Luxury Kruger Safari(Full Itinerary)
On this 8 day safari your personal guide will join you in the Kruger park and the luxurious Sabi Sands Game Reserve.
This is definitely luxury with a capital “L”, with the Big Five in good numbers as one of the highlights.
Next departure date: Booked on request
ITINERARY – Luxury Kruger Safari
Start of safari at Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport; drive to Kruger National Park (Skukuza)
Welcome to the “rainbow nation” of South Africa! Your fantastic Kruger safari will start today near the park itself.
Your Nature Travel guide will meet you at the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport near White River, a small town on the southwestern corner of the park close to the Lowveld city of Nelspruit. We will pack all our bags into our comfortable, air-conditioned vehicle and then head straight into the Kruger National Park, about an hour away. This will give us time to get to know each other and share some stories of our previous travels around South Africa and the rest of the world. We will probably enter the park at the Phabeni or Kruger gate and make our way to our home for the next two nights, Skukuza rest camp.
*Please note: We suggest you arrive at the Kruger Mpumalanga Airport as early in the morning as you can, as this will lengthen the time we can spend on our first day in the park. You could also fly straight into Kruger and land at the Skukuza Airport (dubbed “the prettiest airport in the world” by Forbes Magazine’s travel section in 2018) from where we will then pick you up. You could also opt for the drive-in option, where we will pick you up in Johannesburg and drive to the Kruger National Park. If you would like us to help with your travel arrangements, let us know and we will gladly assist.
“Kruger”, as the locals call it, covers a vast area of 19,485 km2 (7,523 sq miles) and extends 360 kilometres (220 mi) from north to south and 65 kilometres (40 mi) from east to west. It is the tenth-largest game reserve on earth. Areas of the park were first protected by the government of South Africa in 1898, and it became South Africa’s first national park in 1926. It is now part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, a peace park that links Kruger National Park with the Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe and the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique.
The park welcomes more than 1.5 million visitors every year yet never feels crowded. All the famous Big Five game animals (Buffalo, Elephant, 2 species of rhino, Lion and Leopard) are found in Kruger, which has more species of large mammals than any other African game reserve (at 147 species). Over 520 species of birds have also been seen in the park, along with vast numbers of reptiles, insects and other fauna and flora. We should tick about 30 to 40 mammal species and over 250 bird species during this trip!
Skukuza, where we are heading, is the park’s administrative headquarters, its largest camp and sometimes feels like a (very) small town compared to the other camps in Kruger. It is situated on the southern bank of the Sabie River. This is a perennial river and one of the largest and most biologically diverse in the park. The habitat here comprises riparian zones, with large trees lining the river banks, and Sabie River thickets away from the river courses. The permanent water source here attracts large numbers of Impala, one of the main prey items of Leopard, and we will be on the lookout for these and other predators such as Lion, African Wild Dog and Spotted Hyaena.
African Elephant and African Buffalo are also common in the area, usually heading down to the river as the day heats up. The area is, however, not really suited to large numbers of grazing animals and small herds of browsers such as Greater Kudu and Bushbuck are more common here.
We will arrive in time for lunch at the beautiful restaurant overlooking the Sabie river and then check into our comfortable bungalows. We will have some time to relax before we head out again in the afternoon for another game drive.
During our first two full days in Kruger we will traverse the southern section of the park, bordered by the Crocodile River in the south, the Sabie River in the north, and the Lebombo mountains in the east, along the border with Mozambique. The western border is a fence with the Republic of South Africa. We will chat over lunch and decide on our plan of action for the time we have in Kruger, making sure that all our target species for the safari are seen.
This afternoon we might visit the famous Lake Panic hide near Skukuza’s nursery; a great spot from which to see aquatic bird species and animals drinking from close up. This is normally a good spot from which to see your first Nile Crocodile and Hippopotamus on safari in Kruger, although even Leopard and Lion have turned up here in the recent past! Make sure your camera batteries are charged – this is a great place for some excellent shots.
