There's a reason why Kruger National Park consistently ranks among the very best of Africa's long lineage of treasures. This is South Africa's most acclaimed safari destination and where you'll find the country's most famous private safari lodges and some of the best wildlife viewing in the world.
If ever you wanted to spot a leopard in its natural habitat, stumble upon a pride of lion slumbering beneath anthills or come face to face with the earthly majesty of an elephant, you need to experience this true African legacy for yourself.
This diamond in Africa's trunk of natural treasures is set in the most accessible yet unspoilt wilderness on the continent, spread across 6 million acres in the far northeastern corner of South Africa. But Kruger didn’t become the travel hotspot of Africa by accident. It seems to have been born with it all - world-class wildlife encounters, ridiculous epicurean appeal and outrageously impressive thrills.
Here, Big 5 game-viewing territory is flanked by grand scenery overflowing with stories as old as her majestic mountains. But expect to find much more beneath the surface, after all, safari adventures needn’t mean roughing it: silver-plated service and swimming pools await. As your Travel Experts on the ground, we know the lay of this land like a tracker knows its spoor. Therefore, we can’t possibly afford you anything less than the most exceptional African safari experience possible, regardless of your pocket or preference.
We've taken the liberty to answer everything you may need to know about visiting Kruger National Park
There are several ways of getting to the Kruger National Park, each of which has a slightly different cost implication and convenience to take into consideration. Daily flights operate between Johannesburg Airport and many of the private lodges in and surrounding the Kruger. This is the easiest and most convenient way to travel to the Kruger. The flights take about 90 minutes and deliver you straight to the corresponding airstrip of the lodge you are travelling to. Luggage is, however, limited to 20kg in soft-sided bags on these flights.
Alternatively, you can touch down in Kruger Mpumalanga Airport, Hoedspruit or Skukuza Airport, and road transfer or "lodge hop" in a small light aircraft to your lodge of choice. Commercial flights from Johannesburg take one hour, Durban an hour and a half, and Cape Town’s just over two hours away.
For those with more time, self-driving to the Kruger Park is a very feasible and enjoyable option. The Kruger is about 6 hours drive from Johannesburg. The road is tarred and well maintained with clean service stations along the way. In fact, the Maputo Corridor means you will be travelling on dual carriageway for most of the way. Fuel is never a problem in South Africa, and you won't get lost with google maps or Waze. Roads are surprisingly well signposted & traffic density is generally low.
Based on your lodge of choice, time and cost, our Travel Experts will gladly advise you on the best way to get to Kruger National Park or the surrounding reserves.
The Kruger National Park boasts many ultra-luxurious private game reserves, including the Sabi Sand, Timbavati, Manyeleti and Thornybush Game Reserves, which are home to a wide variety of secluded lodges, each with their own brand of style, level of luxury and opportunities for up-close game viewing. Not all lodges, however, are made equally - the ability to off-road, do night drives, and game walks together with the exclusivity of traversing (the area a lodge can drive) are the nuances that set both price and experience apart. They are the nuances why two lodges that are seemingly similar, are so differently priced. We at Rhino Africa are Kruger Experts. We visit and stay at all these lodges regularly, and hence we have all the knowledge and know-how to ensure you make the best choice, making your Kruger National Park Safari, the best it can possibly be.
Kruger is a year-round destination, but it remains seasonal. Here is what you can expect to experience through the months of the year.
November through to December: The summer months are hot and humid with either continual rains or very typically afternoon thundershowers which generally clear before the game drives depart. Lots of young animals are born during this time notably the impala lambs, which are beautiful but vulnerable to predators.
January to March: These are normally drier months with very hot days. There are lots of beautiful migratory birds during the summer periods. Early morning drives with early returns to escape the heat are typical.
April: The vegetation starts changing from thick lush green bush to a slightly sparser browning bush during this Autumn period. The temperatures start cooling down at night but daytime is still warm. Potentially scattered thundershowers can be experienced in the afternoons.
May to June: Cold temperatures are experienced at night and at dawn during the winter months. Warm clothing is recommended such as gloves, scarves, beanies and insulated jackets. Large herds of elephant are very mobile. The vegetation becomes totally brown and trees start losing leaves. Visibility during drives is enhanced due to sparser vegetation.
July to September: This period is very dry in the bush with very cold night temperatures and therefore chilly during the early morning and late afternoon game drives. Game viewing is generally fantastic and the visibility is good and the game is concentrated around any water source.
September to October: Spring is the height of the dry season boasting hot dry winds and colourless, sparse vegetation. Because the rivers and dams are low, high concentrations of game can be viewed at these areas and game viewing, in general, is very good. The first rains may start towards the end of October and the signs of spring and a new wet season are evident.
Whichever season you chose, our Rhino Africa Travel Experts will ensure you are in the best area to maximise your Safari experience.
Here is a rough idea of what you can expect on a Kruger National Park safari. Please note that this differs depending on where you stay.
05:00: Wake up to get your day started!
05:30: Coffee with your ranger and tracker before going on safari, most often on an open 4x4 vehicle.
09:30: Start heading back to the lodge for a scrumptious breakfast.
11:00: Depending on where you are staying at what time of the year, you can often embark on a bushwalk with an armed tracker. This gives you a chance to appreciate the smaller wonders of the bush.
13:00: Enjoy your lunch and unwind.
16:00: Meet for your afternoon game drive.
16:30: Your evening game drive promises different sightings than the morning, with nocturnal animals coming out to play.
18:00: Watch the incredible sunset while you drink a G&T.
18:30: Using a spotlight, take a peek into the lives of your nocturnal creatures.
19:30: Return and freshen up for dinner.
20:00: Feast on dinner while your ranger tells you stories around the campfire.
Unfortunately not. We are not doctors, so please note that you should always speak to your doctor about malaria prevention before travelling. However, on that note, it is entirely possible to have a safe, malaria-free holiday in Africa by using prophylactic drugs.
Tip 1: Repel the Mosquitoes
The female mosquito responsible for transmitting malaria is a silent mossy, so you will have to ensure you repel them. They can strike at any time of day but are most active at dusk as well as dawn. Always wear repellent as well as long-sleeved shirts and long trousers in the evenings and mornings. Please note that clothes alone won't protect you, as they can bite through the material. Most of our lodges will have screened windows and doors, air conditioning systems, and mosquito nets to further protect you.
Tip 2: ALWAYS Take Anti-Malaria Tablets
The most important thing you can do to protect yourself against malaria is taking Prophylactic tablets. Please note that you have to speak to your doctor before taking these tablets to ensure that you take the right one, as well as the correct dosage when entering the malaria area.
Tip 3: Keep an Eye Out for Symptoms and Finish Your Course of Meds
If you start to notice any flu-like symptoms, you must get a malaria test to be safe and catch it early because malaria reacts well to early treatment. Also, don't stop taking your meds until the course is complete!
The highlight of any safari in the Kruger National Park is exploring the bush and the wildlife by enjoying a game drive or bush walk. It's an incredible experience to see amazing wildlife in their natural habitat, but we do urge you to take note of the guidelines below that will assist in ensuring the long-term survival of South Africa's beloved Kruger National Park.
Please respect your surroundings and the wildlife by following these guidelines:
- Take back photographs and memories only! Do not remove natural objects (rocks, flowers, plants, etc.) from the Kruger Park or any of the reserves. It disrupts the ecology of the area.
- Do not try to attract the animals’ attention by imitating their sounds, clapping, throwing objects or any other means.
- Never tease or corner wild animals. This may cause an unpredictable response and a potentially dangerous reaction.
- The vegetation in Kruger Park is very sensitive, and off-road driving causes erosion. Only go off-road with a ranger and never on your own.
- Remember that you are a visitor to the animals’ natural habitat, so observe the animals silently and with a minimum of disturbance to their natural activities. Loud talking on game drives will frighten the animals away.
- Don’t litter! Besides being distasteful, litter thrown on the ground can choke or poison animals and birds.
- The African bush is very dry, ignites easily, and fires can kill many animals. So PLEASE abstain from smoking on game drives.
- Respect your driver/guide’s judgment about your proximity to certain wild animals. Don’t insist that they take the vehicle closer so you can get a better photograph. A vehicle driven too close can hinder a hunt or cause animals to abandon a well-deserved meal.
- Always follow your guide’s advice – they are the experts! Don’t be afraid to ask them questions if you are unsure of anything.
- Never attempt to approach a wild animal on foot, especially near your lodge or campsite where the animals have become accustomed to humans.
The park was originally founded by Paul Kruger in 1898 and was first called the Sabi Game Reserve. In 1926 it was enlarged and made into a national park. In 2002 the Kruger National Park became part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, which is a peace park that links Kruger with the Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe to the north, and with the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique to the east.
The park is part of the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere, an area designated by the United Nations Education and Scientific Organisation (UNESCO) as an International Man and Biosphere Reserve (the "Biosphere").
Flora and fauna
The Kruger National Park is divided into 6 eco-systems: Baobab sandveld, Mopane scrub, Lebombo knobthorn-marula bushveld, mixed acacia thicket, Combretum-silver clusterleaf woodland on granite and riverine forest. Altogether it has 1,982 species of plants.
Out of the 517 species of birds found at Kruger, 253 are residents, 117 non-breeding migrants, and 147 nomads. There are also 120 species of reptile, including about 5,000 Nile Crocodiles, 52 species of fish, and 35 species of amphibians.
And of course the main attraction for visitors is often the Big Five game animals which are all found at Kruger National Park. The park protects over 147 species of mammals including 9,000 Giraffes, 200 African Hunting Dogs, 200 Cheetahs, 3,000 Hippopotamus, over 170,000 Impalas, 1,000 Leopards and 2,000 Lions.
Evidence of early humans is found in the area, dating as early as 1,500,000 BC. The San people also existed in the area as far back as 100,000 BC. In 200 AD the first Nguni speaking people, looking for more grazing land for their cattle, migrated south into the area and displaced the San. By 800 AD the Arabs started raiding the area for slaves, using the ports in Mozambique. A civilisation also sprang up in the northern regions of the park. They built the Thulamela Stone Citadel which was occupied between 1250–1700 AD. They also extracted iron ore from up to 200 mines, converting it into iron for trade.
The first known European to explore the now Kruger National park area was Francois de Cuiper, who led a Dutch East India Company expedition from the Cape Colony in 1725. However, the expedition was attacked by local tribes-people near Gomondwane, and driven away.
Around 1838, Voortrekker expeditions led by Louis Trichardt and Hans van Rensburg explored the Lowveld and later wagon routes were established to and from the Kruger area.
Gold was first discovered in September 1873 at Pilgrim's Rest, and then in 1881 at Barberton. Fortune seekers rushed to the lowveld, the prospect of finding gold banished all fear of lions, crocodiles, and malaria. This started the dramatic decline of wild animals in the region, due to hunting and trading of animal horns and skins.
In 1912, a railway line was routed through the reserve. Stevenson-Hamilton (a British major who became the first warden of the Kruger National Park) successfully used this to get tourists to stop over for lunch. By 1916 a government commission was appointed to assess the future of the reserves. In 1926, as an act of reconciliation, the British administration officially renamed the reserves after Paul Kruger, and declared it to be South Africa's first National Park.
In 1927, the park was opened to the public who where charged a £1 fee. Only a handful of cars visited the new park that year, but in 1935 some 26,000 people passed through the gates. Today the number is around one million per year.