The magnificent Kruger National Park is one of the most recognized safari destinations in the world. It is renowned for its size, large wildlife population and diversity, and affordability. Unlike many parks that restrict your visit to expensive guided ranger-safaris, you can self-drive through the park, and camp or sleep in a range of accommodations to fit varying budgets. Seeing African animals in the wild was the number one experience that we wanted to share with our children. Dan and I had spent a week on safari in Tanzania on our honeymoon, and our trip had exceeded our expectations, cementing our desire to return to Africa.
Since we were just beginning our travels through South Africa and had the intention of visiting many National Parks within the coming month, we decided to invest in a family Wild Card. This is a special pass which allows free entry, within one years validity, to any of the parks operated by the government. It is an investment at ZAR3590 (about USD$240), but we more than recouped our expenses within a couple of weeks of travel.
We spent 4 nights (5 days) in the Southern part of the park, dividing our nights between the Skukuza, Satara, and Lower Sabie camps. Our days were spent either waking for sunrise to start our visual hunt for the “big 5”, or focusing on sunset drives. We would drive for 5-6 hours each day, stopping for meals or an afternoon swim in the sheltered camps. During our long drives, we engaged our children’s interests by getting them a scavenger-like checklist of the animals in the park, studying the traits of the various mammals, and identifying birds, with the help of a detailed bird guide for Southern Africa. Dan got a break from driving one evening as we opted to go on a guided safari trip in a large covered vehicle, but other than that expenditure, our daily costs were surprisingly low. We ate amazing steak dinners with wine for about $10 a person, and paid about $60 a night for a self-catering rondavel (round, thatched-roof accommodation) with air conditioning.
Amazing animals aside, pausing to admire glorious African sunsets and majestic vistas, filled me with awe and appreciation. I was overwhelmed with gratitude, as I pinched myself and exclaimed, “We are in Africa! We are in Africa!”.