Kruger National Park

Upon departing the smallest airport we’ve ever been to, Skukuza Airport, in which you’ll notice has the smallest baggage claim, headed on the nicely paved road to Jock Safari Lodge which eventually turns into an off-roading adventure, we were in shock as we were instantly greeted by two giant giraffe’s walking gracefully amongst the tall acacia trees beside us, then about 30 seconds later, a herd of majestic looking elephants walking along the other side of our jeep… Then dozens of zebra packed up… RIGHT THERE beside us… The African Safari had begun, instantly!!! An absolutely unforgettable, mind-blowing and magical journey here that kept us in awh EVERY single outing – which is why you must go every sunrise and sunset, even if you’re exhausted! Every game drive is different and absolutely should not be a missed opportunity!


Best Time to Visit

November & March (Summer): November is baby season – cute sighting are bound to happen all around the park! 

April-Aug (Fall/Winter): BEST time to go! This is their dry winter season where there’s a shortage of water with a lot of sightings found around watering holes. Day temp’s are comfortably warm and the nights are cooler. We went at the beginning of April and it was perfect, but unfortunately no bush walks since the grasses were too high (dangerous).

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September & October (Spring): Rain, rain, makes the animals go away! They disperse as the uncomfortable temp’s and humidity rises, making it difficult for them to sleep at night. Days are long and the malaria risk increases – yikes! Animals stay hidden more easily in the green grasses and become difficult to spot – especially lion and leopard. Rain can be unpredictable too – that ‘get the hell out of dodge’ feel is REAL! Book it out of the park ASAP when the rain comes rolling in unless you want to get stuck overnight! The dried out riverbeds that you drive down begin to fill quickly and before you know it, you’re trapped with no way out! *Cue video on Instagram/Facebook to see an African Thunderstorm!


Springtime Bingo


Jock Safari Lodge

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Isolated on its own along a riverbed in Kruger Nation Park, surrounded by about 15,000 acres of natural landscape, nestles the colonial and ever so tranquil, Jock Safari Lodge. Guests here have one of the best Big 5 game viewing experiences in South Africa being located right in the middle of “the bush!” From the balconies surrounding the property, including the lodge rooms, sightings of elephants, water-buck, impala, lion prides, and more can be seen from here while being greeted often by the local monkey population! Jock has so much history here and the area with the cultural heritage of the bushveld. With 12 rooms and the finest cuisine, catering to all dietary restrictions, Jock makes you feel like family, welcoming you continuously, integrating guests at family-style seated meals a majority of the time, while creating a luxurious, yet super authentic experience for all of those that stay. Their sister property is the nearby Fitzpatrick Lodge. Staying here is a true highlight on top of the Big 5 viewing experience that you’re sure to have here!

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Sightseeing directly from your private lodge patio. Play ‘Dora the Explorer’ all you want here with multiple viewing platforms of the reserve throughout the property!

Expectations superseded our wildest dreams… I must have spent a couple dozen hours trying to find the exact experience I had always dreamt of staying “in the bush” and this lodge couldn’t have been more perfect for us. My husband and I say, had we not stayed here, we don’t think we would have had as incredible of an experience. With our Ranger having 20+ years of drive experience, he MADE our drives – big shout out to Jacob!!! The super hospitable team really goes out of their way to make you feel like family + the stunning accommodation’s with so many personable touches done from the team (welcome & Birthday cards + sparkling wine to celebrate, chocolate’s with a Jocks card every turn down, etc etc etc)… I wouldn’t have wanted to stay anywhere else, seriously!

Now I will say, the other blogs that shared about their ‘glamping’ experiences with honey badgers breaking into their tents, sniffing their hand in the middle of the night or dragging their suitcases outside the tent while being escorted to their tents with a manned guide as the wildlife is allowed to freely roam around their camp, lion’s and all, with hyena’s heard cackling outside their tent after they’ve preyed on dinner.. Hats off to you big adventure seekers! That was just a bit too extreme for us first timers and nothing would make me change that decision… I prefer to be inside the protected high electrical fencing, overlooking the game reserve – just enough secure separation from the wildlife that is a couple meters out from our patio! 😀

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Glamp or stay in? Hear the monkeys just above you + the variety of birds chirp! Best white noise you could ask for – Safari style!

