Trudging through page after page online of places that offer an African safari Kruger National Park adventure took hours. Page after page surfing was exhausting, and I felt I had gotten nowhere. I finally gave up and emailed my friend Todd living in Eswatini. He suggested booking a tour through All Out Africa.
Self drove through Etosha National Park
I just returned from Namibia. I rented a car in Windhoek and drove up to the national park and did several self drives in the park as well as guided safaris with the national park. That was an amazing experience, but it took a lot of time and planning. I decided for Kruger National Park, I wanted to do a tour and not do as much work planning.
Booking with All Out Africa was easy and the price was reasonable
I emailed All Out Africa and got a quote and a general explanation of the tour. It consisted of four nights camping in Kruger National Park. Almost everything was included except lunch on the first day, any extra snacks and drinks, and an optional bush walk with the national park. . The total was $420 with another $38.00 for the optional bush walk. It was all out reasonable. All prices listed in U.S. dollars. The tour included ten other people.
Logistics of getting to Kruger National Park
I was staying in Mbabane, Eswatini, and the tour originated out of Lidwala Lodge. Fortunately, the lodge was right along the path of my friend’s commute to work. He dropped me off on his way to work. There I met my travel mates, and we boarded a shuttle bus and drove towards Kruger. We crossed the border to South Africa at Mananga and then stoped in Komatipoort for lunch and one last stop to pick up snacks and beer. It was all out logical.
In Komatipoort, we switched cars and left our shuttle bus and boarded two safari trucks. Sipho drove the shuttle bus, and we met our drivers who drove the safari trucks and served as our guides on the safari. Sipho joined us in the trucks as he was the tour leader. We then entered Kruger National Park at Crocodile Bridge and started our safari. It was all out convenient.
Related: My top ten experiences in Africa
African safari Kruger National Park adventure – Arriving at Lower Sabie Camp
We drove over Crocodile Bridge and immediately saw a crocodile. A crocodile was our first and last animal we would encounter. Our main goal for the afternoon was to arrive at camp, set up, and get acclimated, but we had time to enjoy the drive in and stop for pictures if any animals presented themselves.
We immediately saw crocodiles and hippos when crossing the bridge. These animals were not found in Etosha National Park, so I was pleased to see them for the first time in my life. On the way to camp, we saw elephants, baboons, wildebeest, warthogs, giraffes, kudu, and many birds. As we approached our camp, we came across a pond that had several crocodiles and hippos and we saw our first Cape buffalo, which was another first for me. The safari was all out on.
African safari Kruger National Park adventure group
The group consisted of myself, a fellow from Wales and his friend from Eswatini, and a group of volunteers that worked with All Out Africa. The volunteers were from throughout Europe with most coming from the Netherlands and France. It was all out great people.
Lower Sabie camp
The first thing I saw when we pulled into camp was a circle of chairs around a fire pit. I was in love already. When I entered my tent, there was a comfy cot laid out for my sleeping bag. What really grabbed my attention was a charging station on a little table with a light. As long as the generator was working, which it mostly did, I had 24/7 access to charge my phone and GoPro batteries. I was all out charged up.
African safari Kruger National Park adventure – food was excellent
We enjoyed three meals a day that were all first rate. Breakfast included a coffee and tea station with orange juice. We were usually up early for game drives, so we usually ate quick things like yogurt with granola or cereal. A few times we had something more substantial like pancakes. Dinner was amazing and included pasta, grilled chicken, and we had an all out braai the last night where all kinds of meat were cooked over a fire pit.
African safari Kruger National Park adventure day two
Day two was significant because on day two, I joined the Big Five Club. The Big Five Club consists of those who have seen the big five African animals. The big five are the five most dangerous animals to hunt. They include the lion, elephant, rhino, Cape buffalo, and the leopard. In Etosha, I had seen all but the leopard and the Cape buffalo. I saw the Cape buffalo on day one in Kruger, so the leopard was the elusive last member of the big five. The leopard is the most elusive of the five, and is usually the last animal that people add to their list.
We enjoyed a morning safari where we saw some beautiful lions, but still no leopard. I had scanned just about every tree in Etosha and so far in Kruger for a sign of a leopard without success. Then after lunch the safari truck in front of us stopped along the side of the road and radioed us. They had spotted a leopard (no pun intended).
You never forget your first leopard
The leopard was actually on the ground just on the side of the road under a bush. Our group leader, Sipho, somehow located him while driving past. We pulled up behind the other truck, and the leopard stuck his head up and checked us out. He sauntered away quite quickly, but stopped for a few seconds to further check us out before heading into the bush. These slight pauses allowed me some great shots of my first leopard. It was all out spot on.
African safari Kruger National Park adventure was not all fun and games
While I enjoyed every game drive I was on, they are not all fun and games. Sometimes we drove for miles and sometimes for 30 minutes or longer without seeing even a single bird except for a dove or starling. Driving for game reminded me of fishing. You had to put in the time in order to see the really cool animals. If you just fished for 30 minutes, you might not catch anything or perhaps a small fish even in a good spot. If you fish for hours though, you will eventually have success, assuming you know how to fish.
