When is the best time to visit Kruger National Park?

Travel Inspiration, Wildlife

It’s been on your bucket list for years… seeing the Big Five animals of Africa. You’ve already narrowed it down to South Africa’s largest game reserve; the renowned Kruger National Park. Now the time has finally come to plan and book your trip. However, you probably have a few questions you need answered.

Our blog will help you decide where is the best place to stay, when is the best time to visit Kruger National Park, and what to expect from your visit.

Welcome to Kruger Safari

The stoep at Kruger National Park's Jock safari Lodge

There are a lot of options for accommodation in Kruger National Park. I’m sure you’re struggling to decide which would be best for your safari vacation.

Where is Kruger National Park?

Kruger National Park is located in the northeastern part of South Africa. It spans across two provinces: Limpopo and Mpumalanga. The park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa, covering an area of 19,623 km². It runs along the borders of Mozambique to the east and Zimbabwe to the north, with the Crocodile River forming its southern boundary.

Kruger Accommodation

Kruger National Park offers a variety of accommodation options, ranging from rustic campsites to luxurious lodges, catering to all preferences and budgets. Among these, Jock Safari Lodge stands out as a premier destination. Nestled at the confluence of the Mitomeni and Biyamiti rivers, this award-winning lodge offers an intimate wildlife experience with private Big Five safari tours. The lodge features secluded thatched suites with private plunge pools and luxury bathrooms, adorned with colonial-era antiques and indigenous artworks.

Highlights of Kruger National Park and Surrounds

Waking up to the dawn chorus of the Kruger Park is something that is unmatched anywhere else in the world. The songs from the warblers, cuckoos, thrushes and eagles, and the croaks and chirps of the frog vocalists, stir your soul. 

From the beautiful thatched suites of Jock Safari Lodge, you can enjoy a soothing coffee, while listening to the animals and watching the early morning risers bathing in and drinking from the river. Elephants are regular visitors to the spot directly across the river from each suite’s private deck, plunge pool, or Sala.

South Kruger National Park Highlights

The southern area of Kruger National Park is famous for its sightings. A well-known section nicknamed the ‘Southern Circle’ is renowned for its many different prides of lion, each showcasing a variety of hunting techniques. It is also the most likely area to spot the dwindling rhino populations. 

For leopard lovers, you’ll have a better chance of spotting these allusive cats in their favourite terrain… near a river, amongst the large, bushy trees. They love to hide in the thick leafy branches and, of course, prefer to be somewhere where there’s a good possibility of prey wandering along. Of course, the long stretch of the Mitomeni and Biyamiti Rivers are prime positions for prey spotting.

Here are some other highlights:

  • Diverse Wildlife: The southern part of the park is famous for its high chances of spotting the Big Five – lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants, and buffalos. It’s also home to a variety of other animals and bird species.
  • Rich Biodiversity: This region boasts different ecological zones, providing habitats for a wide range of species. From the bushveld to riverine forests, each area offers unique sightings.
  • Historical Sites: There are several cultural heritage sites, including ancient Bushmen rock art and archaeological sites.
  • Luxury Lodges and Camps: The South Kruger has a selection of luxury lodges, like Jock Safari Lodge, which offer exclusive safari experiences with comfortable accommodations and amenities.
  • Scenic Routes and Waterholes: The park features a network of roads and trails that take visitors through breathtaking landscapes. Waterholes and rivers are perfect spots for wildlife viewing, especially in the dry winter months.
  • Guided Safaris: Experienced guides offer insightful game drives and walks, enhancing the safari experience with their knowledge of the park’s flora and fauna.

These are just a few of the many wonders that make the South Kruger National Park a must-visit destination for nature and wildlife enthusiasts. Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or a bit of both, the park’s highlights are sure to leave a lasting impression.

Nighttime Highlights at Kruger National Park

Evenings bring more soulful highlights of Kruger National Park with hooting owls, tilling nightjars, roaring lions, and chuckling hyenas, creating a symphony of nature sounds. It’s the perfect time to relish cocktails on the balcony, watching the spectacular sunset over the river, before tucking into a delicious bush dinner prepared by passionate chefs.

All About the Weather in Kruger National Park

To help you decide not just when to come, but what to pack, we’ve broken down the weather in Kruger National Park into typical seasons, with a guide to average temperatures.

Kruger Weather October to February

It is hot and dry during these summer months, with temperatures peaking in January. They are also the wettest and most humid months. You can expect heavy rain, mainly in the afternoon. Temperatures stay around 32°C/90°F but can get up to 40°C/104°F, which can be uncomfortable. Some travellers prefer the hot African sun, but bear in mind that the animals tend to shy away from the blazing sun from mid-morning to mid-afternoon.

Kruger Weather in March & April

It is still very hot and dry during this time, although a little cooler than peak summertime. There is lighter rainfall and the humidity decreases. Towards April the skies get clearer and the nights are star-studded, although it is cooler. Daytime temperatures reach 30°C/64°F whereas the evenings drop to around 18°C/61°F.

