If you would have told me a year ago that I would be spending Christmas 2013 spotting wild elephants and zebras all over a reserve in Africa, I would have just smiled and thanked you for the nice daydream. Definitely, this is one of the most coolest ways I’ve spent the holidays ever.
I’ve always thought that I would have to pull off a bank heist before I could ever afford a safari. Staying at the rest camps in Kruger National Park was amazingly affordable; plus, the view & surroundings were hard to beat.
Minutes after landing in the Nelspruit (KMIA) airport, we jumped into our rental car and made haste to the Paul Kruger gate to make it before nightfall. After a long drive, we finally made it onto Skukuza camp, and the hearty dinner (plus a bottle of Castle, of course) in the camp’s restaurant made all of the weariness go away. The smiles from the cheery staff were telltale signs that you were staying somewhere that was hard not to love. On our first night in Kruger, we took advantage of the stunning clear sky by stargazing right outside our hut.
We finally got to see Kruger in the sunshine, as we drove from Skukuza to the Lower Sabie camp the next day. Just after a few minutes of cruising and we were already gushing over our first wild sighting — a family of antelopes! Later on, we would realize that antelopes were everywhere in Kruger; their graceful gait and sharp eyes would still catch your gaze though every now and then.
The safaris on TV made it look so easy though; there were long drives where all you could spot were trees and grass, and you had to hold on to your patience before the next sighting. If you’re going to try your luck on a self-drive, I’d recommend for you to prepare a fun playlist or to stock up on good jokes and stories for the ride. Don’t worry — when you do spot the wildlife, when you have to stop for the occasional elephant family crossing the road, when you panic a bit when the baboons get too close, it’ll be all worth it.
On our last day in the reserve, in the last few minutes when we were just about to leave through Crocodile Gate, we spotted quite a number of zebras, antelopes and giraffes, all just grazing together. Remembering that all of these animals are wild, and that you’re simply a visitor in their kingdom, can be a bit overwhelming. The world is out there, simply waiting to stun you.
- 2-person bungalow at the Skukuza camp – ZAR 902.50 (~USD 83.17) per night
- 2-person safari tent at the Lower Sabie camp – ZAR 779 (~USD 71.8) per night
- Guided safari sunset drive at Lower Sabie – ZAR 220 (~USD 20.2) per person
- Avis Car Rental for 4 days (Group A -VW Polo and similar) – EUR 72.43 (~USD 98)