Kruger National Park
About Kruger National Park
No trip to South Africa is complete unless you include the Kruger National Park in your itinerary. This world-famous conservation area is a destination that captures the essence of South Africa’s best wildlife experiences and showcases the wild spaces of the country at their finest.
The Kruger National Park spans almost the entire length of South Africa’s border with Mozambique and occupies 19 485 km² of the country’s north-eastern border.
You can enter The Park from one of 10 gates located close to major touristic towns in the area. These are as follows:
Southern Kruger Gates (Mpumalanga):
- Crocodile Bridge near Komatipoort
- Malelane Gate close to Malelane
- Numbi Gate near White River
- Paul Kruger Gate which is 20km from Hazyview
- Phabeni Gate around 10km from Hazyview
Central Kruger Gates (Limpopo Province):
- Orpen Gate outside Hoedspruit
Northern Gates (Limpopo Province):
- Phalaborwa Gate at Phalaborwa
- Punda Maria/Pafuri Gate close to Thohoyandou
- Pafuri Gate near Musina
- Giriyondo Gate near southern end of Limpopo National Park
The main gates open half an hour after the camp gates and close half an hour earlier. Gate times are dependent on sunrise and sunset and vary according to the time of year.
The earliest records of human occupation in the Kruger Park date back 100 000 years and there are over 300 Stone Age archaeological sites within the park boundaries, most notably at Masorini and Thulamela.
There are many examples of San rock art in the park dating back around 1 500 years. After that, the Nguni’s moved in, followed by the European settlers who arrived in the 19th century. Today, South Africans as well as international immigrants of all races live and work in and around the Kruger National Park and tourists flock from every corner of the globe to visit here. It’s all thanks to the foresight of one man – Paul Kruger himself.
During his time as President of the Transvaal, Paul Kruger decided to set aside a large portion of land for conservation. In 1884, he set up restrictions on hunting in the areas between the Sabie and Crocodile Rivers. In 1898, this area became known as the Sabie Game Reserve and was officially designated a conservation area. James Stevenson-Hamilton was appointed as the first warden of the park in 1902.
During 1927, the Sabie Game Reserve was merged with the adjacent Shinwedzi Game Reserve to form the Kruger National Park. Tourism was immediately identified as an excellent source of income for the park. Rudimentary roads and overnight camps were constructed, and the first guests were admitted the next year.
Throughout the years, the Kruger National park has continued to evolve. Today’s luxury guest houses, private lodges and excellent camp facilities including franchise restaurants, shops and swimming pools are a far cry from the original rondavels offering only walls, a roof and bedframe. Purists can still enjoy roughing it in campsites, safari tents, overnight hides and traditional huts if preferred.
The Kruger National Park offers a wide range of accommodation in private camps, bush camps, private hides, bush lodges and rest camps as follows:
- Main Rest Camps include Berg-en-Dal, Crocodile Bridge, Letaba, Lower Sabie, Mopani, Olifants, Orpen, Pretoriuskop, Punda Maria, Satara, Shingwedzi and Skukuza. These camps have onsite facilities such as shops, day visitors picnic spots, viewing decks, outdoor cinemas, restaurants and swimming pools.
- Smaller satellite camps Malelane and Balule are close to the main rest camps and offer a more exclusive, rustic experience. Satellite camps Maroela, Tamboti and Tsendze are geared towards campers and caravanners.
- Bushveld Camps are more remote with limited facilities and are closed to day visitors. These are Bateleur, Biyamiti, Shimuwini, Sirheni and Talamati.
- Overnight hides offer visitors the chance to spend the night out in the wild at the bird hides at Sable and Shipandani. Bedding, cutlery and crockery are provided. There are toilet facilities, but no ablution blocks at the bird hides.
- Bush Lodges are reserved for exclusive use and have no added facilities like shops and restaurants. The accommodations are comfortable and private and most have private viewing decks. These are Roodewal, Boulders and Pafuri.
- Private Lodges are located at Imbali Safari Lodge, Jock Safari Lodge, Lukimbi Safari Lodge, Rhino Walking Safaris, Shishangeni Private Lodge, Singita Lebombo Lodge, Singita Sweni Lodge, The Outpost, Lions Sands Kruger and Pafuri Camp. These camps offer ultimate luxury, private game drives, wellness spas and fully catered accommodation.
There are a host of lodges located on private concessions on the outskirts of Kruger. Most of the game fences between these reserves and the Greater Kruger have been dropped to encourage the free movement of game.
Children are encouraged to visit the Kruger National Park and catered for at all the camps, Only the overnight hides have an age-restriction of 12 years and older. Other activities such as game drives and game walks are restricted to children over the age of 12 years or more.
The distances between camps can take hours to traverse due to the low speed limits, so be sure to plan your trip carefully from point to point if you are travelling with children. The southern part of the park is a good choice for those traveling with children as the vegetation is less dense, making for more frequent game sightings.
The Kruger National Park is a malaria area and it is not advisable to travel with children under 5 years of age.
Most of the lodges on the outskirts of the Kruger National Park cater for conferencing and all the camps within the park welcome group bookings and tour groups.
The main activity in the Kruger National Park is the self-guided game drives. The roads are good and clearly demarcated and there are no shortages of places to stop and stretch your legs or enjoy refreshments.
Rivers, dams and waterholes are prime viewing spots and there are lookout points where you can get out of your car to enjoy the views over the savannahs below. Some of these are located at historic sites with san rock art and historic stone buildings.
Guided game drives and game walks are offered from the main rest camps and private camps within the reserve. These take place at sunset and sunrise and are a great way to see shy nocturnal species.
During the heat of the day, you can relax around the swimming pools at the main rest camps or take demarcated walks along the fence line. Many of the rest camps have shaded viewing areas overlooking waterholes and rivers.
In the unlikely event that you feel like a break from game viewing, you can travel to one of the nearby towns to enjoy the trappings of civilization or catch up with some shopping. On your way, you’ll find plenty of opportunities for roadside curio shopping, wildlife rehabilitation centers and natural sights like waterfalls. Some of the best-known ones are:
- Sabie Waterfall Route
- Blyde River Canyon
- Gods Window
- Bourke’s Luck Potholes
Most of the restaurants in the Kruger National Park belong to well-known South African franchises and boast wonderful views into the park.
You’ll find plenty of snacks and basic supplies at the shops in the main camps but by far the most popular dining option in the Kruger National Park is the self-catered evening braai (barbecue). You can bring all your own supplies into the park and most of the accommodation options have fridge and freezer facilities as well as braai areas.
At the private lodges both in and surrounding the park, you’ll be treated to five-star dining from top-class chefs.
Fauna and Flora
When you visit the Kruger National Park, the many species of mammals, birds, reptiles, insects and plants are the main attraction. There are 35 eco zones within the park, which accommodate a wide variety of species.
The Kruger Park is home to over 490 bird species including Pel’s Fishing Owl, White-backed Night Heron, African Finfoot, Marabou Stork, Southern Ground-Hornbill, Bateleur and various other raptors.
Mammals are represented by 145 different species including the Big Five, as well as cheetah, wild dog and spotted hyena. Most of the species in the Kruger National Park are abundant and thriving.
There are 336 types of trees, 49 varieties of fish, 34 amphibians and 114 reptile species present in the park. Large baobabs occur in the northern regions of the park.
Some essential items to bring along for your trip to Kruger National Park include:
- Mosquito repellent and anti-malaria medication
- A camera
- Binoculars, preferably one pair for each person
- A map and guide book
- Sunglasses, lip balm, moisturizing lotion and sunblock
- Swimming costume and towels
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Bird Book
Most international tourists fly in to Johannesburg or Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport and hire a car from the airport. There are air charter services available to the private airstrip at Skukuza and some of the surrounding private game reserves. A car is essential to make the most of your visit to Kruger National Park.
Directions from Johannesburg
Southern and Central Gates
Take the N4 to Nelspruit then follow these directions –
- For Malelane Entrance Gate travel to Malelane and take the left to turn to Malelane Gate as you reach town.
- For Crocodile Bridge Gate, continue through Malelane to Komatipoort, turn left towards the gate (R571)at the T-junction.
- To reach Numbi Gate, take the R40 to White River and branch off on the R538 towards the gate.
- For Paul Kruger Gate and Phabeni Gate, proceed to Hazyview from White River and then take the R536. Phabeni Gate is 10km outside town, Kruger Gate is a Little further on.
- To reach Orpen Gate take the R540 to Belfast, turn onto the R36 at Lydenburg and then the R531 about 30kms before you reach Hoedspruit.
From Johannesburg, take the N1 to Polokwane, and then proceed as follows –
- For Phalaborwa Gate, turn right onto the R71 to Tzaneen, and proceed to Phalaborwa.
- To reach Punda Maria/ Pafuri Gate, continue to Makhado/ Louis Trichardt and take the R524 to the gate.
For more information or to book your trip to Kruger National Park in South Africa, pop Discover South Africa a message via our contact us page, and we will gladly assist you.
Please Note: The details shared herein around products and services, are correct at the time of publishing. However, with time some of this information may change. We recommend confirming information with suppliers prior to making final travel arrangements. If you do happen to find an issue with any information we’ve shared here, please feel free to contact us so that we can make the relevant changes.