Kruger Weather May to September

Winter is the dry season and you can expect very little rainfall with barely any humidity. In May, evening temperatures drop to a chilly 12°C/54°F which stretches through until the sun comes up. June is the coldest month and mornings continue to get colder as the month continues. You can expect temperatures of only 10°C/50°F until it starts to warm up again to around 14°C/57°F in September, which is the peak of this season, with dry winds, thinner flora, and scant rainfall.

Luxury Lodge Safari | Kruger National Park

So you’ve narrowed it down to when you want to come, but you’re still not sure about where to stay. We mentioned one of our favourites a couple of times, but now it’s time to delve a bit deeper into Jock Safari Lodge. The lodge is not just about luxury; it’s an immersion into the heart of the bushveld. Occupying a 6000-hectare site within Kruger, the lodge is surrounded by a rich diversity of wildlife and is within walking distance of some of Africa’s oldest Bushmen rock art. Guests can enjoy the personal services of a chef, waitress, and ranger, ensuring a bespoke and unforgettable safari experience. With its commitment to comfort and conservation, Jock Safari Lodge offers a unique blend of adventure and relaxation in one of Africa’s most iconic wildlife reserves.

Safari Lodge with Spa and Pool

The onsite spa is ideal for helping you to unwind. The expert therapist knows just how to work out those nasty knots and leave you blissfully relaxed, so you can truly appreciate your time away. Imagine following up a massage with a dip in the inviting poolat the lodge. And while you bask in the turquoise waters, enjoying the sights of Kruger Park’s wild residents grazing on the lawns, the staff will be on hand to serve you some delicious, freshly prepared cocktails. 

The lodge chef takes great delight in spoiling guests with delicious meals. Expect exceptional dishes, and tantalising treats to add some extra flavour to your stay. A big benefit of staying at the eco-lodge is that you are offsetting your travel footprint when you book with Unfound, through our Earth Legacy Foundation conservation projects

The Eye Never Forgets What the Heart Has Seen

This old African proverb encompasses what the Kruger experience is all about. Once you have seen something with your heart, it’s forever captured in your memory. The heart may not have eyes, but it sees into the souls of the animals that cross your path. Once you know that animal in your heart, you can understand it. And without first-hand experience of these safari moments, it is difficult to explain. 

The closest I can get to illustrating the meaning is to ask you to close your eyes and hear the resonating rumble of an elephant penetrating your mind, and the roar of a lion cutting through the rumble. Then visualise your favourite Big Five animal crossing within feet of your path and inhaling the sweet scents of Natal mahogany trees. Not even National Geographic can depict it quite like the real thing. South Africa’s Kruger National Park arouses all five senses.

Flights to Kruger National Park

Kruger National Park is easy to get to from anywhere. For southern Kruger, and the Malelane Gate, you’ll be happy to know that there are plenty of direct flights to Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (KMIA) from Johannesburg and Cape Town daily, and to KMIA from Durban three days a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Skukuza Airport is the nearest airport to Jock Safari Lodge, which is an approximate one-hour drive from the lodge through the Kruger National Park. KMIA is located 98 kilometres from the reserve, an approximate 2-hour drive. OR Tambo International Airport is 425 kilometres from the lodge, an approximate 5h30 drive. Return transfers from Skukuza or KMIA to Jocks Safari Lodge can easily be organised at an additional cost.

Flying to Johannesburg for Your Kruger Vacation

You can hire a car at the airport and begin your journey on the N12 national road towards Witbank, which then transitions into the N4 national road. Continue on the N4, passing through Nelspruit and Malelane. Roughly 2 km after Malelane, you’ll find an exit leading to the Malelane Gate of Kruger National Park, where you’ll need to pay an entrance fee. Ensure you have your confirmation or voucher ready. Upon entering through the Malelane Gate, proceed directly along the H3 road for approximately 29 km. Look out for the sign indicating “Jock Safari Lodge” and make a left turn. Follow this 3 km gravel path to arrive at the lodge. The total distance from Johannesburg is approximately 458 km.

Jock Safari Lodge is conveniently located midway between the Skukuza and Malelane gates, each about 29 km or a 45-minute drive away, with only the last 3 km being on a dirt road. Please be aware of Kruger National Park’s regulations: travel on park roads is not permitted outside of gate opening hours. Guests must plan their arrival and departure accordingly.

A typical arrival at Kruger would look like this…

If you arrive at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport in the morning, and follow the driving directions, you should arrive at Kruger National Park in the afternoon. For those that prefer spending less time in the car for transfer, you can book another short flight to arrive straight at Skukuza Airport or Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport, where we will pick you up and transfer you to Jock Safari Lodge in around one or two hours respectively. Note that we recommend that flights to/from Kruger Mpumalanga Airport and Skukuza are booked to arrive before 14h30 on the day of arrival and depart after 10h00 on the day of departure.

What to expect from safari holiday packages

Of course, the goal for most is to see as many iconic animals as possible during their time on such a holiday, regardless of whether it’s a family trip, solo trip or romantic getaway. Kruger and Marloth Parks offer a whole host of adventures, from animal viewing and gaining new knowledge, to delicious dining, and being at one with nature. Your experience will, of course, depend on the type of accommodation you book and your budget.

