Africa South Africa Travel Guides

Kruger National Park: The North

Kruger National Park

Traveling to Kruger National Park

There are a few ways to get to Kruger National Park. There are airports in Nelspruit and Hoedspruit which are in close proximity to the park. Please note that this increases the price of the flight. We flew into Johannesburg to save money and rented a car to drive to the park.

The closest gate is approximately 4 hours drive away from the Johannesburg airport. The roads are well laid out and have good signage along the way. Depending on which rest camp is your destination, the drive time to the nearest gate will change. Our first rest camp was the furthest from the airport and also the most remote of our sites. This came with a 6-hour drive.

Cost of Kruger National Park

 The cost of Kruger National Park, separate from accommodation, is all conservation fees. The amount for the conservation fees change depending on your residency status in South Africa. Max and I are not permanent residents, so we are considered foreigners. The daily rate for foreigners is R304, but if you have the Wild Card- it is free. We have been huge proponents for the Wild Card because it has saved us a ton of money. The only cost we had in Kruger National Park was for accommodation. The Wild Card saved the two of us a total of R2432 for our 4 days in the park.

*To put this into perspective, we paid R3455 for a year of the Wild Card. If you are a foreign couple visiting Kruger for 6 days, it is worth it to get a Wild Card. Read our post to see what is included in the Wild Card subscription.

Information on Kruger National Park Rates from the SANParks website

Information on Kruger National Park Rates from the SANParks website

 

Accommodation at Kruger National Park

Max and I are avid campers and would not think of doing anything different in a national park. Sometimes it is confusing to find the public rest camps and campsites in Kruger because there are so many private operators, but all of the rest camps we discuss are public and open to camping! Our total for 4 nights came to about R1100 or $85USD.

  • Punda Maria Rest Camp

    • The Punda Maria site was a good basic campsite. This is one of the oldest and smallest rest camps because it is in the far north. The camp store has the basics necessary for camping. There was a small restaurant attached which served decent food. The staff was all polite and kind. There is a picturesque swimming pool with a fountain. If it had not have been so cold, we definitely would have gone in!
    • The campsites were an adequate size for us but lacked order. It was a free for all and the sites were not clearly marked. We had planned to braai but could not because there was no table or seating around the braai. Because we had flown, we did not have our larger camping supplies such as our chairs. The ablutions were well kept and easily accessible.
    • The game hide at the site was the best of any of the campsites we stayed at. There was a large watering hole that was frequented by large elephants in the night. The lights stayed on all night, so if you are interested in nocturnal animals, park your tent nearby the fence. After our Kgalagadi experience, we parked the tent far away from the game.
  • Letaba Rest Camp

    • The Letaba site was a great rest camp. This site was much larger and more populated. The camp store was large enough to be considered excessive as it had a lot of tourist items. There was a good restaurant attached to an amazing deck overlooking the Letaba river.
    • The campsites were adequate size for us but there was a serious lack of order. It was difficult for us to figure out where one site started and another ended. By the time we arrived at 12:00pm, there were only 2 campsites out of a few dozen left! We found one tucked in the trees and had many bushbuck roaming around our tent at night. The ablutions were well kept and easily accessible.
    • There was an amazing deck that looked at the Letaba river, but no game hide! Once the sun set and the natural light was gone, you were left to just listen to the animals. This was very disappointing for me who came to Kruger specifically for game viewing.

Other public rest camps in the north:

  • Shingwedzi

    • Beautiful campsites on a river. Several crocodiles and hippos in the water from first glance. There is an amazing day visitor area with braais, picnic tables, and an awesome view.
  • Mopani

    • Slightly more rustic campsite on the top of a dry plateau. What you miss out on being on a river you make up for in the scenic, expansive views!
  • Olifants River

    • The best view on a river in the park. Expansive views in the day visitors area!
  • Satara

    • Large and busy rest camp. All of your basic needs and more can be met at this camp store.
  • Orpen

    • Known for the sound of lions at night. Close to one of the gates in the center of the park.

 

Game Viewing at Kruger National Park in the North

We had some great sightings in the north portion of the park. It was much more about quality over quantity of animals. There are few tourists in the north, which makes your animal encounters intimate. Expect loads of elephants throughout the north. There are many ungulates, including some we had never seen before! Our favorite part of the north section had to be our cheetah encounter. A coalition of four male cheetahs crossed the road slowly in front of us. In contrast to many Kruger stories- we were the only car at this sighting which made it even more special. Though we had seen them in the wild before, this was an absolutely special sighting.

This Kruger trip was our birthday presents to ourselves (our birthdays are a week apart). Part of the deal was to do both a night game drive and a sunrise game drive. We chose to do our night game drive through the Letaba rest camp. Our guide was amazing and we had a great time cruising around after hours. We did not bring our cameras for this part because the pictures would not be the best. It is also important to live in the moment rather than always documenting! Guided game drives are always a sound investment! Though I love the self drive option, sometimes you can go off the beaten path and discover something completely new.

Overall thoughts on the north of Kruger National Park

Overall, we did like the north section of the park. It feels more rustic and less touristy. It is the type of national park we are used to. Though the game was more scarce, it was full of high quality sightings. It was worth the trip once to be as far north as Punda Maria, but I do not believe I would go north of Letaba again. It was a great introduction to the park!

Stay tuned for the 2nd portion of our time in Kruger! In the meantime, enjoy some of our photopgraphs!

Kruger National Park sign at the Punda Maria Gate

Kruger National Park sign at the Punda Maria Gate

Zebra welcoming us at sunset

Zebra welcoming us at sunset

Morning coffee and breakfast with this special elephant

Morning coffee and breakfast with this special elephant

Looking at hippos at the Shingwedzi day visitors area!

Looking at hippos at the Shingwedzi day visitors area!

Hippos in the moment

Hippos in the moment

Happy camper at the Letaba rest camp

Happy camper at the Letaba rest camp

Our amazing cheetah sighting

Our amazing cheetah sighting

Cheetah sighting in the north of Kruger

Cheetah sighting in the north of Kruger

Sunset over the Letaba River

Sunset over the Letaba River

Au naturale in our camping element

Au naturale in our camping element

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