Kruger National Park
Safari suitability: 10/10Write a review
Big five, excellent lodging options and the ability to self-drive. Come one, come all!
What YAS members think
- April through July are the best times of year to visit
- Home to the big five game
- Many safari options, including self-drive.
- Over 500 species of birds await bird lovers from across the globe
About Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park is one of the largest, most famous and most-visited parks in all of Africa. Located in the northeastern corner of South Africa, it forms the border between South Africa and Mozambique. It is 19,485 km² (7523 mi²) in size, making it the seventh largest national park in Africa, and was established in 1926. Kruger offers superb wildlife viewing opportunities and it is possible to see the big five here. The big five are: buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion and rhino. The big five are only the icing on the safari cake, though, as Kruger is home to a stunning array of flora and fauna and boasts over 500 species of birds and nearly 2000 species of plants.
Kruger is also one of the most developed national parks in terms of tourism infrastructure, and it offers the full gamut of lodging options, from very basic accommodation up to luxury levels that rival the top seven star hotels of the world.
When is the best time of year to visit Kruger National Park?
Like many game parks in Africa, Kruger generally has two seasons: a wet and a dry season.
The wet season occurs during the southern hemisphere summer, roughly between the months of October and March. During the summer months, the daytime temperatures tend to be higher and the humidity levels rise. It is not uncommon for a daily thundershower. The Kruger landscape at this time of year is green and lush, and towards the end of November and into early December is the calving season for many of the herbivores. Due to the surplus of water and the dense foliage at this time of year, animal viewing may be more difficult than in the dry season. The animals have ample selection for their water and may be even less active during the day due to the warmer and stickier conditions. That said, some people prefer to travel at this time of year to see the lush foliage and newborn animals that the winter months bring.
The dry season occurs during the winter months of the southern hemisphere – roughly April through mid October. During this time of year the daytime temperatures are slightly lower than those of the summer months and the humidity levels are lower. The precipitation levels drop substantially from those of the summer months and many of the waterholes dry up during this time of year. The lack of accessible water makes for better game viewing as the animals must gather round what remains. The game viewing is also easier to see without the dense foliage of the summer months. The winter months are very popular with visitors from the northern hemisphere as they coincide with school holidays. The months of July and August see a large number of visitors to Kruger.
Kruger is highly recommended for any level of safari visitor. It offers a wide range of safari options, from standard driving and walking safaris to safari options not often seen in the more northern countries such as elephant back safaris, open-sided safari vehicles and self-drive safaris.
I have been coming to the Kruger National Park since I was a little girl. Our family holidays took place in the camps on the banks of the mighty Olifants River. I remember early mornings with coffee and rusks to get ready for game drives. Sunsets without television or telephones (this was before mobile phones and the Internet!), just whiskey for the mom, beer for the dad and some cool drinks for the kids. Kruger has grown up with me. It is no longer known as an enclave of the former apartheid regime. It is now a model of transformation with a number of sustainable community initiatives, land sharing and local management agreements. Conservation efforts are acclaimed around the world. It remains the countrys flagship game reserve and one of the best on the continent and in the world. From inexpensive chalets to luxurious camping and stunning tree-top wining and dining it can all be had in Kruger. There are even the remains of a lost city in the far north of the park. If you tire of hunting the Big Five hardly likely, I know but still, take a drive to Thulamela near Punda Maria, where you will find the stone walls of this ancient city dating back to 16th century. Archaeologists have found the remains of two people they have named Queen Losha and King Ingwe. It is believed that once up to 2,000 people lived here. Not a lot of people know about Thulamela, which in a way is nice, as the area remains quiet and unspoilt, free of the tourist hordes of the southern parts of the park. But there is so much magic here. And if you close your eyes and listen carefully to the wind in the grass, you may hear the sound of the lost people of Thulamela, making deals, driving bargains and trading their goods where now there is only bush, the sound of crickets and occasionally, the growl of a lion.
Even though Kruger National Park Orpen Gate is only about a third of the way up the park, its a convenient entry point for the central region and close to a number of rest camps. In fact, Orpen Gate is right on the doorstep of the very pleasant and peaceful Orpen Rest Camp. Its a lovely place to stay at and very convenient if youre arriving at the park later in the day. As youre heading towards Kruger Park, you might have already seen some wildlife. This is because there are some private game reserves which adjoin the western side of Kruger National Park here and you drive along their boundaries. When you arrive at Orpen Gate, youll need to pay the Kruger Park entry fees. Youll know when you get to the gate. Each of the Kruger National Park gates have different designs and Orpen has some thatched huts surrounded by a forest of wooden poles. The Gate is 467km (290 miles) from Johannesburg. It takes 6 hours to travel this distance by car.
Kruger National Park is one of the most famous game parks and offers a variety of accommodation and wildlife and is a Big 5 game reserve. I have visited this park many times. The game viewing never fails to disappoint. I also suggest entering down south by the Malelane gate and taking a drive to the middle of the park to the main camp called Skukuza. There is a spa here where you can have a meal at the main restaurant which has a lovely deck where you can sit and enjoy sundowners and see lots of animals at the river. In September we saw a Cheetah from the deck and lots of giraffe and elephant.
