Phalaborwa is wildlife territory, and that sensation grabs you as soon as you disembark at the airport, with a terminal that fits right in with the Kruger Park image. It’s decorated with animal sculptures crafted by Zimbabwean Adam Madebe, with guinea fowl scratching for food, a leaping leopard and baboons on a rock watching you enter the airport.
Just 2km away is the Phalaborwa Gate, an entrance to the Kruger handy for the northern camps of Letaba, Olifants, Mopani, Shingwedzi and Punda Maria and many of the private lodges. While the Kruger is the biggest draw, there are other attractions in the area too.
You’ll need a car, unless you’ve arranged to be met by one of the private lodges. Get a 4x4 rather than a sedan, for confidence in negotiating some of the Kruger’s gravel roads. Book online in advance to make sure you get the vehicle you want.
The best time for spotting wildlife is during the dry winter months of May to September. The vegetation is sparse and dry and animals congregate around waterholes and rivers. The downside is it can be very cold for morning and evening game drives. September is great as the warmer weather begins. From November to February it can be deliciously scorching.