Some might find these game drives a little monotonous and some might not enjoy a longer safari. If you do not have the longest attention span, then a four day safari might be too long for you. I totally encourage it though because we spent five days in Kruger, it allowed us to see all five of the big five and even two cheetahs.
Night safari with the national park
On most of the days, we did a morning safari and a late afternoon safari. It was not possible to drive outside the camp after 6 p.m. The times are posted at the entrance. The exception to this is if you book a night safari with the park. We did one night safari that was included in our tour. It was the most fruitful of our drives as we saw some nocturnal animals like a ring-tailed genet and a civet that we did not see on any other tour.
The highlight of this night safari and the whole tour in general was seeing two cheetahs. We came across another ranger who patrolled this section of the park. He told our driver he saw a cheetah a couple of kilometers down the road. We drove a couple of kilometers down the road and saw a rhino and her baby. These were the only rhinos we saw in Kruger.
After leaving the rhino we drove a few more kilometers and saw nothing. I feared we missed our chance to see the cheetahs by stopping for the rhino. I had seen several rhinos in Etosha, and would have preferred searching for the cheetah, but you are not going to pass up a rhino with a baby.
African safari Kruger National Park adventure – Double cheetah sighting
Just as it was getting almost to the point where it was no longer possible to take photographs, Natasha, our guide and driver, pointed out two cheetahs. They were roaming the savanna just about a quarter mile away. We pulled up adjacent to them and they walked right towards us. We could not have been more than 20 feet away. One climbed a tree to get a better look at us. Natasha said they were looking for other cheetahs and spreading their scent to protect their territory.
We stayed with them for over ten minutes as they were completely at ease with our presence. They were so close, that I had some trouble getting their whole body in my super zoom camera. That is something to file under the good problem to have category. After this experience, I definitely felt that I was not all out cheated. These experiences were all out priceless.
Camp life at Lower Sabie
Whenever we were not driving around in a safari truck, we stayed in the camp. We would sometimes have a couple of hours to kill in camp between safaris. We had the opportunity to swim at the pool, take a nap, get Wi-Fi or coffee at the camp restaurant, take a shower, or just hang in the camp. The camp was really nice and the bathrooms were extraordinarily clean. They were a short walk from our camp as was the pool and the restaurant. The restaurant looked out on the river, so we were able to see some hippos, crocodiles, and birds while enjoying a coffee or beer.
At night we had a fire and after dinner, had a drink or two. I brought some beer and the tour guides had fridge space that they allowed us to cool down our beverages. We usually did not stay up too late though as we were constantly getting up at 5 a.m. and even earlier to start our drives. The few moments between our game drives when we were able to enjoy hanging out at the camp were all out relaxing.
Leopards in the tree jam
Many times while driving in Kruger, you would come upon a cluster of cars. The amount of cars in the cluster would signify the importance of the animal that the people were stopped to look at. A few cars would indicate an elephant or giraffe. Not that those animals lack in importance, but we saw hundreds of elephants and giraffes during our five days.
Every once in awhile we would see ten or more cars stopped with eyes in binoculars and cameras pointed in the same direction. For these large gatherings, they most often indicated lions, leopards or cheetahs. On one such occasion, it was for a leopard in a tree. We had missed seeing a couple of leopards on these occasions and did see a second one walking in an open grassland the day before. Kruger was sometimes an all out jam.
On this day, we saw my African dream. There in the middle of the savanna, high atop a lone tree was a gorgeous leopard. He was huffing and puffing, so Percy, our driver, seemed to think he just failed in a hunt. We actually got stuck in the traffic right across from the leopard, so we had the perfect view for 30 minutes. We did not even want to stay that long, but we could not move.
A few kilometers later we saw a second leopard in a tree. The next day, on the way out of the park, we saw our fifth and final leopard of the trip. It was all out big cats for us as we saw five leopards, two cheetahs, and probably 10-20 lions.
Other highlights from African safari Kruger National Park
Seeing big cats is always the top highlight and memory for most, and we were no different. Other animal highlights included hyenas on the road in the early morning, seeing a Verreaux’s eagle owl, and the wetland birds seen along the Sabie River and the nearby pond. There will be an additional post on the bird life and on the bush walk soon.
Drive out of the park and back to Lidwala
The next day we crossed the Crocodile bridge, and stopped for one last photograph of a crocodile with his mouth open. Seemed like the crocodile was saying goodbye to us. It was see you later Kruger National Park from a Nile crocodile. We left with thousands of amazing photographs and a lifetime memory of one of the best adventure tours I have ever been on. It was all out life changing.
If you want an All Out adventure in Africa, check out All Out Africa’s website for how you can see the Big Five in South Africa. I highly recommend their services. The tour leader Sipho was phenomenal, and our driver, Percy was excellent. He excelled at positioning our safari truck in order to get the best shots for our group.
If you are looking for information on Kruger or Africa and wildlife in general, check out Travel 4 Wildlife. I used this website extensively when planning both Etosha, Kruger, and other places in southern Africa.