Kruger National Park

Extending over a mind-boggling 19,485 km², the Kruger National Park is one of Africa’s largest and most iconic safari destinations, comparable in area to Wales or the state of New Jersey, and sharing open borders with several smaller private reserves as well as two transfrontier national parks in the form of Gonarezhou (Zimbabwe) and Limpopo (Mozambique). It vies with with Cape Town as South Africa’s top destination, attracting more than one million visitors annually, and the park itself is better suited to affordable self-drive safaris than any other major African park. By contrast, the exclusive private reserves that border Kruger, and ‘concession lodges’ that occupy exclusive enclaves within it, set the bar when it comes to all-inclusive luxury safaris in open 4x4 vehicles driven by expert guides.

Kruger National Park_Game drive Having a professional guide to rack wildlife in the bush is the best way to enjoy a trip to Kruger National Park

Set in the hot eastern lowveld, Kruger is traversed by several rivers and punctuated by a few hilly areas, but mostly it comprises flat savannah dominated by acacia trees in the south and mopane woodland in the north. A tally of 147 mammal species includes all the Big Five (around 40,000 buffalo, 13,000 elephant, 1,600 lion, 2,000 leopard and 7,000 white and 400 black rhino) along with other safari favourites such as cheetah, hippo, zebra, giraffe, warthog, baboon, Vervet monkey and a full 21 antelope species.

Kruger National Park_Elephant Elephant in the Kruger National Park

The Nile crocodile is the most conspicuous of 114 reptile and 34 amphibian species, but the ethereal communal calls of the Bubbling kassina and other tree-frogs often provide a haunting aural backdrop to dusk waterhole vigils. Kruger is a magnet for bird lovers, with 517 bird species recorded, ranging from the spectacularly colourful Lilac-breasted roller and White-fronted bee-eater to several heftier species now rare outside of protected areas, among them the eyelid-fluttering Southern ground hornbill, the bizarre Secretary-bird, the massive Kori bustard (the world’s heaviest flying bird), the macabre Marabou stork, and of course the ostrich.

Kruger National Park_Lilac breasted roller The colourful lilac-breasted roller


Thanks to its relative proximity to Gauteng, Southern Kruger carries the highest volume of safari goers. The far south offers the park’s most reliable game viewing: the surfaced H4-1 that follows the Sabie River from Skukuza to Lower Sabie often throws up elephant, buffalo, lion and even leopard, and is also a favourite with birdwatchers, while the H4-2 and associated dirt roads running south to Crocodile Bridge explore the park’s best rhino country.

Kruger National Park_rhino Rhino in the Kruger National Park. Dedicated teams work around the clock to protect these animals from poachers

The focal point of the lightly-wooded savannah of Central Kruger, Satara stands at the crossroads of some superb game-viewing roads. Seasonal concentrations of wildebeest and zebra are reminiscent of the Serengeti, and it is the best place to look for cheetah and to see lion kills - the latter also often attracting jackals and hyenas. The aptly-named Olifants River is favoured haunt of elephants and it also often attracts immense herds of thirsty buffalo.

Kruger National Park_Cheetah cubs Cheetah cubs in the Satara region of the Kruger National Park. Long golden grasses provide a great camouflage for these cubs

Wildlife viewing in the remote Northern Kruger is challenging, for while buffalo and elephant are conspicuous, lion, leopard or rhino encounters are rare. Balanced against that, the untrammelled north possesses a mesmerising wilderness feel, and hosts a great many localised bird species absent further south. Thulamela Heritage Site, on the south bank of the Luvuvhu River, protects the substantial ruins of a 16th-century Zimbabwe-style stone-wall royal village.

Kruger National Park_Parfuri_Elephant A lone elephant makes his way around Pafuri in the far north of the Kruger National Park | Credit: Rudolph de Girardier

The 240 km² Makuleke Contractual Park, which runs south from the Limpopo River as it runs along the border with Zimbabwe, was annexed to Kruger following the forcible relocation of its inhabitants in 1969. Restored to the Makuleke community in the 1990s, it is still managed as part of Kruger, and hosts two private lodges that offer much to keen birdwatchers or anybody seeking a genuine wilderness escape. An excellent place to seek out the likes of Pel’s fishing owl, Racket-tailed roller and Triple-banded courser, it also offers exclusive access to the spectacular Lanner Gorge and lush Fever-tree forest at Crooks Corner.

Kruger National Park_Pels Fishing Owl Pel’s Fishing Owl is a rare sighting on safari

Home to some of South Africa’s most lauded game lodges, the Sabi Sand Reserve was amalgamated from several now jointly-managed private properties in 1948. It shares an open boundary with southern Kruger, and expertly guided game drives in open 4x4 vehicles often throw up all the Big Five, as well as cheetah and African wild dog. The reserve also arguably offers the world’s best and most intimate leopard viewing. But while the game viewing is peerless, shared traversing rights with neighbouring properties.

Kruger National Park_Singita Boulder's Lodge The Singita Boulder’s Lodge in the Sabi Sand is an example of the five-star luxury you can find in this corner of the Kruger

Immediately north of Sabi Sand, Manyeleti Game Reserve, whose Shangaan name means ‘Place of Stars’, was set aside in 1964 and now shares an unfenced 30 km eastern border with Kruger and supports a similar selection of wildlife, though poaching and low tourist volumes mean that game viewing isn’t quite up there with several of its neighbours.

Kruger National Park_Manyeleti Game Reserve Close encounters with wildlife in the Manyeleti Game Reserve

Named after the seasonal river that flows close to its southern boundary before crossing into Kruger, the private Timbavati Nature Reserve, created in 1962, and now unfenced along its border with Kruger, operates in a similar manner to Sabi Sand. Game drives don’t quite match up when it comes to leopard and rhino sightings, but since camps are more spread out, they tend to operate at a more relaxed and impulsive pace.

The Kruger’s dozen-or-so privately-run Concession Lodges stand on individual enclaves of national park land where exclusive traversing rights have been awarded to the concessionaire. Much like the private reserves bordering Kruger, each concession hosts between one and three exclusive small camps that offer guests an upmarket package inclusive of expertly guided game drives in open 4x4s. However, the concessions are typically much larger than the private reserves, wildlife is less habituated to vehicles, and there is no cross-traversing with other lodges - the net result being that game viewing tends to be more erratic but the overall experience is arguably more holistically satisfying.

Kruger National Park_Tanda Tula Tanda Tula in the Timbavati Game Reserve

Practical information

Kruger National Park_Self Drive Kruger National Park offers great self-drive opportunities, which may be less expensive than a stay in a luxury lodge

  • Kruger is well suited to affordable self-drive safaris. A good network of sealed roads can easily be explored in an ordinary saloon car. The 20-odd rest camps offer inexpensive but comfortable accommodation, and most have grocery shops, filling stations and restaurants. In addition, an excellent selection of maps, guidebooks and other interpretive material is available on site.

  • Kruger-Mpumalanga International Airport (KMIA) lies within an hour’s drive of Numbi and Phabeni Gates. It is connected to Gauteng’s OR Tambo International Airport by several scheduled flights daily, and several car rental companies are represented there. For couples or families, it may be more affordable to rent a car out of Gauteng and drive, following the N4 east from Pretoria to Mbombela, or the N12 from Johannesburg/OR Tambo to connect with the N4 at eMalahleni (formerly Witbank). Allow five hours for the drive.

  • The private and concession lodges associated with Kruger offer a very different and somewhat more costly experience. Most exude an aura of safari chic, pamper clients with gourmet meals and service levels in line with a luxury spa, and include a guided evening and morning game drive in rack rate. These lodges are normally visited as a two- or three-night all-inclusive fly-in or drive-down package from Gauteng. You could also tag one night at a private reserve to the end of a self-drive Kruger safari – though be sure to time things so that you arrive at camp in time and leave late enough to do all game drives.

  • Kruger is hot and seasonally humid, with summer daytime temperatures routinely topping the 30°C mark (frequently 40°C in the north). The air dries out in winter, when nights can be very cold, and you’ll want plenty of warm clothing for evening and early morning game drives.

Our Recommended Itinerary

Blissful Fly-In Kruger Safari (4 days)

day 1

Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve

day 2 to 3

Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve
  • Blissful Fly-In Kruger Safari (4 days)
  • Blissful Fly-In Kruger Safari (4 days)
  • Blissful Fly-In Kruger Safari (4 days)
  • Blissful Fly-In Kruger Safari (4 days)
  • Blissful Fly-In Kruger Safari (4 days)
  • Blissful Fly-In Kruger Safari (4 days)

day 4


View Full Itinerary

Popular South Africa Safaris

These popular itineraries can be customised to match your budget and travel dates

 | Kruger’s Sabi Sands and Timbavati Discovery Safari

Kruger's Sabi Sands Discovery Safari (5 days)

Enjoy an authentic African safari. Game viewing possibilities are unparalleled and include the Big Five in the Sabi Sands and white lions in the Timbavati Nature Reserve....

 | Kruger to the Mozambican Coast (7 days)

Kruger to the Mozambican Coast (7 days)

Combining the bush and the wildlife found in the famous Sabi Sand in the Kruger National Park with a tropical stay in one of the sublime lodges of Mozambique's Ponta Mamoli...

 | Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa Safari Adventure (19 days)

Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa Safari Adventure (19 days)

This Southern Africa safari adventure will take you to the tip of the African continent...

 | South African Bush and Beach Journey (10 days)

South African Bush and Beach Journey (10 days)

Explore the magic of Cape Town followed by the Scenic Garden Route and finally the Big Five members at the Kruger National Park...

 | South African Holiday Adventure (10 days)

South African Holiday Adventure (10 days)

Explore the southern-most city on the African continent, before jetting off to spot the Big Five...

