Kruger National Park - South Africa Safaris
Read Up On Great Kruger Reserves: Sabi Sand, Mala Mala Rattrays, Manyeleti, Timbavati, Thornybush & Kapama
Kruger National Park Introduction
Where nearly 2 million hectares of unrivalled diversity of life forms fuses with historical and archaeological sights this is real Africa. The world-renowned Kruger National Park offers a wildlife experience that ranks with the best in Africa. Established in 1898 to protect the wildlife of the South African Lowveld, this national park of nearly 2 million hectares, Kruger National Park is unrivalled in the diversity of its life forms and a world leader in advanced environmental management techniques and policies. Truly the flagship of the South African national parks, Kruger is home to an impressive number of species: 336 trees, 49 fish, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 birds and 147 mammals. Man's interaction with the Lowveld environment over many centuries - from bushman rock paintings to majestic archaeological sites like Masorini and Thulamela - is very evident in the Kruger National Park. These treasures represent the cultures, persons and events that played a role in the history of the Kruger National Park and are conserved along with the park's natural assets.
Kruger National Park Mammals
Sighting the "Big Five" has become something of a quest for many people when on safari, and the Kruger National Park has more than its fair share of these, with an estimated 1,500 lion, 12,000 elephant, 2,500 buffalo, 1,000 leopards and 5,000 rhino (black and white). It should certainly not be a pre-requisite of a safari to see these or even a priority, as there are plenty of other fascinating animals and birds in the African bush. Kruger is one of the premier game-watching destinations in the world. Approximately 145 mammal species occur in the park. It is possible to see all the classical African big game, including elephant, black and white rhino, hippopotamus, giraffe, zebra, buffalo, warthog and many antelope species. Large carnivores include lion, leopard, cheetah, wild dog and spotted hyena. There are also many smaller mammals equally enticing species.
Kruger National Park Vegetation
With the Kruger National Park being so vast it naturally has a tremendous botanic diversity. Simplistically the Kruger National Park can be divided into 16 macro ec-ozones. The northern half of the park, north of the Olifants River is predominantly mopane veld, while south of the Olifants the eco-zones are thornveld. There are 336 tree species in the park.
Kruger National Park Birdlife
Kruger has a list of over 500 species, some of which are not to be found elsewhere in South Africa . Hornbills, Starlings, Vultures, Rollers, Bee-eaters and Shrikes typify the ubiquitous avi-fauna and birders can look forward to pursuing the big 6 (Saddle-billed Stork, Kori Bustard, Martial Eagle, Lappet-faced Vulture, Pel's Fishing-Owl and Ground Hornbill). The far north of the park (Pafuri and Punda Maria regions) is regarded as one of the birding Mecca of the country (with many regional rarities to be found), yet birding throughout the entire park is excellent. Eagles are common: Bateleur, Martial, Black-chested Snake, Brown Snake, African Hawk, African Fish and Tawny are all regularly seen, and in summer: Wahlberg's, Steppe, Lesser Spotted. The Kruger Park's numerous water points make for excellent birding, while the rest camps and picnic sites are exceptionally rewarding for birders.
Kruger National Park's Big 6 Birds
Kruger National Park's Big 6 Birds are a fanciful grouping aimed at mirroring what the traditional big 5 mammals do for public eagerness to spot species. Where the big 5 represent the 5 game species that were most desired as hunter's trophies in times gone past and now represent the 5 species that visitors to Kruger
(or other classic African savannah parks) most want to see, the big 6 represent a subjective grouping of the 6 most desired birds that visitors to Kruger want to see. It is aimed at the layman birder, and hence the species are easy to identify and instantly recognizable. The species are also by and large restricted to Kruger and other conservation areas, as human encroachment; habitat degradation etc. has reduced their ranges. Five of the six are seen relatively easily in the park and are found throughout the park i.e. Lappet faced Vulture, Martial Eagle; Saddle billed Stork, Kori Bustard and Ground Hornbill. The one curve ball is the Pel's Fishing Owl, which is seldom seen, because of its nocturnal habits and restriction to large watercourses. There are however populations along the Limpopo, Levuvhu and Olifants Rivers. They are recorded less frequently along the Letaba, Shingwedzi and Sabie Rivers or from dams in the area. The best way to see them is to go on either the Nyalaland or Olifants Wilderness Trails, or do night drives from Olifants rest camp. Balule camp is also a potential place to see them, as is driving in the Pafuri region along the Levuvhu and being lucky enough to find one at roost.
When To Visit Kruger National Park
The winter months from April to September are extremely pleasant with warm dry days and cold nights. Traditionally, the best game viewing is in the winter as the vegetation becomes sparse and water is restricted to rivers and water holes.
The subtropical climate has hot rainy summers starting in October and ending around March. The summer rains transform the arid park into a lush flowering paradise, but the increased foliage does make animals harder to see.
Kruger National Park's Activities
Adventure Trails: Get off the beaten track and traverse territories previously unknown. It's more than just seeing animals; it is a unique opportunity to access parts of the park that are rarely explored.
Lebombo Overland Eco Trail: The Lebombo Eco Trail is a 5-day (4-night) outdoor adventure which spans the length of the Kruger National Park. Called the "wilderness experience on wheels", the Overland Trail follows the eastern boundary of the Kruger National Park along the Lebombo hills from the extreme South to the extreme North. Experienced, professional guides act as trail leaders and will interpret the various eco-zones the trail crosses, at regular intervals.
Wilderness Trails: Overnight Wilderness Trails allow adventurous visitors a close, personal encounter with nature by traversing large areas of unspoiled wilderness on foot. Guests spend three nights in one of the 7 Wilderness Camps in the Park, under the guidance of armed and experienced trail rangers.
Great Limpopo Park Transfrontier Trails: Parque Nacional do Limpopo is truly the perfect setting for an adventure without boundaries. Together, Moçambique's Parque Nacional do Limpopo, South Africa's Kruger National Park and Zimbabwe's Gonarezhou National Park form the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, covering a total of 3.3 million hectares - one of the largest wilderness conservation areas in the world.
Back Pack Trail: For the more adventurous, the Olifants River Back Pack Trail starts from Olifants Camp, stretches over 4 days and 3 nights and covers approximately 42 km. The trail is designed on a "take in, take out" basis and strictly adheres to a "no trace camping" ethic.
Guided Walks: Daily early morning and afternoon guided walks are available from most camps. Up to eight guests are taken to interesting places in the surrounding wilderness areas adjacent to most of the camps. The walk itself is relaxed and experienced and armed guides use
their knowledge of the bush to explain natural wonders.
Game Drives: Take part in the nocturnal activities of Kruger's secretive creatures! This is your opportunity to search for game outside normal gate opening times.
Bush Braais: This unforgettable experience is not to be missed. A game drive leads you to an open area filled with burning lanterns and fires where, whilst listening to the sounds of the bushveld and the distant animals calling, the food is grilled on open fires.
Mountain Bike Trails: Cyclists now have the opportunity to combine their cycling skills with a wilderness experience at Olifants Camp. Mountain bike trails offered are designed to bring cyclists closer to nature than the more usual Kruger game drive experience.
Golf: The Skukuza Golf Course is a magnificent 9-hole (18 tee) golf course on the outskirts of Skukuza Rest Camp. Since the course is not fenced in, interesting spectators are a common sight. The course is designed for all levels of golfers.
Interesting Facts On Kruger National Park
- The surface area of Kruger National Park is 7,580 miles² (19,633 km²).
- The park was first proclaimed in 1898 as the Sabie Game Reserve by the then president of the Transvaal Republic, Paul Kruger. He first proposed the need to protect the animals of the Lowveld in 1884, but his revolutionary vision took another 12 years to be realised when the area between the Sabie and Crocodile Rivers was set aside for restricted hunting.
- James Stevenson-Hamilton (born in 1867) was appointed the park's first warden on 1 July 1902.
- On 31 May 1926 the National Parks Act was proclaimed and with it the merging of the Sabie and Shingwedzi Game Reserves into the Kruger National Park.
- The first motorists entered the park in 1927 for a fee of one pound.
- Many accounts of the park's early days can be found in the Stevenson-Hamilton Memorial Library.
- There are almost 254 known cultural heritage sites in the Kruger National Park, including nearly 130 recorded rock art sites.
- There is ample evidence that prehistoric man Homo erectus roamed the area between 500 000 and 100 000 years ago
- Cultural artifacts of Stone Age man have been found for the period 100 000 to 30 000 years ago.
- More than 300 archaeological sites of Stone Age man have been found
- Evidence of Bushman Folk (San) and Iron Age people from about 1500 years ago is also in great evidence.
- There are also many historical tales of the presence of Nguni people and European explorers and settlers in the Kruger area.
- There are significant archaeological ruins at Thulamela and Masorini
- There are numerous examples of San Art scattered throughout the park.