Kruger accommodation guide featuring top Kruger Safari Lodges
Safari and Wildlife
Kim Paffen Travel Specialist & Photo Safari Tour Guide
Safari and Wildlife
34 min

7 Top Kruger Safari Lodges (+ prices) for the Ultimate Safari in Greater Kruger Park

34 min

What are the Best Kruger Safari Lodges for an unforgettable safari experience in one of Africa's most iconic wildlife destinations, the Kruger National Park in South Africa? This is not an easy question as the best safari lodges in Kruger are those that suit your budget and needs.

Whether you're seeking an immersive bush experience within the boundaries of the Kruger National Park or a more exclusive safari stay on a private game reserve in Greater Kruger Park, the diverse selection of Kruger Safari Lodges promise to deliver unforgettable encounters with the famed Big Five and countless other remarkable creatures.

Kruger accommodation Guide with top Kruger Safari Lodges

For those looking to build a well-rounded Kruger itinerary, the option to split time between safari lodges inside the Kruger National Park and on the private reserves in Greater Kruger can be an excellent strategy. This allows you to enjoy the vast wilderness and wildlife of Kruger itself, while also exploring the more intimate and personalized offerings of the Greater Kruger Game Reserves.

As you plan your safari in Kruger National Park (KNP), selecting the right safari lodge can make all the difference in crafting an unforgettable experience. From luxury tented camps to family-friendly lodges, the range of budget-friendly to luxury Kruger accommodation options allows you to craft the perfect safari in Kruger to suit your needs and aspirations.

Fireplace at Nkula Walking Camp in Pafuri Kruger

In this article, we share our first hand insights in top-rated safari lodges in Greater Kruger. We have personally visited and stayed at each of the Kruger lodges we'll be highlighting. This allows us to provide you with authentic, genuine information about the amenities, service, wildlife encounters, and overall atmosphere you can expect at these remarkable places to stay in Kruger, South Africa.

No matter which Kruger Park lodge or combination of lodges you choose, a safari in Kruger National Park promises to be a transformative journey that will leave you with memories to treasure for a lifetime. Let's dive in and explore some of the 7 best Kruger safari lodges in South Africa.

Thornybush Game Lodge, Greater Kruger

Thornybush Safari Lodge in Kruger

Thornybush Game Lodge ranks among my top favorite luxury safari lodges in South Africa and there are several reasons why the solar-powered and plastic-free Thornybush Lodge is among my best lodges in Greater Kruger Park.

Incredible Game Viewing

Big Five Thornybush Nature Reserve in Greater Kruger

Thornybush Game Lodge sits within a large reserve, the 15.000 Thornybush Private Nature Reserve, with a 22-kilometer unfenced border to Kruger National Park and Timbavati Game Reserve, allowing for exceptional wildlife viewing opportunities.

Kruger Game Reserves have incredible Leopard sightings

The first animals you will most likely see once you pass the reception area of Game Lodge are Nyalas grazing on their perfectly manicured lawns in front of the library.

Thornybush Game Lodge in Thornybush Nature Reserve

Thornybush Game Lodge is home to the Big 5 and is considered an open camp, so animals come very close to the lodge. There are electric fences around the camp, but these are only to stop elephants from coming in and causing destruction.

Thornybush Safari Lodges

We spotted several animals from the main deck and our private deck like a tower of giraffes, an elephant, a herd of buffalo, and some small antelopes.

During the safari game drives we had amazing wildlife sightings, from big cats like leopards and lions to white rhinos and smaller animals and reptiles, like a puff adder and a leopard tortoise, which is a member of the Little Five.

Great Communication Thornybush Guides

Thornybush Guide and Tracker on Game Drive

Spotting some of these wild animals is partly about luck, but also because of the incredibly knowledgeable safari guides communicating in a great way with all other colleagues on the road to get us to these magical sightings to observe the animals in their natural habitat.

Thornybush Game Lodge is accessible by Plane

Thornybush airstrip

With a landing strip right in front of the entrance of Thornybush Main Lodge, this luxury safari lodge is easily accessible. Not only by plane, but also by road as it’s only a 30-minute drive from Hoedspruit, known as the gateway to Kruger Park and the stunning Panorama Route.

