South Africa, Travel

A 3-Day Self-Drive Itinerary in Kruger National Park

No Comments

South Africa is known for diverse wildlife and the magnificent coastline with world class wines. That being said, I love the idea of being driven in game drives with open-top jeeps as much as I love to drive it myself. The wildlife photos that I have shared on social media, most people assumed that they were taken during a guided safari drive. In my recent trip to South Africa, I spent 3 days and 2 nights in the magnificent Kruger National Park. We entered the park apprehensive and excited, but left like kids that just visited Disneyland.


The difference between guided safari game drives and self-driving is literally being driven and driving yourself respectively. There are two kinds of guided game drives, either with Sans Park or the privately owned ones. The one conducted by Sans Park has the privilege of going out earlier (before the gates open at rest camps and the Kruger main gates) and coming back later. There are also night drive options. You should always try to book in advance and experience one of these guided drive once. Private ones are usually pricier depending on the operator. Nothing is like self driving because you can drive wherever and stop whenever you like. A sense of satisfaction is achieved and greatly memorable when you spot the rarer animals like lions, leopards, cheetahs and rhinos. The kind of satisfaction achieved is like chasing the northern lights in Lapland, similar yet different.

When to go?

Avoid the wet season because of the risk of malaria, do take malaria pills and cover yourself up as precautions if you travel during this period. We went during September which is spring time in South Africa and decided not to take the pills. It is also the dry season and animals are out hunting more often, so that increases your chances of game viewing.


How to go?

Most people fly into Johannesburg because it serves most major airlines. From the airport, it takes about 4 hours of driving to the main gate of Kruger National Park. Malelane gate is the nearest main gate if you are heading directly from Johannesburg area. But I recommend to spend the night outside Kruger and head in earliest the next day. The queue to enter the park usually starts 30 minutes before the park gate opens. Panorama route is highly recommended to be bundled into the journey before or after Kruger. Hazyview is a great town to stay over and you can enter through Phabeni gate early next day.

A coffee cart goes around early in the morning to those cars in the queue

How much to pay?

Sans park charges R372/person/day for conservation fees in Kruger National Park, this is even if you travel in the same car. For accommodations, bungalow style huts cost about R1500 and bigger family options starts from R2000.


Gas Stations

My rule of thumb is to fill up whenever you see a gas station and the car is below half tank. There is usually a filling station in rest camps so the chances of running out of fuel is minimal when you are in Kruger.

Where to go?

This is critical because it will decide which rest camp you stay in Kruger National Park. Since booking availability in rest camp is much more difficult to obtain, I recommend to do it months in advance so that you get a good selection to match your route. With the rest camps booked, plan your drives according to the rest camp location. Different areas of Kruger are good for particular animals due to the terrain. Take note that the speed limit in the park is 50km/hr. This is not only for your safety but also for the wildlife.

Screen Shot 2019-10-27 at 4.18.22 pm
We entered from Hazy View and went up north before coming back down south.

Day 1

The night before was spent at Hazyview so it took about 15 minutes to join the gate queue at Phabeni. We entered the gate at 6am. It was a slow drive to Skukuza because it was our first time in the park and we stopped at every sighting. We saw baboons, zebras, impalas, hippos and eagles. Lunch at Skukuza has plenty of options, we loved the view of the Sabie river at Cattle Baron Grill and Bistro. We spent the first night in Satara rest camp. Taking the H1-2 and H1-3 is the direct route from Skukuza to Satara and they offer good chances of spotting lions and cheetahs because of the terrain changes to typical African savannah. We saw numerous sightings of elephants and giraffes along this route. We wanted to book an evening game drive at Satara but it was fully booked. Game drives with Sans Park can be booked and prepaid in advance together with accommodation. It was only near Satara that we spotted a cheetah at dusk when we went along the H7.

Water buffalo with zebras in the backdrop

Lunch at Cattle Baron Grill and Bistro

Cheetah spotted about 200m away from H7 tar road
Zebra at sunset
Lovely african sunset

Day 2

We woke up early to leave Satara but had to wait for the gate to open at 6am. Then, I had a little chat with the rest camp guard on duty. He mentioned that out of his five years working in Kruger, he had only experienced less than five leopard sightings. S100 is famous for the pride of lions that lives around but we did not see any during our drive. Instead, we caught two different prides around the H1-3. Yay! lion checked off the list! Another highlight was the family of hyenas that was lazing around their nest early in the morning. We continue south back towards Skukuza for lunch and then towards Lower Sabie via H4-1. We chanced upon 2 leopard sightings, WOW. Someone else spotted it both times and we happened to be there at the right time. We also spotted a pride of fifteen lions going on a hunting spree! We ended the day by heading to Berg-en-dal rest camp. We chose it because Lower Sabie and Crocrodile rest camps were full and this was the next best option.

