Travel info for visiting Kruger National Park in South Africa

One of the largest wildlife sanctuaries


Mpumalanga, Limpopo, South Africa

GPS: -23.987729583939, 31.55564427239

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Visiting Kruger National Park: Larger in size than neighbouring Swaziland (almost 20,000 km² compared to 17,363 km²), the Kruger National Park is a vast protected area that stretches along the border with Mozambique for over 300 kilometres. It is divided into two large sections (north and south) by the Olifants River in Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces. Its landscapes abound with many different ecosystems and habitats, resulting in a wide variety of flora and fauna. The Kruger National Park is one of the best safari destinations in Southern Africa for viewing the Big Five – African Elephant, Cape Buffalo, Leopard, Lion, and Rhinoceros.

Long threatened by armed conflict, the gold rush and poaching, the Kruger National Reserve overlaps with the ancestral lands of the San people (or Bushmen over 100 000 years ago). It was conquered by the Nguni tribes from the 3rd century onwards before being annexed by the Arabs in search of slaves in the 9th century. The Europeans then moved into this fertile area to satisfy their passion for hunting wild animals. The Kruger National Park was founded in 1896 in the former Transvaal region to protect certain species threatened with extinction. It is named after the 5th President of the South African Republic, Paul Kruger. In the second half of the 19th century, this Afrikaner distinguished himself as an army commander and later as a mediator against the occupation of the United Kingdom.

The Kruger National Park was recently merged with Gonarezhou National Park (Zimbabwe) and Limpopo National Park (Mozambique) to facilitate the free movement of animals. This ambitious project, known as the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park, forms a wildlife reserve that is larger than ever (40,000 km²). Often praised for its environmental policy, the Kruger National Park owes its worldwide reputation to its abundance of wildlife. To increase your chances of seeing wildlife away from tourist groups, you have the option of exploring one of the park’s private reserves, which are restricted to residents of camps and lodges in the area. You will have the best chance of spotting the wildlife of the Kruger National Park by using the services of the rangers, whose presence helps to combat the threat of poachers. You can join them on a safe bush walk or organise a game drive and benefit from their advice, explanations and field experience.

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  • The incredible variety and number of wildlife (porcupines, warthogs, hippos, elephants, giraffes, antelopes, cob, zebras, cheetahs, hyenas, kudus, impalas, mongooses, wildebeests, chacma baboons, Nile crocodiles, reptiles, insects, fish)
  • Fever trees, mopane and baobab trees, nearly 2,000 different species of plants, and the remarkable marula species (the tree of life)
  • The landscapes of bush, grassland, savannah, forest, valleys and hills as far as the eye can see; the six different ecosystems of the park
  • The wildlife-rich Private Game Reserves of Sabi Sand, Klaserie Dam, Manyeleti, Idube, Timbavati, Kapama and Thornybush
  • The many rivers that flow through the park (Sabie, Olifants, Luvuvhu, Limpopo, N’wantetsi, Sweni, Crocodile, Letaba, Timbavati); the protected natural site of Lanner Gorge (a 150-metre deep gorge carved out by the Luvuvhu River in the north of the park); the Lebombo Mountains (a mountain range stretching over 800 km in South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique)
  • Viewing 450 species of birds (stork, ostrich, white stilt, Numidian guinea fowl, kori bustard, martial eagle, African fish eagle, oricu vulture, black-breasted kite, Savannah Boater, Southern Bucorva, Ground Hornbill, Pel’s Fishing Owl, White-fronted Bee-eater, Golden-breasted Jacana, Egyptian Goose, African Parrot, Great Egret, African Jabiru)
  • Red Rocks, Engelhard Dam and Crooks Corner game viewing areas
  • Nyalaland Wilderness Trail, Lonely Bull Trail and Overland Trail Lebombo (5 day drive); scenic drives in Mpumulanga; hot air ballooning; hiking, horse riding and mountain biking; rafting and gold panning; numerous picnic areas in the park
  • Archaeological sites of Thulamela and Masorini (remnants of ancient rock paintings); Animal rescue and protection shelters (Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, Moholoholo Animal Rehabilitation Centre, Vervet Monkey Foundation and Kinyonga Reptile Centre)
  • The Kruger National Park is in the heart of the K2C (Kruger to Canyon) Biosphere Reserve, which is the largest biosphere reserve in Africa and the third largest in the world (it encompasses the Blyde River Canyon and the Wolkberg Mountain Range). The area of the park is equivalent to the size of a country like Wales or Israel and is half the size of Switzerland.
  • Kruger is one of the parks hardest hit by poaching and illegal wildlife trade. In 2014, hundreds of rhinos had to be evacuated by the Kruger National Park authorities to protect them from poachers. The park’s management has recently turned to training dogs in rapid response canine units to spot rhino stalkers, detect their weapons and flush out illegally stolen horns. Since the programme was launched in February 2018, the trained dog pack has rescued a total of 45 rhinos.
  • The Limpopo savannahs are the only place in the world where the white lions live. These animals were almost extinct in the wild in the 1970s because of trophy hunters. Since 2002, white lions have been reintroduced to the natural environment thanks to the work of the Global White Lion Protection Trust. Lions are the kings and super predators of the savannah. Dreaded by other species, these outstanding hunters generally attack animals at least as big as themselves.
  • The marula, or the Tree of Life, is considered a sacred species in Africa. Drought resistant, it produces succulent fruits, particularly rich in minerals and vitamin C (they are 4 to 8 times more prolific than an orange). The fruit contains nutty seeds that are prized by rodents such as squirrels. Synonymous with abundance, a marula tree can produce between 500 kg and 1.5 tonnes of fruit per season (January to March). Its leaves and fruit are highly valued by animals in the South African savannah, including elephants, giraffes, warthogs, monkeys, antelopes and ostriches. Marula fruit is also used by humans to produce jam, juice, jelly and an alcoholic drink (Amarula, a fruit liquor). In addition to the fruit, the kernel, leaves and bark of the marula tree are used for cooking oil, cosmetics, bioethanol, rope, brown dye, malaria, heartburn, coffee substitute and insecticide.
  • Marulas are dioecious trees (male or female). Since ancient times, infusions of the bark have been used by pregnant women to determine the sex of their unborn child. If a woman wants a son, she uses the male tree, and for a daughter, the female tree. According to legend, if the child of the opposite sex is born, it is said to be able to defy the spirits.
  • Kruger National Park can be reached by road (5-6 hours from the capital Pretoria) or by air via Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (located east of the city of Nelspruit, in the southern section of the park) or Hoedspruit Airport to the west.
  • The park has a variety of accommodation options (campsites, lodges, huts, etc.) and a good road network for exploring the park by car. Some of the more upmarket accommodation have private airstrips.
  • If you wish to be accompanied by a guide (ranger), it is advisable to book their services in advance or to seek help from campsites such as Skukuza, Letaba and Berg-en-Dal.
  • If you intend to hire a car to visit the park, be careful and observe the speed limits (large animals can emerge from the vegetation).
  • The Pafuri area, located at the northern section of the Kruger National Park, near the border with Zimbabwe and Mozambique, is one of the best wildlife viewing areas during the dry season (June to September). The Luvuvhu River flows through this area, which represents only 1% of the park’s area but contains a large area of biodiversity, including the largest variety of birds. The banks of this river are home to a multitude of wildlife species that converge to drink.

Where to eat

  • The Bus Stop
    (original stop)
  • Cala la Pasta Italian Restaurant
    (Italian and family cuisine)
  • Pioneer's Butcher & Grill
    (high quality meat)

Where to go

  • Blyde River Canyon
    (red sandstone canyon)
  • Lowveld National Botanical Garden
    (superb botanical garden)
  • Skyway Trails
    (aerial adventure park)

Where to stay

  • Balule Satellite Camp
    (in harmony with nature)
  • Marc's Treehouse Lodge
    (atypical accommodation)
  • Kapama Karula
    (outstanding complex)