We spent 5 nights in Kruger National Park in November on our recent two weeks South Africa itinerary: five days of game drives, five days of lions and five breathtaking sunrises over the savanna.
We stayed inside Kruger at two different rest camps, choosing to change camps halfway through so we could see a new section of the park.
We had previously visited in January 2017 (see our pictures of Kruger in January here) and stayed in the south for that entire visit.
This time around, I wanted to venture further north, into the central region of the park and Satara’s famous cat country.
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50 Pictures of Kruger National Park in November
I’m not going to post all 613 pictures of Kruger National Park that were deemed keepers, I enforced a measure of self-control and selected my 50 favorites.
So, without further ado, here are my favorite Kruger wildlife photos as well as a rundown of how we spent our five nights in Kruger.
Looking for when to visit, where to stay, and what to pack for Kruger?
FIND IT ALL HERE:
Kruger National Park in November = Babies
We were in Kruger during the final days of November and first days of December and lucky for us, this means the park was filled with newborn babies!
We saw countless baby impalas, watched baby baboons rough house and were lucky enough to see a few baby rhinos trot alongside their moms.
There’s really no bad time to go on safari in Kruger, but seeing the new young take over the park is a strong argument for going in November.
Find the Hides for Excellent Sightings
When you get your map of Kruger, orient yourself and find any hides near where you’ll be driving.
The hides are structures set up in ideal game viewing spots, often by watering holes or rivers. You can sit safely just meters from the wildlife.
We’ve always seen exciting things in hides, like a huge bull elephant charge a wildebeest or a giraffe drinking water (far more entertaining than you’d think).
But at our first hide in Kruger, we didn’t see any animals… Except for the troupe of baboons around the gate, on the roof and in the trees.
Was it a good idea for me to get out of the car anyway and go to the hide?
Possibly not. But thankfully they scurried off as soon as they saw me.
But they scurried right on back once we were safely inside the hide and watched us the entire time!
Early Morning Lion Sightings
I scheduled a morning bush walk for our first day, which meant a 4 am alarm clock.
Just like when I was 7 and going to Disney World, I woke up bright eyed with the alarm, ready to greet the day!
After we climbed into the truck, our guides told us they had a surprise for us that would delay our walk but promised it was worth it.
Another guide had called and told them about six lions sleeping just a few meters from the road, absolutely worth it!
We watched them stretch, yawn, and snooze. One couple got up and got busy, giving us quite a show.
We had to leave to drive to where we would start our walk, but I could have stayed forever.
Morning Bush Walk, Lower sabie Rest Camp
Two guides led us on the walking safari, one leading and the other trailing behind or to the side searching for game.
We didn’t see much wildlife on our walk, only one elephant and a lot of warthogs. Sightings or not, we learned so much!
We saw a lot of skeletons, like the massive hippo skull in the photos. And you’d be surprised how much a pile of dung can tell you about a rhino.
We paused for breakfast halfway through, sitting on the rocks in the middle of Kruger eating chips, biltong and cheese.
I’ll choose chips in the South African bush over any gourmet restaurant any day.
After breakfast, we began the walk back to the truck. If you’re staying in a camp inside Kruger, I 100% recommend going on a morning or evening bushwalk.
To have the perfect bush walk (or any safari, for that matter), it’s important to pack the appropriate clothing and gear.
Read my South Africa packing list to make sure you bring everything you need.
The Ultimate Leopard Sighting
We had the most sightings on our first full day in Kruger. I was actually preparing myself for disappointment after seeing the 6 lions asleep by the road.
What could top that? I was convinced we’d peaked and it was downhill from there.
Minutes after leaving the Lower Sabie Camp gates after our walking safari, we saw this leopard relaxing on a boulder right next to the road!
We were even able to enjoy him by ourselves with only one other car for a few minutes before word got out and every car in the vicinity was surrounding us and our new friend.
I took this as a good sign for this week in Kruger, we were going to see a lot of cats. I was convinced.
Self-Drive or Guided Safari?
I am an advocate for the self-drive safari, read all about why and how to have a successful one here.
I love the freedom of driving yourself, end of story.
We could spend an entire hour watching a group of lions, but a guided game drive won’t have that time to spare.
I’m sharing the photo above to assuage any concerns you may have about not being able to get good sightings on your own.
Just look how close we (and that truck) were to those elephants!
We were slowly reversing…
Rest Camp #1: Lower Sabie Rest Camp
We spent our first two nights in the popular Lower Sabie Camp in the southern section of Kruger.
I made this reservation four months in advance and there already wasn’t much availability.
I recommend reserving your camp accommodation as soon as your travel dates are set and if possible, at least 6 months in advance.
We ended up in one of these shared rondavels, four private rooms built into one structure.
Our little room was comfortable with air conditioning (crucial), a refrigerator and a sink inside. We used the communal bathrooms and showers (they were just next door and impeccably clean).
I still prefer the en suite rondavels and cottages (like our safari tent in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi), but they were all booked.
I really loved Lower Sabie and I would stay here again.
The Mug & Bean has a varied menu (a luxury on camp standards) and WiFi and the outdoor dining “room”/deck overlooks the Sabie River.
The camp shop is fairly large and had everything we needed and I found it to be cheaper than the shop at Satara Camp.
If it’s your first time in Kruger, I highly recommend basing yourself in the Lower Sabie Camp.
Early Morning Sunrises
South Africa is famous for its sundowners but I couldn’t get enough of these sunrises! The gates to the rest camps opened at 4:30 am.
Every morning we lined up with all the other eager beavers waiting for them to open punctually at 4:30, not a minute sooner and not a second later. It may have been dark when we pulled ourselves out of bed but it didn’t last long.
We’d rush off in darkness in search of drowsy lions, often without another car in sight for at least an hour.
On our second morning in Kruger, we came across a group of five hyena by the road.
They were crossing from one side to the other and weren’t particularly bothered by us.
We turned off the car and rolled down the windows (quickly learning what our dog would smell like if it rolled in a dead pigeon every day of its life and never bathed).
While I was gawking over these hyena to our right, Martin was scanning the horizon to our left with his binoculars.
We had already been there for thirty minutes when he realized two lions were sleeping to our left!
Two mornings, two lion sightings. Waking up before the sun paid off every single day. We saw a spectacular sunrise, lions, and hyena every single morning.
Tshokwane Picnic Site
We kept driving north because today we’d be checking into Satara Camp.
Satara is farther north than we’d ever been in Kruger and I was excited to see a new part of Kruger.
I booked that camp because of it’s reputation for lion sightings. What can I say, I’m a cat person at home with my grey tabby and I’m a cat lady on safari as well.
Our regular lunch stop in Kruger in 2017 was the Tshokwane Picnic Site, so I had planned our day around stopping there for lunch again for memory’s sake.
And for their meat pie’s sake, they’re so damn good! Martin wanted buffalo or kudu but neither were ready yet.
In Spanish, there’s a saying that translates to “He who knows how to eat, knows how to wait.” So we agreed to come back in half an hour.
There was a short 10 km loop, the Orpen Loop, nearby anyway. We’ll just knock that out of the way real quick, I thought.
Well, we were a bit delayed by FIVE LION CUBS that ran across the road right in front of our car.
They quickly settled down in the bush 10-15 meters from us. We settled in as well, turning off the car and camping out.
Five Lion “cubs”
These cubs, who were pretty close to adulthood if you ask me, made for one of the best animal sightings I have ever had.
They kept a close eye on us but weren’t concerned as much as curious. I took a million photos, they yawned, prowled and lounged accordingly.
At one point, all five moved in unison as if stalking prey. Forgive me impalas but I have never wanted to see an animal walk into a death trap as much as I did in this moment. No impalas were harmed in the making of this anecdote.
While I was at first disappointed that I didn’t get to see a lion hunt, I was quickly relieved. When we finally left the lions we came across four baby impalas alone under a tree.
The grown impalas must have been scoping out the area and weren’t probably what the lions where stalking, I’m glad we didn’t see four impalas become orphans that day.
We watched these guys for forty-five minutes and in that time not a single car drove by.
We were in one of the most popular areas of Kruger yet were completely alone.
I’ll never understand how we were able to enjoy these lions in peace.
The most common scenario is a lion is spotted and immediately 20 vehicles jockey for the best viewing spot.
I’m not being hyperbolic when I say this was one of the most exciting experiences I’ve ever had.
Satara Rest Camp
We checked into the Satara Rest Camp where we would spend three more nights.
There was more availability in this camp when I made our reservations so we got a prime rondavel bordering the fence.
