You can self-drive the Kruger, staying at a wide range of government facilities run by the parastatal SANParks. There are more than 3,000km of tar and dirt roads at your disposal, and there is somewhere to stay every 50-100km (less in the south). The park can accommodate in excess of 4,500, counting permanent structures and campsites.
Over 20 South African National Parks’ restcamps provide accommodation within the Kruger ranging from mid-range sponsored Guest Cottages with outside showers, bar areas and DStv, to basic bush huts for 2 to 5 people with only a shared cold water basin for washing.
SANParks restcamps are remarkably good value. Most are well located on riverbanks, dams or areas of particular interest (savannah plains, birding spots). Increasing modernisation is introducing more amenities such as swimming pools in an area which can be very hot.
Limits are imposed on both the numbers of day and overnight visitors. To guarantee a stay it is essential to book in advance. Consider this up to six months in advance. South African school holidays and religious festivals are extremely busy and can be booked out years in advance.
Staying in the Kruger at a restcamp is far better for early-morning self-drive exploration (when the animals are most active) than trying to rush in to the middle of the park from outside when the gates open around dawn.
To make the most of your time when the gates are shut, you should invest in activities organised by the camps. Morning and evening game drives are available in open-sided vehicles. Professional guides provide insight into the flora and fauna around you. Organised drives also circumnavigate the strict rules on when you must be in camp (drives leave before gates open, returning after close at night).
Certain camps organise guided morning or afternoon walks where you will join a group of up to eight people escorted through the bush by two trained rangers. Some also offer bush braais, or trips out to safe swimming spots are on trial.
Rondavels (round African-style thatched huts) are the basic unit of accommodation and predominate at almost all Main Camps. They sleep 2-3 comfortably, normally in single beds; most have en-suite showers or baths and basic cooking facilities. A braai is provided outside.
The most recently renovated camps, mainly in the south of the Kruger, offer Safari Tents consisting of semi-permanent two- or four-bed structures. Despite being a cheaper alternative, they do offer a more authentic “in the bush” feel. You do have to share ablutions, a kitchen and a fridge.
Some camps offer Luxury Bungalows. These are often buildings that have been funded by corporate sponsors, whose names they make take. They offer a higher level of creature comfort, including DStv in some, but command a higher price accordingly. We have noted the camps where these are available in the individual camp listings.
Family Cottages and Guest Cottages are multiple-room units with well-equipped kitchens and usually more than one bathroom. Visitors should confirm bed numbers and facilities when booking.
Camping sites are available for either tents or caravans. There is a power point per site; guests are limited in nunber to six per site. The kitchen and ablutions facilities are shared.
All of the major restcamps have electricity, a first-aid centre, braai and communal kitchen facilities, a laundromat/laundry tubs, a restaurant and/or self-service cafeteria, and a petrol station.
The restaurants can get busy, so expect to cook for yourselves from time-to-time using either the braai provided outside your rondavel, or the shared cooking facilities.
There is a reasonably appetising selection of food on offer for this purpose in the shops, also provided at the major restcamps. These also stock soft drinks, alcohol, film for cameras, books, magazines and of course, curios. Be aware that you are left to your own devices of an evening.
The Bush Camps offer little in the way of shops (wood and ice and pre-paid Telkom phones are about the limit); certainly there are no restaurants or food for sale. Whilst these do not represent the luxury of the private reserves in and around the Kruger, they are all unique and special places in themselves. Expect to have to go to the nearest main Restcamp to stock up if you run out of food, booze or other supplies.
Electrical equipment cannot be used in the rooms except for at Bateleur, Biyamiti and Talamati. A basic solar powered system provides the opportunity to charge cellphones etc, but do not assume that you will have coverage in the middle of the bush.
Open verandahs serve as kitchens and dining rooms; all units have a refrigerator, a stove, cooking utensils and crockery, although it is worth checking whether an oven is available. All have private ablution facilities.