It’s time to explore the renowned Kruger National Park like you never have before. Boasting nearly 2.2 million hectares of unspoiled African bushveld that stretches for 352 kilometres across the provinces of Mpumalanga and Limpopo in the north of South Africa, the Kruger National Park is not only the third largest National Park in the world, but the flagship of South Africa’s national parks. Lying in the heart of the Lowveld, the Kruger Park offers an unparalleled African safari and wildlife experience that’s unlike anything you’ve experienced before
It’s no surprise that wildlife and nature lovers travel from all around the world to witness the unspoilt natural beauty and untamed wilderness of the Kruger National Park first-hand. If going on an authentic African safari in the Kruger National Park is not on your bucket-list, you better add it right away – trust us, you won’t be disappointed in the slightest!
Here are some of the top reasons why you should go on a Kruger Park safari.
EXCELLENT WILDLIFE & BIG 5 SIGHTINGS
The Kruger National Park’s incredible diversity of wildlife is one of the top reasons why it is regarded as the crown jewel of South Africa’s national parks. Through careful wildlife management and dedicated conservation initiatives, the Kruger National Park has established itself as one of the top destinations in Africa to see wildlife in their natural habitat. Not to mention one of the best reserves to see the renowned African Big 5. Dubbed the treasures of the African bushveld, the iconic Big 5 include the lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo. These remarkable animals often take centre stage, with locals and tourists travelling from all corners of the globe to witness them first-hand.
Besides the African Big 5, the Kruger National Park is home to more than 148 (the most of any African country) of southern Africa’s 350 mammal species, 18 of which are listed in the Red Data Book, approximately 507 bird species, 18 reptile species, 35 species of amphibians, and 50 indigenous freshwater fish species.
The Kruger is also known for its spectacular sightings of endangered or ‘rarely seen’ animals such as the African wild dogs, cheetah, sable, and roan antelope. That’s not all – The Kruger is where you will find the beloved members that make up the Little 5. Africa’s Little 5 include the leopard tortoise, rhino beetle, elephant shrew, ant lion, and the red-billed buffalo weaver. The Kruger National Park’s incredible and diverse wildlife is without a doubt one of the top reasons to go on a Kruger Park safari.
SIX DIFFERENT ECOSYSTEMS IN ONE PARK
The Kruger National Park boasts 2.2 million hectares of unspoilt African wilderness and spans a total of almost 20 000 square kilometres. Such a large space means that no part of the Kruger Park is the same. Stretching across Mpumalanga and Limpopo and bordering Mozambique and Zimbabwe, the park gives rise to a diverse ecology as well as six different ecosystems. Besides the fact that the Kruger National Park is home to the renowned African Big 5, as well as an incredible diversity of wildlife and birdlife, the changing landscape of the Kruger means that there are more than 2 000 plant species present in the park, and six major rivers flowing through it, supporting a rich and diverse habitat.
Whether you’re going on a self-drive safari adventure, a thrilling open-vehicle game drive, or a fly-in safari, the Kruger National Park is highly accessible. Travelling to the Kruger Park is both easy and convenient as wildlife lovers now have more options than ever before to access the park. If you choose to fly, there are several scheduled flights to the Kruger Park from Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban. There are also three airports close to the Kruger: Skukuza, Phalaborwa, Hoedspruit airports and the Mpumalanga International Airport. Skukuza Airport offers daily direct flights from Cape Town however, most flights to the Kruger Park are from Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport. For high-end travellers and groups, charter flights can also access the Kruger National Park.
For those travelling by car, the Kruger National Park has nine entrance gates. These entrance gates are accessible centrally, as well as from the north and south. The park’s southern gates can be reached in about five hours from Johannesburg. Once inside the park, the Kruger boasts an excellent network of sealed and well-maintained gravel roads.
EXCELLENT BIRD WATCHING
Boasting more than 517 bird species, some of which are not found anywhere else in South Africa, the Kruger National Park is the ultimate bird watching destination. If you’re a birding enthusiast, be sure to keep an eye out for the Kruger’s Big 6 when visiting the park. The Big 6 include the Saddle-billed Stork, Kori Bustard, Martial Eagle, Lappet-faced Vulture, Pel’s Fishing-Owl and Ground Hornbill. Birding is excellent during the Kruger National Park’s wet summer season (October – March) as it marks the time when the summer migrant birds arrive.
GREAT FOR DAY VISITORS
The Kruger National Park is the perfect destination for a day filled with magnificent wildlife and birdlife sightings and encounters as well as tons of fun safari adventures for the whole family. The park opens its gates early, giving visitors the opportunity to spend the whole day exploring one of Africa’s most pristine national parks. If you’re planning to enjoy a self-drive wildlife adventure through the Kruger Park, make sure you take your time and plan your route accordingly – that way you get a real taste of what the Kruger National Park has to offer!
