The Kruger National Park is a must for new visitors and seasoned safari travellers.
As the most famous wildlife reserve in South Africa, the Kruger National Park is a must-do highlight on a safari holiday. For first-time visitors, the Kruger is one of the best places to view the Big 5 (lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo and elephant). For seasoned safari travellers, the reserve’s diverse geographical regions and adjoining private concessions mean that no two Kruger Park experiences are ever the same.
Established in 1898, the Kruger Park is a beacon of wildlife conservation in Africa. The then president of the Transvaal Republic, Paul Kruger, proposed the need to protect the animals of the Lowveld in 1884, but his vision only took effect 12 years later when the area between the Sabie and Crocodile Rivers was set aside for restricted hunting.
Today, thanks to the unwavering conservation management of the park, approximately 147 mammal species occur in the reserve, including an estimated 1,500 lion, 17,000 elephant, 48,000 buffalo and 1,000 leopards which call the Kruger home. Then there are the other fascinating animals and birds of the African bush: hippo, warthog, zebra, giraffe, hyena, wild dog, cheetah, and more.
As the oldest and most well-established park in South Africa, as well as boasting the highest population-density of the Big 5 in the country, the Kruger National Park truly is the gem in South Africa’s wildlife crown.
The central region is the most game-rich area of the Kruger National Park, while the popular southern region is famous for its large rhino and lion populations. The northern region attracts lesser-known animals, such as tsessebe antelope, nyala, roan and sable. The far north is also the only place in South Africa to spot the Natal red hare, yellow-spotted rock hyrax and rainbow killifish.
Beyond the main park, the Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve shares a fence-free border with the Kruger and is well known for its excellent wildlife sightings and luxury safari accommodation, including famous lodges such as Singita, Mala Mala and Londolozi. These 5-star safari lodges provide discerning travellers with a more intimate and exclusive African safari experience. Here, guided game drives in open safari vehicles give visitors the upper hand when it comes to wildlife viewing. Not only do your guides know where to find the action, they also take you within whisper distance of the animals, giving you that classic safari experience and fantastic photo opportunities!
Top Experiences in the Kruger Park
The Kruger Park is synonymous with classic game drives in open 4X4 vehicles. Besides the Big 5, add these animals to your wildlife viewing checklist: wild dog, ground hornbill and fish eagle; for birders, there are 520 recorded species in the park. Bring your binoculars!
A safari sleep-out is a must. Some private game reserves feature “star beds” or treehouses in which you can spend the night beneath the stars. This is an incredibly romantic safari experience, and undoubtedly one for the bucket list.
It doesn’t get any better than a Kruger spa treatment in the lap of luxury, surrounded by the sights, sounds and smells of nature. Spas are typically available at 5-star Kruger Park lodges.
When to Travel to Kruger
Summer (November – February) and winter (May – October) offer different safari experiences: the dry winter season is considered the best for game-viewing as the bush is thinned out and animals tend to congregate around waterholes.
In the summer “the Green Season,” the rains arrive. Baby animals are born, and the birds are out! This is usually a high-value time to visit the Kruger, however, the warm and humid climate does not suit everyone.