Jock Safari designed an exceptional Safari Program for our stay to ensure we were out during the best game viewing times, which is at dawn and dusk! Expect to be up early, game drive it, relax and feast during the day, back at a game drive at night and feast even more when you return, going to bed late! In-between drives is a great time to re-charge and catch up on some zzz’s, especially if you’re like us and the lion roars awake you and excite you in the middle of the night – caused for a great late-night patio viewing of 3 passing by our lodge! Or, maximize your time and view wildlife from your patio with binoculars reading safari material provided by the lodge so you can know what to look for and understand what you’re looking at for your next drive (highly recommend), and grab a couple bites to eat because why not, it’s all-inclusive! Heck, you might be greeted by a family of rhino’s like us over here enjoying the main patio to ourselves for a little Happy Hill Hour – Unreal!

TripAdvisor: Jock Safari Lodge Reviews


Safari Program

5AM   Wake-up call by your Ranger

5:15    Tea, coffee, fruit & muffins at restaurant

5:30    Morning safari drive

7:30   Mid-game coffee & biscuit stop to stretch your legs. *total highlight to the early                     morning!

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9AM   Breakfast at restaurant

10:30  Walking safari offered (if safe time of season to do so – ask your ranger)

1PM   Lunch at restaurant

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Braii/BBQ

3:30  Tea, coffee, & cake in the downstairs lounge

4PM  Afternoon & night/sunset safari drive

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6PM  Mid-game Happy Hour – wine, cocktails, fruit & nuts *total highlight to the evening!

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7:45  Pre-dinner drinks upstairs

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8PM  Dinner (either on patio, in dining room or braii area outside)

Tip: Did I mention you eat ALL day!? Also, do NOT be late to the drives! The Ranger will leave without you! I highly recommend rising at 4:30AM to shower, grab coffee and use the restroom before you’re on a 3-4 hr outing in the middle of nowhere!


GLOBAL BIZ SUMMIT

Clothing: A sweater or lightweight jacket + scarf for the AM drives (super windy in the jeep & chilly), tank top (no low-cut – again windy!!) or t-shirt for the PM drives (+ a jacket/sweater for after sunset which gets chilly), sports shoes (Nike’s did the trick – anything closed toe), & boots (only if doing bush walks).

Refrain from wearing bright colors, especially on bush walks! Stick to khaki, olive green, camo, greys, creams, & neutrals – earthy tones. Bright colors and perfume/cologne signals ‘danger’ to the animals, so they’ll keep away which is the last thing you want! White & blue clothing attracts flies, so keep it neutral if possible!

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Summer: You’re always going to wish you were wearing shorts! As soon as the sun rises, you’re roasting!

Winter: Bring gloves, a scarf, and a warm hat. Extra layers are nice because you can take them off and put them on as the temperature changes.

Kruger Safari Packing list

Tip: If no bush walks are in the plans, please do not pack hefty boots. Even when there was a downpour, my slip-on shoes and NIKE’s did the trick! Boots are bulky to pack, heavy & can be expensive – $200+ out the window for me! You go on these 4 hr drives which tend to be chilly half of the time, so you can get away with repeating the same pants. I wore my same capris 2 days in a row + repeated my sweaters (high neckline or zip to under your chin) and wasn’t sweaty, nor were they stinky at all, so don’t worry about packing a different outfit for each day like I did – still learning over here! Your hat will fly off riding in the jeep and it really isn’t necessary since you’re covered in the jeep, but if you feel the need to wear one, make sure it has drawstrings or as I’d prefer, wear a beanie during chilly periods.

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Open-aired ride causes for a lot of wind! Don’t wear low-cut tops or hats that don’t tie… And don’t bother trying to do your hair – it won’t last – tie it back! 😛

Binoculars: You will want them for spotting a leopard high up in a tree, to look at beautiful birds, even to spot that teeny tiny snake that your guide somehow spots from afar that you have to pry your eyes on to even see with the binoculars! Traveling with your partner? Each bring your own! I was that person, constantly asking to borrow my husband’s binoculars…

Olympus Trooper 10×50 DPS I Binoculars: Affordable & of high quality.

Nikon 7538 10×42 PROSTAFF 7 Binoculars: A lot of the guides have these! A bit more expensive, but compact.

Tip: Invest in good binoculars. No super zoomed camera will suffice. Kicking myself on this one!

Insect repellent: Apply early AM, after your AM drive, mid-day, before your PM drive, after your PM drive, repeat, repeat, repeat! Highest DEET we could find at REI! Happy to say, no bites here!

Tip: Find travel-sized insect repellent on Amazon. Look for something with at least 30% DEET or higher. The malaria risk here is relatively low with most mosquitoes not carrying malaria, so being bitten doesn’t mean you’ll contract illness. Be safe and get your malaria shot prior to arriving and take your pills as told (a pain having to take during and after our trip, but it isn’t worth the risk – follow doct’s orders)!

Glasses & Sunglasses: Clear sight is definitely best, but occasionally you’ll want your sunglasses for those long couple of hours before sunset when there is nothing seen for quite some time. It can get very hot & sunny – def helps so your eyes stay sharp for spotting animals, especially for when it gets dark!

Sunscreen: Lather up for those PM drives! The sun can get intense and you’re not fully covered if sitting on the end seats!

Tip: Since my husband says most are too greasy and will make him breakout, try Coola Sport SPF 50. No white cream remains, it’s organic, easily moisturizes like a moisturizer, and it leaves your skin super soft! My absolute favorite go-to for my face!

Photography Gear: An array of lenses (esp a zoom lens), multiple memory cards (you will take 100’s if not 1000’s of photos), lens cleaning wipes + spare battery or battery chargers for in-between drives (I was the dummy that didn’t pack the charger thinking I wouldn’t need it for 2 days… Wrong!). Whatever you’ve got, bring it all!

Water & Snacks (if self-driving): Our driver stopped every AM & PM for coffee & biscuits + Happy Hour with wine, cocktails, fruit & nuts! A total highlight mid-way through our drives! Reusable water thermos preferred!

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Sports Bra: Ladies, I wish I would have known with alllll those bumpy dirt roads!

Face Wipes: You will feel sticky the entire time! It’s kind of nice to refresh your face during the mid-drive breaks!

Hair Tie: You will want your hair pulled back during those windy jeep rides, esp with that sticky face of yours! No sense in doing your hair or makeup, esp at 4:30AM! The animals will not judge! 😛

Tip: Pack smart! The domestic airlines limit luggage weight strictly. I was told they’d only accept soft- luggage, not hard-sided suitcases, but I brought my extra-large suitcase + carry-on without a problem. On that note, check your airlines to make sure you can bring your suitcase!’


 

Safari Sighting Checklist (1)

Tip: Keep watch for cheetah and wild dog especially as there’s only around 120 living in Kruger!


General Tips:

– Now I’ve said don’t miss ANY game drive opportunities and I absolutely mean it! Every drive is different, different wildlife is seen, sometimes following a pack for more than an hour like we did with the hyena and wild dog’s (so amazing to actually see which are hard to come across). You will have those couple of hours here and there where you don’t see anything except a couple of birds, maybe a snake or little tortoise – do not give up! Then you pull up on a lion pride and… Jaw dropped! Could be the highlight of your safari rides! Worth every slow hour it took to get to that point!

Use the restroom just prior to leaving lodge before a game drive! Going the bathroom during the middle of a 3-4 hr game drive is almost impossible… On our AM coffee and PM happy hour breaks, a lot of the men liked to take a quick ‘leak’ if you will… Only to find after they had done it a couple of times that the park has security cameras all around high up in the tree’s that are constantly monitored! Is it worth it? Up to you! 😛

Stay at least 3 nights! The sticker shock of these lodges with most $1100+, can be a fist to the gut sort of feeling booking, but if you break it down, $200/game drive x 2 (sunrise & sunset) x 2 people, then all-inclusive food & bev with absolutely phenomenal food (braii, fine dining, family-style, customized to your diet, fresh as it can get) & unlimited beverages – hello Pinotage…. Then the on-site experiences of monkey’s surrounding your patio & room (watch out if using the outdoor shower – you may have a sneaky Pete!), lion call’s heard from your room, water-buck, rhino, impala, etc seen from your patio… Authentic African song & dance at dinners, truly feeling like a family with your group who you stay with during the entirety of your stay.. Worth EVERY penny and more! You will want to stay longer!

