Kruger camps – Intro and Letaba

Map of Kruger National Park camps. This map can be downloaded from the Siyabona Africa site here.

Map of Kruger National Park camps. This map can be downloaded from the Siyabona Africa site here.

There are a variety of accommodation options in the Kruger National Park. Besides the camps of SANParks (South African National Parks), there are private game reserves which border on Kruger (there are no fences between these and Kruger), and also private concession safari lodges within Kruger. One of the best sites to explore these is at the Siyabona Africa site, which has a lot of information, and handles enquiries and bookings for these lodges. The Siyabona Africa site also has a number of excellent maps of Kruger.

If you want more of a self-drive, self-catering (and less expensive) option, then the SANParks camps are the way to go. Here the options include camping (only in the bigger camps) or staying in a bungalow or cottage in the bigger traditional rest camps or in the “bushveld camps” (which are much smaller and away from the main tourist areas). All the information to plan and book your Kruger trip is at the official SANParks site.

The way Willie planned our trip, was to look at a map of Kruger and decide which areas we wanted to visit, the camps which were available in those areas and the travelling times between the camps. You really don’t want to have to drive from south to north in one day! You also need to take into consideration the camp gate times. Visitors to Kruger are not allowed to travel between camps during the night-time hours. These vary according to the season. For the most part we chose to stay in the bushveld camps, to get more of the bush experience, and have fewer people around us.

Our trip started at the Malelane Gate (close to Nelspruit) and the camps we stayed in in order were:

  • Biyamiti Bushveld Camp
  • Talamati Bushveld Camp
  • Letaba Restcamp – a large, traditional restcamp
  • Bateleur Bushveld Camp
  • Sirheni Bushveld Camp
  • Shimuwini Bushveld Camp

If you look at a map (you can download a map here) you will see that we were travelling north until we got to the Sirheni bushcamp. Then for the last couple of days we went south again to Shimuwini and exited Kruger at the Phalaborwa gate. For a first time visit to Kruger this turned out to be an excellent plan – thanks to Willie’s excellent planning skills!

Letaba camp: view of the residential area of the camp. Note the beautiful big trees. ©LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

Letaba camp: view of the residential area of the camp. Note the beautiful big trees. ©LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

Letaba camp: walkway through the gardens in the residential area of the camp. ©LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

Letaba camp: walkway through the gardens in the residential area of the camp. ©LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

Letaba, the one large traditional camp we stayed at, is a beautiful camp hugged by a bend in the Letaba River. It has huge trees which means that it is shady and cool in the heat of the day. Being so close to the river is a huge advantage in terms of game viewing. You can take walks along the river-side camp boundary and see the animals coming down to drink. The accommodation is of the usual SANParks standard i.e. comfortable, neat and clean. The camp itself is very well maintained. It is a huge camp, but because of the layout (the cottages and rondavels (round bungalows) are away from the main tourist centre), residents don’t have to deal with the tourist bustle and the day visitors using the camp as a pit-stop. I think it is an excellent camp for families with children.

Letaba camp: View of the river from the camp restaurant. ©LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

Letaba camp: View of the river from the camp restaurant. ©LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

Letaba camp: another view towards the Letaba River from the camp restaurant. ©LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

Letaba camp: another view towards the Letaba River from the camp restaurant. ©LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

What also impressed me with the main rest camps, is that despite their size, they are largely hidden from view from the main roads. Or they are built from materials which blend in with the surrounding area and vegetation. The main camps also have a good infrastructure. Besides the camp office (where staff can help tourists with any queries or concerns), there is a garage for refuelling. There is a shop (food, Kruger/wildlife books, and Kruger clothing and souvenirs) and restaurant. This makes the main camps a lot more commercial, but is a necessary evil to cater to the high tourist demand.  To be able to get my coffee fix was great and the restaurant always has the best views in the camp! If these very touristy aspects detract from your enjoyment of Kruger, they are easy enough to avoid.

For anyone needing to keep in contact with home, or trying to keep in touch via social media, the main camps also all have cellphone (mobile) reception. So whether it’s to maintain your blog on the go, or look up information online, you’re covered.

At Letaba we stayed in a little rondavel (round bungalow). These are single bedroom units with a bathroom, and a little  kitchenette outside with basic kitchen equipment. I thought these were so cute and well-designed.

Letaba camp: A rondawel like the one we stayed in. ©LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

Letaba camp: A rondavel like the one we stayed in. ©LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

Letaba camp: the little kitchen corner. ©LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

Letaba camp: the little kitchen corner. ©LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

Letaba camp: The bedroom area of our rondawel. ©LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

Letaba camp: The bedroom area of our rondavel. ©LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

Letaba camp: Inside our rondawel. ©LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

Letaba camp: Inside our rondavel. ©LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

Letaba camp: the cutest, wedge-shaped bathroom ever! ©LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

Letaba camp: the cutest, wedge-shaped bathroom ever! ©LB/notesfromafrica.wordpress.com

In a follow-up Kruger Camps post, I’ll discuss the Bushveld Camps we stayed at.

This post is part of a series of Kruger National Park posts I will be publishing. It is also part of my daily posts for October 2016 – otherwise known as The October Dash

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Categories: Lifestyle/Travel

Author:lisa@notesfromafrica

I live on the Southern coast of South Africa, and write about the things that interest, amuse or inspire me. You can find me at https://notesfromafrica.wordpress.com and http://southerncape.wordpress.com (my photoblog)

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8 Comments on “Kruger camps – Intro and Letaba”

  1. October 5, 2016 at 11:27 am #

    Beautiful photos

  2. Eha
    October 6, 2016 at 1:45 am #

    Great overview . . . had no idea there was so much accommodation available . . . and yours truly was ‘cute’ with comfortable enough accommodation. Merhinks I would have very long lunch or dinner with views like that 🙂 !

    • October 6, 2016 at 6:58 am #

      The accommodation situation in Kruger was also a surprise to me. Obviously I knew about the SANParks camps, but I had no idea that there were so many private game lodges within Kruger. Kruger has an amazing capacity for tourists, yet when you are driving around you don’t always realise how many people are there.

      Often when we made a pit-stop at one of the camps, we went to the restaurant for coffee and a chance to just sit and look at the view.

  3. October 6, 2016 at 7:14 pm #

    I had no idea there was such a big range of different kinds of camps, Lisa.

    When I was growing up, the accommodation options in the various nature reserves were so limited; it was primarily camping sites with (not very nice) ablution blocks, or very basic rondavels, where you had to bring absolutely everything with you, including cutlery, crockery, bedding etc.

    Since then there has been a surge in really expensive guest lodges, which seem to me to cater only for tourists from overseas (as locals we certainly can’t afford to stay there!). Thankfully, though, it it seems to me that, over the last 10-15 years, the SAN Parks and Cape Nature reserves have really been developing and improving their accommodation infrastructure – in addition to camping sites there’s beautiful and well-equipped chalets, often using solar power and other green technologies, and more sensitively integrated into the natural environment. It makes it far more tempting and enjoyable to spend a few days/nights in those reserves, taking the time to explore one’s surroundings and recharge one’s ‘batteries’. 🙂

    • October 7, 2016 at 6:20 am #

      With Kruger being a major tourist destination for both locals and overseas tourists, SANParks needed to improve their accommodation options. Even for those travelling from abroad, the private game lodges may be too expensive, yet they need accommodation which provides most of the facilities and equipment they will need. In the Kgalagadi we have seen foreign visitors travelling around with fully equipped 4X4 vehicles which they hire in Upington – which means they can camp – but I didn’t notice the same thing in Kruger.

      We always stay in chalets when we go on our annual “safaris” mainly because of me. I don’t mind camping (our family always camped when I was a child), but because I get migraines when it’s very hot, I need somewhere cool and comfortable to rest. In a tent there is just no escaping the heat. As with every trip, I had several “rest days” where I just stayed in the camp and relaxed.

  4. October 7, 2016 at 9:10 am #

    Oh, I am so envious! Kruger is one of my most favourite places in the world 🙂 I have been so spoilt with what I have seen on both my visits – the last was for 3 wonderful weeks and I saw 180 different species of animal/bird! And I love the rest camps – the atmosphere and the glorious views. Do enjoy your time there – it is nature at her very best.

    • October 8, 2016 at 10:37 am #

      Hi Madoqua! 🙂 So nice to “see” you again. How have you been doing? We are recent Kruger “converts”. It does deserve all the attention and praise it gets.

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