I was so amazed by seeing the lions on the road blocking our vehicles way...they were majestic..I was travelling alone with a guide and the vehicle had to stop for an hour because lions wouldn't move.
My first safari was this past October at the Skukuza Rest Camp operated by Outlook Safaris. My daughter and I simply loved it beginning with the transfer from/to Johannesburg from our hotel to our accommodation and actual daily tours led by truly professional and knowledgeable guides.
I visit this park often and really enjoy nature at its best with the park and camps that blend in with nature. The park management look after this park quite well and you can read about it in various media magazines, Facebook pages and other media. Although the old traditional restaurants have fallen away, they have been finally replaced with Mug & Bean, Cattle Barron and others. Not bad food at all. The camps do manage the accommodation well and my guests do not have many complaints. I will be visiting this park again later in the year with my senior citizen groups and I am really looking forward to this.
South Africa's Kruger National Park is arguably the most affordable and most accessible major African game park. Because of this and because of the consistently good all-year game viewing, it is also one of the most popular game reserves in Africa. There are basically three ways to "do" Kruger: 1) You can go on your own and self-drive. 2) You can go with a tour operator on a guided safari. 3) You can stay at a private safari lodge. Option 1 (self-drive) is the cheapest option and preferred by many locals, who come every year on their annual family holiday. For this reason, school holidays are busy and the main camps and roads (especially in the south of the park) can get quite crowded. To avoid the crowds, head for the lesser known dirt roads or go to the north of the park. I've personally visited Kruger like this many times. Option 2 (a guided open vehicle safari) is also an affordable option and preferred by many first time visitors, because of the benefit of having an experienced guide who can help you not only to spot the animals, but interpret their behaviour and explain many interesting things about the bush. Also, being able to enjoy game drives from an open safari vehicle (rather than a small, closed, regular car) definitely enhances the game viewing experience and offers better visibility. The quality of this option depends on your choice of tour operator and the quality and experience of the guide who leads your safari. This is my favourite way of visiting Kruger. Option 3 (a private safari lodge) is the most expensive option but these lodges normally include all meals and game drives, and the accommodation is more luxurious than the typical Sanparks bungalows found in Kruger's public camps. Here you also have the benefit of a qualified safari guide and open safari vehicles for game drives, but each lodge will have their own concession area and a limited traversing area for game drives. There are many different safari lodges in different price brackets, many situated in concession areas within Kruger, and many situated in the private game reserves adjacent to Kruger. I've been to both types of lodges and they are both great. For first time visitors, a good choice is to combine option 2 with option 3 - explore Kruger in the company of an expert guide, and then spend 2 or 3 nights at a private safari lodge as well. For those on a very tight budget, option 1 is perhaps the best option. For me the best thing about Kruger is that it is much less seasonal than other major game parks in Africa. It is possible to have excellent game viewing all year round, even during the rainy season from December to March.
Kruger National Park in Mpumalanga, South Africa is an amazing place... That is if you know the secrets: 1: Time 2: Place 3: A bit of luck 4: Rainfall 5: Were to go 1: Timing Your timing to see some of Africa's top wildlife animals is best early morning when the gates open and about an hour before the gates closes. WHY? It's not that hot and being animals in the wild the only thing they are concerned about is survival, this means conserving energy during the hot parts of the day and making the best of the weather and day or night light they can. 2: Place do some research when you are going to the Kruger and look on the internet at the latest sightings people have seen, this will give you a 50% change of going to the right part of Kruger. Let's put it like this if you want to go and see the big five in one day - all the luck to you. It's very possible, but with help from a tour guide, radio's, facebook and many more factors. But if you want to have a holiday in nature just to be in a place were nature continues around you with or without you then Kruger is the Place for you. Try 2 to 5 days remember you came all this way from your home country and spend some time to make it worth it. 3: A bit of luck normally comes to those who wait don't just drive pass a waterhole. STOP, LOOK, INSPECT... Look in the shade of the bushes as a lioness or cheetah can be waiting for prey to come and drink and remember when you arrive you make noise with your vehicle all living things can hear you from a mile away so let them calm down and show themselves. Have a look in the trees on the branches if you can spot a leopard in the shade and listen to the birds if they make a lot of noise or suddenly fly up then something has disturbed the, might be a leopard or caracal if you lucky. 4: Look the park is beautiful in the rainy season, its lush, green and full of baby impalas but that about what you will see if you don't know were to go and make use of a guide. In the winter months just before summer rainfalls comes down again your changes is the best to view herds of animals at waterholes and rivers during the hot part of the day. 5: Please get a map and talk to other visitors in the camps and stop people on the road and ask them what they have seen and were did they come from so that you at least have a change of seeing something that they have seen. Remember not all visitors are interested in the same thing but lions are very high on the list so the bush telegraph as we call it will suite you well if you use it both ways. That's my story for now enjoy your game drives and good luck! Bernhard W Bekker Safari tour guide in Kruger Park
We stayed at Mopani Camp on our first ever safari vacation. Bar/restaurant had excellent balcony overlooking a lake full of hippos, crocs and birds. Shop, cafeteria. Camp was full of savannah scrub and a big baobab, a micro-safari in itself. Chalet was spacious and well-appointed. Only complaint (also encountered elsewhere in SA) was lack of European norms of service when ordering/waiting for food. Went on a game walk, two night drives and a few self-guided drives, so saw plenty of birds and game, but failed to see some biggies such as rhinos, lions or leopards. Landscape is plains with some kopjes, not dramatic. At end of three days, I felt that less time spent box-ticking and more time spent watching the wildlife would have been more rewarding.
