Established on 31 May 1926 under the National Parks Act, the Kruger National Park is South Africa’s second-oldest safari park, and one of the country’s most-visited tourist destinations.
The Kruger Park spans two of South Africa’s nine provinces, Limpopo and Mpumalanga, covering an area of 19 455km², and is 350km long from north to south and 60km wide from east to west.
This vast, world-renowned bushveld landscape, with its grassland plains and koppies, is home to 336 tree species; as well as 49 fish, 34 amphibian and 114 reptile species; plus 507 species of bird and 147 mammal species.
The national park also boasts ancient San rock paintings and fascinating archaeological sites such as Masorini and Thulamela.
Here are a few suggested activities to undertake when visiting the Kruger Park:
Safari game drives
A visit to the Kruger Park is not complete without going on a game drive for close encounters with the diverse types of wildlife found in this region. If you’re not a day visitor on a self-drive safari but are staying in the park, you have the luxury of choosing between morning, late-afternoon and evening game drives.
Enjoy the bounty of nature by waking up to watch the sunrise over unspoiled bushveld with scenic views on your morning drive, hopefully catching some game sightings at a waterhole. Try to spot Africa’s iconic Big Five – the elephant, lion, leopard, rhino and Cape buffalo – at dusk on your sunset drive, or opt for a night drive to witness the Kruger’s reticent nocturnal creatures on the prowl.
If you choose to go on a guided game drive instead of a self-drive, you’ll enjoy commentary from experienced tour guides while sitting in the comfort of an open-air safari vehicle. All game drives depart from the main rest camps and last between two and three-and-a-half hours.
Tourists are advised to keep an eye on weather conditions, and to dress and pack snacks and refreshments accordingly.
The Kruger Park offers daily guided walks in the mornings and afternoons to individuals or groups who are staying in the park. These guided walks take up to eight people at a time to explore the Kruger’s wilderness areas adjacent to the camps. Experienced guides accompany guests while imparting knowledge about the surrounding fauna and flora.
Participants have the opportunity to track some of the park’s big and small game species on foot, and to experience nature first hand using all five senses while learning fascinating facts about the African bush.
Take your camera and binoculars to capture incredible moments and see wild animals in their natural habitat. Visitors are advised to wear clothing in natural colours as well as comfortable shoes. No children under the age of 12 are allowed on these guided walks.
Birding is an increasingly popular hobby among tourists around the globe and these days, international travellers visiting the Kruger Park not only want to see the Big Five but are also seeking other experiences that enhance their African safari trip.
The Kruger Park is home to over 500 bird species, including the “Big Six” – the lappet-faced vulture, martial eagle, Kori bustard, saddle-billed stork, Pel's fishing owl and southern ground hornbill – some of which are not found elsewhere in South Africa.
The park has five bushveld camps and each offers excellent birding spots next to waterholes. Each camp also has a foliaged hide or viewing platform for birders to try and spot some of their favourite (and, perhaps, some unfamiliar) bird species.
Visitors can choose any of these rest camps for birdwatching: Lower Sabie for a chance to spot starlings, sunbirds, weavers, woodpeckers and hornbills; Mopani, which overlooks the Pioneer Dam, to see an array of water birds such as storks, egrets, kingfishers and African fish eagles; as well as Olifants, Orpen and Punda Maria.
Golfing at Kruger
The Kruger Park may be renowned for its wildlife, but that is not all that one can look forward to when planning a trip to this game reserve.
Golf lovers can enjoy a round at Skukuza Golf Course, located inside the park on the road to Paul Kruger Gate. Skukuza is a 72-par, nine-hole, 18-tee golf course surrounded by stunning bushveld, wonderful birdlife and views over the Lake Panic hide.
The course is not fenced, meaning a round of golf sometimes presents an opportunity for wildlife sightings. While the park staff do keep a vigilant eye on the surrounding area for any dangerous game, visitors have to sign an indemnity form before teeing off.
Sightings here include a duel between a lion and a buffalo, and a hard chase between wild dogs and an impala.
San rock art and archaeological ruins
The Kruger Park boasts over 300 archaeological sites that reflect the history of the area. Currently, three of these sites are open to the public for viewing, namely the Albasini Ruins, Thulamela and Masorini.
Albasini Ruins: These ruins are the remains of a 19th-century trading post that was established in the area by João Albasini, a Portuguese trader who traded in the region from 1845 to 1847. The site is located 10km from Hazyview at the Kruger’s Phabeni Gate. This post was conveniently positioned along two trading routes and offered opportunities to trade with both the local black people and the Boers.
Thulamela: This site, located in the Pafuri Triangle region of the Kruger, is approximately 500 years old. Visitors can access the site on a guided tour that departs from Punda Maria. The site is atop a hill, and is surrounded by a stone wall. Interesting archaeological relics to look forward to seeing here include iron gongs, clay pots, huts and graves, which give insights into how people lived back then.
Masorini: Located 12km from the Phalaborwa Gate on the way to Letaba Rest Camp, Masorini is an Iron Age site where the Ba-Phalaborwa people lived in the 1800s, trading smelted iron ore. Today, the site has been reconstructed with stone walls, grinding stones, potsherds and the remains of foundries. There is also a museum that offers tours and insights into the lives of the Ba-Phalaborwa people.
The Kruger National Park offers so much more than just the Big Five to locals and international travellers alike. For more information on what you can get up to in the game reserve, click here.