Kruger National Park, South Africa

Kruger National Park – the oldest national park in Africa – is known for diversity of wildlife with high chances of spotting the big five (African elephant, Black rhinoceros, Cape buffalo, African lion and African leopard) than anywhere else on the continent.

It is also home to over 500 bird species, 147 mammal species and 114 reptile species; all found on 7,523 square miles of land. With this size, Kruger National Park is South Africa’s largest national park and one of the biggest in Africa.

The national park got its name after Paul Kruger, who was elected as President of South Africa in 1883. He was an aggressive politician and a strong military man who is remembered for the formation of this wonderful national park.

Kruger National Park is popular for its accessibility and affordability, where affordable self-drive safaris have made it one of the most preferred holiday destinations in Africa.
Just like the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, this National Park is a top destination for wildlife photography.

Kruger National Park

History of the Park

The initial purpose for the creation of the national park was to contain the hunting activates that had led to the reducing number of wildlife. On 26th March 1898, Paul Kruger, the president of the South African Republic, released a proclamation of Sabie Game Reserve as a government wildlife park.

Later in 1926, Sabie game reserve and Shingwedzi game reserve were combined to create Kruger National Park. The park received its first three tourist cars in 1927, and by the end of 1929, they had recorded 1,033 car visits.

It is in 1959 that fencing of the national park began with the aim of not only to control the spread of diseases but to also make monitoring and controlling of poaching much easier.

Later in 1969, the park was expanded by claiming 198.4 square kilometres from the Makuleke people, where over 1,500 of them were relocated. However, in 1996, they claimed back this, which they chose to use for private investment in tourism. They have since constructed many game lodges there.

Privately owned reserves of Balule Game Reserve, Klaserie Nature Reserve and Olifants Game Reserve with a total of 400,000 hectares were incorporated into the Greater Kruger Park in the late 1990s.


Location of the Park

The park is located in the North East of the country and Limpopo is the only town that borders the national park. Its natural boundaries are rivers Crocodile and Limpopo to the South and North of the national park respectively. The other rivers found within the park are Sabie, Letaba, Luvuvhu and Olifants.

The park is separated from Mozambique by the Lebombo Mountains on the Eastern part.

There are the eleven main gates to the Kruger National park;

Crocodile Bridge Gate, Giriyondo gate, Malelane Gate, Numbi Gate, Orpen Gate, Pafuri Gate, Pafuri border gate, Paul Kruger Gate, Phabeni Gate, Phalaborwa Gate and Punda Maria Gate. They have various distances to the national park.

The national park has airports that are close to it that allow visitors, to fly in. There is Nelspruit Airport or Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport in Mpumalanga, which allows you access to the southern sector of the park.
The Central and Northern sections of the park can be reached via Hoedspruit airport while the Northern section can also be reached through Hendrik Van Eck Airport to Phalaborwa.
For the Southern section, a flight to Skukuza Airport would do.

Car hire is a good alternative from Johannesburg and the drive to the nearest gates in the southern end of the park can take between 4 to 6 hours to reach.

When to Visit

The dry seasons are normally ideal for game viewing so between April and September are the best months. Due to the short grass at the time, visibility of the animals is made possible; and due to the scarcity of water, many animals can be found at the few water spots that are left in the park.

Adventure Tourism Activities

Since Kruger National Park is a big national park, it is vital to have a list of activities to engage in when the opportunity presents itself to travel there. It has over 74 historical sites that make it an ideal place for historians and archaeologists.

Game Drives
The beauty of the game drives in Kruger National Park, is the freedom given to take a self-drive with in the park. This way you take all the time you need to check out the big 5 as they roam in the park. However, to get a better and deeper experience, a guided game drive is recommended for a half or full day safari.

Apart from wildlife, you are able to check out sites like the Blyde River Canyon, the Sudwala caves, the Artists town of Kaapsehoop, the Chimpanzee sanctuary of Chimp Eden among many.

Walking Trails
The morning walking trails are exciting since you are able to track African wildlife on foot following tracks of the different wildlife through bushes.
It is safe to spare 3 to 4 hours for this activity to cover between 15 to 20 kilometres.
Since the walks are in the park bushes, visitors are escorted by experienced guides just in case you meet face to face with say a wounded buffalo, rhinoceros or lion.
The seven known walking trails are Bushmans, Metsi-Metsi, Napi, Nyalaland, Olifants, Sweni and Wolhuter; which have base camps for refreshments and short breaks.


Bird Watching
With over 500 species of birds with some not found anywhere else in the world, the national park is a bird paradise and it’s confirmed that 253 species of these birds are resident. The others are non-breeding migrants and nomads.

The birds you expected to see are the martial eagle, the kori bustard, the lappet-faced vulture, the saddle-billed stork and the ground hornbill. Pafuri and Punda Maria in the north of the Park are regarded as one of the birding hotspots of the world. There are a number of species in the Kruger National Park that are not found anywhere else in the world.

The African Fish Eagle can be sited at the many dams that are scattered around the national park.

Letaba Elephant Museum
This museum helps one understand the behaviour, biology, evolution and revolution of elephants. Apart from being an ideal place for educators and researchers, it is the place for ivory in all Kruger. The place is accessible seven days a week all year round.

Albasini Ruins
Joao Albasini was a famous Portuguese trader that was known for his elephant hunting and slave trade. The Albasini ruins that are located at the Phabeni Gate and are the remains of the 19th Century trading post where Albasini traded from. It is also believed to be the first European settlement which was safe against malaria and tsetse flies.

Masorini Village Museum
What was discovered about the Masorini Village as restoration started in 1973 was evidence of trade and commerce of that time and their way of life in their households. Ore smelting dome-shaped furnaces, farming tools, hut floors, spears and arrow heads, are visible. There is evidence of stone-age hunting and gathering society just 11 kilometres from the Phalaborwa entrance.

Key Facts to have in Mind

To be part of the Kruger National Park Walking Trail, booking needs to be done at least a year in advance due to the popularity of this activity and the number allowed on each walk (which is 8 people). Due to the heat between the months of November and February, there are trails do not operate.

With over 595 properties available to book for a comfortable night as you visit the National Park, you are spoilt for choice. The price per night can be as low as USD 16 and the visitor has the choice of accommodation of a bungalow, cottage, safari tent, rest camp hut and luxury lodge.

When planning to visit the park, it is best you know the time the gates open and close to avoid inconveniences like late arrival fees and denial of entry. So refer to the time schedule below when planning to travel.

Kruger Park Time

There are things that visitors to the national park are prohibited from doing like:

  • Over speeding in the national park
  • Visitors getting the heads and bodies out of the vehicles except at designated lookout points or picnic spots.
  • The use of drones inside the national park
  • Feeding the baboons, monkeys, and bushbuck

While at the rest camps always look out for bats, rodents, insects or even snakes and scorpions that may invade your privacy. Engage a camp supervisor in case you are not sure of what to do when invaded. It is safer to always wear closed shoes and have a torch with you at night.

26 thoughts on “Kruger National Park, South Africa”

  1. Though this is my first time ever hearing of Kruger National Park, located in South Africa, your description about it makes me really want to go there for leisure as it serves as a very good place for tourist attraction. Seeing the big five would be an awesome experience for me as i haven’t seen any from the big five you listed in reality before except the buffalo (though not the “Cape Buffalo” specie which you mentioned). This post has really inspired me and also make me appreciate nature for its wonderful diversities of creatures it has in stock for us to see. I would love to read more subsequent posts from your blog. Thanks 

    1. Cohen, it a pleasure to read that this post has not only heightened your appreciation of nature but has also developed your need to read more about similar posts. I promise to keep them coming.
      Since you have only seen one of the five big animals, you ought to include visiting this National Park on your list of travel destinations.

  2. Wow! That’s pretty significant that Kruger is the oldest national park in all of Africa!

    One thing I don’t get – how can there be “walking trails” in an animal reserve where LIONS roam??? Isn’t that, uh… a little dangerous??!!   Lol

    Also, I’m surmising that hunting of animals is NOT allowed in this park. Is that correct??

    1. You are right TJ, hunting is not allowed in Kruger National Park. The Walking trails can be a little dangerous as you pointed out, but you cannot do them without an experienced Tour Guide or Game Ranger. Their role is to make sure you are safe. It so happened that a group of tourists met a rhino during their walk. It charged at them but they were protected by the game rangers.

  3. Kruger National Park, in northeastern South Africa, is one of Africa’s largest game reserves. Its high density of wild animals includes the Big 5 lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and buffalos. 

    Hundreds of other mammals make their home here, as do diverse bird species such as vultures, eagles,stocks ,mountainb bush plains and tropical forests.

    1. You are right Ibrahim. It is a great place for wildlife and I know that is why they can be found there in great numbers. In fact, you don’t have to travel far into the National Park before you start seeing these animals, especially in the dry season.

  4. This is a very informative tourist destination based article and one which I quite relate to and enjoyed reading. Now I will be including this destination for my next African trip. You have really done very well here and mostly I like how you brought the region to life not only on your article but also with the use of video and images.

    I will be coming back here in the future to keep an eye on your new updates.


    1. Richard, thank you for your kind comment especially the promise to regularly check on this site for new blogs/posts. It is always nice to read that someone is willing to take a trip to see this place physically. You do not only support tourism in Africa but also the conservation of nature and wildlife.

  5. Hi Edgar, 

    Kruger National Park, South Africa park has quite some history and I am a real sucker for history. To be the first and almost the largest National Park of Africa gives it alot of allure and culture. 

    I will love to visit the park, it’s packed with adventure and sight seeing. I would satisfy my curiosity about wild animals like lions, cougars, tigers etc. 

    1. Hello Peace, if you are so much into History, then Kruger National Park is the place for you. With over 74 historical sites spread all over the park, you would need quite some time to get these places visited. But you would start with the Albasini Ruins and the Masorini village museum. 
      I would advise you to visit the southern part of the National Park since that is where most of the historical sites are located.

  6. Hi there! Thank you for this rich information on the park! I’m about to plan my trips for next year and this one is definitely coming on my short list! I was just wondering, do you recommend any guided tours? I’m not really looking forward to go into the wild on my own :). And any tips to do around the park as well? 

    Thanks in advance!


  7. I have benefited greatly by reading your article about Kruger National Park, South Africa. You have shared much about its history, location, visiting time, Adventure Tourism Activities, Game Drives, Walking Trails, Bird Watching, Letaba Elephant Museum, Albasini Ruins, Masorini Village Museum etc. So after reading your article, I know about that park which is a historical place. Thank you very much for sharing your article.

    1. Mohammad, Kruger National Park can be of importance to archaeologists,historians, tourists, bird watchers, nature photographers and many more. It is a place you will not exhaust in just one visit or a visit of just a few days.
      With the right Safari company, you can learn a lot about that can leave you mesmerised about the place.

  8. Hey Ahimbe,

    Over 74 historical sites, 500 bird species, 147 mammal species, and 114 reptile species; it’s just amazing! Heard in childhood that South Africa is known as the world’s forest. Today I can realize better after reading your detailed description of Kruger National Park. Nice to know the brief history of President Paul Kruger. And I am convinced that visitors are escorted by experienced guides. I’ll definitely see Kruger National Park with my family whenever get the opportunity.
    Thank you sincerely for the marvelous post.

    Warm wishes,

    1. Ranao, a family visit to Kruger National Park would be the best family outing you can give them. This is an experience that comes once in a lifetime and to have it with family is amazing. I like people who don’t leave family behind when taking wonderful vacations.
      I am glad you liked the place and I wish you the best with your travel plans.

  9. The South African Tourism industry is one of the most buoyant in Africa creating jobs and sources of income for many. The post gives a potential tourist a clear idea on how to plan in terms of timing which is good. However i would like to ask how much on the average a potential tourist should look at spending on a week’s trip to the park. It’s April already lets get our acts together before September. Great read thank you.

    1. Idara, thank you for the wonderful comment. What I recommend for this trip is booking a 3 day Kruger Park Safari, where you get to enjoy your stay with professional guides leading both morning and evening game drives; with accommodation facilities that make your stay a warm one.

  10. Hi

    I have heard of Kruger National park from the TV, book, and Movies and it is a place that holds some interest to me. I never knew that it is the oldest park in Africa.  You learn something new every day I would like to visit it in the future and see all the sites you mention in your excellent review.  

    I see that in your review that the park closes in the early evening, is that to protect people from wildlife attack? What will happen if you do not make it back before the gates closes?

    Thank you


    1. Antonio, it is nice to know that you have considered visiting Kruger National Park and see the sites shared in this post. I hope you will be able to observe the time the park opens and closes. If you are late to get back to the gate or your camp, you may have to pay a fine. Time has to be observed as per the park’s regulations to create order, protect your life and that of the wildlife.
      Since the maximum acceptable speed in the park is 40km/h on the untarred road and 50Km/h on the tarred road, it is advisable to check in early bearing in mind the distance between the gates and the camp.

  11. I must say that this article is very helpful and informative. Something like this would definitely benefit me as I work too much and this looks like paradise. I never heard about Kruger Park but I would like to go there in August as I will be on vacation. Watching birds is my favorite part as they relax me. I will spare some money and see if I can reserve a cheaper fly.

    1. Daniel, I am glad that I have put Kruger National Park in your vacation plans. It is a wonderful place to visit and I am sure your reviews of it will be positive. 
      You are assured to have a good time bird watching since this place is home to over 253 bird species and with many more migrant birds species to watch.

  12. I have never heard of this park before, but I think I will be adding it to our future destinations! We love traveling and South Africa has been on our bucket-list of places to go. I had no idea what we would do there, but I do now!

    Thank you for sharing all of this great information and informing us on different activities and places to go. Enjoyed this reading greatly.

    Jordyn Murphy

    1. Thank you Jordyn for the delightful remarks and for including this wonderful National Park on your list of places to visit as you travel to South Africa in future.

  13. I would love to visit those historical sites. As someone with African roots, I feel like I miss chunks in our history.
    It must be memorable to see one of the big fives as well. This post really made me wanna visit South Africa. Thanks for the article as I had no idea of the existence of the Kruger National Park. This is definitely going on my bucket list

    1. Nikeze, I am glad you visited this site and now have Kruger on your bucket list. It is a great place to check out the big 5 and I encourage you to carry your camera since you will not run short of memorable moments to capture.

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