Are you a Kruger novice? Is getting there unknown territory for you? Good route planning this Easter Weekend can be very helpful. The Kruger National Park is huge and before you choose the best route to get there, you should decide exactly where you are heading.
Once your bookings are done, you will probably decide which entrance gate will be the most convenient to aim for. Keep in mind the time you are planning to arrive and the distance you have to travel to your accommodation inside the park. Obviously driving in the park is much slower than on the access routes due to speed limits (maximum 50km/h) and stopping for game sightings.
Heinrich van den Berg, one of the authors of Kruger Self-Drive Routes, Roads & Ratings, has the following tip for working out how much time you should set aside. “First, make a quick calculation of the distance you have to travel from the entrance gate to your first night’s accommodation. Divide the distance by 25km/h to determine the required travel time. The park is huge and you cannot enter at a gate in the south if your first night’s booking is in the far north.”
The eastern approach
The Crocodile Bridge Entrance Gate is the most convenient for travellers coming from Mozambique, Swaziland, and those passing through Swaziland from Zululand and Durban. The N2 from Durban to the Golela Border Post (open from 07:00-22:00) is in excellent condition. You need a passport for entering Swaziland but for most countries no visa is required.
The MR8 up to Big Bend is in good condition (watch out for speed traps) but the MR18 up to the MR3 intersection should be taken slowly because of potholes and uneven surfaces.
The MR3 passes through Hlane Royal National Park. Take the turn-off towards the MR24 that heads towards the Mananga Border Post (open from 08:00-18:00). This is the shortest route from Durban to Komatipoort and the route is tarred throughout. Crocodile Bridge Gate is a half-day or less drive from most of the southern camps. Even Satara can easily be reached if you enter early enough.
For camps in the south
The Malelane Gate is the entrance of choice for many who travel from Gauteng, the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal and with a booking in the south. The best route from the interior of the country is the N4. Travelling from KwaZulu-Natal, the choice is taking the N11 up to Ermelo and joining the N4 at Machadodorp, or taking the R33 via N17 towards the R541, over Badplaas to Barberton (R36) and joining the N4 at Kaapmuiden.
Numbi Entrance Gate
Heading towards White River from the N4 leads to Numbi Gate on the western border of the park. Although this is the shortest route to Pretoriuskop Camp, many regular visitors avoid this gate because of the long stretch of road that passes through a rural area with a speed limit of 60km/h.
Phabeni and Paul Kruger Entrance Gate
Hazyview can be reached either by continuing on the R40 after passing White River, or by veering away from the N4 at Belfast taking the R540 to Lydenburg/Masising, driving the scenic Long Tom Pass (R37) to Sabie and continuing on the R536 to Hazyview.
From there you have a choice of entering the park at Phabeni Gate east of the town, or continuing to the Paul Kruger Gate, which is the closest to Skukuza. Both these are extremely popular.
For camps in the central section
If your first night’s destination is in the central section, Orpen Gate is your best option. The recommended route from Gauteng is with the N4, veering off onto the R540 towards Dullstroom and Lydenburg/Masising. Continue northwards along the scenic R36 to the Abel Erasmus Tunnel and continue onto the R527 and then the R531 towards Klaserie and the Orpen Gate.
This route takes you from the Highveld grasslands, through the fascinating outliers of the Drakensberg escarpment into the lush sub-tropical Lowveld before you hit the drier woodland savanna of the park.
For camps in the north
Phalaborwa Entrance Gate
If you are heading to the northern section of the park, Phalaborwa Gate is your best point of entrance. In this case you would take the same route as to Orpen Gate but once through the tunnel, you would continue on the R527 taking the R526 turn-off to Mica. Five kilometer onwards, take the R40 towards Phalaborwa.
Visitors from North West and Limpopo might prefer to approach Phalaborwa from Polokwane/Pietersburg via Tzaneen and Gravelotte. This is another excellent and scenic route.
Punda Maria and Pafuri Entrance Gate
Punda Maria Gate is reached by taking the R524 via Thohoyandou into the far northern section of the park. The road is in a good condition but because it passes through many small rural villages, the speed restrictions slow you down considerably. The other alternative is to take the R525 from the N1 and travel via Tshipise to enter at Pafuri Gate.
The main routes to Kruger are mostly in a good condition. Many international visitors prefer to fly into one of the airports servicing Kruger, pick up their hired vehicle and go on their self-drive visit without the stress of long driving along unknown territories. Yet, watching the scenery and vegetation change as you travel from higher inland over the escarpment into the Lowveld can be as exciting as your first game drive.
Wild Card Call Centre
Do take note that the Wild Card Call Centre will be closed from 14-17 April 2017.
Happy Easter, Wild travellers!