The Kruger National Park is South Africa's flagship. By far the most popular activity the province offers is game viewing in one of a number of game reserves that preserve the natural habitat of the indigenous wildlife and you are practically guaranteed wonderful memories of South Africa’s Big 5 and much more. Although Mpumalanga has no beaches or oceans where else in the world can you view game from an agile kayak, boisterous booze cruise or canoeing down the Olifants River in search of game.
Endless bushveld and wide skies frame distant mountains and prolific wildlife throughout Limpopo’s expanses and natural hot-springs for is the ideal antidote for frenzied lifestyles. Excursions into the wild with expert rangers are recommended and they provide informal tuition and advice along the routes. The latest Big 5-related adventure in Limpopo is hot-air balloon flying over prime lowveld wildlife spots by the Kruger National Park. Perhaps the most elusive and exotic draw, is the world’s highest concentration of the shy, cunning and solitary leopard, found near dense thickets on mountain slopes along streams and rivers. Deadly and powerful, the leopard quickly climbs trees to hide large prey from rival and scavengers and its only predator is man.
The world-famous Kruger National Park is South Africa’s largest game reserve and one of the finest wildlife sanctuaries on the planet. It has nearly two million hectares (almost five million acres) of unfenced African wilderness, in which more mammal species roam free than in any other game reserve. A leader in environmental management, Kruger offers visitors fantastic Big Five sightings, as well as viewing of endangered game such as the African wild dog and bird watching of over 507 bird species.
The Kruger National Park which attracts over one million visitors a year is one of the Worlds greatest natural sanctuaries and is home to an impressive number of species including 147 mammals, 507 birds, 114 reptiles, 34 amphibians, 49 fish and 336 trees. The Greater Kruger National Park, comprising of Kruger National Park, its private concessions and bordering private reserves, literally teem with game.
Timbavati, Manyeleti and Sabi Sand Reserves are three of the world’s largest private game sanctuaries and home to a number of luxury lodges. Recently awarded private concessions within the national park now enable visitors to choose from luxury lodges both inside the park and in the private reserves, or enjoy a stay at both.
The highveld rolls on to a vast escarpment, where wooded cliffs plunge down to the bushveld wilderness of the vast Kruger National Park, the highlight of any visit to South Africa and gives you the rare and privileged opportunity to view wild African animal in their natural habit. It is most famous for the Big Five that thrives there, along with cheetahs, giraffes, hippos and many other species. It is the biggest and most famous wildlife park in the world and in October 2001 history was made with the opening of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park. This is a new international park which brings together Kruger National Park, the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique and Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe and covers an area of approximately 35 000 square kilometers - What an awesome experience.
Best times to visit
Winter - dry season:
This is usually between May and August, although rainfall starts declining in April and is still fairly low in September and October. This is possibly the best time to visit for game-viewing as permanent waterholes attract animals, the vegetation becomes thinned out and trees don't have so many leaves to obstruct the view. The climate is comfortable in the dry winter months with warm days and chilly nights. The average maximum temperatures is around 24 degrees in winter and the average minimum is about 8 or 9 degrees, although it can drop as far as 5 degrees. Take a warm jacket for early morning and evening game drives!
Summer - wet season:
From November to March, the Kruger Park area receives most of its rainfall, usually in dramatic afternoon thundershowers. The weather is hot and balmy. Average maximum temperatures are about 30 degrees Celcius, with an average minimum of 20 degrees.
With the arrival of the rain, the grass and foliage becomes lush and green and while this makes for beautiful scenery, it can also make game viewing difficult. Animals also tend to travel away from waterholes because there are now other sources of water. Despite the tougher game-viewing the summer months are when most people choose to go the Kruger. If you are a keen birder, the wet season is the best time for travel to the Kruger National Park, as this is when the visiting migrants arrive and when all the local birds are at their most active. It's also the best time to go and see baby animals, as most animals calve at the beginning of the rainy season to take advantage of the new shoots.
The Kruger National Park area in the Mpumalanga Province of South Africa is networked with good-quality roads and road maps are readily available. Navigating around the Kruger Mpumalanga region is easy.
The Kruger National Park itself is also an excellent self-drive destination and the southern gates are only a few hours drive from Johannesburg on excellent roads. Tourist roads in the park are either paved or good gravel roads. The speed limit is 50 km/h on tarred roads and 40 km/h on gravel roads but we recommend driving at 30km/h to maximize your safety and game-sightings.
It is possible to fly to one of the airports closer to Mpumalanga's Kruger National Park and hire a car there. Car hire is available at Johannesburg International, Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport, Hoedspruit and Phalaborwa airports, as well as within the park at Skukuza Camp. Since Kruger Park entrance gates and rest camp gates are closed at night, allow sufficient traveling time to ensure you arrive in time. A self-drive Kruger Park safari gives you the opportunity to explore the scenic Panorama Route in South Africa's Mpumalanga Province. This is an area of outstanding natural beauty within the vicinity of the Kruger Park, with attractions like the Blyde River Canyon, Bourke's Potholes, Pilgrim's Rest and God's Window.
Flight Schedules and Airports
If you are traveling to one of the private Kruger game reserves, or you are staying at a private Kruger lodge with its own safari vehicles, it is much more practical and convenient to fly in and not to hire a car at all. Most of the private Kruger lodges will arrange transfers to and from the closest airports. There are daily flights from Johannesburg to, Hoedspruit, Phalaborwa and Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (KMIA). KMIA also has daily flights from Durban and Cape Town. There is also a flight between Cape Town and Hoedspruit. There are regular and frequent flights to the Kruger National Park area from Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg.
There are three main airports serving South Africa's Kruger National Park.
The first airport is in Nelspruit (Kruger Mpumalanga International); this major Kruger airport offers flight services between the southern Kruger Area, various South African destinations and some international cities and towns. The second Kruger airport, Eastgate Airport is slightly further to the north, close to Hoedspruit. The Kruger Park Gateway Airport is much further north at Phalaborwa, offers flight services to the central and northern parts of the Park.
Charter Kruger flights are also available to many of the upmarket Kruger safari lodges. These usually leave from Johannesburg. Many of the lodges in the private game reserves are also serviced by light air charters, which land on airstrips within the reserves, just a few minutes drive away from the lodges themselves. This is also the only way to reach the camps in the far north of the Kruger National Park, like the Outpost and Pafuri.
Private Game Reserves
Private reserves flank the western section of the Kruger National Park, none of them falling within the Park's boundaries. Although guests of the private reserves will not cross into the actual park, animals move freely between the private reserves and the Kruger as about 100km of fences have been removed to allow game the freedom of movement between these man-made borders.
Your chances of seeing all of the Big Five are virtually guaranteed in the private reserves. Although conservation standards are very high in the private reserves, there are fewer restrictions than in the park and game vehicles are allowed to leave the roads at the rangers' discretion. The animals here also tend to be more habituated to people, allowing closer and more frequent sightings of otherwise elusive animals.
The most famous of the Kruger Private Reserves is undoubtedly the Sabi Sands. This massive private reserve flanks the park's south-western boundary. The Sabi Sands is home to some of Africa’s most exclusive reserves and lodges. This prestigious list includes the likes of African safari giants like Singita, Londolozi and Mala Mala.
Guests staying in one of the private reserves around the Kruger Park will enjoy excellent guided game drives conducted by teams of rangers and trackers. Observe excitedly as your tracker locates leopard spoor and your ranger steers your vehicle through the bush and within a few metres of a leopard. Follow a lion pride as they stalk prey, or simply sit in awe as elephants amble past your vehicle. Accommodation on the private reserves is focused solely on luxury. For many, the expense is worth it, as they enjoy superb wildlife experiences, exquisite food and pampering that often surpasses that of even the most prestigious five-star hotels.
Within the Kruger National Park (which is run by the South African government), there are a number of private concessions. Private concessions are areas within the Park that have been leased out to companies or individuals looking to establish a safari operation. Operators set up lodges on these concessions, which are similar to the private game reserves like Sabi Sands and Manyeleti Game Reserve, on the western boundary of Kruger. For the most part, these private concessions are run in an exclusive and luxurious manner. They offer excellent cuisine and superbly guided game drive experiences.
Although bound by most of the park rules, the private concessions do offer their guests more freedom and activities than you will have through the Kruger Park rest camps. Guests staying at lodges within the private concessions do have access to the rest of the park, but the wealth of wildlife to be found within the concessions sees most visitors opting to enjoy the more intimate experiences they find here.
Although private concessions offer a very similar experience to the private reserves, the concessions will suit visitors who want to visit and explore the heart of the Kruger National Park and not necessarily one of its neighbouring private reserves. The concessions are not accessible to the public, but only to guests of the private lodges.