40 simple Kruger tips to get the most out of your safari

Kudu-jumping-Kruger

After spending countless hours driving around and staying in Kruger National Park, we have some handy tips for those who are lucky enough to be heading into the park soon! These are probably most useful for first-timers to Kruger, but there may be some gems in there for regulars too. Of course this list is not exhaustive, so please share your own Kruger tips in the comments below! I will try to add them to the list and credit you so that everyone can benefit from our collective Kruger wisdom 🙂

  1. Take a camera – do not use your phone! I have known more than one person to regret their decision not to take a camera when going on safari in Africa. Of course it’s personal preference as to whether you want to take many photos but I would recommend having at least a small digital point-and-shoot available just in case you come across something really awesome!
  2. Stay for at least three days – ideally 5+.Trust me when I say, one night IS NOT ENOUGH.
  3. Always keep your permit in the car with you. We accidentally left our permit at our bungalow during our last trip and when we were a few minutes late to the gate in the evening our gate guard was not impressed! You are meant to keep this on you at all times.
  4. Monkey-Thiefs-KrugerBe careful of monkeys and baboons at picnic sites. When you stop to have a bite to eat at designated picnic sites (or indeed if at a rest camp), always be careful of the monkeys and baboons as they are very quick to steal your food! Van can attest to this as his breakfast was stolen one morning at Tshokwane. Never intentionally feed the monkeys or baboons.
  5. Get up early and stay out late. I like a sleep-in as much as the next person, but unfortunately the best time to see wildlife (particularly cats and wild dogs) is around dawn and dusk – this means you should try and be there when the gate opens in the morning and get back just before the gate closes. We typically like driving all day (you can get great sightings in the middle of the day as well) but if you want some down time, have a break for a few hours around lunchtime and then go back out in the early afternoon.
  6. Drive the dirt roads for less traffic. Tar roads can often be very productive for wildlife, but if you are getting sick of seeing so many other cars, try and take some dirt roads to explore with less traffic (and enjoy sightings even more).
  7. Brake lights! Pay particular attention to cars that have stopped or stop abruptly in front of you (or indeed behind). Figure out where they are looking and search for any interesting wildlife. If they are looking up they may be birders (or found a leopard in the tree). If you are not sure what they are looking at, don’t be afraid to ask!
  8. Network. Don’t be afraid to ask others what they have seen and get sighting tips! If someone is slowing their car down or flagging you down, it’s often worth hearing what they have to say!
  9. Look out for upset birds and monkeys. When birds or monkeys are making a fuss, it’s often because there’s a predator around. Hang around and keep your eyes peeled.
  10. Listen to the antelopes. It may sound weird but impala, waterbuck, nyalas and others can be great indicators of predators with their distinctive warning calls! Similarly if antelope or giraffes (or virtually any animals) are staring intently in one direction, follow the line of their gaze to see what they are looking at – often it may be a passing leopard or other predator.
  11. Hire an SUV or 4WD for greater height (if you are hiring a car) – the higher you are, the more you typically can see.
  12. Look under trees particularly during hotter periods – this is often where you will find cats!
  13. Alert-Impalas-KrugerLook in trees for leopards and also bird life!
  14. Make sure you have plenty of petrol! You can travel deceptively long distances when driving around Kruger, and petrol is only available in set camps so it’s always wise to fill up frequently.
  15. Buy a Kruger map & be planful of your trip (avoid running out of petrol, knowing where toilet stops are and getting to gate in time)
  16. SNACKS! SNACKS! Always have some snacks ready in the car (our favourites are zoo biscuits and Van LOVES Play) plus of course WATER is a must. Sometimes it takes a lot longer to get to the next rest camp or picnic site thanks to amazing sightings so great to have something to nibble on and drink just in case.
  17. Check out my tips on the best Kruger roads
  18. Check out my tips on how to book Kruger accommodation
  19. Check out my safari packing list to make sure you have the essentials
