Kruger National Park

Kruger monument in front of the Paul Kruger Gate.

The Kruger National Park (KNP) lies in the north-east of South Africa and runs along the border of Mozambique in the east, Zimbabwe in the north, and the southern border is the Crocodile River. The park covers 20,000 square kilometers and is divided in 14 different ecozones, each supporting different wildlife. It is one of the main attractions of South Africa and it is considered the flagship of South African National Parks (SANParks).

Understand

History

The park was established in 1898 by the South African President Paul Kruger as a protected area for wildlife and it opened its gate the general public in 1927 for the first time.

Currently, the park is run by the South African National Parks (SANP) and is probably the best managed African National Park. Wildlife conservation, education and tourism are the main objectives of the KNP. Effective measures to prevent poaching are in place and as a result of this cars are generally inspected upon entering and leaving the park.

The Kruger National Park has now been combined with the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique and the Gonarezhou National Park, Manjinji Pan Sanctuary and Malipati Safari Area in Zimbabwe into a new transfrontier park to be called The Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, although border restrictions at crossings still apply, and border posts are not open all day. .

Flora and fauna

The southern part of the park along the Sabie and Crocodile river is rich in water and has a lot of game viewing opportunities. Here you can see the best of African flora and fauna such as Lions, Leopards, Elephants, Rhinos, Buffalos often referred as the big five, but there are plenty of others to see as well. Driving around the Sabie river will always result in seeing some interesting animals. The vegetation around the Sabie river can be very dense forest and thicket and it gets a little bit more open driving down south to the Crocodile river. The northern part of the park supports less flora and fauna and is often referred as the birding paradise.

If you choose to self-drive, and aren't experienced in African animal tracking, you will still inevitably see elephants and buffalos, and many variety of antelope. Impalas are ubiquitous. Rhinos are less common, but big enough to be seen by the untrained eye. Leopards are seen are commonly seen by the experts, but are camouflaged and in trees, so present a challenge to the untrained. Everything else is down to your luck of the day.

If you have limited time, and want to do Kruger, go in the dry season, stay at a camp like Olifants, and confine yourself to the south of the park along the southern rivers.

Climate

South Africa is located south of the equator and has therefore a reverse order of summer and winter than Europe and North America. Generally is the KNP a dry and hot area, regardless of summer or winter. The South African summer (September -April) in the KNP is hot and sunny with occasional showers and temperature in the shadow range from 18°-30°C. and the winter (May–August) is warm and dry with temperatures ranging from 8°-22°C. September–April Hot and sunny with sporadic thunder showers. Average temp 18-30°C.

Get in

Map of the Kruger National Park
Malelane gate to the park

By car

From Nelspruit you will have to choose to which park gate you want to go. Nearest gates are: Malelane (south east), Numbi (south west) and Kruger Gate (south west, slightly north of the Numbi gate). The N4 is a toll road and you have to pay for its use. Depending on which gate you want to reach, add one or two hours from Nelspruit to find out how long your journey will be. Please be aware that the KNP gates are closed after sunset and visitors are not permitted to drive at night in the park.

The distance from Johannesburg to the 9 different gates of the KNP are approximately:

Driving in darkness is considered to be dangerous outside the park especially if you are not used to driving in Africa. Pedestrians walk along the roads as well as local taxi/minibus services and both of them are difficult to spot at night. The area of the Numbi gate had a number of incidents involving barriers on roads and South Africans blame the proximity to Mozambique for this.

By plane

Safari style shuttle service at Eastgate Airport

There are three airports with commercial scheduled flights near Kruger National Park. From south to north, they are Kruger Mpumalanga at Nelspruit, Hoedspruit Airport, and Phalaborwa Airport.

Fees/Permits

The KNP is not open all day and night. Entry gate and camp gate opening and closing times are as follows:

If you are later back in the camp or found driving around at night, you will be fined very high rates. So make sure to be out or back in the camp before closing time!

Fees apply to access the park. If you are not a resident of South Africa, you can choose to either pay daily conservation fees or buy an international visitors wildcard (valid for entry to all SANParks parks). The break even point is about 4-days conservation fees equal to a wildcard. You can purchase a wildcard or pay conservation fees when you are booking your accommodation, or you pay on admission (if you are not staying in the park) or at your camp. If you are visiting other parts of South Africa, you may want to consider the discounts available for Table Mountain and other parks before making your calculation.

When you enter the park you will be given an admission permit. It is very important to retain this, as you have to present it on the way out of the park to be permitted to exit.

Get around

By car

Animals have the right of way!

The infrastructure of the park is outstanding by African standards and roads inside the park are of very good quality and potholes on the main roads are rare. Smaller sidetracks are close to the originals landscape, but manageable with a normal car, although a 4x4 offers probably a better comfort on this type of terrain. KNP roads have speed limits range from 20 to 50 km/h and it is not wise to go much faster, because game tends to cross the roads out of nowhere.

Make sure you have an up-to-date map, enough to eat and drink, cameras and binoculars, reference books and a litter bag with you, a litter bag is normally given by Park Staff when you enter the park, but feel free to ask at camps and picnic spots.

Take care when approaching animals. They are wild and unpredictable. If you have the feeling that animals get angry, leave! Elephants and rhinos can be very dangerous to you and your car!

It is custom to share information about animal sightings with other park visitors. This happens casually and information is exchanged when two cars from the opposite direction meet and stop for a short chit-chat, there are also sightings boards at all the camps, showing where recent sightings have taken place.

Avis is the only car rental company with an office inside the park at Skukuza Camp, but other companies from Nelspruit and at the two above mentioned airports are happy to provide you with a car as well. You may want to consider an air-conditioned car in the hot climate of the KNP.

Petrol stations within the park do not accept payment by credit card.

The maximum speed limit is 50 km/h on tarred roads, 40 km/h on gravel roads and 20 km/h in rest camps, and is generally obeyed. However lower speeds afford greater safety and better sightings. It takes roughly 10 hours to cross the KNP in south - north direction. Distances between camps sites are on average 1-2 hours in the south and a little bit more than that in the north. Consider the distances between camps site when planning your trip and remember that you are not allowed to leave your car once you left a camp site. Toilets are present at all the camps and picnic areas, but not at the hides. A road can be blocked by buffalo or elephant crossing, adding 20 minutes unexpected journey time to your trip. Leave some slack in your travel time calculations and enjoy the scenery.

By foot

It is possible to go on guided walking tours, which you can arrange through the camp reception, or in advance with SANParks. However, the rangers in Kruger National Park have a policy of not surprising animals, which means you are going to be walking briskly through bushland with a couple of armed guides ahead of you, rather than stealthily moving through the bush to get a glimpse of an animal that hasn't seen you. The reality of this is that most animals will well have truly gone from the area before you get there, and the chances of wildlife spotting are dramatically reduced over what you might see by game vehicle or by car. Still, you might be lucky.

Unauthorised walking is not allowed and also extremely foolish.

See

Sabie river is the place with the most abundant wildlife in the Kruger National Park

Do

Wildlife experiences

Bush drive vehicles commonly used in the park

The basic way to see the wildlife is to tour the park by car during the daylight hours when the park is open. This is a very effective way of seeing wildlife, even for first timers. There are many other wildlife experiences on offer.

Other than wildlife

Buy

Bigger camp sites such as the Lower Sabie and Skukuza have comfortable shopping facilities and you can buy foodstuffs and souvenirs, as well as some other travel items you may have forgotten. The range is more limited at the smaller or more remote camps. It is easy for them to run out of particular items, so you have to make do with what is there. Fresh milk particularly can be in short supply.

Artistic wood carvings can be found there as well and is usually of reasonable quality and cheaper than in Cape Town. Carvings can be found in and around the gates to the Kruger National Park as well.

Animal skins and rugs are available as well.

Eat

Pafuri picnic area in the far northern part of the park

For self-catering, there are designated picnic areas in the camps, as well as some picnic areas away from the camps (with an armed attendant). The picnic areas have (braai) barbecue facilities and tables.

The camp shops sell food to barbecue and drinks at quite reasonable prices, as well as firewood. They only sell take-away alcohol to those who have proof they are staying in the park.

Many of the camps have cafeterias and restaurants, but don't plan on any variety between the camps. The menu is the same at each camp, with a range of only 10 or so dishes. Most visitors familiar with the park are self-catering in their lodges or at the picnic areas.

Lodges in the private areas of the park and outside the park will cater food, often arranged in well-sheltered outdoor restaurants with open fireplace, and barbecue South African specialties such as:

Drink

No alcohol may be brought into the park

Alcohol cannot be brought into the park. Take away alcohol cannot be bought from the park shops, unless you are staying in the park. The camp restaurants and bars sell beer, wine and spirits.

The bars in camp aren't crowded of an evening with people recalling tales of wildlife seen during the day. Generally people aren't visiting Kruger for the nightlife, and are more likely to spend the evening with a braai ready for an early start the following day.

Sleep

Camps Inside the KNP

Several camps inside the KNP provide accommodation and shelter to visitors and are the only places inside the park where you may leave your car safely. The level of service depends on the camp size and can range from a tent site with a picnic area and bathroom facilities to a small town with swimming pool, library, restaurant, cafeteria, filling station, supermarket and golf course. Most accept payment by credit card. Travel from one site to another takes on average 2 hours, whereas distances in the south are shorter and northern camps can be a little bit further apart.

The SANParks website allows bookings online for all parks, with instant confirmation and availability checks. You will need to register before you commence your booking, and the registration process can take around half an hour to be confirmed before you can commence booking. The SANParks site is not the first site returned by most search engines when searching for accommodation in Kruger, but it is the only site where you can book accommodation directly. All other sites will only take "provisional bookings", and are just agencies.

Getting a response from email sent to the reservations email address seems next to impossible. There are options to book activities (such as drives) online when booking accommodation, but your accommodation is booked the website does allow you to add or incorporate additional activities with your reservation. However, you can book them on arrival in camp (subject to availability) or in advance by phone.

Main Camps

Zebras near Lower Sabie
Accommodation at Skukuza
The old railway bridge near Skukuza

Main Camp Satellites

Bushveld Camps

Bush camps provide smaller accommodation varieties than the main camps. They do not have full shops or restaurants in them and only some (Talamati, Biyamiti and Bateleur) will allow you to use electrical equipment like hairdriers.

Bush Lodges

Luxury Lodges

Outside the KNP

Private Game Reserves and Lodges

Signboards to private camps

Mainly located in the north east of the Mpumalanga Province and often share a border with the south-western part of the KNP. In recent years, most fences between the KNP and private game parks have been dismantled and animals can freely choose were to go.

Stay safe

Animals are dangerous and unpredictable

Go next

The border crossing into Mozambique within the greater park isn't really practical for overseas visitors. Rental cars are not permitted across the border and there is no transport to or from the border post to speak of. There are no facilities, apart from customs and immigration, at the border post. The customs, immigration and (Mozambique) tourism officials at the crossing are busy doing a range of activities, none of which actually involve processing people across the border.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Friday, November 27, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.