Piles of fresh dung and bulldozed trees had got me excited, and within moments of entering Kruger, a large herd of elephants slowly crossed in front of us. Buffalo were seemingly everywhere, strange-looking creatures that I grew to like over my three day safari. In the Kruger it felt like we were always on a game drive, in particular there seemed to be no end to the rhino sightings. Kruger National Park is in Mpumalanga province, in the north east of the country. Nelspruit is the main base to arrange a tour and I can recommend the awesome Old Vic Traveller's Inn, owned by two Kruger old timers. Kruger is one of the oldest and largest game reserves in Africa, covering almost 20,000 square kilometres, and according to my guide has more species of large mammals than anywhere in the world. Eland, kuku, wildebeest, wild dog, giraffe, waterbuck, hyena, waterbuck and hippopotamus are just some of the animals I saw. Although, I have to admit that it takes a keen pair of eyes and much experience to see shapes in the trees. One morning a different pack of animals crossed in front of us. Except they never made it across the road. Three lions decided to stop and sleep in the road. As we got closer two more lions led down in the shade of our vehicle. Ill admit to briefly panicking. Other predators live in the Kruger, like cheetahs and leopards. Although we werent lucky enough to see them our guide reckoned one in two safaris will see these predators. At some points there was a lot of traffic, but on a multiday safari we got a long way from the popular areas and were often alone in the wilderness. Except for the animals. They were everywhere, and they make this one of Africas best safaris.
Kruger National Park is, without a doubt, one of those places that all safari-lovers should visit at least once in their lives. It's huge. It's untamed. And it's up to you to find the fun. Kruger offers great value for money. You can very reasonable accommodation, but still have access to some of the most amazing game in the world. The trade-off is less luxurious accommodation, and no personalized service. If you've never tried a self-drive safari, it may take some getting used to. I will be honest, I did miss having a knowledgeable game ranger on board who could tell you interesting facts about the game, birds and plants. So make sure you bring your own books so you can read up about the animals as you watch them. Of course, traveling without a guide can also have its advantages. You decide where to go and how long to watch an animal for. One of my bugbears about Kruger is the other vehicles! In smaller parks, there are strict rules about how many people can park at a sighting, but in Kruger it can be a bun-fight. On our most recent visit to Kruger, we stayed at Skukuza rest camp in some of the cheaper, self-catering accommodation. While not luxurious, it was clean and comfortable, and we enjoyed barbequing every evening, sitting around the fire with friends under the vast, African sky.
Driving to Kruger National Park
Driving from the Johannesburg International Airport to Kruger takes roughly four hours in normal conditions.
Driving from Gabarone, Botswana, takes just under eight hours, not including time spent at border crossings.
If you're considering driving from Maputo, Mozambique to South Africa, the drive is around two hours, not counting border crossings.
Flying to Kruger National Park
There are several flights daily from Johannesburg to Kruger. The flight is about an hour in duration.
The following airlines travel to Kruger National Park
Air shuttle and charter services throughout Africa, former name - Pelican Air Services. Federal Airlines (Pty) Ltd. Trading as Federal Air, is the preferred aviation partner for the top safari destinations in Southern Africa, and the market leader in Aviation Shuttle and Charter Services. Taking guests to the most beautiful and remote parts of Africa is our specialty and a market segment which Federal Air innovated in the late 1990s. We partner with world leaders in luxury safari experiences, and are committed to raising the bar in aviation to play our part in delivering a unique and seamless travel experience unparalleled anywhere in the world. Visit website
Also flies to:
Majestic Air provides a highly efficient service to travelers who wish to avoid the tedium of travel on South Africa's congested roads and in railways. Majestic Air is owned by David Maree who, as a businessman and commercial pilot, has used aircraft for business travel within South Africa and neighbouring countries. He has personal experience of the practical and cost-effective benefits of the use of aircraft as an alternative to travel by car and train. Majestic Air is operated by Multimedia Entertainment Group Air (PTY) Ltd) trading as MEGA Air as Air Charter & schedule Company in South Africa. The Company was established in the year 2004. Their aircrafts are capable of operating to smaller or rural airports where scheduled services are not able to. Visit website
Also flies to:
Airlink is a privately-owned, BBBEE Level 4 business and regional airline serving a comprehensive network of smaller destinations throughout Southern Africa. We are now operating independently under our own unique 4Z flight code offering more freedom, more choices and more travel opportunities. Visit website
Also flies to: