When it comes to travel destinations around the world, South Africa and the infamous Kruger Park is one of the ‘must do’ greats!
Many of us have dreamed of an African Safari adventure and the a Safari in the Kruger Park always seems to be top of the internet search results. And its no wonder!!! The Kruger National Park situated on the Eastern side of South Africa bordering Zimbabwe and Mozambique is one of those places that definitely lives up to every imagined picture you have created in your mind of an African safari adventure.
It really is the classic African bush landscape so well portrayed in movies like the Lion King, the abundance of wild animals and the great expanse of savannah and sky you have dreamed about.
Of all the bucket list tours on your list, a Safari in the Kruger Park is every bit as wild and wonderful as you imagine. Having grown up in South Africa and spent many a day in the Kruger, I thought it a great idea to illustrate exactly why this iconic national park will not disappoint but will blow your mind instead.
Let me start of by saying that the Kruger Park is huge!!!! And by huge, I mean massive. It by far dwarfs any other national park in South Africa. It is ranked the 7th biggest in Africa. Although nowhere near the biggest game reserve in the world, the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania weighing in at a whopping 55,000 square kilometres, the Kruger Park is still a humble contender weighing in at 20,000 square kilometres.
To give you an idea of the size, the distance from north to south is 360km while east to west is 65km. That is a whole whack of bushveld and is jammed packed with an abundance wildlife that South Africa is famous for.
The animals of the Kruger Park
If it is an abundance of wild animals you have come to see then a safari in the Kruger Park is the place to be. It is home to the most famous safari animals known as The Big 5. A lot of tourists get confused with this because of its name. people assume for example that a hippopotamus or giraffe is part of the Big 5 because of their size. But of course, that is not the case. The Big 5 make up the African Elephant, Rhino, Lion, Leopard and Buffalo.
The name came about in the early 1900’s when hunting was rife in South Africa. These 5 animals are considered the most dangerous to hunt. They are tenacious, bad tempered and will not back away even when wounded.
Although these wild animals are truly magnificent to see in the wild, there are also many other animals that will fascinate you to no end. These include zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, warthog, hippo and a whole bunch of antelope species. Some of the really unique animals we sometimes find include the cheetah, wild dogs and jackals.
Estimated animal population:
Leopard: 2,000. These guys are masters of camouflage and are super allusive. Estimating the population has proven to be quite a challenge by the park rangers.
Rhino: classified due to the ongoing problem of poaching in the Kruger
Chinese Tourists: 456
When it comes to finding accommodation in the Kruger that suites your style and pocket, there is tons of options to choose from. These range from the humble tented camping experience, 3-star type safari lodges and of course the granddaddy of 5-star luxury lodges.
The Kruger is fast becoming one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in South Africa so availability can sometimes be a challenge. It is always best to book at least 6-12 months in advance. You are going to find a whole whack of safari lodges on offer when you search the internet. In most cases it will be the big lodges that come up first on the page. Yip, they have the cash to advertise and make sure they come up first.
However, they are not necessarily the best option in terms of what you are really looking for. We like to do things a tad differently. Our safari tours to the Kruger are designed to be less commercialized. Which means we are going to take tourists to the lodges that are less known. This means less people and a more authentic and unique safari experience.
For us local South Africans, a safari to the Kruger is not just about seeing the wild animals and majestic landscape. It encompasses the overall experience. Imagine this if you can….a roaring camp fire, millions of stars in the night sky, the unique smell of the African bush and burning wood, the engulfing silence, great stories and memories of the safari and the roar of an African lion is the distance. What experience can top that? Besides my attempt at a romantic description best left to the Hemmingway’s of the world.
Awesome!!! You are going to absolutely love it there. You might be a tad overwhelmed with all the decisions to made from the best time to visit, what accommodation is best suited for you needs and which safari tour to join. Luckily it gets a lot simpler when you know what to expect.
We have been involved in Kruger Park Safaris since forever and walk the path with our clients. This includes online and verbal communication with our safari travel experts to help give advice and create the perfect tour for you. You can of course ‘wing it’ alone to the Kruger and still have an incredible time. It is best however to make use of a guide if you can.
The Kruger Park is one of the most diverse eco systems in the world. 7% of all the mammals in the world live there. And the facts get better…49 species of fish, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 birds and 147 mammals. But biodiversity is an all-encompassing kind of word, so one has to include the more than 200 different kinds of grasses, about 400 different kinds of trees and shrubs and well over 1,000 other sorts of plants. So yes, you can wing it alone but good luck with that. You will gain a lot more insight and knowledge if you join a guided safari tour with a reputable company.
Hopefully you are starting to get an idea of the incredible awesomeness of the Kruger so far. Here are some fun facts that just add extra flavour to the National parks status as the best safari park in South Africa.
- In the late 1800’s hunting was a major problem in South Africa. The president at the time named Paul Kruger declared the area a National park in order to protect and preserve the wild animals. Hence the name Kruger Park. It was primarily a ‘sanctuary’ for the wildlife at the time.
- In 1927 the park was officially opened to the public. The cost to enter was a whopping 1 Pound.
- As mentioned, the Kruger park is the 7th biggest reserve in the world. 55,00o square kilometres of sheer magnificence teeming with wild animals including the Big 5.
- The Kruger has 2 natural boundaries. These include the Crocodile river in the south and the Limpopo river in the North.
- Kruger National Park is part of the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere, an International Man and Biosphere Reserve as designated by UNESCO. The Kruger to Canyons Biosphere is the third largest biosphere reserve in the world.
- The Kruger park is not a private reserve. It is classified as a national park. The positive side of this means that a lot of tarred roads have been laid down. So, it is possible to go on a safari with any type of vehicle. No off road 4×4 are needed.
- The climate of the Kruger is sub-tropical. Nice and warm for ‘snow dodging’ northern hemisphere visitors. Nothing better than cooling off in the swimming pool after a safari tour with an ice-cold beer. Or maybe and endless supply of Gin and Tonics. To keep the mosquitoes away of course.
- There have been at least 517 different bird species identified at Kruger National Park. If you include the toasted chicken mayonnaise sandwich I had there last week, make that 516. Just like there is the Big 5 of animals (Rhino, leopard, lion, buffalo and elephant) there is also The Big 5 of birds. These include the ground hornbill, kori bustard, (with a ‘u’ and not an ‘a’) saddle-billed stork, Pel’s fishing owl, and the lappet-faced vulture.
- Talking of the Big 5. You guessed it. The Kruger Park is home to these guys. These include the African lion, African leopard, African elephant, Cape buffalo, and the black and white rhinos.
- But that’s not all folks!! There is an abundance of other iconic wild animal species to be seen on the safari. These include zebra, cheetah, giraffe, hippo, crocodile, African wild dog, eland, kudus, spotted hyena, impalas, waterbuck, and wildebeest.
- Anyone seen the movies snakes on a plane? Well that plane has nothing on the Kruger. It is the home to the most dangerous snake in the world, The black mamba.
- Rhino Poaching is unfortunately a massive problem in South Africa and especially the Kruger Park. As a result, an anti-poaching unit was established in 2015 to help combat the poaching. This unit consists of 650 park rangers. Drones and a dog unit have been added to the team’s equipment to help catch poachers in the park.
- There are 21 rest camps at various locations at Kruger National Park. There are also designated private lodges, and bush camps scattered around the perimeter of the park.
There you have it. If you are considering embarking on a safari in the Kruger Park soon, do it. You will not be disappointed I promise you.