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Kruger rest camp accommodation is in no way considered luxurious, even though many different types of units are available in the various camps.
The rest camps range from main to smaller bush camps (refer to our article “Is it worth visiting Kruger National Park?”).
There are twelve main camps, four satellite camps, five bush camps, two overnight hides, three exclusive and private bush lodges and one secluded non-electrified camping site.
The basic accommodation types include camping (at dedicated campsites in camp), huts, safari tents, bungalows, cottages, family cottages, guest cottages, and guest houses.
The main differences between the various types of units are primarily due to the following:
(i) kitchen facilities (communal kitchen outside the unit, kitchenette, or fully equipped kitchen),
(ii) living room spaces, and
(iii) views (perimeter or river views – PRIME option),
(iv) multiple bedrooms, and
(v) the type of patio (enclosed or open).
The Sanparks booking website provides photos of each unit and describes the included amenities.
PRO TIP: If you can, always try to book a unit with a view. This costs a bit more but is worth it. Many animals come to the fence (particularly nocturnal animals).
Campsites cost R410 (25€) per night (for 2 to 6 people) with power points and are mostly small, without any grass. This means you camp on the sand in nature. The communal ablutions are (mostly) clean, basic and easy to access.
The sites are booked on a first-come-first-serve basis which doesn’t allow you to book a particular site (the sites are not allocated or marketed).
Most of the camps have great sites directly next to the camp’s fence (making for incredible evening game viewing from your tent’s patio as nocturnal animals visit).
This is the prime position for spotting Hyenas after dark as they parade the fence in search of meat morsels. Although check-in time is noon, some camps often allow campers to start putting up the tent a bit earlier. Vacation time is 9:00, but these rules are not strictly enforced during the off-season.
All camps sites have electricity with the exception of Tsendze camp.
Tsendze camp is a small satellite camp near Mopani rest camp. It has a few awesome demarcated camping sites. Tsendze is SUPER if you’re a TRUE nature lover and enjoy being isolated in the bush. This camp has no facilities or electricity. The ablutions also have no electricity. You have to come prepared! We enjoyed this experience, but its not for everyone.
This is an exciting and fun way to experience nature in Africa. The safari tents are basic, have no air-conditioners and thus get extremely hot during summer.
Nevertheless, some tents have great river or fence views that compensate for the discomfort of the heat.
These tents have communal ablution and kitchen facilities.
A safari tent with four single beds, communal ablutions and kitchen, fan and fridge cost around R820 per night for 2 to 4 people (this one was priced at Letaba rest camp).
These units mostly come with an en-suite bathroom (only showers), single beds, an air conditioner, fridge, essential kitchen equipment and utensils such as a hotplate, sink, cutlery and plates. Some units are enclosed with mozzie wire patios (excellent for keeping monkeys and baboons out), while others are open. A Bungalow 2 single bed (BD2) starts from R1685 (102€) per night at Skukuza.
The only difference to the standard bungalow is the addition of a satellite TV, maybe a bit fancier bedding, and a small seating area inside the bungalow. Some semi-luxury bungalows have a microwave and a larger enclosed patio.
These bungalows are considered the most luxurious units in the camp. The reason for this is the satellite TV, a bit fancier bedding (a proper double bed, not two, just single beds pushed together), a lovely veranda with river views, a well-appointed (for the bush) outside kitchen with fair size fridge and built-in braai. The views make it worth paying a bit more for this unit.
This is our favourite type of accommodation in the park. Even though these units have more than one room, we prefer them because they have the best kitchen facilities (for those who enjoy self-catering) and a great inside lounge area.
Most units have fantastic large verandas ideal for game viewing if they’re on the fence. The cost for a guest cottage at Skukuza (GC4V) with a river view is R3149 (190€) per night. There are only a few in the park, but we can assure you it’s worth postponing your trip until you can get a booking at one of these units.
PRO TIP: When you look at a unit description the (GC4V) indicates that it has either a river or fence view.
The private luxury lodges are, as the name suggests, extremely luxurious and come with a hefty price tag. The benefit of staying at a private game lodge is that everything is fully inclusive. It includes your accommodation, two game drives per day (on an open 4X4 safari vehicle with qualified rangers and trackers), bush walks and meals.
The game rangers have trained knowledge and experience of the bush to ensure you get to the best sightings on time. The rangers in an area are regularly in contact with each other to share information on sightings and give guests an unforgettable experience.
The following luxury private lodges are located within the parameters of the Kruger National Park.
Imbali Safari Lodge, Hamiltons Tented Camp, Hoyo Hoyo Safari Lodge, Jock Safari Lodge, Lukimbi Safari Lodge, Rhino Walking Safaris, Shishangeni Private Lodge, Camp Shawu, Camp Shonga, Singita Sweni, Lion Sands Kruger, and Pafuri Camp.
This article will only focus on the main lodges and bush lodges within the Kruger National Park. For more info about the private lodges, click here
We haven’t stayed at any of the luxury lodges in the park. Therefore, we cannot give you our honest opinion about any of the lodges.
First, we need to explain that even though the camps are inside the park, they are fenced in and have a central access gate. This means that wildlife cannot enter the camps’ gates, although small antelope sometimes roam free inside the camps.
Skukuza is the largest and busiest camp. However, it remains our favourite because it is located right next to the Sabie River.
It makes for spectacular (sunset and sunrise) views when wildlife comes to the river to drink or elephants play in the water at dusk. You are almost guaranteed to spot large breeding herds of elephants on the Skukuza – Lower Sabie scenic route (the H4-1, a top-rated tar road), including wild dog and hyena sightings.
There are large trees along the riverbanks attracting many elephants and other wildlife. Baboons and monkeys also enjoy playing on this road in the early morning and late afternoon to much of the delight of passing tourists.
The area is filled with an abundance of grazers like impala, zebra, wildebeest, kudu and several resident predators such as lion and leopard. We regularly encounter leopard sightings in this area.
Mathekenyane’s lookout point on the H1-1 road provides panoramic views of the park as far as the eye can see. It is about 10km from Skukuza camp. Here you may alight from your vehicle and enjoy sundowners on the rock. It is also the best place to take that once-in-a-lifetime photo with your loved one. Our signature Instagram and profile photos were taken on this unique rock. You can enjoy the sunset and stay here until almost 15 minutes before camp closes in Skukuza.
The best early morning game drive is on the H1-2 from Skukuza to Tshokwane. This is about a 45km route to the Tshokwane picnic spot. Tshokwane is famous for its large sausage tree, surrounded by a thatched roof with a seating area.
Depending on how much you see and how often you stop, this is the perfect route to take if you want to be in time to prepare your bush breakfast on a gas braai while admiring the wildlife up close. Beneath the large, thatched roof, you can enjoy many traditional dishes (braai ‘wors’, ‘pap en sous’, steak, chops) or more classical ones prepared by the local chefs.
As you leave the picnic spot, turn onto the H10 and then take another turn onto the S32 to the Orpen dam.
This dam often has incredible elephant sightings.
Lower Sabie is the park’s most popular camp, which means you must book months in advance to get good accommodation.
We love their riverfront units and newly renovated safari tents (by far the best in the park). If you are lucky enough to get accommodation here, you will be in African heaven! They have a lovely restaurant overlooking the Sabie River (we have posted many photos of this lovely spot on our Instagram page). You can enjoy excellent game-viewing opportunities while enjoying a delicious African meal.
Sunset dam is 500 meters from the camp’s gate on the H4-1. It is the biggest attraction of this camp. The dam attracts an abundance of crocodiles, hippos, and other wildlife, particularly during sunrise and sunset. At this spot, we have witnessed the biggest herd of buffalo crossing the road during sunset. The best part about staying at Lower Sabie is enjoying sundowners at this spot until literally five minutes before camp closing time.
Although, if you have more time and want to enjoy your sundowner in a quiet and secluded spot, it is worth the effort to drive to Nthandanyathi hide, which is about 16km from the camp. Take the H4-2 from the base, then turn onto the S28 road towards the hide.
Another favourite picnic spot of ours is Nkuhlu, located on the H4-1 road between Skukuza and Lower Sabie. This picnic spot has recently been revamped and now includes a takeaway section and a convenience store with an intimate restaurant. This lovely spot offers a magnificent view over the Sabie River (head over to our Instagram @travelbuddies_lifestyle page to view some photos of this incredible spot). It is our favourite spot to prepare a delicious breakfast (using a rented gas braai) while overlooking the vast landscape.
Moving up to the park’s central region, we recommend staying at Olifants camp on the Olifants river. This camp is set high on a hill. The camp is known for its large elephant herds and unique bird life.
This area has many great game-viewing roads, but our favourite is the H1-4 from Satara to Olifants. It might feel like the game is becoming less dense as you move towards the north, and the landscape is becoming more “open and flat”. This area is often referred to as ‘the plains’.
Satara is well known for its predators, and this landscape makes them easier to spot. You are likely to see many lions in this area.
Another popular route when leaving the camp is the H8 rerouting onto the S44 to Olifant’s lookout point, which has spectacular river views. This route then joins the S93 and S46 until you reach the Matambeni bird hide (absolutely worth leaving your car for).
Timbavati picnic spot is a small and remote picnic spot on the S40 parallel to Satara/Olifants roads (H1-4). Here you will truly feel like you’re alone in the African bushveld. There are no major facilities like at the main picnic spots beside toilets, a few tables and chairs and some gas braai equipment for rent. The route leading to the picnic spot is a scenic gravel road. In season you must arrive early to ensure you get a good spot over the landscape.
We recommend a trip between 4 and 5 days, if you intend only to visit the south and some central parts,
This timeline allows you to explore at least two camps in the south and at least one in the central part while enjoying a few early morning game drives and some sleep-ins.
The bush can get boring if you stay too long, particularly if you experience days without seeing a lot of animals.
Here is a list of our favourite hides in Kruger and how to get there:
Here is a list of our favourite picnic spots and how to get there:
Not at all! However, many baboons and monkeys in the camps can cause havoc around your camping site or bungalow if you’re not cautious.
Don’t leave your belongings unattended at camp or a picnic spot. These animals are also curious and will approach you if you have some food or something interesting in your hand. Also, never leave small children unattended.
Because some visitors don’t follow the rules and resort to feeding the baboons and monkeys, they sometimes get aggressive and may even harm you if you’re not careful.
You need to be extra vigilant and cautious at the picnic spots! The monkeys are cheeky and watch your every move to try and grab food from you at these spots.
If you have any questions about the various rest camps, type of accommodation or anything related, please leave a comment in the section below.
We will gladly answer your questions.
Until next time
Your Travel buddies Bernie and Petra
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