Covering nearly two million hectares of lowveld, Kruger Park is a must for international visitors and South Africans alike. While most tourists come to spot the ?Big Five? ? elephant, rhino, leopard, lion, and buffalo ? there are also many other species, such as hippo, zebra, antelope, and smaller animals, which are equally rewarding to spot. Bird watchers will find plenty to keep their binoculars busy, and the experience of being immersed in the African bush is second to none.
The park is 478km from Johannesburg, about six hours' drive on the N4 highway. You can choose to join an organised tour, fly drive package, or self-drive and self-cater. The Kruger-Mpumalanga International and Phalaborwa airports are a welcome option for those who don?t wish to drive from Johannesburg.
When to go
Kruger can be visited all year round, but gate opening and closing times vary. While many visitors choose to go in summer, game viewing is often at its best in the winter months. March and April is mating season for many antelope, and young animals are born in November and December. The park is very busy in school holidays, so either book ahead or choose to visit at off-peak times. Kruger?s climate is subtropical with hot summers and warm, dry winters.
Kruger stretches from Malelane Gate in the south, to Pafuri gate and the Zimbabwe border in the north, a distance of around 350 kilometres. Its eastern border is flush against that of Mozambique, and the park is around 60 kilometres wide. Plans are afoot to drop the fences with mozambique to create a trans-frontier park.
Alongside Kruger are some large privately owned reserves, namely Timbavati, Manyeleti and Sabi Sand. There are no fences between this land and Kruger, allowing the animals to wander at will throughout the conservation area.
There are several entrances to Kruger. Pafuri is the northernmost gate, with Punda Maria a little to the south. The Phalaborwa Gate is further south still, and is the third and last gate from Limpopo Province. Orpen Gate is the northernmost gate in Mpumalanga and is close to the Blyde River Canyon. The Paul Kruger and Numbi Gates are very close to Graskop, while the southern Malelane Gate is closest to Nelspruit and the N4 highway. The Crocodile Bridge Gate is closest to Komatipoort.
Due to its size, Kruger incorporates a range of habitats. Mopane and acacia forests are found in the north, while the southern area of the park is grassier. Six rivers ? the Olifants, Letaba, Sabie, Luvuvhu, Shingwedzi, and Crocodile ? flow through the park.
Because of Kruger?s varied landscape, an astonishing variety of wildlife is found within it. There are 147 mammal species, 114 species of reptile, 33 amphibian species and 507 bird species. These include large herbivores such as elephant, rhino, hippo, giraffe, wildebeest, zebra and impala, as well as predators, including leopard, lion, cheetah, hyena, crocodile, jackal and wild dog.
You?re sure to find accommodation to suit your budget at Kruger. If you want to live it up in out-of-this-world luxury, the private game lodges will be happy to cater for your every whim.
Kruger?s accommodation facilities are centred around restcamps, bushveld camps, and bush lodges. The SA National Parks website has a useful clickable map which allows you to find out more about the various camps in the park.
Most of the restcamps have electricity, shops, first-aid centres, shops, communal cooking and braai facilities, laundry facilities, public telephones and petrol stations. There is usually either a restaurant or cafeteria.
Letaba, Skukuza, and Berg-en-Dal also have information centres.
There are caravan and campsites at popular Skukuza, Letaba, Berg-en-Dal, Satara, Lower Sabie, Crocodile Bridge, Pretoriuskop, Shingwedzi and Punda Maria restcamps. Other accommodation options include safari tents, huts, bungalows, and cottages.
Bushveld camps are smaller, more remote restcamps, with no shops or restaurants, and access to these is restricted to visitors with reserved accommodation. Jakkalsbessie, Biyamiti and Bateleur are the only bushveld camps with electricity.
There are also four bush lodges in the park: Boulders, Jock of the Bushveld, Nwanetsi and Roodewal. These offer exclusive private bungalows, which must be reserved en bloc.
Open vehicle game drives with a ranger, either at night or during the day, can be booked through the central reservations office.
For the brave, there?s nothing quite as thrilling as a bush walk where you?ll be able to track animals and get up close and personal with the local wildlife! Visitors to Kruger can experience any one of several wilderness trails, lasting three nights and two days. You?ll be guided by armed, experienced rangers to a series of rustic overnight huts.
If time doesn?t allow you to do a wilderness trail, you can still enjoy a short nature walk, which usually lasts a few hours. These depart from selected restcamps and bushveld camps.
Another option would be a bundu trail, where visitors are driven to the overnight stops in a park vehicle.
- Traveller?s cheques and credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, Diners, American Express) are accepted within the park.
- There are braai facilities at all sites, but it is wise to check beforehand whether wood or snacks can be purchased at your site.
- There is a bank, police station and post office at Skukuza.
- Petrol is available at several entrance gates and restcamps.