We will return to camp to freshen up and then we will enjoy dinner in the restaurant again. The chefs are rightly proud of their fare and you will get a taste of some of South Africa’s very good traditional dishes along with some more “continental” options.
After dinner we will head to our bungalows for a good night’s sleep in the African bush. Remember to look up as you walk back to your room, the stars out here in the bush are truly spectacular.
Kruger National Park (Skukuza)
Today we have a full day to explore the far southern section of the park. We will head out of camp as soon as the gates open and go on our first game drive of the day. We will enjoy coffee and rusks (a traditional South African dunking biscuit) in our vehicle during our drive and return to camp after 2 to 3 hours for a late breakfast.
Today we could venture down to Lower Sabie Camp (with its tranquil Sunset dam nearby), or we could also head west on the Doispane road towards Pretoriuskop Camp. There are many roads to follow and many species of fauna and flora to see, so we guarantee you won’t be bored!
We will not only look for the Big Five and other big game, but also enjoy our fantastic cast of feathered friends here in Kruger. The riverine vegetation in the Skukuza area plays host to huge numbers of bird species, and some uncommon and special ones like Crowned Eagle, African Finfoot and Pel’s Fishing Owl have been seen here.
Other birds we will look for in this area of the park include Terrestrial Brownbul, Bearded Scrub Robin, Green-backed Camaroptera, Kurrichane Thrush, Grey Tit-flycatcher, Black-headed Oriole, Brubru, Retz’s Helmetshrike, Marico, Collared and White-bellied Sunbird, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Southern Black Tit, Pied and Giant Kingfisher, Red-billed and African Firefinch, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Cardinal and Bearded Woodpecker, Coqui Francolin, Brown-crowned and Black-crowned Tchagra, Burnt-necked and Yellow-bellied Eremomela and many others.
We will have some downtime in Skukuza in the warm hours of the day, and it is usually a good idea to walk around the campgrounds in search of interesting fauna and flora. Skukuza is well foliaged and there are some lofty trees along the river’s edge. Birds like Crowned Hornbill, Grey-headed Bushshrike and African Green Pigeon are regularly seen in the camp, along with Bushbuck and various squirrel species.
The camp also houses the Stevenson-Hamilton Memorial Library And Museum (James Stevenson-Hamilton was the first warden of Kruger National Park) which has some fascinating artefacts on display. You’ll get to know some things about Kruger Park that you’d never imagined! There are also very engaging stories to read, like the miraculous tale of Harry Wolhuter, one of Kruger’s very first game rangers, complete with real-life props showing his escape from a lion attack while patrolling on horseback.
We will go out on another game drive in the afternoon, choosing a route that will not only give us a good chance to spot some members of the Big Five, but also some good opportunities for great sunset photos.
We will again have dinner at the restaurant upon our return to camp and chat about our great time in Kruger so far. Keep an eye out when you walk back to your room tonight, as the camp is a great place to spot the dove-sized Wahlberg’s Epauletted Fruit Bat and the very cute South African Thick-tailed Galago.
Tonight might be a good opportunity to partake in probably one of the best optional activities one can do here in the park, namely a night drive with one of Kruger’s knowledgeable rangers. On this drive you may encounter some of the rarer nocturnal mammals such as African Civet, genets, Side-striped Jackal, the beautiful Serval, White-tailed Mongoose and even African Wildcat, along with several species of owl and nightjar. These include Spotted and Verreaux’s Eagle-owl, African Scops Owl, Southern White-faced Owl, and Square-tailed and Fiery-necked Nightjar. Please inform us well in advance of the trip if you plan to do a night drive, as this is a very popular activity that is normally filled up as soon as bookings open.
Kruger National Park (Skukuza to Satara)
We will start our day with a later breakfast today, and afterwards pack our bags and head out of Skukuza. We are aiming north, driving to Satara rest camp and our home for the next two nights.