  20. Play Safari Checklist Bingo and see how many points you can get!
  21. Get a pack of Big 5 Safari Stickers to show off what you have seen in the park.
  22. Don’t be too hasty to leave a sighting if it’s not too busy with cars – you never know what might happen if you sit patiently!
  23. Know how long it will take you to get back to the gate/camp in the evening – you don’t want to be late to your gate! If you are at a good sighting, calculate the latest time you can stay to allow you to get back safely (driving the speed limit or below).
  24. Be RESPECTFUL to others on the road and at sightings. Do not park in front of someone (blocking their view) who was there first at a sighting.
  25. DO NOT BLOCK THE ROAD. JUST DON’T. It’s tempting to do at amazing sightings but you cannot block the road as people need to be able to get past. So use common sense and wait your turn if need be – do not contribute to park traffic jams.
  26. You can overtake vehicles that are driving slowly or stopped. Use common sense though and only do this if it’s safe and you are not going to ruin a sighting.
  27. Dress for heat, even in winter (layers are good) – it often gets above 30 degrees (celsius) even in winter.
  28. Leopard-Hiding-KrugerNEVER STOP LOOKING. EVERYWHERE. ALL THE TIME. Sometimes when you are tired, or you haven’t seen anything for awhile or the sun is bright or you are tempted to look at your Facebook or the photos you just took you can stop looking. That’s exactly when that leopard is going to choose to show up! Right when you look away. So don’t stop looking! Avoid distractions.
  29. Check latest sightings boards (but don’t read too much into it). The latest sightings boards are good to show what animals have been in what areas but they are by no means any sort of guarantee you will see the same! Also you never really know if they are accurate. It’s also worth noting that animals move quite frequently!
  30. Eat a steak at the Cattle Baron. SERIOUSLY. It’s just so good.
  31. Brunch/Lunch at M&B Lower Sabie. You might get your Big 5 because this place has great sightings right when you’re lunching on the deck.
  32. Buy a save the rhino bracelet. Because who doesn’t want to save these awesome creatures!
  33. Drive with your windows down. Don’t be a pussy.
  34. Do not get out of your car except at designated spots.
  35. Get two-way radios if with friends! This works nicely if you are visiting with a group and multiple cars, but be aware most two-way radios have poor ranges so usually this only works if you are driving more or less in convoy.
  36. Turn your car off if staying at a sighting (respectful to animals and other people in the sighting)
  37. Rivers and waterholes are good bets – check out waterholes and drive the river roads to increase your likelihood of seeing wildlife
  38. Walk around the camp perimeter at night – if you happen to be staying overnight it’s always good to walk around the camp perimeter or even go on a night drive to find some nocturnal animals like civets, genets, porcupines etc!
  39. Be respectful of the animals – do not make noises to attract their attention, give them plenty of space to move freely, do not separate young ones from their mum etc (most of this is common sense really). While driving in Kruger is pretty safe, the most dangerous animals while in your car are elephants so give them plenty of space and heed their warning signs. They will let you know if they are not happy with your presence. Mostly they are calm and you should be able to drive slowly past them.
  40. Don’t provide details about Rhino locations. To help with anti-poaching efforts, never post details of rhino sightings on the internet or at camps etc.
  41. Appreciate the smaller things and look for the rarer species. It’s not ALL about the Big 5, try and find lesser-seen animals and if you don’t know what something is, take a photo and ask a ranger when you see one!
  42. Never give up. Some days are slower, but patience pays off! Keep driving or hang out at a waterhole and you will surely see something amazing because it’s KRUGER! The best place in the world 🙂

So there’s my top 40 (now 42) Kruger Park tips. What have I missed? Share your tips in the comments below!

Instagram

 

1 Comment

  1. Jean Johnson says: Reply

    Keep a list of what you have seen. There are useful programmes you can download on your iPad. I have Sasol birds, which also plays bird calls, and one called Kruger Animals. I tick off all the birds on each trip, and it’s amazing – and gratifying – to see the list grow with each trip. Also try to learn the names of plants of the region. It’s not just about the game.

Leave a Reply