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  • R 60 posts

    Landing in JNB on a Sunday night and staying in airport hotel, and flying out of JNB on the Thursday evening.
    Any recommendations for planning an itinerary around KNP? I’m realising now I should’ve done more about it months ago rather than leaving it to now.

    Was reading bits about going to private reserves for a better experience, but it all feels a bit murky.

    yorkshireRich 225 posts

    I went in November and absolutely loved it. I’d definitely do things slightly different if I did it again, and feel I can offer half decent advice.

    There’s a few topics regarding South Africa on this “destination advice” forum, so maybe scroll back a few pages as a starter. After that, I’ll try and answer any questions you may have. Some on here are definitely in a better position as they travel regularly to SA.

    WaynedP 258 posts

    Personally, I wouldn’t try to squeeze KNP in on a 3 night, three and a half day trip, even if you fly from JNB into Nelspruit or directly into KNP’s small airstrip at Skukuza, and definitely not drive.

    Distances are further than you appreciate and road speeds slower with much sustained concentration required. You are likely to be exhausted and miss out on best experience of self drive KNP, but it’s your choice.

    It might be just be doable if you go with an expensive private reserve typically situated on south western border of KNP proper, but I think you will be short changing yourself with risk of coming away feeling disappointed which would be a big shame.

    If I were you, I would do KNP self drive some other time for 4 – 8 nights with sufficient forward planning and for this trip I would visit Pilanesberg Game Reserve. It’s around two hour drive from Jo’burg (less than half that of driving to KNP) and offers a range of accommodation with option of self-drive and/or organised game drives.

    It’s sited within an ancient volcano which hems in all the wildlife meaning there’s quite a good chance of seeing all big five even on only two days’ worth of game viewing.

    If you do decide to drive to KNP avoid the road to Numbi gate due to persistent criminal violence from the locals that resulted in the death of a German tourist last year.

    R 60 posts

    Thank you – I’ve read a number of trip reports (including yorkshireRich’s detailed one) but am still left with a lot of questions.

    Firstly, am I completely insane trying to do this with a 2 y/o? He travels well, but from what I see no one allows game drives with kids so means we have to be 100% self drive (not necessarily a problem).
    I keep seeing good things about private reserves – Timbavati in particular – but availability looks extremely limited and where there is I’m seeing rates of £1k+/night. Is that normal?

    KNP Camp Cottages seems to be 1/10th of the price and much better availability. What are peoples experiences with them and any camps that are preferred?
    Or if we’re better switching to Pilanesburg, where should I be looking to plan for it?

    WaynedP 258 posts

    In my opinion, it’s not impossible with a 2 y/o who travels well crucially without suffering any car or motion sickness. But (as you will no doubt have discovered by now) there are certain considerations and concessions that need to be made or you and your partner risk coming away not feeling like you’ve had any holiday benefit yourselves.

    In your situation I would minimise long journeys as far as possible, so my advice would be to forget KNP for this short visit, but do yourself a favour and put it on your bucket list for future, with a little more time and forward planning to maximise the enjoyment that you derive from the experience.

    For future reference, I would favour KNP self drive and self-catering park accommodation over and above the private reserves like Timbavati, many of which cater to wealthy and discerning German tourists happy to pay £1k per night for a luxury, all inclusive, somewhat sanitised experience that virtually guarantees big five sightings, thanks to bush trackers who radio wildlife positions back to the game drivers. Or if avoiding self-catering is critical to you, then you’re better off (in my opinion) staying at a hotel like Protea-Marriott Kruger Gate for hotel meals and accommodation and self-driving into the park each day. Any accommodation like Protea-Marriott Kruger Gate and even self-catering within the KNP itself offers the opportunity for day and/or night game drives, so you really do have the best of both worlds available, which is not the case for private game reserves where self-drive is typically not permitted.

