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Kruger National Park

400 km (250 miles) E of Johannesburg ~ Nelspruit, Hoedspruit, Kruger Mpumalanga, Phalaborwa, Skukuza # Sep–Mar: 5:30am–6:30pm daily; Apr–Aug: 6am–6pm daily sanparks.org

South Africa’s largest national park, Kruger ranks among the most rewarding wildlife sanctuaries anywhere in the world. It is readily accessible to tourists, thanks to an excellent network of rest camps, picnic sites, and surfaced and unsurfaced roads.

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t The park’s vast habitat, home to hundreds of animal species, including lions

EXPERIENCE Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Kruger

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t Double-tap image to read the labels

Kruger’s vast wilderness covers an area of 19,633 sq km (7,580 sq miles), extending for 352 km (220 miles) from the Limpopo River in the north to Crocodile River in the south. It comprises 16 distinct vegetation zones, ranging from open grassland to dense forest, and supports an astonishing species count, including 148 mammals, 505 birds and 118 reptiles.

Exploring the Park

Tourism in Kruger is focused on the park’s southern half, which offers superior game-viewing compared with the wilder, drier north. It also has better tourist amenities and is more accessible. Southern Kruger is divided into two sectors by the Sabie River, both of which are ideal for a self-drive safari, with a good road network and well-equipped, affordable rest camps. There are also privately managed lodges that offer a guided safari experience. Few organized safaris head up to northern Kruger, but a good network of surfaced roads means it is easily explored as an extension of a self-drive safari to the south, and its off-the-beaten track feel is a real draw for more experienced safari-goers.

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t Elephants and hippos enjoying the refreshing waters of the Sabie River

Private Reserves

Along the western boundary of the national park, and bordered by the Sabie and Olifants rivers, a mosaic of private reserves provides a vital buffer between the densely populated areas of Lebowa and Gazankulu and Kruger. Wildlife is able to travel freely between these zones, thanks to the removal of Kruger’s boundary fence in 1994.

The reserves’ luxury lodges offer exclusive “bush experiences” to small groups of guests. Emphasis is placed on personal attention, with experienced rangers guiding visitors on day and night drives and interesting bush walks.

Did You Know?

The total area of Kruger National Park is equivalent in size to the country of Slovenia.


Crocodile River

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t One of the 6,000–8,000 white rhinos that are estimated to live in the park

Flowing eastwards along the park border, the Crocodile River forms a natural barrier between the untamed wilderness of Kruger and the lush farmland to its south. It is overlooked by Crocodile Bridge, the park’s most easterly rest camp, set in an area renowned for its dense population of white rhino.

A short drive east of the camp, stands a hippo pool and a fascinating prehistoric rock painting site. The Mpanamana Concession, reserved for the private Shishangani Lodge, is good for spotting white rhino, lion and elephant.

EXPERIENCE Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Kruger


Kruger’s concession lodges offer a luxurious, all-inclusive experience.

Shishangani Lodge, Camp Shawu & Camp Shinga



Lukimbi Safari Lodge



Hamilton’s 1880 Tented Camp



Singita Lebombo & Sweni



The Outpost





Situated 13 km (8 miles) northwest of Malalane Gate, this modern rest camp is well-positioned for a first night in the bush after travelling from Gauteng. The accommodation is perhaps the most comfortable of any public rest camp, and the hilly setting, overlooking a tree-lined dam, is lovely.



Accessed via Numbi Gate, Pretoriuskop, the park’s oldest rest camp, seems more attuned to the sensibilities of local holidaymakers than to international tourists. Game-viewing here is erratic, but the Voortrekker Road is a good place to look for the shy black rhino, stately eland and sable antelope.


Skukuza Camp

Overlooking the Sabie River 13 km (8 miles) east of Paul Kruger Gate, Skukuza is the park’s second-oldest rest camp, and by far the largest, with a total capacity of 1,000-plus visitors. The camp doubles as the park’s research and administrative headquarters, and its excellent range of facilities include an airport, car-hire service, bank, ATM, petrol station, post office, museum, restaurant and shop. Naysayers complain Skukuza is too large and impersonal, but these flaws are more than compensated for by its location at the junction of three superb game-viewing roads: the H3 to Malalane, H4–1 to Lower Sabie and H1–2/3 to Satara. Also in Skukuza’s favour are the sprawling green grounds teeming with birds and small mammals, and the river below that attracts thirsty wildlife.


Lower Sabie

Favoured by many old Kruger hands, Lower Sabie, like Skukuza, stands at the intersection of three excellent game-viewing roads. The camp, however, is far smaller and more intimate. The chalets survey an expanse of the Sabie River regularly visited by elephant and buffalo, while nearby Sunset Dam is exceptional for hippo, storks, kingfishers and other aquatic birds. The roads south towards Crocodile Bridge are reliable for rhino.


The H4-1 and Nkuhlu Picnic Site

The surfaced H4-1 between Skukuza and Lower Sabie is probably the park’s most reliably rewarding game-viewing road, but it also carries a high volume of tourist traffic. Following the south bank of the Sabie River for 43 km (27 miles), you might spot lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo, giraffe and greater kudu, and it’s the best place in Kruger to look for leopards. Be sure to stop at Nkuhlu Picnic Site on the Sabie River, where you can see crocodiles, monkeys, African fish-eagles and half-collared kingfishers. To make it a round trip between Skukuza to Lower Sabie, return via the dirt Salitje Road.


The H10 from Lower Sabie to Tshokwane

This quiet road offers access to several superb vantage points overlooking reservoirs. Mlondozi Dam has picnic facilities and a shady terrace, while Nkumbe Lookout offers unparalleled views over the plains below. Orpen Dam often attracts greater kudu, elephant and giraffe. The H10 connects with the main H1-2 to Satara at Tshokwane Picnic Site, which is a pleasant place to stop for breakfast or lunch.

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t A malachite kingfisher, one of many bird species found in Kruger


Satara Camp and the Central Plains

North of Tshokwane, the countryside transforms into an open savannah of grassland and scattered trees. Situated in the thick of these central plains, Satara, Kruger’s second-largest rest camp, is rather characterless but well positioned for game drives. Although no major rivers flow here, large herds of zebra, wildebeest and other grazers forage on the open grassland and its scattering of artificial waterholes attract plenty of predators. The open terrain is particularly suited to cheetah, which are often seen crossing the roads around Satara, and it also makes it relatively easy to see lion kills. About 50 km (31 miles) west of Satara, near Orpen Gate, the self-catering Tamboti Tented Camp offers a fabulous budget bush experience in standing tents carved into the riparian forest along the seasonal Timbavati River. At the other end of the price range are the ultra exclusive Singita Lebombo and Sweni lodges.

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Hidden Gem

Balule Camp

Kruger’s most rustic rest camp, Balule – only 12 km (7 miles) from Olifants – is a no-frills, low-budget throwback. It comprises six small huts and a basic campsite, set in a wonderful riverside location with a compelling bush character.


Olifants Camp

The most northerly rest camp on the main tourist circuit, situated 55 km (34 miles) past Satara, Olifants has a stunning location on a tall cliff overlooking the broad flood plain of the river after which it is named. It offers arguably the best in-house game-viewing of any public rest camp, thanks to the large numbers of elephant that come to drink at the river below. The roads around Olifants are often crossed by large, thousand-strong herds of buffalo, and the area is also a stronghold for the handsome greater kudu and the smaller, cliff-loving klipspringer.


Letaba Camp

Enjoying a commanding position overlooking the seasonal Letaba river, 30 km (19 miles) north of Olifants, this rest camp has chalets overlooking the river, where tame bushbucks stroll past and fig trees attract colourful birds. Game drives along the river often yield elephant sightings, while the mopani-swathed plains running west towards Phalaborwa are the main stronghold of the rare sable antelope. Set within the camp, Letaba Elephant Hall, a museum dedicated to the evolution and ecology of elephants, displays the tusks of six of the “Magnificent Seven”, a generation of huge tuskers in the 1970s.

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t The restaurant terrace at Letaba Rest Camp, with expansive views


Mopani and Shingwedzi Camps

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t A family of elephants crossing the road during a game drive

Mopani, 50 km (30 miles) north of Letaba, is a modern hillside rest camp overlooking an artificial reservoir that attracts thirsty wildlife out of the surrounding dry woodland. Elephants are plentiful, and the area supports several localized antelope species, but game viewing tends to be erratic. It’s far better to drive 63 km (38 miles) north to Shingwedzi, whose location alongside the Shingwedzi River makes it a contender for Kruger’s best-kept game-viewing secret. The dirt road south to Kanniedood Dam runs through the territory of some of Kruger’s biggest elephants. It is also good for buffalo and greater kudu, and the birdlife is spectacular.


Punda Maria Camp

Set at the base of Dimbo Hill 72 km (43 miles) northwest of Shingwedzi, Punda Maria is an intimate rest camp with a remote wilderness feel and whitewashed thatched huts whose exteriors are little changed since their construction in 1933. The surrounding bush is a good place to look for the rare Lichtenstein’s hartebeest and African wild dog. Punda Maria is the closest public rest camp to Pafuri and the base for guided tours to the 16th-century stone ruins at the Thulamela Heritage Site.


Pafuri and Makuleke

The shady woodland that verges the Luvuvhu River 60 km (37 miles) north of Punda Maria offers some of the best bird-watching in Kruger. The exquisite Narina trogon is the star of the public Pafuri Picnic Site on the south bank, and while wildlife viewing is erratic, the nyala antelope is abundant. North of the Luvuvhu, a triangle of land bounded by the Limpopo rivers was appended to Kruger in 1969 when its Makuleke inhabitants were forcibly ejected by the apartheid regime. Traditional ownership was restored in the 1990s and the triangle now forms Makuleke Contractual Park, which is managed as part of Kruger but hosts two exclusive private lodges – Pafuri River Camp and The Outpost – leased from the community. Both operate like the private reserves.

EXPERIENCE Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Kruger

Avian wonders

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Dedicated twitchers can easily notch up 100 species in a day in Kruger, especially during the southern summer. Even casual visitors should prepare to be wowed by the park’s colourful array of rollers, bee-eaters, kingfishers and hornbills, as well as the outsized ostrich and Kori bustard, and raptors such as African fish-eagle and lappet-faced vulture.

EXPERIENCE Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Kruger


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t A group of lionesses bask in the sunshine, keeping a careful eye out for potential prey

EXPERIENCE Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Kruger

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t Double-tap image to read the labels

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Sabi Sands Game Reserve

# Access for lodge guests only sabi-sands.com

This famous reserve is made up of a block of contiguous reserves north of the Sabie River, which include the Lion Sands, Londolozi, Mala Mala, Singita and Ulusaba private game reserves, and shares a 50-km (31-mile) boundary with Kruger National Park. There are no fewer than 30 all-inclusive luxury lodges and camps in Sabi Sands and entry is only to overnight visitors. Thanks to the Sand and Sabie rivers, the area has a rich water supply, which results in a lush environment that animals enjoy all year round. Sightings of the Big Five are virtually guaranteed, and hyena, cheetah and wild dog may also be seen.

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Manyeleti Game Reserve

# Access for lodge guests only manyeleti.co.za

This reserve adjoins the Orpen area of Kruger National Park, known for its varied wildlife. Visitors can stay in the two comfortable, mid-range tented Honeyguide Camps, or the luxurious Tintswalo Safari Lodge and Manor House.

Did You Know?

A quarter of Kruger’s total biomass is comprised of the park’s 13,000 elephants.

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Timbavati Private Nature Reserve

# Access for lodge guests only timbavati.co.za

This 550-sq-km (210-sq-mile) reserve, adjoining Kruger’s central region, extends from Orpen to the region just south of the Olifants River; it lies entirely in Limpopo province. There are a dozen lodges, each with access to a different part of the reserve, and they all offer drives and guided walks. Of these, Umlani Bushcamp is situated in the north, while the luxurious Ngala and Tanda Tula lodges lie in the central region.

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t An adult leopard elegantly stalking through the grass

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Klaserie Private Nature Reserve

# Access for lodge guests only klaseriecamps.com

Klaserie encompasses several different private reserves, which extend over a total area of 620 sq km (235 sq miles), bordering Kruger National Park and the Olifants River. The Klaserie River meanders across the semiarid bushveld and is the reserve’s central focus as many animals and birds gather on its banks to drink. There are nine accommodation options, ranging from tented camps to high-end lodges. Many of these are not in the top end of the luxury category and offer a more rustic experience.

The Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park

This impressive cross-border initiative links the Kruger National Park in South Africa, Limpopo National Park in Mozambique, and Gonarezhou National Park, Manjinji Pan Sanctuary and Malipati Safari Area in Zimbabwe, into one huge conservation area covering 37,700 sq km (14,556 sq miles) – roughly equivalent in size to the Netherlands. By taking down the fences along the country borders, which also divided conservation areas, the habitat available to the wildlife has been greatly increased, and the natural migratory routes of the animals have been extended. The floodplains and tributaries of five major river systems supply water to this vast area.

EXPERIENCE Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Kruger


Safari in style at these sumptuous lodges in the private reserves.

MalaMala Rattray’s Camp

MalaMala Game Reserve malamala.com


Earth Lodge

Sabi Sabi Private Reserve sabisabi.com


Singita Boulders Lodge

Singita Sabi Sands Reserve singita.com


Londolozi Private Granite Suites

Londolozi Game Reserve londolozi.com


Kings Camp

Timbavati Private Nature Reserve kingscamp.com


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