Kruger Accommodation, South Africa

Lukimbi Private Safari Lodge, linking to Kruger National Park animal pictures, South Africa

Lukimbi private safari lodge, Kruger accommodation (in June).

Kruger accommodation possibilities

Kruger is scattered with 21 rest camps and a dozen private safari lodges, accessed via nine gates. Most visitors head for the easy-to-reach southern section, especially those arriving from abroad since Mpumalanga is the only international airport in the vicinity.

Advantages of rest camps

• Camps are not cheap, but compared to most of the private lodges they are bargains.
• Use your own car and you may see more wildlife than on a paid and painful 4WD guided tour.
• All Accommodation has a BBQ setup (known in South Africa as a braai) outside at least, while many units also have a small kitchen inside. Take advantage of self-catering not only for cost-effectiveness but also to avoid sloppy, time-consuming restaurant rage.
• The better camps (see below) have plenty of parking, swimming pools and animal-spotting terraces inside the grounds.

Disadvantages of rest camps

• Incompetent, disorganised, careless staff and consequently chaotic and unsatisfactory service.
• Game drives on wintertime mornings are very cold, starting before sunrise and you may find yourself crammed in between two-legged elephants and having a view mainly of puffy red anoraks. Less 4-wheel game drives and more 2-legged walking tours would be an improvement.

Our experience of varied Kruger accommodation

A guest house in Berg-en-Dal Rest Camp, Kruger National Park, South Africa

A Berg-en-Dal guest house, sleeping up to six and with kitchen facilities inside as well as the BBQ (braai) outside.

The bugcrew failed to book ahead on their visit to South Africa, flying into Johannesburg and finding no Kruger accommodation available. Eventually we arrived in the park via Mpumalanga and had to stay in a superb but silly-money private Kruger lodge, Lukimbi (below), for a few days (loved the place but the game viewing was useless), until a rondavel hut became available in Pretoriuskop (cramped and ratty but cheap) and later a guest house in Berg-en-Dal (comfortable and pleasant and only a little more costly).

Neither of our camps, nor guided drives from the camps provided much in the way of exciting animal sightings, though admittedly we didn’t get to the park’s west side which seems to be better provided with wild things. Self drive on tarred roads was, surprisingly, more successful for us. See Rhino and Elephant encounters, both less than 3 metres from an open car window and we were alone, no other vehicles in sight.

We preferred driving ourselves and running across (no, not running over. . . ) wildlife than the various guided game drives that always started before a wintry sunrise in quite unprotected vehicles and never yielded satisfactory results (for us, we add again – luck of the game? ). However, we now believe that riverside lodges are the key to Kruger animal sightings in the dry season so, for example, Skukuza, Lower Sabie and Olifants are much better located.

Third Party views of Kruger accommodation

Olifants

A rondavel in Olifants Rest Camp, Olifants River, Kruger National Park, South Africa

A tourist rondavel (bungalow) in Olifants Rest Camp overlooking Olifants River, Kruger National Park.

Olifants rest camp has the best settingof all the camps, on a hill overlooking the river and park, with panoramic views and sightings of animals as they drink from the river. Olifants is popular with South Africans but also the hottest rest camp in the park.

From beaverK, Cologne, Germany
Olifants was the biggest disappointment on our SA trip. We had Rondavels 102 and 103, without kitchen. The huts were in miserabel condition, ugly showers. Breakfast und buffet dinner was ok but on a la carte dinner all four dishes we had were awful.
Service is slow and unfriendly. The river view huts might be better, but this place is way to expensive for the poor service and the low quality of the huts.

From DistantTraveller_9, London, England
The camps is situated in a fantastic area with wonderful panoramic views. This is as good as it gets though. The lodge was unclean and infested with spiders and ants. The lodges were old and the cooking facilities were poor. The staff were extermely slow, waited 1 hour for a toasted sandwich. They had just finished some building work and were completely disorganized even more so than is usual in Africa. We stayed in other camps in Kruger and hotels in South Africa and I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone.

Skukuza

Skukuza is Kruger’s largest and most popular camp, on the bank of the Sabie River and base for a variety of restaurants, shops, library, museum, two swimming pools, 9 hole golf course, outdoor cinema, filling station, laundry, bank and post office.
As with most rest camps in South Africa the visitor centre can organise guided bush walks and wildlife safaris in jeeps, though often animals pop up in the immediate vicinity, such as hippos in the river, elephants having a drink, and baboons yelling at each other through the trees. There’s a very lively bird hide 2/3 kms away.

