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20 Top Tips when travelling to the Kruger National Park

1. Choose your season OR not 

The time of year that you decide to travel to South Africa and the Kruger National Park will certainly have a subtle effect on your experience. Fortunately South Africa has a very gentle winter (May to August) in comparison to the Northern hemisphere with temperatures in the Kruger dropping to a morning low of 8 and midday high of 25 degrees. Winters in Kruger are the dry months with little to no rain and the bush turns blonde and thins out tremendously. The changes in the savannah make visibility fantastic and with game drawn to what water is available it increases the changes of seeing the Big 5 and particularly the large cats such as Lion, Leopard and Cheetah. Travelling on Open Safari Vehicle is pleasant with chilly mornings and late afternoons but the perfect midday temperatures and visitors just need to layer clothing correctly although we do provide fleece blankets. The Summer months are very hot and wet with regular afternoon thundershowers. As result of the rain the bush is incredibly dense making game viewing much more difficult but on the upside the green vegetation is vibrant and beautiful with all the flora in full bloom. The summer months also a return of Birds with roughly 520 species frequenting the Park. Summer months are very hot with a minimum of 16 and a maximum of 45 degrees which is why game drives will try miss as much of the midday heat as possible. The reality is though that the Park is a year round travel destination and regardless of when you decide to travel you will have a wonderful experience albeit if you are heat sensitive then we would recommend travelling between April and September.

2. Kruger is a wild natural wilderness, its not a Zoo.

Without taking anything from the dream of a wonderful safari experience in Africa, Its so important to make sure all our clients understand that what you’ve seen on social media isn’t the norm. Crazy encounters and chance happenings of wildlife being caught doing wild things isn’t the standard and one should be careful not to expect that they will see Lions killing a Buffalo. Safari is a holistic experience. Its the adventure of being in Africa combined with exceptional natural wilderness and the opportunity to see mammals you’ve never seen before. Its the Giraffe bull standing tall under a lone tree on the savanna, its a herd of Elephants splashing around in the river. Its the possibility of a Lion or Leopard on kill or in a tree. The reality is though that the Kruger National Park isn’t a Zoo and we can never predict what we will see. Sure there are several species that form part fo the general game viewing experience which you are likely to see and these include a variety of Antelope, Giraffe, Zebra, Blue Wildebeest (Gnu), Elephant, Buffalo and Hippo. As for the nocturnal creatures, the large cats and Hyena and Wild Dog, these are more difficult to find based other habits and not because they are so rare. For this reason we recommend that clients plan to travel for atleast 3 nights and in that time frame we are confident that we will find the Big 5 and a few additional rarities and even possibility of seeing the large cats on a kill or even attempting a kill. BUT…remember that nothing is ever guaranteed and Safari is about the entire experience.

3. What to Pack for a Kruger Park Safari.

Packing for a Safari is fairly simple. Summer months (Oct – April) are very hot and will need clothing that is light, neutral in color and UV resistant is possible. Depending on the type of Safari you are embarking on a good pair of sneakers and sandals will suite a vehicle based safari but you’ll need a pair of hiking boots if you decide to do a walking safari. Layering is the trick and being able to zip off or zip down as the temperature increases is ideal. We recommend a good technical long-sleeve shirt that is UV resistant for the hot summer days as this will help protect against sunburn. A good hat is a necessity and you shouldn’t go on safari without one as well as sunscreen and a pair of polarised sunglasses. We like to travel with a small backpack for an extra water bottle, camera, charging cables and devices, sunscreen and personal items. In winter we recommend a waterproof, windproof jacket as well as a beanie for the cold winter mornings.

Top Tip: An important tip on what to wear is too layer or clothing and keep the colors neutral.

4. The Kruger National Park is a Malaria area

Having a sub-tropical climate particularly between October and March means that the Kruger falls within a malaria region. The questions around should i or shouldn’t i take a malaria prophylaxis is one that you need to have with your Doctor. We would of course not make that decision for you and you would need to do whats right for you. The reality is though that is prevalent during the summer months and a very real risk. Yes the winter months are of little or less risk but why not rather take a prophylaxis and travel with peace of mind. The prophylaxis today are far more gentle on the body and don’t have the effects of the varietals of yesteryear.

