The Ultimate Guide to your Big 5 Self-drive Safari in the Kruger National Park

The Ultimate Guide to your Big 5 Self-drive Safari in the Kruger National Park

If you are a nature and wildlife enthusiast, here are 24 tips on how to make the most of your Big 5 Self-Drive Safari in the Kruger National Park for your enjoyment:


  • If you rent a vehicle it is a good idea to get a vehicle that is slightly higher for better viewing – the higher you are, the more you will see.
  • Wake up early to see the first sightings; animals normally are more active early in the morning and late afternoon. What I normally do is pack a snack and some coffee or something to drink and leave the camp at opening times in my pj’s, yip!  I then enjoy the morning driving and stopping at waterholes and then around 11am go back to camp to shower, have lunch and rest till late afternoon. Early morning and late afternoon is also the best times to see predators.
  • Always have your permit for the Park in the cabby- hole  so it does not get lost.
  • Charge your batteries the night before. Try and take a binoculars with, it is a great thing to have; it will also stop any arguments of what sightings you both thought you saw.
  • Make your snack pack for the next day, pack in sandwiches, fruit and lots of water and a brown bag for the rubbish. Have ready your suntan lotion and tissues/wet cloth in a container for the next day to wash your hands. Be prepared as you never know what excitement the Park can offer that will not get you back on time to have something to eat.
  • Mark on your map your route so that you can drive a different route the next day. Cell phone connection is not always available in the Park.
  • If you booking accommodation at different camps, take note of travelling distance to get to the next camp so that you don’t speed and get a fine.
    Camp Gate Minimum Travelling Time (Hours:min)
    Balule Phalaborwa 02:00
    Bateleur Punda Maria 02:30
    Phalaborwa 03:30
    Berg-en-Dal Malelane 00:20
    Crocodile Bridge 02:15
    Numbi 02:15
    Paul Kruger 02:15
    Biyamiti Malelane 01:15
    Crocodile Bridge 01:15
    Crocodile Bridge Crocodile Bridge 00:00
    Malelane 02:00
    Paul Kruger 02:15
    Letaba Phalaborwa 01:30
    Orpen 02:30
    Lower Sabie Crocodile Bridge 01:00
    Numbi 02:30
    Paul Kruger 01:30
    Malelane Malelane 00:00
    Maroela Orpen 00:10
    Mopani Phalaborwa 02:15
    Punda Maria 02:45
    Olifants Phalaborwa 02:00
    Orpen 02:15
    Orpen Orpen 00:00
    Pretoriuskop Numbi 00:20
    Malelane 01:45
    Crocodile Bridge 02:30
    Pretoriuskop (via S1) Paul Kruger 01:30
    Punda Maria Punda Maria 00:20
    Pafuri 01:30
    Roodewal Orpen 01:45
    Phalaborwa 02:30
    Satara Orpen 01:15
    Phalaborwa 03:00
    Shimuwini Phalaborwa 01:15
    Shingwedzi Pafuri 02:30
    Punda Maria 01:15
    Phalaborwa 03:30
    Sirheni Punda Maria 01:15
    Skukuza Paul Kruger 00:20
    Numbi 01:30
    Malelane 01:45
    Crocodile Bridge 02:00
    Talamati Orpen 01:15
  • Don’t focus on antelope, warthogs, and zebra’s right at the beginning of your Safari trip. These you will see often, rather drive slowly to find the bigger animals. After sighting the bigger ones, then spend time on the smaller species and enjoy watching them.
  • If you are at a sighting, switch the engine off so not to disturb the wildlife, yes it might be hot but this is Africa after all.
  • Not every colour marker on the sightings board is correct, yes – there are some people who love to mess other people around. That is why it is important to chat to real people.     
  • If you are travelling in the Park during Nov/Dec do speak to your Travel Clinic regarding Malaria tablets and take lots of insect repellent with. Mosquito bites are already not great, let alone if you get malaria.
  • At the public toilets/shops do chat to others and share routes of sightings and information. It is a great way to communicate and the small chat will be welcomed as you would have been in the vehicle for a few hours.
  • At the camps fill up with petrol –don’t let a quarter tanks distract you and put stress on you.
  • If you spot other cars with people hanging out or not adhering to the rules, take a photo and report it to the SAN Parks or at the gates.
  • Drive slowly and enjoy it. Take in the sights, smells and sounds of the bush. Be patient! Most of our amazing photos have been from just switching off the engine and waiting. Animals move all the time
  • Don’t panic that you are driving too slowly, or going to miss out on anything – wildlife has its way of showing off.
  • Try and capture photos with the sun behind you unless it is sunset. Take photos of birds, landscape, not just the Big 5.
  • Get to learn animal warning signs for your safety.
  • Stop at every watering hole on your route, you just don’t know what you will find.
  • Do look out for Dung beetles on the road, they are amazing to watch. Where there is dung on the road, there should be a beetle.
  • If you hear baboons making a noise, there is a good chance one of the cats is close by. Stop, switch off your engine and wait.
  • If you see vultures, that means there is either a kill that has just happened or at least some carcass of an animal. These can make great shots.
  • If you see antelope standing dead still without any movement, stop and wait. Something could happen soon. This means they smell something or something has made them scared.
  • If you hear an elephant trumpeting, this could mean there is a baby with, and mom is disciplining them. Be alert and ready to get out of the way if the need arises.
  • Here are the gates for Kruger National Park and the contact numbers for bookings or emergencies.
    Crocodile Bridge Gate

    +27 (0)13 735 6012

    Kruger Gate

    +27 (0)13 735 5107

    Malelane Gate

    +27 (0)13 735 6152

    Numbi Gate

    +27 (0)13 735 5133

    Orpen Gate

    +27 (0)13 735 0237/0238

    Pafuri Gate

    +27 (0)13 735 5574

    Phabeni Gate

    +27 (0)13 735 5890

    Phalaborwa Gate

    +27 (0)13 735 3547

    Punda Maria Gate

    +27 (0)13 735 6870

So book and enjoy the Park, it caters for everyone!

2 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to your Big 5 Self-drive Safari in the Kruger National Park

  1. Thank you Diana,agreed! Absolutely no non – recyclable plastic or brown bags for your trash!The wet wipes you can burn with your evening fire?

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