Stylish Suites with Private Deck

Private deck at Thornybush safari lodge Kruger

Thornybush Game Lodge has 16 luxury suites with all the amenities you need, from a colorful African style bathrobe to a coffee station, and outdoor shower for that extra bush-feeling.

thornybush game lodge bathroom

Bathroom Thornybush Game Lodge

The suites have large wooden sliding doors to the outdoor private deck, so you can either lie on your bed and enjoy the views from. your bed or sit out on the private deck, overlooking the dry river bed where animals like giraffes or elephants often pass in search for water and food.

Suites Thornybush Game Lodge have a private deck

The style and interior design of the lodge are impressive. I love the earthy tones and modern accents without losing the classic safari charm.

Great food quality & Safari Style Boma Diner

Boma Diner at Thornybush Safari Lodge Greater Kruger

Three lovely meals a day with a focus on fresh, local ingredients from their herbs and vegetable garden, are included in this unforgettable stay, with snacks or high tea in between.

Great Food at Thornybush Lodge in Kruger Park

You can enjoy your meals on the main deck overlooking the dry river bed, but in the evening they also organize a cozy safari-style Boma diner offering a delicious braai and some local South African dishes, like pap. The Thornybush staff will gather around the fire to sing and dance. I love their rhythmic dancing skills and beautiful voices when singing their local songs.

Thornybush Safari Activities

Thornybush Sundowners are a great safari activity

You will never get bored at Thornybush Game Lodge as it offers various things to do in and around the lodge. From morning game drives, to short bush walks or immersive walking safari experiences to bush dining, bush spa, and interaction with the local community, or a relaxing day at the swimming pool.

Swimming Pool Thornybush Game Lodge

And if that isn’t enough, you can also visit the Tango K9 anti-poaching unit to see these trained dogs and handlers operate to combat poaching in the Greater Kruger Park.

Thornybush prioritizes Nature Conservation

Conservation Thornybush Game Reserve Kruger

Thornybush Game Lodge is actively involved in protecting the wildlife and their habitat through various initiatives, including but not limited to:

  • Habitat Management: They actively manage and restore the wildlife habitat within the reserve. This includes practices like controlled burning to maintain healthy ecosystems.
  • Animal Translocation: Thornybush is the first reserve to receive a relocated elephant herd and play a role in lion translocation, both from Kruger National Park.
  • Anti-Poaching Efforts: They have an anti-poaching unit with highly skilled rangers and dogs to deter poaching activities. Thornybush is also the first in the Lowveld to implement rhino horn treatments.
  • Community Engagement: They partner with local communities to promote conservation awareness and provide alternative livelihoods to poaching

Lion in Thornybush Game Reserve Kruger

I love their active role in nature conservation initiatives to preserve and protect the animals and their natural habitat for decades to come. Next time, I would also love to visit some of their community projects and the Tango K9 APU.

Incredible Safari Experience

Safari Thornybush Game Lodge

From start to finish, Thornybush Game Lodge offers an incredible safari experience and I would love to visit again in the future to explore some of their other camps and lodges too. The soul of Thornybush is built on their commitment to conservation, outstanding guest experience, luxury, and nature connection with the dedicated Thornybush team as the motor to their success. Prices for a luxury suite at Thornybush Game Lodge are between $800 USD to $980 USD per person per night sharing, excluding conservation levies. You can check availability for Thornybush Game Lodge on

Thornybush Game Drive Kruger

In summary, I highly recommend staying at this Main Lodge of the Thornybush Collection. It’s not for nothing that Thornybush Game Lodge was ranked #7 on the prestigious Travel + Leisure Readers' 10 Favorite Safari Lodges in Africa of 2023.

Jock Safari Lodge, Kruger National Park

Jock Safari Lodge Kruger Park South Africa

When it comes to the ultimate safari experience in South Africa's acclaimed Kruger National Park, the Jock Concession stands out as a true gem. It’s the very first privately owned and operated concession within the Kruger National Park and at the heart of this renowned wildlife haven lies Jock Safari Lodge, a premier accommodation option that I rate among the best safari lodges in Kruger National Park because of its prime location (between Paul Kruger Gate and Malelane Gate), luxurious amenities, strong reputation, and commitment to conservation.

Unparalleled Bush Immersion

Accommodation Jock Concession Kruger National Park

Nestled along the banks where the Mitomeni and Biyamiti rivers flow as one, Jock Lodge offers guests an unparalleled immersion in the wild wonders of the African bush. With its strategic location within the Jock Concession, the lodge grants visitors exclusive access to some of Kruger's most abundant and diverse wildlife populations.

Big Five Game viewing at Jock Safari Lodge Kruger

The Jock Concession is known for its high concentration of the Big 5 - lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and buffalo and as guests we had incredible opportunities to spot these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat, even from the comfort of our own private deck and during exhilarating game drives.

Prime Game Viewing area in Kruger National Park

Game drives at Jock Safari Lodge Kruger

The lodge's proximity to prime game-viewing areas is a significant draw for safari enthusiasts and wildlife lovers. Experienced safari guides lead guests on thrilling expeditions through the Jock concession and beyond, interpreting the intricate web of animal behavior, and sounds and tracks.

Lions in Kruger Park Jock Safari Lodge

The twice-daily game drives in one of the best wildlife viewing regions in Kruger National Park are undoubtedly a highlight, but you can also opt for a wilderness walk, bird watching, golf, and a spa retreat.

Private Concession Kruger National Park Limpopo

The only downside of the game drives at Jock Safari Lodge is the type of vehicle that less open (higher doors for extra safety) than the vehicles in the Kruger Private Game Reserves, which is not the most ideal for safari photography but I managed to get some nice wildlife images anyway. Jock Concession has to use these vehicles according to the terms and regulations of Kruger National Park. As soon as they drive outside of the concession on the Kruger park roads, they also need to pull up the front window.

Lots of Leopard in Kruger Game Reserves and Concessions

During our stay, we were fortunate to see numerous elephant herds, the Windmill lion pride, buffalo, mating lions, white rhinos, and various leopards.

Mating Lions in Jock Concession KNP

Sundowner Jock Concession in dry riverbed

The game drives included coffee-stops at beautiful locations, like Madiba Rock overlooking a huge part of Southern Kruger National Park and sundowners in the dry riverbed.

Authentic Suites with Riverbed & Koppie Views

Luxury suites at Jock Lodge in KNP South Africa

Jock Lodge's allure extends beyond its magical wildlife encounters. The lodge's luxurious yet authentically 12 African suites, complete with private plunge pools and sweeping views of the riverbed and koppies, offer an unmatched level of comfort, privacy, and elegance.

Jock offers private pools in their African suites

The suites feature spacious interiors, huge private decks with an outdoor bath and shower, and not to forget outdoor beds under a canvas Meru-style tent for an unforgettable night under the African stars and watching the Milky Way.

Jock Safari Lodge has an outdoor bath to enjoy the Kruger NP views

Outdoor bed at Jock Safari Lodge in Kruger National Park

I also really loved the spacious indoor shower offering two rain showers and the cozy lounge inside the suite. From the locally-sourced materials used in the decor to the exceptional cuisine that celebrates the flavors of the region, every aspect of the Jock Lodge experience is designed to immerse guests in the spirit of the Lowveld.

Rich Heritage: Jock of the Bushveld

Jock of the Bushveld Kruger National Park South Africa

Interestingly, the name of the lodge pays tribute to one of South Africa's most beloved tales - the story of Jock of the Bushveld. This legendary bull terrier, immortalized in the classic novel by Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, was a loyal companion who accompanied his master on countless adventures throughout the rugged Lowveld region.

Jock of the Bushveld Kruger

“The Jock Concession and Jock Lodge both draw their names from this iconic story,” explains the general manager at Jock Lodge. "The area's rich history and connection to the iconic Jock of the Bushveld narrative add an extra layer of meaning and significance to the guest experience here." I loved to explore the very landscapes that inspired the beloved tale.

Leader in Kruger Conservation

Jock Rangers are a huge help for Kruger Conservation

Beyond its rich heritage, Jock Lodge has also established itself as a leader in sustainable tourism and conservation. The lodge operates under a strict eco-friendly policy, minimizing its carbon footprint and actively supporting various wildlife preservation initiatives within the Jock Concession and almost all of Southern Kruger National Park, with focus and dedication to anti-rhino poaching.

Jock Wildlife Rangers combat Rhino Poaching

So, as guests, you also directly contribute to the protection and rejuvenation of this remarkable ecosystem. Learning more about the rhino-poaching crisis of Kruger and high numbers of poachers entering the Kruger Park each month and how many poachers get caught by the camera systems, we sure left Jock Lodge with an even deeper appreciation for the importance of conservation in the Kruger region.

A Gem in Kruger National Park

Top Kruger Safari Lodge in Jock Concession

Recognized as a leading conservation area within Kruger National Park, the lodge collaborates with SANParks and the Caleo Foundation to combat rhino poaching and other environmental threats. Together with the attention to detail and commitment to exceptional service at Jock Lodge have earned it a reputation as one of the premier safari lodges inside the Kruger National Park. Prices are between $650 USD to $850 USD per adult sharing, excluding conservation levies and the Kruger Concession fees. You can check availability for Jock Safari Lodge on Booking.

Nkula Trails Camp, Pafuri Walking Safaris

Walking Safari Camp in Pafuri Kruger by RETURN Africa

Nestled in the Pafuri region of Kruger National Park, Nkula Trails Camp by RETURN Africa promises an unforgettable walking safari experience. But does it deserve a spot among the Kruger’s top lodges? Here’s why Nkula Camp is a hidden gem worth visiting:

Prime Location within Pafuri Concession

Pafuri Walking Safaris Kruger Park

The tented Nkula Camp sits within the renowned Pafuri concession, known as the best area for walking safaris within Kruger National Park. This prime location translates to potentially unmatched access to wildlife viewing on foot.

Wildlife viewing on foot in Pafuri Triangle Kruger NP

So, when you choose to stay at Nkula Trails Camp, the focus is on morning and afternoon walks ranging from 5-10 km each day, unlike the traditional game drive safaris. It’s an intimate and active approach to safari tourism to gain a deeper understanding of the wildlife found in Pafuri Concession (or Makuleke Contractual Park).

Wildlife Safari on Foot in Pafuri Concession Kruger

The walking distance may depend on the fitness level of the guests and the animals you encounter along the way. You will sometimes use the vehicle to drive to places and start your 3-hour walk from there; this is to cover a variety of landscapes, from bushveld to riverine forests, and learn about the rich biodiversity of the area.

local guides from Makuleke community in Pafuri

I really loved the Pafuri Walking Safaris with our highly trained trail guides Cyrille and Brent, sharing their deep understanding of Pafuri's history, inhabitants, and unique ecosystem. We walked in various landscapes iconic to Pafuri.

Elephants on foot in Fever Tree Forest Makuleke

We saw elephants on foot in the largest Fever Tree forest in the world, we listened to the sounds of the baboons in a magical Jackalberry Forest, and we walked along the banks of the Luvuvhu River, where we saw hippos, elephants, nyala, and other wildlife.

Pafuri Walking Guide in Jackelberry Tree Forest Kruger NP

Exploring Pafuri on foot is also great for birding! On our walks, we were very fortunate to spot several interesting birds, like the Tambourine Dove which is often hard to spot because they are usually found in the tickets. We also found newborn chicks and a nightjar.

A Different Kind of Luxury

Fireplace at Nkula Walking Camp in Pafuri Kruger

The luxury of Nkula Trails Camp lies within this highly regarded area for wilderness trails where it’s all about an immersive bush experience covering various landscapes and nature connection to the max. There’s no cellphone reception or Wi-Fi, to encourage you to disconnect from your daily life and reconnect to nature (and to yourself).

Kruger's Nkula Walking Camp has everything you need!

Kruger Nkula Camp for Walking Safaris in Pafuri

With only 4 walk-in-style Meru Tents in a remote location of Pafuri, it’s a more adventurous way of staying in Kruger National Park, but I loved every minute of my stay in this peaceful bush camp.

Buffet Dinner at Pafuri Walking Camp in Kruger NP

The camp is fully equipped for this authentic bush experience and the safari tents have all amenities you need, including a decent bed, en-suite bathroom with toilet and (warm) bucket showers, and a small patio with two chairs and a table. To minimize environmental impact, there’s limited solar power to use lights inside the tent and to charge your camera gear and other devices.

Bush Meals and Sundowner under the Stars

Pafuri Walking Safaris Camp in Kruger National Park

All delicious meals are served outdoors, in buffet-style, prepared by the lovely Makuleke staff using fresh local ingredients. At Nkula Trails Camp, you eat together as a family, but since there are only 4 tents, it’s very intimate and cozy. At the time we visited Nkula, there were only 4 people in the camp (2 tents).

Buffet Style Bush Meals Nkula Walking Camp Pafuri

I also loved returning to our comfortable bush camp after a satisfying afternoon walk, and relaxing with a glass of wine or Gin Tonic at the fireplace gazing into the starry African skies and the Milky Way, which slowly became more visible.

Relax under the shade of an Ana Tree

Nkula Bush Camp Kruger National Park

Nkula Trails Camp from RETURN Africa is nestled under the shade of beautiful Ana trees with swings hanging in the tree to enjoy your time in between the Kruger walking safaris. Swinging in the chair, listening to the enchanting sounds of the wilderness, is the perfect way to recharge your body, mind, and soul.

Unforgettable Kruger Walking Safari Adventure

Return Africa Walking Safaris in Kruger National Park

In my opinion, Nkula Trails Camp deserves to be part of this list of best Kruger Safari Lodges. For the adventurous traveler and nature lover seeking an exceptional Pafuri Walking Safari experience, Nkula Camp by RETURN Africa is definitely worth considering. Prices for staying at Nkula Camp are around$225 USD per person sharing.

The camp prioritizes immersion in nature, encouraging you to disconnect from the modern world and fully appreciate the tranquility of their surroundings. In our busy lives, I’m positive that you will not easily forget this Pafuri walking safari adventure.

Pafuri Luxury Tented Camp

Pafuri Camp by RETURN Africa in Kruger National Park

Apart from Nkula Trails Camp, The Pafuri Collection by RETURN Africa also offers the popular and exclusive Kruger National Park accommodation known as ‘Pafuri Camp’ or Pafuri Luxury Tented Camp in northern Kruger. This luxury safari lodge comprises nineteen luxurious tented suites positioned along the banks of the Luvuvhu River.

Pafuri Camp on the Luvuvhu River in Makuleke Concession

Each room boasts private viewing decks, en-suite bathrooms with both indoor and outdoor showers and spacious beds for ultimate comfort. It's a beautiful place to come to rest and a great place to combine with Nkula Trails Camp.

Pafuri Safari Lodge or Pafuri Camp in Northern Kruger National Park

Apart from the safari game drives, we had a delightful time at the pool, and watching animals in the river. We saw buffalo and elephants drinking at the river, a nile monitor, various birds including the African Fish Eagle getting mocked by White-crowned Lapwings, and at night we were lucky to spot two bush babies in a tree near the dining area.

Fish eagle mocked by lapwings at Return Africa Pafuri Camp Kruger

Staying at Pafuri Camp promises a great experience, for sure. Costs for staying at Pafuri Tented Camp are from $570 USD per person sharing per night. You can check prices and availability for Pafuri Camp on Booking.

SANParks Rest Camps in Kruger National Park

Kruger National Park offers a diverse range of accommodations through SANParks to suit different preferences and budgets. These conveniently located options provide an ideal base for visitors looking to explore the park on a self-drive basis or those seeking self-catering facilities. SANParks Accommodations may not be the most luxury safari lodges in Kruger National Park, but it’s great to combine it with visits to Private Game Reserves in Greater Kruger.

For those who want the flexibility to embark on self-guided game drives in Kruger National Park at their own pace, staying at SANParks accommodation in Kruger National Park is a compelling choice. This allows you the freedom to discover different areas and optimize your chances of wildlife sightings.

Olifants Rest Camp

One of the park's most scenic camps is Olifants Rest Camp, situated on an escarpment overlooking the Olifants River with the majestic Lebombo Mountains in the distance. The surrounding open savannah plains and Mopani bush offer a breathtaking panorama and a variety of lodging options, from bungalows to safari tents. In my opinion, Olifants Rest Camp is the most beautiful camp in Kruger National Park.

Shingwedzi Rest Camp

Further north, Shingwedzi Rest Camp, located along the serene Shingwedzi River, provides a peaceful atmosphere that many visitors appreciate. This camp served as a convenient midpoint for our journey from Pafuri in northern Kruger to the central regions of the park.

Letaba Rest Camp

Nestled in the beautiful Letaba River valley, Letaba Rest Camp is another lovely spot teeming with wildlife. Visitors can learn about the park's history and conservation efforts by visiting the on-site museum, which features an impressive elephant statue. While we did not stay overnight, we thoroughly enjoyed our lunch stopover at this camp.

Combine Kruger Safari Lodges in Private Reserves with Rest Camps

The nice thing about these Kruger Rest Camps is that you can explore various parts of Kruger National Park. If you combine it with safari lodges in private game reserves in Kruger, you can build a diverse Kruger safari itinerary to enjoy the best of both worlds.

Combine for example a self-drive in Kruger staying at two (or three) Rest Camps with stays in safari lodges like Thornybush Lodge, Tintswalo Safari Lodge in Manyeleti, Sabi Sands Game Reserve, Kruger Shalati Train on the Bridge, Jock Safari Lodge or several lodges in the Makuleke Concession, like Rare Earth’s Outpost Lodge or Nkula Trails Camp.

Rio Vista Lodge, Malelane

Rio Vista Safari Lodge in Kruger Malelane

The previous recommended Kruger Lodges were all located in Greater Kruger Park. However, there are also some safari lodges outside Kruger that are worth considering. One of those lodges is Rio Vista Lodge, just outside of Kruger Park, near the Malelane Kruger Gate.

This was an unplanned but very pleasant stay where we decided to recharge at the pool and do some writing for our safari blog. The place was recommended to us by the General Manager of Jock Safari Lodge, and here’s why it’s among the top places stay in Kruger:

Affordable Safari Lodge outside Kruger Park

Breakfast at Rio Vista Safari Lodge near Kruger

Rio Vista Lodge is a very affordable, clean, and well-maintained safari lodge on the border of Kruger National Park with a variety of rooms to choose from, depending on your budget. They offer a total of 27 garden view and river view rooms, and they even have a honeymoon suite with a private pool.

Spectacular Kruger National Park Vistas

Rio Vista Safari Lodge has views over Kruger National Park

It isn’t called Rio Vista Lodge for nothing, as this Kruger safari lodge offers spectacular views of the Crocodile River and Kruger National Park. From your river view room, from the swimming pool, or from The Deck, you have amazing views.

River view Rio Vista Lodge Kruger

Safari Lodge with view of Kruger National Park

Make sure to have your camera or binoculars ready, as animals come to graze and drink. You often spot herds of elephant, buffalo, hippo, crocodiles, waterbuck, and various birds, including the African Fish Eagle. An ideal location for a well-deserved break (or to catch up with some work while enjoying the views).

Sunset Dining Experience at the Deck Restaurant

The Deck Restaurant at Rio Vista Lodge Malelane

Rio Vista Lodge in Malelane is also the perfect place to watch the sunset and its golden hues over the Crocodile River and Kruger National Park. After returning from your self-drive in Kruger, you can enjoy a sundowner at the Deck Restaurant to catch the last rays of sun and watch the last elephant disappear in the African bush.

Sunset river views from Rio Vista Lodge in Kruger Malelane

They offer an a la carte menu and various cocktails, wine and beers. Don’t expect a fine dining experience, but I very much enjoyed our Kudu steak. The fries, on the other hand, were not very tasty. The Deck Restaurant is also open to visitors that do not stay at Rio Vista Lodge, and is apparently known as one of the better restaurants in Malelane.

Kruger Safari Lodge with a well-maintained Swimming Pool

Rio Vista Safari Lodge in Kruger has a swimming pool

After a few days of safari and self-driving in Kruger National Park, I really loved the friendly vistas and relaxing swimming pool, in the middle of a well maintained lawn with palm trees and other plants and trees.

Perfect Location in Mpumalanga, South Africa

Rio vista Lodge near Malelane Kruger Gate

The 4-star Rio Vista Lodge is not only conveniently located to visit Kruger National Park, but also to explore parts of South Africa’s Panorama Route, like Pilgrim’s Rest, God’s Window and the Bourke’s Luck Potholes. Kaapsehoop is another interesting place to stop before heading back to Johannesburg.

Rates for staying at this affordable Rio Vista Lodge range from $70 to$100 USD per person sharing. Please check availability for Rio Vista on Booking. In our case, it was cheaper to book through Booking than using their own website (where they linked to AfriStay).

Crocodile Bridge Safari Lodge

Crocodile Bridge Safari Lodge is another intimate lodge outside of Kruger and sits on a superb location right next to the Crocodile Bridge Gate, offering easy access to the park. This saves you travel time getting into the Kruger National Park for game drives and if you leave in time, you might be one of the first cars in line to get into the park for your morning game drive.

Elephants in Crocodile River at Crocodile Bridge Safari Lodge Kruger

The spacious rooms look out onto Crocodile River and the Crocodile Bridge where you can spot many animals during the day, including elephants crossing the river, buffalo, impalas, hippos and crocodiles. If you’re lucky, you can even spot lions or cheetahs from your room.

While Crocodile Bridge Safari Lodge might not be the most luxurious safari lodge near Kruger, it’s a solid choice for those prioritizing location, affordability, friendly staff and good food. You may want to check availability and latest prices for Crocodile Bridge Safari Lodge (around $145 USD for a total of 2 people per room). It’s a very comfortable lodge with a peaceful, intimate, and laid-back atmosphere, which I personally loved. Ultimately, the best lodge for you depends on your specific needs and preferences.

Kruger Safari Lodges FAQ

Luxury accommodation in Pafuri Limpopo

Is it better to stay inside Kruger National Park or outside?

Staying inside Kruger National Park provides more convenience and proximity to the wildlife, but it can be more expensive. Staying outside the park can offer more budget-friendly options while still allowing you to access the park. The best choice depends on your budget, priorities, and how much time you have to explore the Kruger park.

If you have one week or more, I would suggest a combination of staying inside Kruger National Park and outside. For example: do a self-drive in Kruger National Park and stay inside the SANParks Rest Camps for a few days. After that, choose a lodge outside Kruger National Park, like Rio Vista, Crocodile Bridge Safari Lodge, or Sleepover Orpen Gate to cut on cost and have a bit of relaxing time as well.

What factors to consider when choosing a Kruger Safari Lodge?

When choosing a Kruger Safari Lodge, here are some key factors to consider:

  1. Location: proximity to prime game viewing areas and access to different ecosystems or habitats within the Kruger National Park;
  2. Accommodations: quality and comfort of the lodges, range of room/suite options (e.g., standard, luxury, family) and amenities (e.g., private plunge pools, outdoor showers);
  3. Game Viewing Opportunities: frequency and quality of game drives, availability of guided bush walks or night drives, and chances of seeing the Big 5 (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, buffalo);
  4. Service and Hospitality: reputation for excellent customer service, knowledgeable and experienced guides, personalized attention and activities;
  5. Sustainability & Eco-friendliness: commitment to responsible tourism practices, use of renewable energy and water conservation efforts, support for local communities and wildlife conservation;
  6. Exclusivity & Privacy: size of the lodge (small, boutique, or larger), degree of seclusion and distance from other lodges
  7. Safari activities & Experiences: availability of additional activities (e.g., cultural tours, river cruises), opportunities for photographic safaris or specialized interests;
  8. Budget & Value for Money: Alignment with your travel budget and inclusions and add-on services.

Considering these 8 factors will help you identify the Kruger Safari Lodge that best fits your preferences, budget, and safari expectations.

Where to stay when visiting Kruger National Park?

Makuleke Concession Accommodation

When you stay inside the Kruger National Park, you can choose between Rest Camps and Private Lodges.

  • The Rest Camps are the main accommodation options run by SANParks, offering a range of lodging from basic camping to bungalows and guesthouses. Examples include Skukuza, Olifants, and Satara Rest Camp.
  • The Private Lodges inside Kruger National Park are luxury safari lodges and tented camps that provide a more exclusive and high-end experience. Examples include Jock Safari Lodge in a private concession within the park boundaries or the lodges within the Makuleke Concession, like The Outpost or Pafuri Tented Camp. Other examples are Kruger Shalati - Train on the Bridge.

Kruger Shalati Train on the Bridge

When you stay outside the Kruger National Park, you can stay in towns near the Kruger Gates, nearby larger cities, or Private Game Reserves.