5. Where should i go in the Kruger

So we would recommend that you rather let us handle this for you and not just because we are a leading Private Kruger Safari operator but because 20,000 square kilometres, 20+ possible camps to stay inside Kruger, nearly 2,000 kilometres of road, 8 different gates that span the 450km length and gate times and speedlimits all play a major role when planning a trip – Why ? So lets say you coming from Johannesburg via road. Phabeni Gate is roughly a 5 hour drive whilst Phalaborwa gate is around 8 hours. If you leave at the wrong time you wont make the gate closing time. If you’ve picked a overnight camp thats to far from that gate you will then be stranded in the park at night and clueless of route and directions (even if you have a map, about 80% of visitors get horribly lost). So you need to understand regions, gates , travel times and then of course the type of accommodation. This is all very easy for us so let rather plan this for you. We will then start getting into more detail around the 35 ecotones on the Park and how we structure our tours to maximise your exposure and experience because Kruger is a big place with so much to see and take in.

6. Do you know the Kruger National Parks Codes of Good Conduct whilst game viewing ? (These are as per South African National Parks)

Understand the rules and regulations of the Kruger National Park is critical to having a great experience, doing it in a sustainable way and also respecting your fellow visitors. For more this please refer to our BLOG – Kruger National Park Rules and Regulations

7. Understanding Elephants is important because there are roughly 21,000 of them:

Breeding Herds ?

A breeding herd of Elephants is a potentially dangerous situation and mothers with claves don’t take kindly to vehicles that get to close, corner them or prevent them from crossing roads. The vast majority of people that find them selves on the receiving end of a charging Elephant have not taken the animals personal space into consideration and land up in hot water. Safety is more important than a picture and if you push to far you will become the target of an enraged mother Elephant. So give them there space, show them respect and don’t drive up intentionally into the middle of a breeding herd.

How to identify and behave near a Bull Elephant in Musth?

Musth Bulls are essentially 6 tonnes of Bull Elephant that is flooded with testosterone and charged and ready to fit with other bulls for the rights a female who is ready to mate. These chaps need serious respect and are looking for someone or something to test their strength against. These bulls have a swollen temporal gland between the eye and ear which will be sweating a clear substance. The real indicator though is that they will be dropping urine with wet back legs on the inside and it will have a very strong smell. If you see a Bull Elephant behaving in a precocious way, check these signs and then if they all tick the box move away. 

Things to avoid doing when watching an Elephant or a Herd of Elephants ?

·      Never drive into a herd intentionally or off the road towards them

·      Do not follow close behind an Elephant walking in the road

·      Show respect and space at all times

·      Always allow them right of way

·      Don’t rev your engine and try arrive quietly and drive off slowly if they are close

·      Don’t cut them of or corner them

·      Head shakes, bent tails, rocking feet and raised heads are signs they are not comfortable

8. Here’s a list of things that are strictly prohibited in the Kruger National Park :

·      You may not travelling between camps before or after the indicated gate times

·      A NO noise pollution restriction is enforced from 21h30pm to 06h00am

·      Whilst travelling you may not play your car stereo loud or in such a way that it disturbs the wildlife and fellow visitors.

·      You may not enter the Park or use a motorcycle, bicycle, roller-skates, skateboard.

9. What is Good game viewing etiquette in the Kruger National Park ?

Game Sighting – General:

When game viewing vehicles must park on the side of the road closest to the sighting. If you are on the opposite side you will need to turn around and change direction to follow the correct flow of traffic. DO NOT park on the opposite side of the road facing the on coming vehicles. DO NOT stop in the middle either as this is reserved for traffic flow and to avoid congestion. Also DO NOT drive off road to view a sighting. Even if you see some idiotic South African do it who says he’s been coming to Kruger for 40 years. Its not allowed !

Game Sighting – Congestion: In the event that you are at a sighting with to many vehicles, please remember to not prevent correct traffic flow. Stay in your lane, don’t head into on coming traffic lane and don’t stop in the middle of the road. Be patient, no doubt the Open Safari Vehicle guide would have reported to Traffic Control and if a Open Safari Vehicle is causing the problem them you can get their permit number in the back the vehicle and report them as well.

