Self-Drive Kruger Safaris
Hundreds of thousands of people embark on self-drive safaris in Kruger National Park every year. It's a great, accessible way to enjoy a wonderful safari experience but the array of rest camps and 3,500km+ of roads within Kruger can prove quite bewildering to the first time visitor! Worry not though - the following pages will help you familiarise yourself with the park, learn about what to expect of each of its many camps and ultimately get you plotting your itinerary for Kruger National Park.
All of our website resources are designed to be used in conjunction with the KrugerExplorer App too - it's an outstanding compendium of information covering 300+ animal profiles, 70+ routes, maps, habitats and hundreds of beautiful images that will really get you excited about your trip! Download it from the App Store or Google Play and use it alongside the below information to plan the perfect self-drive Kruger safari.
If you are considering coming into Kruger as a self-driving Day Visitor, then have a read of this page instead.
Self-drive Kruger safari guide:
Download the KrugerExplorer App from:
The Basics - Things to Consider
Coming into Kruger National Park for multiple days is a superb way to see the park for those who enjoy the freedom of exploring the wilderness and want to tailor the timing and location of their Kruger visit. There are lots of things to know and consider to make it as successful as possible though:
- Timing: Multi-night self-drives in Kruger offer total flexibility on timing and can be tailored to fit your broader travel plans.
- Budget: Self-drive visits can get costs down for those on a limited budget, as some accommodation options within Kruger, particularly camping or the bungalows in the main rest camps, are reasonably priced compared to options outside the park.
- Gate openings: A huge advantage of staying inside the park is that the camp gates open earlier than the main entrance gates. The hours immediately after sunrise are some of the best for game driving and seeing wild animals, so by staying in a camp you are able to get out and search for the animals while day visitors from nearby lodges are queuing to get into the park!
- Activities: Each of Kruger's rest camps offer a range of activities, all of which you are only able to do if you are staying in the camp. These include early morning, evening or night game drives (you cannot self-drive on the roads before sunrise or after sunset), and walking safaris.
- 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 short time 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 you've spent enough time in the park to give yourself the best chance of seeing lots of animals.
- 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 shorter visit therefore means only seeing a tiny fraction of Kruger. Be aware of this and choose your entrance gate, rest camps 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 KrugereExplorer 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 and rest camps 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?
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 prior to 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! Central and Southern Kruger will likely be more accessible for international visitors arriving into Johannesburg.
- 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 the right area for your interest makes great sense. Download the KrugerExplorer App to learn more about the best locations for all the animals found in Kruger National Park.
Which Rest Camps?
There are a large number of SANParks run rest camps found within Kruger National Park, so picking the right one for your interests and the experience you are hoping for can be difficult.
Over the years, we have stayed in all of the main rest camps and have summarised our experiences of the rest camp, its local habitats and the wildlife we have encountered there.
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. 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 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.
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, especially after rains!
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 having 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 and 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, so it can be a pretty uncomfortable ride!
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 what your budget can extend to. In conclusion, you can definitely visit Kruger in a lower cost vehicle, but it will come with a few compromises.
Despite all this information, we still get lots of emails and Instagram messages asking us for our best itineraries for Kruger National Park!
We do think it is best for visitors to do the research using the information on this website and the KrugerExplorer App and work out what is the best route for them, but we've also added a few outline Kruger itineraries here to get people started...