National Park Pictures
Encounters Travel is an adventure tour operator offering lively, good value South Africa Tours. e.g. The Garden Route & Lesotho including Addo Elephant Park, Lesotho pony trekking, Drakensberg hiking; Big 5 Encounters including Kruger National Park, Blyde River Canyon and more.
A self-drive, close encounter with an African Elephant in Kruger National Park.
The Kruger National Park hype can be overwhelming. One of the world's best national parks, as big as Wales...more animals than the Serengetti...drive yourself around at your own pace...safari pictures to show your grand children and so on. These kind of PR puffs lead to over-expectations of a verdant Eden, alive with wildlife lumbering or skittering in front of your wheels at every curve, while you exchange meaningful glances with the Big Five from behind your safely air-bagged steering wheel. Not so.
Kruger is the biggest of all South Africa national parks but laced with limited roads that you have to follow (although rangers on game drives don't) giving wildlife plenty of space to conceal itself, though riverbanks can deliver particularly good animal sightings visible even from terraces in the better rest camps - especially riverside camps or lodges.
If you really want an African safari with vast numbers of wild animals, go to the waterholes of Namibia's Etosha or the plains of Kenya and Tanzania during migration season.
Kenya and Tanzania wildlife safaris are hideously expensive and your
timetable is always controlled by a third party - a game ranger or driver,
while Namibia is more pricey than South Africa and can be tough to organise.
If you've already done East Africa, or can't afford it, or fancy self drive independence, or want to see other places in South Africa too, the country's national Kruger Park can be a wonderful experience, so here are some pictures and tips on how to ensure that a Kruger safari has a chance to deliver.
The 'Big Five' appearing on South African currency.
The best time to see wildlife in Kruger is the dry winter season (May-September), but beware crowding and accommodation shortage during the 3 week South Africa school holidays (mid June-mid July).
When it rains sparsely the grass
is shorter giving better wildlife visibility, while animals tend to wander less and gather at waterholes or river banks, making them relatively easy targets for shots, camera shots.
Winter is also low/no malaria season with warm days. But note that chilly nights and very cold early mornings are when the safari tours depart and your transport may be an open jeep. Cold is a common tourist complaint. Also the enticing swimming pools in many rest camps will be barely useable in winter.
n.b. Roughly mid June to mid July is South Africa school holidays and Kruger National Park accommodation, especially the best, will be booked up many months in advance, maybe up to a year, so BOOK AHEAD!
May-September temperatures range from lows of 6C (43F) to average highs of 29C
October-April temperatures range from lows of 15C (59F) to average highs of 33C (91F), though 38C+ (100F+) is not unknown.
If you're heat-resistant, like to use swimming pools, enjoy lush vegetation and birds (summer is their best season) and are ready to gobble anti-malarial tablets then this could be a good time for you. n.b. tents can be scorching in summertime (so consider a room with air con)!