With close to 5 million acres of untouched wilderness, Kruger national park creates one of the most diverse and outstanding wildernesses where nature speaks for itself. This park, established in the 1890s, was the first African conservation area that was initially started to control hunting.
Today, Kruger National park is South Africa’s most exciting park and one of the most coveted destinations in Africa. The park is accessible by both road and Air from Johannesburg, South Africa’s commercial capital. There are at least 2 daily scheduled flights from O.R Tambo airport, Johannesburg, to each of the 3 airports in the Greater Kruger region.
For a more affordable overland safari, it will take you approximately 6 hrs to drive to the southern part of Kruger from Johannesburg. The park boosts a range of flora varieties, approximately 570 avifauna species, over 140 large animal species, and several enthralling natural scenes.
Kruger is home to all the big five. Besides Kruger national parks, the greater Kruger boosts a host of private reserves that share unfenced borders leading to an additional 444000 acres of wilderness where wildlife can freely wander about without restrictions. These private parks offer a whole different bush experience.
Why visit Kruger national park
- Diverse flora views. Unlike the famous Masai Mara and Serengeti, which are open savannah plains, in Kruger you will marvel at the incredibly rich flora, often denser woodlands and bushlands, mainly encompassing mopaneveld vegetation. Here some of the most popular nature trails in the park presents an opportunity to encounter over 2000 plant species.
- Diverse bird scenes. There are over 570 avifauna species in the entire greater Kruger region. Some are endemic to this wilderness and others migrate from Europe and the middle east. Some common bird varieties include southern ground hornbill, Fork-tailed drongo and martial eagle
- Dramatic landscape. Kruger national park has an alluring and diverse landscape. The numerous kruger kopjes creates some of the most photogenic sites of Africa. The park is also a wealth of natural scenes ranging from river valleys to mountains. All creating unique and very diverse adaptations for different fauna and avifauna species.
- Quintessential game scenes. The greater Kruger region boosts an endless list of fauna species.
- Family friendliness. When compared to other premium destinations like Masai Mara and Serengeti, Kruger offers more family-friendly lodge accommodations. In particular, Kruger offers a wider range of accommodations with a favorable child policy for children (11 years and below) when compared to the East Africa two parks.
Game Viewing During a Kruger Safari
The incredibly diverse and vast vegetation leads to a universe of bush experiences abounding with fauna of different kinds. Here you will find some of Africa’s popular, endangered and near-endangered animal species coming in very impressive numbers. First, Kruger has some of Africa’s most enthralling hunting scenes with all Africa’s big cats found in this wilderness. Here, even the cagier and less spotted leopard thrives mainly in the riverine woodlands along the Sabie river and when lucky, you will stumble upon one hanging on a tree. The lions are, however, the most common of the big cats, mainly living near riverine forests from where they stalk their victims. Unlike the leopards, it’s easier to spot lions as they come to the open field and they live in colonies mostly composing female members. Cheetahs are more common in the Lebombo hills characterized by numerous rocky outcrops and spots of acacia thorn bushes in the savannah plains. The central part of Kruger public park is the best location for sighting predation actions due to the extensive grassland tracts that are thriving grounds for zebras and impalas who attract lions and opportunistic scavengers like spotted hyenas. Sabi sand is on the other end the best private reserve for big cat safari considering the park’s high lion density. Importantly, private reserves allow night game drives which are prime hours for watching hunting scenes. Kruger national park is also South Africa’s leading destination for elephant tracking. These giants of the savannah mostly live in families that can go to over 20 members, but it’s not unusual to find a lone elephant. They mostly feed on mopane leaves and are widespread across all the regions of the park. Other animals include greater kudu, waterbuck, nyala, vervet monkey, southern giraffe, black rhino, white rhino, blue wildebeest, African wildcat and sable antelope. You will require a minimum of two days to visit one region of the park- Southern, Central and Northern. However, with each of the regions boosting a unique array of flora and fauna, we recommend you take 5 days to exhaustively transverse all corners of the park. The southern part of the park is the most visited section mainly due to its highly developed infrastructure and proximity to Johannesburg
Which is better for game viewing public reserve vs private reserves
The greater Kruger boosts several private reserves, among them Sabi Sand, Balule, Timbavati and Manyeleti reserves. The reserve shares a fenceless border with the main Kruger park, allowing free movement of wildlife between the wildernesses. You, therefore, have equal opportunities to sight big safari animals whichever way you choose. The difference mainly rests on the safari experience and budgeting. With the public park, you will have wider budget accommodation options including a backpack camping option where you carry your tent. For a private reserve, you will have to take luxury accommodation. However, the private reserves gives a slightly better value for money going by how these parks operate. First, private reserves only allow in guests booked in one of their lodges while in the public park you can check in from outside. By choosing a private reserve, you will therefore have better interaction with the wilderness considering you are at a position to visit both. Again, private reserves limit visitors who visit, giving you bush exclusivity, which is the epitome of an African safari. Notably, Kruger park annoyingly crowds during South Africa’s school holidays ( December and January), especially in the southern Kruger region. For general game experience, private reserves offer a wider engagement with the wilderness. For instance, private parks allow off-roading to sight scenes happening far from the park’s main roads. In the main park, you are supposed to stick to the main road where considering the park’s dense thickets, you may have a visibility problem when sighting an action far inside the wilderness. Again, lodges within private reserves offer night game drives a provision not available in the public park. Night game drives, especially along the riverbanks, allow travelers to sight the big cats and other nocturnal animals in their most active moments.
Kruger national park offers a better walking safari experience when compared to other African premium destinations. Most of the walking trails start and end in a rest camp and take you through a one-on-one engagement with nature for 3 days. Kruger trails give a mind-blowing bush experience with dramatic changeovers in landscapes and vegetation along the track bringing to sight more fauna and flora species. Importantly, Kruger has 7 nature trails starting from Satara, Pretoriuskop, Letaba, Punda Maria and Berg-en-Dal rest camps. Most of the trails start on Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning and continue to Wednesday morning.
Where to stay in Kruger national park?
Whether you want to rough it and experience the wilderness at a budget price or you desire a heartwarming luxury comfort of a safari lodge, Greater Kruger serves the needs of every traveler. When choosing accommodation, the very first consideration is the budget plan. For a basic rest camp accommodation, you can budget as low as 135 USD. Importantly, some of these rest camps have family cottages. Again, a rest camp will not always mean canvas accommodation. Some facilities are like small resorts that will give you more comfort than you bargained for. For luxury lodge accommodation, you will pay from 300 USD up to over 1000 USD for a double room a night. The other consideration is your personal desire. Whether you want a self-catering facility or full-board accommodation, Kruger has it all. In case you are seeking to have a serene ambiance, which is the mark of an authentic African wilderness; choose accommodation located towards the remote northern part of the public reserve. This region has relatively low visitor uptake throughout the year. But it is a stay in the private reserve or a private concession within the park that gives an off-beaten bush experience that creates an everlasting emblem in your mind. A stay here will give you unrestricted freedom to off-road drive, sundown in the wilderness, and go for night game drives. Just like the Kruger northern section, these facilities offer an evocative serene stay in an African Bush.
When to visit Kruger national park
Kruger is an all-year-round safari destination. However, the dry season between September and October is the best for game viewing. Over this period, the bushvelds are less dense, hence easier for game sighting when driving along the park’s main roads. Again, over the dry seasons, most watering holes dry up and grazing lands thin out. This leads to wildlife congregating near the few remaining water points and floodplains, which is favorable for game tracking. For bird lovers, January to April is the best time for a Kruger safari. During this period there is a wide variety of migratory birds, especially insect eaters who have migrated from Europe running away from the harsh winter condition