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South Africa Safari: How to Combine Cape Town & Kruger Safari

Cape Town and Kruger area are the two most-visited places in South Africa, the country right at the bottom of the mighty African continent. They are perfect destinations for anyone wanting to visit Africa. Cape Town is a cosmopolitan city with a rich history and culture, as well as some of the finest restaurants in the country, while Kruger is the Big 5 capital of safari.

While they do make the perfect pair for first-time visitors to Africa and those who have experienced the continent already, the distance between them (nearly 2 000km or 1 250mi) and the logistics of combining a Cape Town and Kruger safari can be a little daunting. This guide answers travellers’ most frequently asked questions about visiting these two destinations in one trip.

Your FAQs: How to Combine Cape Town and Kruger

Hiking

South Africa is one of Africa's most diverse countries.

Timing

How much time do you need to combine a Cape Town and Kruger safari?

We think that the longer your vacation, the better! It’s best to spend at least six nights in South Africa, divided equally between Cape Town and Kruger.

There is plenty to do in Cape Town; it’s certainly not a city that can be seen in a single day. Summiting Table Mountain will take at least half a day, with visits to colourful Bo-Kaap and the vibrant V&A Waterfont filling out the other half. Aside from exploring the cosmopolitan city centre and the world-class beaches that surround it, you will need at least a full day in the Winelands (foodies and wine lovers may even want to stay a night or two), plus another to visit Cape Point, see the penguins at Boulder’s beach and smell the flowers at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens.

Although far removed from the hustle and bustle of city life, Kruger is just as exciting. The park is famous for the Big 5 (especially elusive leopards) and you may be lucky enough to see all of them in a single game drive. But it’s the sheer unpredictability is what makes safari great – you never know what you’re going to find and it’s not guaranteed that you will have any sightings on any given day. Which is why it’s best to have plenty of time in the park. The more time you have, the better your chances of seeing the animals you have your heart set on. Lions, for example, may only hunt every three days or so – if you want to see them getting ready to hunt (rather than just lazily lying around, snoozing in the shade), your chances are much better if you’re on safari for at least four or five days.

While a week is great, 10 days is the ideal amount of time to spend in South Africa, as this gives you more time to really take in all the sights. Remember that for every two nights you stay, you only get one full day in a place. Moving every second day can be pretty tiring and doesn’t give you much time to really relax, get to know the staff or even unpack.

Lion_Sands_River_Lodgegame_drive

Thrilling game drives in Kruger National Park.

Where to Start

Should you do Cape Town or Kruger first?

There is no right or wrong answer – choose whichever direction works best with your logistics.

Cape Town has a world-class airport that welcomes direct international flights from a variety of European, Asian and African countries. If you fly directly into Cape Town, it makes sense to start your holiday there in a great hotel, then fly up to the Kruger area. On the other hand, if you jet into Johannesburg (where most international long-haul flights will land), you would likely want to begin your trip with a safari. If you land in the afternoon or evening, you would likely overnight in the city and leave for Kruger first thing the next morning to arrive in time for brunch, high tea and an afternoon game drive.

There are plenty of activities in both locations, but if you have a choice, we recommend starting in Kruger and heading to Cape Town to top off your trip. Safari is a thrilling but tiring experience, and it's great to follow your adventure with some time relaxing on the beach or poolside, or enjoying some of the country's best food and wine.

Getting There

How do you get to Kruger from Cape Town (or from Cape Town to Kruger)?

South Africa is the most developed country in Africa with excellent infrastructure in place.

International, regional and local flights jet directly into Cape Town and Johannesburg, making for easy logistics whichever direction you are travelling in. Flights between these destinations take just two hours and are the best option if you’re on a tight schedule. If you arrive in Cape Town and want to get to Kruger to start your safari (or vice versa), your Africa Safari Expert will aim to get you there in one day so that you can relax and have dinner before starting your safari adventure the next day.

For those who are less pressed for time, you could choose to do a scenic drive up the coast from Cape Town, along the Garden Route and towards Durban in KwaZulu-Natal – an excellent chance to add more safari experiences to your itinerary – before heading inland to Johannesburg and on to Kruger. The trip from Durban to Joburg is best completed via a short domestic flight as the roads on this route are less well-maintained than those between Cape Town and Durban. Naturally, this trip can also be done in reverse, starting in Kruger and making your way down to Cape Town.

Whichever option you choose, your Africa Safari Expert will curate a seamless itinerary that maximises your time on holiday and minimises time spent in transit.

Camp's Bay

When to Go

When is the best time to go?

Generally, peak safari season is from about June to October – Africa’s winter and the northern hemisphere’s summer.

The lack of rain over the Greater Kruger area thins out the grass radically and game doesn’t stray far from the few remaining water sources, making sightings much easier. For a top-notch safari experience, this is the when to visit Kruger. At the same time, Cape Town is usually going through a wet and cool winter – temperatures generally range from about 10°C (50°F) to about 20°C (70°F). Days can be gloriously sunny and even wet days mean you can hit museums, galleries, shops and wineries with no problem. Think cosy cellars, roaring fireplaces, comfort food and great red wine.

Fortunately, peak safari season also overlaps with whale-watching season. This is when to visit Cape Town if you want to see pods of giant southern right whales along on the Cape coast. These majestic sea mammals usually start arriving in about late June, with numbers peaking in from around August to September when places like Hermanus are a safe haven for hundreds of these beautiful mammals.

Simbambili Game Lodge_sabi_sand_-_waterhole_suite_-_fr_0422

Simbambili Game Lodge in Sabi Sands, Kruger National Park.

Budget

How much should I budget?

This is a tricky question because there are so many factors at play: your personal finances, the time of year you travel, your preferred level of comfort, added activities and so on.

Generally, for a vacation for two adults sharing a room who want to spend about three nights in Cape Town and three nights on safari in Kruger in 4-star comfort or ‘mid-range’ accommodation, we’d suggest about USD5 000 per person. This includes internal flights and road transfers, but excludes international flights. The table below will give you an idea of how much you can expect to spend per night for a vacation in South Africa:

4-star comfort 4-star luxury 5-star luxury
Low High Low High Low High
$450 $500 $550 $600 – $800 $1,000 $1,100 - $1,700

This sort of budget puts you in extremely comfortable (but not super luxurious or over-the-top) lodges and hotels, which is exactly what you need if you’re out exploring all day. Flying between destinations is much more convenient and gives you more time on vacation. It’s also important to have a driver for road transfers – the road conditions and standard of driving in South Africa can be extremely variable and stressful, the last thing you need on holiday.

If you’re looking to reduce the average nightly cost of your African vacation, we suggest the following:

Travel in the low season

Avoid travelling over major holidays like Christmas, New Year and Easter when the region’s school are on a break. Cape Town’s low season is over winter (from about May to November), except for whale season (around August and September). Kruger’s low season is about November to April (except for Christmas, New Year and Easter). If it’s your first safari, we suggest booking Kruger during peak season and cutting down on time spent in Cape Town.

Ask your Africa Safari Expert for great value

Our Africa Safari Experts are constantly in touch with hotels and lodges that offer great deals – take advantage of them. Even if there aren’t any specials on during the period in which you wish to visit Cape Town and Kruger, there are other ways to save. For example, there are plenty of good-value guesthouse options in Cape Town that put you within walking distance of excellent restaurants and cafes. Opting for one of these can mean that you have more to spend on your safari. Plus, it’s likely you'll hardly notice the lack of spa or swimming pool when you're staying in the centre of the action.

Focus on what really matters

Home in on what really interests you, whether is it nature, history, art. This will ensure that you allocate your budget to the things you love, rather than ticking off items you think you should see or do.

Ready to Start Planning Your 2021 African Safari?

Get in touch with one of our Africa Safari Experts to help tailor-make the best African safari to suit your travel wishes in 2021: