Kruger National Park
The Kruger National Park (KNP) lies in the north-east of South Africa and runs along the border of Mozambique in the east, Zimbabwe in the north, and the southern border is the Crocodile River. The park covers 19,500 km2 (7,500 sq mi) and is divided in 14 different ecozones, each supporting different wildlife. It is one of the main attractions of South Africa and it is considered the flagship of South African National Parks (SANParks).
Kruger National Park is one of the biggest protected areas in South Africa and is widely considered to be one of the best national parks in the world. The park is similar in size to El Salvador, Israel, Slovenia, and Fiji, or to the US state of New Jersey. With over 1.5 million visitors annually, Kruger Park is one of the most popular tourist attractions in South Africa.
The park was established in 1898 with the help and blessing of the South African Republic's president Paul Kruger as a protected area for wildlife and it first opened its gates to the general public in 1927.
The park is run by SANParks and is probably the best managed African National Park. Wildlife conservation, education and tourism are the main objectives of the KNP. Effective measures to prevent poaching are in place and as a result of this cars are generally inspected upon entering and leaving the park.
The Kruger National Park has now been combined with the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique and the Gonarezhou National Park, Manjinji Pan Sanctuary and Malipati Safari Area in Zimbabwe were merged into a new transfrontier park, called the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, although border restrictions at crossings still apply, and border posts are not open all day.
Flora and fauna
The southern part of the park along the Sabie and Crocodile river is rich in water and has a lot of game viewing opportunities. Here you can see the best of African flora and fauna such as lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo, often referred to as the big five, but there are plenty of others to see as well. Driving around the Sabie River will always result in seeing some interesting animals. The vegetation around the Sabie River can be very dense forest and thicket and it gets a little bit more open driving down south to the Crocodile River. The northern part of the park supports less flora and fauna and is often referred to as the birding paradise.
If you choose to drive yourself, and aren't experienced in African animal tracking, you will still inevitably see elephant and buffalo, and a big variety of antelope. Impala are ubiquitous. Rhino are less common, but big enough to be seen by the untrained eye. Leopard are commonly seen by the experts, but are camouflaged and in trees, so to present a challenge to the untrained. Everything else is down to your luck of the day.
If you have limited time, and want to do Kruger, go in the dry season, stay at a camp like Olifants, and confine yourself to the south of the park along the southern rivers.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
South Africa is located south of the equator and has therefore a reverse order of summer and winter than Europe and North America.
Generally the KNP boasts a dry and hot area, regardless of summer or winter. The South African summer (September -April) in the KNP is hot and sunny with occasional showers and temperature in the shadows range from 18-30°C. The winter (May–August) is warm and dry with temperatures ranging from 8-22°C. September–April: Hot and sunny with sporadic thunder showers. Average temperature 18-30°C. The climate chart to the right represents the climate in Skukuza, in the southern part of the park. The northern part of the park is generally about 2-3°C warmer.
Kruger is quite accessible by car and by air. Most visitors drive to Kruger or rent a car to take around the park, as cars allow more freedom in the park. However, many of the luxury camps offer all-inclusive packages which make renting a car unnecessary. The park also offers park-and-ride facilities for day visitors at Phabeni, Numbi and Paul Kruger gates.
Kruger National Park has nine gates within South Africa and two international border crossings: one at Pafuri in the very north of the park and one at Giryondo in the north-central section of the park. The more established southern section of the park has five gates, whilst the central and northern sections only have two each. There is a significant gap between Phalaborwa gate and Punda Maria gate, making the Shingwedzi camp very remote. The park's gates are closed after sunset and visitors are not permitted to drive at night in the park. Driving in darkness is considered to be dangerous outside the park especially if you are not used to driving in Africa. Pedestrians walk along the roads and there are local taxi/minibus services. Both are difficult to spot at night. The area of the Numbi Gate has had incidents involving barriers on roads.
|Gate||Distance from||Drive time from|
|Paul Kruger||450 km||100 km||340 km||5h||1h 30m||4h 20m|
|Phabeni||415 km||80 km||320 km||4h 40m||1h 10m||4h|
|Numbi||390 km||55 km||325 km||4h 30m||1h||4h 10m|
|Malelane||405 km||65 km||370 km||4h 20m||55m||5h|
|Crocodile Bridge||450 km||110 km||410 km||5h||1h 30m||5h 30m|
|Orpen||505 km||180 km||275 km||5h 40m||2h 30m||3h 30m|
|Phalaborwa||500 km||235 km||210 km||5h 30m||3h||2h 40m|
|Punda Maria||550 km||400 km||240 km||6h 10m||5h||3h|
|Pafuri||617 km||470 km||290 km||6h 45m||6h 30m||3h 30m|
- 1 Paul Kruger Gate (Kruger Gate) (east of Hazyview on the 536), ☏ . In a way the "main entrance" to Kruger Park, Paul Kruger Gate lies a 15-minute drive west of Skukuza along one of the park's tar roads. At the gate is also the Paul Kruger Memorial statue.
- 2 Phabeni (along the R536 east of Hazyview, with a turnoff to the gate long before reaching Paul Kruger Gate), ☏ . Offering a quicker entrance to the park from Hazyview than Paul Kruger Gate but an overall longer drive to get to Skukuza (due to the 50 km/h speed inside the park and likelihood of viewing animals), Phabeni gate is a good choice for those coming from the Johannesburg area, as it is one of the quickest to get into the park.
- 3 Numbi (off the R538 from White River to Hazyview), ☏ . Numbi Gate is the closest gate to the Pretoriuskop rest camp. About 20 minutes' drive south of Phabeni gate, Numbi gate offers a faster entrance to the park coming from the southwest.
- 4 Malelane Gate (On the R570 just east of Malalane), ☏ . Roughly the same distance from Mbombela or Johannesburg as Numbi gate, Malelane gate is the southernmost entrance to the park. It is a short drive from the Berg-en-Dal rest camp.
- 5 Crocodile Bridge, ☏ . The southwestern-most entrance to the park, near the town of Komatipoort and the closest to the Mozambican capital of Maputo. This gate takes one immediately to the Crocodile Bridge rest camp.
- 6 Orpen Gate (On the R531, off the R40 between Hoedspruit and Bushbuckridge), ☏ . One of the two gates in the central region of the park, Orpen is a smaller gate serving the central region of the park. The road in is surrounded by private game reserves such as Manyeleti, Timbavati, Andover and Thornybush Game Reserve. An hour's drive longer from major population centres like Johannesburg and Mbombela, Orpen gate mostly serves people who specifically intend to begin their stay in Kruger at Orpen Rest Camp or Satara, who live around the Bushbuckridge-Hoedspruit area, or who are also visiting one of the private reserves in the area.
- 7 Phalaborwa Gate (on the R71 east of the town of Phalaborwa), ☏ . North of Hoedspruit, Phalaborwa gate is the closest gate to Limpopo's major population centres in Polokwane and Tzaneen. The nearest main camp is Letaba.
- 8 Punda Maria Gate (At the eastern end of the R524), ☏ . Punda Maria sits in the northern section over 100 km north of Phalaborwa Gate. It serves the Punda Maria, Shingwedzi and Mopani rest camps, as well as several smaller camps.
- 9 Pafuri Gate (At the eastern end of the R525 east of Musina), ☏ . Located in the Pafuri Triangle, which is co-owned by the South African National Parks and the Makuleke people, Pafuri gate is the northernmost gate in the park. It is near the Limpopo River and in one of the narrowest sections of the park. It should not be confused with the Pafuri border crossing into Mozambique.
It is not allowed to enter, walk or drive in the park unaccompanied at night, and entry gate and camp gate opening and closing times are strictly enforced.
|Month||Entrance Gates Open||Camp Gates Open||Gates Close|
If you are late on returning to the camp or found driving around at night, you will be fined very heavily. So make sure to be out or back in the camp before closing time!
There are three airports with commercial scheduled flights near Kruger National Park. From south to north, they are Kruger Mpumalanga at Mbombela, Hoedspruit Airport, and Phalaborwa Airport.
- 10 Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (North of Nelspruit along the R538), ☏ , [email protected]. Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport at Mbombela receives flights from Johannesburg International Airport, Durban, Cape Town and Vilanculos. It is the largest airport, with the most facilities and also is visited by some discount airlines. Fares to here from Johannesburg can be half the price of the other Kruger airports. Car rental is possible via: Budget, Hertz, Europcar, Imperial Car Rental and National. If you are staying at one of the northern camps, this airport can be 4 or more hours from your entrance gate. Distances to KNP gates are Kruger Gate 82 km; Malelane Gate 63 km; Numbi Gate 40 km ;Phabeni Gate 76 km.
