Skukuza Rest Camp
Skukuza is the largest of all the rest camps in Kruger National Park and is used as the administrative headquarters of the park. There are over 200 accommodation units with an added 120 rooms in the new Skukuza Safari Lodge as well as a large campsite with over 70 sites. When Skukuza is fully booked there will be around 900 guests in the camp far more than any of the other rest camps in Kruger Park. Skukuza is also the breakfast and lunch spot for the vast majority of Day Tour operators, a further 300 odd visitors arrive in mass at these peak times. As busy and hectic as Skukuza Rest Camp is, it is still one of the most popular camps in Kruger National Park.
Why is Skukuza Rest Camp so Popular?
The vegetation in the area around Skukuza is predominately mixed woodland and thorn thickets this type of vegetation attracts a wide variety of species and the game viewing is excellent however the nature of thorn thickets can make animals very hard to find at times. In the summer period between November and March it is not possible to see very far from the roads in certain areas and the thatching grass that lines the roads in the more open areas also makes visibility fairly difficult. With a bit of luck regular sightings of the Big 5 can be enjoyed in the area around Skukuza, it is all about knowing when and where to start searching.
Skukuza Rest Camp in situated on the southern banks of the Sabie River, this is the real draw card for Skukuza. The Sabie River flows throughout the year and is a lifeline for many animals in Kruger especially during the dry winter months. Huge leafy trees line the river and provide an abundance of fruits, reeds and grasses grow in and along the Sabie River providing a food source throughout the year and the upper part of the Sabie River banks are well vegetated providing excellent cover for an ambush predator like the leopard. The Sabie River is known to have one of the highest concentrations of Leopard in the world and the Road, H4-1, along the Sabie River will provide the best opportunity to spot these beautiful big Cats however this Road , the H4-1, is the busiest Road in Kruger and it is almost impossible to enjoy a sighting on your own for longer than a few minutes. I have seen the worst traffic jams along this road in the past including a jam in early 2014 that took over an hour to clear, on this occasion there were lions sleeping next to the road. Vehicles crowded the area in all directions and very quickly the 2-lane road had become 5 lanes with every car being parked in by the vehicle behind. Drivers lost their patience and soon there was hooting, shouting and swearing followed by the arrival of the traffic police who had to painfully get the vehicles on either end of the 800 meter jam to reverse to allow traffic to flow again.
Skukuza Rest Camp has more facilities and options than any other rest camp and has arguably the parks best restaurant and shop. There are also more accommodation options than the other rest camps as well as a larger catalogue of activities operated by the camp themselves. Within the confines of the electric fence the highlight of the camp is the same feature as on the outside, the Sabie River. There is a beautiful river walk that has been set up to the east of the restaurant, the walk follows the river for about 500 metres and provides great views of the river and any birdlife or other animals that are in the vicinity. In 2009 a pride of lions killed and devoured a buffalo just on the other side of the fence along the River Walk it was great viewing to start with but as the crowds grew it became a bit of a circus, still great to see from the safety of the camp.
What is the accommodation like in Skukuza?
Skukuza Rest Camp has the widest variety of accommodation out of all the rest camps in Kruger National Park. There are 4 Guest Houses that are large luxury units in prime positions, all with river view. The Guest Houses are well-equipped and all have kitchens (with microwave ovens), multiple bedrooms and bathrooms. Limited channel DSTV televisions are provided.
There are 20 Luxury Bungalows that are 1-bedroom units, with en-suite bathroom. The units each have a double bed, quality decor, air-conditioning and television offering limited DSTV channels. You have a choice of luxury units with a riverside view and kitchen, or semi-lux units without a river view and with communal kitchen. Bungalows along the river frontage have a more modern design with glass sliding doors and come at a higher price than the other units.
There are 178 bungalows that are round–walled, single-room African style units with thatched roofs, 2 or 3 beds per unit, equipped with en-suite ablutions (most with showers, but some with baths). Some units have air-conditioning, some have fans. Kitchenettes vary: some have hotplates and sinks; some have only sinks, while some have neither. These are the units that our guests stay in while on Safari with Wild Planet.
Skukuza also has Safari tent options, there are 12 x 2-bed and 8 x 4-bed permanent furnished canvas tents on stilts, including a fridge, standing fan inside tent and small veranda. Communal ablutions and communal kitchens are available.
Lastly Skukuza has 80 x tent or caravan sites, with power point. Communal ablutions and cooking facilities. (24-hour boiling water, electric hotplates and washing up facilities) Maximum of 6 persons per site. These sites are used on our Kruger Camping Safari Options.
Wild Planet Safari Skukuza Ratings
Wildlife Viewing = 6 out of 10
Under normal circumstances we would rate Skukuza 8 or even 9 out of 10. Due to the high number of guests that are accommodated in Skukuza as well as the hundreds of open safari vehicle day visitors that operate in this already overloaded area, we have docked 2 to 3 points from Skukuza.
Camp Facilities = 6 out of 10
Again, this rating would be higher if it was easier to enjoy the facilities on offer without being bombarded by 1000`s of visitors around lunch time every day.
Accommodation = 6 out of 10 (May 2019)
There is a wide variety of accommodation and this rating should be way higher for Skukuza, however the Safari Lodge has yet to open its doors and still looks like a construction site. It was due to be completed in September 2018. The rest of the accommodation is looking old and tired, while the thatch roofs are in pretty good nick, the inside is very old and outdated.
Campsite = 6 out of 10
To be honest Skukuza is not a great place to camp, it is usually pretty full and there is not enough space for the number of tents and caravans that are erected. Added to this is the lack of shady trees. There are a few sites where evergreen trees are present but most of the sites are under Knob Thorn Acacia Trees that don’t provide enough shade at the best of times. The campsite only has 4 or 5 sites along the fence line far fewer than other rest camps in Kruger.
Overall Rating = 6 out of 10
Skukuza Rest Camp: Conclusion
Skukuza is the most popular rest camp in Kruger National Park but because of the camps popularity it has become too busy and this negatively affects the overall experience when staying overnight at Skukuza. The Camp is being carried by experiences of times gone by and Skukuza seems to have been added as some kind of bucket list destination. Overseas visitors have heard of Skukuza and that is a good enough reason to stay there. There have been many times where we, as a company, have recommended guests to stay at alternative camps and the guests have declined this recommendation. We have also had guests show extreme disappointment when the accommodation in Skukuza had been fully booked and in turn we had to stay at an alternative camp. There are many other camps in Kruger and all but one offers a far greater safari experience than Skukuza Rest Camp.
*Please note this review is the opinion of the author, Ryan Ker, the review is backed by 14 years of experience working in Kruger National Park.