VARIETY OF ACCOMMODATION
The reserves in and around the Kruger National Park offer a wide variety of accommodation options to choose from, catering to all budgets and levels of adventure. The Kruger Park boasts 12 main rest camps, five smaller satellite camps as well as several incredible bush lodges and bush camps. From campsites, self-catering accommodation, and standard rondavels to exquisite five-star luxury safari lodges and the most renowned private concession lodges in the world, there is something for everyone. Exceptional luxury can be found in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve, Thornybush and Madikwe Game Reserve. However, there are plenty more to suit your budget and expectations.
BUCKET-LIST HOLIDAY DESTINATION
Considered by many to be one of the greatest national parks in the world, the Kruger National Park should be on every wildlife lover and nature enthusiast’s travel bucket-list. Not only is it the best and largest national park in Africa, it’s also one of Africa’s most sought-after wildlife destinations. With so much to offer, the Kruger Park truly is the ultimate bucket-list holiday destination.
The fact that it is the largest national park in Africa means that there is so much to explore and discover. While visiting many of Africa’s smaller game reserves is a matter of staying in one lodge and spending just a day or two exploring the surroundings, this is not the case with the Kruger Park. As the Kruger National Park consists of nearly 2.2 million hectares of unspoiled wilderness, stretching 400km/248mi up the Mozambique border to the bottom of Zimbabwe, it offers visitors a unique holiday and travel experience. This, combined with its easy access, incredible biodiversity, and varied environments, means you could easily spend a week or more exploring different parts of the park, creating your very own, self-contained holiday and travel experience along the way.
The fact that each region of the Kruger Park boasts a different ecosystem and terrain, attracting varying predators, prey, wildlife and birdlife, means your bucket-list journey through the Kruger National Park will be jam-packed with tons of adventure, untamed beauty, and exceptional sightings and encounters all the way through.
Being one of Africa’s most sought-after national parks and wildlife destinations means the Kruger National Park attracts quite the crowd. However, given the Kruger Park’s size and diversity of terrains, there are plenty of ways to escape the large crowds, and tick some thrilling safari experiences and adventures off your bucket-list.
Embark on a guided night drive and explore the Kruger’s open roads without all the cars and crowds (as the Kruger Park’s gates officially close at sunset for visitors unless you are on a guided safari drive). As an extra bonus, you may even spot a prowling big cat as well as the Kruger’s many nocturnal wildlife.
Another great way to escape the crowds, wander slightly off the beaten path and immerse yourself in the African wilderness is by enjoying a guided walking safari or bush walk. A guided walking safari involves venturing into the Kruger’s bushveld while accompanied by a highly experienced and knowledgeable ranger. This thrilling safari adventure gives you the opportunity to experience nature in real time, come face to face with the wonders of the African bush, learn all about spoor (which includes animal tracks, scents, trails and droppings), as well as the incredible wildlife and birdlife of the Kruger Park. Not to mention enjoy some amazing wildlife sightings and encounters along the way. To really feel one with nature and push yourself to the ultimate adventure limit, book a wilderness or backpacking trail where you’ll spend a few days walking through the bush and nights by the campfire.
Besides these three thrilling safari adventures, the Kruger National Park has a variety of exciting experiences that can be enjoyed by all its visitors.
The Kruger National Park is a great family-friendly destination. Most lodges and camps in the park make provisions for children of all ages, meaning a great safari experience for the whole family. A trip to the Kruger Park is both educational and fun, making it a wonderful choice for families.
Each season brings its own special perks and unique sightings, which means you can visit the Kruger National Park all year round. Boasting a glorious sub-tropical climate, you can enjoy sunshine for most of the year. As far as wildlife is concerned, the dry winter months are known to be the best time for game viewing, but, at the same time, the wet summer months have new-borns, full waterholes, and migrant birds to offer.
YOUR CHOICE OF EXPERIENCE
As the Kruger National Park boasts a variety of different reserves, terrains, and concessions, it has the added advantage of giving guests a lot of choice about where to go for the experience they would like. Each section of the park is unique and provides visitors with a vastly different experience. Each section of the Kruger Park also has its own selection of lodges and camps that offer superb accommodation options, services, and safari activities and experiences ranging from walking safaris to 4×4 game drives.
The African Wild Dogs are oftentimes misunderstood. There are only about 5 000 left in the wild, putting them on the critically endangered list. They are very effective predators, with an 80% hunting success rate, in comparison with the 30% success rate of lions.
Here are a few interesting facts about the illusive animals.
#1 Peculiar Physique
The scientific name, Lycaon pictus, means “the painted wolf”. It refers to their multi-coloured fur, painted with yellow, brown, black and white spots. The dappled fur serves as a unique fingerprint for each dog, no two patterns are alike. The African Wild Dogs boast with a potent bite, their specialised molars evolved to give them the ability to effortlessly break bones and shear meat off a carcass.
They have a set of killer senses with excellent sight, smell and hearing. The dog’s large rounded ears can be swivelled around like radars because of the numerous muscles. Their long legs and a lean shape turns the dogs into formidable hunters. They also boast with rapid muscle recovery.
#2 Dynamic Social Hierarchy
The African Wild Dogs are truly a social pack. They operate with a very altruistic system. As with all pack animals, the dogs operate under a strict hierarchy. The alpha breeding pair rule over the other subordinate pack members. Once new pups arrive on the scene, they are prioritized, even above the alphas. When they are old enough to fend for themselves, they join the hunting party, with first choice of the spoils. This ranking system ensures that they rarely fight about food.
If a member of the pack falls ill, is injured or elderly, and is unable to be effective as a hunter – the rest of the pack takes care of it. An example of this remarkable altruistic system was seen in Botswana. An alpha female lost a foreleg during a hunt. In any other animal pack system, it would have been a death sentence. But she remained top of the pack for a few years after the incident, still breeding and raising pups. Her pack took care of her.
#3 Nomadic Animals
The African Wild Dogs can travel up to 50km in a day. This means they have huge territories that can range between 400 to 1 500 square kilometres. The only time they remain in one area, is during denning.
#4 African Wild Dogs Have Good Coordination
Their high hunting success rate is mainly attributed to their well-coordinated nature, as well as working together as a pack. Communication is very important and during a hunt they constantly update each other about their location as well as that of the prey. The excellent teamwork of the African Wild Dogs and their high intelligence give them the ability to adapt to scenario changes during their hunt.
#5 Agile Hunters
Most African predators rely on their stealth to hunt. But the African Wild Dogs have other tricks up their sleeves. They are streamlined for high stamina chases. The hunt usually starts with the pack forming a line, to better move and cover ground. When the prey has been targeted, the dogs will start to approach and test the defences, pinpointing a weak target.
When the target is secured, they will start to threaten the herd and force it to separate. Next, the chase begins, focusing on the targeted animal. The pack will enclose the animal, blocking any escape routes. They start operating like an Olympic cycling team. If the dog at the head of the chase starts tiring, it will pull back, and another dog will take its place. The prey eventually becomes too exhausted to continue, a few kilometres into the hunt. But the African Wild Dogs have excellent stamina and teamwork on their side, and the take down happens effortlessly.
Another tactic they use, is to force a herd towards a source of water, such as a river or lake. In Africa large bodies of water means lurking crocodiles, and most African wildlife are afraid of venturing into deep water. Sometimes the prey is brave and takes the chance of diving into the water. But mostly they panic and turn back towards the pursuers. Other times the African Wild Dogs use a tactic borrowed from lions, with one hunter flushing out the prey and driving it words the others awaiting ambush.
#6 Few Natural Enemies
In the African wild, only lions are the African Wild Dogs’ main threat. A high population of lions means a low population of the dogs. Not many other predators are a threat to them. The hyenas will try to steal their kill, but won’t deliberately hunt the adult pack members.
Humans, on the other hand, are a very real threat to the African Wild Dogs. Although there are no concrete evidence to support the belief, they are seen as pests. Only in desperate times would they attack livestock. And till this day, there are no noted incidents in Africa of wild dog attacks on humans. But because farmers see them as vermin, they shoot the dogs when they see them near their livestock. And sometimes they will even track them down and poison the whole pack.
Other threats they have to deal with include diseases like rabies, which they usually contract from domestic animals. Because they are such social animals, one rabid wild dog will infect the whole pack, wiping it out entirely.
#7 The African Wild Dog Is Crepuscular
This means they are mostly active at twilight, the period before dawn and again after dusk. This is the best time for the African Wild Dogs to pursue their prey because it’s the time they are most active. And the darkness gives them the upper hand to hunt effectively, perfectly camouflaged because of their dappled fur. This has a two-fold advantage, hiding them from both their prey and predators.
#8 Strong Focus on Relationship Values
The alpha pair remains monogamous and are usually the only ones to breed within the pack. Sometimes a beta pair will also produce a litter, but then they are either adopted or killed by the alpha pair. A litter can range between 4 to 12 pups.
They have an unusual tradition of the sexually maturing males staying within the pack territory. And the mature females will travel far and wide in search of a potential mate. This is a great countermeasure against inbreeding.
#9 Strange Genetics
Although the ancient ancestor of the African Wild Dogs is the wolf, they are no longer genetically compatible with any other canid. So unlike domesticated dogs that can be subjected to selective breeding, this is not possible with their wild counter parts.
They used to populate the whole African continent but are now limited to South and East African countries. Their population density is most in the Selous Game Reserve and Okavango Delta. The East African wild dogs are a little smaller than the South African dogs. There are five subspecies, namely the East African wild dog, the West African wild dog, the Chadian wild dog, the Somali wild dog, and the Cape wild dog.
#10 Can’t Be Domesticated
For centuries people have tried to tame the African Wild Dogs, but without luck. They remain naturally distrusting of people, or in fact of any animals outside the pack. Domesticated dogs have certain characteristics in common, including a willingness to be touched by a person. Combined with curiosity and pure luck, humans were able to domesticate dogs. But African Wild Dogs remain weary of humans, and will most likely remain undomesticated.