Stunning view from the Rovos Rail | The Ultimate Luxury Safari in South Africa (11 days)

The Ultimate Luxury Safari in South Africa (11 days)

Combine Cape Town chic with Africa's most luxurious train and an elegant Big Five safari for a stylish South African holiday...

 | Journey through the Highlights of Southern Africa (13 days)

Journey through the Highlights of Southern Africa (13 days)

Exploring these areas of the Southern African continent should on top of your bucket list...

 | Best of Africa Safari (16 days)

Best of Africa Safari (16 days)

Experience the best of Africa, from the Okavango Delta – one of Africa's Seven Natural Wonders – to the endangered mountain gorillas and East Africa's Great Migration...

 | Sabi Sands and Okavango Delta Big Five Tour (8 days)

Sabi Sands and Okavango Delta Big Five Tour (8 days)

Explore the famous reserve that offers exceptional game viewing and sight the elusive Sitatunga antelope in the Okavango ...

 | City and Safari in Southern Africa (14 days)

City and Safari in Southern Africa (14 days)

Majestic wildlife and the riches of Africa. ...

You might also like

Lodges in South Africa: The dos and don’ts

Cover up when on safari; closed shoes are a must (or at least open shoes that fasten tightly). Consider neutral-coloured clothing when in the bush. Keep it down to preserve noise pollution and respect fellow safari goers. Keep clothing neutral and comfortable Notice the small things. While sighting the Big Five in South Africa is a must, noticing the smaller details will make your…

Value-for-money holiday in South Africa

A self-drive adventure helps to keep costs down An excellent option for those who want to travel in reasonable comfort whilst keeping down costs is to self-drive some or all of the time. Rental cars can be arranged in all major centres (as well as at all airports) and roads are generally up to international standards, though potholes are increasingly prevalent in smaller towns. The…

iSimangaliso Wetland Park

iSimangaliso encompasses a variety of terrains that make it an important biodiverse region of the South Africa South Africa’s third-largest protected area and oldest UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 3,320 square km iSimangaliso follows the Indian Ocean coastline for a full 220 km north of Lake St Lucia (Africa’s largest estuarine system) to Kosi Bay on the border with Mozambique. It…

Gauteng, Kruger and the North

South Africa’s major safari destinations are mostly clustered in the country’s northern interior. Foremost among these is the iconic Kruger National Park and bordering private reserves, which collectively protect a vast tract of low-lying bushveld that offers some of the finest Big Five viewing anywhere on the continent. Also very popular, particularly for those who want to avoid the…

Health care in South Africa

Although South Africa has a public healthcare system, it is underfunded and understaffed, and facilities tend to be overcrowded, with some 20% of the country’s doctors employed to serve around 80% of the population. By contrast, private medical facilities compare favourably with anywhere in the world, and also tend to be affordable. ...

South Africa in February

Turtles begin to nest in February in iSimangaliso. You can track them on a turtle tour | Credit: Thonga Beach Lodge Johannesburg and the highveld is hot by day, warm at night and receives regular rainfall often in the form of afternoon thunderstorms. Cape Town and the Western Cape is hot and dry, cooling down at night. The Kruger Park and surrounds is very hot by day, warm at night…

South Africa in November

You can expect thundershows in the Kruger during November Johannesburg and the Highveld is hot by day, cool at night and receives regular rainfall often in the form of afternoon thunderstorms. Cape Town and the Western Cape is hot by day, cooler at night, and dry. The Kruger Park and surrounds is hot by day, warm at night, and dry. November is an ideal time for beach holidays…

Madikwe and Pilanesberg

Pride of lions in the Madikwe Game Reserve Situated in the blandly-named low-profile North West Province, these two relatively recently-created reserves have grown in popularity in recent years thanks to their family-friendly location in a malaria free-zone and excellent Big Five viewing. Pilanesberg and Madikwe are quite similar in ecological terms, both being situated on the…

Ready to start your adventure?

+27 (0)21 422 3498
    Mon - Fri: 8AM - 9PM GMT+2