by Linda DV
South Africa’s oldest and most popular national park, Kruger National park, provides arguably the best African wildlife safari experience. As an attestation to this fact, about one million visitors tour this park every year. The national park started as Sabi Game Reserve way back in 1898, to check the destruction of wildlife due to over-hunting. The park was later named after Paul Kruger who was the president of the Transvaal Republic at that time.
Kruger stretches from the Crocodile River in the south, to the Limpopo River in the north and runs for 350 km along the Mozambique-South Africa border. The park is fed by six rivers and has a wide variety of ecosystems; it carries 16 vegetation zones. Kruger is generally flat with an average height of 269 metres above sea level.
Though Kruger occupies 20,000 sq. km, it is the wooded and more lush Mpulanga region in Kruger’s south that is most popular with visitors. You can get to this region using any of the five gates at Numbi, Phabeni, Malelane, Paul Kruger and Crocodile Bridge. The arid central and northern regions are shrouded in some mystery tales and appeal more to the adventurous travelers. With fewer visitors visiting this region, it can be accessed through the Phalaborwa and Orpen gates.
Kruger is the most celebrated national park in South Africa due to its wide variety of game and bird life. Hundreds of different species can be found here: 507 birds, 336 trees, 147 mammals, 114 reptiles, 49 fish and 34 amphibians. It offers an unforgettable wildlife experience that can rival the best in Africa. In South Africa, this is the best place to see the fabled big five- lion, elephant, leopard, buffalo and rhino.
Owing to its wildlife diversity and the presence of complete food chains in the ecosystem, Kruger attracts many scientists interested in researching animal behavior. Cheetahs, warthogs, zebras, impalas, giraffes, hippos, and baboons are some of the animal species found here alongside the big five.
You can access Kruger through nine gates, which are connected to the national road network by tarred roads. From Pafuri Gate in the north to Malelane Gate in the south is a 414 km drive. Once inside the park, it is obligatory to take a game drive. You may chose either a self-navigated game drive, or take a ranger guide as an escort. Kruger allows night game drives, when you can encounter nocturnal animals- bush babies, leopards, hyenas, owls and nightjars.
Many people touring Kruger prefer going for self-drive wildlife safaris on defined regular trails, but you may opt for ranger guided walking safaris if you are more adventurous. There are seven trails in the Kruger wilderness available for walking safaris, giving you the chance to watch wildlife up close as you also enjoy nature’s aroma. You can enjoy a three nights stay in a wilderness camp while on the walking expeditions, though, due to its popularity, early booking is advisable.
You can get to Kruger by the several daily flights from Johannesburg, Durban or Cape town. Phalaborwa Airport, Kruger/Mpumalanga International Airport (KMIA), and Hoedspruit Airport are the main airports where scheduled flights to Kruger national park land. Another alternative would be to take a rental car or charter plane from Kruger Mpumalanga Airport, East Gate Airport, or Kruger park gateway airport. Within the national park, accommodation facilities range from luxury lodges to self catering and camping sites, meeting the needs of travelers’ different budgets and tastes.
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