Kruger Park Self Drive Safari

If you want to spend time together as a family in the wilderness of Africa a self-drive safari to the Kruger National Park may provide the ultimate African adventure and shared experience with your nearest and dearest.

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Kruger Park family self-drive excursion is all about getting together and sharing a special adventure. In this biggest national park in South Africa, guests can enjoy a variety of comfortable accommodation options in gorgeous African bushveld settings, as well as an abundance of wildlife sightings.

Guests find it a very popular option to embark on a self-drive private vacation and with accommodations spread over a number of rest camps, each featuring its own selection of rooms, you can tailormade the ideal safari.

Kruger National Park is possibly the best place in Africa for a self-drive tour, which is ideal for families because you can travel at your own pace in the comfort of your own car. A self-drive safari will also cut safari costs significantly.

Although keeping children entertained on long game drives can be difficult, the exciting aspect of a Kruger holiday is that you never know what you might see on a game drive, which provides an opportunity for exciting family fun such as “treasure hunts.”

Children and their parents can compete to spot elusive animals while learning more about what they see, such as bird and tree species, watering hole names, and points of interest. The game element will keep children entertained while also teaching them about the country’s natural heritage and history.

Getting to the Kruger National Park if you are self-driving

In perfect driving conditions, it should take about 5-6 hours to drive from Johannesburg to Kruger.  It is perfectly safe to drive from Johannesburg to Kruger although you should watch out for construction, toll booths, speed traps, and potholes that could seemingly swallow your car whole.  The larger freeways seem to be well maintained but the more rural roads require closer attention.

The most direct route to Kruger from Johannesburg is to drive along the N12 to the N4 which will take you through Mbombela (Nelspruit).  From there you can easily access the Malelane Gate or Crocodile Bridge but there are many different options for reaching the park.

While you can b-line it from Johannesburg to Kruger, if you have the time, you should consider taking a side trip through the incredibly picturesque Panorama Route where you may spend a full day touring around places like Sabie and Graskop with their beautiful waterfalls, as well as the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve.

Accommodation options for self-driving families in Kruger National Park

The majority of rest camps have lovely private family accommodations for self-driving guests and some also have kids’ clubs or other forms of childcare.

Depending on the type of trip you prefer, accommodations range from basic tented camps to family chalets and a luxury lodge or hotel with en suite bathrooms. While some prefer a self-catering, family-friendly stay with evenings around their own campfire, others prefer an all-inclusive vacation with catered boma dinners under the stars.

There are several classic accommodation types in the Greater Kruger National Park, including:

Camping – sites are available for caravans or tents. Some sites have defined boundaries and their own water taps, and at some camps, a perimeter site can now be reserved specifically.

Safari Tents – Several camps offer permanent canvas tent accommodations. Some have communal kitchens and restrooms, while others are fully equipped for greater luxury.

Bungalows- Most camps offer single bedroom units with a bathroom, some with their own kitchenettes equipped with basic kitchen equipment, and others with access to communal kitchens. Some bungalows have river or perimeter views, while others have been upgraded to luxury status.

Family Cottages – Camps provide multiple bedroom units with a living room, bathroom, and kitchen for families.

Guest cottages have fully equipped kitchens and multiple bedrooms with at least two bathrooms, one of which is usually en suite.

Guest Houses – These multi-bedroom and bathroom units, often with lounge areas and an exclusive view, provide the ultimate classic accommodation for families at an affordable price.

The roads in Kruger

It is generally agreed by most frequent visitors to the Kruger National Park that the southern to the central part of the park is the best area for wildlife viewing, while the northern part of the park is probably best for viewing birdlife.

Kruger can be enjoyed from behind the wheel of a small car as many of its roads are tarred.There are over 3 000km of public roads in Kruger and even those that are not tared, but sand or gravel, are usually suitable for small car driving.

It is only the higher clearance of a SUV or LDV that may be beneficial when self-driving on dirt roads, and the fact that it generally offers a better vantage point to see the animals in certain occasions.

Kruger is a national park and not a zoo, therefore there is no instant recipe to find wildlife. Especially in the dry months, waterholes and hides are great for viewing wildlife, as the animals and many birds will come looking for water. Check the sightings boards in the various camps, talk to other visitors, drive slowly and keep your eyes and ears wide open. Never speed, be very patient and watch out for any movements in the bush.

The Southern Region is the best for sightings, but it may get fairly busy, making it difficult to see wildlife when there are a lot of cars gathered together at one location. Cats thrive in the Central Region, while the plains areas are home to a variety of antelope species that, in turn, draw in a variety of predators. The Northern Region is a great place to go bird watching but has fewer opportunities for other types of observations.

Despite the fact that Kruger National Park is home to many apex predators, it is one of the safest places in South Africa. A tall, electrified fence separates the animals from the camping areas, and crime against tourists is low.

Animal cruelty, on the other hand, is a devastatingly common problem. If you notice any suspicious behaviour that appears to be poaching, immediately report it to the SAN Parks authorities.