Try not to fret on the game drives… You will gasp over and over as you encounter ‘circle of life’ occurrences, even fearing that a pack of lions may come at you or are too close, but remain calm – you are safe & will totally be alright! The guides are true experts and will not risk losing their license if you are to get hurt. First drive, a ‘rogue’ looking lion was sitting beside us, then got up to approach a pride that was eating off a baby buffalo and here he was, covered in blood, the most evil look in his eyes, pulling up a seat beside our jeep within a couple feet of us to watch the others for quite some time.. My heart was about to explode out of my chest thinking, if he just turns his head & makes one leap up, we’re dead meat! Even if you urge your guide to turn the vehicle on… They know better, don’t you worry 😉 They also know when heavy rain fall’s that it’s no joke, you must dip out of the park ASAP to prevent getting stuck in the middle of the reserve overnight! The storm prior in Jan took out 6 animals – 2 lion, 2 hyena, a giraffe & rhino 😔 The perk is these kind of storms restore the parks water supply which was to a minimum with dried out river beds everywhere.. Felt like we were in a scene from a movie, opposite of Storm Chasers, driving as fast as we could to escape the dark rain clouds behind us, pulling down the side windows of the jeep as the downpour was side sweeping us hard, with flashes of lightning surrounding us! The ride of our lives!!! 😬

– If it’s ‘green season’ where the grasses are high, 3’+, in the reserve, do not expect to do any bush walks. This was a disappointment to us as we weren’t informed that this wouldn’t be possible. So much for those $200+ leather safari boots that weren’t needed either! 😛 It’s incredibly dangerous – just think, you walking & all of a sudden, a pride walks up on you unexpectedly amongst the tall grass, now outnumbering you with no escape or movement to be made… Got it! NO thank you!

-When booking a lodge, note that the Southern Park has a higher rainfall and greater game population than the Northern Park, but that comes with more vehicles around. You do so much off-roading with your guide, the cars don’t bother! Something to consider if doing a self-drive.

See something, say something! You will be looking high and low for hours every drive, but not everyone sees what you see, so give a shout-out! Everyone is eager to catch a glimpse of these safari animals that are sometimes hard to find – like leopard – keep a super good eye out scowering those tree branches! They blend all too well! If you spot a pack of vulture’s in a tree, something both alive & well + dead is likely just below!

African Wild Dog Tracks
Spotted Wild Dog tracks! Gotta play detective out here to find these sneaky & FAST guys!

– Common sense you’d think, but do NOT feed the animals! They will become aggressive and dependent on you in which the park has no alternative but to shoot them, so please, for their sake, DO NOT FEED THEM!

– Have your honky tonk camera (maybe a couple) and phone in your lap, readily accessible to take multiple photos and video! I used my Nikon and cell for both photo and video, EVERY sighting! Click away and narrow them down later! The guides are really good about stopping the vehicle for you to take everything you hope to capture and more, including sunsets.

Guided tours totally surpass self-guided tours! So many folks self-drive on the main roads with their handy maps, but you don’t get alllllll the information on each & every animal, encounter, or sound you see & hear! I felt like I had an audio tour playing, explaining EVERYTHING for the entirety of the drives. Plus, our guide made the best animal calls to really get their attention to approach us! I would of never of done that on my own! It actually made me giggle high-tailing it past these little cars that were lost, bored, or following us because they didn’t know how to find the animals. The guides radio each other from the lodge, helping each other out when a big sighting is approached – the cars don’t get that heads up! They don’t have access to the park after sundown which is when all the critter’s come out – time of the best sightings we saw! Not to mention, you pay the entry fee every visit + you enter at your own risk (the stories we were told about elephants ramming into cars – no thanks!). Careful not to run anything over too, including the tiny tortoises. Speed traps are setup throughout thankfully since 100’s of animals are killed by speeding vehicles annually – 50km speed limit. Yes, neat to do as a nice cruise through the park after you’ve done an official drive led by a pro, but if you’re looking for true adventure, off-roading, which only the guided tours are permitted to do, book with the experts!


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The sunsets here are AMAZING… Vulture’s sitting atop the tree with something likely tempting to eat just below…

*Video’s of our drives & animal encounters are available on Instagram & Facebook!