Julie South Africa 17 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

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

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Kruger Budget Safari


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Comments 17

  1. Avatar for Sonnelle

    HI Julie, enjoyed reading our posts! We’re planning to visit in June w/ 9 people and realizing we’re already very late in planning. Initially looking all of the accommodations have come back over our budget, or they are already booked. We’re thinking about getting an Air B&B, and booking a safari. However, I’m not see where/how to just book a safari w/o accommodations. Any suggestions?
    thanks in advance!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      We booked our safaris directly from the lodge we were staying in, usually the same day or the day before. How to do this from an outside location, I’m not sure. Maybe there is an email address on the Kruger National Park website where you can contact someone there for more information? Good luck! Cheers, Julie

  2. Avatar for Nick
    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      We did not, but only because we visited Kruger in August during the dry season. However, during the remainder of the year, I think it is a good idea to take malaria pills. Cheers, Julie

  3. Avatar for Christina

    Hi there! Wondering how you got to Kruger- did you rent a car and drive from Jo Burg? My husband and I are heading to South Africa in a couple of weeks and still undecided between flying into Nespruit or taking on the drive.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      We did a ton of driving in South Africa, however, we did not drive directly from Joburg to Kruger. We actually rented a car in Joburg, drove to Botswana, then back through Joburg to Swaziland, then to Kruger and then all of the way down to Cape Town. The drive from Joburg to Nelspruit should be rather easy and straightforward, but there are advantages to flying versus driving. Flying might save you some time, but don’t forget to factor in time associated with arriving to the airport early to get through security. Renting a car will most likely be cheaper. And if you pick up and return a car from the same place (Joburg or Nelspruit) you will avoid paying an extra drop charge. I don’t think there is much in the way of scenery on the drive, so that wouldn’t be much of a factor in your decision. You’ll have to research flight times and the cost of rental car to help you make your decision. Cheers, Julie

  4. Avatar for Tine
    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      We booked the game drives at the Satara Rest Camp. There is a desk, like a concierge, where you can learn about and book the game drives. I believe we make our bookings one day in advance of the two game drives. Cheers, Julie

  5. Avatar for Alina

    Great post, thank you so much for the information! Could you give me an idea how can one book a place at for example Tamboti Rest Camp? I found description on several websites, but nowhere a booking link..

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
  6. Avatar for Craig

    You guys are amazing! Reading your posts has made us stop fantasizing about traveling the world and begin PLANNING it! We’re so grateful for you taking the time to share all of this.
    Thank you!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
  7. Avatar for AFRICA Serenity safaris
  8. Avatar for Nancy
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