For those who have not done so yet, it’s probably a good idea for you to read the introduction to ExploreKNP (https://exploreknp.wordpress.com/2013/05/30/welcome-to-exploreknp/) before you continue reading – just so that you’ve got some idea what this blog is all about.
Camping at Skukuza
The first time I took a solo trip up to the Kruger National Park was in November 2011. This was a great time to visit the park, because it was relatively quiet. The weather was generally pretty mild, which is unusual for that time of the year, and it rained quite a lot. When I’m camping, there’s not much that I enjoy more than lying in my tent at night, listening to the rain. I have to say that I’d gladly substitute the sound of rain with that of the distant roaring of lions, though.
Although I’ve not heard the best reviews about camping at Skukuza, I decided to go with it anyway. The reason for this was that I like to go prepared, and with this being the first time I’d camped on my own, Skukuza was a good option because it has a mechanic, a petrol station, a doctor, a couple of restaurants, a big shop that stocks just about everything, and an ATM, amongst other things. With a bit of experience under my belt, I can tell you that these amenities aren’t necessary at all.
What most people say about Skukuza is that it’s a very busy, noisy camp – and this is what puts them off. While this is true, to a degree, I really don’t think it should put you off. My experience was that while it is quite lively, it generally creates a fairly pleasant “vibe” or atmosphere. The main complex certainly is quite busy, but only with tourists who are absolutely loving being in the park, and having the time of their lives. I don’t blame them for being a bit excitable.
So here’s my experience:
I arrived at around 1pm on Monday afternoon. I had a fairly late start, leaving Pretoria at about 7am. On the way I stopped at Milly’s along the N4 for a Seattle Coffee Co. cappuccino, and then again in White River to meet up with a friend of mine. I entered the Park through Paul Kruger Gate, and headed straight along the H11 to Skukuza. Experience has taught me that this is too late to arrive if you want a campsite next to the fence, and the following year I left home at 4am, and only stopped briefly in White River for a takeaway coffee.
That said, I still got a campsite that I thoroughly enjoyed. It was near enough to the ablutions and communal kitchen to be convenient to me, but far enough away that I wasn’t disturbed by people visiting these facilities. The ablutions were well maintained, and more than sufficient to cater to the entire campsite. The kitchens were fine, although the stoves definitely needed replacing, but I prefer to cook on the braai (BBQ) anyway. I only use the stoves for brewing coffee in a Moka Pot.
The campsites in Skukuza are far enough away from the shop and main complex that you won’t be disturbed by day-visitors, and once again, close enough to walk to if need be. While there’s not much grass around, the sites are mostly very level (apart from some of the spots along the fence), and surrounded by enough trees and bushes to give you a bit of privacy, and give you the feeling of being out in the bush. The down-side, however, was that even in the rainy season, the ground was rock hard! So hard, in fact, that the following year when I spent a couple of nights in Skukuza in the dry winter season, I saw a few campers actually drilling holes in the ground to hammer their pegs into.
Each campsite has it’s own braai (BBQ), tap and power point, and rubbish & recycling bins. The braai is cleaned and the bins are emptied daily. It must be noted that the power points require a blue “caravan” adapter. On my first trip, I was unaware of this, and the well-stocked Skukuza shop certainly came in handy. On my second night in Skukuza, it was pouring with rain, and there was no way that I was going to be able to cook on a fire, so I paid a visit to the Selati Station Grill House (http://www.sanparks.co.za/parks/kruger/tourism/selatirest.php), which is definitely worth a visit! My experience was decent, well-priced food and good service, coupled with being able to enjoy a meal at the original Sabie Bridge Station, alongside the actual train that ran through the park, bringing the public to the Sabie Game Reserve (as the park was known before 1926).
To cut a long story short, I spent 3 nights camping at Skukuza in 2011, and thoroughly enjoyed myself – so much so, that I went back for 2 more nights in June 2012. Most of the staff were very friendly & helpful, fellow campers are polite and considerate, and Skukuza, although busy, is a wonderful camp. It is situated in a good spot along the Sabie River, and there is plenty of wildlife around. While there, I saw 4 of the big 5 (only missing out on Leopard) and plenty of other animals.
There are lots of good game-viewing routes to follow. I took a drive along the H1-2 up to Tshokwane Picnic Site, then across to Lower Sabie Restcamp for lunch, stopping at the phenomenal Nkumbe Lookout Point along the way, and then back down the other side of the Sabie River on the H4-1 to Skukuza, stopping at the Nkhulu Picnic Site to stretch my legs. On this drive I saw, amongst other things, Lion, Rhino, Buffalo and Elephant.
Skukuza is also near-enough to the S1 Doispane Road, which has been a brilliant road for spotting game – with visitors seeing plenty of Lion, Wild Dog and Leopard in recent times. When staying at Skukuza, you could take a drive down the H3 to the Stevenson-Hamilton grave. James Stevenson-Hamilton was appointed the first warden of the game reserve in 1902, and much of what the Park has become today is due to Stevenson-Hamilton’s great efforts and hard work. I took this drive in 2011 and was rewarded with a really good Hyena sighting. It’s also worth visiting Lake Panic on the H11 when staying at Skukuza.
To summarize briefly, Skukuza is a lovely camp. It offers all of the facilities you could possibly need, but also promises peace and quiet, and a true African Kruger Park bush experience. It’s located in a magnificent part of the park, and is near to the Paul Kruger Gate, as well being close enough to a number of other camps and points of interest. Arrive early and you should have a good selection of campsites to choose from, but remember to bring a heavy hammer and some strong pegs to deal with the hard ground.
Please contact me with any questions or experiences of Skukuza Restcamp, or feel free to post a comment below.