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Adventure Activities in Kruger National Park

Kruger National Park

This national park’s website describes Kruger as the “real Africa”. While those who are associated with Africa’s other wildlife sanctuaries might disagree, there’s no doubt that Kruger – one of eight game sanctuaries in the country – embodies perfectly the South African wildlife experience. But here, it’s more than just about the wildlife; a visit to Kruger is a visit back to a time when man first roamed the bush.
As iconic a game reserve as any in this magnificent continent, Kruger National Park is also one of Africa’s largest. With a total area of nearly two million hectares, Kruger extends 360km (224m) from north to south, while from east to west it averages a distance of 65km (40m) – at its widest, it measures 90km (56m). These facts testify to the size of the national park, but also more than hint at the variety of wildlife that one can expect to encounter here. Overall, Kruger makes for a magical and unforgettable experience.


Kruger became South Africa’s first national park in 1926, though parts of the game reserve had been placed under protection since 1898 – when it was designated a “government wildlife park” – to limit hunting and safeguard the dwindling number of wildlife species. It is named after Paul Kruger, who was president of the old Transvaal Republic.
Originally known as Sabie Game Reserve, Kruger was created out of the Shingwedzi (1903: named after the River Shingwedzi) and Sabie game reserves. The history of tourism in Kruger dates from the merging of these two sanctuaries.
Kruger’s later expansion wasn’t entirely without controversy. In 1969, the then apartheid government forcibly took the lands of the Makuleke people, towards the north of the sanctuary; around 1500 of the Makuleke were resettled in the south of the park. In 1996, the tribe put forward a claim on 198sq km of its lands, a claim that it won. However, instead of relocating, the Makuleke chose to get involved with the private sector, chipping in to boost investment in tourism in post-apartheid South Africa. Subsequently, a number of game lodges were built towards the northern areas of the park.
Kruger is also a repository of history and prehistory. Rock paintings, by men of the bush, have been discovered here (there are known to be 130 rock-art sites within the park’s confines), and the area is home to two major archaeological finds, Masorini and Thulamela (just two of 254 cultural heritage sites here). Evidence, literally, that man has engaged with the environment of the veld from time immemorial.


Making up a large chunk of South Africa’s northeast, Kruger National Park lies in the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumulanga, which lie, respectively, to the west and south of the park. To Kruger’s north is Zimbabwe, and to its east is Mozambique.
Two rivers – the Crocodile and the Limpopo – make up the park’s natural boundaries, the Crocodile down south and the Limpopo up north. The Lebombo mountain range, to the east of the park, separates Kruger from Mozambique. Besides the two aforementioned rivers at opposite ends of the game reserve, Kruger also has the Sabie, Olifants, Letaba and the Luvuvhu rivers, all of them flowing from the west to the east.
The highest point of the sanctuary is 2756ft (840m) – a hill named Khandzalive.


The Kruger National Park lies in the Lowveld region of South Africa, where the climate is sub-tropical. Summers are usually very hot, with temperatures touching 40C, and humid. The rainy season extends from spring to autumn (September to May), with rainfall particularly heavy during summers. The best time to visit Kruger is during the southern hemisphere winter, from late May to mid-September, when temperatures are comparably cooler (nights can be cold). During these months, there is less chance of contracting malaria – and the drier conditions lead to a decrease in green cover, which means big game can be seen near watering holes every morning and evening. For birding, however, the ideal time to be in Kruger is during the rainy season, when you’ll find masses of migratory birds making the most of the verdant surrounds.

Flora and Fauna

As in all the other celebrated African wildlife destinations, you can experience wildlife in all its diversity here. Kruger not only boasts the “Big Five” (the lion, African leopard, African elephant, black rhinoceros [endangered] and the African buffalo) but also the “Little Five” – the buffalo weaver (of the passerine order of small, perching birds), elephant shrew, leopard tortoise, ant lion (a sort of bug) and the rhino beetle. Besides the legendary (and not-so-legendary) quintets, you will also likely come across the Burchell’s zebra, cheetah, giraffe, hippopotamus, warthog, spotted hyena, the blue wildebeest, and many species of antelope.
At 147 species, this national park has the maximum number of large animals than anywhere else on the continent. When it comes to elephants, Kruger is overpopulated – it is home to in excess of 12,000 of these giants (though it is capable of accommodating only 8000)! In addition, there are 5000 rhinos (black and white), 2500 buffalo, 1500 lions and 1000 leopards. The African wild dog, an endangered species, can be spotted in packs.
There are more than 100 species of reptiles in Kruger, including the black mamba – the second longest venomous snake on the planet (after the king cobra), and the longest in Africa – and crocodiles aplenty (over 3000 of them). Additionally, Kruger has 33 species of amphibians and 50 species of fish (including the Zambezi shark).
Kruger is also home to a sizeable population of birds. More than 500 species have been documented, of which approximately half are resident, and around 150 migrant. A grouping called the “Big Six” includes the lappet-faced vulture, saddle-billed stork, martial eagle, ground hornbill, kori bustard and the ascetic, and rarely seen, Pel’s fishing owl – these six species require a large area to survive (and are also particularly sensitive to degradation of their immediate environment).
Botanically, the park is very diverse. Among the more common plant and tree species you’ll see here are baobab, the marula and the mopane, knob thorn and the fever tree. Altogether, the Kruger is home to 336 species of trees.

How to reach

The nearest town is Phalaborwa, in Limpopo province, the only settlement bordering Kruger National Park. There’s a daily service from Johannesburg to Phalaborwa airport, Hoedspruit airport and the new Kruger/Mpumalanga international airport. The Kruger/Mpumalanga airport is also connected daily from Cape Town and Durban, and Hoedspruit is connected to Cape Town. From Kruger/Mpumalanga airport, there is a bus shuttle service, while cars can be hired from all three airports.
Kruger is 543km (337m) from Johannesburg; by road, the national park can be more conveniently reached from Nelspruit, a distance of 200km (124m). Nelspruit is well served by bus and minibus-taxi to and from Johannesburg.

Getting Around

The ideal way to explore the game reserve is by jeep/four-wheel drive (vehicles can be hired), though the more adventurous (and fit) can join a walking safari.

Where to go

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