- 11 Skukuza Airport (north of Skukuza along the Tshokwane-Skukuza road is the airport road.), [email protected]. 09:00-15:00. The airport is in the park. It has regular flights from Johannesburg and Cape Town via Airlink and also handles charter flights.
- 12 Eastgate Airport (Hoedspruit Airport) (Southeast of Hoedspruit along Argyle Road), ☏ . Eastgate Airport at Hoedspruit has a couple of flights a day to Johannesburg with South African Airways only. Avis has a car rental desk there. There is a bar and small shop selling chocolate bars, and a souvenir shop, but no cafe to speak of. It is listed on the SAA website as Hoedspruit airport, however the airport isn't signposted from Hoedspruit, and to get there you have to go through a gate onto a private reserve. If you are flying out of here, make sure where you are going. Hoedspruit has another grass landing strip near the centre of town. This airport has no scheduled flights.
- 13 Hendrik van Eck Airport (Phalaborwa Airport). 2 km from the Phalaborwa Gate of the KNP, it serves as an entry route for the northern camps such as Letaba, Olifants, Punda Maria and Shingwedzi. The airport is well connected to Johannesburg's OR Tambo International Airport with two flights per day during the week and a single flight on Saturday and Sunday. The airport has car rental services. There is only a single carrier operating.
While most visitors to Kruger come from South Africa, given the park's substantial border with Mozambique there are several entry points convenient for tourists coming via Mozambique. Crocodile Bridge gate is near the town of Komatipoort, which borders the Mozambican town of Ressano Garcia. It is 110 km (and a roughly 1 hr 45 min drive) from Maputo. If coming from Maputo province, this is likely the fastest entry to the park. Malelane gate is also fairly close along the N4.
As with all South African National Parks, there are daily conservation and entry fees for the park. It may also be beneficial for one to buy a Wild Card, which provides entry to either selections of parks in South Africa or all of the South African National Parks. If you are not a resident of South Africa, you can choose to either pay daily conservation fees or buy an international visitors wildcard (valid for entry to all SANParks parks). The break even point is about 4-days conservation fees equal to a wildcard. You can purchase a wildcard or pay conservation fees when you are booking your accommodation, or you pay on admission (if you are not staying in the park) or at your camp. If you are visiting other parts of South Africa, you may want to consider the discounts available for Table Mountain and other parks before making your calculation.
When you enter the park you will be given an admission permit. It is very important to retain this, as you have to present it on the way out of the park to be permitted to exit.
The following conservation fees apply for Kruger National Park from 2019-11-01 to 2020-10-31:
|Nationality||Adults||Children (under 18)|
|South African citizens or residents||R100||R50|
Anyone without a South African ID or Southern African Development Community passport will be charged the standard conservation fees. Up to date tariff information can be found on the SANParks website.
The infrastructure of the park is outstanding by African standards and roads inside the park are of very good quality and potholes on the main roads are rare. Smaller side tracks are close to the original landscape, but manageable with a normal car, although a 4x4 offers probably a better comfort on this type of terrain. KNP roads have speed limits, ranging from 20 to 50 km/h and it is not wise to go much faster, because game tend to cross the roads out of nowhere.
Take care when approaching animals. They are wild and unpredictable. If you have the feeling that animals get angry, leave! Elephant and rhino can be very dangerous to you and your car!
It is custom to share information about animal sightings with other park visitors. This happens casually and information is exchanged when two cars from the opposite direction meet and stop for a short chit-chat, there are also sightings boards at all the camps, showing where recent sightings were made. However, it is strongly discouraged to share wildlife locations on social media, due to poaching concerns.
Avis is the only car rental company with an office inside the park at Skukuza Camp, but other companies from Mbombela and at the two above mentioned airports are happy to provide you with a car as well. You may want to consider an air-conditioned car in the hot climate of the KNP.
Petrol stations within the park do accept payment by most bank cards.
The maximum speed limit is 50 km/h on tarred roads, 40 km/h on gravel roads and 20 km/h in rest camps, and is generally obeyed. However lower speeds afford greater safety and better sightings. It takes roughly 10 hours to cross the KNP in south - north direction. Distances between camps sites are on average 1-2 hours in the south and a little bit more in the north. Consider the distances between camps when planning your trip and remember that you are not allowed to leave your car once you left a camp site. Toilets are present at all the camps and picnic areas, but not at the hides. A road can be blocked by buffalo or elephant crossing, adding 20 minutes unexpected journey time to your trip. Leave some slack in your travel time calculations to enjoy the scenery.
Make sure you have an up-to-date map, enough to eat and drink, cameras and binoculars, reference books and a litter bag with you, a litter bag is normally issued by the park's staff when you enter the park, but feel free to ask at camps and picnic spots. Maps can be purchased in all main camps at each gate. It is not advisable to rely solely on directions from satnav, as most satnav apps or devices will attempt to navigate you via private roads.
South African National Parks publishes a medium detail map on their website which can be used to supplement your GPS to prevent you from taking the wrong roads, but it is still recommended to buy a guide book when you get there, as the maps in the guidebooks are more detailed. OpenStreetMap also tends to have better, more up to date information than Google or Apple maps, but still has a tendency to send you along private roads sometimes. It is recommended that you use the table of travel times provided by SANParks in the Kruger Park guidebooks or on their website when calculating travel times especially, as the GPS will typically use the speed limit to calculate travel times, which can be highly unreliable in the park since it's not unusual to have to stop and wait for a herd of elephants or zebra to cross the road before proceeding.
Given the size of the park, it is often a source of anxiety for first-time visitors to find petrol. Fortunately, this is not as big a concern as it first appears, as most of the main camps have petrol. The camps with petrol stations are:
- Crocodile Bridge
- Lower Sabie
- Punda Maria
Visitors to the far northern region should be aware that there are no petrol stations in the Makuleke contract park and the closest petrol station is at the Punda Maria rest camp.
It is possible to go on guided walking tours, which you can arrange through the camp reception, or in advance with SANParks. However, the rangers in Kruger National Park have a policy of not surprising animals, which means you are going to be walking briskly through bushland with a couple of armed guides ahead of you, rather than stealthily moving through the bush to get a glimpse of an animal that hasn't seen you. The reality of this is that most animals will well have truly gone from the area before you get there, and the chances of wildlife spotting are dramatically reduced over what you might see by game vehicle or by car. Still, you might be lucky.
Unauthorised walking is not allowed and also extremely foolish.
Park and Ride
Kruger Park offers day visitors an option to do a park and ride tour at Numbi, Phabeni, or Paul Kruger gates. They have daily tours starting at 07:00 for morning drives and 14:00 (in summer) or 13:30 (in winter) for afternoon drives. Information about bookings can be found on the SANParks website.
Although the main attraction of Kruger is the wildlife, this just barely scratches the surface of what the park offers. From archaeological sites to memorial plaques, from baobab trees to some of the oldest rocks on the planet, Kruger offers a spectacular variety of attractions.
The main attraction of the park is wildlife viewing, and most of the camps have boards for reporting sightings of some of the most popular animals in the park. Due to poaching concerns, rhino sightings have been removed, and guests are asked not to report the locations of any animal sightings on social media.
If you're new to wildlife viewing, it's worthwhile to get one of the park's animal guidebooks to help you out. There are also a few lists to check off of what you've seen:
- Big Five game. Made up of buffalo, elephant, lion, leopard and black rhino, the Big Five were considered the most difficult African animals to hunt. Today, they are considered amongst the crown jewels of Kruger Park and many an adventurer tries to shoot all five on their trip - with a camera this time. You're almost certain to see elephant and buffalo (though don't confuse the wildebeest you see for buffalo). Lions are a bit more difficult but you'll probably see them if you have at least 3 days in the park. Leopards and black rhinos, however, are elusive. White rhinos love to graze on the short grass near the road, but the black rhino who are members of the big five are much more skittish. They're browsers, so they tend to be found not on the plains but in stands of trees. They're also smaller and more easily frightened. Leopards and black rhinos can often be found in the same areas. Look for a leopard in every big tree overhanging a river.
- Little Five. Looking closer to the ground, you might be interested to look for the Little Five. Made up of the buffalo weaver, the elephant shrew, the leopard tortoise, the ant lion and the rhino beetle, the Little Five are the compliment to the Big Five in animals people tend to forget about. Seemingly unexciting at first, the Little Five open up the sharp-eyed viewer to a whole different world of creatures.
- Big Six birds. The Big Six are a set of six of the most easily identified and most exciting birds for the birdspotting beginner. Made up of the kori bustard, the martial eagle, the lappet-faced vultur, Pel's fishing owl, the saddle-billed stork and the ground hornbill, the Big Six are a great place to start if you're not very familiar with birds. All six species are quite large (in fact, the male kori bustard is one of the largest existing animals capable of flight) and thus fairly easy to spot, and most are fairly distinctive. Be on the lookout especially for the ground hornbill, and if you see any, let the ground hornbill project know via email or SMS.
