Kruger National Park is the largest game reserve in South Africa with nearly 2 million hectares of land that stretch for 352 kilometres (20 000 square kilometres) from north to south along the Mozambique border. The Kruger National Park lies across the provinces of Mpumalanga and Limpopo in the north of South Africa, just south of Zimbabwe and west of Mozambique.
It forms part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park (a peace park that links Kruger National Park with game parks in Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Fences are already coming down to allow free movement of game. Kruger is home to an impressive number of species: 336 trees, 49 fish, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 birds and 147 mammals.
Man's interaction with the Lowveld environment for many centuries (from bushman rock paintings to majestic archaeological sites like Masorini and Thulamela) is very evident in the Kruger National Park. These treasures represent the cultures, persons and events that played a role in the history of the Park and are conserved along with the park's natural assets.
How to get there
The park can be reached by air through Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (KMIA) there are daily flights from Johannesburg International Airport to the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport between Nelspruit and White River.
The Airport is situated about 30km from Numbi gate, about 40km from Phabeni gate and 72km from Malelane gate and gives access to southern camps such as Berg en Dal, Crocodile Bridge, Pretoriuskop, Skukuza and Lower Sabie restcamps.
Kruger Park Gateway Airport - Phalaborwa
Situated 3 km from the Phalaborwa Gate. Provides easy access to the northern camps such as Letaba, Olifants, Mopani, Shingwedzi and Punda Maria.
East Gate Airport - Hoedspruit
Situated about 74 km from Phalaborwa Gate and 68 km from the Orpen Gate.
Provides easy access to the central camps such as Orpen, Talamati, Satara, Roodewal and Olifants and Letaba.
By car distance is between 400 to 600km from Johannesburg to the park depending on what gate is used. There are almost nine park entrance gates.
What to see
Lying in the heart of the Lowveld is a wildlife sanctuary like no other, its atmosphere so unique that it allows those who enter its vastness to immerse themselves in the unpredictability and endless wilderness that is the true quality of Africa. It certainly ranks with the best in Africa and is the flagship of the country’s national parks, rated as the ultimate safari experience.
This is the land of baobabs, fever trees, knob thorns, marula and mopane trees underneath which lurk the Big Five, the Little Five (buffalo weaver, elephant shrew, leopard tortoise, ant lion and rhino beetle), the birding Big Six (ground hornbill, kori bustard, lappet-faced vulture, martial eagle, pel’s fishing owl and saddle-bill stork) and more species of mammals than any other African Game Reserve.
The central region encompassing only 30% of the park’s surface area supports nearly half the park’s lion population as well as numbers of leopard, hyena and cheetah. Possibly the main reason for this is the quantity of sweet grasses and abundant browsing trees found in this area that support a large group of antelope, giraffe, buffalo, zebra and wildebeest. Though the chances of sighting even one of the 60 prides of lion that make the central region their home is a huge draw card.
The valleys are home to trees rarely found in other parts of the Kruger park, such as the Cape chestnut, coral tree and lavender fever-berry, granite lies beneath most of the region producing distinctive smoothed koppies at irregular intervals, which are typically surrounded by rock figs and form ideal locations for rock dassies or hyrax, baboon and klipspringer, not forgetting the odd leopard.
This is the region where you’re almost sure of seeing a white rhino as most of them occur here, particularly around Pretoriuskop, Mbyamiti River and south of lower Sabie. On the whole, there is more game purported to exist in the southern part of the park, so if you don’t make it to the northern reaches of the Kruger National Park, you won’t miss out.
This part of the Kruger park is to some extent shrouded in history. Around Pretoriuskop, known for its profusion of trees, is Ship Mountain, its hull-shape the site of an old wagon trail that crosses a stream marking the birthplace of Jock of the Bushveld. The combretum woodlands, also part of this region, attract reasonable herds of kudu, impala, giraffe, buffalo, zebra, white rhino and elephant, and the scarcity of lion in this part of the park, makes way for the cheetah and wild dog.
The far north region of the park is a rather fascinating part because the ecozones here are noticeably different from other habitats in the Kruger. Sightings of rare birdlife and major areas of sand formed by river flood plains, combined with sandstone formations of the Mozambique coastal plain, make it attractive to visitors. There are also a number of tropical aspects as part of the region lies in a rain shadow and along the banks of the Luvuvhu River is a series of riverine forest. A picnic site on the river bank provides hours of splendid bird viewing. What you can witness in this part of the Kruger National Park is extraordinary - the knocking sand frog, a collection of bats, the nocturnal bushpig and the rare Sharpe’s grysbok. There are samango monkeys, packs of endangered wild dog, and the major water pans across the Wambiya sandveld are a good place to sight tropical warm-water fish, such as the rainbow killifish, not found anywhere else in South Africa. The sandstone hills, just west of Punda Maria, is the only place where you can see the Natal red hare and yellow-spotted rock dassie, or hyrax. What makes a visit to this remote part of the Kruger park so meaningful is the solitude.
