Updated: Jul 20
A honeymoon in Kruger National Park is everything we had ever dreamed of! There were spectacular views, amazing animals, and we barely had to think about it because it was all planned out for us. This was my second safari, but this honestly never gets old.
A safari is something everyone has to experience and what better time than on your honeymoon?! Here are some things to consider and how to make your honeymoon in Kruger National Park happen.
When to visit Kruger National Park
Animal viewing is great year round in Kruger National Park. It is the animals' home after all - they are always there (as our guide told us when I asked the best time of year to visit). But, there are a few things to consider when you decide what time of year to visit.
Kruger has two distinct seasons, the dry winter from May to October, and the summer rainy season from November to April. However, every day in the Kruger National Park is a one-of-a-kind safari adventure.
Generally, people recommend visiting Kruger at the beginning of the dry season through August. The animals in the park begin to migrate to warmer areas, congregate at watering holes, and migrate to more northern parts of the park for warmer temperatures as the winter months continue. It can get really cold these months.
Through the summer months (November to April), the vegetation will get thicker and rainfall gets heavier.
November and December is when we went on our honeymoon to Kruger National Park (Nov. 30 - Dec 2nd). Game viewing is still good, but there is more vegetation. You'll miss the big crowds and find many young summer-born animals around. It's also the best time to visit the Kruger for birdwatching as well as safari-and-beach combinations. If you're combining your trip with Cape Town like we did, this is the best time of year to visit.
Keep in mind that summers in Kruger are very hot, reaching well into the 90’s Fahrenheit (even when we were there in early December it was 95 during the day). If visiting in this heat, make sure your accommodation and car have air conditioning.
January tends to be the rainiest and hottest month in Kruger. There's also a greater risk of Malaria at this time. I'd recommend avoiding late December and early January, talk with a doctor before visiting during this time of year.
What Part of the Park Is Best?
This is another question I asked our guide on our safari. His answer? It depends on what you want to see! Kruger is huge and unless you plan to spend a full 10 days or so there, it's not possible to see it all. Instead, decide what you want to see the most and choose the region you want to stay based off that.
You'll also want to consider whether you want to have someone arrange it for you or do it yourself (both are possible when visiting and I'll lay those out in my section on self guided or organized tour - jump to it now).
There are four main sections in Kruger that our guide explained to us. They are below!
Kruger’s Southern Section
This is the most accessible region from Johannesburg (about 4.5 hours from the city driving or a short flight). It offers easy access to the park with half the gates for the entire park located in this area, there are 11 total in Kruger. This also means it's the most popular part of the park.
There are several rest areas and picnic areas in this area as well as private game reserves nearby. You also have a good chance of seeing all of the big 5 here (like we did!).
The pictures above are all from Kruger's southern region.
Kruger’s Central Section
The central section begins at Satara Camp and ends just north of Letaba Camp. It's known for grassy planes and is referred to as cat country. So if you want to see lots of lions, then this might be the best area for you. The grasslands give access to herding animals as well such as zebra, buffalo, and antelope. Ostriches also can be found here.
Kruger’s Northern and Far Northern Section
The far northern third of Kruger, from Olifants River northwards, is off the beaten path. there are far fewer rest camps here and you won't see as much tourism happening. This is the best region though for birding and the rare wild dogs.
Overall, I recommend visiting the southern part of Kruger National Park on your honeymoon for the best facilities and ease of planning a trip overall. You will get to see the most variety of animals in this region as well. We did end up seeing wild dogs even though we visited the southern region which we were very excited about. The only thing we didn't see that we wanted to were cheetahs and ostriches.
How to Get There
There are a lot of different ways to get to Kruger. We used a tour company called Exoticca who booked the details for us as part of a 10 day South Africa trip. I'm not one who usually does this and likes a DIY, but when it's your honeymoon, you want to splurge a little. There are several different companies that offer tours, you can also work directly with a lodge to get there as well.
Before booking anything, decide if you want to do it yourself as outlined below, or have someone organize it for you. Choose a place to stay that will organize things for you! I will outline some of those options in the next section self guided or organized tour.
The closest city and international airport is Johannesburg. It’s likely that your flight into South Africa will land there. From there, there are a few different ways to get from Johannesburg to Kruger National Park.
The drive from Johannesburg to the Kruger National Park is 4-5 hours long. The quickest route to Kruger Park from Johannesburg is 392 km via the N12 and N4. You can also drive along the Panorama Route which is one of the most beautiful drives I've ever done. Stop at Blyde River Canyon, the third largest canyon in the world, and God's Window for amazing views and vistas. Our tour company drove this route from Johannesburg to Kruger and we loved spending the day enjoying it both there and back!
You can easily rent a car in South Africa (we did this while in Cape Town), but beware that you will likely be defaulted to a manual transmission and an automatic will be a lot more expensive.
Many people will immediately land in Johannesburg and connect on a smaller plane directly to the area where they are doing their safari. There are two main airports. Some luxury safaris will fly you direct into their safari camp.
But, let's be real, that's going to cost you thousands and thousands, so more likely... you'll fly into one of the two below and get picked up.
Most lodges will either include airport pick up or charge a small fee. If you go this route over driving, I recommend having them pick you up rather than trying to find transport once there.
You can also rent a car once you land at one of the two airports below if you want to do a self guided safari.
Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport
Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport is located 27 kilometres north east of Mbombela in Mpumalanga, South Africa.
Fly To Skukuza, Airport Inside Kruger National Park
This is by far the most convenient option. Skukuza Airport is the only commercial airport located inside Kruger National Park.
It is inside the Skukuza Rest Camp, which is one of the most popular rest camps in the park.
If you want to try staying in the park, you can fly right into this camp, check-in, and use their guided game drives without having to rent a car. There is an Avis Car Rental option here as well.
For a honeymoon in Kruger National Park, I recommend choosing the easy option. Either the drive through the Panorama Route is included in your trip, or you fly directly to your safari camp to make things easier for you.
Self Guided or Organized Tour?
You will see many different people driving through Kruger National Park during the day in regular cars, you will also see many people driving in safari vehicles with a guide. There are pros and cons I will outline below for you.
Self Guided Pros
Flexibility: you can choose where you go, when, and how long you spend.
You have your own vehicle to get around.
You won't have to deal with anyone else. No groups, no waiting for other people, no obscured views in the vehicle.
Self Guided Cons
You aren't familiar with the park and roads. While things are clearly marked, our phones did not work while in Kruger, if you aren't comfortable with maps or potentially being on your own in the wilderness, I would not recommend.
You won't know where animals like to hang out. Our guide was really familiar with Kruger and where to find particular animals. He knew the best areas to take us and what time of day. Similarly, he knew all the other guides and they would call each other when they saw different animals. We would have missed a lot of animals without our guide.
Organized Tour Pros
Guides know all the fun facts, names of animals and plants, best places to go, and places to stop. They will be able to take you places you may have missed on your own.
Tours can plan special moments for you. We had welcome drinks, dinner included nightly with special desserts for our honeymoon, and more. They worked to make things really wonderful for us!
They handle the details, you won't have to think about it. You just show up at the right times, get up early in the morning, and enjoy your day looking for animals, asking questions, and taking it all in.
Organized Tour Cons
You will end up waiting on others.
You may have too many people.
You may want to stay longer in a spot, but have to move on.
Overall, for a bucket list trip like this, especially for your honeymoon, I would recommend booking through a tour company who can make it special for you. Make sure ou choose a small group option or private game drives if you are worried about some of the cons.
We used Exoticca and upgraded to their superior category. We were with a small group of 6 people instead of 30, and had the BEST guide we could ask for during our safari. He was so knowledgable and we saw all of the big 5 because of his hard work and knowledge of the park. It was well worth it to book through a tour group!
Our local tour guide in Kruger was through Africa Spears and his name was Derrick. He was amazing and we couldn't recommend him enough. The upgrade paid off and we had a small group of 6 that were on our safari with us. It was amazing!
Safari Camps, Lodges, & Tour Options
Below are different optisosn to consider. These are camps that were recommended to me or I personally stayed at through our tour group. Starting with the most expensive to least expensive.
Royal Malewane ~$3000 Located in Thornybush Private Game Reserve, Royal Malewane is a secluded luxury retreat adjacent to the Kruger National Park. The lodge has a dining area overlooking a waterhole with game viewing opportunities. Meals under the stars are served around the fire in the traditional boma or out in the African Savannah. Special dietary menus are available on advance request.
Guided game drives with expert rangers and trackers are conducted in the morning and afternoon aboard specialized open-top Land Rovers.
The Royal Malewane Bush Spa includes a fully-equipped fitness center, heated lap pool, steam room and a hot tub. The in-house therapists provide a wide range of massages and beauty treatments.
The lodge is easily accessible by air and road. Hoedspruit is a 45-munite drive away and Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport is 81 mi from the lodge. Airport transfers can be arranged for a surcharge. Royal Malewane also has its own private airstrip.
Kruger Shalati ~$600-$800 Kruger Shalati offers two types of accommodation: 24 Carriage Suites located on the Train on the Bridge and 7 Bridge House Suites located adjacent to the bridge in a picturesque garden setting with the train’s gentle glow as your backdrop. This luxury hotel is in the most unique location in the Kruger National Park - the historic bridge, where the very first visitors to the Park had a pioneering stay within the carriages.
Accommodation, all meals, teas and coffees, daily soft drinks, house wines, local brand spirits and beers are included. It also includes two game drives daily in open game drive vehicles. There is also a complementary return road transfers between the Skukuza Airport and the lodge.
I want to go back just so I can stay here! It looks absolutely stunning and is located close to several shops and restaurants inside Kruger. The wildlife viewing from here is also wonderful. We visited a restaurant right be here and loved the views.
andBeyond Phinda ~$400-500 Phinda has six different luxury properties located in their private game reserve located outside Kruger National Park. A variety of incredible adventures are available, including twice-daily game drives, nature walks, conservation and community experiences, sleep outs, village tours, night drives, specialist safaris, as well as nearby ocean activities.
Nkambeni Safari Camp ~ $200 This camp is ideally located in Kruger National Park close to the Numbi Gate, it features a restaurant, outdoor swimming pool, a bar and garden in Hazyview. Featuring a terrace, the property has air-conditioning, and family rooms with a private bathroom. They offer private transfers to their safari camp as well as game drives twice a day included in some packages.
I would recommend staying here for your honeymoon. This is where our tour company originally booked us and I was so excited. It ended up that there was a problem with the booking and we stayed else where (we also loved that spot, but they do not arrange safari's on their own so left it off this list, but if you're interested in a self guided safari, consider staying at Stille Woning, pictured above).
Bushlink Safaris Lower Sabie Rest Camp ~$60-$100 This camp is located on the Sabie River in the south. Lower Sabie has a Mug & Bean which offers easy food options and WiFi making this a more luxurious camping option. They also have a pool and car rentals available onsite.
They offer safari game drives, airport pick up and drop off, guided hikes, and more for an additional charge.
Crocodile Bridge Safari Camp ~$100 - 150 This is an “Adult Friendly” Safari Lodge that boasts spectacular views over Kruger Park and lies on the banks of the Crocodile River which gives one the opportunity to view game directly from the lodge.
After an exciting day’s game viewing, cool off in the viewing pool, sipping sun downers as we wait to be treated to each evening’s unique African sunset as it displays a kaleidoscope of colourful imagery.
They offer safari game drives, airport pick up and drop off, guided hikes, and more for an additional charge.
What to Bring
The worst thing on your honeymoon is feeling unprepared and stressed because you forgot something! Here's some things you need to bring on your honeymoon to Kruger National Park.
binoculars (yes, you really need them)
water bottle — have a Hydro Flask
zoom lens and camera (I have a Sony RX100 III, the zoom is not amazing but does the job)
hat - tell me why on both the safari's I've gone on, I've forgotten this and regretted it
Jacket/layers - it can be cool in the morning, hot in the afternoons
To sum it up, there are many different and amazing ways to go on a honeymoon in Kruger National Park. Overall, I'd recommend booking through a tour company or lodge that will take care of the details for you! There are so many different options to choose from, but I hope you choose something relaxing and fun for your special trip, just like we did.