Julie South Africa 23 Comments

Kruger National Park, the largest national park in South Africa, and one of the largest parks in the world, is South Africa’s premiere safari destination. Spanning 200 km from north to south and 50 km from east to west, Kruger is home to the Big Five (elephant, rhinoceros, leopard, lion, and buffalo) as well as a multitude of other animals and birds.

Scattered throughout the park are rest camps, small clusters of lodges, tents and camping facilities, complete with restaurants and gift shops. Different areas of the park are known for their animal populations. For example, Satara is home to a large population of lions and Letaba is the place to see elephants.

It is recommended to stay in Kruger for a minimum of five days, in order to travel through the park, stay in several rest camps, and look for wildlife in the different areas.

Most people believe that a safari trip in Africa is out of their price range. When originally looking into “going on safari” I read that a “proper safari” would cost our family of four a minimum of $10,000 for a week or more. But with more research I learned that a budget safari is entirely possible. And this is what makes Kruger so special.

Kruger National Park as a Budget Safari Destination


Self-Drive Safari Park

Tim's View in KrugerKruger National Park is known as a “self-drive park,” meaning you get in your car and drive down the road looking for lions. The roads are paved, although there are some gravel roads that can be used as well. By self-driving, costs are minimal, as you only spend money on gas and the rental car fee.

We spent 90% of our safari time in Kruger self-driving and we saw a lot! On our own we saw tons of giraffe, elephants, zebra, kudu, wildebeest, hippopotamus, baboons and impala. We also saw rhinoceros, buffalo, crocodile, and many more animals.

It may sound dangerous to be driving on your own through territory occupied by lions and leopards but we never felt unsafe. For the most part the animals just look at the cars with indifference and most of the time we were totally ignored.

Game Drives

Seeing the nocturnal animals requires going on one of the morning or evening game drives. On average, these game drives cost $25 per adult. For three hours you are driven in a safari Jeep by a Kruger guide on the inaccessible dirt roads.

Our family went on a sunset drive and a morning drive and the animals we saw were amazing. At night we spotted a pride of lions, an enormous herd of buffalo, hippos playing in the water, a porcupine, and so much more.

We hit the jackpot with the morning drive. Right after sunrise our guide spotted a pride of lions (the same pride we saw the night before) and a group of hyenas next to each other. As the lions sauntered down the road, indifferent to our presence, we snapped hundreds of photos. At times the lions were just two feet from our vehicle. It was an unbelievable experience and I felt like I was a kid on Christmas morning!

Lions on the Prowl

Capturing the action

Lion up close

Kruger Game Drive

Julie and Tyler on Safari


We turned back to revisit the hyenas, who were guarding over a carcass. Most likely they stole this carcass from the lions the night before. At our approach, the largest of the hyenas carried the carcass away from us, protecting it.


Hyena with Carcass

Accommodations in Kruger

Staying inside Kruger is also relatively cheap, depending on the accommodations you choose. Kruger does have luxury accommodations for those wanting a posh safari experience. We stayed in the budget safari accommodations.

We spent two nights in safari tents in Tamboti Rest Camp. Our tents overlooked the Timbavati River, where we could see elephants and hyenas, and at night we heard lions roaring off in the distance.  These accommodations cost our family of four $58 per night (in 2014).

Rondavel Satara

After Tamboti we spent two nights at Satara Rest Camp in rondavels, round houses with three twin beds and an ensuite bathroom. For six people (our mothers, Kathy and Valerie, were traveling with us), these two houses cost a total of $200.  These were nicer accommodations than the tents which explains the increase in cost.

Crocodile Bridge Tent


Finally, our time in Kruger ended with one night at Crocodile Bridge, again in safari tents. Once again we watched animals pass by our front door, this time hyena, buffalo, and a bush baby. For our family of four, we rented two tents at a cost of $92 per night.

Our family really liked staying in safari tents. There is something very cool about sleeping in tents in Africa and our favorite part was hearing the animals at night. I am really going to miss hearing lions and elephants outside of our door once we leave this part of South Africa.

For anyone who has a safari in Africa on their travel bucket list but thinks it’s outside of their price range, take a look at Kruger National Park. We had a fabulous experience here and highly recommend it.


More Information about South Africa

PLACES TO GO IN SOUTH AFRICA: Spend a few days in Cape Town, go on safari in Kruger National Park, journey to the Cape of Good Hope, go road tripping on the Garden Route, visit iSimangaliso Wetland Park, and explore the Drakensberg Mountains of South Africa.

PLACES TO GO NEAR SOUTH AFRICA: Chobe National Park in Botswana is one of the best places in Africa to see African elephants. Go on a road trip to Lesotho on the Sani Pass. And visit Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary in Eswatini.

ADVENTURE TRAVEL: Here are 50 adventures to turn your next trip into an epic travel experience.

DESTINATIONS AROUND THE WORLD: For more places to visit around the world, check out our Destinations page.


Planning a trip to South Africa? Read all of our articles in our South Africa Travel Guide.


Kruger Budget Safari


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Comments 23

  1. Avatar for Collette Duffield
    Collette Duffield

    Hi Julie and Tim,

    From which camps did you arrange your game drives and would you do it the same again or make any changes?

    Thanks as always for such a wonderful site. You are the first place that I check when planning any trip because your info is well laid out, feels very honest, and is wonderfully detailed.

    I am planning a couple of extended trip to begin in a few years when hubby and I retire so I’ve been looking at your site a lot and reading through much of your around the world itinerary and posts.

    Always a joy to read about your experiences!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Collette. That is very exciting that you are planning to take some extended trips! We arranged two game drives from Satara rest camp (a morning and an evening game drive) and loved them, especially the morning one. We also stayed in Tamboti and Crocodile rest camp and did our own self drive safaris from these locations. We were on a very tight budget so limited the number of guided game drives that we did, but they were well worth the money, as we got to see the lions and hyenas on those. It’s fun driving through the park on your own but it can be hit or miss in what you see, so I think a nice mix of both is the best way to see Kruger. Cheers, Julie

  2. Avatar for Alex

    Hi Julie and Tim,

    My husband and I are hoping to plan our first safari and I was wondering if you all enjoyed Chobe National Park or Kruger National Park more?

    Thanks for your advice!


    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Both are great but we liked Chobe more. The amount of elephants and other wildlife we saw was incredible, Chobe feels much more remote and wild than Kruger, and the park is beautiful. It’s best to visit Chobe with a guide since they know where to find the wildlife, so it can be more expensive. Kruger is nice, but it feels more like visiting a safari park, since you can self-drive through the park, which makes it easier to visit but also takes away from the experience a little bit. Cheers, Julie

  3. Avatar for San

    I love traveling and “experiences” and I came across your blog about Kruger in Feb 2022. In Mar/Apr 2022 I started planning our trip and three of us (Myself with two Adult kids) traveled to Kruger NP and had the best times of our lives. We stayed in the park for 14 days. Our trip was for 16 days and we could have stayed all 16 nights in KNP but I was worried that and so booked the first and last night outside the park.
    For others reading this, our trip costed $85 per person per day without flight tickets and $150 per person per day including the tickets. Both my boys are in their 20s so we paid full adult prices for the stay inside the park as well as the three sunset drives we did with the rangers. Yes, overall the trip was not cheap by any means, compared to going to Europe, but it was well worth it.
    Thank you Julie for writing this blog post

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Wow…14 days in Kruger! That’s awesome! Thank you so much for writing in with your experience and the cost of your trip. Cheers, Julie

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