North of the Orange River is a semi-arid region covering 7 000 square kilometres that sees very little rain. Vegetation here changes very little from the unvarying shrub mopane, which thrives in hot, low-lying valleys. Across this great expanse of hot dryness, five rivers forge their way, providing narrow corridors along whose banks grow trees distinctly different from the mopane: the nyala, the sycamore fig, the tamboti and the tall apple leaf. The Letaba and Olifants rivers contain as much as 60% of the Kruger park’s hippo population, and bird life here abounds. There are plenty of bushpig in the undergrowth of the Luvuvhu River and on most of the river banks you can hope to see sizeable herds of elephant, buffalo, bushbuck, impala and kudu concentrated near a water supply.
The southern region is bounded by the Crocodile River in the south and the Sabie River in the north, the southern region is also host to the jagged ridge of the Lebombo Mountains along the border with Mozambique, and the highest point in the park, Khandzalive, in the southwestern corner - almost in counterpoint to Pretoriuskop that lies in the west of the southern region of the Kruger National Park.
National Park is divided into no fewer than six ecosystems - baobab sandveld, Lebombo knobthorn-marula bushveld, mixed acacia thicket, combretun-silver clusterleaf, woodland on granite, and riverine forest.
Game drives are very exciting and highlights of the day as visitors engage in hot pursuit of the latest pride of lions usually sighted feeding on a kill just over the rise.
Time spent on foot in a Wilderness area is the very embodiment of a memorable safari experience.
There are few incredible wilderness trails in the Park as some areas are nearly untouched by humans, with names like Metsi-Metsi, Napi, Massingir and the Sweni Wilderness. Most of these trails are about 2 days with 3 overnights in rustic huts with basic ablution in reed-walled showers and flush toilets, but on the whole, they’re in such demand that they’re booked out way in advance.
The Lebombo overland trail
This incredible trail takes you from Crocodile Bridge to Pafuri. It’s an eco trail that takes you along the eastern boundary of the Kruger Park along the Lebombo hills from the extreme south to the far northern edge. It crosses magnificent rivers and covers some of the most beautiful scenery in the park with wide open spaces, bushveld and magnificent trees at their best.
Bush walking safaris
The heart stopping excitement of tracking rhino, elephant and lion on foot through the heat of the bush is amazing. But it’s also one of the most incredible ways to learn about the fragility of the ecosystems of the Kruger Park and to see the smaller, but in no way less exciting, animals and insects of the park like termites, spiders, snakes and plants that tend to be ignored when on the more fast paced game drives.
Where to Stay
luxury game lodges
Buhala Game Lodge situated on the banks of the Crocodile River where the familiar call of the Fish eagle, gracefully thatched accommodation and scenery are yours to enjoy.
Jock Safari Lodge has as its southern boundary the old wagon route from Delgoa Bay to the gold fields of the interior, and, true to the surrounding wilderness, offers elegant suites influenced by indigenous Zulu and Swazi cultures.
Pestana Kruger Lodge lies on the Nkomazi tourist route known as the wild frontier, with views over the Crocodile River, just 150 metres away from the Malelane Gate on the south side of the Park.
Hamilton's Tented CampSituated in a 100 square kilometre private concession area within the Kruger National Park, it offers six magnificent and luxurious air-conditioned tents complete with teak floorboards, mosquito nets, slipper baths, and outdoor showers are linked to the main lodge by raised timber walkways amongst ancient Jackalberry trees. Visitors enjoy nomadic African Spa treatment, or relax in the Lodge’s secluded swimming pool.
Hoyo Hoyo Tsonga Lodge is located on an ancient elephant route in a 100 square kilometre concession of the Park, this unique camp is steeped in modern day opulence and luxury. Boasting only six luxury air conditioned ‘bee-hive’ suites, each with earth coloured walls, king size beds, en-suite bathrooms, outdoor showers and private game viewing decks with views of the River, and surrounding savanna. Fabrics, décor and objet d’art have been sourced from the local Tsonga community and dining is a choice of open-air, or in the Lodge’s own dining room. Guests may also enjoy a private dinner in their suite.
Imbali Safari Lodge is situated in one of nine pre-allocated private concessions within the Park and has been carefully designed to have minimal impact on this natural environment, king-size beds offer the finest furniture and imported linen whilst en-suite bathrooms are furnished with antique baths. There are beautiful views overlooking the River and surrounding savannah from each suite. Dining can be in the lodge’s restaurant, or outdoors, or privately in your suite.
Shishangeni has 22 individual chalets, all luxuriously appointed with a private game-viewing deck as well as mini bar, fireplace, outdoor shower and sitting area. Inter-leading rooms for families are available upon request. The central Lodge area consists of a spacious lounge, library, intimate bar, swimming pool, as well as an indoor and outdoor dining area, wine cellar and gymnasium.
Camp Shawu is situated in a 150 square kilometre private concession in the south-eastern section of the Park. Only 10 guests are accommodates, in large rooms, all of which overlook the Mpanamana dam. All are luxuriously equipped with romantic ball and claw bath, mini bar, sitting area facing open fireplace, ceiling fans and outside shower. The central Lodge area boasts a lounge, indoor and outdoor dining area as well as a new splash pool.