- Five Trees. The Five Trees are a set of five trees most commonly seen about the park, including some in camps. They make a great start for the beginner botanist, as they're generally fairly unique and well-known. They are the baobab, the fever tree, the knob thorn, the marula and the mopane. Although the baobab is by far the least common, it's definitely the easiest to find, as the locations of two baobabs in the park are well-marked. The others can be harder to find, but signs and guidebooks will tell you which trees are common in what areas.
Marula Region (South)
The southernmost region of the park, and the most visited, is the Marula region. It is the most densely populated with wildlife as well.
- 1 Albasini Ruins (near Phabeni gate). The ruins of a trading post of famous Portuguese trader João Albasini lie just inside of Phabeni gate. His trading post was once the connection between the Afrikaans-speaking Boers of the South African Republic (a.k.a. the Transvaal Republic) and the Portuguese colony in modern-day Mozambique. The site also has some picnic tables, but without a shop or any way to cook food. Toilet facilities are at the Phabeni gate.
- 2 James Stevenson-Hamilton Memorial Library and Museum (Skukuza Rest Camp). This small library and museum holds a treasure trove of Kruger Park history. A nice breather in the heat of the day, the museum tells of the history of the area and contains anthropological and archaeological artefacts. The library contains the written history of the park.
- 3 Stevenson-Hamilton Memorial (along the Stevenson-Hamilton Memorial Road, a detour off the S114 dirt road from Skukuza to Berg-en-Dal). The Stevenson-Hamilton memorial plaque sits near the top of Shirimantanga hill in the Rhenosterkoppies (rhino hills) section of the park. A small memorial to the man nicknamed Skukuza, who was warden of the Sabi Nature Reserve (which later became Kruger National Park) from 1902-1946, the area is also a good excuse to stretch your legs as it's one of the few locations where you're allowed to leave your car. Be warned, however, that the area is not guarded and leopards are quite active around, so it is crucial to take caution before leaving your car. If you do, however, and walk a short distance from the parking area, you will be rewarded with one of the most spectacular views in the park.
- 4 Lake Panic Bird Hide (approx. 7 km northwest of Skukuza, near Skukuza Golf Club). Probably the most famous bird hide in Kruger, the Lake Panic bird hide is on the western end of Lake Panic, a manmade lake on Mafuyana Creek. Common sightings include hippos, crocodiles, terrapins, pied kingfishers, great heron and African fish eagle. It's common to see dozens of species just in a half hour at the hide.
- 5 Nthandanyathi Hide (off the Nhlowa Road (S28) southeast of Lower Sabie). Overlooking the Nthandanyathi ("where the buffalo drink") waterhole is a small wheelchair accessible hide. Sharptooth catfish, terrapin, crocodiles and three-banded plovers are common sightings from this hide. The hide is easily accessible from both Lower Sabie and Crocodile Bridge, and is relatively accessible with a day trip from the other main camps in the Marula region.
- 6 Gardenia Hide (on the Mlambane loop (S119) near the Crocodile River Road (S25)). Despite being in one of the most accessible areas of the park, Gardenia hide is still generally relatively quiet. Elephants are especially common in this region of the park, but bushbuck, honeybadger, kudu, giraffe, lion, yellow-billed hornbill, grey go-away birds and Natal spurfowl are also frequent sightings. Water level varies quite drastically, so it's best to check with someone at a gate or at camp about current levels.
Nkayeni Region (Central)
North of Skukuza is the Nkayeni region of the park, with Satara rest camp centrally located in the region and the Orpen gate is the only gate in the area. It is bordered to the north by the Olifants River.
- 7 Kruger Tablets (along the Skukuza-Tshokwane road). The Kruger tablets are a pair of tablets (one in Afrikaans, one in English), embedded into a large boulder, commemorating the proclamation of the Sabie Game Reserve by president Paul Kruger in 1899 and the National Parks Act in 1926. It's one of a small number of spots in the park where you're allowed to leave your vehicle outside of a camp.
- 8 Kumana Baobab (Most Southerly Baobab) (just off the H1-3 between Tshokwane and Satara). Nestled in a bend of the N'waswitsontso river near the Kumana waterhole is the southernmost baobab tree in the world. Its trunk is about 5 m in diameter.
- 9 Orpen Boulders (Orpen Rocks) (along the Skukuza-Tshokwane road). The Orpen Boulders are a collection of boulders with a plaque commemorating the donation of seven farms to the Kruger National Park by Mrs. Eileen Orpen. Orpen Gate and Orpen Rest Camp were named after Mrs. Orpen. The plaque was erected in 1944.
- 10 Sweni Hide and Viewpoint (Along the S37 near the Sweni and Lebombo lodges and N'wanetsi picnic site). Overlooking the Sweni river in the eastern part of the park are both a viewpoint and hide sharing the river's name. The viewpoint offers an excellent view of the river from your vehicle and plenty of shade, while the hide, although busy, tends to offer excellent wildlife and birding opportunities.
- 11 Ratel Pan (On the S39, north of Timbavati). This west-facing hide overlooking the Timbavati river just upstreab of the Piet Grobler dam offers good game viewing, especially in the morning. Lions and pied kingfishers are frequent sightings at Ratel Pan.
Nxanatseni Region (North)
South African National Parks has a few live camera streams on its website, each overlooking a waterhole. Three of these cameras are in Kruger, with the fourth being in Addo Elephant National Park. Another site, Africam, hosts live cameras from several private nature reserves in South Africa.
The Nxanatseni region is by far the largest region of the park, with almost half the land in the park being in this region.
- 12 Letaba Elephant Hall (at Letaba Rest Camp), ☏ , [email protected]. M–Sa 08:00-20:00, Su 08:00-18:00. A small museum about elephants. It has sections about elephant biology and ecology, as well as games for children. The main attraction, however, is the skulls and tusks of the Magnificent Seven, a set of seven large tuskers who lived in the park in the 1970s and 1980s. The warden of the park at the time used the magnificent seven as a display of the success of the park's conservation. The museum was renovated in 2017 and now includes the tusks of Mandleve, the elephant with the largest tusks ever recorded in the Kruger National Park. With the addition of a full elephant skeleton, the Elephant Hall is perhaps unique in the world in what it offers, and is a great way to get out of the midday sun for a while.
- 13 Masorini (near Phalaborwa gate). Masorini is a restored Iron Age village about 10 km from the Phalaborwa gate. It is probably the most accessible of the remnants of stone and Iron Age life within the park. There is a picnic area and toilets near the bottom of the hill. You need to be accompanied by the guide to tour the village. The huts are reconstructed and show the process the civilisation went through to forge iron. These people were not just forging iron for spears and hunting, they had an entire economy based on selling and trading the iron they forged. Brochures say the guided tours are free, and leave at scheduled time. The reality seems to be that tips are required to the attendant who runs the tours, and if you are interested in taking the tour then the attendant will guide you.
- 14 Thulamela. The Thulamela archaeological site is a stone-walled site, built by the descendents of the Mapungubwe, who built the Great Zimbabwe. Thulamela was inhabited by the Makahane people from about 1250-1700 CE. Chinese porcelain and imported textiles and jewellery reveal extensive trade connections.
- 15 Sable Dam hide (off the S51 just south of the Phalaborwa-Letaba Road (H9)). Located on one of the largest dams in the park, the Sable hide is a fairly large hide with south and west facing views. Although the dam gets a reasonable amount of animal foot traffic, it is definitely best for birding. Common sightings include hippo, crocodile, buffalo, African wild cat and an absolute plethora of bird species. The Sable hide is one of two hides in Kruger which offers visitors the opportunity to spend the night in a hide.
- 16 Matambeni Bird hide (off the S62 on the north bank of the Letaba river). A short drive from Letaba rest camp, the Matambeni hide overlooks the Engelhard dam on the Letaba river. Herons, bee-eaters and storks are a common sight here, along with waterbuck, impala and buffalo.
- 17 Anna Ledeboer Plaque (Makhadzi River & Anna Ledeboer Plaque). This plaque is near where the Makhodzi river flows into the Letaba river. It marks the grave site of Anna Maria Christiana Ledeboer, wife of former ranger L.L. Ledeboer, who died on 19 August 1921. It is one of a small number of graves in the park.
- 18 Longwe Lookout. A compacted earth lookout point on top of a hill, with excellent viewing in all directions. Fearly close to the Matambeni hide and worth stopping by if you're in the area.
- 19 Shipandani (near Mopani camp, along the Shongololo loop). Just downstream of the Pioneer dam on the Tsendze river, Shipandani is a fairly large east-facing hide with excellent views of the river. Common sightings are saddle-billed stork, klipspringer, giraffe, hippo and lilac-breasted roller. This is one of two hides that also acts as a bookable primitive accommodation.
