fuel consumption. It's all a balancing act, dependant on how far your budget extends. In conclusion, you can definitely visit Kruger in a lower cost vehicle, but it will come with a few compromises.