The following is a sponsored post in partnership with Jock Safari Lodge. All opinions are 100% my own.
By 2022, an estimated 19.5 million people will travel to South Africa each year. The biggest draw? The country’s breathtaking safaris. Safaris provide an awe-inspiring, close look at some of nature’s greatest wonders.
Kruger National Park is one of the largest longstanding game reserves and a major tourist draw. It’s one of the most recognized safari properties in Africa and around the globe. The park consists of 7,580 square miles of natural habitat. It was first designated as the Sabie Game Reserve in 1898 by Paul Kruger, the president of the Transvaal Republic. It was combined with another reserve and officially became Kruger National Park in 1926.
The park is rich with history. Across its massive sprawl, the park is home to 254 cultural heritage sites, including 130 recorded rock art sites. There are also 300 Stone Age archaeological sites.
Table of Contents
- Kruger National Park Fees & How to Get There
- Health & Safety Concerns
- What to Wear on a Safari
- Safari Game Drives – Public (Self-Drives) V.S. Private
- My Stay at Jock Safari Lodge, 5-Star All-Inclusive
- Other Wilderness Adventures
- More on the BIG FIVE
- Commitment to Conservation
Kruger National Park Fees & How to Get There
Once you arrive at the park, the entrance fee for adults, it’s R372 South African Rands (approx. $26 USD) per day, and daily fees for kids are R186, or approx. $13 USD.
A couple of options for flights:
You can fly into Johannesburg’s Tambo International Airport. From there take a connecting flight that takes you to Nelspruit Airport/Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (MQP) in Mpumalanga, the gateway to the southern sector of Kruger Park.
It’s recommended that you fly into Johannesburg’s Tambo International Airport. From Tambo, you can fly into the local Skukuza Airport. Kruger National Park’s official website shows only one daily flight from Tambo to Skukuza at 10 a.m. and one flight out at 1:20 p.m. Depending on where you’re departing from, you can find budget flights to Johannesburg for around $700. It is only a 30 to 45-minute drive from SZK and if you booked a Private Drive as I did with Jock Safari Lodge, then transfers are conducted as a game drive, so the safari experience starts the moment you land!
If you’re planning to do a self-drive and want to rent a car, you can do so at any one of these three airports: Nelspruit, Hoedspruit, Phalaborwa.
Health & Safety Concerns
Unfortunately, there is a risk of contracting malaria when visiting Kruger National Park. In fact, the park’s official site notes an uptick in infections since late 2017. Malaria is contracted from mosquitos, and the incubation period takes 12-35 days. If you or one of your fellow travellers gets sick, you won’t know until you’ve returned home. So, it’s highly recommended that you consult your physician before departing for your vacation. You’ll likely be prescribed chemoprophylaxis, a general category of preventive medication. Specific medications are Malarone, Chloroquine, Doxycycline, Mefloquine, Primaquine, or Tafenoquine. Your doctor will advise as to which one is best.
Also, while visiting the park, it’s important to adhere to the safety rules. There are several regulations, including remaining in your vehicle unless you’re in a designated area, following the speed limit, and protecting the wildlife. It’s suggested that visitors read the rules in full before visiting. Wildlife will not attack the safari vehicle, however, if you are touring with an official Park Ranger, they will have a rifle in the car (used as an absolute last resort) if an animal gets aggressive.
In recent years, park security has tightened in an effort to stop poaching and to further protect wildlife. Whether you are driving on your own or being driven by a tour guide, your car will be checked by a Park Ranger before entering the park.
When to go
Kruger National Park can be visited all year long, however, it is best to go during the dry winter season between the months of May to September.
Best Time May to September (Dry season)
High Season December to January and July to August (Especially during school holidays)
Low Season April to mid-June and September to November (Except for the October school holiday)
Best Weather April to May and September to October (Mild weather and little rain)
Worst Weather June to August (Chilly mornings and nights) and December to February (Hot and humid)
*Source: Safari Bookings
What to Wear on a Safari
-Loose light, neutrals tones such as khaki, beige, taupe or grey cotton & linen material clothing.
-Binoculars & Camera equipment, chargers and extra batteries!
-Insect repellent, sunglasses, hat, flashlight (there are many blackouts that occur in Africa at any given time, so be prepared)!
-Long Sleeved Shirt and Pants: During the night drives it can be chilly and long sleeves keep the mosquitoes away.
-Lightweight Waterproof Jacket: The temperatures in Kruger can vary greatly. In winter it can be very cold on a morning game drive, but it warms up later during the day.
-Comfortable Runners or Hiking Shoes
-Sunscreen: Choose a sunscreen with a high SPF of at least 50.
-Emergency Medical Kit
-Swim & Beachwear
Safari Game Drives – Public (Self-Drives) V.S. Private
When you embark on a Kruger National Park Safari, you’ll see an unrivalled diversity of wildlife up close and personal. In total, there are 336 tree species, 49 types of fish, 34 amphibian species, 114 reptiles, 507 birds, and 147 different mammals. During your safari, you’ll at least see the Big Five – buffalo, elephants, leopards, lions, and rhinos.
Kruger has both public and private game reserves. The one you choose depends on your budget and on the type of park experience you want to have.
Public (Self-Drives): The public camps are less expensive, but they’re also free of luxury. You’ll show up to the park in your own car and drive yourself through the public roads. You’ll need to be familiar with the park rules and plan your own itinerary. And you’ll need to finish your safari by sunset. If you get stuck in traffic, which is a frequent occurrence in the public areas, you may not get the full safari experience.
-Cheaper to rent your own car and/ or drive your own car on man-made paved road .
-It can get crowded so you have to share the road with many other tourists (feels inauthentic to always be on the paved road, in my opinion, you should experience the safari on off-road paths in the bushes).
-It can be very difficult to spot animals, especially in the tall grass (especially if you don’t have a trained eye).
-Cars that are self-driven can only be explored through the window and maybe through your small sunroof.
-You can’t experience the game drives during the night time.
Private Reserves: While they do cost a bit more, there’s a higher level of service, luxury, and safety. Professional rangers conduct the game drives, so you can ensure you see the Big Five – lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo) and much more. You can even go on night drives to see nocturnal species. Overall, there are fewer vehicles and less traffic, which makes for an overall more enjoyable experience. Go off the road and in the bushes.
Below is based on my stay at Jock Safari Lodge at the Kruger.
-You get driven around in a luxury safari vehicle inclusive with a blanket, refreshments, open vehicle, binoculars, an outlet to charge your phone/camera, etc., as well with an experienced Ranger who can spot things from a mile away and explain animal behaviours to you!
-You get to drive off-road into the bushes to get closer to the wild animals.
-You are able to go on two drives per day (early in the morning at 5-6 am and later in the evening so you can spot all kinds of animals), only rangers are able to do these night drives (and trust me it is worth it!).
-If there is an animal spotting, all the Rangers radio each other to the exact spot so you can get some great photos!
-You can request to see certain animals, and the Rangers have an idea of where to go to find them.
-There is a rifle in the jeep just in case in the car as a safety precaution if animals get aggressive (but this is only used as an absolute last resort)!
-It’s more expensive than the self-drives but worth every penny in my opinion!
My Stay at Jock Safari Lodge, 5-Star All-Inclusive
Jock Safari Lodge, a Popular South African safari destination combines conservation with luxury accommodations.
One of the most acclaimed private lodges at Kruger is Jock Safari Lodge. It’s located in the southwestern corner of the park, at the pinnacle of the Mitomeni and Biyamiti rivers. The name was inspired by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, a South African author and one of the many men who came to this section of Africa in search of gold riches. Jock was the name of his faithful dog.
Accommodations are split into two areas – the Main Jock Lodge and Fitzpatrick’s at Jock. The former consists of 12 individual thatched rooms with views of the riverbed. There’s a true sense of seclusion as these rooms are shielded by trees and red walls, and the rooms sleep up to two people each. The latter is better suited for families and is like a private haven in paradise, perfectly situated so everyone can wake to the sounds of the wild – these suites feature private pools, child care services, private foyers, shared bathrooms, and access to Pilgrim’s Rest Relaxation Retreat. Both options also feature modern amenities like Wi-Fi, fitness equipment, and private libraries with curated book selections.
Two-night stays, at a minimum, are recommended. Costs for adults are R8960, or $631, per night; family suites hold up to four people and run R31360, or $2208, per night.
Jock Safari Lodge packs its daily schedule with a slew of safari activities each day, including birdwatching and fauna and flora expeditions, but the primary attraction is its game drives. There are both morning and evening game drives – morning drives depart at 5:15 or 6:15 a.m. and evening drives leave at 3:30 or 4 p.m.
During the drives, guests are assigned a private, highly experienced ranger who guides them through sparse riverbeds and special vantage points throughout Kruger National Park. Your assigned ranger is essentially a private guide who will curate a customized program for the duration of your stay, not just a single game drive, so you only need to show up on time – the rest is handled.
Guests ride in 4×4 Land Cruisers, for their off-roading capability, protection, and clear views of the wildlife. The morning game drives are ideal for seeing buffalo, elephants, and lions in their natural habitat. The night drives are better suited to see leopards, hyenas, and other nocturnal species.
Other Wilderness Adventures
The lodge also encourages Wilderness Walks in the morning, during which qualified walking guides call attention to the diverse fauna and flora, and also help visitors safely interact with approaching species. For golf enthusiasts, the Leopard Creek Golf Club offers a chance to perfect your swing while local species move freely around you. Transfers to the Golf Club are free from Jock Safari Lodge. Additionally, there is a Kids on Safari program specially designed to ensure visiting kids learn and feel included.
Outside of game drives and other guided tours and activities, the lodge hosts daily hot and continental breakfasts, a daily lunch, afternoon tea, pre-dinner drinks and a prix fixe or Braai/Barbeque dinner. Whether you’re out on a game drive or resting in the hotel, your every need is taken care of.
What stands out about Jock Safari Lodge is its mix of safari experiences, 5-star service, and luxurious accommodations. But even better, the lodge is wholly concerned about conservation, ensuring its property and operations are maintained in accordance with South Africa’s strictest eco-management guidelines.
There’s a lot of allure surrounding African safaris, but before you embark on this kind of adventure, it’s important to know what kind of trip you want to have so that you can build and book the best possible experience. By selecting Kruger National Park, and Jock Safari Lodge, you’ll be guaranteed a memorable, once-in-a-lifetime journey.
Jock Safari, PRESERVING BEAUTY WHILE SERVING GUESTS
When gold was discovered in South Africa’s Transvaal region in the late 1880s, it triggered a rush of fortune seekers who hoped to strike it rich by finding a mother lode. Like all gold rushes in history, the focus was on removing the precious metal from the earth by any means necessary, with no thought to the environmental consequences to the plants and wildlife in the region. The gold mining and smelting process often releases toxic chemicals like cyanide, sulfur dioxide, and mercury into the environment, and this impacts the soil, air, and water, and eventually has disastrous effects on the plant and animal life.
South Africa’s gold rush is long past at this point, and now there is a local business that is focused on preserving the beauty of the natural environment, instead of destroying it. It is a luxe safari resort called Jock Safari Lodge.
Jock Safari Lodge is actually named for a dog, Jock of the Bushveld, the canine hero of a book written by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, a 19th-century local author. Fitzpatrick set his best-selling book during the gold rush era of South Africa, and it is still considered a classic, with over 100 editions printed since its first publication in 1907. The lodge was founded by Fitzpatrick’s descendants in 1982, but today it is owned by the Caleo Foundation, a non-profit conservation organization.
Nestled within one of Africa’s largest game reserves, the Kruger National Park, the lodge is near two major rivers — the Mitomeni (“Jackalberry Tree” in the Shangaan language) and Biyamiti (“Place Of Many Trees”). The lodge has 6,000 hectares of exclusive traversing rights through the Kruger National Park, and that means there are stunning views of big game animals in their natural habitat. Daily activities include game drives, wilderness walks, tours of ancient rock art sites, bird watching, stargazing, and lots of activities for the kids.
More on the BIG FIVE
Kruger National Park is a wonderland for wildlife lovers, and anyone who comes to Jock Safari Lodge looking for a chance to see the “Big Five” safari animals (lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros, and Cape buffalo) will have plenty of opportunities.
Kruger National Park has an estimated 1,700 lion, 15,000 elephants, 25,000 buffalo and 1,000 leopards, as well as numerous black and white rhinos.
Commitment to Conservation
As you would expect from a lodge that is owned and managed by a conservation group, Jock Safari Lodge has made a strong commitment to conservation and eco-management. The lodge was built to the strictest eco-management specifications in the country and is audited by Kruger National Park and the South Africa Department of Environment and Tourism on a twice-yearly basis. Even simple things like off-road driving are done under strict controls, only being permitted for predator sightings, to limit the damage to the environment.
Jock Safari Lodge makes a financial contribution to local conservation efforts. The Lodge pays a percentage of its tourist revenue to the Kruger and other national parks, which means that every guest staying at the facility contributes directly to conservation.
The Lodge is actively involved in animal protection and conservation efforts, participating in numerous research projects on rare and endangered species such as black and white rhinos, lions, wild dogs, Marshall eagles, and ground hornbills. The lodge was also part of a demographic study with the Kruger National Park to research the impact of bovine tuberculosis on lion populations.
To show its commitment to endangered species, Jock Safari Lodge has run promotions, like for World Rhino Day, where proceeds are donated to animals rights’ organizations. In addition, the Lodge started the Jock Environmental Monitoring Unit (JEMU), in which employees notify park rangers about poaching-related suspicious activity in the region, and on environmental incidents such as animals injured or killed, or any brush fires.
Although conservation is a critically important part of its mission, Jock Safari Lodge is also a great place for a vacation. It’s perfect for people who want to enjoy luxurious accommodations at a resort modelled on the classic African safari lodges, in a setting of breathtaking natural beauty.
Guests at the lodge go on a sensory journey that encompasses history, flora, fauna, conservation, relaxing spa treatments, and fine South African food and wines. Twelve thatched suites offer privacy and stunning river views. A nearby private camp, Fitzpatrick’s at Jock has three luxurious suites, each with an extensive private deck, as well as a plunge pool.
But that’s not all. Everything harks back to the golden era of African safaris, including a new “Arrival Tent” with vintage-style furniture and leather travel trunks. Throughout the lodge, traditional tones blend with a vibrant palette and brighter spaces for the perfect marriage of contemporary design and historical touches. There is a beautiful dining area and upstairs bar, and glass sliding doors with extended roofing designed to bring the outdoors in. The communal swimming pool is heated, and new stairs providing easy access to the river bed for the exclusive Riverbed Dining Experience that is available during the warmer months. Those who want to combine a round of golf with the safari experience can play on two world-class courses within a few hours’ drives from the lodge.
As you can see, Jock Safari Lodge has found a way to combine the adventurous spirit, breathtaking natural beauty and creature comforts of the classic safari experience with a modern emphasis on conservation and protection of the environment. It’s an example of how an environmentally conscious resort can offer the best of all possible worlds to its guests. It is inspiring to see how a socially conscious company can update a classic travel experience and give back to the environment.
For more footage and photos of Kruger National Park and Jock Safari, head to my Instagram @mytravelanthropy and click the highlight cover- KRUGER PARK on my profile!