Tuesday, 27 March 2018

SOUTH AFRICA: Kruger National Park

Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa. It covers an area of 19,485 square kilometres (7,523 sq mi) in the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga in northeastern South Africa.

Kruger National Park extends 360 kilometres (220 mi) from north to south and 65 kilometres (40 mi) from east to west.

The administrative headquarters are in Skukuza. Areas of the park were first protected by the government of the South African Republic in 1898, and it became South Africa's first national park in 1926.

To the west and south of the Kruger National Park are the two South African provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga.

In the north is Zimbabwe, and to the east is Mozambique. It is now part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, a peace park that links Kruger National Park with the Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe, and with the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique.

The park is part of the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere an area designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as an International Man and Biosphere Reserve.

The park has nine main gates allowing entrance to the different camps.

The area that the park covers today was part of the last wild frontier in the eastern half of Transvaal before the Second Anglo-Boer War.

Paul Kruger, President of the Republic of South Africa at the time, proclaimed the area, which was inhabited by the Tsonga people, a sancutuary for the protection of its wildlife.

Today it is against the law to farm or hunt animals in that area. James Stevenson Hamilton noted many kraals along the Sabi River and also further north beyond the Letaba River although the north was sparsely populated compared to the south.

Many of the local natives were employed by Railway companies trying to connect Pretoria and Maputo during the end of the 19th century. The proclaimed area, called Makuleke, was returned to the Tsonga people in 1998.

Since then the Kruger National Park has paid royalties to the Tsonga, which is collected as a tribal fees from tourists.

In 1895, Jakob Louis van Wyk introduced in the Volksraad of the old South African Republic a motion to create the game reserve. The area prposed extended from the Olifants River to the Sabi River in the north.

That motion, introduced together with another Volksraad member by the name of R. K. Loveday, and accepted for discussion in September 1895 by a majority of one vote.

This resulted in the proclamation by Paul Kruger, president of the Transvaal Republic (South African Republic), on 26 March 1898, of a Government Wildlife Park.

This park would later be known as the Sabi Game Reserve.

The park was initially created to control hunting and protect the diminished number of animals in the park.

James Stevenson-Hamilton became the first warden of the reserve in 1902.

The reserve was located in the southern one-third of the modern park. Shingwedzi Reserve, named after the Shingwedzi River and now in northern Kruger National Park, was proclaimed in 1903.

During the following decades all the native tribes were removed from the reserve and during the 1960s the last were removed at Makuleke in the Pafuri triangle.

In 1926, Sabie Game Reserve, the adjacent Shingwedzi Game Reserve, and farms were combined to create Kruger National Park.

During 1923, the first large groups of tourists started visiting the Sabie Game Reserve, but only as part of the South African Railways' popular Round in Nine tours.

The tourist trains used the Selati railway line between Komatipoort on the Mozambican border and Tzaneen in Limpopo Province.

The tour included an overnight stop at Sabie Bridge now Skukuza and a short walk, escorted by armed rangers, into the bush.

It soon became a highlight of the tour and it gave valuable support for the campaign to proclaim the Sabie Game Reserve as a national park.

After the proclamation of the Kruger National Park in 1926, the first three tourist cars entered the park in 1927, jumping to 180 cars in 1928 and 850 cars in 1929.

Warden James Stevenson-Hamilton retired on 30 April 1946, after 44 years as warden of the Kruger Park and its predecessor, the Sabi Sabi Game Reserve.

The Makuleke area in the northern part of the park was forcibly taken from the Makuleke people by the government in 1969 and about 1500 of them were relocated to land to the south so that their original tribal areas could be integrated into the greater Kruger National Park.

In 1996 the Makuleke tribe submitted a land claim for 19,842 hectares (198.42 km2) in the northern part of the Kruger National Park.

The land was given back to the Makuleke people, however, they chose not to resettle on the land but to engage with the private sector to invest in tourism, thus resulting in the building of several game lodges.

In the late 1990s, the fences between the Kruger Park and Klaserie Game Reserve, Olifants Game Reserve and Balule Game Reserve were dropped and incorporated into the Greater Kruger Park with 40 000 hectares added to the Reserve.

In 2002, Kruger National Park, Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe, and Limpopo National Park in Mozambique were incorporated into a peace park, the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park.

The park lies in the north-east of South Africa, in the eastern parts of Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces.

Phalaborwa, Limpopo is the only town in South Africa that borders the Kruger National Park. It is one of the largest national parks in the world, with an area of 19,485 square kilometres (7,523 sq mi).

The park is approximately 360 kilometres (220 mi) long, and has an average width of 65 kilometres (40 mi). At its widest point, the park is 90 kilometres (56 mi) wide from east to west.

To the north and south of the park two rivers, the Limpopo and the Crocodile respectively, act as its natural boundaries. To the east the Lebombo Mountains separate it from Mozambique.

Its western boundary runs parallel with this range, roughly 65 kilometres (40 mi) distant. The park varies in altitude between 200 metres (660 ft) in the east and 840 metres (2,760 ft) in the south-west near Berg-en-Dal.

The highest point in the park is here, a hill called Khandzalive. Several rivers run through the park from west to east, including the Sabie, Olifants, Crocodile, Letaba, Luvuvhu and Limpopo Rivers.

The climate of the Kruger National Park and Lowveld is subtropical. Summer days are humid and hot. The rainy season is from September until May.

Kruger National Park has September and October as the driest periods, culminating in rains late in October. The dry winter season is the ideal time to visit this region for various reasons.

There is less chance of contracting malaria and the days are milder. Viewing wildlife is more rewarding as the vegetation is more sparse and animals are drawn to the waterholes to drink every morning and evening.

Plants life in the park consists of four main areas:

This area lies between the western boundary and roughly the centre of the park south of the Olifants River.

Combretums, such as the red bush-willow (Combretum apiculatum), and Acacia species predominate while there are a great number of marula trees (Sclerocarya caffra).

The Acacias are dominant along the rivers and streams, the very dense Nwatimhiri bush along the Sabie River between Skukuza and Lower Sabie being a very good example.

South of the Olifants River in the eastern half of the park, this area provides the most important grazing-land.

Species such as red grass (Themeda triandra) and buffalo grass (Panicum maximum) predominate while the knob-thorn (Acacia nigrescens), leadwood (Combretum imberbe) and marula (Sclerocarya caffra) are the main tree species.

This area lies in the western half of the park, north of the Olifants River. The two most prominent species here are the red bush-willow (Combretum apiculatum) and the mopane tree (Colophospermum mopane).

Shrub mopane covers almost the entire north-eastern part of the park.

There are a number of smaller areas in the park which carry distinctive vegetation such as Pretoriuskop where the sickle bush and the silver cluster-leaf (Terminalia sericea) are prominent.

The sandveld communities near Punda Maria are equally definitive, with a wide variety of unique species.

Out of the 517 species of birds found at Kruger, 253 are residents, 117 non-breeding migrants, and 147 nomads.

Some of the larger birds require large territories or are sensitive to habitat degradation.

Six of these species, which are by and large restricted to Kruger and other extensive conservation areas, have been assigned to a fanciful grouping called the "Big Six Birds".

They are the lappet-faced vulture, martial eagle, saddle-billed stork, kori bustard, ground hornbill and the reclusive Pel's fishing owl, which is localized and seldom seen.

There are between 25 and 30 breeding pairs of saddle-billed storks in the park, besides a handful of non-breeding individuals.

In 2012 178 family groups of ground hornbills roamed the park and 78 nests were known, of which 50% were active.

All the Big Five game animals are found at Kruger National Park, which has more species of large mammals than any other African game reserve at 147 species. There are webcams set up to observe the wildlife.

The park stopped culling elephants in 1994 and tried translocating them, but by 2004 the population had increased to 11,670 elephants, by 2006 to approximately 13,500, by 2009 to 11,672, and by 2012 to 16,900.

The park's habitats can only sustain about 8,000 elephants. The park started an attempt at using contraception in 1995, but has stopped that due to problems with delivering the contraceptives and upsetting the herds.

Kruger supports packs of the endangered African wild dog, of which there are thought to be only about 400 in the whole of South Africa.

