Destination Bucket List: Kruger National Park
Perhaps one of the best ways to enjoy African wildlife is a visit to the world-renowned Kruger National Park. There’s no park like it in all the world. It’s not a zoo or the wild, but somewhere in between where humans and animals can observe one another and appreciate nature.
So what makes the Kruger National Park a safari haven? It certainly stands out in all the world with its unparalleled number of animals, including diversity, number, and density. The landscape is a whopping 19, 485 sq km where you not only enjoy seeing wildlife with your own eyes but also get to see natural beauties such as the granite kopjes, the Lebombo Mountains, and the tropical forests.
If you’ve always wanted to be upfront and personal with Africa’s iconic species - the elephant, lion, cheetah, leopard, giraffe, zebra, rhino, and hippo, the Kruger National Park is the place to be.
But what exactly can you do in the park? Here are some of the notable activities you should definitely try on your visit to the Kruger National Park.
Scour the Safari with a Professional Guide
There are different kinds of guided tours offered in Kruger National Park. There are group tours, private tours, and even a tour you can take on your own.
But, if this is your first time to visit Kruger National Park, it’s best to go with a guided tour. You can book one even if you’re just going on a day visit. However, there is a maximum threshold of vehicles that can enter the Kruger National Park on a daily basis. This is easily reached during public holidays. If you want to avoid all that, pre-book in advance.
Park & Ride Tours
This is a wonderful way to get around the park. You simply hop on and ride. You don’t have to take your vehicle with you. Just park it and ride on in with the group. On Park & Ride Tours, you get to see the Big 5, which include the Buffalo, Elephant, Rhino, Leopard, and Lion.
Lebombo Motorised Eco Trail
When you have a 4WD and want to experience Kruger’s premier 4WD trail, take the Lebombo Motorised Eco Trail. It covers a rugged 500km over the span of five days. The trail starts on Crocodile Bridge and skirts the park’s entire boundary on the east. The whole trail finishes at Paguri picnic spot near Crooks Corner.
Though this is a premier eco trail, you do have to provide your own 4WD, camping kit, food, drink, as well as cooking equipment.
Lastly, only 5 vehicles are permitted on the trail at one time, so it’s best to book ahead.
Have a Braai
This is actually the South African term for barbecue. It’s a national pastime in the country. When in Kruger National Park, there are areas where you can have a wood braai. One such opportunity is during the Shipandani Overnight Hide.
That’s right, you get to sleep overnight under a canopy of stars. The Shipandani Overnight Hide overlooks a narrow and gullied section of the beautiful Tsendze River. You get to see green-backed herons, Diederick cuckoos, Burchell’s coucals, as well as African openbills. You might even get to see the occasional elephant or hippo too.
For this overnight, you need to bring your own wood and fuel, cooking kit, as well as food and water. Beds can be hired for the night. If you wish to experience this, you can book at the Mopani Rest Camp.
Go on a Night Game Drive
If you want to see Kruger National Park in a different light, then you should try the night game drive. You can go out with a park staff who can guide you through designated trails during the dark of night. It’ll let you see the park differently and you get to see different animals as well as different behavior compared to daylight.
Watch the African Sunset
Watching the sunset in Kruger National Park is a spectacle to behold. You can almost hear the theme song to the Lion King, but even better. Sit quietly and take in the sights and sounds of the park as the sun goes down, changing the landscape dramatically with its color.
Brave the Guided Bush Walk
It is fun to explore the safari on your four wheel drive, but even bolder when you step out of your vehicle and go on a walk. Don’t worry, you don’t have to do it alone and there are designated areas that are safe to do such a thing. You’ll also be under the guidance of a park staff. With this experience, you get to be within three to four meters from an elephant, rhino, or even a hippo. It’s an unforgettable experience that gets your heart racing.
Book a Stay in the Different Game Reserves
There are different game reserves that surround the Kruger National Park and most have taken down their borders so that the animals can roam freely. These game reserves are private and more often than not offer you the same experience as you would in the park but with additional parks, including luxurious lodgings and amenities such as spas, a dinner feast, and more.
The Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve is one of the finest game reserves that offer more than just the South African wildlife experience. It has award winning safari accommodations and amenities.
The Timbavati Private Game Reserve offer a colonial touch to your experience. Here, you can find out about research initiatives involving elephants, vultures, and cheetahs.
The Manyeleti Game Reserve is small and exclusive but it does bring your camping experience to a luxurious level. It has very few lodges and very low vehicle density making sure that you get the best sightings.
Thornybush Private Game Reserve is perfect for honeymooners or couples. It offers elegance and seclusion with a touch of romance. Aside from that, you still get a chance to experience superb game viewing brought to you by knowledgeable rangers no less.
For an unspoiled wilderness experience, your best bet is the Balule Private Game Reserve that offers tourists an authentic Kruger safari experience. You get to stay in intimate but cozy, rustic lodges and bush camps.
The Best Time To Visit
Wildlife viewing is best done during June to September because the park is dry and the animals meet at waterholes. A visit during January to March would be too hot but the park will be quiet since school holidays are over. You won’t have a hard time finding accommodations. When you visit during March to May it’s a different experience altogether since it’s the rutting season where you get to see wildebeest, impala, as well as other species go head to head in battle.