10. Make memories with a Camera and Binoculars.

We seriously recommend that you take with a Camera, be it a fancy DSLR or even your phone, but pictures to remember are essential. You don’t need the fanciest equipment, a mobile phone often is the best because if its long battery life and ability to take pics and video.  More importantly remember your charging devices and extra memory cards. The Park shops do sell charging cable snacks memory cards. We have complimentary binoculars on our vehicles but if you have your own pair you should take then along.

11. Pack Electronic Travel Adapters.

Its advised that for all your devices that need charging, we recommend that you have the necessary adapters, cables and plugs. All of Krugers camps have electrical plugs in them so you will need an adapter for a Standard South Africa 3 Circular prong plug.

Sunscreen even in winter.

The South African sun can be harsh, particularly in summer months (Oct – Apr) so you must have sunscreen with you. We recommend a 50+ UV barrier, a good hat and a technical short that offers UV resistance.

12. The savannah gets hot, sweaty and dusty.

So as a follow on point to needing sunscreen and that summer months get hot, you can expect that travelling around dusty roads will mean it will challenge your comfort levels at times. Make sure that you pack clothes that can get a little dusty, keep you cool, not make you smell like a miner and offer protection from the sun. Perhaps a buff or sweat band is also a good idea as well as an extra water bottle.

14. Safari is about early mornings.

Getting up before sunrise and getting out as the sunrises is part of the safari experience. Its why good coffee and safari go so well together. Most mornings will start early and thats so you can take advantage of the cooler period of the day but also to take in the dawn chorus and potentially find a few of the last nocturnal creatures before they bed down for the day. A sunrise in the African bush is a wonderful experience and you will see that you will grow to love it. The energy, the warmth, the sounds are all very special. 

15. Mobile Phone Network.

All the major camps in the Kruger National Park will offer you mobile network signal but when you are in the more remote areas on dusty roads far from and camps you wont have any signal at all. One option is that you can roam on your own network or alternatively purchase a pre-paid card. The best local network for signal in Kruger is MTN.

16. Pack a good water bottle

Be sustainable traveller and take with a great water bottle that can hold at least 1 litre of water  and keep it cold. The excessive use of and purchasing of plastic mineral water bottles is uneccsery as all the main camps have a mineral water depot point where you can fill up and pay by litre. Krugers water from tap is not drinkable. 

17. Medical Emergency in Kruger.

Every one of Krugers camps has a dedicated safety officer who is trained in basic FirstAid. We have safety protocols in place should there be an emergency and have access to life support paramedics and ambulances so if there is an issue we have a process to manage it. Inside of the Park we have 2 Doctors based at Skukuza who are on 24hr call and will assist in mangling any situation that arises. Our guides are also FirstAid trained and ready to assist and manage any situation. Should you have any conditions that may effect your trip its critical that you indicate this prior to departure and that you have all of your own medication to treat.

18. Vehicle Breakdown Service inside Kruger.

This is probably everyones worst nightmare and starting with getting lost and then having a breakdown, the idea is enough to give you an anxiety attack. Fear not though, there is an emergency breakdown number on your permit and if you are outside of mobile network reception you are likely to bump into someone else on the route who you can ask for assistance. All of the Open Safari Vehicles are connected to Kruger joint-operation centre and will request assistance for you as well.

19. Ask your Guide as many questions as possible.

Your guide is the most important part of your experience and whilst he/she will be engaging you its important that you engage him/her for your benefit. Don’t be shy but ask as many questions about Kruger as possible. Being a Private Kruger Safari you will have their complete attention and you should tap into their reservoir of knowledge.

20. Guide Tips & Gratuities.

This is something we would recommend that you consider and pan for. You don’t have to but if you feel that your have had an amazing time thanks to your guides personal attention, knowledge, engagement and all round friendly assistance, then a gratuity is always appreciated. Having a Private Guide is the best way to explore the Kruger National Park and there role goes further than just explaining animals. They will manage our daily routine, take the admin away and ensure your comfort and safety over the duration.

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