It was much bigger than our accommodation in Lower Sabie, with a private bathroom and kitchen.
And look at that kitchen! Outdoors with a view right into the park, I waited and waited for a lion to stroll on by but they didn’t feel like cooperating.
Satara was a great camp, I do admit my heart shattered when I discovered the swimming pool was being remodeled.
Why would you remodel the pool at the beginning of summer, I ask! Satara has a pizzeria that I do not recommend, a deli, and a braai buffet that I can’t attest to personally but did look appetizing from afar.
The shop is large but more expensive than Lower Sabie.
If you plan on cooking or packing picnic lunches, bring groceries with you.
Another Morning, Another Lion
We woke up Satara at our usual 4:15 alarm. We were in line ready to leave at 4:30.
Off we went, all on our own and I was getting concerned that maybe we’d chosen our route poorly.
All the other cars had jetted off in different directions and maybe they knew something we didn’t.
After 45 minutes of seeing very little, there he was.
This big guy hanging out less than 10 meters from the road.
I gawked and I took pictures as usual, when we glanced to our right to see he wasn’t alone.
He stood up and stalked lazily over to two other enormous, male lions.
The three of them slept together behind a bush. Had the loner been with them when we first drove by, I doubt I would have even seen them so we were very, very lucky.
Another testament to waking up early!
The rest of the day was hot, hot, hot (again, how dare they choose to close down the pool right when I so desperately needed it!).
There are water tanks like the one above in various parts of the park for the larger animals.
One elephant is drinking, the other was just leaning up against it trying to cool off. Everyone was feeling the heat.
Satara Sunset Drive: “We are TOO Close to These Lions!”
I scheduled a sunset game drive for our first night in Satara, I was curious to see the park at sunset and after dark. It was rather uneventful overall but it was nice to be able to relax and let go of control.
Another bonus to not driving: we filled our water bottle with chilled wine to sweeten the experience. The night ended with these two lions sleeping on the road outside the camp.
I heard words I never wanted to hear and hope to never hear again: “Nobody move! We are TOO close to these lions.”
Well Ms. Safari Guide, I ask you: WHY are we too close? I know it certainly wasn’t me who drove this open backed vehicle full of tourists into two adult lion’s personal space!
For the first time in history, 15 tourists obeyed orders and collectively froze in silence. Crisis averted, but I can now say I heard a lion growl and it will haunt my dreams.
Why Did The Lion Cross the Road?
To go to the bathroom (I typed a few other variations of this sentence but reluctantly decided against vulgarities). Another morning, another sunrise and lion sighting!
This large male was alone about twenty meters from the road.
After spending about half an hour watching him yawn and do absolutely nothing, we rolled up the windows to drive away.
That’s when he decided to get up! We just nearly missed him.
He walked to the road, crossed it, did his business then walked on the road right by our car!
breakfast at the Watering Hole
The odd thing about waking up at 4 am is when does one eat breakfast?
I packed yogurt, fruit and a proper breakfast every morning to eat when we were more awake.
This particular morning we stopped at a picnic spot at around 9 am, five hours after waking up.
Turns out the days feel incredibly long when you get up in the middle of the night!
Today’s picnic site looked onto a watering hole. A herd of wildebeest were drinking when we arrived but were quickly pushed out by these elephants.
They sulked under the trees while the elephants took over.
A buffalo sauntered by and warthogs scurried around under everyone involved.
Moments like this were surreal, to be sitting there eating yogurt in a chair watching all of this play out in front of me.
The birds in Africa, y’all! The lilac breasted roller (the one that resembles an Easter egg) was my favorite.
My husband’s favorite was easily the Red-Billed Hornbill (on the bottom). The hornbill is endangered and the park is actively trying to preserve them.
We were lucky to see them twice. They were in groups of 3 or 4 and as they walked they continuously hooted to each other like an owl with a deep voice.
They were ugly and beautiful at the same time, kind of like a pug.
How much time in Kruger is too much
None, no such thing. Our five days in Kruger were excellent, I was never bored. I may have gotten tired of the 4 am alarms but I wouldn’t change a thing.
We’ve been twice and will return, there is far too much territory left unexplored and waiting for us!
The sparse and distant north is on my Kruger bucket list as well as a sleepover hide, and I still haven’t seen the elusive wild dog… Kruger, we’ll be back.