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15 interesting facts about the Kruger National Park

Updated: Oct 26, 2023

The Kruger National Park is one of Africa’s best safari destinations with almost one million visitors entering the park each year. Below are 15 interesting facts that may answer a few of your questions when deciding whether to visit the Kruger National Park.


1. What is the Kruger National Park famous for?


Wildlife. Wildlife. Wildlife ... over 147 mammal species to be more specific, and each in abundance! According to an animal census, there are approximately 160’000 impalas, 40’000 buffalo, 30’000 zebra, 13’000 elephants, 8000 giraffe, 2000 leopard and 1600 lion, to name a few! Your chances of animal sightings during your stay are very likely due to the sheer numbers that inhabit the Kruger.


The Kruger has also developed a reputation for being home to some of the finest luxury game lodges in Africa and is the selection of choice for those wishing to experience a luxury safari retreat. Just recently (2023), two lodges in the Kruger, Singita Lebombo Lodge and Singita Sweni Lodge were ranked in the top 15 of the World’s Best 50 Hotels.



2. Where is the Kruger National Park?


The Kruger can be found in the northeast of South Africa, situated in the provinces of Mpumalanga and Limpopo, and bordering the countries of Mozambique and Zimbabwe.


3. How big is the Kruger National Park?


Covering an area of 2 million hectares, the Kruger is almost the size of Belgium! From north to south the distance is 350km’s in length, and 60km’s wide from east to west.


4. How did the Kruger National Park come to be?


This region has been occupied by human beings dating back to the Early, Middle and Later Stone Age periods with rock paintings providing evidence of the San People living in the area for thousands of years. European Settlers made their way down from Mozambique in the 1700’s in search of trade opportunities, north of the Umgwenya River, but were met by local indigenous warriors and were forced to retreat. About 100 years later, the Voortrekkers arrived at the same place but battled with malaria and other issues so headed to the escarpment where they could descend and hunt the abundant game and graze their cattle during the colder months. In the late 1800’s, during the time President Paul Kruger was in office, a man named James Stevenson-Hamilton drew attention to the rapid extinction of various species of fauna and flora in South Africa and exposed how unregulated hunting was resulting in plummeting animal numbers. This led to the first game reserve in the region being proclaimed in 1985 (what is today known as the Sabi Game Reserve, located in the Kruger) to protect wildlife and by 1926 the reserve had expanded to its current boundaries. 1923 saw the first groups of tourists visit the park and since then the demand has grown exponentially. The park was named after President Paul Kruger as a living memorial of his vision to create a protected wilderness area.


5. How to get to the Kruger National Park:


If you are flying into Johannesburg, the Kruger is approximately 400km’s from O.R Tambo International Airport and will take about 4.5 hours to reach without any stops along the way. Depending on where you are staying within the park, the driving distance may be longer.


Kruger Mpumalanga International (KMI) Airport is situated 60km’s from the nearest Kruger Park Gate (Malelane) and commercial flights operate daily from Durban, Cape Town, and Johannesburg.


Fly Airlink offers direct flights from Johannesburg and Cape Town into the Kruger, landing at Skukuza Airport.


Charter flights also offer visitors the convenience of landing closer to their chosen lodge.


6. Malaria in the Kruger


Malaria is a disease that causes flu-like symptoms such as headaches, body aches, fevers, fatigue, chills, nausea and vomiting that can worsen and be fatal. It is most commonly carried by mosquitos and in areas where mosquitos are rife, like the Kruger, it is advised to take precautionary medications before traveling. The summer months (October to February) are riskier as the summer rains bring stagnant water sources, which mosquitos tend to love. If you are pregnant, please look at alternative safari destinations that are malaria-free.


7. The difference between the Kruger National Park and the Greater Kruger National Park


To the west of the Kruger there is an area of 344’000 hectares of land that is owned by individuals and communities, where the fences have been dropped to provide animals a larger area to roam. In the past, wildlife would have migrated in an east-west direction from Mozambique to the Drakensberg Mountains in search of food and water sources. However, fences and humans have prevented wildlife from these seasonal migration patterns as well as the fact that the Kruger runs from north to south in length, rather than east to west. The Greater Kruger was established to aid migratory behaviour and it is actually one of the most expensive regions in the park with private reserves like the renowned Sabi Sands Game Reserve offering luxury safaris.


8. Best time of year to see wildlife in the Kruger National Park


The winter months (June, July, August) in South Africa offer the best game viewing conditions as the bushveld is dry and waterholes are few. This means it is easier to spot animals through the thinning vegetation and herds tend to congregate at what little water is available. That said, the summer rains bring a beautiful green backdrop, and many animal species are birthing during this period.


9. Seasons in the Kruger National Park


As mentioned above, the winter months fall over June, July, August and bring plenty wildlife sightings; they also bring chilly mornings and evenings while, fortunately, daytime temps remain mild. September and October are two of the hottest months in the Kruger with hot dry winds and no water, but the spring rains start arriving at the beginning of November. Summer (December, January, February) is peak season, lodges are at capacity, and the bushveld is changing from a sparse, brown landscape into a beautiful green oasis - baby season is also upon us and it’s the perfect opportunity to get those cute wildlife photos; brace yourself for hot days! As Autumn creeps in, thunderstorms can be expected in the afternoons and temps are cooling with cold mornings and evenings.

10. Big Five animals in the Kruger


The Kruger is home to all the Big Five animals, which are the buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion, and rhino and these are considered the ‘prize’ animals to find while on safari. The Kruger has some of the largest elephant herds in South Africa; the Sabi Sands Game Reserve (Greater Kruger) is renowned for leopard sightings; and the Timbavati region (Greater Kruger) is home to naturally occurring white lions. For more information on animals of the Kruger visit our blog: Animals of the Kruger National Park: What to expect


11. Can I feed animals in the Kruger?


Feeding animals, including monkeys and baboons and smaller wildlife species, is not permitted and those caught doing so will be given a large fine. The Kruger is a protected wilderness area and the animals that roam within these borders are wild and can be dangerous, especially if treated like domestic pets.


12. Is there mobile reception in the Kruger?


There is cell phone reception in most parts of the reserve, but signal may vary depending on where you are. Private lodges do have access to WIFI so you will be able to stay connected in-between game drives. Cell phones must be turned off/ silenced during game drives to respect other guests and the environment you are in.


13. Is the water safe to drink in the Kruger?


Yes it is, but your lodge/ room will usually have complimentary bottled water on offer.


14. Where to stay in the Kruger


Goodness, where do we start?! There are so many options to choose from when visiting the Kruger and it usually comes down to budget and what you are willing to spend. From self-catering bungalows, private lodges to luxurious five-star camps, the Kruger has it all. Private reserves and lodges within the park do not allow self -drives so once checked-in you will be under the care and guidance of expert rangers and guides. Self-catering options are popular among self-drivers who prefer the DIY approach when out in the bush. If you are new to the safari experience, then we recommend paying a bit extra to ensure your safety while encountering African wildlife by booking with a private lodge.


15. Can children stay in the Kruger?


Absolutely! This is the best place for children to be – away from all those gadgets and screens! Lodges will state whether they are child-friendly, while some may only accept children over 12 years old. The age limit for game drives varies depending on where you are staying, but if you have very small children, you may be asked to pay extra for the use of a private vehicle during your stay. Most family-friendly lodges will offer interleading family rooms, swimming pools and other activities to keep the kids entertained. Some lodges also offer baby-sitting services at an extra cost.



References:


Kruger National Park - South African Safari and Tours (krugerpark.co.za)

Kruger National Park Guide - spotlight on South Africa's premier safari reserve (kruger-national-park-guide.com)

Latest Census & Animal Numbers In The Kruger National Park (thekruger.com)

Kruger - history and the future - Africa Geographic (africageographic.com)


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