Protea Hotel Kruger Gate – a Marriott Rewards Sweet Spot


Update 7/26/22: I was very disappointed to learn yesterday that the Protea Hotel Kruger Gate is leaving Marriott Bonvoy as of 9/1/22 as reported by Katie Genter on Twitter. Unfortunately, I think this means you’ll only have until then to redeem rewards and stay at this incredibly well-located property. I currently see dates in August available for either 14,500 or 15,000 Marriott points per night. Unfortunately, it looks like the hotel is not accepting reservations for award stays beyond September 1st. I don’t know whether existing points reservations beyond September 1st will be honored. I expect that cash rate reservations should still be honored, though a message on the Marriott website indicates that elite benefits will not apply once the hotel leaves the program on September 1, 2022.

This is a major bummer as I stayed at this hotel in early 2017 and posted this review. While the award price increased since this post was originally written, this has remained a fantastic value using Marriott points for a hotel that is literally just outside of the Paul Kruger gate to Kruger National Park. While few people are probably planning a safari on a month’s notice, I thought it was worth publishing this for anyone who might have missed this gem previously. The original post follows.


Long before discovering points and miles as a method to travel, my wife and I had a shared dream trip: a safari. I think it’s the child within — the chance to see lions and leopards and elephants in their natural habitats rekindles the amazement of seeing them on TV for the first time as kids.

It’s hard to describe the difference between watching Animal Planet and finding those scenes play out in real life in front of your eyes, but suffice it to say that after two trips the magic hasn’t died.  Last month, we returned to Kruger National Park in South Africa for the second time and felt like kids in a candy store as we drove ourselves around the park watching for wildlife and snapping photos along the way. I am no J.M. Hoffman, but the diversity in Kruger park is wonderful and makes it hard not to take a few pictures you like.  You can see elephants playing in the water:


Or lions…..lying:


Marriott Protea Hotel Kruger Gate Marriott Rewards sweet spot

Or maybe even stumble on a leopard:

Safari, South Africa

Sightings are abundant.  With a few days, some patience, and a good eye, you’re likely to find a little bit of everything.

Marriott Protea Hotel Kruger Gate Marriott Rewards sweet spot, Safari, South Africa
A warthog playing with the kids at the pool

Marriott Protea Hotel Kruger Gate Marriott Rewards sweet spot, Safari, South Africa

Marriott Protea Hotel Kruger Gate Marriott Rewards sweet spot, Safari, South Africa

Marriott Protea Hotel Kruger Gate Marriott Rewards sweet spot, Safari, South Africa

Marriott Protea Hotel Kruger Gate Marriott Rewards sweet spot, Safari, South Africa

Safari, South Africa

Marriott Protea Hotel Kruger Gate Marriott Rewards sweet spot, Safari, South Africa

Safari, South Africa

Safari, South Africa

If you’ve looked at safari packages before, you’ve probably assumed that it would be a major expense.  And it can be — luxury safari packages can easily run in the thousands and may be the right choice depending on your budget and desires. On the other end of the spectrum, you can rent a bungalow in one of the many rest camps within Kruger National Park for just about $100 a night (or camp for quite a bit less).  Bungalows are simple and typically clean enough, though on our last night this time around we did find a scorpion in our bathroom in the middle of the night:

scorpion, Safari, South Africa

And that led us to find an opportunity to enjoy everything Kruger park has to offer while sleeping cheap on points: The Protea Hotel Kruger Gate, a Category 1 Marriott Rewards property.  Sitting just 100m from the Paul Kruger gate, the location of this hotel can not be beat. All of the photos taken above were within a day’s drive from the hotel.

Cash rates at the Protea Kruger Gate can often easily exceed $200 a night, making 7500 Marriott points (or 2500 Starpoints converted to Marriott) a great deal. (Note that this property increased in category a couple of years ago and as of 2022 award rates are typically around 15,000 points per night, still a great value redemption).

Marriott Protea Hotel Kruger Gate Marriott Rewards sweet spot

The lobby looked very promising — completely open-air:

Marriott Protea Hotel Kruger Gate Marriott Rewards sweet spot, Safari, South Africa

As this hotel sits literally 100m from the Paul Kruger entrance gate, it is surrounded by animal life and includes a nice nature walk:

Marriott Protea Hotel Kruger Gate Marriott Rewards sweet spot, Safari, South Africa

You can get a spa treatment under one of roofs to the left, listening to monkeys swinging in the trees or watching zebra pass by.

There are monkeys playing in the nearby trees/structures:

Marriott Protea Hotel Kruger Gate Marriott Rewards sweet spot, Safari, South Africa

And sometimes even running across the dinner tables as they set up:

Marriott Protea Hotel Kruger Gate Marriott Rewards sweet spot, Safari, South Africa

You can’t see any running across the tables here, and when we were eating dinner an hour later, we were happy to be in denial as well.

The room itself looked decent:

Marriott Protea Hotel Kruger Gate Marriott Rewards sweet spot, Safari, South Africa

But the problem here is that each room opens to the outdoor hallways, and the two rooms we saw both included a gap between the door and frame that can allow something like, say, a 3-inch spider into the room. To be fair, we only found one such spider and the hotel offered to have the room cleaned again. We took them up on it and didn’t see another insect while we were there — but in a Malaria zone with venomous spiders and scorpions, I would expect a $250-a-night hotel to have doors that close a bit better.

Marriott Protea Hotel Kruger Gate Marriott Rewards sweet spot, Safari, South Africa

Another potential disadvantage to the Protea would be that your access to the park will be about an hour behind those staying within the park (camp gates open earlier than park gates).  Still, the ability to self-drive within the park means that you can choose your own path and adventure in search of the wildlife you hope to find.  While some say that the crowds at Kruger can detract from the experience in comparison to some lesser-visited safari locations, we didn’t find this to be the case during our two trips. In fact, we drove for hours at a time without seeing anyone — though lion sightings do tend to draw a handful of cars.

In the end, the biggest surprise for me on this trip was having access to the wild world above while staying at a Marriott Rewards property. The Protea Hotel Kruger Gate may not be perfect, but I found it to be perfectly well worth 7500 Marriott points. Better yet, convert Starpoints to stay for just 2500 Starpoints per night.  The current signup bonus on the Amex SPG cards would be enough to spend two weeks on safari at this property.  While that’s probably not what I’d do with all of those Starpoints, it’s a pretty strong value nonetheless.

One thing the Protea Hotel Kruger gate did reasonably well: dinner. The Protea’s dinner buffet was large, diverse, and pretty tasty even if a bit expensive compared to the restaurants within the park (neither breakfast nor dinner are included when redeeming points):

Marriott Protea Hotel Kruger Gate Marriott Rewards sweet spot, Safari, South Africa
Grilled meats, including Kudu, pork sausage, chicken, etc.
Marriott Protea Hotel Kruger Gate Marriott Rewards sweet spot, Safari, South Africa
Pasta Station with various sauces
Safari, South Africa
Dessert Station

And the wildlife viewing in Kruger National Park is amazing. We will definitely be back again (this was our second trip to Kruger in 13 months), and when we go back we will likely use Starwood/Marriott points to stay at the Protea Hotel Kruger Gate.  If your travels take you to South Africa, check out what Marriott has to offer — Protea may surprise you!

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I have been informed that my points booking for January will be honored, so I’m very happy about that, as using points is really the only way that Kruger National Park is affordable to me.

Justin wagner

Hi Nick, I appreciate you sharing a post specifically about this hotel property. I actually booked it several nights ago based on you 3 card 3 continent update concerning aeroplan dream redemptions. Though you were talking about the Protea Livingstone property in that article. Your original article failed to mention that breakfast was not included in the points rate, and of course, I only have marriott gold status. Even worse, EVERY SINGLE cash rate does include breakfast, even booking through third party websites like only show rates with breakfast. I bought marriott points through storefront to take advantage of what I though was significant savings on the rate. But actually, when you account for the price of breakfast here, $22.50 per person, there is virtually no savings booking with points instead of cash. No rewards earned either on storefront purchases. Especially if you buy the points through the storefront. Their rates are misleading and the community needs to know to double check the rate fineprint. Hyatt never does that, free breakfast if you pay cash but not included with point award redemption.

First and last time I stay at a Marriott property.

Last edited 2 months ago by Justin wagner

stayed at this hotel 2 months ago. The standard rooms at the 400 section seem recently renovated (or newly built) and it was super nice.


@ Nick — Awesome photos! I especially love the cats.

Michael Tarlow

Going on safari, at least for me, was a life changing experience. Sounds corny but it truly was. On our trip we stayed at Protea hotels at Kruger, Zambia and Dar Es Salam. They were all inexpensive and very nice properties. It is unfortunate that Kruger will no be a Marriott property but I strongly agree with you re staying in the park. Perhaps more important than the overnight facilities is that people staying in the park have access to extraordinarily inexpensive morning, afternoon and night salary drives ($20‐$40 before Covid]. And everything can be booked online at the Kruger website. There are also early morning Bush walks. One of the most memorable moment of my trip was standing about 300 feet from a black rhino. As you said you can’t compare a safari to Animal Planet. Let me tell you, you can’t compare watching wild animals from a safari vehicle to being at ground level with them with nothing between you and them except some brush and a park ranger with a rifle.

Last edited 2 months ago by Michael Tarlow

Oh no! We just left there 4 weeks ago. 5 nights, 51K total, Titanium. Room 440 with a huge deck in the newer building, closest to the bar/pool. (No gaps around door). We were definable going to return next year. What a great experience. Nick’s pics are amazing


I recently cancelled a 5-night points booking for May 2023. Even if they honor the reservation (which they probably won’t), not having any elite benefits recognized kills the value proposition for me. I’ve now decided to search for alternative accommodations in Kruger to avoid the hassle of driving in/out everyday.


On points does the stay include breakfast ? At an early hour !

[…] nights in national park rest camps in Kruger National Park to see stuff like this. I also spent a few nights at a Marriott property, but neither the rest camp nor hotel were about luxury accommodation, they were about being close […]

[…] even tried to preempt the photos Nick might have used. Knowing that he’d enjoyed a safari in the past, I figured those might have been the photos he’d use. I grabbed a growler from […]


Have been looking at IC Mauritius (although seems very remote) and combining it with some time in Kruger. Despite having gone up one category level to Level 2 now this Marriott property still seems good value (10k Marriott points but 5th night free) however I had thought the points cost would include breakfast 🙁
That is a bit of a let-down. I doubt we’ll be sitting for a sumptuous breakfast feast every morning so the cash price for breakfast won’t be worth it for us. Therefore we’d just grab something at a cafe outside or inside the park.

Do Marriott Gold members (matched from SPG thanks to AMEX Plat) get any benefits here ? On points stays ?? I appreciate that things will be changing with the merger too 🙁

I visited Kruger a couple of years ago and stayed inside the parks at the SANPark accommodations and found them to be decent enough and a good bonus was being able to enter the park earlier each day and from different locations (if you moved between the camps). I am surprised and shocked at the gaps in the doors at a Marriott property !!

I recall my first day entering the park was quite a queue and that would eat into your visiting time too (I could see that being an hour if you were unlucky) not just the one hour addition to the opening times at the outside gates vs internal accommodation gates.
How long did you find it took you to gain entrance each day ?

Thinking this might be quite a good use of some SPG points I have saved up (only 40K = 120K Marriott !).
Being from the UK we don’t get the huge numbers of points you guys do from credit card signups so have top earn them the hard way 🙁


Reviving this thread with a specific question: Can anyone speak to the internet at the Protea Kruger Gate Marriott? We’re going to be there in May/June 2018 and SO just got an invite to participate in a very prestigious panel. She can do it remotely, but not so much if the internet/wifi stinks.

Any insights from recent guests?? Reliably stayed connected? Speed was acceptable? (not looking to stream Netflix.. just to be able to participate in discussion). Is there cost? (Marriott Gold, if it matters)







thanks for the detailed answer 🙂

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[…] of my trip — talking about hotels like the Protea Hotel Stellenbosch Dorpshuis & Spa, the Protea Hotel Kruger Gate, and the JW Marriott Phu Quoc. Several readers asked about how I had gone about booking that trip. […]


One of the cool things about Kruger is also the activities. If you are staying at one of the camps you can set up ranger guided drives. They will take you on some of the off the beaten path routes that you cannot drive yourself. You can also book one of the walks which is the only way to walk around outside the camps.

Nick, I’m curious about a couple of the shots that seem like they were taken from a pretty low perspectives (especially the lions). Were you out of your car?


Hah, yes, definitely true. Jealous of your leopard picture. We spent a long time trying to get one with only fleeting glimpses.


Hah, yes, definitely true. Jealous of your leopard picture. We spent a long time trying to get one with only fleeting glimpses. Definitely did not get out of the car except on the ranger walk.

I’ve done the buy to rent thing before. It’s great that you were able to get a good deal. Our friends used the same lens. I wanted to try something a little pricier and bulkier from Nikon and not have to worry about carrying it around. There are a few options in Johannesburg too. They arranged to drop off the lens after hours at our hotel and also came and picked it up. Prices were reasonable. That way you don’t have to lug it around for the rest of your trip.


I did quite a few of the evening / night drives from the parks as you can’t self-drive those. I found them generally to be pretty poor – but of course that all depends upon what you see !!
One great benefit of the SANPark safari drives is that you have a very knowledgeable guide explaining things to you. I would still do some again next time I go even though my personal experiences on my last visit weren’t great. Its also a good opportunity to interact with other people which you don’t do much of if you’re self driving all day every day !


You will get shouted at if you get out of your car and there are rangers about. Saw one guy do it. The guides in the trucks were telling him that the animals aren’t really scared of the vehicles but if they see human shapes then they get wary and leave. So its not ‘just’ for your safety but also so that you don’t spook the animals for the other guests of the park. I wouldn’t want to be the reason 30 angry people had their view of something special cut short !!
I did roll down my window on occasion to be fair to get better shots. Just don’t do it around predators – or giraffes !!
Bear in mind that the truks used by the SANPark safaris are open top & sides so opening your window at sensible select times shouldn’t be too dangerous – though not guaranteed !


Thrilled to read this post as I arrive Johanasburg in a few days for safari. Your pictures were great and we will be doing a self drive for a few days before arriving at our camp. Did you just do a transfer in Maputo or did you enter Mozambique? If you entered, did you arrange for a visa prior to your arrival? I have been reading that visa on arrival rules have been relaxed. I am very interested in your experience.


I cannot thank you enough for your very detailed experience.
While I appreciate your advice in getting a visa prior to arrival, that is no longer an option. My paperwork and local currency is complete. If difficulties arise, I will either stay in the airport or change my MAP to JNB departure. About to begin the self drive in a few hours then head to Pafuri in the far northern area of Kruger where we see Mozambiqueans cross the river border in large groups daily. Again, many thanks for your response.


I want to report my experience with visa on arrival at Maputo. It was a simple and quick procedure. Paperwork that was required consisted of: proof of hotel reservation, proof of plane ticket to leave Mozambique and fee which was payable in local currency, Euro, Rand, or USD of $31.00. Photos were taken there and it became part of your visa. Thank you again Nick for taking the time to explain in detail your experience. We arrived in Mozambique on March 18th and it seems that the procedure has been relaxed.


Looks like 40K on United for economy each way from the States (have to fly 4 ppl, so can’t do business). Could fly into Jburg and home from Cape Town (or vice versa). One way flights between those 2 cities are only $70 pp.

Did you need to stay somewhere in addition to Marriott in order to see all of Kruger? Just looking at a map, it seems that it might be easiest to stay somewhere up north for part of the trip.

Loving this trip. Ready to go right now!


That was near where I watched (and filmed) a Cheetah stalk and kill a deer of some kind (forgotten what type it was). Then it took a break in some shade for quite a long time. Then it dragged the kill up a tree, hung it there and went to sleep in the tree. Unforgettable stuff. Stunning animal(s).
Can’t wait to go back.
At one of the camps I had a honeybadger living under my tent, took my nightvision outside and watched it for a while until it basically got fed up of me watching it and got aggressive. I then recalled my Brother had told me they are well known to go for the genitals first – so I scarpered quicksharpish !! Same camp there was loads of noise in the middle of the night, lots of people came out but we couldn’t see what was making the noise in some trees outside the park. Once they’d all left with their torches I put the night vision on and watched a couple of hippos smashing the place up !!!

Damn, I really want to go back.
Must see if I can find some Qatar biz class seats using my QMiles again like last time.
If I can then coupled with several days points stay at this Marriott it could be a rather cheap holiday 🙂 Food I found to be really cheap around SA in general, parks and fancy hotels are a bit more of course.

Tempted to also add Mauritius into the mix with an Avis return redemption JNB – MRU for very few Avios points (Comair flights). The IHG IC there is only 30k a night, though I have read its a bit isolated and food & drink is very expensive as not much competition 🙁 Anyone know anything about this ?

This has all got me very excited 🙂

Joe W.

Nice! A South African safari is definitely on our bucket list. Where did you rent the car from to drive around in the park?


Yes, the rental car facility at Skukuza airport is an Avis.

We too, rented Avis on both trips. Talked about the possibility of an elephant decided to sit on your car – we were very wary about this at the Addo Elephant NP when a big group of elephants walked pass us – our little corolla was the first car on one direction, and the other direction the first car was a small jeep. The elephants walked so close that I could not take their full pictures from my passenger seat because their bodies covered the whole windshield. My husband mumbled about, “we would be toasted if they decided to sit on our car…”


Road accident totalled the Avis SUV I’d rented (like properly stoved in)….was very glad for my AMEX Platinum car rental insurance !! Avis were great and had me back on the road in no time.


Worth to mention is, the cash rates you post, are half-board rates. It include breakfast and dinner. However 7500 pts award night does NOT include any meal plan. Not sure if one could buy it.

We stayed at Protea Kruger Gate before and after our 4 days inside Kruger. We checked out the buffet offerings but did not like what we saw – it was almost 7pm (we exit the park at the nick of the time at 6pm) the restaurant was not “officially” opened for business, probably due to the big tour groups haven’t returned yet. We asked to see what were offered – most everything was out and covered with shrink wrapped but they did not look appetizing. So we passed.

We did take Malaria prevention pills before heading to the area. No matter which month you go, you should take the prevention pill even it is not really 100% prevention. There are reports of infections among the workers who do not care when out and about (not wearing long sleeves/long pants). So if a mosquito bit an infected person and later bit you, you would be in danger.

You are very lucky to see Leopard and the very illusive Cheetah.

We went in Sept. Only saw Leopard once, he was atop of a tree after finished his meal. We got the news when we arrived Satara rest camp and checking the board on reported sightings. A couple told us they saw the Leopard killed, just about 30 min drive and inside a dirt road for about 2 to 3 km. So off we went and found it was still there but now up a tree. Plenty of vehicles waiting around to get a close glimpse though.

Did not see Cheetah but saw 2 groups of Wild Dogs at different locations – one quite near Skukuza main camp.

Kruger is amazing but I think Swaziland would be even more so as the parks there are much smaller so the driving would be far less in order to see games – to us it is more efficient to use the limited time any visitors from far away countries.


So an accurate comparison would be 7500 (now 10,000) points vs the cash rate minus $70 per room (based upon double occupancy, $20 per dinner, $15 per breakfast).
That does make the cash rates look quite a bit more reasonable.
However as we’d skip breakfast its less of a concern.
My concern is how long the queue could be to get into the park every morning vs staying at an inside SANPark camp. You’re already 1hr later and then you might get hit by a queue too 🙁
How long did you tend to queue most days ?

Aaron L

Noticed that the inline images are huge files, scaled down for display. This is pretty punishing for mobile users. You might want to consider generating scaled-down images for the blog post and linking to full-res originals.


Does the Protea give free breakfast based on status?


Did you do anything else on this trip or just Kruger? Would love to see your full itinerary, including all hotel stays. Just love this post!!!!!


The time of year has a lot to do with bugs…we were in South Africa [Sabi Sands] in mid September which is late winter, early spring and there were few mosquitoes or other bugs about.

We stayed at a Protea in Johannesburg for 3 nights…Fire and Ice – Melrose Arch. It was a lovely hotel in a great area with lots of excellent restaurants. This was in 2015 when Marriott had just taken over Protea. No points at that time, sadly.

The one thing to consider, and this shouldn’t deter anyone from what looks like a great way to use points — Kruger, being a Public/National park, you must stay on the roads; that is, you cannot follow or search for animals. In Sabi Sands [as in other private reserves that border Kruger] you can go off road. But you can’t self drive, so I guess it’s a trade off.

I too have wonderful photos of what is probably the best trip I have ever taken, and that includes some grand trips elsewhere. Seeing the wildlife was life changing, truly a bucket list item.

FYI – we flew from NY to JNB on Etihad via Abbu Dahbi on the error airfare of Dec 2014. It was $300 TR each!! We did take advantage of the option to bid for an upgrade to business and got it for $1100 pp each leg.


We took our 3 boys to South Africa for a safari last March. We stayed at a ‘luxury’ safari place (Phinda) and it was FANTASTIC, but pricey. We used United miles for our 5 tickets on South African Airways, however, which really helped with the costs. I cannot recommend a safari enough. We don’t typically plan to return to our destinations as we like new experiences, but I have no doubt that another safari is in our future.


Love tme photos. What focal lengths are a lot of these photos being taken with? Some of these look like you are close enough to reach out and touch the animals


Awesome. Thanks for the response!


Love the pictures! Would also enjoy a post on how you got there and costs involved.


Second to that.


Would you also write a piece on the driving part, i.e. from Cape Town to Durban and then to Kruger?

We have a very similar plan this coming Sept – After Cape Town (our 3rd visit so this time would only be 2 days) we would drive the coastal route then Garden Rote, eventually the East Coast to Durban and onto Swaziland. Still debating if we would return to Kruger – may be entering from the South and exit from the North. We have the Wild Card bought last Sept so we will use it on the upcoming trip before it expires.

Therefore would really look forward to an article on this driving part if you would write it!

South Africa is an amazing country and it is probably the best bang for the travel money even the exchange rate has gone back up some.

On our first trip in March 2015 we redeemed US miles wen it first joined OneWorld and flew QR. The exchange rate was 10 to 11 Rand, for US$1.
We went to Mountain Zebra NP and Addo Elephant NP – both are north of Port Elizabeth. While they dont have big cats, the other animals are no less than Kruger. Mountain Zebra’s rest camp facilities are much better than those found in Kruger, and cheaper!
We used the stopover at Istanbul but we actually bought TK’s dirt cheap domestic tickets to Adana, from where we started a 7 days driving trip to visit Cappadochia and then back down to the Med and Aegean coast. Returned our car at Bodrum. Flew to IST for 4 days and then back to US. Too bad the Turkey part probably would be fairly unsafe to do now.

Our second trip in Sept 2016 was a straight AS redemption with stopover at HKG both direction. This time we went to Kruger. Then to Cape Town for 6 days.

On both trips we bought tickets on the JNB-CPT shuttle flights from, the LCC under Comair which is owned 100% by BA. Cheaper than redeeming Avios, except the JNB-PLZ we used Avios.

Our third trip will be in Sept 2017. Outbound on AA award flying QR to CPT. Then do the drive in reverse order from our first trip. Go to Swaziland, (my cruise agent told me she saw much more big cats there than in Kruger).
Inbound is an AS award JNB-HKG-LAX-SEA-SLC, with stopover at HKG. Then tag on a 10 days trip in the Rockies.


Will you take tape for the cracks in the doors? Looks like a great bargain except those cracks would be a concern for me. Did you have any mosquitoes in the room?


That seemed to be my experience too. I was in the tiny percentage of people who had covered legs & arms.


Nice pictures. I was never sure when I saw a leopard if it was a leopard or a cheetah. They look alike to me.
I stayed in a “luxury” tent just outside the gate 6 months ago. Best part about the accomodations was the evening brai where all the tenters got together to eat and share sighting stories.


Cheetahs are skinny as hell compared to leopards. Also the spots on leopards look more like camo where the spots on a cheetah are definite spots and are more of a contrast with their regular coat color.


I will be staying there in July. Do you remember how much breakfast and dinner buffet was?


Second that. Staying in April on points.