How to get from Johannesburg to Kruger National Park – Beginner’s guide

Planning an unforgettable trip to Kruger National Park?

Make sure you follow the route right on your phone using the
Google Maps (click to send to phone)
route we made. You can now be sure you are following the exact route we talk about below. We’ve already added all the stops along the way which makes following our guide a breeze. has you covered with an in-depth road trip guide that not only ensures a seamless journey but also offers unique stops along the way, all leading to the final destination ‘Skukuza Rest Camp’.

Skukuza Rest Camp is the largest camp in the park, has everything from pools to restaurants and is statistically the best camp to stay at to spot all the predators. This makes it the perfect destination for a first-time visitor. This personalized adventure promises picturesque landscapes and wildlife encounters that you won’t want to miss. 

Step 1: When arriving in South Africa, choose O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB)

If you’re planning a visit to the Kruger National Park from anywhere in the world, it’s best to select O.R. Tambo International Airport as your destination when flying to South Africa. This airport, located in Johannesburg, is not only the largest and busiest airport in the country but also the most convenient for accessing Kruger National Park. It offers excellent connectivity and is a strategic starting point for your adventure.

The most important aspect of flying into South Africa and going straight to Kruger is making sure you have enough time to get to the park! The Kruger National Park has strict gate times whereby guests are allowed to self-drive around the park. If the gates are closed, one must be out the park or inside a camp.

Have a look at the gate times advertised at the park’s entrance below and use this to plan your flight’s arrival time.

Step 2: Departing from O.R. Tambo International Airport

Your exciting journey kicks off at O.R. Tambo International Airport, just to the east of Johannesburg’s bustling city center.

If you haven’t sorted out your transportation yet, you have a few convenient options:
One is renting a vehicle from one of the airport’s trusted rental agencies, like Avis Car Hire. When choosing your rental, keep in mind that SUVs, such as the versatile VW T-Cross or the reliable Toyota Corolla Cross, are often the preferred choice due to ample space and a comfortable ride. It’s worth noting that the Kruger National Park offers a mix of gravel and tarred roads. Both are very drivable by even the smallest of cars, so there is no need for a 4×4.

If an old-school road trip isn’t your preferred type of travel, you can book a flight from OR Tambo International to Skukuza Airport. Landing on a private air strip can be pricey, but the flight will take you right into the Kruger National Park.

Alternatively, if you prefer a hassle-free approach, there’s the option of taking an airport shuttle directly to Kruger National Park. This convenient service departs from O.R. Tambo Airport, eliminating the need for you to worry about the logistics of getting to the park.
The added bonus is that this option doesn’t limit your flexibility once you’re in the park.

You can still choose the self-drive option by renting a vehicle from Avis Car Hire in Skukuza, allowing you to explore the park at your own pace and make the most of your adventure.

Once you’ve secured your ideal vehicle and packed your essentials, simply follow the exit signs, leading you away from the airport and onto the open road, setting the stage for an epic road trip adventure to Kruger National Park.

Make sure you follow the route right on your phone using the
Google Maps (click to send to phone)
route we made. You can now be sure you are following the exact route we talk about below. We’ve already added all the stops along the way which makes following our guide a breeze.

Consider making a pit stop at the Sky Engen, a filling station just outside the airport. Here, you can fill up your vehicle’s tank and grab some road snacks for the journey ahead.

Once you’re ready, merge onto the R21 North as you leave the airport. This highway will lead you towards Pretoria. Keep an eye out for signs directing you to Witbank/Nelspruit as you transition onto the N12 highway. Your adventure truly begins from this point onward! 

Step 3: Head east towards Mbombela.

As you embark on the next leg of your journey, breathtaking South African landscapes await you as you travel east towards Mbombela (formerly Nelspruit), a key city en route to Kruger National Park.

At this stage of your adventure, the road stretches out before you, uninterrupted, with the next turn approximately 250 kilometers away. It’s the perfect opportunity to sit back, relax, and fully immerse yourself in the beautiful drive through the picturesque South African scenery. 

Stay on the N4 highway as you leave Johannesburg behind, and you’ll soon find yourself surrounded by rolling hills and lush greenery as you enter the Mpumalanga province.

