Living in Cape Town for almost my whole life, my experience with visiting the bush is limited… and for many years I thought it was prohibitive.
Flights to that part of the world are definitely geared for the tourist market and driving all that way from down south seemed slightly insane when you have 2 kids to entertain for 2 days!!
But, after my first experience in the bush at the age of 19 I realised that this was a special place… and somewhere all South African’s need to visit as often as they can.
It took me almost 15 years until I managed to visit again, this time with my kids in tow, and I’m so glad I did. It has ignited a passion for animals and wildlife in my son that can’t be dimmed. In fact I’m pretty sure he will land up working as a ranger at some point in his life… or as a friend pointed out: a wildlife photographer, documentary filmmaker, wildlife journalist, conservationist, biologist or even owner of a safari company!
Taking my kids to the bush is such a treat for them, and me! We love every aspect of it (and over the next few week’s I’ll be sharing my most recent trip with you!)
So, how am I managing to get from Cape Town to the Kruger without paying for it dearly? Well firstly I tapped into my Discovery Vitality rewards, I’m on Diamond status currently which meant that I could buy Kulula tickets for 25% less. If you book a few months in advance the price is also much less.
Then to get from Johannesburg to the Kruger area I found a great mini-bus shuttle service offered by Ashton’s Tours that costs only R740 per person if you book 3 or more passengers. That’s a far sight cheaper than the almost R7 000 flights per person from Cape Town to Hoedspruit or the over R 2 000 flights from Joburg to Hoedspruit!
Ashton’s offers a few scheduled shuttles each day – to and from the Kruger area)
We spent a night in Joburg and arrived back at OR Tambo Airport bright and early to catch the first shuttle of the day at 06:45am which leaves from the bus terminal building just a few steps from the airport terminal.
The shuttle bus is a Toyota Quantum 14-seater and all the luggage is transported in a large luggage trailer. The bus itself was comfortable and clean. It had air-conditioning, individual seat belts, cup-holders and they even provided us with a free magazine and as much bottled water as we needed.
Our shuttle was almost full with 1 or 2 free seats so we made ourselves comfortable in the back row of 4 seats and then eventually spread out a bit more so one of the adults had their own single chair.
I had packed a backpack filled with entertainment options – Top Trumps, travel games, books, colouring in stuff, activity books and plenty of snacks – but the saving grace was the screens! I’ll freely admit at this point that all restrictions on screen time are gone when you have to keep kids quiet for 6 hours in a moving vehicle!! We made sure everyone had access to their own device (phone or ipad). Made sure they were all fully charged, (along with all the extra battery packs we own), then we loaded up a few new games and also downloaded some movies and series from Netflix for them to watch. We brought along their own sets of headphones (although I forgot my own, which was a fail!) which ensure that we had a very pleasant journey indeed!
The drive is 6 hours long but it actually flew by! I think the early start helps as do the 2 comfort stops along the way of about 15 minutes each where we could get out to stretch our legs, have a bathroom break and buy more snacks for the road. Eating always seems to help pass the time in a roadtrip!?
Before we knew it we were descending to the Lowveld and enjoying beautiful views of the Olifants River beneath us.
We arrived in Hoedspruit soon after midday where our lodge had arranged for another shuttle to collect us.
And our return trip? It was equally comfortable, even though it took place later in the day. The return shuttle leaves the Kruger area at about 11am in the morning and arrives back in Joburg around 5pm. The drive felt a bit longer although it wasn’t – probably just our perception now that we were on our way home and not filled with the excitement of heading to the bush!
Read this next: If you’re planning a family safari holiday you might like to read my post about Top Tips for taking a Safari Holiday with Kids.
And if you’re still undecided about whether you should plan a visit to the Kruger then you need to see these pictures that prove that Kruger is heaven on earth!
Images: Kathryn Rossiter