I make $13 an hour ... if I can afford an African safari, so can you! Mind you, I'm the biggest penny pincher you'll ever meet, but I travel far & wide every year, you just gotta know that the most expensive way to do any vacation is one of those all-inclusive traps. You just need to suck it up, and plan it yourself, and any vacation will be way cheaper! So heres how I went on safari in Kruger NP on my budget ... always always wait for a seat sale. That is #1, as airfare is always the most expensive part of any vacation. I've seen travel agency billboards advertising 8 night safari pkgs for $5999, PLUS tax, NOT including airfare! Thats absurd! Did you know you can do self-drive safaris in Kruger NP for $15 per day, per person? I bet you didnt, cuz your travel agent sure as heck wont tell you, cuz they want your money! I traveled to Africa solo, so I didnt feel comfortable renting a car alone, but maybe you are braver than me, or maybe you have a travel partner. Self-drives are definitely the cheapest option, cuz then your game drives are $15, you can do any other sightseeing (such as Blyde RIver Canyon) in your own vehicle rather than going on a tour, and you dont have to pay to take buses/taxis. Everything is cheaper in Africa than in Canada ... car rentals, gas, food, hotels ... everything. Keep that in mind when planning. Like I said, I traveled solo so I didnt rent a car, but what I did do was the second cheapest option. Upon arriving in Jo'burg airport, instead flying to Kruger (which can be upwards of $800 one way), I took the bus to Nelspruit (closest city to Kruger NP) for $45 one way. When it comes to accommodation, you can stay in lodges/hotels/camps inside Kruger NP from $100-$1600 per night (not inc any game drives), OR you can stay in Nelspruit or Hazyview (I chose the latter as its only 12km from Kruger gate) for $40-$80. If you have a rental car, just drive to Kruger NP gate, obtain your $15 permit, and away you go. Its that simple. The park gates open at 6am, and close at 6pm. By staying in a hotel/lodge just outside of the park, its very easy to spend the whole day on safari in your own vehicle, and just drive back to your cheap hotel afterwards. But like I mentioned, I didnt do a self-drive cuz I was solo, so I did the next best thing ... I booked a 2 day / 1 night camping safari with Bubezi Safaris for $271. That inc my tent (photo below), a morning & afternoon game drive on day 1, and a morning game drive day 2, and breakfast (bring $ for other meals). Still waaaaaaaaaayy cheaper than the $5999 the travel agency was advertising thats for sure!
My one night was spent in this tent in Skukuza Camp inside Kruger NP. The camp is fenced so you dont have to worry about predators getting in. Skukuza Camp also has bungalows and hotel rooms for rent, but of course that just ups your price. In all honesty, you are in your room only to sleep, the rest of your time you are on your game drive/safari, so does it really matter if your in a tent or a fancy room?? The public washroom facilities were immaculate! Sparkling clean toilets, showers and even a bath tub! The tent itself had a door with lock, 2 single beds, electricity, fan, dresser & night stand. The camp itself is like a town. Theres plenty of options for eating from sit down restaurant, to take away, to groceries. Theres bathrooms, and a gas station too.
Here is my open-air safari vehicle. When you chose a safari operator, be sure to ask what type of vehicle you'll be in. Anyone dreaming of an African safari I'm sure imagines themselves in one of these, but believe it or not, I saw tourists on city buses with tinted windows that didnt open! For real! What kind of safari experience is that???!!! You have to take photos through tinted windows! And you cant even get close to the wildlife cuz your in a big giant bus!!
Alright, enough talking, onto the wildlife photos!
If you choose the self-drove option, drive slow. Very slow. You'll be surprised at how many times animals will be right on the road! Give them space, and stay in your vehicle. If you have to pee, find a restcamp ... they are everywhere.
Rhino vs car
See all the ppl in regular cars ... they're doing self-drive safaris Just give Mr Rhino plenty of space to cross the road and you'll be fine.
A little frog we found sleeping in our safari vehicle!
My favorite animal ... zebras!
Hyenas on the road!
Herd of female waterbuck at a watering hole
Elephant crossing the road! See, I told you animals are always on the road!
Impala with an Ox Pecker ... those birds like to eat ticks off of other animals.
A hornbill in a Thorn Acacia
We almost drove over this itty bitty Leopard Tortoise crossing the road!
Handsome hyena. So many ppl hate hyenas. I love them! Orange mohawks & polka dots ... whats not to love?
This is the one and only leopard I saw. Unfortunately it was far away, and I had to zoom in through many, many branches. But it was chillin' up in a tree, just like I was hoping to see one.
Baboons on the road
We parked by a watering hole, there were no animals drinking, and I couldnt figure out why we were sitting staring at the water ... and then this guy popped up
A very colorful Lilac Breasted Roller! One of the prettiest birds around
Another hyena on the road
3ft long Monitor Lizard
Later on we were driving down a road and spotted 7 hyenas!
As we got closer there was an incredibly putrid smell! The closer we got, the nastier it smelt. All of a sudden a hyena snatched up a rotten buffalo leg and ran off with it! Yuck, no wonder it was so stinky!
More of my favorite animal
Teeny tiny moth
Ox Peckers on a rhino's back
I wanted to see Wild Dogs, but didnt actually think it would happen, as they are incredibly rare ... only 350 left in Kruger NP. But all of a sudden there were 6 of them hunting right on the road!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Check out the one wild dog balancing on one leg, lol! I caught him in mid-run)
One decided the best place to take a shit would be right on the road a few feet from our Landy, LOL!
Hippo & a Black Crake
Black Crake checking out its reflection in a pond at a bird hide.
Colorful water lilies
A group of rhinos is called a 'crash' of rhinos
Mama & baby rhino
The one and only lion I saw in Kruger NP was unfortunately far away
A pregnant zebra and her baby!!
Awe, baby stripes
Adorable waterbuck with his heart shaped nose and 'target' bum.
Well thats it for my fabulous safari! Whether you travel cheap, or do it expensively, you will see the same wonderful wildlife
One last shot leaving Kruger National Park
I then headed back to Nelspruit and took the CityBug bus back to Johannesburg where I spent the night before catching my flight onward to Namibia! I stayed at the Airport Game Lodge for only $42, and that inc pickup from the bus stop & drop off at the airport the next day, free breakfast, and they even had a few acres of land with some animals, for one last dose of 'safari'. When choosing a hotel I always go for ones that inc free airport shuttle, wifi, breakfast, etc, so that I dont have to pay extra for those things in addition to the cost of a room. Heres some photos of the wildlife at the lodge.
I think this is a blesbok, but I'm not 100% sure on that, as I've never seen one before!
Thats it for the eastern part of South Africa. I also visited the Cape Peninsula by Cape Town, but first I head into Namibia ... that'll be the next blog post