- 20 Pioneer Dam hide (off the north fork of the Shongololo loop (S142)). On the south bank of the enormous pioneer dam, this hide is often rated one of the top hides in Kruger. Great egret, purple rollers, white-breasted comorant and several kinds of kingfishers are common sightings from this hide.
- 21 Nyawutsi Hide (off the Nshawu-Shingwedzi road). Almost 40 km south of Shingwedzi, the Nyawutsi hide is quite far away from anything, but often worth the drive. Yellow weavers and elephants are common, and leopard are a fairly frequent sighting.
- 22 Kanniedood hide (on the Nshawu-Shingwedzi road (S50) near Shingwedzi). Named after a particularly hardy type of aloe, the Kanniedood hide overlooks a portion of the Shingwedzi river previously on the lake formed by the Kanniedood dam. The Kanniedood dam was breached in flooding in January 2013 and the residual part of the wall was removed in December of 2019. Because of this recent major activity, it's unknown how views at this hide will change over the next few years.
The biggest draw of Kruger is the nature. Flora, fauna, and beautiful landscapes all combine to make a generally pleasant and relaxing experience. It's possible to spend weeks in Kruger slowly driving around looking for animals, stopping at the various hides and other waypoints to see what's there, and just generally taking life at a snail's pace. However, Kruger offers a variety of ways to see things you wouldn't otherwise see with guided drives and walks, as well as a variety of other experiences both in and out of camp.
The basic way to see the wildlife is to tour the park by car during the daylight hours when the park is open. This is a very effective way of seeing wildlife, even for first timers. There are many other wildlife experiences on offer.
- Bush drives First-time visitors may want to consider to book a guided tour through the KNP with local park guides. Bush drives are available from Berg-en-Dal, Letaba and Skukuza camps and some other camps, and cost R280-390 per adult (50% less for children) (Aug 2017). Experienced rangers will take you in a 4x4 car to the KNP and explain to you and your party the finer details of game spotting.
- Night drives Discovering the KNP on your own is a great adventure, but there are a few things that you can not do without a ranger. One of them is to have a night drive through the park to see nocturnal creatures such as lions, leopards and hyenas. Tours take a couple of hours and leave usually shortly before the main gates close at night.
- Landrover Lebombo Eco-Trail
- The 3 brand new 'Transfrontier Trails do Limpopo'
- The Shingwedzi 4x4 Eco-Trail
- The Machampane Wilderness Trail
- The Massingir Hiking Trail
- Wildlife films Several rest camps show wildlife films 6 days a week in the evenings. These camps are: Berg-en-Dal, Letaba, Mopani, Satara, Shingwedzi and Skukuza.
Discovering African flora and fauna on foot is an unforgettable lifetime experience and only few places in Africa offer such tours. You can join a group of up to 8 mates and 2 rangers on a hiking tour that lasts for 3 days and you learn a lot of things about South African wildlife. There is no way that you could see animals closer than on this tour. Imagine seeing lion, elephant or rhino only a few meters from you. This is a breathtaking experience. Trails follow circular routes and you return each evening to the safety of your camp where dinner awaits. The duration of the trails is three nights and two days, either from Sunday to Wednesday, or from Wednesday to Saturday. Hikers meet at the designated rest camp at 15:30 on Sundays or Wednesdays from where they leave by vehicle for their trail camp after a short briefing.
- Bushmans Trail (departs from Berg-en-Dal Rest Camp). This trail is in the southwestern corner of the park near Berg-en-Dal rest camp. White rhino, buffalo and elephant are plentiful in the area, and the trail features trips to rock paintings made by San (Bushman) people.
- Metsimetsi trail is best enjoyed during the South African winter, check in at Skukuza camp and you will travel north to the N’waswitsontso river nearby the Satara camp.
- Napi trail (departs from Pretoriuskop). Situated in the Rhenorsterkop hills between Pretoriuskop and Skukuza, this trail is in one of the most animal-dense areas of the park. The nearby Mbiyamithi river is one of the best places to see red-billed helmet shrikes and thick-billed cuckoos. White rhino, elephant, lion, leopard and cheetah are common.
- Nyalaland trail Check in Punda Maria camp in the north of the KNP to spot crocodile, elephant and hippo as well as bird watching is going to be on your agenda. Buffalo also frequent the area. Birdlife is prolific.
- Olifants Trail Check in at Letaba Camp. The trail crosses the Olifants River as well as the Letaba River which supports a variety of wildlife, including large predators, elephant and buffalo. Also listen out for the call of the African fish eagle.
- Sweni Trail Check in at Satara Camp. The Sweni area is popular, in that, there is a high density of both predator and prey, and a trail experience here give hikers the opportunity to observe lion and even cheetah.
- Wolhuter Trail In the southern part of the park (white rhino country), between the Berg-en-Dal and Pretoriuskop.
- Olifants River Back Pack Trail. 42 km, 4 days, from Olifants to Letaba, no frills, no trace camping, no camps provided, sleep in your own tent out in the park with the wildlife. R2700/person.
- Mathikithi trail (departs from Satara rest camp). Named after the nearby Mathikithi sandstone hill, this wilderness trail near Satara offers wilderness hiking right in the heart of big cat country.
Other than wildlife
- 1 Skukuza Golf Club (north of Skukuza along H11, take S42), ☏ , [email protected]. Su-F 07:00-11:00. Skukuza Golf Course offers a 9-hole golf course along the banks of Lake Panic and the Mafunyana river. The course is open to the public and to the wild, and is often called "the wildest golf course in the world." Green fees R230 for non SAGA members..
- 2 AM Spa Kruger (Inside the Skukuza rest camp), ☏ , , [email protected]. M-Sa 08:00-20:00, Su 08:00-17:00. (Treatment menu) AM spa offers a spa facility inside of the Skukuza rest camp with a variety of options. The AM spa an Skukuza is the only spa in any of the SANParks camps. However, some of the private camps also offer spa facilities or similar services in your room. Bookings can be made by phone, email or via their website.
Bigger camp sites such as Lower Sabie and Skukuza have comfortable shopping facilities and you can buy drinks, foodstuffs, souvenirs, as well as some other travel items you may have forgotten. The range is more limited at the smaller or more remote camps. It is easy for them to run out of particular items, so you have to make do with what is available. Fresh milk particularly can be in short supply.
Artistic wood carvings can be bought as well and is usually of reasonable quality and cheaper than in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Carvings can be found in and around the gates to the Kruger National Park as well.
Animal skins and rugs are available as well.
Most of the main camps have shops where you can buy raw food to cook, as well as wood or charcoal for fires. All accommodations have areas for cooking. Campsites tend to have communal kitchens, but most rondavels, bungalows or cottages will have private kitchens or kitchenettes. There are also picnic areas out in the wild. Some of these areas, such as Tshokwane, will sell cooked food on site. Others only have braai facilities for you to cook for yourself. Many of the camps have cafeterias and restaurants, but in general there's not too much variety (see below). The menu is the same at each camp, with a range of only 10 or so dishes. Most visitors familiar with the park are self-catering in their lodges or at the picnic areas.
Lodges in the private areas of the park and outside the park will cater food, often arranged in well-sheltered outdoor restaurants with open fireplace, and barbecue South African specialties such as:
- wart hog sausage
- springbok tenderloin
- ostrich steak
- biltong (dried meat) made of game, like kudu, impala or zebra.
Restaurants at camps
Most of the main camps have a single restaurant each, which are franchised with various chains popular in South Africa. An official listing of restaurants at camps in Kruger is available on the SANParks website.
- 1 Mugg & Bean Lower Sabie, ☏ , [email protected]. 07:00-21:00. (Menu)
- 2 Wimpy Pretoriuskop, ☏ , [email protected]. 07:00-21:00. (Menu) Wimpy is a multinational chain, founded in the US, that has taken root in South Africa.
As the biggest camp, Skukuza has luxuries most other camps don't get. One of these is the Cattle Baron, one of a chain of steak restaurants founded in 1987. Their Skukuza restaurant is one of two restaurants in South Africa's national parks (the other one being in Addo Elephont Park. The menu at Skukuza is somewhat different from the other Cattle Baron restaurants, but the menu on their website can give you a good idea what's available. The Cattle Baron will often (though not always) also serve various local foods such as mielie pap, boerewors, kudu steaks and malva pudding. Be sure to check their specials menu.
Tindlovu is perhaps the most common restaurant in Kruger National Park. The first restaurant was opened in 2012 after decades of the founder dreaming of pursuing hospitality as a career. Tindlovu is mostly based in Kruger Park, but they also have two restaurants in Mbombela (Nelspruit).
- 4 Tindlovu Berg-en-Dal, ☏ . 07:00-21:00.
- 5 Tindlovu Letaba, ☏ , . 07:00-21:00. (Menu)
- 6 Tindlovu Mopani, ☏ . 07:00-21:00. (Menu) Mopani camp was the site of the first Tindlovu restaurant, opened in 2012.
- 7 Tindlovu Olifants, ☏ . 07:00-21:00. (Menu)
- 8 Tindlovu Punda Maria, ☏ . 07:00-21:00. (Menu)
- 9 Tindlovu Satara, ☏ . 07:00-21:00. (Menu)
- 10 Tindlovu Shingwedzi, ☏ . (Menu)
Bush Braai and Bush Breakfast
Most camps offer Bush Braais and Bush Breakfasts, which are a wonderful way to have a dinner whilst experiencing the real bush. Bush braais begin with a roughly hour-long game drive in the afternoon, leading to the site of the meal, with preparation already underway. This meal typically lasts about 90 minutes and typically includes mielie pap, boerewors, game meat, a variety of vegetables and salad. Desserts and tea are also offered, and a cash bar is available. The braai will be followed by a 30-minute night drive back to camp. Bush breakfasts are fairly similar.
Prices vary, but can be confirmed by contacting the camp from which you'd like to do the bush braai. Note that you must be staying in the camp in order to do a bush braai or bush breakfast, as the breakfast leaves very early and the braai comes back after the gates close. More information is available on the SANParks website.
The following camps offer Bush braais:
- Berg-en-Dal, ☏ , , [email protected].
- Lower Sabie, ☏ , , [email protected].
- Mopani, ☏ , , [email protected].
- Olifants, ☏ , , [email protected].
- Satara, ☏ , , [email protected].
- Shingwedzi, ☏ , , [email protected].
- Skukuza, ☏ , [email protected].
A Boma braai is an open fire barbecue in an open air boma in the camp. Boma braais are generally managed through the camp's restaurant and should be booked ahead. They are a nice trade-off for people who are either unable or unwilling to do a bush braai, but still want the feeling of being out in the wild rather than sitting at a restaurant. Bush braais often will not accommodate children (or will only accommodate a limited number of children, so groups with children may consider a boma braai instead.
Boma braais can be booked at the following camps:
- Berg-en-Dal, ☏ , [email protected].
- Lower Sabie, ☏ , [email protected].
- Mopani, ☏ , [email protected].
- Punda Maria, ☏ .
- Shingwedzi, ☏ , [email protected].
- Skukuza, ☏ , [email protected].
There are quite a few picnic sites of various size throughout the park. Some of the larger ones such as Afsaal and Tshokwane have kitchens where you can buy premade meals. The smaller ones (such as the Albasini ruins) might have no facilities directly available, requiring a short drive to nearby facilities. Many (but not all) picnic sites offer either skottels (gas-fired standalone cast iron frying pans) or braais with an option to buy firewood. Most of the main camps also have a day visitors area which serves as a picnic site. The Skukuza day visitors area is not within the main camp, but is a short drive downriver.
The Marula region of the park between the Crocodile and Sabie rivers doesn't contain many picnic spots, as it is quite dense with camps. However, with the exception of the Albasini Ruins these spots are some of the best-stocked picnic sites in the park.
- 11 Afsaal Traders Rest (on the H3 about halfway between Skukuza and Berg-en-Dal). 07:00-16:00. Afsaal is a rest stop along the road between Berg-en-Dal and Skukza. Here you can rent braais or skottels to cook for yourself. You can also buy the raw ingredients at the shop, as well as maps, t-shirts and other mementos. Tindlovu, who run many of the camp restaurants, also runs the restaurant at the Afsaal picnic spot, a lively picnic area along the H3, giving it convenient access from Berg-en-Dal, Pretoriuskop and Skukuza, as well as several smaller or private lodges in the area (such as Biyamiti, which doesn't have its own restaurant). It is also reasonably accessible from Lower Sabie and Crocodile Bridge.
- Albasini Ruins. The Albasini ruins have a basic picnic site with no gas or shop. Toilet facilities are available nearby at Phabeni gate.
- 12 Nkuhlu (along the Sabie River Road (H4-1) about halfway between Skukuza and Lower Sabie). Hidden away along the Sabie River, Nkuhlu is easy to miss when driving the busiest road in Kruger. But if you pop in, you'll be welcomed with all the usual affair of a picnic spot, a fairly large shop with some unique Kruger-themed items, and a restaurant. Try the waffles, their speciality.
The Nkanyeni region (between the Sabie river and the Olifants river) is home to the biggest picnic area in the park, Tshokwane. It also has a collection of other areas serving people driving up the less-used western roads and in the area around Satara.
- 13 Mlondozi (overlooking the Mlondozi Dam north of Lower Sabie, just off the S29). Overlooking the Mlondozi dam, this picnic site is a great place to see birds and animals, so bring your binoculars. The site has a kiosk to buy drinks and hire gas grills.
- 14 Muzandzeni (just off the S36 near the Sweni Drive (S126) junction). Overlooking the Sweni river about 30 km from Satara, Muzandzeni is a good halfway stopping point on a lunchtime drive for someone staying in Satara. Toilets and for-hire skottels are available. Although the area isn't typically good for spotting the big five, it is frequented by zebra, giraffe and many predatory birds. It is a good site to spot bataleurs and Wahlberg's eagles.
- 15 Nhlanguleni (on the S36 halfway between Skukuza and Orpen). As it's quite far from any tar roads, Nhlanguleni is fairly inaccessible unless you happen to be travelling from Skukuza to Orpen, Talamati or one of the private camps in the area. Because of its isolation, though, Nhlanguleni is generally fairly quiet and makes a nice escape from busy areas like Skukuza. The picnic site overlooks a small waterhole and has toilet facilities available and gas grills for hire.
- 16 N'wanetsi (at the end of the N'wanetsi road (H6) near Lebombo Lodge and Sweni Lodge). One of the easternmost picnic spots in the park, N'wanetsi overlooks the Sweni river shortly before it joins the N'wanetsi river just a few kilometres from the border with Mozambique. Like Muzandzeni, it makes a nice halfway stop for people on a drive from Satara going east along the S100, one of the best roads in the park for seeing lions. Views of the Lebombo mountains can be had from N'wanetsi. Browsers such as giraffe, elephant and black rhino frequent the area, as do large birds such as ostrich and secretary birds. N'wanetsi has toilet facilities but no shop or cooking equipment.
- 17 Timbavati (near where the S39 (Timbavati Road) meets the S127 and S40, about 25 km northwest of Satara). A third picnic spot as a halfway spot on a drive out from Satara, Timbavati overlooks the Timbavati river. Timbavati provides both toilet facilities and skottels for hire.
- 18 Tshokwane Trading Post (along the Skukuza-Satara road (H1-2), just north of the N'waswitsonso river crossing and the meeting of the H10 (Tshokwane-Lower Sabie Road)), ☏ . 07:00-16:00. (Pronounced "chore-kwah-neh" with a non-rhotic "R".) Perhaps the biggest and most popular picnic site in the park, Tshokwane sits along the N'waswitsonso river midway along the drive from either Skukuza or Lower Sabie to Satara. It was built as a ranger's post set up by park warden James Stevenson-Hamilton in 1928. The picnic area sits under a large sausage tree. In addition to the usual braais and skottels for rent, Tshokwane offers premade snacks at its shop (including a wide variety of biltong, a South African favourite) and a large selection of cooked meals, including burgers, toasted sandwiches and salads. The kitchen is outside on the patio area, and vervet monkeys frequent the site. Be on the lookout as they will try to steal your food and drinks. For the coffee fans, Thsokwane sells an exclusive coffee blend made by the Green Bean Coffee Rosatery.
The northernmost region of the park and in many ways the least developed, Nxanatseni has only a few picnic spots scattered around.
- 19 Babablala (About halfway between Punda Maria and Shingwedzi just off the H1-7 on the Mphongolo loop). This basic picnic area offers only toilet facilities (including wheelchair accessible toilets).
- 20 Makhadzi (About halfway down the Giryondo Border Road (H15)). Northeast of Letaba, this quiet but historic site overlooking the Makhodzi river is one of the last stops in South Africa before the Giryondo border post taking one into Mozambique. Originally set up as a British fort during the Anglo-Boer war, the spot was a military base until 2003. The site has no facilities but does include information about the history of the area and the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park.
- 21 Masorini (Along the Phalaborwa-Letaba road, about 40 km from Letaba or 12 km from Phalaborwa). At the Masorini archaeological site is also a small picnic area with a kiosk selling drinks and renting out skottels as well as toilet facilities. It's about a 30-min drive from Phalaborwa or a 90-min drive from Letaba. It is also an access point for the Masorini 4x4 loop.