    I would still recommend Pilanesberg for your circumstances. You don’t say when you’re visiting, and I sincerely hope that you are avoiding SA school holidays (https://www.gov.za/about-sa/school-calendar). Pilanesberg is malaria-free all year round (unlike KNP which is still classed as relatively high risk until end April), it’s comfortably close to Jo’burg and will offer a decent bushveld experience at a range of prices. I would check availability for your dates and family configuration on a tool like Booking.com and cross reference place names against the “official” Pilanesberg accommodation venues listed at https://www.pilanesbergnationalpark.org/accommodation/

    I can get a mid-range lodge like Black Rhino Game Lodge for three nights in May for two adults and a child for £660 in May including breakfast and dinner and two game drives, which I would snap up myself. Or a two-bedroom chalet at Bakgatla Resort including breakfast for two adults and a child for three nights mid Feb for £430, or similar at Manyane Resort without breakfast for £445. All three of those are listed on the official Pilanesberg accommodation listing on their website. Alternatively you could go for a budget but still reasonably safe option that’s well established on a site like Booking.com like Lion House, an entire self-catering holiday home just outside the Game Reserve for £235 for two adults and one child for three nights middle of next month. I think that all of these would offer a good and affordable level of flexibility and anxiety-free holidaying in your circumstances and still allow you plenty of time to travel to and from JNB without tiringly long journey times.

    Finally, a word on Game Drives with a two year old, the best travelling of whom is likely to experience fatigue, frustration, hunger, thirst, full bowels or bladder and boredom somewhere along the line. A good game drive will last at least two hours, more likely around three, and there’s no accolades from fellow game enthusiasts for forcing a premature return to camp, or more likely, spoiling a unique viewing opportunity meant to be enjoyed in hushed silence with the outbursts of a niggly infant/child. For the same reason, plan your self-drive excursions carefully with moderate ambitions and over-caution when estimating average driving speeds and road conditions.

    I think it’s great to introduce children to wonderful opportunities to experience nature at its best, and I hope that you and your family have a suitably fabulous African Bushveld holiday that keeps you all wanting to come back for more.

    QwertyKnowsBest 301 posts

    If I may jump in. WaynedP my thanks for the detail, I have bookmarked for a future trip.

    I have a Joburg Avios flight later this year, with the intention of flying onto (and return) from Cape Town as of course Avios availability for CPT is so poor. I hadn’t realised that Comair had ceased operating so of course cannot check through, if you ever could, nor make an Avios onward booking. So need to book separate flights JNB -CPT – JNB. Anyone have experience here.

    Also any advice re Joburg what to do etc for a first timer appreciated. Crime puts my Wife off staying in Joburg other than overnight at the airport but if worthwhile and safe options could tag a day(s) on at the start or end, which would also help cushion a connection.

    Thanks and, R enjoy your trip, great to have a sense of adventure with such a young one, although mine don’t remember the expense and trouble I went to for them (or was it for me)😌

    Not Long Now... 101 posts

    Qwerty, flights between JNB-CPT and vice versa are plentiful and cheap. In 7 flights back from CPT to JNB our luggage has been through checked 6 times, it just seems to be the first question, no matter who you’re flying with. The only time we missed out was when we had about a 30 hour difference in flights, don’t know if it was because of that or agent just feeling particularly grumpy. Anyway, enjoy…

    WaynedP 258 posts

    Should probably put this into a new, better related thread, but my wife and I are due to fly into JNB in four weeks’ time for a long weekend capitalising on a use-it-or-receive-paltry-refund pair of UC return VS tickets from LHR booked during Covid turmoil.

    Prefer to spend my time in CT with a few old mates, so I’ve booked return Safair flights from JNB to CPT (being aware of the Comair demise). I’ve not flown Safair before (last flew Mango in Feb 2020 which was OK, although did experience an hour’s delayed departure on a one hour duration flight which didn’t surprise me overly and is an occupational hazard of African travel, always to be factored in). Safair boast best punctuality metrics, generally receive good reviews, and have received favourable mention on HfP before, so I’m quietly confident that I won’t miss my return JNB-LHR flight with a 4hr+ margin built in and several flights scheduled after my CPT-JNB booking just in case technical issues cancel my specific flight. Have also paid relatively top dollar to fly fully flex business class with all the add-ons so hopefully should be treated as a priority customer if anything goes wrong (around £500 or so for the two of us, which although not cheap is a drop in the ocean of the difference between cash cost of VS flight versus the cash and points refund value.)

