African Safari: You CAN Self Drive!

For as long as I can remember, I dreamed of an African Safari. It always seemed so far out of reach. Upon doing some early research many years ago, I saw all-inclusive fees of $1,000 per day or even more – – not including the expensive flight from the USA to the furthest reaches of South Africa. On top of that, if I were to travel solo, there were whopping “single-supplement” fees. It was an impossible dream…

Until it wasn’t! In early 2017, I decided to find a way to make this dream come true, and spent weeks researching. In my research, the words “self-drive safari” popped out at me. What?! You can drive yourself?! I dove into Trip Advisor, on the hunt for advice on this newly found adventure. I asked my friends from South Africa if this was really do-able…

Fast forward eight months to January 2018… I did it! Landing in Johannesburg, South Africa on my birthday was one of the most exciting moments of my life. I had worked hard to make it happen – – affordably! I caught a short hopper flight up to the town of Nelspruit and picked up my rental car. Within two hours, I would pull into Kruger National Park just minutes before the park gates closed. 

In my earlier research, I had learned that Kruger was a “must-do” when it came to self-drive safaris. It is the largest national park in the country, and many locals visit Kruger on weekends or for longer vacations. If the locals could successfully self-drive, then so could I! The “rest camps” in the park allow for camping or staying in basic thatched-roof bungalows where you can prepare your own meals. Most rest camps also have a restaurant, along with a small store full of basic groceries, supplies and souvenirs. 

Staying in the Kruger and choosing to self-drive for most of my first trip to South Africa was a decision I will never regret. The freedom to stop for as long as you want at any given animal sighting is perfect for photographers or those who prefer particular animals. If you’re into giraffes, stop at every giraffe and hang with them for an hour if you feel like it! If zebras are your thing – find a herd and spend some time admiring those dazzling stripes. Cats are your jam? You better be up and out the gate before sunrise, if you want to laze around with the lions and leopards. 

Personally, since this was my first (and possibly last) safari experience, I wanted to see every animal possible, so I spent a lot of time in my car. When you’re self-driving in any of the South African national parks, there are strict rules and time limitations. Camp gates generally open about an hour before sunrise, and you have to be back in camp before gates close just before sunset. You are only allowed to get out of the vehicle at designated safe locations or rest camps – – a strict rule, since you never know who is lurking about in tall grasses! 

I spent a total of seven days exploring Kruger National Park on that first adventure back in January of 2018. My cheeks hurt from smiling so hard every single day! I saw so many different species of mammals in my first three days of exploring, that I started branching out and searching for different bird species. With over 500 bird species, the Kruger is a birder’s dream! I am a huge mammal lover, but my days in the Kruger have given me a deep appreciation of our feathered friends.

Since that first trip back in 2018, I have had the opportunity to visit South Africa on five additional occasions! I have so many photos and amazing sightings to share with you in future posts. (In case you missed it, check out my very first blog post about self-driving thru elephants!) I’ll also take you to some of my favorite small lodges (with no single supplement) in “the Greater Kruger” (a huge land area along the western border of Kruger National Park).

How many of YOU want to do a self-drive safari?! Let’s make your safari dreams come true! I can help you plan the perfect itinerary at a price that’s affordable.

To learn more about South Africa’s national parks, visit: 

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