- 22 Mooiplaas. Located next to the Tsendze camp site a short distance from Mopani, Mooiplaas (literally "pretty farm") overlooks the Tsendze river. In addition to skottels for rent, Mooiplaas offers one the opportunity to buy wood for a braai. Waterbuck and hippo are common in the area.
- 23 Pafuri (Along the Luvuvhu River road (S63)). This spot is a good birding site along the Luvuvhu river. They have braais (including fire wood for sale) and gas skottels available, as well as toilet facilities.
South African alcohol laws apply within the park. However, South African National Parks have some additional regulations regarding alcohol. There is a blanket ban on alcohol for day visitors - it is not allowed at picnic spots, in the day visitor areas at rest camps, and you are not allowed to drink alcohol whilst driving. (South African road law still applies in Kruger.) Day visitors are also not allowed to enter the park with any alcohol.
Overnight visitors may bring alcohol in their cars for consumption at their accommodation, and the restaurants in Kruger do serve alcoholic beverages to overnight visitors. Overnight visitors are also allowed to purchase alcohol at the Parks Shops in the main camps.
The bars in camp are visited in the evening by guests recalling tales of wildlife seen during the day. Generally people aren't visiting Kruger for the nightlife, but are more likely to spend the early evening with a braai, and retiring to bed for an early start the following day.
Within Kruger there are a fair number of camps operated by SANParks, as well as some private camps operated on concessions. There are also several hotels and lodges outside of the park but near to a gate. Further, there are several private nature reserves that border Kruger and have agreements with the park for limited amounts of travel for their members.
Most of the camps within the park are operated by South African National Parks. They are categorised by their size and facilities. The largest, Skukuza, has the most facilities, including a shop (selling food, drinks and curios), multiple restaurants, a library and museum, a swimming pool, a petrol station and a golf course. The smallest, Tzendze, is purely a tented campsite with communal ablutions and cooking facilities. The SANParks website allows bookings online for all parks, with instant confirmation and availability checks. You will need to register before you commence your booking, and the registration process can take around half an hour to be confirmed before you can commence booking. The SANParks site is not the first site returned by most search engines when searching for accommodation in Kruger, but it is the only site where you can book accommodation directly. All other sites will only take "provisional bookings", and are just agencies.
Getting a response from email sent to the reservations email address seems next to impossible. There are options to book activities (such as drives) online when booking accommodation, but your accommodation is booked the website does allow you to add or incorporate additional activities with your reservation. However, you can book them on arrival in camp (subject to availability) or in advance by phone.
The main camps in Kruger are:
- 1 Berg-en-Dal, ☏ , . A medium-sized camp on the banks of Matjulu-Dam. Visitors of the camp can rest in the local cafeteria or prepare food in the communal kitchen, buy fuel in the petrol station, have a picnic, use public telephones, enjoy a good dinner in the restaurant and cool down in the swimming pool. The camp offers accommodation ranging from tent sites with power points to caravan sites, three bed bungalows and bigger facilities such as 6 and 8 bed houses. Activities from this camp include the Bushman and Wolhuter Wilderness Trails (see also Do section), morning drive, night drive and the Rhino trail camp walk. prices vary.
- 2 Crocodile Bridge, ☏ . The third smallest of the main camps in KNP and located close to Crocodile River, Crocodile Bridge is in the southernmost part of KNP and is a camp as well as an entry gate. The proximity to the SA civilisation one stone throw apart from the camp means that there is no wilderness romantic, but it serves you well if you are a late comer and the KNP gates are about to close. Facilities include a small shop and laundry service. There is a great amount of game around this camp / gate, consider yourself very unlucky if you do not spot any lion in this area. Lions are also known to be "hanging" out in trees in this area, the only place in KNP where this can be seen. prices vary.
- 3 Letaba, ☏ , . One of the more beautiful camps, Letaba is in the central section of KNP next to the Letaba River in the middle of elephant country. Accommodation ranges from tents to huts catering 2-4 persons per accommodation. The camp is known for its elephant sightings and has a permanent exhibition about the elephant life cycle. Camp facilities include: cafeteria, fence perimeter, guided game drives, laundry, restaurant and a swimming pool. prices vary.
- 4 Lower Sabie, ☏ , . The most luxurious camp, renovated after it was destroyed by fire a few years back. Lower Sabie is in the south east of KNP on the banks of the Sabie River, and offers superb game viewing. Therefore it is one of the most wanted camps by the locals. You can often spot white rhino, lion, cheetah, elephant and buffalo around the camp, because these animals come down to the river daily to drink. Accommodation is superb in Lower Sabie, there are campsites available with ample shade, as well as some of the best safari tents in Kruger as well as equipped huts and chalets. prices vary.
- 5 Mopani, ☏ , . A very comfortable rest camp in the KNP. Mopani has been built next to a dam that attracts a lot of wildlife into the monotone northern mopani-dominated shrub veld vegetation. Wildlife spotting from the camp is superb and you would have to drive for hours to see more game from your car than in this camp. Enjoy a splash in the swimming pool after a game drive and be prepared for dinner in the local restaurant which is far better than in other camps as it offers dinner à la carte. Accommodation in this camp offers fully equipped kitchens and accommodates up to 6 persons in a chalet. prices vary.
- 6 Olifants, ☏ , . Probably the best known camp among South African tourists. Olifants is in the centre of the KNP on top of a hill overlooking the Olifants River. You can see Africa unfold from your terrace as Olifants Camp has the best settings from all camps. You can see kudu, elephant, lion and giraffe from your room when they come to the Olifants River to bath and drink. A must visit for astronomy enthusiasts, with amazing star gazing, this is the only Kruger camp that offers drives at night focusing on stars instead of game viewing. prices vary.
- 7 Orpen, ☏ . The smallest of the main camps in the park, situated at Orpen Gate. Orpen offers basic accommodation for 2-3 persons in a hut without bathroom. Consider to stay there if it is too late to reach another camp before darkness. prices vary.
- 8 Pretoriuskop, ☏ , . A large and luxurious rest camp close to the Numbi Gate located in the southwest of KNP. The landscape consists of rocky mountain and steep ridges supporting klipspringer, reedbuck, rhino, giraffe and wild dog in the surrounding shrubs. Accommodations are traditionally thatched rondawels for up to three visitors without bathroom. Other camp facilities include a swimming pool, laundry, shop, filling station, restaurant and cafeteria. prices vary.
- 9 Punda Maria, ☏ . The northernmost of the main camps, also the second smallest of KNP. Punda Maria camp sits on top of a hill and whitewashed thatches are arranged in terraces. The camp offers a rich flora and famous for its huge variety in birds. The camp facilities include a restaurant. prices vary.
- 10 Satara, ☏ , . A big camp that is in the centre of the park, surrounded by hot plains that offer good grazing opportunities and attract a lot of game and predators. It is the second biggest camp in the KNP and offers various accommodation, restaurant, cafeteria and laundry facilities. This also big cat country, so expect busy roads and crowded sightings during South African holidays. prices vary.
- 11 Shingwedzi, ☏ , . A nice quiet camp in the far north of the park. Shingwedzi lies in the middle of the mopani shrub veld and benefits from the proximity of the Shingwedzi River and the Kanniedood Dam which attract most of the game in this area. The camp facilities include accommodation, park shop, restaurant, swimming pool, cafeteria and laundry. Nyala country! prices vary.
- 12 Skukuza, ☏ (Reception), (Reservations). It's in the southwest of the KNP and serves as the Headquarters of KNP. Skukuza is 20 minutes from the Kruger Gate and is the biggest camp inside the KNP. It has more than 140 huts/chalets and some 100 camping sites available. It offers a gas station (pump), library, post office, car rental, grocery store, a-la-carte restaurant, youth hostel, 9-hole golf course (the hottest one in the world) and swimming pool. Skukuza is situated directly on the Sabie River and animals often come here to drink. prices vary.
Each satellite camp is attached to a main camp, and check-in is generally done at the related main camp. In some cases, check-in can be done from multiple main camps.
- 13 Balule, ☏ (Olifants rest camp reception), . Check-in: at Olifants reception. On the south bank of the Olifants river, Balule is a rustic bush camp with little luxury, but a lot of bush romantic. It is in the centre of the KNP where you have to check in and then drive 11 km to get to Balule camp. The camp is on the banks of the Olifants River, and it suits you best when you are prepared for self-catering and if a you are happy to share a communal kitchen and bathroom. prices vary.
- 14 Malelane, ☏ (Malelane Gate). Check-in: at Malelane Gate. A satellite camp of Berg-en-Dal near the Malelane entrance gate on the very southern border of the park. A very nice camp with basic chalets and camp sites, but the view of sugar plantations opposite the river is a bit of a spoiler.
