HOW TO PLAN A BUDGET KRUGER SAFARI

Kruger Safari Scenery on a Budget

Kruger Zebra Watering Hole

To experience animals in their natural habitat, not confined by cages or domesticated via human interaction is something that everyone should try to achieve in their lifetime. Safari appears on many people’s “bucket lists” but is largely unattainable due to the (expected) sky high costs.

While planning our recent trip to South Africa, we almost never made it to Kruger National Park given that is is on the opposite side of the country to the rest of our plans (Cape Town and the Garden Route). In the end, we decided that it would be silly to fly that far (UK to South Africa) and not tick off a bucket list experience.

RELATED: You can view the rest of my African bucket list here

Re-jigging our itinerary to include Kruger was an overwhelming experience, there are so many options, so many choices and so many people giving their opinion on the “right” or “wrong” way to experience this magical land. It goes without saying that the prices of some options were also terrifying – so the aim of this post is to de-bunk the myths of Kruger safaris and help you plan a trip within YOUR budget.

The bird in the photo below is basically me whispering into your ear, spreading the secrets of “cheap” safaris…

Kruger Bird Antelope Whisper

Kruger Kudu Camouflaged

COSTING

We flew into Johannesburg O.T International Airport and began our trip to Kruger from here. This is what many people that we met along the way were also doing, so for the purposes of this guide, I  have assumed that you will be doing the same (but of course, Kruger is accessible from other South African cities and even other neighbouring countries!)

We spent 4 days in the Johannesburg/Kruger area, with the first and last days being mainly driving days and the middle two days being filled with game drives. Obviously, the time that you spend in Kruger will increase/decrease the price as appropriate!

Costs are shown in South African Rand (ZAR) and where we actually incurred these costs, I have shown the GBP figure incurred on our credit card statements (September/October 2017), otherwise the prices have been converted using the approximate exchange rate of October 2017 (0.056).

Kruger Giraffe

Kruger Elephant Baby Crossing Road

HOW TO GET THERE

£ Drive from Johannesburg O.T Airport

Without a doubt, the cheapest way of getting to Kruger National Park (KNP) is to drive from Johannesburg O.T Airport. Car hire is cheap in South Africa and we weren’t charged any surcharge for being below the age of 25 (which is always good)!

Road conditions from the airport to Kruger are fantastic and there are plenty of places to top up your petrol or grab a bite to eat (although we did find that these places were closer to Kruger than the airport, so on the return journey, make sure you re-fuel early!

The journey is easy as the entire journey is a straight line but it is long. Kruger is larger than many European countries and therefore the length of the journey will depend on where you are staying within the park. We were driving to Crocodile Gate which took around 4 and a half hours. Make sure you have plenty of snacks, a good playlist and maybe a few podcasts to keep you going!

Our total car hire costs were R1,140.99 (approximately £73). We rented a brand new Ford Fiesta from Bidvest Car Rentals (booked through Drive South Africa) and this price included hiring a GPS, registering a second driver (even though I ended up doing none of the driving!) and the usual car hire costs such as topping up petrol when you return. We also spent R491.50 on filling up with petrol (approximately £27).

Our total costs = R1,632.49 (approximately £100 per car = £50 per person).

££ Baz Bus 

Baz Bus is a South African backpacker’s dream! If you aren’t comfortable driving from Johannesburg to Kruger by yourself (I certainly wouldn’t be if I wasn’t travelling with Callum as I HATE driving), the Baz Bus 4 Day Kruger Park Safari Tour is certainly a good alternative!

The price for this option can’t be directly compared to the other journey options given the fact that the Baz Bus tour also includes open vehicle game drives, meals as specified in the detailed itinerary and accommodation in permanent erected 2-person dome tents for the duration of the trip.

Advantages of this option obviously include having everything planned for you and meeting lots of new people, however if you enjoy the freedom of exploring at your own pace and making your own decisions, maybe this isn’t the right choice for you.

Total cost = R8,000 (approximately £445 per person).

£££ Fly to Kruger National Park

If the 4.5+ hour drive to Kruger is too much for you to handle, there are regular flights leaving Johannesburg to three Kruger-serving airports. Depending on the area of Kruger that you are visiting, the airports you need are as follows:

  • Northern Kruger Park: Phalaborwa Airpor
  • Central Kruger Park: Hoedspruit Eastgate Airport
  • Southern Kruger Park: Nelspruit Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport

We had the option of flying from Johannesburg to Nelspruit but at approximately R2700/£150 – R3600/£200 per person for a return flight (50 minutes each way), it didn’t seem worth it to us. Especially as we would have had to wait in Johannesburg for a few hours between flights meaning the flying/waiting time would have been equal to the driving time!

Once you arrive at your chosen airport, you will need to hire a car to take you to the park (Nelspruit is approximately a 1.5 hour drive to Crocodile Bridge Gate). The costs of which would have been largely the same as in option 1 (with less petrol usage – therefore estimated R1,140.99 per car (approximately £73 per car or £36 per person).

Alternatively, our accommodation offered a transfer for R400 per person from the airport (approximately £23)

Total costs would therefore be R3,100-R4,170 per person (approximately £173-£236 per person).

Kruger Lion Sleeping Road

Crocodile Kruger Safari Lodge Affordable Accomodation

ACCOMMODATION

£ SAN Parks Lodging

South Africa National Parks (SAN Parks) have an incredible range of accommodation located in the heart of each of their national parks.

This is originally the accommodation that we tried to book but availability was seriously low (at the time, we didn’t know that we would be visiting the park on a South African public holiday). I would advise that if you want to take advantage of these cheap and cheerful lodgings, you book at least 6 months in advance.

There are 12 main rest camps in Kruger National Park and the two which were of interest to us (due to their location in proximity to Johannesburg) were Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp and Lower Sabie Rest Camp.

There are lots of different choices of accommodation within the rest camps including a patch of land to pitch your tent, “safari tents” which are permanent basic buildings, adorable little bungalows fully kitted out with kitchen facilities for two people and larger guest houses for bigger groups. Prices vary depending on the type of accommodation, the number of people staying in the property and the rest camp chosen.

We entered Lower Sabie Rest camp a few times to use their toilets/restaurant facilities and would have been more than happy to stay here!

Rates for Lower Sabie Rest Camp can be seen here and vary from R305-R2,320 per night for 2 people (approximately £16-£128 for two people or £8-£64 per person).

££ Off-Site Mid-Range Lodges

With the SAN Parks accommodation fully booked, we panicked thinking that there were no other affordable options. Various google searches showed results that would a) give me a heart attack and b) bankrupt me beyond belief.

Then I turned to my trusty Booking.com to see if there were ANY alternatives – it turns out there is! We settled for Crocodile Kruger Safari Lodge which is located in Marloth Park (a quick 10 minute drive South of Crocodile Bridge Gate to Kruger National Park).

Our booking included both breakfast and dinner every day (both of which were absolutely gorgeous) and we were very happy with our choice!

The lodge was absolutely stunning and really felt like a “safari lodge” but without the hefty price tag!

In September 2017, we paid R2240 per night for 2 people (approximately £124 per night for 2 people or £62 per person).

£££ Luxury Private Reserves

I am a member of many travel groups on Facebook and the number of people that think luxury private reserves are the ONLY option when booking a safari is unbelievable. With safari being a bucket-list luxury, prices can be hiked accordingly (and in many instances, extortionately).

My lovely fellow travel blogger Lucy recently had the opportunity to stay at a luxury private reserve called Klaserie Sands and boy did it look gorgeous! There are plenty of these private reserves available throughout safari destinations in Africa and a quick google will help you find the lodge of your dreams.

Prices at Klaserie Sands are currently R10,200 for two people per night (approximately £566 for two people or £283 for one person).

Kruger Safari Jeep Girl

Kruger Kudu

GAME DRIVES

£ Self Drive

The cheapest way to view the animals is to self-drive around the park. If you are on a strict budget, this is without a doubt the best way to view the animals. You don’t need a 4×4 to access the park but be warned that the roads do get quite bumpy!

The downside to self-driving is that you don’t have the knowledge and expertise of an experienced guide and being in a car (which is much lower than a safari jeep) means that the animals are often harder to spot as you may not be able to see over bushes/plant life. On the plus side, you can spend your time exactly as you wish.

Self-drive is as expensive as you decide to make it – Free! (Other than petrol)

££ Guided Drive

With only two full days to explore Kruger, we decided to splash out and join guided game drives (despite the fact that we had a car). Our accommodation (Crocodile Kruger Safari Lodge) arranged the game drives for us using their trusted guide (Solomon – you’re the best!) and they were AMAZING.

I would highly recommend doing a guided drive if it is within your budget. Safari guides are very talented at spotting wildlife (you don’t realise how well camouflaged animals truly are until you see them in their natural habitat) and know the best spots to see certain creatures.

Our accommodation charged us R670 for a full game drive plus conservation fees of R306 for each day. This price was applicable whether you did a full day (around 5am to 5pm) or a half day (times dependent on availability).

The total cost for a full days game drive would therefore be R976 per day per person (approximately £54).

Kruger Warthog Pumba

Kruger Baboon Sitting in Tree

SUMMARY OF OUR COSTS & VERDICT

ZAR GBP
  Total  Per Person Total  Per Person
Car Rental + petrol R1,632.49 R816.25 £100.00 £50.00
3 x nights accommodation & food R6,720.00 R3,360.00 £372.00 £186.00
2 x full day game drives R3,904.00 R1,952.00 £215.00 £107.50
R12,256.49 R6,128.25 £687.00 £343.50

£343.50 for a once in a life time’s experience – was it worth it? ABSO-FREAKING-LUTELY.

Of course, that price is still out of reach for many people, but remember, you could make it much cheaper! Pitch a tent in the SAN Parks accommodation to ensure you’re not wasting money on a hotel you won’t spend much time in and self-drive to save on guide fees.

We did debate doing the Baz Bus 4 Day Kruger Park Safari Tour and if I was travelling on my own, this definitely would have been my choice. However, when travelling as a couple, it was cheaper for us to drive ourselves, stay in a mid range lodge and pay for guides (£343.50) vs pay for a tour (£445). The tour does look truly great however and takes you to some other points of interest during the driving days such as Blyde River Canyon (which looks amazing).

I also feel that our accommodation was incredible and I’m glad that we didn’t pay another £100 for the Baz Bus tour to sacrifice our gorgeous lodge for camping.

Have you ever been on a safari? Was it as expensive as you thought?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own.
Danielle1

 

Safaris are crazy expensive right? Think again! We recently did a trip to Kruger on a budget and it was amazing! Here I outline all of your options, how much we spent and how you could make it cheaper!

 

CATEGORY: Africa, Animals, Budget Friendly, Budgeting, South Africa

Danielle - Escaping Essex

Comments (27)

Great tips! Thanks dear, and yes i am one of those with a safari on my bucket list! I can’t wait!

Thank you – I hope you get to tick it off your bucket list soon! 🙂

I had no idea a safari could be affordable! I don't know if I'd be able to not stay at a super luxurious property though 😉 Great post!

Haha – I thought the same but some of the cheaper lodges are just as gorgeous! Crocodile Kurger Safari Lodge (where we stayed) certainly was!

What a helpful and exstwnsive cost breakdown. And you’re right. I would love togo on safari but it is so exspensive from where I live. But this is super helpful a nd makes me think it could be possible. Thank you!!

I hope it does become possible for you in the near future! We were already planning a trip to South Africa but still didn't think it would be affordable for us – if you're in the area, it's definitely worth looking into 🙂

Oh my gosh this is SUCH a bucket list item for me. Thanks for showing that it can be affordable! Definitely saving this for later

Hope you get to cross it off your bucket list soon! 🙂

Really useful info! We were thinking of heading to South Africa next year, but already imagining that the game drives would be financially difficult to do. This looks great and thank you for the breakdown of costings, that was a real eye opener!

Oh wow, hope you have the BEST trip! We absolutely loved South Africa and our game drives were one of the many highlights. I hope you manage to fit a safari into your trip 🙂

Thanks for this helpful guide! A safari is high on my list but I've always thought it would be cost prohibitive, so thanks for clearing that up!!

That's what we thought too! Hope you get to do a safari soon 🙂

What an amazing, detailed post! This such a bucketlist experience, and my hubby keeps telling "one day I will buy those tele lenses and we will go on a safari to take pictures!". So some day I will, but your cost split out makes me think it might be rather sooner than later! 🙂 In my mind a day would have cost the same as the three you have described, so it is much more affordable than I thought!

Aw thank you for such a lovely comment! We bought a 70mm – 300m lens just before our trip and it was PERFECT! Long enough to get good shots of animals that were further away but still able to shoot those that were slightly closer without having to change lenses. The lens ended up being only slightly less pricey than the actual safari trip haha! I hope you get to visit soon! 🙂

Great breakdown of the costs. I went to Kruger last year and loved it! I can't imagine self-driving though, I would be frightened when the elephants approach the car. I don't think I would feel safe without the expertise of a guide. But that's just me. We saw many people doing it! 🙂

So glad you enjoyed your trip! I know what you mean, the animals that put me most on edge were baboons! Safety aside, we just loved having the expertise of our guide. Self-drive certainly is a popular option though, we saw SO many people doing it 🙂

Hey Danielle,

Wow! These photos are incredible! I'd love to go on a safari like this – one day!

Hey Amy – thank you so much! I hope you get to go on safari soon!

It’s so refreshing to read a post like this that focuses on an affordable trip to South Africa! I was there in June and, granted, we went all out staying in a luxury private reserve but only because we knew it was once in a lifetime. I’m so glad to know I can do it again for much less money your photos are awesome by the way!

Aw thank you! Wow, I'd love to hear all about your luxury experience – it's definitely an experience for the bucket list!

Sending this post to my bf’s parents haha. We are hopefully going to Africa in 2019. I seriously can’t wait 🙂

Oh wow, I hope you do visit and have the BEST time! I have lots more South Africa content coming soon, but let me know if you have any questions 🙂

Loved it. And beautifully captured photos

Thank you so much!

I can tell you had far too much fun writing this, Dandie. Spreadsheets AND Safaris!
You also look mega cutes in the Jeep picture

You are the CUTEST

I'm actually surprised how cheap you managed to make it, though to be fair, I've never actually looked into the cost of doing a safari hah! I just kind of expected it to be double that price – I'm shocked at how cheap the accomodation was!
xo April | April Everyday

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