South Africa is full of opportunities to discover offering a diverse range of wildlife, landscape, cultures, food and incredible people to ensure a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Many of these can be found within the borders of the Kruger National Park .
It is not only a UNESCO world heritage site and world-famous game reserve, but it is also very well located for international visitors due to the range of domestic airports surrounding it.
So, whether you’re purely flying out to South Africa to visit the Kruger National Park to tick off the ‘Big 5’ experience or perhaps looking to organise a more varied trip to include the magnificent wine routes within the Western Cape area, this article will provide you with a clear travel guide on how to get there. It will provide a brief outline of the best airports to fly into and means of getting around the Park and the rest of the country.
Flying into South Africa on a direct flight from Europe or elsewhere is advisable to keep your total flight time to the minimum. Any stop overs will increase your travel time considerably and it’s a long journey as it is.
All international flights into South Africa will either land at O.R. Tambo airport in Johannesburg or Cape Town International Airport serving the city of Cape Town.
Flight times tend to vary between 11 hours from London to Johannesburg, 13 hours from Hong Kong to Johannesburg and 15 hours between New York and Johannesburg. The flight time between Johannesburg and Cape Town adds approximately one hour to the overall flight time.
When visiting the Kruger National Park, the best route is to fly into O.R. Tambo Airport as international flights are generally cheaper than to Cape Town and it is in the vicinity of the Park, merely a few hours’ drive away. It is also very well connected with regular flights to the three airports serving the Park, as listed below:
The airport in South Africa. Photo by Paul
Once you’ve landed at O.R. Tambo airport you will be able to get a connecting flight to one of the local airports mentioned above, by far the easiest option unless you’re familiar with the country and the roads which have a reputation for being unsafe. Some roads are in very poor condition and the rules of the road are very much considered as ‘optional’ by many residents.
The domestic flights can either be reserved through the more reputable SAA, South African Airlines, or smaller, budget airlines as outlined below which are the equivalent of Easyjet or Ryanair in the UK and perfectly safe:
A few good websites to check all flights are outlined below:
Below you will find a brief outline of each airport serving the Kruger National Park:
This airport lies towards the north of the Kruger National Park, north of the Olifants river so this is your best option if you’re intending to stay and visit the Northern and Far North Kruger Park regions. It is situated in Phalaborwa, a town about 70km north of Eastgate Airport further south in Hoedspruit.
The flight time from Johannesburg is 1h 20mins.
There are two car rental companies at the airport, Avis and Budget, both good options for your onward journey into the Park and to your accommodation. Alternatively, many lodges also offer collection services from the airport although this needs to be verified with each on enquiry.
As mentioned above, Eastgate Airport lies only 70km south of Phalaborwa however it’s a better option if you’re intending to visit the central to southern parts of the Kruger Park Central Region, south of the Olifants river and north of Sabie river.
The flight time from Johannesburg is 1h 10mins.
To continue your journey from the airport you will also find two rental car companies on site; Avis and Bidvest, both good options.
Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport. Photo by Rob
Finally, the third airport that is in close proximity to the Kruger National Park is the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport situated in Nelspruit. It is the best option if you’re intending to visit the Southern Kruger Park Region around the capital and administrative headquarters of the Park, Skukuza.
It is well very well connected with O.R. Tambo in Johannesburg with frequent flights with SAA departing several times a day with a flight time of 50mins.
Car rental companies near the airport are aplenty, with Thrifty being the most well-known and situated on site. Otherwise Avis is situated 5km away by Riverside Park and if pre-booked will most likely offer collection from the airport to keep you from getting a taxi with your luggage.
It is situated 114km south-west of Skukuza and approximately two hours’ drive.
Finally, if you’re considering visiting the wine country as well down in the Western Cape province of South Africa, then your best options are to either fly directly into Cape Town International Airport on an international flight. This is the second busiest airport in South Africa, second to O.R. Tambo in Johannesburg.
Alternatively, if you’re combining a safari experience with wine tasting then your best bet is flying out from one of the above-mentioned airports on a domestic flight to Cape Town.
The flight times from the various airports are as follows:
The airport is well served for car rental companies, with three options: Thrifty, Avis, and Sixt.
Some of the best wine farms and breath-taking scenery can be experienced at nearby Stellenbosch, Franschoek and the Paarl, all within easy driving distance between 50 minutes and one and a half hour.
We hope this guide has been informative and has narrowed down your best flight options ever so slightly as we know it can be a minefield unless you’re familiar with the country.
Wishing you an easy, relatively hassle-free flight and journey to South Africa!
You can inform yourself further about an African safari via the following articles: