Why You Should Visit the Kruger National Park in South Africa

in travel •  12 days ago

Extending over a mind-boggling 19,485 km², the Kruger National Park is one of Africa’s largest and most iconic safari destinations, comparable in area to Wales or the state of New Jersey, and sharing open borders with several smaller private reserves as well as two transfrontier national parks in the form of Gonarezhou (Zimbabwe) and Limpopo (Mozambique). It vies with with Cape Town as South Africa’s top destination, attracting more than one million visitors annually, and the park itself is better suited to affordable self-drive safaris than any other major African park. By contrast, the exclusive private reserves that border Kruger, and ‘concession lodges’ that occupy exclusive enclaves within it, set the bar when it comes to all-inclusive luxury safaris in open 4x4 vehicles driven by expert guides.

Image: Tanda Tula Field Camp

Set in the hot eastern lowveld, Kruger is traversed by several rivers and punctuated by a few hilly areas, but mostly it comprises flat savannah dominated by acacia trees in the south and mopane woodland in the north. A tally of 147 mammal species includes all the Big Five (around 40,000 buffalo, 13,000 elephant, 1,600 lion, 2,000 leopard and 7,000 white and 400 black rhino) along with other safari favourites such as cheetah, hippo, zebra, giraffe, warthog, baboon, Vervet monkey and a full 21 antelope species.

The Nile crocodile is the most conspicuous of 114 reptile and 34 amphibian species, but the ethereal communal calls of the Bubbling kassina and other tree-frogs often provide a haunting aural backdrop to dusk waterhole vigils. Kruger is a magnet for bird lovers, with 517 bird species recorded, ranging from the spectacularly colourful Lilac-breasted roller and White-fronted bee-eater to several heftier species now rare outside of protected areas, among them the eyelid-fluttering Southern ground hornbill, the bizarre Secretary-bird, the massive Kori bustard (the world’s heaviest flying bird), the macabre Marabou stork, and of course the ostrich.

Image: Vincent van Zalinge

Thanks to its relative proximity to Gauteng, Southern Kruger carries the highest volume of safari goers. The far south offers the park’s most reliable game viewing: the surfaced H4-1 that follows the Sabie River from Skukuza to Lower Sabie often throws up elephant, buffalo, lion and even leopard, and is also a favourite with birdwatchers, while the H4-2 and associated dirt roads running south to Crocodile Bridge explore the park’s

Image: Glen Carrie

The focal point of the lightly-wooded savannah of Central Kruger, Satara stands at the crossroads of some superb game-viewing roads. Seasonal concentrations of wildebeest and zebra are reminiscent of the Serengeti, and it is the best place to look for cheetah and to see lion kills - the latter also often attracting jackals and hyenas. The aptly-named Olifants River is favoured haunt of elephants and it also often attracts immense herds of thirsty buffalo.

You can explore the Kruger National Park at your own pace. In fact, most travelers opt for car hire South Africa when planning their trip.

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