Of course, the goal for most is to see as many iconic animals as possible during their time on such a holiday, regardless of whether it’s a family trip, solo trip or romantic getaway. Kruger Park offer a whole host of adventures, from animal viewing and gaining new knowledge, to delicious dining, and being at one with nature. Your experience will, of course, depend on the type of accommodation you book and your budget.

Here’s what to expect from Jock Safari Lodge Stay:

A typical day
04H30/05H30 Wake-up call
05H00/06H00 Early morning refreshments served
05H15/06H15 Depart for morning game drive
09H00 A continental breakfast buffet and (plated) hot breakfast are served
12H00 Lunch is served until 14h30
15H00/15H30 Afternoon tea
15H30/16H00 Depart for afternoon game drive
20H00 Pre-dinner drinks
20H30 Varying dinner options served on alternate nights

Game drives: Interactive game drives last up to 4 hours. You’ll spend your time in the park with a highly experienced guide in an open safari vehicle. You’ll explore a diverse range of animals, birds and flora and the guide will try to fit in as many sightings of the 150+ mammals, 115+ reptile, 500+ bird and 2,000+ plant species as possible. The exceptional ranger will educate you on the different observations while keeping eyes and ears peeled for the famous Big Five. Guests will enjoy a sundowner drink at sunset and coffee/tea at sunrise.

What would be included in your overnight stay at Jock Safari Lodge?

-Two daily game drives
-Guided wilderness walks
-All meals and afternoon high tea
-A selection of house beverages
-On-drive beverages and snacks
-Complimentary WiFi
-Tourism levy and VAT

How expensive is Kruger?

A safari adventure to Africa is a bucket list and possibly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This means that you probably want to make the most out of it, and that can come at a cost.  However, South Africa remains to be an affordable country to spend your vacation in, especially if you’re from Europe or the US. 

The cost of your Kruger experience is determined by different factors, such as your choice of accommodation, how many days you spend on game drives in Kruger National Park, and any added activities or excursions. Jock Safari Lodge offers one of the most incredible inclusive Kruger experiences from just R23,190.00 per night for 2 adults, with a long-stay discount if you book for three nights or more.

Is Kruger a good safari?

That depends on what you want out of a safari. If you’re looking for an authentic experience where the animals are free to roam, interact with other species and hunt in their natural environment, then Kruger National Park provides the ultimate safari. The park is certainly Africa’s best-known game reserve and most visited by travellers, with great facilities and some incredible archaeological wonders.

Kruger National Park’s Big Five

Wildlife is incredibly abundant and you are guaranteed to see iconic African animals during your time. Of course, it is home to the Big Five, although it can be an adventure to find them, namely the lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and Cape buffalo. For elephant lovers, with 30,000 of them roaming the park, the likelihood is pretty high that you’ll come across one. And for lion-lovers, the proximity to the southeastern side of Kruger means you have a good chance of spotting one of the many prides of these golden beasts and hearing their roars and growls. 

There are several ways to experience the game reserves and you don’t have to stick to a game vehicle. You can add a little trot to your Marloth Park experience on a horseback safari, or travel one of the bicycle and walking routes.

Kruger National Park’s Birdlife

Bird lovers will be excited to read that Kruger has more than 500 species of birds annually and that there is a Big Six of the bird world. These endemic species are the martial eagle, Pel’s fishing owl, lappet-faced vulture, saddle-billed stork, Kori bustard, and ground hornbill. The guide will be keeping a keen eye out for these birds on your game drives.

Kruger National Park’s Little Five

And let’s not forget about the Little Five, especially loved by children. These are the leopard tortoise, rhino beetle, the buffalo weaver, the elephant shrew, and ant lion. They may be small, but they play a huge role in preserving the ecosystem in the park.

Which month is best for a Kruger safari?

Kruger National Park is truly a year-round destination, and the best time to visit all depends on you. What weather you prefer, what animals you want to see, and what kind of experience you want. We talked a bit about the weather above and each season brings awe-inspiring sightings.

We do love winter (May – September) as this dry season forces a lot of the animals to gather around the only permanent sources of rehydration; the watering holes. It means you can make a beeline for these during a game drive for almost guaranteed sightings. Also, the thinner plant life around the park means that the wildlife is easier to spot and photograph, and the chance of seeing a predation is higher. The season also sees migrating herds of elephants and hundreds of birds. However, it is cold. And especially in open vehicles, in which you can get very chilly indeed. If you pack for the occasion, the cool weather won’t spoil your experience.

Definitely don’t write off the other months though. October through to April may be the wet season, but it is also the best chance you’ll get for spotting newborn animals. And not to seem savage, but the babies tend to draw out the predators, which are always a spectacular sight.  For photographers, the thick, luscious vegetation and tip-top condition of the well-fed wildlife make great subjects. Of course, you can expect the weather to get very hot, so cool clothing and lots of water are essentials

So, the month that is best for a Kruger safari is very much up to you and what you want out of it.

Time to book your bucket-list safari vacation

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