A self-driving safari in Kruger National Park is a perfectly safe way to visit the amazing park so long as you follow the SAN Park Rules and some very basic precautions, such as:

  • Follow the speed limit – Traffic accidents can and do happen in Kruger, either between visitors or when a car collides with an animal. Speed limits on paved roads are 50kph and 40kph on gravel roads. You will probably want to drive slower than that so you can see the wildlife!
  • Do not get out of your car – There are clearly marked areas where you can get out of your car; otherwise, getting out of your vehicle is against the rules. Remember that these are dangerous animals, so keep your car doors closed and windows rolled up if they approach.
  • Keep a respectful distance from wildlife – The animals, by law, rule the road in Kruger, so give them plenty of room. Avoid getting too close to elephants because they may charge.

4×4 Trails

Throughout the park are a few designated 4×4 trails that allow self-driving families to get off the beaten track and explore areas of the park that are rarely seen.

The trails are self-guided and must be completed at one’s own risk. Participants should be aware that no facilities are available along the routes.

Tips for a self-drive family safari

Self-drive safari vacations are excellent choices for families with young children for the following reasons:

  • It can be one of the most educationally rewarding and enjoyable experiences.
  • Seeing African animals up close in their natural habitat on safari is a thrilling experience.
  • Watching an African sunset and sleeping to the sound of a lion roar is unlike any other family camping trip you have ever taken.
  • Your children will gain a better understanding of animal conservation when seeing these magnificent animals up close.
  • You can involve your children in educational experiences while travelling.
  • The best time to visit Kruger National Park is at the beginning or end of the region’s dry season, which falls between April and September.
  • The rainy season (from October to March) may bring subtropical rainstorms and game drives may be a bit uncomfortable.
  • Because the Kruger National Park is located in a malarial area, consult your doctor about malaria prophylaxis before travelling and remember to pack it.

Preparing and packing the right clothes and equipment for your Kruger safari is essential so keep the following in mind:

  • Remember that Kruger’s weather is typically warm to oppressively hot, but winter mornings and evenings can be quite cold.
  • Choose clothing items that can be easily mixed and matched in terms of colours, accessories, and functionality.
  • Choose clothing made of breathable, neutral fabrics that can adapt to changing temperatures.
  • A high SPF or sun protection factor of 30 to 50 will protect you and your children from sunburn or sunstroke.
  • A wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses will shield you from the sun’s glare in the middle of the day.
  • A small medical kit containing pain relievers, enough chronic medications for the trip, insect repellent, vitamins, lip balm, and a small bottle of moisturiser can help you save time.
  • Eco-friendly toiletries, mosquito repellent, and bug-spray containing DEET are a plus, particularly if you camp in a tent.
  • Pack items that can be washed by hand and dried quickly, especially for the children.
  • Long-sleeved shirts and trousers are essential for keeping mosquitoes and other insects at bay on chilly evenings.
  • A good pair of sneakers or hiking boots or pair of sandals in summer will suffice.
  • It is always a good idea to bring a small flashlight with you.
  • Do not forget to bring your camera, charger, and extra memory cards.


1.    What is a Self-Drive Safari?

On a Self-Drive Safari you have the freedom to drive yourself around a game reserve in your own vehicle. It is the most affordable way to see any park and gives you flexibility and the thrill of spotting wildlife at your leisure.

2.    Can I do a self-drive safari in the Kruger National Park?

Yes, one can self-drive throughout the park on designated routes and roads. All the roads are either tarred or gravel and suitable for most types of vehicles. You may however never drive your vehicle off-road to get closer to any animals.

3.    Why is a Self-Drive Safari beneficial?

You can discover the Kruger National Park at your own leisure, stay at any accommodation in the park you may fancy. It is also the most family friendly and budget friendly option.

4.    Can I leave the Kruger National Park during the day?

Yes, you may leave and enter the Kruger Park again during day, adhering to the entrance and camp gate opening and closing times. You must produce proof of your accommodation booking and entry and exit permit at agate and the permits (stamped by the gate official) need to be produced again upon your return.

5.    Am I allowed to get out of my car while driving in Kruger?

No, you may only ever get out at clearly indicated designated areas or in the camp.  While you are inside your vehicle the wild animals will not fear you and allow you to observe them in safety but as soon as you step outside your vehicle you become a threat to them.

6.    What can I do if I experience a breakdown of my car?

You can call the Kruger Emergency call centre or if you do not have a cell phone, or are at a spot with no signal coverage, wait for another car but at all cost, do not get out of your vehicle and do not try walking to the camp.

7.    If I am tired of self-drive game viewing, are there any guided activities?

Yes, you can also book guided morning, sunset or night game drives in Kruger Park and use the opportunity to relax and let your expert guide seek out the best wildlife.

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Over 25 years’ experience in assisting guests with their safari reservations.

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Over 25 years’ experience in assisting guests with their safari reservations.

Kruger Park Self Drive Safari Enquiry

I would like to receive monthly newsletter