Amazing news... I'm going to Kruger!! Very soon in fact. And for 7-weeks!
At some point I will write about how part of our KrugerExplorer App project is a personal journey of escaping an unhappy rat-race and prioritising wellbeing and the important things in our lives. That is a story for another time but it does mean that my work commitments have changed dramatically recently and I am now able to get away and head into Kruger for an unbelievable amount of time.
The trip is also perfect timing for undertaking detailed, up-to-date field research and filling in some photography gaps for the App. We have lots experience of Kruger, its wildlife and game driving but the new insights learned on this trip will further add to the quality of content in the App.
It is a wonderful luxury but one that will be treasured as a trip of a lifetime and will be used to great effect in getting our start-up off the ground!
So this is how I built the plan and itinerary for the ultimate self-drive trip around Kruger National Park...
Planning a self-drive visit to Kruger
Seven weeks in Kruger is a wonderful privilege and I cannot describe how excited I am! It's also a fair old administrative effort to bring it all together, which can be intimidating for first-time visitors.
There are three key things to consider when you are making your plan:
i) Budget & Accommodation: You can do a range of budgets in Kruger - from the very high-end private lodges, many of which are truly spectacular but come with similarly spectacular prices, through to camping in your own tent.
The options offered by SANParks are all within the main Rest Camps, some of which are shown on this map. The most commonly used options are camping, which costs as little as R150 per night, or staying in Huts or Bungalows for R750-2,000 per night depending on the camp, the time of year and whether you have private bathrooms and kitchens. There are a multitude of other options in the camps but these are usually the first port of call for most visitors.
Deciding your budget and which type of accommodation is the first step. You can then use the SANParks website to make all the reservations you are looking for. It's not hugely intuitive to begin with but you get the hang of it once you have clicked around for a bit! Also remember you have to pay daily entrance fees to be in Kruger too - these are different for South African and International visitors so make so you factor this cost in too.
Once the KrugerExplorer App is live, our www.krugerexplorer.com website will have detailed sections on the accommodation options available to visitors. For my trip, I am staying in a mix of Huts and Safari Tents (ready built canvas tents that might be referred to as 'glamping'!) which means less time dealing with tents and more time out in the wilderness!
ii) Transport: If you are self-driving around Kruger then you need to pick the right hire vehicle. The answer depends on several factors, including budget, how many people will be in your group, the view you are hoping for and even the time of year.
4x4 vehicles offer the best of most worlds - they are high so give a better view over and into the bush, are better able to cope with muddy roads after rain during wet season and have plenty of room for several people, bags, snacks, maps, photography equipment...... You get the picture! They are however much more expensive than regular road vehciles.
SUVs can offer a 4x4-like feel at a lower cost, while regular sedan cars are often the cheapest option but do not offer the greatest views and if there has been heavy rain then some roads may be off-limits to you.
Again, we will be sharing options and details of reputable companies on www.krugerexplorer.com once the App has launched. For my trip, I have hired an SUV as a cost-conscious compromise and have been able to get one for just over R20,000, which for 7-weeks is not too bad at all!
iii) What animals are you hoping to see? This is probably the most important thing. Years after your trip, you won't remember if you saved R1,000 on accommodation but you will always remember that huge herd of elephants drinking at the waterhole, or the pride of lions with cubs jumping around and playing!
So because different animals tend to be found in different habitats throughout the park, it is very important to have a think about what you are hoping to see and then choose camps that are closest to the best areas to find those animals.
As you can see from the map, Kruger is huge and so you need to be in the areas that interest you the most. I'm extremely lucky though - over my seven week trip I will be staying in all the main camps except for Orpen!
The Wildlife Guide in the KrugerExplorer App will carefully outline which regions of the park are the best for over 50 species of mammals and reptiles and more than 200 species of birds. More than 60 detailed Route Guides will also tell you what you can hope to see on each road. This will be invaluable information for planning your safari and maximising the chances of seeing the wildlife you are most interested in.
Follow the journey...
I'm not planning on vanishing into the Kruger bush for the duration of my trip... Instead, I will be posting updates and live sightings onto Instagram and Facebook as near to daily as possible and I will try to do a weekly blog while I'm there too.
I would be delighted if you followed my journey of a lifetime!