Rudy Maxa, one of America’s premier consumer travel experts, is host and executive producer of “Rudy Maxa’s World,” the Emmy Award winning, public television travel series featuring destinations as diverse as Korea, Argentina, South Africa, Tuscany, and Thailand.


Two brothers, a photo I took in the Kruger National Park near Skukuza Camp

After seeing my post this week, The cost of a lion, Rudy invited me to be a guest on rmworldtravel radio show (broadcast on over 300 radio stations) to help listeners understand why the cost of a safari to Africa can vary so widely.

My segment on the radio show was too short to detail the cost differences or to explain how to book your own safari to the Kruger National Park in South Africa, by far the best bargain.  This post provides a more thorough guide than possible in 4 minutes on the radio.


White rhino often browse right up to your stopped vehicle in the Kruger if you are quiet.. This was taken near Berg-en-Dal Camp in the Kruger

To learn how to plan your own trip to the Kruger, see this post.

Go here to see what I learned from 25 years of trips to the Kruger National Park.

Here are tips on how to survive 16 hours in coach to get to South Africa.

This post explains the difference between the very costly luxury lodges versus the Kruger’s very reasonable prices.

Here’s another along the same lines,;that is, comparing luxury lodge safaris and the Kruger.

To read my analysis on how the Kruger Park is functioning in the context of contemporary political, social, and economic challenges, click here.

In this post I muse about why the Kruger never gets old to me.

In this post I talk more about why I keep returning to the Kruger.

Some key extracts from the latter post:

  • Kruger is the largest self-drive national park in Africa, and there are only two more national parks anything like it.  One is Etosha in Namibia, which is quite small, and the other is Hwange in Zimbabwe, which is closed.  I’ve visited all three and love them, but the Kruger is the largest and most diverse.  At 7,523 sq mi (same as NJ), 220 miles north-to-south and 40+ miles wide, it is huge.  In other parts of Africa visitors must hire a guide and often go in groups to wherever their guides take them.  In the Kruger you rent a car from Avis or Hertz and drive yourself on hundreds of miles of paved and well-kept gravel roads.  You are the boss and decide where you want to go on game drives, when you want to go, how long you want to stay out, and how long you want to stop and watch anything that catches your interest.  This is a great freedom to customize the experience however you want.  Sometimes, for instance, it’s fun to just sit for awhile observing a dung beetle navigating his huge ball of elephant poop across the road.
  • Speeds limits in the park at 50 KPH (about 30 MPH) on tarred roads and 40 KPH (about 25 MPH) on unpaved roads.  This is strictly enforced, so speeders are rare. Driving in he Kruger is therefore stress-free and relaxing.  The slow speeds protect the wildlife and the visitors alike, and you soon get into the rhythm of life in the very slow lane. I find it’s hard to adjust to he normal pace of traffic each time I leave.
  • The 12 full-service “restcamps” in the Kruger are self-contained villages surrounded by electrified barb wire fences to keep the animals from eating the guests.  Each one is a beautiful marvel fitted carefully into the natural landscape and often on a river, with its own gas station, curio shop, grocery store, restaurant and snack bar, and a wide variety of individual thatched-roof  circular accommodation called “rondavels”.  Each rondavel is air-conditioned, most with private toilets and showers.  Of course they have electric lights, and they come with linens, soap, and towels.  The experience is hotel-like and very comfortable.  Most rondavels have a spacious roofed outside porch equipped with table and chairs, fridge, hot plate, and utensils.  Rondavels usually are equipped with an outside “braai” (African word for small charcoal grill) if you prefer to cook your own dinner rather than go to the restaurant.  Most camps are large enough to enjoy long walks when not out on a game drive, and many have swimming pools.
  • Kruger has famously varied terrain and eco-systems.  Map books available in all the park shops detail the interesting differences in geology, elevation, rainfall, and vegetation, all of which impact wildlife distribution.  Because of this topographical and environmental diversity, the Kruger landscape changes constantly as you move through it.  Some places are hilly, with large rocky outcrops called kopjes.  Other places are open, reminiscent of the Serengeti plains.  Still others are wooded, or scrubby grasslands, or large river valleys.  The many changes in scenery make for a stimulating experience.
  • South African food in the Kruger is tasty, a mix of the commonplace (chicken salad; cheese and tomato sandwiches; steak) and the unfamiliar (pap, a finely ground corn; biltong, which is like jerky; game pie, such as impala; kudu steaks, which is similar to elk).  While the S.A. wines available in the Park shops are not the top quality selections from the Cape Province, they are nonetheless quite good, as are the upmarket S.A. beers.  Even the local peanuts taste different, somehow better.
  • Late afternoons enjoying a “sundowner” on the wide, open-air veranda of a camp restaurant situated on a river embankment are hard to beat, especially just before tucking into a delicious cut of Cape Buffalo seared to perfection.  After dinner, savoring the twilight with my last glass of deep red wine as the hippos grunt loudly to one another in the river fills me with pleasure. It’s relaxes my soul.
  • Spending time with loved ones driving slowly through the Park on game drives is just as relaxing, and a great deal of fun, too.  Everyone is on high alert scanning the countryside for animals.  Kruger brags that it is home to 148 species of large mammals, more than any other African game park, including the so-called “Big Five” (Lion, Elephant, Rhino, Cape Buffalo, and Leopard), and I have seen most of them at one time or another.
  • Then there are the 114 reptile species to look out for in the park like the baby black mamba I once found on my doorstep at Letaba Camp.
  • The birds are reason enough to visit Kruger.  505 bird species are found in the park, and many are magnificent.  Look up Lilac-breasted Roller, Carmine Bee-eater, Saddle-billed Stork, African Fish Eagle, Secretarybird, African Hoopoe, and Malachite Kingfisher for some stellar examples.  I never tire of the birds in the Kruger, and they are everywhere, including in all the camps.

And there is more in my earlier blog if you want to look back over the years:


Comfortable “rondavels” in the Kruger National Park camps

Adequate planning is everything for such a trip.  Because things book up pretty quickly, the best Kruger accommodation and the least expensive flights to and from South Africa usually require at least six months advance planning.

By the way, if you’d rather splurge and go in Business Class, there are sometimes deals for around $4000 round trip from the East Coast.  Your choice.  As I mention in several of the posts referenced above, safari costs are net of airfares.

Just remember that the longer lead time, the better for booking the Kruger.  I usually tie down my reservations 8-9 months in advance.