The world-famous Kruger National Park is one of the biggest National Parks in Africa, situated at the North-Eastern tip of South Africa, it spans over the Mpumalanga and Limpopo province. The park stretches for 352 kilometres (20,000 square kilometres) from north to south along the Mozambique border. Many of the surrounding private reserves have removed their fences (giving this park it's size!) and allowing wildlife to roam freely between reserves. This has created a wildlife area like no other, and it's beauty will leave a permanent impression on anyone who visits this diverse place.
History of the park
Prior to the proclamation of the Kruger National Park in 1926, there were over 300 recorded archaeological sites. The President of the South African Republic in the late 1800's (Paul Kruger) proclaimed the area, which was inhabited by the Tsonga people, 'a sanctuary for the protection of its wildlife'.
The park as initially created to control hunting, and to protect the diminished number of animals in the park, and would later be known as the Sabi Game Reserve. A second reserve was proclaimed in 1903, the adjacent Shingwedzi Game Reserve, and in 1926 these two reserves, along with neighbouring farms, were combined to create Kruger National Park. During the following decades all the native tribes were removed from the reserve up until the 1960s.
The first three tourist cars entered the park in 1927, jumping to 180 cars in 1928 and 850 cars in 1929. By 1960 the western and northern boundaries were fenced, followed by the eastern boundary with Mozambique. The purpose of the fence was to curb the spread of diseases, facilitate border patrolling and inhibit the movement of poachers.
Then in the late 1990s, the fences between the Kruger Park and Klaserie Game Reserve, Olifants Game Reserve and Balule Game Reserve were dropped and incorporated into the Greater Kruger Park with 400,000 hectares added to the Reserve. The wilderness trails, as well as walking safaris, were pioneered in South Africa in the 1950s and 1960s by visionary South African conservationists, resulting in the accessable Kruger National Park we know and love today.
Climate in Kruger National Park
The climate of the Kruger National Park is subtropical, with the rainy season from September until May, and the dry season from June to August.
Temperatures during the dry months are very pleasant with warm days and chilly nights. Sparse vegetation draws animals to waterholes to drink every morning and evening, making for easier game viewing on Safari. The chance of rain during the dry winter months is very small, with the sun shining almost constantly during this period. In winter the day temperatures don't differ too much, but night temperatures can plummet.
The hottest month is January, with an average temperature of 27ºC (81ºF) and the coldest month is June with an average temperature of 16ºC (61ºF).
Find out more about the climate and the best time to visit South Africa.
Wildlife in Kruger National Park
The Kruger National Park is home to an impressive number of species: 147 mammals, 507 birds, 114 reptiles, 34 amphibians, 49 fish and 336 trees. This is the land of baobab, fever trees, knob thorns, marula and mopane trees and is home to the BIG 5. There are also 254 known cultural heritage sites in the Kruger, including 130 rock art sites. Here are a few of the animals you can expect to see on a Kruger Park safari adventure.
One of the most unforgettable experiences on an African safari is hearing the roar of a lion at night! With an estimated 1600 lions within the parks boundaries, this is a very real possibility when visiting the Kruger National Park. They can be found stalking prey in the grasslands where zebras and wildebeest tend to congregate, as this is their prime food source. They're most populated in the southern and central sections, and the open terrain around Satara rest camp is famous for spotting lions, there’s a pride that likes to hang around the S100.
Leopards are the least social - and perhaps the most beautiful - of the African big cats. They usually keep to themselves, lurking in dense riverine bush or around rocky koppies, emerging to hunt late in the afternoon or at night. The Sabie Sand River basin within the park is one of the most likely places to spot a leopar in Africa. They love to take shade in thick trees during the day but have also been known to walk across the roads, reeds and rocks along rivers. So any place along a river, where there are large trees with bushy branches is a good place to see a leopard!
Kruger National Park is one of the few places in Africa where it's still possible to see these remarkable animals in the wild. Rhinos have suffered terribly at the hands of poachers, with their numbers drastically reduced, which is why seeing a rhino in the wild is such a precious occurrence. It's estimated the Kruger National Park is home to some 7,000 to 8,000 rhinos, with around 5,000 living with an intensive protected area. During the day they like to laze in the shade or at a mud wallow, or on a very hot day they can be found dozing under a tree. What a life!
The Kruger National Park protects large herds of elephants and due to rigorous conservation; the elephant population in South Africa has grown from a estimated 120 in 1920 in four locations, to over 10,000 at 40 locations to date! You can view elephants within the park year-round, though some of the best times to visit are during the dry months when they flock to watering holes. With the thriving population of elephants, you can spot them all over the national park, often in groups of around 30.
Like elephants, the buffalo were hunted by big game hunters, though today the park is abundant with buffalo, and you'll be able to observe more than 27,000 buffalo on your visit. They can be seen all over the park in herds of up to 200!. They like to live in woodland savannas, and can often be found grazing in grassy pastures.
You'll also encounter cheetahs, giraffes, impalas, hippopotamus' and so much more! Looking for a Kruger Park Safari adventure? Check out our Big 5 Kruger and Cape Town 'Mkombe' trip.