As usual Skukuza camp accommodation ranges from small bungalows to large guesthouses, all with barbeque areas and insect netting.

From ClaudV, South Africa
Waterkant 2 is situated along the river, right up against the park fence. We heard and saw hippo most of the 2 days we were at the bungalow and at night could hear the hyena calling to each other. Overall the place was clean, in a decent shape. Each of the two bedrooms had 2 single beds with more than enough bedding to keep us warm. The bedrooms are huge and could quite easily accommodate 3, one sleeping on an extra mattress. This is a self catering unit but don’t expect much in the kitchen – a two plate stove, toaster and kettle. No microwave.
The first night we had dinner at the Selati train restaurant. The meal was excellent, service great. . . Kids meals were decent too although the chips bordered on tasteless.
We also went on one of the early morning game drives but in winter, it isn’t necessary to leave on a paid game drive by an experienced guide at 5. 30am. It was so dark and so cold that the first hour was unpleasant. Game was also not plentiful until well after the sun came up although we were lucky to spot a spotted hyena running across the road soon after entering the park. The tourists on the vehicle loved it though.
The picnic spots and restaurants in general in the park are well stocked, the menus are exactly the same in each one but service is exceptionally slow.
Of course the game viewing was unbelievable. We were indeed lucky to see the big 5. Don’t be scared to open your window and chat to a passing vehicle to find out if there is anything to see, take the road less travelled.
More Skukuza comments below.

Skukuza Rest Camp bungalow, Kruger National Park, South Africa

Skukuza bungalows.

From Sheila, London, UK
We stayed at Skukuza rest camp for one night in January. I booked well in advance for a luxury riverside bungalow – which we did not get although we were offered alternative accommodation which we were told was superior. It was bigger but we did not get what we had originally asked for. On arrival and check-in we were at first sent to the original bungalow that we had booked, found it occupied, told to go back to reception by a staff member who happened to be there and then spent half an hour waiting to be helped. The staff were pretty hopeless (and very slow) in helping us and acted as if it was all our fault. Because of the delay we missed the dusk drive that we had hoped to go on.
Instead we booked a dawn drive so had to get up very early (which is fine) but the camp is extremely dark so it was essential to be very careful when walking to the car park. To be honest the guide wasn’t that good – he clearly expected a pride of lions to materialise after we had seen a big herd of buffalo – but of course they didn’t. It was the only one of the big 5 that we didn’t see whilst in the Kruger. We went out on our own just after the dawn drive and saw a leopard not far from the camp – awesome.

Skukuza downsides: it’s very big and impersonal, bungalows (rondavels) are cramped and the outside kitchens can suffer from monkey trouble, but they are good value; staff are sloppy, careless and disorganised while restaurant and cleaning services are generally sluggish. i. e. slow and leave a trail.

Skukuza Rest Camp guest house, Kruger National Park, South Africa

Waterkant Guest House, Skukuza.

From Idoru222, Ahmedabad
Though endearing Skukuza’s round thatched cottages were a bit cramped and with kitchen range in the veranda (subject to raiding by monkeys and baboons) did not help. For a one night stay it was fine but if anything longer try to get a bigger cottage and ideally on the river bank (where elephants come to graze at sundown). As with all SNP camps, it has good shop and restaurant.

Lower Sabie

Lower Sabie Camp, Kruger National Park, South Africa

Lower Sabie Camp in south Kruger. The Sabie River is the core of Kruger’s most bountiful game sightings.

Lower Sabie on the bank of the Sabie River is arguably the best of all Kruger’s camps. Not a pretty site (pun intended) but due to its brilliant Sabie-side location animal viewing from the terrace is frequent. Lower Sabie’s accommodation is simple, including some large, platformed tents, or chalets with kitchens. As elsewhere, restaurant food quality and service is questionable and erratic.

From EMS1981, London, UK
Had three nights in a bungalw at Lower Sabie. We had one of the older ones which was a shame but it was clean if basic. Good views from the veranda of the river and sounds of Hippos.
Ate at restauarnt once for breakfast and once for dinner; both very average. Much better to eat at the Cafeteria. Shop was well stocked and I loved the walk-in beer fridge and superb range of biltong.
Tips: Bring a torch to get around after dark. If you have them bring B-B-Q utensils, that way you can make use of the Braai that is provided with each bungalow (it’s what the regulars do). Alternatively use the cafeteria. Be prepared to adjust your body clock to fit in with the nature. The camp is almost dead by 20. 00hrs and comes to life again just before daybreak.