We will explore some of the smaller dirt roads and thereby keeping off the main tar roads, for the best game viewing and birdwatching experience. Today will offer us a great opportunity to see some of the larger terrestrial birds as well as birds of prey that are difficult or near impossible to find reliably outside protected areas such as Kruger. These include Kori Bustard, Southern Ground Hornbill, Martial Eagle, Lappet-faced Vulture and Saddle-billed Stork. These five birds, along with the very rare Pel’s Fishing Owl, make up Kruger’s so called “Big Six” birds – let’s see how many of them we can spot on our trip! Other typical bushveld birds that we will encounter are Southern Yellow-billed and Southern Red-billed Hornbill, Secretarybird, Southern White-crowned Shrike, Red-billed and Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Brown-headed Parrot, Purple-crested Turaco, Crested and Swainson’s Francolin, White-crowned Lapwing, Grey-headed Bushshrike and African Mourning Dove, to name just a few.
We will have lunch at one of Kruger’s many picnic sites, or maybe at Satara’s restaurant if we arrive in time. Remember to try the venison pie sometime during the trip – truly excellent!
Satara, although fairly large, has a rustic charm, with the bulk of the accommodation set out in a series of circles. The nightly barbeque fires burning in front of the bungalows are a special sight. The ambience of the camp, Kruger’s third-biggest, recalls the mood of colonial Africa with red-roofed public buildings, thatched chalets and neatly raked paths. Satara, like most of Kruger’s camps, has been artificially well wooded, and it is always worth exploring on foot. A walk inside the fence perimeter might produce Honey Badger, African Scops Owl and Red-billed Buffalo Weaver.
We will enjoy another afternoon game drive this afternoon, exploring the area around Satara. From a birding perspective, we will look for species like Common Ostrich, Kori Bustard, Southern Ground Hornbill, Secretarybird, Sabota Lark, Chestnut-backed Sparrow-lark, Lesser Grey Shrike, Montagu’s and Pallid Harrier, Red-billed Quelea, Burchell’s Starling, Bennett’s Woodpecker and many more.
Satara is rightly known as “cat camp”. No fewer than 50 Lion prides occupy home ranges in this area, with an average pride size of 12 Lions. Lions are inevitably followed by scavengers, and this area also contains large numbers of Spotted Hyaena, Black-backed Jackal and vultures. It is also one of the best areas in the entire Kruger to see Cheetah. We will try our best to tick all of these species and many more on our drive.
After returning to camp and freshening up we will get together for dinner on the big verandah of the camp’s restaurant and chat about our sightings so far. If there is time we might make a social fire at one of our bungalows. Nothing beats sitting around the fire with a drink in hand in the African bush, with only the night sounds and millions of stars for company. A truly magical experience!
Kruger National Park (Satara)
We will enjoy a full day in the classic savannah habitat around Satara. We will go out early in the morning armed with coffee and rusks and then return to camp for brunch. We will go out in the early afternoon again for a longer game drive in the afternoon.
Talk half an hour to walk around in the camp during our downtime today. It is one of our favourites here at the Nature Travel group. The camp has a beautiful reception, shop and restaurant area, as well as a large swimming pool and a petrol station. Accommodation at Satara caters to a variety of guest requirements. Choose anything from luxury (10 guest cottages and 3 guest houses), self-catering (150 chalets/bungalows), and caravanning or camping (100 campsites) accommodation for your stay in the wilderness. Satara is also the only main camp in Kruger with a live, 24 hour webcam at the watering trough just outside the camp fence.
Today we will certainly drive along one of the most famous roads in the entire park, the S100, that runs east-west from Satara towards the Lebombo mountains and Mozambique. It is surrounded by flat, grassy plains for the most part. The open savannah habitat makes for great photographic opportunities, and the region around the S100 is especially famous for photos of classic African sunsets. The usually dry river alongside the road sometimes forms shallow pools after good rainy periods, and these pools are excellent for spotting all sorts of interesting smaller animals, amphibians and reptiles.