- 15 Maroela, ☏ (Orpen rest camp). Check-in: at Orpen Rest Camp. A satellite of Orpen, the camp is on the banks of the Timbavati River. Along with Tsendze, Maroela solely caters for caravans, camper-vans and tents. prices vary.
- 16 Tamboti, ☏ (Orpen rest camp). Check-in: at Orpen Rest Camp. A satellite of Orpen, Tamboti is a tented camp situated on the banks of the seasonal Timbavati River where you can see the beasts from your tent coming to the river. Facilities include tented accommodation, communal ablution and communal kitchen without cooking utensils. Some units are accessible for wheelchairs.
- 17 Tsendze. Tsendze is a satellite camp to Mopani. Rustic layout offering very basic camp sites in a natural environment. There are no shops nor electricity, and visitors are requested to check in at Mopani. Hot water in the bathrooms are provided by gas geysers with open-roofed showers to gaze at the night sky. No electricity available, also no generators allowed, to keep to the tranquillity of the bush.
Bush camps provide smaller accommodation varieties than the main camps. They do not have full shops or restaurants in them and only some (Talamati, Biyamiti and Bateleur) will allow you to use electrical equipment like hair dryers. All units in these camps have private toilets, but kitchen facilities may be on open verandas.
- 18 Bateleur (Along the S52 west of Shingwedzi camp), ☏ . The smallest (and oldest) of the Bushveld camps, situated ov the banks of the Mashokwe river. A fairly large section of road near the camp, including multiple dam viewpoints, is only available to those staying in the seven cabins at Bataleur. Each unit has electricity, TVs and either ceiling fans or air conditioning in the bedrooms. The nearest main camps are Shingwedzi and Mopane.
- 19 Biyamiti, ☏ . In the southern area of the park along a tributary to the Crocodile river, this camp has a mixture of 1- and 2-bedroom cottages. It has a mini shop and offers game drives and walks, and has its own bird hide in the camp. The closest main camps are Crocodile Bridge and Berg-en-Dal.
- 20 Shimuwini. The name Shimuwini means "Place of the Baobab", and it is situated along the banks of the Letaba River which is lined with these trees. In addition to each unit having its own braai facilities, there is a communal boma in the west of the camp. A bird hide overlooks the river in the southeast corner of camp. There is no electricity in the units, but there are limited electrical outlets at reception for charging small items like phones or toothbrushes. Firewood and ice can be bought at reception. This camp is the closest camp to Phalaborwa gate. The closest main camps are Mopani and Letaba.
- 21 Sirheni. Named after the nearby elephant graveyard ('sirheni' is Tsonga for 'graveyard'), this camp in the northern areas of the park is situated along the Mphongolo river near the Sirheni dam. The closest main camps are Shingwedzi and Punda Maria.
- 22 Talamati. Located near the western border of the park near Manyeleti Game Reserve in the southern part of the central region, Talamati offers access to a bird hide within the camp. All units have electricity including fridges in most rooms. There is also a communal boma. The closest main camps are Orpen Gate and Satara, although it is south of both of these and can also be reached fairly conveniently from Skukuza.
Kruger offers overnight hides, which provide an exciting and different way to see the park by night. These buildings are publicly accessible bird hides by day, but transform overnight into primitive accommodations for a small number of guests. As with all hides in Kruger, these are in good spots for wildlife viewing. However, these are some of the few spots in Kruger where you can go to sleep only to be awoken after midnight by hippos right outside your window or get a dawn awakening as a giraffe munches on the thatch roof. No electricity or water is provided at the sleepover hides, and as they act as regular hides during the day you must be packed up and ready to leave fairly early. However, given the unique experience provided, this is considered worthwhile for many a guest.
- 23 Sable Sleepover Hide (On the S51 a short distance from Phalaborwa gate), ☏ , (Phalaborwa gate). Check-in: at Phalaborwa gate. Overlooking the picturesque Sable Dam a short distance from Phalaborwa gate, the Sable sleepover hide is the most basic of the sleepover hides. Sleeping units are locked to the inside wall by day and mattresses are available in a locked cupboard. Bedding is available at reception with a deposit, and an environmental toilet is provided. No cooking utensils are provided and you must bring your own wood for a fire.
- 24 Shipandani (along the Shongololo loop, just south of Mopani), ☏ , . Check-in: at Mopani, check-out: 30 minutes after gates open. Overlooking the Shipandani dam on the Tsendze river just 3 km south of Mopani rest camp, the Shipandani sleepover hide sleeps up to 6. Bedding and cutlery are available with a deposit at Mopani reception along with two chargeable lamps that operate for about 5 hours. You must bring your own fuel for the braai in the hide area. The braai is fairly basic, which is disappointing compared to the very nice braai area at Sable.
Bush lodges are private lodges that offer complete privacy to guests, as only those booked in the bush lodge are allowed in the camp and only one booking is allowed at a time. Bush lodges have their own kitchens with gas stoves, ovens, fridges, freezers, cutlery and crockery. They also have gas braais and wood fires (provide your own wood - you can buy wood at any gate or main camp shop).
- 25 Boulders Bush Lodge (25 km south of Mopani), ☏ , (Mopani). Check-in: at Mopani. Sitting atop a some enormous boulders that give the lodge its name, this lodge overlooks a private waterhole in the mopane veld. The main unit has 2 bedrooms. Four separate bungalows each have a bedroom and bathroom. The living area has a fully equipped kitchen, dining room, bar, lounge viewing deck with a braai. The kitchen has a gas stove with an oven, fridge, freezer, cutlery and crockery. The lodge has solar panels, but only for lighting and fans.
- 26 Pafuri Border Camp (on the S63 right near the Mozambican border), ☏ (Punda Maria). Right in the heart of one of the best birding spots in the park, Pafuri offers three different houses as accommodation (4 sleeper, 6 sleeper and 8 sleeper).
- 27 Roodewal Bush Lodge (along the Timbavati road (S39) between Satara and Olifants), ☏ (Satara). This secluded lodge along the banks of the Timbavati river offers seclusion from the outside world. Made up of 4 cottages holding a total of up to 19 guests, Roodewal has private kitchens and closed verandas for each unit. The camp has a solar power system, but there is no air conditioning.
Private camps within the park
Several camps within the park are run by private companies. The camps provide different accommodations and are nowhere near as uniform as the SANParks camps. In most cases, the camps provide packages that include transportation, so one may not have to hire a car.
- 28 Lukimbi Safari Lodge, ☏ , [email protected].
- 29 Tinga Private Game Lodge, ☏ , toll-free: (UK), (USA), 1 800 763 936 (AU), [email protected]. A private luxury lodge near Skukuza airport, run by Lion Sands game reserve
- 30 Jock Safari Lodge, ☏ , (after hours). From R3500 per person.
- 31 Singita Private Game Lodges, ☏ , [email protected]. Sweni and Lebombo Lodges
- 32 Imbali Safari Lodge, ☏ , [email protected].
- 33 Rhino Walking Safaris, ☏ , [email protected].
- Viva Safaris, ☏ . Tremisana Game Lodge, Katekani Luxury Tented Lodges and Marc's Treehouse Lodge
- 34 Shishangeni Lodge, ☏ .
- 35 Camp Shawu, ☏ . Part of Shishangeni, but located separately.
- 36 Camp Shonga, ☏ . Part of Shishangeni, but located separately.
- 37 Hoyo Hoyo Tsonga Lodge, ☏ , [email protected].
- 38 Hamilton's Tented Camp, ☏ , , [email protected].
- 39 Rhino Post Safari Lodge, ☏ .
Outside the park
There are several hotels along the borders of the park, mostly congregated around the park gates. These hotels are especially useful to tourists who may not be able to arrive on their first day before the gates close.
- Pestana Kruger Lodge, R570, Malelane Gate, ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. Luxury accommodation, from the apartments you have a nice view over the Crocodile River bordering the KNP. From R900 per person.
- Malelane Sun Lodge, R570, Malelane Gate, ☏ , fax: . Luxury accommodation next to the Malelane gate into the KNP. It is well situated next to the Crocodile River and close to the most attractive game viewing opportunities in the KNP. Its facilities include 9-hole golf course, tennis, swimming pool, restaurant, car park and bar. It has a high viewing deck onto the Crocodile river, from which one can often see hippos, elephant, crocodiles, antelope and other wildlife. From R800 per person.
