5 Reasons to Visit Kruger National Park
Featured destinations: Kruger National Park
Published 05 June 2017
South Africans have been enjoying visits to Kruger National Park, or ‘the Kruger’ as it’s popularly known, since its designation as the country’s first national park back in 1926. In recent years its popularity has continued to grow and it’s now a firm fixture on many itineraries for foreign visitors too. So what is it that draws 1.5 million visitors a year to one of South Africa’s most popular tourist destinations? Here we’ve tried to put our finger on just a few things that make the Kruger such a fantastic safari option:
1. World class game viewing
The Kruger is home to a diverse array of wildlife. Not only can the Big Five (elephant, rhino, lion, leopard and buffalo) all be spotted here but this park has more species of large mammals within its borders than any other reserve in Africa. Relatively speaking this is also a very good place to see African wild dog, highly endangered in South Africa, with only about 400 thought to remain wild in the country. Not to be outdone by their mammal counterparts the ‘Big Six’ of southern African bird species can also all be seen here: the lappet-faced vulture, the martial eagle, saddle-billed storks, kori bustards, the ground hornbill and Pel’s fishing owl. Although much of the park is covered in shrub mopane (which can be quite thick in the wetter months) there is a good variety to the Kruger’s landscape too with rivers, dams and hillier areas with stunning views all waiting to be explored.
2. Close proximity to Johannesburg
The Kruger has always had a special place in my heart thanks in large part to the fact that growing up in Jo’burg as a child it was only ever a five-hour drive from home. This drive in itself was always an adventure and for anyone visiting the Kruger for the first time it’s a really picturesque road trip which I’d highly recommend. The roads are long and windy in parts but they are tarred all the way and certainly nothing unmanageable for anyone undertaking a self-drive trip. That said, I wouldn’t rule out organising a transfer and have somebody else take on the driving while you sit back and watch the world go by. For those with less time to spare the flight from Jo’burg to the town of Nelspruit is just over an hour and from here it’s a short drive to the park and its concession areas. Nelspruit offers car hire facilities or your guide can pick you up and drive you to your safari lodge.
3. The variety of accommodation
Whether you’re on your first or your 101st safari, the Kruger offers something to everyone, especially when it comes to accommodation. For those on a budget, the rest camps inside the park are an excellent option. These are clean and very well maintained with accommodation including everything from camp sites and dormitories through to safari tents and guesthouses. Skukuza is the most developed of these and here visitors will find restaurants, a shop, an ATM, a museum and a petrol station. There’s even a golf course for those who are looking for some exercise – just keep an eye out for wildlife both big and small that also call the course their home.
At the higher end of the accommodation range are the private concessions which exist just outside of Kruger National Park (although you’d never realise these are not part of the park as they are adjacent to it and there are no fences separating them from the rest of the Kruger; the wildlife is free to come and go as it chooses). Within a number of reserves including the lovely Sabi Sands, the accommodation tends to be a cut above that which is found inside the park. So too is the quality of the guiding which, when coupled with the fact that the vehicles here have permission to drive off-road, makes game viewing that much more exciting. These levels of luxury and the enhanced game viewing potential all come at a premium, but if your budget can stretch to it then iconic lodges such as Sabi Sabi, Londolozi, Sanalala and Tintswalo are well worth looking into.
4. Drive, walk and ride
Of course the mainstay of any safari in the Kruger will be game drives, whether they are in your own hire car or with a guide in an open-topped safari vehicle. These are by far and away the best way to explore the park in detail and to give yourself the best chance of seeing big game. However, for those looking for something a little more varied, the Kruger offers a variety of activities which should keep all members of your travelling party entertained. Olifants Camp offers bike hire and there are a number of trails here which are open for exploration. Guided walks are also possible; these are a fantastic way to get out and see the bush from a totally new angle. As they say, if a game drive is like watching the movie then a game walk is like reading the novel. Hot-air balloon trips are a romantic way to view the park in the early morning and for those more interested in looking up at the skies rather than floating through them, the opportunity to spend some time with a specialist ornithological guide on a birding safari should not be missed. If you’ve had enough of being out and about entirely or if you’re looking for a little more pampering and relaxation then there are a number of world-class spas operating at the more upmarket private lodges.
5. Tarred roads and two-wheel drive
One of the great things about the Kruger is that the park offers almost anyone who can drive the opportunity to get out and into the bush. Better yet, unlike some of southern Africa’s more remote safari areas the Kruger is almost entirely accessible using a two-wheel drive saloon car. So, even if you’re travelling on a budget then the Kruger still has a place for you. Days can be spent driving from camp to camp, slowly checking for game as you go before parking up at your safari lodge in the evening. Most lodges offer guided game drives at night and in the early morning (when visitors are not allowed on the roads), which can be purchased on a ‘pay-as-you-go’ basis. Do bear in mind that anyone travelling in the summer months (October – April) will have to contend with longer grass, making viewing from a low saloon car much more of a challenge. However, the Kruger is still one of the best options for a high quality safari in all of Africa.
Set off on safari in the Kruger with one of Round the World Experts' Kruger National Park holidays.