Along your route, you’ll pass through Emalahleni (formerly Witbank), a significant town. Just keep following the N4 signs. After passing through this town, continue on for another 40 minutes, and you’ll reach a great place for a stop along your journey.

Located along the way, the Alzu Garage is a perfect spot for a 45-minute to an hour break. Here, you can use the restrooms and savor a meal at one of the many restaurants.

What sets this place apart is its unique view of a small watering hole visited by buffalo, rhino, sable, and other antelope.

It’s customary to visit the loo here while watching the animals.

See your Restuarant Options

Continue your journey along the N4 for another 30 minutes, and you’ll reach one of the most iconic stops on your route: Milly’s Trout Farm. This renowned establishment is not only famous for its tranquil lake views but is also world-renowned for its mouthwatering trout pies, making this stop an absolute must for travelers. Here, you can savor a delicious trout pie while taking in the scenery, a truly delightful experience.

Stay Over at Milly’s

While you enjoy your meal, don’t forget to check out all the latest animal sightings on the live Latest Sightings interactive board, conveniently located inside Milly’s restaurant. This added feature not only adds to the excitement of arriving at the park but also serves as a valuable resource for planning your route once you get there.

Plus, for kids, Milly’s offers an engaging activity where they can have fun feeding the fish in the lake while you relish your trout pie overlooking the serene waters. 

Continue your road trip towards Mbombela (formerly Nelspruit), and as you journey along the N4, the landscape will gradually transform into rolling stretches of citrus and avocado plantations. 

For a truly authentic South African experience, plan a final stop at Joubert and Seuns, strategically situated 61 kilometers from Milly’s along the scenic Schoemanskloof R539.

This family-owned gem is not just a roadside attraction; it’s a gateway to a world of fresh flavors. The true highlight of Joubert and Seuns is their exceptional orange juice.

It’s not your ordinary citrus refreshment; it’s renowned for being some of the tastiest orange juice around. Be sure to stock up on this liquid gold to keep you refreshed for the remainder of your journey to the Kruger National Park.

As you approach Mbombela (formerly Nelspruit), the last major city before reaching Kruger National Park, one should bear in mind that while Mbombela offers convenience, there’s no need to make it a stop unless you have specific requirements. The park itself has shops at nearly all its camps and stops, ensuring you’re never stranded without essentials, from clothing to food, during your adventure.

Just after passing the turnoff to Mbombela, you will want to keep an eye out for the iconic Mbombela Stadium. This stadium gained worldwide fame as one of the venues for the 2010 Soccer World Cup, where soccer legends like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi showcased their skills.

Visit Mbombela Stadium

Additionally, make sure you’ve downloaded the Sightings app (“Latest Sightings” on iOS and Android) on your phone before you continue your journey.

Reception may become less reliable as you head further on your journey, and this app is a valuable tool for your safari.
It alerts you to animal sightings in real-time, allowing you to witness exciting wildlife encounters like lions and elephants as they happen. Plus, you can share your own remarkable sightings with fellow travelers. If your sighting becomes a sensation, you might even earn some money! 

Download the App and Start Sharing Today

Step 4: Entering Kruger National Park

As you continue your journey east on the N4 from Nelspruit, you’ll soon come across the charming town of Malelane. If you need to refuel before entering Kruger National Park, this is a great place to do so.

Look out for and follow the signs pointing you to the Malelane Gate entrance on your left. Afterward, follow the road to Malelane Gate, make sure you have the essentials ready for a smooth entry.

These include your reservation number, identification documents and some money. If you are an overnight visitor, you won’t need to pay the park fees at this gate; instead, you’ll pay your fees at Skukuza Rest Camp.

For those visitors with a keen interest in exploring Kruger National Park multiple times throughout the year, there’s an excellent option available: the WildCard. This card offers unlimited park entrances within a year, requiring only an annual fee, making it a cost-effective choice for frequent visitors seeking to fully embrace the park’s beauty and wildlife encounters.