    I’m not bothering to overnight in JNB next month, because our flight from LHR lands sufficiently early in the morning to ensure easy and frequent domestic flight options to CPT in time to be comfortably sipping same-day sundowners with a panoramic view of the Atlantic ocean, and I’ll only have three precious nights to enjoy in the Cape.

    However, my wife and I had a lovely one night stay in the Protea Hotel Johannesburg Wanderers in May last year, including the friendly reception staff giving us early access (around 11am) to a modest room upgrade as Gold Marriott loyalty members. Safe location, secure parking, delightful staff, great breakfast views alongside the iconic Wanderers Cricket Ground and a close, safe, motorway drive from JNB airport and a good launching point for our further travels post the Jo’burg morning rush hour next day. Well recommended. We also considered some equally good looking and fairly similarly priced options in Sandton (including a nice looking Hilton), being as it is another safe and secure location.

    But you probably don’t want to spend too much time in Jo’burg – few of the locals do. Nearby Pretoria is an alternative with much to commend it, and we spent a couple of very enjoyable nights at the end of our May 2022 trip in the Pretoria Sheraton overlooking the Union Buildings. There’s more to see and do in Pretoria in a generally less crime prone location which is still a very comfortable distance from JNB airport to ensure leisurely hired car return and check-in for the overnight flight back to LHR. I would repeat and recommend.

    yorkshireRich 225 posts

    We used safair for one of the journeys in South Africa, and they were fine. My favourite airline was Airlink though, would highly recommend them.
    We stayed in Rosebank and didn’t feel un safe one bit. We took the airport train to the hotel and did a full day tour of the sights of Johansburg. Again, we felt completely safe. I would not dismiss it, as I can assure you there are rougher part of West Yorkshire than some of places we ventured to in S Africa.

    R 60 posts

    Appreciate the detailed suggestions and feedback from everyone in the thread.
    Have taken the advice to go for Pilanesberg and booked 2 nights at Manyane Resort (they have a kids play area which sealed the deal).

    Will post a TR when we get back!

    0 post

    A recommendation for those returning from Pilanesberg to Johannesburg to catch a flight to CPT. Perhaps try Lanseria Airport, HLA. Safair fly from there and the airport is a haven of peace compared to JNB. We’ve done it having rented a car from JNB on arrival from UK, driven up to stay a couple of nights at Tshkudu, and then back to HLA to drop the car off and fly south.

    WaynedP 258 posts

    South Africa Travel Advice Update on gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/south-africa regarding heavy rains in Kruger Park area, resulting in some camps and roads being closed or impassable:

    “Continued heavy rain is forecast for parts of Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Gauteng over the coming days. Do not take unnecessary risks and check your route for disruption before making your journey. Parts of Kruger National Park are affected and expecting heavy rainfall from 13th-17th February 2023. This has led to some closures of roads and camp sites. See South African National Parks website here for updates.”

    I have been in the Kruger Park during flash floods in which a tourist lost their life when their car was washed downstream, so the risks of driving around in the KNP in heavy rain can’t be taken lightly.

    There’s a link to SANParks in the gov.uk message, and the forums (accessible from the SANParks website) are a good source of up-to-date local information that I would recommend for anyone travelling there in the next week or two.

    WaynedP 258 posts

    Marriott International Hotel News received today:

    “We are Bringing Autograph Collection Hotels to Kruger National Park (KNP)

    We are excited to announce the signing of a franchise agreement with
    Tingana Hospitality Group to open an Autograph Collection® hotel in the iconic Kruger National Park in the north-east of South Africa.

    Slated to open by 2025, the Autograph Collection hotel in Kruger National Park will feature 18 villas, an all-day dining restaurant, lobby bar and swimming pool, as well as a host of other features and facilities. The hotel will be located on the Sabie River bordering the Kruger National Park, near the Kruger Gate entrance to the park.”

    Sounds some way off yet, although I suspect that KNP may get a little attention boost when the current “I’m a celebrity, get me out of here !” series is broadcast in the UK later this year.

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