Our road trip around South Africa taught me a lot. When my 6th grade teacher told me, “you don’t know what you don’t know’, it struck a cord with me. These words often float back into my mind at times where I find myself a situation I feel, unprepared for. Since there were many of these situations along our road trip, I thought that starting a series on what I wish I’d known, would be helpful to more than just me.
Hindsight:Kruger National Park
When you look at the place on a map, even though you can see how vast it is, it’s nothing like actually finding yourself stuck in the middle of (literally) nowhere. You aren’t prepared for the GPS to stop working when you need it the most, or to be stuck without signal with no other means of calling for help.
The Kruger National Park is so big, it has sections in 3 different regions in South Africa. There is so much to see that, you could drive the entire day, and not see everything. Which means, leaving home without enough food is really, really stupid. Once you’re in the park there is nowhere to get food and leaving the park takes FOREVER.
So here is the first thing I wish Kruger National Park (or all SANPARKS game reserves would do). While there are signs along the road, what’s missing from the sign is how long it will take you to get back to a gate from that point. The speed limit is 50km/h. So it will take you an hour to drive 50km. Which means that if you are 150kms from the nearest gate, it will take you 3 hours to get there. And when the gates close at 5:30pm, you are liable to pay a fine. So, when you are 150km into the Kruger National Park, you need to turn around and start heading back to a gate at around 2pm so that you won’t have to pay a fine.
Which brings me to my second point. There is no point in just driving into the park for a day. It’s just too big. So rather book some accommodation for the night and then you won’t have to leave exactly when the noctural animals come out to play. Camp it, hotel it or do something in between but don’t pay for a day pass. It’s too restrictive.
The other parks we’ve visited, like Addo Elephant Park and iSimangaliso are fine. They can be done in a day. But not something as huge as Kruger National Park.
So obviously if you’re going to drive through something that has borders into a few regions, you’re going to want to make sure that your vehicle is in tip top shape. So that if you end up on a gravel road, you won’t find that you’ll need to change a tyre. Since I had to buy not one, but 3 other tyres, the next day, clearly it wasn’t the Kruger National Park’s fault that we had a puncture. Make sure you check that your tyres are up to the journey and obviously fill up with petrol before you start.
And, as I’ve already mentioned, take enough food and beverages (about 50% more than you think you’ll need) with you. You will be driving all day and the car will get pretty hot. So don’t forget your sunscreen. Because your arms and face can still get sunburned through your windows.
Don’t make the same mistake we did and assume that you will be given a map of the park with all the (useless) papers they shove through your window when you pay. When you drive up to the park, find a parking bay and walk into the office. Buy a map, then fill out your paperwork and count out the right amount of money, before you hop back into the car and proceed to the payment booth.
I’m thinking about throwing a whistle into the car. Maybe if we’d had a way of attracting attention the anti poaching unit guy who was standing around the corner may have come to our aid. Or maybe I should have lit some wood and hoped that smoke signals would have summoned help!? Just kidding 😉