Mom and her two cubs
This bigger brother came right under our car just to drink the condensation water from the AC
Look at the size differential between a small car and an adult elephant!
Another family crossing!
Can you spot the leopard?
Another one here
This lion pride has about fifteen of them that crossed within a meter of our car door!
Hundreds of water buffalos could be seen at the watering hole near Lower Sabie rest camp
Ground Hornbill that is only found in Africa continent

Day 3

You can take another drive around if you have not seen all the animals on your check list! Exit Kruger either through Malelane gate or Crocodile Bridge gate.

A pregnant hyena with her older cub spotted right before we exited via Malelane gate

The trip can done in reverse format, that means entering from the southern gates and leaving from Phabeni. It is also extendable by driving north to Olifants and beyond.

Would you do a self-drive in Kruger National Park?
South Africa, Travel

Off To South Africa! What Am I Excited About?

No Comments


O Come September, off to South Africa! I have planned an epic road trip covering a minimum of 3500 KM from Johannesburg to Cape Town. If not for having 3 drivers in this trip, I wouldn’t consider doing this over 2 weeks. The longest drive is probably going to be from Durban to East London via Transkei and Mthatha. With 9 hours on this journey, starting the day early to cover more ground is important. As someone who love road trips, the thought of this road trip kicks up some wanderlust endorphins. There is an option of flying but I rather experience what’s in and off the big cities.

A rough outline of the road trip, lovely to look at but distance is a feat to cover.

Here’s what I am excited about.

Panorama route

With this mini road trip route as part of the whole road trip, it is a good starter dish because it is right outside of Kruger National Park. The good thing about it is that it can be a day trip, either before or after Kruger National Park adventure. It will depends on if you are flying into or out of Johannesburg. As the name suggest, this is going to be a scenic drive with majestic views of God’s creation – nature.


Swaziland, a small, landlocked monarchy within South Africa is a good option to stay a night. There are two of these countries of such nature and they are Swaziland and Lesotho. The former is located on the south of Kruger National Park and definitely an option to put on the bucket list on the way to St Lucia. Lesotho is a little off from the route so this will give the next reason to visit South Africa again.

Kruger National Park

I have been looking for a safari experience years back and is is finally coming true! We are doing a self-drive safari within Kruger and staying in 2 different base camps to experience the game drives. We might do a dawn or dusk game drive with San Parks.

Photo Credit: SA Tourism
Game Drive
Photo Credit: SA Tourism
Sunset Game Drive

Garden Route

The famous Garden route stretching from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town is the main starting point explore the southern coast of South Africa. There are activities such as shark cage diving, ostrich farm and whale watch. I am excited to see the dramatic sweeping coastline.

Cape Town

Nothing beats the the city of Cape Town – that is what I have heard from the people who have travelled there. Table Mountain hikes, trip to Stellenbosh – known for its wine estates, Cape of Good Hope and Boulders Beach where you get to see the African penguins are just some of the areas to explore in the Cape Town region.

Photo Credit: SA Tourism
Colorrful house of Bo Kaap, Cape Town

It is going to be my first step into the African continent, for sure I can’t wait.

Thailand, Travel

The Ultimate Guide To Trat & Koh Mak

No Comments

Trat is a province in Thailand that borders the western part of Cambodia. It is also the gateway to the “Koh Islands”, namely Koh Chang, Koh Mak and Koh Kut. These islands are all accessible by ferries from Trat.


Map of Trat spotted in Trat City Hotel

Getting to Trat

To get to Trat, Bangkok Airways flies from Bangkok directly. Thai Airways codeshares with Bangkok Airways, so it makes it easier for international travellers to get to Trat. Enjoy the small treats and amenities at the Bangkok Airways’ lounge before your flight, it is available to all passengers regardless of traveling class. You can also drive from Bangkok to Trat and it takes about 5 hrs non-stop. I recommend to break up the overland trip by visiting Pattaya and other towns along the way. This year, I had the opportunity to attend the Thailand Travel Mart + 2019 in Pattaya. It is one of the biggest annual B2B travel trade events in the region to promote the Greater Mekong Subregion.


TTM+ 2019 in Pattaya

What to do in Trat

Visiting Ban Nam Cheow for a authentic mangrove village experience. It has one of the biggest mangroves in the eastern part of Thailand. You will get an opportunity to go on a boat tour to the mangrove area and to also witness how the villagers dive for lamp shells. Depending on the season, you might get to experience the firefly sparkles among the trees. Back in the village area, try out some of their local delicacies such as khao kriep ya na and a very unique green tea. If you are interested in handcrafted items, you can learn how to make a palm leaf hat. You can experience the above from 990 Baht for a 2 day 1 night adventure with Ban Nam Chieo Tourism.

Left: can you spot the trademark eye at Ban Nam Cheow?


Take a ride in one of these boats to see the mangrove area


The hunt for lamp shells


Khao kriep ya na making in progress


Core ingredients of khao kriep ya na

Learn how to make a leaf hat using traditional methods

Ban Tha Ranae is another community to check out,  known for their mangrove boats and boardwalk experience. The highlight of this tour was the eating of the ‘branch worm’ live by one of the guides. We took the boat to visit the unique mangrove vegetation in the area and reached a lookout point revealing the surrounding greenery to us. Another delicious highlight was eating fried leaves which I really liked (may be due to it being lunch time).

Check out the swing nestled in the mangrove forest boardwalk



Never ever tasted such good fried leaves

Trat Night Market is another place to check out if you are in town for an authentic local experience. It is definitely catered towards the local community as you can see the variety of products sold are not at touristy prices. Check out the good deals on clothing and local thai fried “delicacies”.



Fancy some of these?

Trat Museum is recommended to visit in order to find out more about the rich history of Trat during the different kings’ reign period.


Kon Plad Tin Restaurant is a restaurant to check out, known for their ‘red hawk dining’. Witness the red hawk swopping down the water for food as you indulge in yours.



Have your meal while watching these beautiful hawks feed 


A typical Thai seafood feast!

Where to stay at Trat

Trat City Hotel is a good option if you are looking for something modern and comfortable. It is a relatively new hotel which caters to both business and leisure travellers.

Getting to Koh Mak

Koh Mak is accessible by ferries throughout the year. These ferries depart from the nearby islands or Trat itself. There are different schedules which are operated by separate ferry companies, so search for the one that suits your timing. The ferry ride might get bumpy so travellers who get sea sick easily need to prepare for it. The ride takes about 45 minutes to an hour depending on the sea conditions. Similarly, you can get to Koh Chang and Koh Kut from Koh Mak.


What to do in Koh Mak

Snorkelling around the islands (Rang IslandYak Yai Island, and Yak Lek Island) brings you to the colourful underwater world and the diversified marine life. Witnessing gigantic schools of fish swimming alongside you and the beautiful corals can be quite an experience for first-timers. Check out San Jhao Beach nearby for a picnic lunch, we enjoyed the nicely-packed lunch delivered from Koh Mak by Table Tales Restaurant and Bar. There is another worthy restaurant to check out near the main pier – Koh Mak Seafood Restaurant.


Snorkelling in these crystal clear waters is one of the top few experiences on my bucket list!


Fresh Umi anyone? Unfortunately, marine life is heavily protected in the area due to eco tourism.


Nice set-up by Table Tales Restaurant and Bar for this lunch by the beach experience


Seafood platter grilled to perfection by Table Tales Restaurant and Bar

Cycling around the island is a fantastic way to explore the island and you can stop whenever you want. Because of the focus on sustainability tourism, the authority and locals are working together to ensure that the island would not be over-developed in the future. Feel what it is like to go through a rubber plantation (it got a little muddy because of the rain) and then checking out sunset spots at Cococape Pier. Take it at your own pace and you realize the laidback beauty of the island.


Organic papaya salad

Kayaking or Stand-Up Paddleboarding remains one of my favourite of the Koh Mak experience.

Where to stay at Koh Mak

There are various options ranging from the budget-friendly guesthouse or hostels to luxury/comfortable ones like Mira Montra, The Beachfront Resort Koh Mak. The accommodation style is individually contained huts with a patio area to chill out on. There is also an outdoor shower within the hut if you are seeking for an tarzan experience. Listen to the waves as you fall asleep in the comfortable bed. As long as you are a resort guest, you get to use their kayaks and paddle boards free of charge.


A perfect beachfront property

Thanks to Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT)Thai Airways International, and Bangkok Airways for making this trip possible. All opinions and reviews remain of my own.