What is the difference between the Kruger National Park and the Greater Kruger Park?
Kruger National Park vs Greater Kruger Park
By far one of the most frequently asked questions by both local and international wildlife and nature enthusiasts is – What is the difference between the Kruger National Park and the Greater Kruger Park?
Despite the fact that the Kruger National Park (KNP) and Greater Kruger National Park (GKNP) are used interchangeably on a regular basis, with many assuming that there is absolutely no distinction between the two parks and that they are essentially one and the same, there are in fact several obvious and distinct differences between the Kruger National Park and Greater Kruger Park.
Located in the north-eastern corner of South Africa, the Kruger National Park and the Greater Kruger are considered two of the country’s greatest wilderness areas and most popular and sought-after wildlife and safari destinations.
Combined, the Greater Kruger and Kruger National Park boasts one of the finest and most diverse biospheres in Africa. The vast protected wilderness region is the core of the Kruger2Canyons (K2C) and Vhembe UNESCO Man and Biospheres, and the heart of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (GLTP Treaty, 2002).
What are the main differences between the Kruger National Park and the Greater Kruger?
The Greater Kruger consists of a group of private game reserves that collectively form a protected conservation area that lies in and around the Kruger Park.
The Greater Kruger Park is made up of over 20 private reserves to the west of the Kruger National Park, with the most well-known private reserves being the Timbavati, Kapama, Sabi Sands and Thornybush game reserve, adding180 000 hectares to the park. In total, the whole area covers an estimated 20 000 000 hectares of protected, unfenced, and unspoiled wild reserve with free and unrestricted movement of wildlife across the spectacular landscapes.
The Kruger National Park is regarded as South Africa’s flagship national park. Deemed the third largest national park worldwide and one of the largest natural reserves in Africa, the pristine wilderness within the Kruger Park consists of 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.
#Unrestricted vs Restricted Access
Kruger National Park
The game/wildlife fences that were put in place to separate the private game reserves of the Greater Kruger from the Kruger National Park were removed in 1993. This facilitated the vast diversity of wildlife within the respected private game reserves and national parks to freely move and migrate between the two wilderness areas – Resulting in exceptional wildlife sightings and encounters.
HOWEVER, while wildlife are free to roam the extensive and remarkable Kruger National Park and the unmatched Greater Kruger without any restrictions, travelers and wildlife enthusiasts are not granted the same privilege.
The movement of visitors between the two wilderness areas are restricted due to the fact that the Greater Kruger and Kruger National Park operate as two independent ecotourism destinations.
What does this mean?
As the Greater Kruger Park shares an unfenced and unrestricted border with the Kruger National Park and over 20 private reserves, those staying at a private reserve in the Greater Kruger can freely visit and explore everything the renowned Kruger National Park has to offer (for a nominal entrance fee).
Greater Kruger safari operators and guides have unrestricted access to the public roads of the Kruger Park. That said, to access the Kruger National Park from the Greater Kruger, your guide will have to drive you to one of the Kruger Park’s entrance gates i.e., there is no short-cut road through the private reserves to the Kruger National Park. But, on the bright side, its all part of the Kruger safari adventure!
Unfortunately, the reverse does not apply to the Kruger National Park. Access to any and all private reserves of the Greater Kruger is restricted to paying guests only.
**Simply put: All visitors can gain access to the Kruger National Park, including day visitors. The private reserves of the Greater Kruger are restricted to paying guests only, and the general public are not allowed to traverse the unfenced properties.
#Inclusive vs Exclusive
Kruger National Park
The Kruger National Park is affectionately known as the “People’s Park” and welcomes everyone to explore its vast and varied landscapes, witness its abundant and diverse wildlife and birdlife, and experience all the wilderness wonder it has to offer – Making it an incredibly inclusive national park.
Deemed one of the most famous wildlife destinations and greatest national parks in the world, it attracts almost a million visitors and eager nature and wildlife enthusiasts each year.
The Kruger National Park makes it their mission to ensure everyone who visits the park is not only sufficiently accommodated but has the very best African safari and wildlife experience.
One of the best things about the Kruger National Park is that it offers something for everyone – Catering to every budget, travel style, safari requirement, and accommodation need. From rest camps, traditional bungalows, and budget-friendly self-catering accommodation to family guest houses and safari lodges on private concession areas within the park, the Kruger National Park has you covered. In general, accommodation in the Kruger National Parks is more affordable, and targeted mainly towards self-catering travelers.
The Greater Kruger is far more exclusive. The private reserves and the Greater Kruger Park as a whole allow for limited entries and are quite strict about how many people can enter the reserve at a time.
Ensuring that the area / reserve remains uncrowded, allowing for both a profound and undisturbed safari experience, is one of the primary reasons for the Greater Kruger’s high degree of exclusivity. In fact, a maximum of two vehicles are allowed at a sighting at any one time.
The array of luxury safari lodges and camps within the Greater Kruger offer an intimate safari experience specifically tailored to each guest and discerning traveler. Many (if not all) of these lavish lodges and camps are five-star award-winning lodges, boasting superb interiors, incredible facilities, and the utmost in luxury and exclusivity in beautifully secluded bushveld surrounds.
**Bonus fact: The array of private game reserves, camps and safari lodges within the Greater Kruger area are so exclusive that they are not governed by national park rules. This means that unlike Kruger National Park, in private game reserves guides can drive off-road, do night drives, bush walks, and bush breakfasts/dinners etc.
#Self-drive Safaris vs Guided Open Vehicle 4×4 Safaris
Guided open vehicle 4×4 safaris & game drives
Kruger National Park
Self-drive safaris | Can book private SANParks game drives
The majority of visitors to the Kruger National Park drive their own vehicles (self-drive safaris), exploring the extensive and diverse landscapes of the Kruger on their own accord. One of the beauties of embarking on a self-drive safari is the fact that you are in total control. You can venture into and discover as many of the Kruger Park’s landscapes and wilderness regions as you want. If you so wish, you can even choose to sit at a waterhole all day waiting to see what wildlife species come down to have a drink – Its completely up to you!
Besides self-driving through the park, those visiting the Kruger National Park can also choose to book private SANParks (South African National Parks) game drives in open 4×4 safari vehicles.
The private game reserves of the Greater Kruger do not allow self-drive safaris. Guests are taken on private guided safaris and game drives in open-sided 4WD vehicles with a professional and highly experienced guide and vastly knowledgeable tracker.
#Off-road Driving vs Public Roads
Off-road Driving Permitted
Kruger National Park
Public Roads Only
In the Kruger National Park visitors are restricted to game-viewing on public roads. You are under no circumstances permitted to drive off-road, especially with the intention of getting a closer view of any game for a better sighting. As the Kruger National Park is open to everyone, there is no limit to the number of vehicles at a particular site or wildlife or birdlife sighting, making it quite crowded at times.
This is in complete contrast to the Greater Kruger Park! In the Greater Kruger area, guides are free to drive and venture off-road, giving guests and game enthusiasts the thrilling opportunity to experience magnificent up-close wildlife sightings with limited onlookers and vehicles around. Guides will get you as close to the animals as possible without compromising your safety or the animal’s wellbeing. The Greater Kruger’s off-road safari endeavors, truly allows you to soak in every second of this unbelievable experience – There truly is nothing quite like it!
Due to the private game reserves, camps and safari lodges within the Greater Kruger Park area being privately-owned, they are not governed by national park rules. This means that unlike the Kruger National Park’s stringent guidelines and regulations, the Greater Kruger private game reserve guides are fully permitted to embark on exhilarating off-road wildlife and safari adventures, exposing guests to a whole new and largely untouched and unspoiled region of the Kruger – This is an absolute dream come true and bucket-list worthy experience for all die-hard nature and wildlife fanatics!
An added bonus is that due to the Greater Kruger’s exclusivity, it offers guests a more private safari and wildlife experience away from the large crowds.
#Day-time Safaris vs Night-time Safaris
Day-time safaris | Night-time safaris | Walking safaris
Kruger National Park
As the Kruger National Park has strict and set opening and closing times for both the Kruger Park main gates and rest camp gates, visitors are not permitted to be in the park before or after these times. Strict fines are imposed on those who do not abide by the opening and closing times or don’t make it back to the Kruger Park main gate or rest camps in time.
The latest the Kruger Park gates close is 18:30pm (during the months of January, February, November, and December). This means day drives are the primary way to explore and experience everything the Kruger National Park has to offer.
Here is an overview of the opening and closing times of the Kruger National Park:
|Entrance Gates Open
|Camp Gates Open
|All Gates Close
The private reserves of the Greater Kruger Park do not have set opening and closing times, and don’t impose any strict time guidelines on game drives. This means guests are frequently taken out for late-afternoon game drives and safari adventures, often returning from their exciting safari excursions well after dark. This means that in addition to incredible day-time game drives and safaris, those visiting the Greater Kruger get to experience the thrill of an action-packed night drive safari, witnessing several of the Kruger’s remarkable nocturnal wildlife species.
In addition to day safaris and night safaris, the Greater Kruger offers a variety of amazing wildlife and safari experiences and adventures for guests to enjoy. One of these bucket-list worthy adventures is an exhilarating walking safari / guided bush walk that gives guests and nature and wildlife lovers the opportunity to not only immerse themselves in an authentic safari experience, but explore and experience all the wildlife and wilderness wonders of the Kruger on foot.
#State-owned vs Privately-owned
Kruger National Park
The Kruger National Park is a state-owned national park. It is the largest and oldest of 21 national parks in South Africa that is controlled and managed by South African National Parks (SANParks). The only private entities that exist in the Kruger National Park are the luxury safari lodges in the private concessions.
The Greater Kruger is privately-owned, made up of a group of private game reserves. The Greater Kruger Park along with its private game reserves fall under an associate body – The Associated Private Nature Reserves (APNR).
The Greater Kruger is regarded as more of a collective ‘umbrella brand’ for the various members of the APNR and private game reserves that form part of the unfenced protected wilderness area that lies adjacent to the Kruger National Park.
The latter was established to coordinate the interests of its members and to act as a single interest group interacting with government bodies that oversee conservation initiatives and ecotourism in the region.
Highlights of the Greater Kruger
- The Greater Kruger is highly exclusive with only a limited number of people and vehicles allowed in the area. This ensures a far less crowded wildlife and safari experience
- The private reserves of the Greater Kruger offer a much more authentic, intimate and exclusive safari experience, not to dissimilar to lodges and camps in Botswana and Tanzania.
- As the Greater Kruger shares an unfenced and unrestricted border with the Kruger National Park, game are free to move and migrate between the two parks. This gives visitors and wildlife enthusiasts the opportunity to experience exceptional sightings of the Kruger’s vast diversity of wildlife and birdlife. In addition, those staying at a private reserve in the Greater Kruger are able to freely visit and explore everything the renowned Kruger National Park has to offer. The excitement doesn’t end there! Due to the Greater Kruger sharing an unfenced border with the Kruger National Park, Greater Kruger safari operators and guides have unrestricted access to all the public roads of the Kruger Park and are free to drive and venture off-road, giving guests the thrilling opportunity to experience magnificent up-close sightings with limited onlookers and vehicles around.
- As the Greater Kruger is right next door to the Kruger National Park day trips into the park are easy and incredibly accessible, giving guests the best of both worlds.
- The Greater Kruger Park offers thrilling walking safaris and night safaris along with day safaris, all led by highly qualified and knowledgeable guides and trackers, to give guests the opportunity to enjoy the true authentic African safari experience.
- Accommodation in the Greater Kruger Park is far more exclusive, intimate, and lavish than the accommodation found in the Kruger National Park. The Greater Kruger is known for its five-star, luxury, award-winning safari lodges and camps.
- Compared to other game reserves and national parks, wildlife and safari guides in the Greater Kruger are known to be a step above the rest due to their remarkable experience, vast knowledge, and excellent tracking skills. They make sure that you do not miss even the smallest of animals and will educate you on the various sights, sounds and smells of the African bush.
Highlights of the Kruger National Park
- Regarded as South Africa’s flagship national park, the Kruger National Park is an iconic safari destination. Not only is it the third largest national park worldwide, it is the oldest and largest national park in South Africa and one of the country’s most sought-after wildlife and tourism destinations. The Kruger Park consists of nearly 2.2 million hectares that stretches for 352 kilometres across the provinces of Mpumalanga and Limpopo in the north of South Africa. It is said that the Kruger National Park boasts an area equivalent to that of Israel in size. As it is one of the largest national parks in Africa, visitors can expect more varied landscapes, with the Kruger Park comprising of five different vegetation zones, each attracting a distinct wildlife and birdlife population according to its vegetation and climate, as well as 16 diverse ecosystems within its borders. The Kruger National Park is also home to one of the most abundant and greatest variety of birdlife and wildlife on the continent. As one of the greatest national parks and wildlife destinations in both Africa and the world, it only seems fitting that the Kruger National Park is deemed one of the top, if not THE TOP, national parks to witness the renowned African Big 5, lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo in all its natural glory – Considered the ultimate treasures of the South African bushveld.
- Unlike the Greater Kruger, the Kruger National Park gives visitors and wildlife lovers the option to go on self-drive safaris, allowing them to explore the extensive and diverse landscapes of the Kruger on their own accord. As most roads in the Kruger Park are tar roads, a 4×4 vehicle is not necessary to navigate the terrain. One of the beauties of embarking on a self-drive safari is the fact that you are in total control. You can venture into and discover as many of the Kruger Park’s landscapes and wilderness regions as you want. If you so wish, you can even choose to sit at a waterhole all day waiting to see what wildlife species come down to have a drink – Its completely up to you!
- Affectionately known as the “People’s Park”, the Kruger National Park is incredibly inclusive and welcomes everyone to explore its vast and varied landscapes and magnificent wildlife.
- One of the best things about the Kruger National Park is that it offers something for everyone – Catering to every budget, travel style, safari requirement, and accommodation need. From rest camps, traditional bungalows, and budget-friendly self-catering accommodation to family guest houses and safari lodges on private concession areas within the park, the Kruger National Park has you covered. In general, accommodation in the Kruger National Parks is more affordable, and targeted mainly towards self-catering travelers.
- The Kruger National Park is an avid birder’s paradise. More than 500 bird species have been recorded in the Kruger National Park, representing roughly 60% of the total for South Africa. Some of these spectacular bird species are not found anywhere else in South Africa, undoubtedly making the Kruger Park the ultimate bird watching destination for passionate global and local birders.
- The Kruger National Park is easily accessible, as you can travel via road or fly in to Skukuza by schedule flight from Johannesburg or Cape Town. Charter flights also access the reserve for groups and high-end travellers.