July is winter time in South Africa. Though there is no snow, the mornings are cold and nights are freezing. The highest temperature in the morning is 17 – 18 degree Celsius and nights are at 5-6 degrees. Some days mornings can even come to as low as 11 or 12 degrees. This is how July in Africa is.
Winters begin in May here. By the time it is August, the temperature reaches 20-21 degrees. There is a chill at night and if you decide to take your vehicle into the wild instead of sitting all bundled up; you will find the Kruger National Park all dry and frozen. There is never rain in these areas and mornings are cold too with frosty nights. The Kruger National Park which is one of the largest game reserves in South Africa , it is even bigger than half of entire Kerala and quite densely populated with wildlife.
You can drive by yourself into these wild reserves and maybe even spend the night in the vehicle itself. The heady forest smell, soothing sounds from the wilderness and the chill will lull you to sleep. The next morning, wake up even before the sun and sip on a cup of tea. In whatever little light available; follow the lions venturing out for a hunt. You can roam about anywhere in the forest in your vehicle and that too as you please. Take ample rests in between too! As dusk falls around you, head to any lakeside nearby, park your vehicle and sip on Amarula on the rocks. A cream liqueur made from the fruit of the African Marula tree with an alcohol content of 17%. You may even see a couple of wild hippos rising up from the waters. When the sun sets by around 6.30 pm, the lion kings are on the prowl again for their next meal. Follow them carefully with the help of your vehicle spotlights.
Sights and sounds previously seen only on the National Geographic Channel will now be every Malayalee’s own experience. The self-drive voyage around the Kruger National Park is not an unattainable feat. 4x4 wheel drive vehicles are available on rent. The forest terrain out here is nothing like in our rainforests. Massive grasslands, some areas with grass as tall as 15 to 20 feet, regions with umbrella like trees and through all this uneven dirt tracks for the tourist vehicles to travel... You might not come across any steep slopes but maybe a smattering of small streams or ponds here and there. The 4 seat vehicles available are sturdy and used to the kind of geography in these areas. Most of these are equipped with cooking stoves and gas cylinders too. You could even set up bedding on the roof for two and the rest in the group can stay on the lower level. There will also be a wash basin with a water tank in the vehicle itself, and portable toilets and a shower, which can be set up outside. GPRS and detailed Maps to guide you throughout the adventure and when you hire a vehicle, you are already informed about the route plans, instructions to follow and schedule charts.
If you are not too confident to undertake the travel on your own, you could hire a guide for a minimal charge. The only issue with this is that one seat and bedding arrangement, will be allotted for the guide. That brings it down to a group of 3. Toyota Land Rover Defender 110, Toyota HiLux Double Cab, Land Cruiser 4.2 D76 Series, Fortuner 4x4 are the safari vehicles available for hire. You need to have a valid driving license and be over 23 years of age to rent a vehicle. An international license is not mandatory. Utensils, knives, blankets, towels, bedding and camp fire necessities are provided along with the vehicle. Foldable chairs, tables, torch lights and other safety equipment too are not overlooked. Well equipped and ready for everything, South Africa here we come!!
Safaris in the African jungles are as good as medicine for the mind, body and soul. If you are passionate about driving, then the African Safari will have plenty in store for you. Go in and come back out of the jungles with renewed spirits and refreshed minds.
The expenses of a self-drive safari
The rent for the vehicle for a day will come up to Rs.20, 000, and this is for a group of four. So the math comes down to just Rs. 5000 per person. You can save on the hotel accommodation. You can cook and eat your own food and all you need to do is stock up on the basic provisions.
Airfare to South Africa
A return ticket from Mumbai to Johannesburg will cost Rs.65, 000. Getting to the Kruger National Park from Johannesburg can be via road or air.