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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.