Get a WildCard

Step 5: Navigating inside Kruger National Park

One of the most popular camps to visit within Kruger National Park is Skukuza Rest Camp, and for good reason. Skukuza offers a wide range of accommodation options, from a hotel to unique train carriages where you can sleep on top of the Sabie River, as well as standard bungalows and campsites. It’s a versatile choice to suit every traveler’s preference.

As you continue your journey within the park, you’ll have the opportunity to explore some exciting highlights along the way. To take the quickest route to Skukuza Rest Camp, consider taking the H3 tar road, which is the most direct route. However, don’t let this limit your exploration. Keep in mind that Kruger’s charm lies in its unpredictability, and sometimes the best wildlife encounters happen when you least expect it.

Consult your Latest Sightings app as you drive; it’s an invaluable tool for spotting animals in real-time. There might be a lion or leopard not far from the main road, making it well worth a detour.

If you’re looking to explore roads known for their excellent reputation when it comes to leopard and lion sightings, consider taking the most popular route when driving to Skukuza.
As you enter Malelane Gate, you go straight until the S114 turn, turn right and then turn right onto the S25, left onto the S119, right onto the S114 and left onto the S118. These roads may lead you away from the main route for a bit, but the potential rewards in terms of wildlife sightings can be truly exceptional. Lions and leopards are spotted on this detour almost every day!

As you venture along your chosen route, make a stop at Afsaal Picnic Site, a conveniently located unfenced picnic spot where you can stretch your legs and enjoy refreshments from the coffee shop. While here, keep a watchful eye, as Afsaal is known for its occasional visitors like hyenas and elephants, adding an extra layer of excitement to your journey through the Kruger National Park.
And, especially, be vigilant for the monkeys and baboons that might snatch your food from you.

But that’s not the only gem along your route to Skukuza Rest Camp. Another stop worth making is at Mathekenyane Hill or Viewpoint, situated approximately 30 kilometers north of Afsaal on the H1-1. This is an unfenced location where you can exit your vehicle at your own risk and take in the breathtaking 360-degree panoramic view of Kruger National Park. Take a moment to soak in the vastness of this wilderness, as everything you can see, stretching as far as your eye can reach, is a part of the magnificent Kruger National Park. Give yourself a good 15 minutes to stop and truly appreciate the view.

Mathekenyane Hill
Tinged by G Burger

As you approach the end of the H3 tar road, you’ll come across a T-junction. At this point, you should make a right turn onto the H1-1 road (where you will see Mathekanyane mentioned above). But, maybe, just before you turn right, you can turn left and drive 200m to the big rocky outcrop and back. This outcrop is called “Klipspringer Koppies”. Klipspringers are little rock jumping antelopes. They are often see here. But, leopards are also often spotted sleeping ontop of those rocks.

After turning right at the end of the H3, follow the H1-1 road straight all the way, and it will lead you directly into Skukuza Rest Camp. Here, you can check in, settle in your chosen accommodation, and prepare for the adventures to come. Don’t forget to make use of the app, which provides valuable insights into recent animal sightings. This will help you plan your route effectively, increasing your chances of encountering the Big 5.

Book a Safari to Skukuza Rest Camp

Book a Guided Game Drive

When you finally arrive at Skukuza Rest Camp, your Kruger adventure is far from over. Be sure to make a stop at the unique Shalati Restaurant, located on a train right in the heart of Kruger National Park. Dining on a train in this remarkable setting is an experience you won’t want to miss. As you savor your meal, don’t forget to check out the live sightings board once again. Here, you can share any remarkable sightings you may have had on your journey to Skukuza and also discover exciting wildlife encounters that fellow Kruger visitors have experienced. It’s a fantastic way to plan your next drive in the park and make the most of your Kruger experience.

Furthermore, from Skukuza, you have the opportunity to book full and half-day safaris through various reputable tour operators. These guided tours offer a deeper, guided exploration of the park’s incredible wildlife and landscapes, adding an extra layer of excitement to your Kruger experience.

If you’re interested in booking these safaris, contact us at [email protected]. We work closely with some of the best tour companies that operate, and we’ll be happy to connect you with them to plan your perfect Kruger adventure.

Written by Mohammed Kathrada

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