Camp Shonga is a small intimate bush retreat built in the foothills of the Lebombo Mountains, offering views over the African Bushveld. Sister Camp to Camp Shawu, camp Shonga accommodates only 10 guests, in luxuriously equipped tents, with en-suite bathrooms and ball and claw baths, outside shower, ceiling fans, mini-bar, and fireplace.
Plains Camp has only four luxury African explorer-style tents, all of which overlook the spectacular Timbitene plain and waterhole. The camp is built in authentic pioneer tradition and is raised on wooden decks. An African book collection and antique treasures are reminiscent of a by-gone era.
Rhino Post Safari Lodge has only 16 beds, and is set on the banks of the Mutlumuvi Riverbed, and is in the same concession as Plains Camp. Sumptuous meals are served in the camp’s dining area, which is set under magnificent Tamboti trees. The lounge, with its extensive wine cellar, cosy fireplace and bar, is the perfect spot for a sun downer drink.
Lebombo Game Lodge: The main Lodge boasts an open-air lounge complete with library. The dining area overlooks the expanse of the concession. Meals are enjoyed, to the accompaniment of excellent wines, on the wooden deck, or indoor dining room, whilst dinners are also taken in the open-air Boma, or in the privacy of your own suite.
Sweni Game Lodge Sweni, has only 6 suites set along the Sweni River. Accommodation boasts floor to ceiling glass, is air-conditioned, and en suite, complete with outdoor shower. Suites are also equipped with mini-bar, safe, and game-viewing deck. The main lodge boasts lounge and deck, with views of the bush, also a bar area, swimming pool and cellar.
Berg en dal restcamp The buildings are set within natural bush and the gardens planted with flowering shrubs and aloes, leaving much of the natural habitat unchanged within the camp
Crocodile bridge restcamp Accommodation and lodging comprises of bungalows, safari tents and caravan/tent camping sites. This area is flat scattered with Marula trees alongside the Crocodile River. This camp also offers disabled-friendly accommodation. This small and delightful camp is situated in the Southeastern corner of the Kruger National Park, on the northern bank of the Crocodile River, from which it derives its name.
Letaba restcamp The idyllic Letaba Rest Camp is situated on a sweeping bend of the Letaba River, midway between the southern and northern boundaries of the park. At Letaba Camp you can choose between a guest house, cottage, bungalow, hut or a furnished safari tent, as well as camping and caravan sites for your lodging.
Lower sabie rest camp A range of lodging options is available from a luxurious guesthouse to family cottages, huts, bungalows, safari tents and campsites at Lower Sabie Restcamp in the Park. Lower Sabie’s accommodation caters to a variety of guest requirements and also boasts wheelchair-friendly accommodation.
Mopani restcamp Every effort has been made to ensure that the thatched buildings, with their rock faced walls, and surrounding paving, blend into the bushveld environment.
All the buildings at Mopani Camp are built from natural materials such as rough stone, wood and thatching-grass, which blends them in beautifully with the environment.
Olifants restcamp The Olifants Camp is situated on top of a hill towering several hundred feet over the river of the same name.
Orpen rest camps Orpen Main Rest Camp is situated in the central region on the western border of the Park. It is a small main camp and serves as an entrance gate to the central region. It offers lodging in 15 comfortable thatched cottages with 2 beds each and two with 3 beds. It includes; one communal kitchen and ablution block. In addition, there are 3 larger more luxurious guest cottages, offering accommodation to a maximum of 6 people.
Punda Maria restcamp lies in an area of fascinating history and unsurpassed bird watching. It boasts of 7 luxury safari tents and a swimming pool. It also has a new building, reception area and ablution blocks
Satara Camp is the Park's third biggest rest camp, providing 100 sites with power points available for camping and caravans. Alternatively, a range of bungalows sleeping between 2 and 3 guests are also available. Satara boasts wheelchair-friendly accommodation. Guests can also stay in the guest cottages with well equipped kitchens. Alternatively, stay in the Stanley, Wells or Frankel guest houses. Satara Camp also boasts a grocery store that is well stocked for the self-caterers. There is also a TV lounge at this camp.
Skukuza Restcamp is named after the Tsonga name for James Stevenson-Hamilton, the first warden of the park. Literally translated it means 'he who sweeps clean', a reference to his removal of all the local people to make way for the establishment of the Park.
The Stevenson-Hamilton Memorial Museum houses many interesting artifacts – very well known is the knife ranger Harry Wolhuter used to single-handedly slay a Lion and save his own life. Skukuza is the Park's largest rest camp and administrative headquarters. It is situated on the southern banks of the Sabie River.
Tsendze rustic campsite offers you a rustic camping experience with the campsites placed in two circles around the ablution and kitchen facilities. Tsendze Rustic Campsite includes 30 camp sites, two ablution facilities and two camp kitchens. Only basic services are provided at this Kruger Park camp, such as warm water from gas geysers and lighting in the kitchens and ablutions provided by a solar battery system.
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