Large herds of Common Wildebeest and Plains Zebra frequent these plains, while Giraffe, African Elephant, African Buffalo and Common Warthog are also seen regularly. The riverine thickets hold Waterbuck, Greater Kudu and the rare Sable Antelope. All these antelopes and ungulates lead to many predators being present, and the road is particularly good for Leopard and Cheetah sightings. However, it is regarded as one of the best stretches of road in the entire park for Lion spotting! The S100 is the home of two different lion coalitions, the N’wanetsi and the Shishangaan males. The rare white Lions of the Timbavati are also sometimes seen here.
At the far eastern side of the 20 km long S100 is the lovely N’Wanetsi picnic spot, a great place for making breakfast or just stretching the legs, and also for looking far into Mozambique from the viewpoint. Just a few kilometres further south is the Sweni bird hide that overlooks the N’wanetsi dam; a must-visit spot for birders!
We will once again return to Satara for dinner on the verandah and a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow the second part of our Kruger safari starts; we are going to feel like royalty!
Satara to Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve
After a last morning drive and breakfast we will wish Kruger well and exit via the Orpen Gate and enter the adjacent Sabi Sand Game Reserve, a 65,000 hectare private conservancy that is open with Kruger National Park, allowing game to move freely between the two. With breath-taking scenery and luxury lodges, expect high quality service, excellent cuisine and world class facilities during your Sabi Sands safari.
We will arrive at our chosen lodge in time for lunch and have time to relax before our first afternoon safari, led by an experienced local field guide(ranger) and tracker. This is where the Nature Travel Guide will leave you, as you are now in the capable hands of the brilliant Sabi Sands personnel. Most of them were born in the area and know every detail of the Lowveld bush intimately. Prepared to be entertained and amazed by their skills and knowledge!
You will enjoy an afternoon game drive in the reserve, focusing on close-up encounters with Africa’s Big Five, but not neglecting the smaller creatures or birds. There will also be a sundowner stop with snacks and drinks, where you can stare out over the African bush and just totally relax…
After the drive you will go back to the lodge and freshen up. This will be followed by dinner, where you will be amazed at the quality, presentation and service out here in the bush. The wine list is also something to behold. A true Michelin-star quality experience!
Day 6 & 7:
Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve
The next two days will follow the same pattern, with early morning and afternoon game drives. You will return to the lodge for a late breakfast and also have snacks and high tea before the afternoon game drive. Dinner will be in the lodge’s restaurant or, weather permitting, in the outside boma with crackling fires for company.
The Sabi Sand Game Reserve offers what is widely considered the best cat viewing in Africa, with regular close-up encounters with both Lion and Leopard to be anticipated. Cheetah and African Wild Dog are also found in the reserve, though they are usually fairly nomadic within their large home ranges which takes them out of the reserve and into the neighbouring Kruger National Park and Manyaleti Game Reserves, so the chances of seeing these two predators depends on them being in the area at the time of our visit.
Sabi Sands is rightly considered as the best place in the world to see the Big Five, and your three night stay basically guarantees that you will see them all; some of them more than once. Seeing these majestic creatures in their natural environment from your open game drive vehicle will create memories that will stay with you forever.
Over and above the wonderful animals we are likely to see here, a true highlight will be observing the Shangaan tracker practising his craft as we track the big cats. You have three nights in the reserve, which will give you ample time out in the field studying, photographing and just generally enjoying our fauna and flora subjects. Some lodges also offer a camp walk, or even a short bush walk while out on your game drive.
Sabi Sands to Airport and Departure
Unfortunately this is your final morning on an incredible South African safari. At least there is one more game drive today, followed by a scrumptious breakfast.
You will then be transferred to the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (or Skukuza Airport) for your onward journey.
*Please note: Extensions to the game reserves of Kwazulu-Natal, or any other attraction in Southern Africa can easily be arranged. Please contact us for more information.
We can also accommodate various special interest you might have on your safari. For instance, if you have a specific interest in photography, birdwatching, or maybe even want to focus on trees or insects, we can make this happen for you. We can even have our guide focus on specific species, like African Wild Dog, for the duration of your safari!