Kruger National Park

The Kruger National Park is one of the last bona fide paradises. African Sky offers comprehensive travel information and a host of safari & tour options for those intent on visiting the Kruger Park. Need Advice?
Kruger Park

Kruger Park Essentials

Part of what makes the Kruger National Park so appealing to safari enthusiasts is the wide variety of accommodation options available, catering to a range of budgets and a range of interests as well. Whether you're looking for the lap of luxury or an authentically rustic getaway in the wilderness, a camp or lodge exists for your adventure.

These properties range from plush 4 Star lodges to extravagant safari palaces. They are typically scattered across the most wildlife-rich corners of the park and, for maximum exclusivity, in areas that other visitors do not have access to.

The frequency of fantastic sightings in the Kruger Park is unrivaled in South Africa. We offer a wide range of Kruger Park safaris to take advantage of the abundance of remarkable game viewing opportunities.

The Kruger Park's rest camps offer decent accommodations for budget-friendly safaris. The chalets are comfortable, clean and serviced on a daily basis. The rest camps that we use have casual restaurants that cater to most dietary requirements.

These wild outposts have discarded luxuries for a more intimate affair with nature. No restaurant (or other) facilities are available on-site, which means that guests at these camps need to arrive fully equipped for their rustic getaway.

The are a number of casual picnic spots scattered throughout the main arteries of Kruger Park. They are ideal for pit stops or lunch while you are out and about in the park game viewing in the company of your African Sky guide.

Various wilderness trails crisscross the quieter regions of the park where private vehicles are not allowed. You'll spend a few days out on the trail, getting close to nature and learning more about the various animals you encounter. Accommodation is basic but comfortable.

Kruger National Park Overview

The Kruger National Park is South Africa's most sought-after safari destination – a wild utopia that abounds with all walks of wildlife and pristine natural beauty. The sprawling two million-hectare park offers every opportunity for an unforgettably rewarding game viewing experience.

Considering its size, natural abundance and extensive range of concessions, private reserves and safari lodges, information on the park is plentiful – and can be a bit overwhelming. Here we've curated the most essential – and interesting – material for your convenience and pleasure.

Size
1,948 528 Ha
Distance north to south
352km
Average distance east to west
60km
Mammal Species
147
Identified Bird species
505
Amphibian Species
35
Reptile Species
118

Private Game Reserves in Greater Kruger Park

The renowned private game reserves that share an unfenced border with the Kruger National Park count amongst the most sought-after safari destinations on the continent.

Sabi Sand stretches along 50km of fenceless park fringe. The reserve’s name is derived from the two rivers that run through the park; the Sabie and the Sand. The oldest (and most eminent) of Kruger’s private reserves, Sabi Sand has established itself as a world-class safari destination with a medley of comfortable lodges cradled in its cusps.

Next to Sabi Sand, Timbavati is the other major reserve bordering the park. It boasts thirteen lodges and self-catering camps, including the celebrated Kings Camp with its impeccable attention to detail and the rustic Umlani Bush Camp for a more organic (yet nonetheless comfortable) experience.

Though Klaserie shares the shortest border with the park, it is the largest private game reserve that forms part of the Greater Kruger National Park. Lodges such as Gomo Gomo Game Lodge provide more affordable yet still reverently stylish accommodation options.

Balule Private Game Reserve hugs the western boundary of the Kruger Park and stretches over 40 000 hectares of privately owned land. The prolific Olifants River continues its course through Balule for 20km, sustaining a proliferation of wildlife.

Manyeleti lies in the supreme game area between Sabi Sand and Timbavati, with wildlife trekking in unabated flows between the private reserves and the main Kruger Park. The reserve is quieter than its neighbors, providing a truly ‘private’ viewing experience.

Mala Mala is generally considered as the birth place of the South African private lodge experience. The reserve is the largest of the private reserves that used to make up the Sabi Sand. It occupies prime game viewing land immediately to the west of the park.

Home of the Big Five

The most impressive of Africa's large mammals occur in great numbers in the Kruger National Park. Viewing one of these imposing beasts in natural habitat is always one of the highlights of a safari.

Lion

Social animals by nature, prides of Lion are scattered throughout Kruger with the highest concentrations occurring in the southern and central parts of Kruger.

Elephant

Large herds of elephant, solitary bulls and groups of young bulls can be seen along the watercourses and that criss cross the wilderness they call home.

Rhino

Kruger is home to both the White (Square Lipped) as well as the smaller Black (Hook Lipped) Rhino. They are especially numerous in the southern parts of the park.

Buffalo

Great herds of Buffalo roam the grassland of Kruger. These bovines can be seen throughout the Kruger Park. They are a favorite prey of the Lion Prides in this Wilderness.

Leopard

The most illusive of the Big 5, Leopard prefer the densely wooded areas that surround water courses where they are able to protect their kills from other predators by taking it up into the trees.

Kruger National Park Mammals

In addition to the Big Five, Kruger is blessed with an abundance of large and small mammal species.

More Mammals

Recommended Packages

7 Days From: ZAR 23,438 - 35,791 pp National park Camps Code: S31

A week exploring the Kruger National Park in the company of an expert guide whose intimate knowledge should add greatly to the enjoyment of your safari.

5 Days From: ZAR 15,218 - 22,876 pp National park Camps Code: S33

Explore the southern part of the Kruger National Park accompanied by an African Sky guide. Accommodation is in en-suite air conditioned bungalows.

7 Days From: ZAR 115,945 - 128,507 pp luxury 5 Star Code: KPO5

Two of the finest lodges in the Greater Kruger National Park in two very distinct private game reserves are visited on this week long safari.

Reasons to Visit Kruger Park

1

Wildlife Stretching over nearly 2 million hectare of South African lowveld, the park is one of the largest conservation areas on the African continent. Kruger is a haven for ample numbers of the Big Five, as well as almost 150 other species of mammal, hundreds of bird species and a variety of amphibian and reptile life. There is an element to overwhelm every sense and settle itself in the most romantic corners of the memory.

2

Accommodation The remarkable collection of accommodation options available in the park itself - as well as the private game reserves on its border - is another appealing hallmark of the park, providing a diverse selection for both the budget traveler and the hedonist. From the bare minimum of a self-struck tent to the opulence of an all-inclusive private lodge, the Kruger National Park can entertain every cut of holidaymaker.

3

Activities Activities abound, from guided bush walks into the untrodden bushveld to rugged 4x4 trails, rewarding and informative game drives, reclusive game hides for private encounters, forays to historical and archaeological sites and many more. One will not soon forget the fish eagle’s haunting peal of laughter - a soundtrack to early morning excursions with the African sun bleeding over dusky treetops.

4

Private Reserves The private game reserves that border the Kruger Park host some of the finest safari lodges in the world. These reserves are able to combine the pristine wilderness and wildlife of the park with accommodations fit for a king or queen. Meals are included on a full board basis, with some lodges offering extravagant extras like private plunge pools, en suite lounges and personal butler services.

Experiences to savor

Morning Coffee

Enjoying a cup of coffee shortly after dusk, when the bush comes alive with animal movement and birdsong, is a tranquil experience, enhanced by the endless expanse of African savanna that stretches out as far as the eye can see.

An African River

While in Kruger, it is a great idea to find a viewpoint that overlooks one of the rivers that crisscross the park. Just sitting quietly and observing the surroundings is sure to offer some excellent sightings of various mammals coming to the river's edge.

Kruger By Night

It is recommended that you devote at least one evening to a game drive that stretches on into the dark of night, when the many predators in the area are at their most active, embarking on the hunt after a day normally devoted to sleeping.

Transport

When staying in a private game reserve or at a lodge located on a private concession in the Kruger National Park, morning and afternoon game drives are conducted on open 4x4 vehicles by experienced local rangers and trackers. These vehicles are specially equipped to make your game drive comfortable and to offer maximum photographic opportunities.

When staying at a rest camp in the park itself, game drives are conducted in air-conditioned vehicles by African Sky guides. These game drives have the advantage of not being limited to the morning or afternoon, and can often last most of the day - depending on your preference. On these extended game drives that cover a lot of ground, an air-conditioned vehicle offers a much greater degree of comfort.

Foods to try in Kruger Park

Visiting this wild corner of the continent means that some wild dining options are available as well, which will appeal particularly well to meat lovers and adventurous eaters. Trying unique and traditional fare is undoubtedly part of a rewarding travel experience.

Game Meat

Normally on the menu at private lodges as well as restaurants in national park camps, game meat - including buffalo, kudu and impala - is a delicacy well worth trying. Very low in fat, it is also a very healthy option.

Potjiekos

A type of stew made with various ingredients that is unique to South Africa, this delicacy is almost always available on the menu of various lodges as well as in the restaurants at the rest camps of the Kruger National Park.

Biltong

A staple in South Africa, though not for everyone, the adventurous should definitely give the local take on jerky a try. It is readily available throughout Kruger and can be purchased at any of the shops in the national park.

Braai

South Africans love a BBQ or braai so much, it is the activity all South Africans partake in on Heritage Day - a local public holiday. At the lodges in and around Kruger, you will most definitely have the opportunity to enjoy this local tradition.

FAQ

Am I allowed to get out of the vehicle?
In the Kruger Park, there are demarcated areas where visitors are allowed to disembark vehicles. At all private lodges, rangers stop for morning coffee on the morning drive and for sundowner drinks on the afternoon drive - a great opportunity to stretch your legs in the middle of the wilderness.
Can I be harmed by wild animals?
Wild animals are inherently dangerous. If, however, you adhere to the rules and commands of your ranger, you will be safe.
What about poachers?
Poaching is a problem. It is, however, highly unlikely that you will ever come into contact with poachers, for they avoid areas where tourists travel on a regular basis.
Do I need to take Malaria Medication?
It is advisable to take anti-malarial prophylactics when visiting the Kruger Park.
Can I view animals at night?
If you are staying at a lodge, the late afternoon game drives stretch on into the first hours of darkness. When staying at a national park camp, night drives can be booked accompanied by local rangers.
Are my valuables safe at the lodges and Camps?
Most lodges provide personal safes in each room. If you are staying at a national park camp, it is advisable to always lock your room. If this is done, your belongings should be safe.
Is the water safe to drink?
Yes, but bottled water is also available throughout the park.
Can I use my credit card in Kruger ?
Visa, Master and Amex cards are widely accepted at all lodges as well as at shops and restaurants in the park.
What currencies are accepted in the Kruger National Park?
South African Rand. The private lodges will accept major currencies, but the rate of conversion is normally terrible. It is recommended that you change some foreign currency to rand when arriving in South Africa.
Will I have mobile reception and access to the Internet?
Most parts of the park have basic mobile coverage. The main camps have Internet access, but not free WiFi. If you are staying at a private lodge, free WiFi is available.

Useful Travel Info

Getting There

The Kruger National Park is served by four airports; Nelspruit and Skukuza in the south, Hoedspruit in the central part of Kruger and Phalaborwa in the north. Scheduled charter flights are available to most of the private lodges. Flight times from Johannesburg range from about 50 minutes to an hour and a half.

Traveling overland from Johannesburg to the southern and central Kruger National Park involves a drive of between four and six hours. It is recommended that anyone who visits the park on an overland safari enters the park through Malelane, Crocodile Bridge, Paul Kruger, Phabeni, Orpen or Phalaborwa gates.

Weather & Best Time To Visit

Spring and summertime in Kruger can become uncomfortably hot, reaching record temperatures of up to 40°C (and even beyond) but averaging at a maximum of 33°C and a minimum of 16°C in the months between September and March. The chance of contracting malaria is also much higher during this period, as the rainfall draws mosquitoes.

The best time to visit the park is during the autumn/winter period between April and August, when temperatures are at their lowest. The dry season lures animals to key water sources, which provide great game-viewing opportunities. However, the temperature is still relatively high during this period, with average maximums ranging from 26°C to 29°C, depending on the month and location in the park. Minimums fluctuate between 6°C and 15°C. Antimalarials should still be taken as a precaution.

Gate & Times

Gates

Gate Phone Number
Crocodile Bridge +27 (0)13 735 6012
Kruger Gate +27 (0)13 735 5107
Malelaan +27 (0)13 735 6152
Numbi +27 (0)13 735 5133
Orpen +27 (0)13 735 0237/0238
Pafuri +27 (0)13 735 5574
Phabeni +27 (0)13 735 5890
Phalaborwa +27 (0)13 735 3547
Punda Maria +27 (0)13 735 6870

Gate Times

Entrance Gates open at 05:30 from October to March and at 06:00 from April to September.

Camp Gates Open at 04:30 during December, January and February. In February, March and October the opening time is 05:30. From April to September, camp gates open at 06:00.

All Gates close at 18:30 from November to February, at 18:00 during March, April, August and September. In May, June and July the closing time is 17:30.

Animal Numbers
Blue Wildebeest 6400 - 13100
Buffalo 37130
Burchell’s  Zebra 23700 - 35 300
Cheetah 120
Crocodile 4420
Eland 460
Elephant 13750
Giraffe 6800 - 10 300
Greater Kudu 11 200 - 17300
Hippopotamus 3100
Impala 132 300 - 176 400
Leopard 1000
Lion 1620 -1750
Mountain Reedbuck 150
Nyala >300
Reedbuck 300
Roan Antelope 90
Sable Antelope 290
Spotted Hyena 5340
Tsessebe 220
Warthog 3100 - 5700
Waterbuck 3100 - 7800
Wild Dog 120
Medical Considerations

It is advisable that all who visit the park consult their physicians about anti-malarial prophylactics. The malaria risk in Kruger is highest in the far south and the far north, but the whole park falls within a malaria risk region.

Health & Safety

The question of whether close encounters with wildlife are safe, as well as general safety, is a concern to many foreign visitors. Though wildlife can be intimidating, especially the Big Five, all safaris are led by experienced rangers with in-depth knowledge of animal behavior. Though very rare and highly infrequent, there have been a couple of incidents over the years where animals have caused injury or death. This has, however, never occurred on any safari operated by African Sky over the past almost eighteen years.

Resources

Recommended Reading

  • Field Guide to the Mammals of the Kruger National Park - Heike Schutze
  • Roberts Bird Guide: Kruger National Park and adjacent Lowveld - Hugh Chittenden
  • Make the most of your visit to Kruger National Park - Peter Klein

Web Resources

Activities

Morning Game Drives

Around half an hour before the camp’s gates officially open, your open-air 4x4 vehicle will slip out into the pre-dawn darkness. This almost preternatural period is characterized by nipping temperatures and a dun gloom that stirs with the peripherally rising sun. The coolness coaxes out the early risers, typically cunning predators keen on taking advantage of both the fine temperatures and prey still locked in the blind comfort of slumber. The drive is around three hours in duration and comprises a satisfying blend of tranquility and exhilaration. A resident park ranger will acquaint you with the sights, smells and sounds of Kruger at sunrise.

Sunset Game Drives

The sunset game drives depart camp just before dusk, in that late afternoon stretch when the sky seems to shift its colors by the second. The waning light allows a few sun-touched sightings before the inescapable veil of nighttime. Predators like lions and leopards shrug off the languor of the day and quicken into the hunt, ready to overwhelm any quarry settling down in the dark. Spotlights will assist in your nighttime viewing, and a resident park ranger will provide their own valuable illumination in terms of the animals’ unique habits.

Night Drives

Night drives in open-air 4x4 vehicles offer the unique opportunity to encounter Kruger’s more seldomly spotted nocturnal wildlife. The drives generally depart camp between 19:30 and 20:00, depending on the time of the year, and are characterized by encounters with spotted genets, porcupines, civets, bush babies and larger nighttime ramblers like hyenas, hippos, leopards and lions. This is also the ideal time to learn more about the star-spangled Milky Way, effervescent in its glory so far removed from the interference of city lights.

Open 4X4 Game Drives (At Private Lodges)

When staying at a lodge in a private concession or private game reserve, you will enjoy two scheduled open-air 4x4 game drives on a daily basis – one in the early morning and one in the late afternoon. These are periods of increased animal activity, largely due to the more moderate temperatures. The vehicles in question are often modified Land Rovers or Land Cruisers, which are hardy enough to traverse a wide variety of terrains. On that note, rangers will occasionally venture off road for more significant sightings like lion, leopard, cheetah of wild dog.

Mid-way through your game drive – depending on how much time you spend enjoying sightings, of course – you will typically stop somewhere scenic in the bush to enjoy a cup of coffee with a biscuit, or a sundowner gin and tonic. This provides guests not only with a chance to stretch their legs, but to take a moment to breathe and truly relish their awe-inspiring surroundings.

There are many benefits to enjoying an open 4x4 game drive in a private concession or private game reserve rather than those that serve as add-on activities in the Kruger Park, chief amongst them being the intimacy. Unlike the excessive seating of the national park vehicles, these vehicles are limited to a maximum of between 6 and 8 passengers (depending on the lodge), ensuring not only your uncrowded comfort but a far superior field of vision. Your game drives will also take place in areas of little or no traffic, removed as you will be from the main arteries of the park. There is something immensely satisfying about being the only vehicle at an extraordinary sighting, almost as if nature has chosen to share a secret with you alone.

History

In 1898, through the initiatives of Jakob-Louis van Wyk, R.K. Loveday and President Paul Kruger to establish a ‘government wildlife park’, the area between the Sabie and Crocodile rivers was proclaimed the Sabie Game Reserve. This area now comprises the southern third of the modern park. The first official warden, Scottish-born Major James Stevenson-Hamilton, was appointed by Sir Godfrey Lagden in 1902.

Harry Wolhuter and Thomas Duke were installed as the Sabie Game Reserve’s first rangers, posted at present-day Pretoriuskop and Lower Sabie, while Stevenson-Hamilton operated headquarters at the Sabie Bridge (present-day Skukuza). In 1903, the Shingwedzi Game Reserve (which now forms part of northern Kruger) was proclaimed and added to Stevenson-Hamilton’s list of responsibilities. He appointed Major AA Fraser as the reserve’s first head ranger in 1904. In 1926, the National Parks Act was passed. The reserves were fused and expanded to forge the Kruger National Park. The first three tourist cars accessed the park in 1927 with numbers swelling to 180 in 1928 and 850 in 1929. In the 1940s, the Greek royal family and King George II were added to the booming accession of local and foreign tourists.

Vestiges of yesteryear survive throughout the park, from the Albasini ruins (the original home of the area’s first European settler) near the Phabeni gate and prospectors’ graves in the south to the site of Wolhuter’s lion attack and the Masorini archaeological site in the north. From the near-extinction of several species to the on-going battle against poaching, Kruger Park and its champions have braved many challenges in its evolution toward the distinguished reserve as it exists today.

Mammal & Bird life

Kruger National Park is a wondrous arena of close encounters of the four-legged kind. It is a haven where critically endangered and vulnerable species, such as the African wild dog, black rhinoceros and cheetah, can still be viewed in their natural habitat. The big cats prosper with around 2000 lions and 2000 leopards residing in the park, ensuring that the average game viewer can quickly tick them off their checklist.

Elephants occur in abundance, with herds expanding so much in recent years (almost 12 000 elephants currently call Kruger home) that many groups have had to be relocated to protect the ecosystem. White rhinos are present in lesser numbers but are regularly spotted throughout the park. Solid herds of African buffalo frequently blacken the gold sweep of the savanna, emerging from the bush in their thousands.

Large herbivores such as Burchell's zebra, blue wildebeest, giraffe, kudu, waterbuck and impala prevail on every terrain, while eland, nyala and smaller antelope are rarer finds. Lesser mammals include spotted hyenas, black-backed jackals, honey badgers, genets, meerkats, mongoose, warthogs, bush pigs, porcupines, baboons and Vervet monkeys. Most of the fuller dams and river regions teem with hippo and crocodile populations.

With over 500 feathered species, Kruger is a birder’s paradise. From the delightful lilac-breasted roller to the majestic Bateleur eagle, even wildlife enthusiasts after the larger game will be charmed by the kaleidoscope of birdlife. A few of the park’s birds have been assigned to a group called ‘The Big Six’ and include the tremendous Lappet-faced vulture, the snow-bellied Martial eagle, the eccentrically dressed saddle-billed stork, the low-stalking Kori bustard, the comically odd ground hornbill and the rarely spotted Pel's fishing owl.

Kruger is also home to a number of snake species. Though these reptiles are detested by most people, a growing number of safari enthusiasts are fascinated by snakes and the role they play in the Eco system.

Terrain & Vegetation

Stretching 380km north to south and averaging 60km east to west, the wild expanse of the Kruger National Park may almost be considered a province in its own right. Two rivers serve as natural borders to the park; the Limpopo River in the north and the Crocodile River in the south. Kruger’s western boundary runs across the Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces while Mozambique’s Limpopo National Park lies to the east.

A few major rivers run west to east through the park, starting with the Sabie River in the south, the Olifants and Letaba rivers in the heart of the park and the Luvuvhu in the far north. These rivers serve to replenish the numerous smaller streams and dams throughout the park. Depending on the region, rainfall varies from a maximum of 720mm to a minimum of 400mm per annum.

Vegetation digresses throughout Kruger, creating a stirring medley of settings for game sightings. Rock figs and bushwillows star the southwest, with kiaat and silver-cluster leaf lacing the Pretoriuskop area. The general south is full of sickle bush and thorn trees, ranging from knob thorn to scented and sticky thorn. Shady tamboti trees and the juicy-fruited marula trees cloak the area as well. From the heart of the park to the far north, a mopane mantle covers the earth. Rare tree species occur in the Pafuri and Punda Maria regions of the north, an area also weighted in ancient baobab trees.

Geography

Around seven geological substructures pad the bushy carpet of the park. The west is generally bedded in granite, with rolling plains sprouting from the sandy earth. Coarse, dark gabbroic intrusions pepper this region as well, occurring sporadically in the planed savanna. Karoo sedimentary rock stretches north to south in an axial girdle, yielding fine sand and salty clay soils. The east of the park is stained with ruddy basalt, climbing into the rhyolite base coat of the Lebombo Mountains’ stony bulges toward Mozambique.

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