Got it. Any other tips?
Try not to be too ambitious with your itinerary – Kruger is enormous, and distances can be deceptive. Give yourself at least five days in the south, and ten days if you also plan on heading to the wilder north.
When driving, go slow – a car crawling along at 15km/h is the mark of a Kruger veteran. Scour the long grass for a flick of an ear or a swish of a tail and listen for anything unusual, like the crunching of grass underfoot or a tell-tale alarm call. It also pays to know where to look: lions often nap in the shade, while a leopard is unlikely to stray far from cover.
The kudu, a species of antelope © Georgia Stephens
What shouldn’t I miss?
A bush walk. This is one of the only opportunities you’ll get to head off into the long grass on foot – accompanied by a professional guide, of course. You’ll gain a deeper understanding of the park’s flora and fauna, and there’s always the possibility of bumping into big game.
If that sounds too adventurous, then opt instead for an organised game drive either early in the morning or late at night. You’ll have the chance to spot nocturnal animals, including genets, civets and owls, which you wouldn’t otherwise see (as self-driving is only permitted in daylight hours). To book, enquire at any of the main camps.
The south of the park is best for first-time visitors as it has the densest population of big game, and there are some drives here you definitely shouldn’t miss. First, there’s the route from Skukuza camp to Satara: watch the sunrise from the bird hide at Lake Panic, then head north via the southernmost baobab tree. Just before you hit Satara, turn onto the S100 – the park’s legendary white lion is most often spotted here.
Another must is the route from Lower Sabie to Tshokwane Picnic Spot. The road winds steadily higher until you reach Nkumbe lookout, where the savanna stretches out below you for miles. This really is one of Africa’s great views.
Where should I stay?
There are 24 fenced rest camps, with accommodation ranging from simple thatched rondavels with communal facilities up to luxury bungalows.
Satara is based in big cat country, and its circular clusters of rondavels are particularly atmospheric when lit by the glow of the braais at night. Skukuza is the park’s HQ and has the feel of a small town, while Olifants wins the prize for the best view, looking down over the Olifants River.
For more of a bush feel, try the tents at Letaba, set deep in mopane forest, or Tamboti – this secluded camp is visited nightly by honey badgers and genets, and hyenas often prowl the fence. If that’s still not adventurous enough, book to stay at either Sable or Shipandani after hours.
Rondavel accommodation © Georgia Stephens
I’m convinced – how do I make this happen?
Accommodation sells out quickly in Kruger, particularly around public holidays, so it pays to book several months in advance. You will also need to pay a daily conservation fee. This adds up quickly, so it’s worth investing in a Wild Card if you’re staying for a week or longer, which works out cheaper.
There are three main options to get to Kruger: fly to Johannesburg and then drive just over four hours to the park; take an internal flight from Johannesburg to Kruger Mpumalanga airport and then drive an hour; or take an internal flight from Johannesburg straight into Skukuza.
Georgia flew to Kruger Mpumalanga airport with South African Airways, which introduced the new Airbus A330-300 on its daily London-Johannesburg service in 2018. Return flights start from £957.01. For more information, visit flysaa.com.
Top image: Lion mother and cub © Thomas Retterath / Shutterstock
Subscribe to The Rough Guide to Everywhere now (iTunes; Soundcloud; Spotify).