Wildlife Population As of 2009

Black Rhinoceros - 590-660

Blue Wildebeest - 11,500

Burchell's zebra - 26,500

Bushbuck - 500

Cape buffalo - 37,500

Eland - 460

Elephant - 13,700

Giraffe - 9,000

Greater Kudu - 9,500

Hippopotamus - 3,100

Impala - 120,000

Lichtenstein’s Hartebeest - 50

Mountain Reedbuck - 150

Nyala - 300

Roan Antelope - 90

Sable Antelope - 290

Warthog - 3,500

Waterbuck - 5,500

White Rhinoceros - 10,500

African wild dog - 150

Cheetah - 120

Crocodile - 4,420

Leopard - 1,000

Lion - 1,600

Spotted hyena - 3,500

Kruger houses 114 species of reptile, including black mamba, african rock pythons, and 3000 crocodiles.

Thirty-three species of amphibians are found in the Park, as well as 50 fish species.

A Zambesi shark, Carcharhinus leucas, also known as the bull shark, was caught at the confluence of the Limpopo and Luvuvhu Rivers in July 1950.

Zambezi sharks tolerate fresh water and can travel far up rivers like the Limpopo.

Kruger is not exempt from the threat of poaching that many other African countries have faced. Many poachers are in search of ivory from rhino and elephant tusks.

The park's anti-poaching unit consists of 650 SANParks game rangers, assisted by the SAPS and the SANDF including the SAAF.

The park is equipped with two drones borrowed from Denel and two Aerospatiale Gazelle helicopters, donated by the RAF to augment its air space presence.

Automated movement sensors relay intrusions along the Mozambique border to a control center, and a specialist dog unit has been introduced.

Buffer zones have been established along the border with Mozambique, from where many poachers have infiltrated the park, as an alternative to costly new fences.

The original 150 km long fences were dropped in 2002 to establish the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park. The national anti-poaching committee oversees all activities and coordinates interested parties.

Kruger's big game poachers operate with night vision instruments and large caliber rifles, fitted with suppressors and sophisticated telescopic sights.

They are mostly Mozambique citizens that initiate their carefully planned incursions from the Mozambique border region. In 2012 some 200 poachers were apprehended, while about 30 were killed in skirmishes.

In July 2012, a Kruger game ranger and policeman were the first to die in an anti-poaching operation, while other employees reported intimidation by poachers.

A Kruger personnel strike affected some anti-poaching operations, and a few employees have been directly implicated.

Rangers in and around the park have been pressured or blackmailed by poaching syndicates to provide intelligence on the whereabouts of rhinos and anti-poaching operations.

In December 2012, Kruger started using a Seeker II drone against rhino poachers. The drone was loaned to the South African National Parks authority by its manufacturer Denel Dynamics, South Africa.

In February 2018, a head belonging to a suspected poacher appeared in Kruger National Park near Hoedspruit, with the body dragged off and eaten by lions, it is assumed.

Officials had assumed at first that it was the head of a park employee that had gone missing days before, but it was later determined the man was, in fact, a suspected poacher after the park employee had been found alive.

The head belonging to the suspected poacher had been found in an area highly trafficked by lions, along with a loaded hunting rifle.

Poachers mostly operate at or near full moon and make no distinction between white and black rhinos. Losses of black rhino are however low due to their reclusive and aggressive nature.

With rhino horn fetching around $66,000 and up to $82,000 per kilogram, the CITES ban on the trade in rhino horn has proved largely ineffectual.

The second horn is sometimes hacked from the skull to obtain about 100 ml of moisture that is sold locally as traditional medicine.

Poaching related to rhino horn escalated in the 21st century with 949 rhinos killed in Kruger in the first twelve years of 2001 to 2012, and over 520 in 2013 alone.

A planned memorandum of agreement between South Africa and Vietnam, in addition to the one with China, are seen as necessary milestones in stemming the tide, while negotiations with Thailand have not yet started.

The amount of rhino horn held in storage is not publicly known. Since 2009 some Kruger rhinos have been fitted with invisible tracing devices in their bodies and horns which enable officials to locate their carcasses and to track the smuggled horns by satellite.

