For anyone who loves wildlife and nature, you need to make a plan to visit the Kruger National Park in South Africa. Visit at least once in your lifetime and you’ll probably do whatever you can to get back there again… soon.
But before you arrive in the Kruger National Park region, with areas in both the Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces, you need to know how to prepare for your South African safari trip.
First, you need to find the best time of year for travelling to the Kruger Park. As it falls in a summer rainfall area, October to April will be hot with heavy downpours. Rainy seasons mean longer grass and a higher chance of wildlife being spread out and travelling along the roadside.
If you visit during the dry period of May to September, and the wet season brought plenty of rain, then you’re likely to find animals around the watering holes and water spots. Keep in mind, animals go where the water flows, so if you’re wanting to understand the motivation for animal movements, find the watering point.
If you are a bird lover and are here to see some of the 550 plus bird species, then the November or December months are better times.
Most foreigners’ hesitation towards visiting the Kruger Park revolves around the question of “Is there malaria in South Africa?” Unfortunately, the answer to this question is yes. Specifically in Mpumalanga, Limpopo and the Maputaland coast in KwaZulu-Natal. So, before you leave, make sure your general practitioner can prescribe a course of malaria tablets for you take before, during and after your visit if necessary. Keep in mind that the months of higher risk are between November and April, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. It will also be a good idea to pack in some Peaceful Sleep or Tabard as an extra measure and a way to prevent irritating itchy bites.
On the topic of prevention and medication, if you are on any chronic medication, make sure you have enough available for the duration of your trip before you get to South Africa. Also be sure to bring enough sunblock, even in the winter season.
In the case of an emergency, however, the Skukuza camp in the Kruger Park does have a hospital available.
Regardless of what time of year you are travelling, you need to pack for all seasons. If you plan on doing some of the hiking trails, it would be advised that you wear long pants for protection and proper hiking boots. If you visit during winter, it’s still relatively warm during the day and a warm top would only be necessary for early mornings before the sun rises and evenings as the sun sets.
Remember that you’re going to be driving through the park all day and you’d rather be comfortable for those long hours. You should also keep in mind that it can get very dusty, so rather stick to neutral-coloured clothes.
Driving through the Kruger National Park every day isn’t as repetitive as it sounds. With 19 485 km² to explore and over 147 mammal species (including the Big Five, cheetah, hyena, kudu, giraffe, eland, hippopotamus and more), every drive will show you something new. So, you need to be prepared.
Day-trip essentials include water, snacks, binoculars and a camera. You don’t want to miss anything because you forgot to pack food or water and need to hurry back to camp to keep you from passing out. And you also want to be able to see everything and capture the special and once-in-a-lifetime moments.
Something you also shouldn’t forget is your physical map of the park. Reception isn’t great there so you’re going to need to go old school and follow the map. It will have key siting points and hop-out viewpoints for you to drive towards and look forward to. And before you head out of the camp area for your game drive, be sure to check out the spotting boards of the latest sightings and where they occurred.
Now, with regards to the rules of the park and general self-drive etiquette, you need to know what’s okay and what’s not okay. Not just for the sake of the wildlife, but for your safety as well.
If you follow the rules and pack accordingly, you are in for an unforgettable holiday in the breathtaking Kruger National Park.