South African Airlink from Johannesburg to Nelspriut
South African Airways offers a cheap and reliable service throughout the country, and considering just how difficult it can be to drive in South Africa, sometimes taking a quick hop is the best solution!
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Johannesburg to Nelspruit, South African Airways Airlink
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We weren’t really sure what to expect from this flight. Many of the safari lodges offered bus transfers from the hotel to the parks for about $100 each way, and they were 6 hour van rides with lots of times a half dozen other people. Why put yourself through that trouble? The flight was only $42 one way and they had flights almost every hour in the mornings.
We arrived at the JoBurg airport with plenty of time, not knowing what to expect, but we found short security lines, an easy check in and baggage process, and a quick and efficient security system (Hey TSA, ya listening?). Flights were heading to both Nelspruit (about 1 hour south of Kruger Gate) and Skukuza (inside the park) at 9 and two at 9:55am.
We would have chosen Skukuza, but the rental car situation was a bit easier and cheaper with Nelspruit. There was a lot of confusion with Skukuza, being that it was inside the park, as to exactly where the rental car facilities were, and if we had to pay a park entrance fee if we were flying into that park. It just seemed easier to fly in and out of Nelspruit. Also, for our flight heading up to Zimbabwe, the flight from Nelspruit to Johannesburg offered a better connection option, time wise.
Boarding was quick, easy, and painless. We got on board and headed to our bulkhead seats thanks to an early online checkin. The flight was only 45 minutes, but they still managed to offer juice and a pastry for breakfast.
When we landed at the Nelspruriut (airstrip) airport we deplaned via the stairs and walked into the baggage claim room. As there’s only one flight coming or going at any time, it was a pretty efficient process. You’ll notice on the left of the photo there was a private jet, and about 6 people deplaned. It looked to be a family with their 4 young children. Must be nice, but I’ll still take the $42 fare for a 42 minute flight any day ☺. Not bad, about $1 a minute!
The airport itself was open and airy, with a thatched roof and a safari game lodge feel.
There was also a Kruger National Park information booth manned by rangers to answer any questions you may have.
I’m not really sure why people would pay twice as much to take a cramped van 6 hours one way to your park. It just was so much easier to take a 40 minute flight into Nelspruit and then grab a rental car and go! We arrived refreshed, rested, and having the rental car allows us to go at our own pace to places that we wanted to see (including stopping off on the side of the road for hand carved souveniers and Monkey Gland Flavored Potato Chips).
In any event, for your next trip, try flying SAA and grabbing a rental car instead of driving to your hotel! You’ll be glad you did.