  • The towns near the gates just outside the park entrances, like Hazyview, Marloth Park or towns like Malelane, offer a wider variety of hotel, guesthouse, and Airbnb options. Nearby larger cities like Nelspruit and Phalaborwa provide more urban accommodation choices, though they are slightly farther from the park.
  • Outside Kruger National Park, there are also many private game reserves bordering Kruger that offer high-end luxury safari experiences and accommodation. Because there is often no fence between the private reserves and Kruger National Park, they offer great (Big Five) safaris. Examples of these private game reserves are Thornybush, The Klaserie, Manyeleti, Timbavati, Kapama, Balule, and Sabi Sands Game Reserve. Learn more about my favorite private game reserves in Greater Kruger.

Are there lodges inside Kruger?

map kruger national park

Yes, there are a number of lodges located inside Kruger National Park. These lodges provide accommodation for visitors who want to stay within the park boundaries. For example Jock Safari Lodge as seen on the Kruger National Park Map above.

The advantage of staying at a lodge or rest camp inside Kruger is the ability to enter the park early and stay late, maximizing game viewing opportunities. Guests also don't have to pass through the park gates each day. Both the private lodges and the rest camps provide easy access to the diverse wildlife and landscapes of Kruger National Park. The choice comes down to budget, desired amenities, and overall safari experience.

What are the best months for safari in Kruger?

Thornybush Nature Reserve Greater Kruger

There is no single "best" time for safari in Kruger, as each season has its own advantages. Many visitors opt to visit Kruger during the dry season (May to September) for the optimal big 5 game viewing experience and spot wildlife at water sources, but this is also the peak safari season in Kruger. I personally also love the shoulder seasons and the wet season, for several reasons: less crowds, lots of newborn animals, dramatic landscapes great for wildlife photography, migrant birds, pleasant weather and lush green vegetation. Wildlife viewing can be a bit more challenging because of the vegetation.

What is the price for luxury lodges in Kruger?

Tintswalo Safari Lodge Manyeleti Game Reserve

The price range for luxury lodges within Kruger National Park can vary quite a bit. Private Safari Lodges are the most exclusive and high-end accommodations in Kruger and rates can range from around $500 USD to $2,000 USD per person per night. Examples include Thornybush Game Lodge, Jock Lodge, Singita Lebombo Lodge, Londolozi Game Reserve, and Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve. These lodges mostly include all-inclusive amenities like gourmet meals, premium drinks, twice-daily game drives, and various other activities. Prices can fluctuate based on season, with peak season (July-October) generally being more expensive.

What is the price for affordable lodges in Kruger National Park?

Camping in Kruger National Park

For affordable lodges within Kruger National Park, the prices generally range from around $50 USD to $150 USD per person per night. The Kruger National Park Rest Camps, operated by SANParks are the most budget-friendly accommodation choices inside the park. Prices for basic bungalows or cabins typically range from $50 USD to $150 USD per night, depending on the specific camp and room type. For example: a bungalow at Olifants Rest Camp is between $80 USD - $120 USD per night and campsites at Skukuza Rest Camp vary from $25 USD - $50 USD per person per night.

Final thoughts about Best Kruger Safari Lodges

No matter which lodge or combination of lodges you choose for your Kruger safari, you're in for an unforgettable safari in South Africa. From the premier Greater Kruger Game Lodges to the iconic SANParks rest camps and hotels in Kruger National Park, the accommodations in and around Greater Kruger National Park offer an exceptional range of options to suit every traveler's needs and budget.

To summarize, here are my top 7 picks:

  1. Thornybush Game Lodge, Thornybush Nature Reserve in Greater Kruger
  2. Jock Safari Lodge, concession inside Kruger National Park
  3. Nkula Camp - Pafuri Walking Safaris, concession inside Kruger National Park
  4. Pafuri Camp concession inside Kruger National Park
  5. SANParks rest camps inside Kruger National Park
  6. Rio Vista Lodge, outside Kruger
  7. Crocodile Bridge Safari Lodge, outside Kruger

With a focus on conservation, wildlife immersion, and exceptional hospitality, these 7 best Kruger safari lodges will leave you with lifelong memories of your transformative journey through one of Africa's most celebrated wilderness areas. Start planning your dream Kruger safari today!