Kruger African National Park in South Africa

Kruger National Park

Kruger National Park is South Africa’s first, largest and most popular nature reserve. There are a total of 11 gates in the park – 3 in the northern part, 5 in the western part and 2 in the southern part. The main one is the Kruger Gate, decorated with a head statue of the park’s founder and Boer chief.

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General Information

Access to the park opens at 6 a.m. from April through September, and 5:30 the rest of the month. Access to Kruger National Park stops at 6:30 p.m. in April-February and November-December, 5:30 p.m. in May-July, and 6 p.m. the rest of the time. Campground gates are also locked at night, and open about the same time as the entrance gates (1 hour earlier in November-January) . The eastern border of the park is also the border between South Africa and Mozambique, with the only Giryondo Gate serving as a border crossing point.

Kruger lies on a plain known as the Lowveld (from Veld, Dutch for “field”). Its altitude does not exceed 600 m above sea level, but less than 100 km to the west lies the huge 1000-meter drop of the Drakensberg Escarpment. Behind it begins the Highveld, on which Jo’burg and Pretoria are located. In Kruger itself, the low Lebombo Mountains run along the eastern border. The rest of the territory you’ll see nothing but classic savannah and a few ponds. The park’s largest river is the famous Limpopo, which forms its northern boundary. The administration is located in Skukuza in the southeastern part of the park, the same location as the park’s main campground. The best time in Kruger is from October to March.

It’s not the photogenic landscapes that make the park attractive, but the fauna and flora – including 147 species of mammals, 507 species of birds, 148 species of reptiles and amphibians. Despite the dry climate, there are more than 300 species of trees alone. Transportation and large population centers gravitate toward the southern part of the park–the amazing thing is that there are more animals in southern Kruger than in the sparsely populated northern part of the park. The chances of collecting the full Big Five (elephant, rhino, lion, leopard, and buffalo) are especially great in the triangle formed by the Pabeni, Numbi, and Kruger gates. The protection of the local nature has continued uninterrupted for more than a century and tourist activity for almost 90 years (since 1923). During this time, the animals have become firmly accustomed to the observers, so great pictures in the Kruger are guaranteed. Another “chip” is the wealth of cultural and historical heritage on its territory. More than 250 sites in the park are protected monuments of civilization, including more than 100 rock paintings made by the ancestors of the current Bushmen. In 2002, South Africa, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe announced the creation of an international reserve, which, in addition to Kruger, would include the protected areas of its neighbors.

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Nowhere else in Africa’s wilderness can you find such a choice of places to stay and such opportunities to explore nature. You can stay in a “shelter” of several huts or tents (Hide), a small campsite without a restaurant but with a kitchen (Bushveld Camp), a large campsite with a restaurant (Rest Camp) or a comfortable private campsite (Bush Lodge). The larger camps range from self-catering accommodation (which entitles you to use the facilities) to an expensive gästhaus with full rooms and bathrooms. All Kruger camps and lodges can be booked with the South African National Park Service (in Pretoria, +27-012-4289111, 7.30-17.00 weekdays, 8.00-13.00 Sat; reservations@sanparks.org) .

Visitors arriving by their own transport from Hazyview and Nelspruit can book a tour with park staff at the gate:

  • Phalaborwa Gate (north, +27-013-7356509) – bush walks 900-1000 p., morning walks from 380 p., morning safaris from 420 p., day safaris, morning game drive from 215 p., night safaris from 215 p., evening walks from 320 p., bike rides 740 p. (own bicycle 530 p.), rides in own car 190 p.
  • Orpen Gate (center, +27-013-7356355) – morning and evening game-drives 340 p., night 202 p., morning walk 460 p., car rides 190 p., bar-que 60 p.
  • Kruger Gate (center-south, +27-013-7355107) – morning and evening game drives 340 p., car rides 95 p.
  • Numbi Gate (center-south, +27-013-7355133) – evening game-drive 340 p., own car 190 p., barbecue 60 p.
  • PhabeniGate (center-south,+27-013-7355812) – morning and evening game drives 340 p., own car 190 p.
  • Malelane Gate (south, +27-013-7356152) – morning walks for guests of nearby campsites 390 p., 460 p. for others, morning and evening game drives 340 p., private car rides 190 p., BBQ 60 p.

At last the park service arranges the trips “Through the Wilderness Trails” – there are 7 routes for groups of 4-8 people (from 12 years old) with a ranger. They include 3 overnight stays in tents, and begin on Wednesdays and Sundays (start at various campsites). It costs 3900 p. per participant.

You can spend in Kruger as much time as you have at your disposal. There’s plenty to do in just one day – especially if you base yourself in Skukuza, a pleasant spot at the confluence of the Sabie and Nwaswitshaka Rivers, where you can drive from Hazyview along three roads through different gates, each promising encounters with game. A video of buffalo fighting lions and crocodiles (Battle of the Kruger), considered a masterpiece of amateur reporting, was taken in 2007 on the road from Numbi Gate to Skukuza. The campground is home to an information center, a park museum, and the James Stevenson-Hamilton Memorial Library, the gentleman who served as the park’s chief gamekeeper from 1902 to 1946! A monument to the veteran can still be seen next door to the campground, along with the service dog cemetery, the old bridge (1912), and the train station turned Selati Grillhouse restaurant (+27-013-7355658; 7:30 to 10:30 p.m.) . Leaving Hazyview early, you can have time to see it all and get in for a day bush walk ($300) . There’s even a Wooden Banana cafe (+27-013-7355992, 7-9pm) and a pool at the campsite, especially for daytrippers.

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Many companies do short tours to Kruger, for example:

  • Kruger South Safaris (+27-0828870666; www.krugersoutisafaris.co.za) . For those based in Nelspruit, a two-day program with an overnight stay at one of the park’s campgrounds, 3,300 pp in a group.
  • Kruger Flexi Tours (+27-013-7440993, +27-0823401508; www.krugerandmore.co.za) . Daily trips to Kruger from Nelspruit from 1,450 pp per person.

Most independent visitors use their own transportation. Renting a car is easier in Nelspruit – there are plenty of offers both at Kruger-Mpumalanga Airport and in the city itself (Avis, +27-013-7570-911, www.avis.co.za) . Depending on the class of car costs an average of 300-400 p. per day. The roads in the park are ok, there are enough signposts, and the road service (+27-082-3229733) works. Outside the park, avoid driving at night, and on weekends, get to the gates early to avoid lines.

Nelspruit itself has a beautiful botanical garden (Lowveld Botanical Gardens, Riverside Park, +27-013-7525531; September-March 8 a.m.-6 p.m., Apr-Aug. 8.00-17.00) The Gardens Riverside Park, which has about 1,000 plant species typical of the Lowveld. 15km south of Nelspruit (R40 highway) is South Africa’s only Chimp Sanctuary (Chimpanzee Eden Sanctuary, +27-0797771-514; www.chimpeden.com; walks daily 10am, 12pm and 2pm, feeding monkeys 10am-14pm, adults/children under 12l. 170/50 р.) The Sakha Nature Reserve, which occupies about 1000 hectares of greenery in the Umholti Natural Reserve, is equally popular. Equally popular is Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve (+27-021-4241037; www.sabisands.co.za), South Africa’s first private game reserve. It borders Kruger, and the entrance is 15 km north of Hazyview.

Most hotels in Hazyview and Nelspruit offer lodging at an average price of P600.

What is protected in Kruger National Park

Weather, wildlife, attractions, tours, and other useful information about South Africa’s largest park.

Kruger National Park, or the Big Five (“Big Five”), is the largest and oldest safari park in South Africa, covering 19,000 km².

Geography of the park

Kruger National Park occupies two of South Africa’s nine provinces, Limpopo and Mpumalanga. It is 350 km (217 miles) long and 60 km (37.2 miles) wide. The east of the reserve is near Mozambique, and its northern boundary is formed by the Limpopo River and the countries of South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Several major rivers cut through the safari park. These include the Letaba, the Limpopo, the Sabi and the Umgwenya (“Crocodile River”). The landscape is made up of plains, which are sometimes eroded by the Lebombo mountain range running north-south along the border with Mozambique. Most of the park is between 260-440 m above sea level. The lowest point is located in the Sabi Gorge, and the highest point (839 m) is south of the safari park in Handiwa near Malelane.

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Nature of the reserve

Different climatic conditions influence the variety of flora that thrives in each zone of the park.

Zone 1.

The area north of the Elephantes River to Limpopo is the hottest and driest. Mopane trees dominate this area. They are unaffected by poor, alkaline soils and erratic rainfall. Nature has intelligently adapted the mopane for such conditions: when the heat becomes unbearable, the leaves of the plant fold along the middle of the stem.

This allows the sun’s rays to fall directly on the ground, and so the tree retains moisture. It casts poor shade, but absorbs minimal heat. The leaves are fragrant, tasting and smelling like turpentine, with the mopane serving as a food source for antelope and elephants.

Zone 2.

The area south of the Elephantes River on the east side of the reserve is dominated by acacia trees. This area has high rainfall and more fertile soil than the previous one. The succulent grasses provide ideal grazing and support high animal populations. Gregarious mammals live here.

Zone 3.

The largest area in Kruger Park is between the Umgwenya and Elefantes Rivers, immediately west of the acacia grove. This area is inhabited by antelope, and the red bush willow thrives among the plants.

Zone 4

The area between the Sabi and Umgwenya Rivers receives approximately 760 mm of rain per year. A wide variety of trees, including acacia trees, are present. Combrutum grows in large quantities. Also grows giant sycamore, sclerocaria. Flowering Central Asian pear, red and orange erythrina.

An interesting fact! Here you can find the bleeding tree, which got its name because of its dark red sap.

Zone 5

The smallest area (South Africa) is located in the valleys of the Luvuvuvu and Limpopo Rivers, along the northern border of the reserve. The area is occupied by a rainforest consisting of huge fig, black, red, ironwood, wild gewea, and many baobabs. There is also the Valley of the Giants.

The wildlife of the Big Five Park.

The huge area of the reserve is home to more than 147 species of mammals, 114 species of reptiles, 51 species of snakes, 49 species of fish, and 508 large species of birds, which have no other species in South Africa.

Because of the vastness of the area, some species of animals prefer certain areas. In each of them the vegetation is different. In the northern areas visitors can find the saber-horned antelope, topi, common canna, and savanna elephant, while in the southern and central areas the plains zebra, southern giraffe, and rhinoceros are found. Buffalo are common in the northern and central areas of the safari park. Hippos can be found in almost all rivers and large pools with permanent water flow.

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Large carnivores, including leopard, lion, cheetah, and wild dogs, are common throughout the reserve, but are most often found near large populations of various game. Although both chepherd and striped jackals can be found in the region, it is the former that is more common. Big-eared foxes prefer the open plains north of the Letaba River.

Kruger National Park is home to all five primate species found in South Africa. The most common are the baboons and green monkeys. Nile crocodiles are regularly seen in perennial rivers, on the banks of large pools and dams. Visitors also observe various species of turtles (black-bellied and marsh turtles), which sometimes appear in the water. Of the 51 species of snakes, the most dangerous to humans are black mambas, Mozambican spitting cobras, African vipers, and tree pythons.

Bird watching is very popular. Visitors enjoy the camps of Lower Sabi, Punda Maria and Shingwedzi.

Several species of birds nest in Kruger. These include war eagles, African bustards, Cafrus horned crows, and wagtails. Of the 6 species of vultures in the park, African big-eared vultures, brown vultures, and African vultures are the most common. In the summertime, bird watchers often spot silvery eagles soaring overhead.

Kruger Park from the Inside

Kruger Park consists of roughly three parts. The fertile southern part, dotted with mountains and rivers with dense bush, is by far the most popular. There are campsites throughout the area, as well as stores, a gas station, and a restaurant. The unique Lower Sabie Camp, due to its location, allows you to spend the night at the watering hole site. Elephants come here at night. You can also see entire families of warthogs.

The central part is more open and flat. There are several campsites here, including Lebata, which, among other things, has an elephant museum with a large collection of skulls and tusks. Satara Camp is located near the watering hole. This place attracts herbivores and, consequently, lions, their natural enemies.

The northern area above the Lebata River is famous for bird watching. Shingwedzi Camp is known for numerous species of birds, but other animals including lychee, antelope, and kudu can also be seen here.

Interesting fact ! Mopani is one of the reserve’s newest camps, located at Pioneer Dam. It is especially popular in the winter when there is little water and many animals congregate in the area.

Climate and weather

Kruger Park has a warm, subtropical climate. Most of the year it is hot (above +25°C).

From November to December:

The summer months are very hot and humid. Accompanied by continuous rainfall.

  • The temperature in November: (+/-) 16 – 32 ° C
  • Temperature in December: (+/-) 18 – 34°C

January to April:

These are generally drier months with very hot days.

  • Temperature in January: (+/-) 18 – 34°C
  • Temperatures in February: (+/-) 18 – 33°C
  • Temperature in March: (+/-) 18 – 33°C
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This is the fall period. The thick green bushes turn brown. It is cool at night, but still warm during the day. Thunderstorm showers may occur in the afternoon.

  • Temperature in April: (+/-) 13 – 28°C

During the winter months, temperatures drop dramatically at night and at dawn. Vegetation turns completely brown and trees begin to lose their leaves.

  • Temperature in May: (+/-) 13 to 28°C
  • Temperatures in June: (+/-) 9 to 26°C

July to August:

Very dry period and hence, it gets chilly in the early morning and late afternoon. Malaria-carrying mosquitoes are inactive at this time.

  • Temperature in July: (+/-) 9 – 26°C
  • Temperature in August: (+/-) 12 – 28°C

From September to October:

Spring is the height of the dry season with hot winds and colorless, sparse vegetation. The first rains fall in late October.

  • Temperature in September: (+/-) 12 to 28°C
  • Temperature in October: (+/-) 16 – 32°C

Attractions in the Kruger Park

  • Rock paintings of bushmen. Scattered throughout the park. Ask at any camp if you can find them nearby.
  • Masorini Ruins. An Iron Age site with a museum at Phalaborwa Gate.
  • The ruins of Albasini. Archaeological finds of a 19th century Portuguese trader at the Fabeni Gate.
  • Tulamela. A 500-year-old archaeological settlement in the Pafuri Triangle in the northernmost part of the park.
  • Stevenson-Hamilton Memorial Library. James Stevenson-Hamilton was the first warden of the preserve. The museum is located at Camp Scoosa.
  • Letaba Elephant Museum. Home of the tusks and skulls of the magnificent seven elephants. Each tusk weighs more than 50 kg! The museum is located near the camp of the same name.

Park Tours

Safari tours usually start in Johannesburg and involve a trip along the Mpumalanga panoramic route to Kruger Park. Meals are included, and accommodations range from chalets to large dome tents in the southern or central areas of the park. Transfers from the airport to and from the vacation spot are also arranged.

Experienced rangers have extensive knowledge of the wildlife, birds, and native vegetation of the preserve, and guide all hiking trails. The campsites are located near the river. They consist of two-man tents equipped with toilets and showers. Camp staff cook and clean while a guide introduces the wildlife of Africa.

Lovers of exclusive vacations, traditional cuisine under the African sky, personal service and adventurous safaris can book deluxe accommodations in the private Sabi Sands, Timbavati, Clazerje or Torniboush reserves.

Tour prices range from $98 USD to $486 USD.

Conclusion

Kruger National Park is one of Africa’s oldest, best-known and largest reserves. Locals call it wildtuin (“wild garden”). The park has a large size and is divided into different ecological zones, so there are almost all species of African animals. And in large numbers: more than 13,000 elephants, 5,000 giraffes, 86,000 antelopes and about 5,000 rhinos!

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