By BeaverK from Cologne, Germany
The whole camp site is not what I would call beautiful but the chalets where pretty good. Very well equiped with a kichen and nicely located towards the river.
We only ate once for lunch in the restaurant and that was awful. When then cooked ourself. Good shop to buy what you need and there is a barbecue place with every chalet.
The Kruger National Park safari are so and so. If you drive with your own car you see as much. The quality of the guides seem to vary a lot.

By Eric201029 of New York, USA
We had the best viewings here. Stayed at Oliphants, Skukuza and Lower Sabie – total of a week. Also – game drives were great and guide Andrew was awesome.
However, although all three restaurants had great views the restaurant food and service is horrible. Waiting 20 minutes to get a menu, then 20 minutes to get a beer, then 20 minutes to take your order, then come back 20 minutes later and ask you your order again because they forgot to put it in, then another 40 minutes to get food if you didnt get the buffet.
Waiters changing the prices to increase them on your bill from what is on the menu to rip you off – then telling you “I gave you better food than what was on the menu”. Service is NON EXISTANT. Ordered a steak, got it ice cold – I complained – and they offered to microwave it. My advice – just go to the restaurant and have a bottle of wine on the deck to relax and watch animals before the sun goes down – all three have great decks. Dont eat there – buy food at the extensive camp shops and grill at your hut.
Despite all this – I would still recommend going. We got huts with great views, animals and acitvities were great, and I loved the park. Good value overall – just stayaway from restaurants! .

Mopani

Mopani Camp, Kruger National Park, South Africa

Mopani Camp in north Kruger National Park.

Mopani is one of Kruger’s newer rest camps, well built near a dam in a high-game density area, so viewing a large variety of animals from camp grounds and terraces is easy. Mopani is very well organised and comfortable, with an excellent restaurant and swimming pool.

Best Rest Camps in Kruger for animal sightings, especially the Big Five

Lower Sabie, Olifants (get a perimeter bungalow), Satara Bush Camp ( 2nd biggest camp in Kruger, not very good accommodation) and Skukuza. Letaba is in a lovely setting and specialises in elephant sightings.

Worst Rest Camps

Pretoriuskop – poor facilities and worse food; Crocodile Bridge – conveniently close to Crocodile Gate and civilisation but small and nothing else to commend it; Orpen, similarly adjacent to a gate so convenient and with adjacent waterhole but otherwise small and lacking character.

Other Kruger accommodation

In addition to Rest Camps and Luxury Safari Lodges there are:

a) Satellite Camps operated by some rest camps. These will be a few kilometres away from their big brothers and much more basic – for example using tents and only self-catering – but closer to nature and cheaper. e. g. Satara Rest Camp (RC) runs Balule; Berg-en-Dal RC runs Malelane; Orpen RC runs both Maroela and Tamboti; Letaba RC runs Pionier.

b) Bush Camps, much smaller and more basic than rest camps. e. g. Bataleur; Biyamiti, Shimuwini, Sirheni, Talamati.

Private Game Lodges

a bedroom in Shishangeni Private Lodge, Kruger National Park, South Africa

A pleasant mid-market room in Shishangeni Private Lodge contrasted.

Kruger National Park offers a dozen private game lodges that are extremely luxurious, beautifully designed, serve fantastic nouvelle cuisine, take you on game drives in their private concession area of the park and naturally cost both arms and a leg.
Sadly, more cost does not equal more wildlife views. Au contraire, because the animals don’t often see much in the way of motors, they may avoid tracks where lodge vehicles roam.
Our advice is by all means enjoy the superb facilities and service at these camps if the wallet is willing, but have your own wheels there so you can take your own little on-road safari as well as being chauffeured around in a lodge 4WD.

Luxury Kruger accommodation

a bedroom in Lukimbi Safari Lodge, Kruger National Park, South Africa

A more extravagant, upmarket bedroom in Lukimbi.

Lukimbi Safari Lodge, Tinga Private Game Lodge, Jock Safari Lodge, Singita Private Game Lodge, Imbali Safari Lodge, Rhino Walking Safaris, Shishangeni Lodge.