Tips on Holidaying in South African Game Reserves

A few people have asked me how to go about organising a Sanparks holiday and how much it costs.   This depends on the type of accommodation you choose, whether you self-cater or eat in restaurants and whether you self-drive or book guided tours and walks.

Below I give some tips based on our own personal experience.

When planning your trip get hold of a map of the park you wish to visit.   If you don’t have a paper version you can download info from this link which will give you options to download gate times, the distance between camps, detailed maps of each section of the park and suggested routes.  It is very comprehensive.

Decide how many days you wish to stay and which camps you wish to stay at.   Check in time is 2 pm   Check out is 11 am.   Remember that the maximum speed limit on tar roads is 50 km /hr and on dirt 40 km/hr.  Bear in mind that while travelling between camps you will want to stop to look at game so factor in time for this.   We try not to  travel more that 120 km between camps.  I recommend  three to four days at each camp, depending on how long you are staying.   It’s best not to spend less than two nights per camp.

To Book your accommodation go to the Sanparks website

Click on the Where to Stay tab  Choose Accommodation Availability 

Click on the Park of your choice – EG Kruger National Park  Then choose Main Rest Camps

A list of camps will drop down.  Choose a camp to browse and then click on the tab Browse by Calendar Month

You will clearly see the availability of each type on accommodation on the calendar.  Each type will be marked with a number e.g.  EH3   Click on this and you will be shown all its features and fees.

You can book online but I use the site to check availability, write down  what I want and then PHONE central bookings. +27 (0) 12 4289111 OR +27 (0) 11 6788870

This is the easiest and quickest way to do it as you get confirmation immediately.   You will be sent an email with your provisional booking and a date by which you must pay the deposit and the final amount.   You will be sent another email confirming your booking when you pay the deposit.   Then another one when final payment is made.  Payment can be made by EFT or Credit Card.

REMEMBER  School holiday times become booked up very quickly and you need to book eleven months in advance if you want to go during those times.  It is easier to get accommodation out of school holidays. Be aware that Kgalagadi Trans-frontier Park gets booked up very quickly in season and off season.  Always book 11 months in advance for KTP.

All the rondawels/bungalows/chalets are serviced daily.   Some are fully equipped, some partially, so always check.  Some have kitchen and bathroom.  Some have only kitchen and you have to use the ablutions.  If you self-cater it is best to bring your own favourite knives.  Pots and pans are usually okay but you might want to bring a pan to cook breakfast at picnic sites.


There are different types of accommodation and it depends on your preference what type you should book.  In Kruger the following is available – but not at all camps.  So check it out first.

You can camp  and most sites accommodate caravans and/or tents.  Addo elephant park has smaller sites for tents and bigger ones for caravans.   Most have power.  Rustic camps have no power.

Huts are rustic.  You need to use the communal kitchens and ablutions.  They sleep up to  up to three people.

Permanent canvas Safari Tents on permanent platforms are really cool. The best ones are at Lower Sabie Camp in Kruger National Park.   Some have communal kitchen and communal ablution facilities, while others are fully equipped and are quite luxurious and comfortable.  They cost about the same as a bungalow.

Single bedroom bungalows  sleep two  and have a bathroom. Some have communal kitchens while others have own kitchenettes with basic kitchen equipment.

Single bedroom cottages have a living room, bathroom and kitchen.

A family cottage has multiple bedrooms  with a living room, bathroom and kitchen.

A guest cottage has multiple bedroom  at least 2 bathrooms of which one is en-suite. The kitchen is fully equipped

A Guest House has multiple bedrooms and bathrooms  with lounge area and often with bar facility and exclusive view.

Then there are Luxury Lodges which I have no experience of.  They are expensive and cater to the guests every need.  They’re great if you don’t want to self cater or self drive.  A guide will take you on at least two game drives per day.

Prices  for self-catering accommodation are really reasonable.  Below I have quoted current costs in Kruger National Parks for some types of accommodation.  Other parks could be cheaper or more expensive.   Check the website for more information.

  • Camp SiteBase Rate for two people R 285,00Per extra adult R 88,00.
    • Per extra child under 12 R 44,00
    • You are allowed a maximum of six people per site.  Most sites are big enough for a caravan and a tent.  I would not recommend two caravans on one site in Kruger.  In the Kgalagadi you could get away with two off-road caravans on one site.
    • Ablutions are clean but some maintenance is needed in some.

      Caravanning in The Kruger National Park is fun

  • Bungalo BA3  The BA 3 indicates that it sleeps 3 people.
    • Cost is R1150 Base Rate for  two.
    • Additional Adult – R260
    • Additional Child (under12) – R130

This bungalow had an equipped outdoor kitchen


This one is slightly different but also with an outdoor kitchen

  • Family Cottage FA6Sleeps maximum of six
    • Two bedrooms one with double bed one with 2 single beds
    • 2 Bench beds in lounge
    • Base Rate for 4 – R2100
    • Extra Adult – R430
    • Extra Child (Under 12) R215
073 Pretoriuskop

Kruger National Park:  Our grandson, Jay helping Grandpa with the braai outside our family cottage at Pretorious Camp in 2012

086 Braai in the rain

Kruger National Park – Outside our Skukuza Family Cottage, Jay had to braai in the rain!

087 Jay in rain

What a fine job he did – He was 15 then!

088 Supper @ Skukuza

This cottage had a lovely indoor dining area

Travelling Costs

The next thing you need to consider are the distances you will travel in the park on game drives each day.  Work on about 140 km per day.    Of course you don’t have to do long distances but the park is big and there is a lot to see.  Doing the distance means you’re more likely to see interesting sightings.

Self-catering is cheapest but you can get good meals in the restaurants.  We do a combination of both.  We usually eat breakfast at a picnic site restaurant but sometimes cook our own.   We might have one or two dinners at a restaurant but mostly we braai or cook at our campsite.

Most of the Kruger camps have a well-stocked shop.  However, most meat is frozen.  The last time we visited we found they had most of what we needed in the way of fresh vegetables but there is not a wide variety.  Fresh fruit was also available.   It is more expensive than shopping before you come into the park.  We usually shop in Nelspruit before we enter then top up as we need from the Park Shops.

Even when staying in bungalows I pack a separate box or basket with basic crockery and utensils.  This stays in the car, readily available for picnics as you cannot take the crockery from the bungalow if you are travelling between camps.

My Picnic Box has the following 

  • Frying pan
  • spatula
  • small chopping board
  • sharp knife
  • small cereal bowls
  • plates
  • knives, forks and spoons
  • mugs
  • flask – at Kruger you can get boiling water on tap from most camp and picnic sites
  • Wash up kit with sunlight liquid, sponge, drying towel and plug.  Most picnic sites have wash-up facilities but the plugs are usually missing.

A separate cooler box gets packed with the food for a day out in the park.  Some picnic sites in The Kruger National Park have restaurants and a shop where you can get reasonably priced breakfasts, lunches and snacks.  You can also hire a skottel to cook breakfast on or you can braai.  In the Kgalagadi we take a portable stove for cooking breakfast.


Breakfast cooked on a Skottel


Cooking breakfast in The Kgalagadi – Melkvlei Picnic Site

107 Picnic site Nossob

Picnicking at Nossob

So what does a Game Park Holiday in South Africa cost per day?   If you self-cater and self-drive and stay in bungalow accommodation I would work on about R900 per person per day for all costs.

If you are camping I would work on R400 per person per day.   

Remember that the parks also charge a daily conservation fee.  These fees vary from park to park.  If you are South African you pay a lot less than overseas visitors.  The best thing for everyone to do is to purchase a Wild Card.  

Click on the link above to see how this works.  Even if you are only going to do a short 7 day trip to The Kruger National Park it is worth purchasing a Wild Card.   I have an All Cluster for family and it costs R1 140.  This card gives me free access to all National Parks  in South Africa for a year.   The daily conservation fee in Kruger is R82 per adult.  If my hubby and I stayed in the park for 7 days our conservation fee would come to R1148.  In November we were there for a month. Without the Wild Card our conservation fees would have been R4592.   We also visited other parks during 2017 and did not need to worry about the conservation fees.

It is well worth purchasing a Wild Card even if you are a foreign national.   The fees for foreigners are far more expensive so get a Card for R 2430 for an individual, R 3800 per couple or R 4545 for a family.  Daily conservation fees for foreign nationals would be       R 328 per day.  These fees are until end October 2018

Prices quoted for accommodation and camping are approximate.  They may differ from park to park and camp to camp.   Rates will go up at different times of the year.   Check website for more accurate details.







7 thoughts on “Tips on Holidaying in South African Game Reserves

  1. Wow, you have this down to a science 😀 A S.A. game reserve is not on my travel list but I can still apply some of these tips for travel to other countries. And I am loving the pictures. Happy times ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Breaking Free from Lockdown. Day 44. Kleinplaas to Home – Adventuring into Retirement

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s