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Kruger and KZN Self-drive


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adamt123

Hello everyone!

 

While the pandemic rages on, all trip planning is of course tentative, but I was hoping for feedback/advice on a self-drive itinerary for South Africa in April 2021. Current reports appear to indicate that there is little chance of SA reopening until February 2021 so the earliest time after that which would be suitable for me is April.

 

Ideally, I would like to have gone in January and if SA does change its policy (very unlikely), I would be looking to reschedule for then. April is really an in-between month – I think I’m just about OK to go then, any later and it would be a firm no. So, if SA doesn’t reopen by then, the trip will need to wait until December 2021.

 

April is of course a great time to visit Kgalagadi (easily my favourite park) but most of the rooms have gone for the whole month (well actually most rooms have gone right up to 31 July). I also think Kgalagadi wears me out a little – it is such a remarkable place, mystical perhaps, that I don’t think I would even want to go there again just yet.

 

I recently did a trip report from January 2020 when we visited Skukuza, Blyde River Canyon, Punda Maria and Mopani. While that was a fantastic trip and Punda Maria especially captured my heart, I would like to focus this next trip south of Olifants. I’m hoping the visit to KZN will make up for the lost migrant bird species and Kruger is pretty much guaranteed to be fun – who knows, early April is the sort of time when a few late returners might still be around.

 

The rough itinerary:

 

Kruger:

Fly from JNB to Skukuza.

2 nights in Skukuza

2 nights Tamboti

2 nights Lower Sabie

1 night Berg en Dal 

 

The one night at Berg en Dal is to make the drive to Mkhuze as short as can be. That will just be a travel day between the two regions.

 

Except for Skukuza, I have not previously visited these areas and I want to wholeheartedly thank everyone for their fantastic trip reports in giving me better idea of what these areas are like.

 

My question here is would you recommend adding two nights in Satara or Biyamiti?

 

At the moment, we can get the best rooms in pretty much any camp and I get the feeling Satara/Tamboti might be less crowded (i.e. fewer day visitors/OSVs) compared with Biyamiti/Lower Sabie.

 

I think we would want to go to Lower Sabie for sure, but I am starting to think that Biyamiti is perhaps missable? While I'm sure Biyamiti is the better camp (especially with the private road), I sort of get the impression the game viewing there isn't as good as Satara? 

 

In truth, I think whatever option we choose, it will probably be okay, but I'm just curious what more experienced Kruger-goers think of the two camps so any thoughts at all/your experiences would be much appreciated. 

 

KZN:

2 nights each at –

Mkhuze

Hluluwe-Imfolozi (Nselweni)

St Lucia

Then one final night at Umlalazi/Mtunzini (mangrove forest)

Fly back from Durban

 

As for KZN, this will be my first ever visit and I want firstly to thank everyone for their trip reports in helping formulate the above itinerary.

 

Although this misses out places like Ithala, Ndumo and Tembe, I think it should hopefully provide a nice introduction to the area. The focus in KZN will be birding, though the visit to Hlululwe may well prove good for mammals too. Although my question here is more to do with Kruger, any tips/advice on KZN would be much appreciated too.

 

Thanks

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You are absolutely right in assuming that in the mid section of KNP you will on any given day encounter less visitors than in the South, especially less day visitors and less OSV, while at the same time the game viewing is usually just as good as down south, at least when it comes to lions and cheetah (leopards and wild dogs are more numerous in the South). I would swap Satara with Biyamiti in a minute, especially if you intend to stay in nearby camps like Lower Sabie and Berg en Dal. Biyamiti's main advantage is its small size and its private access road, but certainly not its location.

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Tdgraves

I tend to avoid staying for 2 nights or less in separate parks as you feel like you are always moving. Within the same park it is ok, but I would reconsider your KZN portion. WRT KNP, Satara and Tamboti are relatively close to each other (in KNP terms) as are Biyamiti and Berg en Dal, so it depends more on whether the type of camp you like trumps the wildlife viewing. If you are adding time onto your trip, I would probably add extra days onto the KZN portion.

 

ps we have flights booked for Jan to JNB, so I am also hoping that they reopen prior to Feb, which I think they will have to in order to address the economy.

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adamt123

thanks @ice and @Tdgraves for your comments and suggestions :)

 

I may think about it a little then formulate a full itinerary 

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Peter Connan

Hluhluwe/iMfolozi offers a range of walking options, easy to hard and short to long. If you are up to it, this delivers a very different and very much more immersive experience which I highly recommend. 

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Dave Williams

You can cover a lot of the south of the park from Skukuza and as we have a preference for longer stops to feel a bit more settled my choice  would be to to stay there  for three nights. I'd then head to Satara or even Letaba  ( neither of which I have stayed in but visited both during the day ) for three nights then Berg en Dal for the last night, in fact I'd probably exit the park and find a better accommodation that's probably less expensive just outside the park. No real benefit of being in Berg-en-dal for one night as you will probably arrive not long before dark anyway and want to get going the next morning.

Do you intend driving through Eswatini or around it? I have that to consider on my trip! Not sure about hire car implications etc.

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Soukous

I agree with @Dave Williams that staying longer at fewer camps is more relaxing and usually more productive however personally I find Skukuza a bit too busy. I prefer Tamboti Tented Camp as it has a nice location and is generally very peaceful. If the baboons don't get too much of a nuisance.

Tamboti tented camp is a small camp situated on the banks of the Timbavati River, on the western boundary of the Kruger National Park, 

Edited by Soukous
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adamt123

Thanks for the advice @Dave Williams and @Soukous

 

I've not visited Tamboti before but generally most people do speak positively about it - I look forward to seeing what its like. 

 

We will be driving around Swaziland. While I was considering a few nights at Mbluzui I don't think its worth the stop this time around. I also don't think it is worth it for us to drive straight through Swaziland firstly because it means unnecessary immigration and secondly because of the car hire; while I don't think either of these things are especially complicated, I still think it is simpler just to go via Piet Retief. If we had more time, we may have stopped a couple nights in Wakkerstroom, but I think we will have to leave that for another day. 

 

 

Edited by adamt123
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Dave Williams

Just had a look at Tamboti as I have heard good things but was immediately put off that the tents all share ablutions and kitchens. It's a big camp too in numbers. Also be aware it's self catering but they don't provide utensils so you need to take your own. Take a look at Talamati, it's more expensive but it's an intimate little camp  of just 15 well equipped self contained chalets. There are two hides and we had a Genet visit our braii which was rather nice.There isn't more than a 100m of private road but there is little traffic uses the gravel road you enter from. We had a hunting Cheetah right outside the camp and just two cars sharing the sighting.

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adamt123

Sorry for the delayed response @Dave Williams!

 

I too thought that Tamboti was all communal ablutions/kitchens but its actually not - the LST3 rooms do have bathroom and kitchen:

 

https://www.sanparks.org/parks/kruger/camps/tamboti/tourism/availability_dates.php?id=368&resort=14

 

I also found this video on YouTube and I think it gives a reasonable overview of the LST3:

 

 

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  • 1 year later...
Dave Williams

@adamt123Well , after two postponements it looks like we might finally make 2022!

The benefit has been that I have had time to rethink my plan and rebook a different itinerary....as well as extending our stay.

Being retired I have the benefit of no time constraints , just financial ones! Luckily we accepted travel vouchers instead of a refund from Emirates as their ticket prices had now gone up by 50%.,so much dearer it's encouraged me to stay for longer to get best value:rolleyes:. The hire car has really shot up in price too, more than doubled from the last time we went in November 2019.It's pretty expensive now.

Anyway our plan is to fly to J'berg , pick up a hire car and drive to Komatipoort stopping for 2 nights to allow for recuperation from travel and to shop for supplies before entering the park and driving to Talamati for 4 nights. Been there before and enjoyed it but I have decided to try Tamboti for 3 nights too. I was wrong, the "luxury' tents do come with private bathrooms so all is good there.

From Tamboti we are heading back for 7 nights at Biyamiti, a camp I have been really wanting to try. It has the advantage of the long private road which hopefully is observed and it's bang in the middle of the best game viewing area of KNP from my previous experience, albeit one trip. It's also near my very favourite spot in the park too, Biyamiti Weir.

So 14 nights in KNP before heading out of the park for another night in Komatipoort. Our accommodation for both stops is the same one, looks comfortable and very inexpensive. Seemed daft to stay in the park only to depart first thing, besides it gets dark early so not much to see then anyway!

From Komatipoort we are driving around Eswatini because a) it's going to cost me £45 from the hire company for the documentation b) it's only a couple of hours extra driving c) no cross border hold up/possible hassle and d) I have no idea if I'm correct but the drive looks more attractive on Google earth! The route has toll roads though so some saving lost there and in extra fuel too.

I then had 8 nights to play with before driving to St Lucia for a 12 night stop over in a nice looking guest house there. 12 nights? Yep, on previous plans I have been advised against it and even by someone who lives there but I have good reason. My wife Claire deserves a holiday that meets her needs too so we end our trip with emphasis on R&R for her, meals in restaurants instead of self catering, a swimming pool and sunbed whilst I still have use of the car to take me wherever I might choose. That may well include Hluhluwe-iMfolozi which is doable at an hour or so drive away.

Before arriving at St Lucia I had the difficult choice of deciding how to use that 8 nights but with Claire's approval we will journey to Buffalo Hill Safari Lodge in Manyoni private game reserve for just one night. It was already the last pice of the jigsaw when I booked and I had intended Ghost Mountain Inn in Mkuze. I had considered staying at the latter for several nights and then travelling to Umkhuze NP on a daily basis allowing Claire to stay at the hotel if she preferred but instead I have booked 3 nights at Ndumo and 4 nights at Mantuma Camp in Umkhuze, all self catering but all in the parks. With hindsight Buffalo Hill looks really good, as does Manyoni reserve and it's not that expensive either, not compared to the likes of Biyamiti or Talamati when you consider the level of luxury.

So, we have 36 nights ( plus two on the plane) which is one of the longest trips I have been on anywhere and even then I wish I had time to fit in more.

Hope you have been able to book something and if not maybe my thought process might help. Most of the accommodation is now fixed although I might though now change the last night in Komatipoort to one in Malelane. No reason not to and it would knock some distance off the drive south. Never happy are we!!

 

Edit! I have changed both stops from Komatipoort to Malelane...slightly less driving but 100% increase in cost. The hotel comes well recommended though and adds some luxury before entering KNP.

 

Edited by Dave Williams
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Peter Connan

An epic trip!

Perhaps the recuperation period can include some time in a hide?

Edited by Peter Connan
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