It’s been on your bucket list for years… seeing the Big Five animals of Africa. You’ve already narrowed it down to South Africa’s largest game reserve; the renowned Kruger National Park. Now the time has finally come to plan and book your trip. However, you probably have a few questions you need answered.
Our blog will help you decide where is the best place to stay, when is the best time to visit Kruger National Park, and what to expect from your visit.
There are a lot of options for accommodation in Kruger National Park. I’m sure you’re struggling to decide which would be best for your safari vacation. What we propose might seem a bit strange, but for the ultimate Kruger National Park experience, you don’t have to stay inside the park itself.
Marloth Park is a beautiful nature reserve that borders Kruger National Park’s southern side and lies on the elephants’ favourite bathing spot, the Crocodile River. It is the epitome of a South African bush vacation and an idyllic spot for a restoring break.
Choosing to stay at a Marloth Park accommodation hotspot like our Vida Nova Kruger African safari lodge, not only allows you the freedom to walk or cycle around for close-up encounters with Africa’s less fearsome wildlife, like towering giraffes and majestic kudu, but also enables you to stretch your budget to do far more while in Africa. And, of course, daily game drives into the Kruger National Park are easy, since the entrance is just a short ride away.
Waking up to the dawn chorus of the Kruger and Marloth reserves is something that is unmatched anywhere else in the world. The songs from the warblers, cuckoos, thrushes and eagles, and the croaks and chirps of the frog vocalists, stir your soul.
From the mammoth balcony of Vida Nova Retreat, you can enjoy a soothing coffee, while listening to the animals and watching the early morning risers bathing in and drinking from the river. Elephants are regular visitors to the spot directly across the river from the lodge.
The southeastern corner, on the northern bank of the Crocodile River, where we enter the Kruger National Park, is famous for its sightings. A well-known section nicknamed the ‘Southern Circle’ is renowned for its many different prides of lion, each showcasing a variety of hunting techniques. It is also the most likely area to spot the dwindling rhino populations.
For leopard lovers, you’ll have a better chance of spotting these allusive cats in their favourite terrain… near a river, amongst the large, bushy trees. They love to hide in the thick leafy branches and, of course, prefer to be somewhere where there’s a good possibility of prey wandering along. Of course, the long stretch of the Crocodile River is a prime position for prey spotting.
Evenings bring more soulful highlights of Kruger National Park with hooting owls, tilling nightjars, roaring lions, and chuckling hyenas, creating a symphony of nature sounds. It’s the perfect time to relish cocktails on the balcony, watching the spectacular sunset over the river, before tucking into a delicious bush dinner prepared by our passionate chef.
To help you decide not just when to come, but what to pack, we’ve broken down the weather in Kruger National Park into typical seasons, with a guide to average temperatures.
It is hot and dry during these summer months, with temperatures peaking in January. They are also the wettest and most humid months. You can expect heavy rain, mainly in the afternoon. Temperatures stay around 32°C/90°F but can get up to 40°C/104°F, which can be uncomfortable. Some travellers prefer the hot African sun, but bear in mind that the animals tend to shy away from the blazing sun from mid-morning to mid-afternoon.
It is still very hot and dry during this time, although a little cooler than peak summertime. There is lighter rainfall and the humidity decreases. Towards April the skies get clearer and the nights are star-studded, although it is cooler. Daytime temperatures reach 30°C/64°F whereas the evenings drop to around 18°C/61°F.
Winter is the dry season and you can expect very little rainfall with barely any humidity. In May, evening temperatures drop to a chilly 12°C/54°F which stretches through until the sun comes up. June is the coldest month and mornings continue to get colder as the month continues. You can expect temperatures of only 10°C/50°F until it starts to warm up again to around 14°C/57°F in September, which is the peak of this season, with dry winds, thinner flora, and scant rainfall.
So you’ve narrowed it down to when you want to come, but you’re still not sure about where to stay. We’ve touched upon the best reasons for staying in Kruger’s neighbouring nature reserve, Marloth Park, above. However, it’s time to boast about our stunning safari lodge. Vida Nova Kruger is a paradisal eco-lodge that provides guests with the ultimate vacation. Aside from the daily game drives into the world’s most renowned Big Five reserve, it offers a whole host of bonuses to your break.
Our onsite spa is ideal for helping you to unwind. Our expert therapist knows just how to work out those nasty knots and leave you blissfully relaxed, so you can truly appreciate your time away. Imagine following up a massage with a dip in the inviting pool that surrounds the lodge. And while you bask in the turquoise waters, enjoying the sights of Marloth Park’s mammal residents grazing on the lawns, our staff will be on hand to serve you some delicious, freshly prepared cocktails.
Our lodge chef takes great delight in spoiling our guests with delicious boerekos and braais… traditional South African dining but infused with flair. Expect fresh game meats, exceptional complementary dishes, and tantalising treats to add some extra flavour to your stay. A big benefit of staying at our eco-lodge is that you are offsetting your travel footprint.
A percentage of all bookings at Vida Nova Kruger goes to our carbon offset partners, Fire Island Conservation, who have established projects to protect our marine life and uplift coastal communities.
This old African proverb encompasses what the Kruger experience is all about. Once you have seen something with your heart, it’s forever captured in your memory. The heart may not have eyes, but it sees into the souls of the animals that cross your path. Once you know that animal in your heart, you can understand it. And without first-hand experience of these safari moments, it is difficult to explain.
The closest I can get to illustrating the meaning is to ask you to close your eyes and hear the resonating rumble of an elephant penetrating your mind, and the roar of a lion cutting through the rumble. Then visualise your favourite Big Five animal crossing within feet of your path and inhaling the sweet scents of Natal mahogany trees. Not even National Geographic can depict it quite like the real thing. South Africa’s Kruger National Park arouses all five senses.
Kruger National Park is easy to get to from anywhere. For southern Kruger, and Marloth Park, you’ll be happy to know that there is a nearby airport, Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (KMIA) in Nelspruit. There are plenty of direct flights to Kruger National Park. They fly from KMIA to Johannesburg and Cape Town daily, and from KMIA to Durban three days a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Our team can organise a guided road transfer from Johannesburg for guests that prefer it and don’t mind the five-hour drive. We can even book you into overnight accommodation near the airport in Johannesburg to get an early start on the road the following day.
If you arrive at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport in the morning, we will pick you up and transfer you to Vida Nova Kruger. If you arrive in the afternoon at OR Tambo, we will book you into overnight accommodation at our preferred accommodation, Africa Sky Lodge and then pick you up for an early morning departure. For those that prefer spending less time in the car for transfer, you can arrive straight into Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport, where we will pick you up and transfer you to Vida Nova Kruger in around two hours.
Our South African safari parks are renowned throughout the world. Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in the world and covers an area of a whopping 2 million hectares… almost the size of Belgium.
Of course, the goal for most is to see as many iconic animals as possible during their time on such a holiday, regardless of whether it’s a family trip, solo trip or romantic getaway. Kruger and Marloth Parks offer a whole host of adventures, from animal viewing and gaining new knowledge, to delicious dining, and being at one with nature. Your experience will, of course, depend on the type of accommodation you book and your budget.
Day 1 – It all depends on what time you arrive, but typically it will be a settling-in day. You’ll get to enjoy a lovely lunch or snacks on our vast balcony watching the megafauna bathing in the river, or observing giraffes and game wandering along the road in front of the lodge. The pool will be at your leisure for a refreshing dip, or you might want to book in with our spa therapist to work out those travel knots. There’s an opportunity to get to know the area better with a stroll around Marloth Park to interact with some of the animal residents. The evening dinner will usually be a traditional braai experience, where our chef shows off his amazing barbequing skills.
Day 2 – This will be your Kruger National Park safari kick-off day. You’ll spend a full day in the park with our highly experienced guide in an open safari vehicle. You’ll explore a diverse range of animals, birds and flora and our guide will try to fit in as many sightings of the 150+ mammals, 115+ reptile, 500+ bird and 2,000+ plant species as possible. Our exceptional ranger will educate you on the different observations while keeping eyes and ears peeled for the famous Big Five. You’ll stop at one of the designated rest areas for a delicious prepared bush brunch before spending a few more hours exploring the park. You’ll return later to our lodge for light snacks, leisure time and then dinner on the balcony.
Day 3 – Similar to Day 2
Day 4 – A relaxed breakfast on the balcony and then either leisure activities around Marloth Park, including walking and cycling, or external vendor activities such as fishing or golf. Or indeed, you can spend the day reposing at the lodge, watching the sights and enjoying the poo. Look forward to an evening game drive in Marloth Park before another delicious dinner on the balcony.
Day 5 – Depending on the time of your departure, you can savour breakfast and coffee on the balcony and a walk around Marloth Park before checking out from the lodge.
Our lodge team and guides love making your Kruger and Marloth Park experiences unforgettable.
For those that want to experience the best of both safari and coast, you’ll love our Bush & Beach package that takes you from Kruger to Mozambique.
A safari adventure to Africa is a bucket list and possibly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This means that you probably want to make the most out of it, and that can come at a cost. However, South Africa remains to be an affordable country to spend your vacation in, especially if you’re from Europe or the US.
The cost of your Kruger experience is determined by different factors, such as your choice of accommodation, how many days you spend on game drives in Kruger National Park, and any added activities or excursions. To know exactly what you’re spending upfront, the best thing to do is to book a tour package. And when you book a package with us, it comes at a fraction of the price of a top-tier Kruger stay, which can be at the upper end of $8,000 USD.
For instance, our winter special rate means that you get a two-night stay for two people at our eco-luxury lodge, breakfast, dinner and full day’s game drive in Kruger National Park for less than $300*
*June to August 2023
That depends on what you want out of a safari. If you’re looking for an authentic experience where the animals are free to roam, interact with other species and hunt in their natural environment, then Kruger National Park provides the ultimate safari. The park is certainly Africa’s best-known game reserve and most visited by travellers, with great facilities and some incredible archaeological wonders.
Wildlife is incredibly abundant and you are guaranteed to see iconic African animals during your time. Of course, it is home to the Big Five, although it can be an adventure to find them, namely the lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and Cape buffalo. For elephant lovers, with 30,000 of them roaming the park, the likelihood is pretty high that you’ll come across one. And for lion-lovers, our proximity to the southeastern side of Kruger means you have a good chance of spotting one of the many prides of these golden beasts and hearing their roars and growls.
There are several ways to experience the game reserves and you don’t have to stick to a game vehicle. You can add a little trot to your Marloth Park experience on a horseback safari, or travel one of the bicycle and walking routes.
Bird lovers will be excited to read that Kruger has more than 500 species of birds annually and that there is a Big Six of the bird world. These endemic species are the martial eagle, Pel’s fishing owl, lappet-faced vulture, saddle-billed stork, Kori bustard, and ground hornbill. Our guide will be keeping a keen eye out for these birds on your game drives.
And let’s not forget about the Little Five, especially loved by children. These are the leopard tortoise, rhino beetle, the buffalo weaver, the elephant shrew, and ant lion. They may be small, but they play a huge role in preserving the ecosystem in the park.
Kruger National Park is truly a year-round destination, and the best time to visit all depends on you. What weather you prefer, what animals you want to see, and what kind of experience you want. We talked a bit about the weather above and each season brings awe-inspiring sightings.
We do love winter (May – September) as this dry season forces a lot of the animals to gather around the only permanent sources of rehydration; the watering holes. It means you can make a beeline for these during a game drive for almost guaranteed sightings. Also, the thinner plant life around the park means that the wildlife is easier to spot and photograph, and the chance of seeing a predation is higher. The season also sees migrating herds of elephants and hundreds of birds. However, it is cold. And especially in open vehicles, in which you can get very chilly indeed. If you pack for the occasion, the cool weather won’t spoil your experience.
Definitely don’t write off the other months though. October through to April may be the wet season, but it is also the best chance you’ll get for spotting newborn animals. And not to seem savage, but the babies tend to draw out the predators, which are always a spectacular sight. For photographers, the thick, luscious vegetation and tip-top condition of the well-fed wildlife make great subjects. Of course, you can expect the weather to get very hot, so cool clothing and lots of water are essentials
So, the month that is best for a Kruger safari is very much up to you and what you want out of it.