South Africa's 22,000 white and black rhinos, of which 12,000 are found in Kruger, represent some 93% of these species' world population.

Kruger experienced significant elephant poaching in the 1980s, which has since abated. It holds over 48 tons of ivory in storage.

According to Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), it is allowed to sell 30 tons.

Following approval by CITES, 47 metric tons of stockpiled ivory from Kruger were auctioned on 6 November 2008.

The sale fetched approximately US$6.7 million which will be used towards increasing anti-poaching activity. The average price for the 63 lots on auction was US$142/kg.

It is foreseen that the placement of wire traps to procure meat would eventually become the most challenging form of poaching.

A scheme has been proposed to reward adjacent communities with the proceeds of game sales in return for their cooperation in game preservation.

The larger communities include Bosbokrand, Acornhoek, Hazyview, Hoedspruit, Komatipoort, Malelane, Marloth Park, Nelspruit and Phalaborwa.

The Kruger National Park has 21 rest camps, as well as two private lodge concessions, and 15 designated private safari lodges.

The concessions are parcels of land operated by private companies in partnership with communities, who outsource the operation of private lodges.

Camping in the park has become popular with tourists and backpackers because it is much less expensive, and open to anyone, requiring no special permission to partake.

Rest camps in kruger National Park

- Bateleur Bushveld Camp

- Berg-en-Dal Camp

- Biyamiti Bushveld Camp

- Boulders Bush Camp

- Balule Camp, near Olifants Camp

- Crocodile Bridge Camp

- Letaba Camp

- Lower Sabie Camp

- Malelane Camp

- Maroela Camp, near Orpen

- Mopani Camp

- Olifants Camp

- Orpen Camp

- Pretoriuskop Camp

- Punda Maria Camp

- Roodewal Bush Lodge

- Satara Camp

- Shimuwini Bushveld Camp

- Shingwedzi Camp

- Sirheni Bushveld Camp

- Skukuza Camp

- Talamati Bushveld Camp

- Tamboti Tented Camp, near Orpen

- Tsendze Rustic Camp

Private Lodges in Kruger National Park

- Camp Shawu near Crocodile Bridge Gate

- Camp Shonga near Crocodile Bridge Gate

- Hamiltons Tented Camp

- Hoyo Hoyo Tsonga Lodge

- Imbali Safari Lodge

- Jocks Safari Lodge & Spa

- Lukimbi Safari Lodge

- Pafuri Camp, near Pafuri Gate

- Plains Camp

- Rhino Post Camp

- Shishangeni Lodge near Crocodile Bridge Gate

- Singita Lebombo Lodge

- Singita Sweni Lodge

- The Outpost Lodge, near Pafuri Gate

- Tinga Game Lodges

Bushveld Camps in Kruger National Park

- Bateleur Bushveld Camp

- Biyamiti Bushveld Camp

- Shimuwini Bushveld Camp

- Sirheni Bushveld Camp

- Talamati Bushveld Camp

On 30 October 2013, South African National Parks (SANParks) announced the establishment of franchise restaurants in several rest camps.

Mugg & Bean restaurants have been established at Lower Sabie, Olifants and Letaba rest camps. Wimpy restaurants have been established at Pretoriuskop and Satara rest camps.

Skukuza's Selati Station Grill House has been replaced by Ciao and Skukuza’s main camp restaurant and take away will be run by Cattle Baron and Bistro.

This decision was controversial, with some people welcoming the improvement in food services, and others viewing the introduction of franchises as detracting from the purpose of the Kruger Park.

Gates to the Kruger National Park

- Crocodile Bridge Gate on the extension of Rissikstreet from Komatipoort

- Malelane Gate on the R570 off the N4 near Malelane

- Numbi Gate on the R569 road from Hazyview

- Phabeni Gate on the road off the R536 from Hazyview

- Paul Kruger Gate on the R536 road from Hazyview

- Orpen Gate on the R531 road from Klaserie

- Phalaborwa Gate on the R71 road from Phalaborwa

- Punda Maria Gate on the R524 road from Thohoyandou

- Pafuri Gate on the R525 road

Nine different trails are on offer in the Kruger National Park. