One of the oldest and largest game reserves in Africa, Kruger National Park is a world class safari destination. Lying in an area of immense natural beauty, Kruger has some of the best Big Five game viewing in Africa and it’s a wonderful place to watch the big cats hunt their prey, elephant roaming the bushveld and leopard lounging lazily in the trees. Kruger is truly a place to make memories.
Kruger was first established in 1898 and was originally conceived as a means of protecting animals from hunting. Founded by the president at the time, Paul Kruger, after whom the park is named, it first opened to the public in 1926. Since then, Kruger has become a beacon of wildlife conservation, gradually expanding, until it now covers an area the size of Wales. Located in the northeast corner of South Africa, Kruger contains 6 different eco-systems from open plains to lush forest. This ecological diversity gives rise to a great number of different habitats, meaning the bird and wildlife is abundant, with almost 150 different mammal species and over 500 species of bird to be seen.
Owing to the relatively sparse vegetation and numerous waterholes, where the animals come to drink and cool off, we think game viewing in the Kruger is some of the most rewarding in South Africa. You can expect to see plenty of herbivores, including herds of buffalo and elephant, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, hippo, impala, kudu, waterbuck, along with both black and white rhino. In fact, Kruger is home to the world’s largest rhino population, containing around 8-9,000 rhino, around half of South Africa’s total population. The large number of herbivores attract all the big predators, so look out for lion, leopard, cheetah, spotted hyena and jackal, among others. In fact, the leopard viewing here is some of the finest in Africa.
Not only are the Big Five plentiful in Kruger, but there is also the opportunity to see a huge variety of birds. In fact, so impressive are the birding opportunities, the park has coined the term, the ‘Big Six,’ to refer to the six largest and most eye-catching birds to be spotted here. These are the saddle-billed stork, ground hornbill, martial eagle, kori bustard, lappet-faced vulture and Pel’s fishing owl. The Kruger also holds over 100 species of reptile including the African rock python, black mamba and a wealth of crocodile.
Kruger also offers the chance to experience a wide range of exciting safari activities. We would recommend bush dining, with a romantic dinner enjoyed in the company of nature and wildlife. Another favourite is star gazing. The rural plains of the Kruger afford incredible views of the endless starry sky and we can arrange for a professional to teach you how to read the stars and find direction. Top of our list though, would be a night at Lion Sands Chalkley Treehouse. Here you’ll enjoy a 5* bush bedroom like no other. After a gourmet picnic supper and drinks, you’ll spend the night under the sparkling night sky, alive with the nocturnal sounds of the bush.
Kruger National Park is criss-crossed by a network of well-maintained roads, so we consider it a good option for self-drivers. For those on a budget, there are series of rest camps throughout the park, which offer value accommodation and self-catering facilities, along with a braai (barbeque), making a self-drive safari an accessible and affordable option. The downside of this is that the park does get very busy at peak times, especially when you consider that it attracts over one million visitors a year. There is no control over the number or type of vehicles allowed into the park and you may decide that this is not the type of safari experience you’ve dreamed of.
To avoid the crowds, we would always advise staying on a private game reserve. In Kruger these are found to the west of the park. Only those staying on the reserves are permitted to visit, which means there is a very low density of people and vehicles, leading to a more exclusive and intimate safari experience. Along with providing luxurious accommodation, these reserves also employ expert guides and rangers and offer the opportunity to drive off-road, go on a bush walk, as well as sleep out under the stars. Our favourites include the famous Sabi Sands Game Reserve, the family-friendly Thornybush Game Reserve, the former home of the rare white lion, Timbavati Game Reserve and the beautifully located, Makalali Conservancy.