- Protea Kruger Gate, On the Sabie River at the Kruger Gate, ☏ , fax: . Elegant lodge in front of the Kruger gate on the banks of the Sabie river. It offers good access to the most attractive part of the KNP; apartments are designed as tree huts and are connected by raised wood walkways. Facilities of the lodge include play area for kids, swimming pool in scenic area, spacious car park, electric security fence, several bars, pool service an enormous park like garden with some kind of wildlife such as green monkeys, springbok, bush babies and occasional visitors such as a rhino and cheetah have been spotted. Dinnertime is announced with a traditional African drum. A fabulous display of South African food is then waiting for you. You have the choice between a big salad buffet supplemented by barbecued meat. The service is generally very good and staff is very friendly and charming, nevertheless sometime slow by hectic European/American standards and order can be delivered by piecemeal, first the scones, 15 minutes later the coffee, 20 minutes later the bill, 20 minutes later collecting the money for the bill, 30 minutes later bringing the change. R1500 per room.
- Mvuradona Game Lodge, ☏ , [email protected]. Nestled on the Crocodile River and only a few minutes from either Malelane and Crocodile Bridge Gate. The lodge has its own population of giraffe, zebra, lion and other animals. Transfers from the surrounding airports and game drives can be arranged. They four-star lodge offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. All rooms are equipped with satellite TV and MNet and coffee/tea facilities. From R450 to R1200 per person.
- Khaya Umdani Kruger, Korhaanlaan 2907, Marloth Park, ☏ , [email protected]. Located in Marloth Park Conservancy Area, which borders Kruger National Park to the South, this wildlife lodge offers luxury four-star self-catering accommodation for up to ten guests. Marloth Park is home to a wide variety of African wildlife, including a range of bird species and many different small animals, ranging from Zebra and Warthog, to Giraffe and Kudu. Animals roam free within the park, and come right up to the lodge's veranda. The Krokodilbrug Kruger National Park gate is less than half an hour's drive from Marloth Park. R3000 per night for the entire lodge.
- Many people also prefer to sleep at nearby towns, such as Komatipoort (8 km from the Crocodile Bridge Gate), Mbombela (for Numbi Gate), Malelane (for Numbi Gate), Sabie and Hazyview (for the Phabeni Gate) and Hoedspruit (for the Orpen gate). All of these have a wealth of accommodation of every standards, are easily accessible for the park for self-drive guests and tours in can be arranged via private tour operators.
- Masodini Private Game Lodge, Maroelalaan, Balule Nature Reserve, ☏ , [email protected]. This lodge sits in the 40,000 hectares Balule Nature Reserve, part of the Greater Kruger National Park. A bush lover's paradise within this 'Big Five' Conservation area, the lodge is surrounded by Fever trees and evergreen African date palms creating the perfect oasis. The lodge overlooks the water hole, is safe and fenced-in, providing protection against unwanted animal intruders. Masodini is provides guests exclusive use of the camp and facilities for up to 12 guests. Game walks, game drives in open 4x4 game drive vehicles, and birding opportunities in and around Masodini with friendly and experienced Nature Guides. There are many places to visit using Masodini as a base, such as the Kruger National Park, Khamai Reptile Park, Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre, the Cheetah Project, the Panorama Route, and local villages. From R750 per night/per person full board incl. tea and coffee.
Nearby private game reserves and lodges
These are mainly found in the northeast of the Mpumalanga Province and often sharing a border with the south-western part of the KNP. Most fences between the KNP and private game parks have been dismantled and animals can freely move about.
- Idube Safari Lodge, ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. Idube is a quiet treat nestled in the savanna and is arguably one of the best places in Africa to see the big five up close in the wild. Idube is a 20-bed boutique hotel offering luxury accommodation, tasty African cuisine and the best of South African hospitality.
- Mala Mala, ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. Mala Mala is famous for easily spotting the Big Five and has been operated for nearly 40 years. It is often the relaxing place for celebs and industry tycoons who can afford the hefty price tag that comes with superb service. Mala Mala is split into three different sites, all of which are booked through the above contact details.
- Main Camp is a luxurious place in the middle of Mpumalanga with elegant rooms. Each room has two bathrooms, a telephone and things you would expect in an upper class hotel, but not in the middle of the bush. Other parts of the hotel demonstrate its history as a hunting camp as was the fashion some time ago by presenting animal skins, heads and massive elephant tusks.
- Harry’s Camp is the budget version of Mala Mala and shares the same wildlife experience as the main camp for less money. Facilities include bar, swimming pool and of course a private air-strip.
- Kirkman’s Camp is an ex-cattle farm in a colonial style house near the sand river. Decoration reminds the visitor of past times and the reception looks like an exposition of old weapons, animal skins and other hunting trophies. Facilities include swimming pool, bar and private airstrip.
- Sabi Sabi, ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. Sabi Sabi is among the most famous and pricey game lodges around the KNP. Together with Mala Mala they pioneered private game reserves and this is partly because of their much favoured location near the Sand River as a source of permanent water. Game viewing is absolutely superb and you stand good chances of seeing many highlights. Bookings for the different lodges should be made through the above contact details. From R5600.
- Selati Lodge is a charming place decorated in colonial style from the 19th century and has therefore no electricity and receives a maximum of 16 guests in 8 rooms and has bar and pool facilities.
- Bush Lodge is close to a water hole and some of the rooms overlook it. The lodge is tastefully decorated with African art and accommodates 54 guests in chalets and 5 suits. Facilities include bar and pool.
- Timbavati River Lodge, Timbavati Private Game Reserve, ☏ . Luxury tented guestrooms and thatched chalets equipped with private game viewing deck, coffee and tea area and toiletries. Some of its facilities and services are splash pool, lounge and viewing deck. From USD 453.33.
- Singita, ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. Constantly wins awards for best hotel and safari.
- Ebony Lodge
- Boulders Lodge
- Lebombo Lodge
- Sweni Lodge
- Castleton Camp
In general, Kruger National Park is one of the safest areas of South Africa. However, there are still safety concerns visiting Kruger.
The entirety of Kruger Park is a breeding ground for malaria-carrying anopheles mosquitoes. As such, it is important to take precautions against malaria. While the best advice for you will come from a doctor, you can use the Wikivoyage page about malaria as a starting guide. Avoiding mosquito bites by using mosquito repellent, covering your skin and using mosquito nets is especially helpful, but not sufficient on its own. Pharmacies in South Africa offer a wide variety of effective malaria tablets, often for cheaper than available elsewhere, but it is important to check with your doctor especially if you are taking any other medications, as there may be drug-drug interactions.
When entering Kruger National Park, you are entering the home of the animals in the park. It is important to be respectful, as harming the animals in the park comes with a stiff fine, potentially prison time, and in some cases an immediate death penalty enforced by elephant, rhino, lion or hippo. None of these are particularly positive outcomes, so you are encouraged to avoid such scenarios. Do not leave your vehicle except in camp or where there are signs allowing it. Even when there are signs noting that you may leave your vehicle, be sure to check the area around you before exiting.
Do not feed the animals. Animals who are fed by humans tend to come back for more food and can end up becoming pests or even violent. You feeding an animal might be a step on the path to it having to be killed, and wildlife management hates to have to kill the animals.
Respecting speed limits inside the KNP is crucial. Big game crosses the roads in the park without any warning and an upset elephant is not easy to deal with - the same applies for rhinos and giraffe bulls. Speed limits are 50 km/h on tarred roads and 40 km/h on dirt roads. Even so, going close to the speed limit is not recommended, as it makes it more difficult to spot animals near the road. Additionally, it is important to leave plenty of time to get back to camp or to a park gate before the gates close. Not only are there fines for those caught in the park after closing time, but lights seen in unexpected locations must be investigated, as poachers often camp in the park.
Please be careful when driving outside the park at night, especially in rural areas. While the area is generally safer than parts of South Africa like Johannesburg, the roads are still quite dangerous.
Some other rules that are important to know before visiting Kruger are:
- Firearms must be declared and sealed at the entrance gate.
- No pets of any kind are permitted in the KNP
- Pilgrim's Rest and the Blyde River Canyon are often visited in the same trip as Kruger.
- Johannesburg (the biggest city south of the Sahara) and Pretoria in the Gauteng Province are busy cities of banks and government institutions and are 4 hours drive from the park.
- Cape Town is one of the largest cities in South Africa and is in the south-west corner of the country near the Cape of Good Hope. Cape Town is a stone's throw from South Africa's world-famous Cape Winelands around Stellenbosch and Paarl.
- Durban is primarily a holiday/resort city at the Indian Ocean but also boasts South Africa's busiest container port.
- Drakensberg -- Massive and spectacular mountain range. Peaks exceed 3000 meters above sea level. Climbing, hiking, wilderness trails, mountain biking, fly fishing, and more.
- Lesotho -- real Africa right on South Africa's doorstep.
The border crossing into Mozambique within the greater park isn't really practical for overseas visitors. Rental cars are not permitted across the border and there is no transport to or from the border post to speak of. There are no facilities, apart from customs and immigration, at the border post. The customs, immigration and (Mozambique) tourism officials at the crossing are busy doing a range of activities, none of which actually involve processing people across the border.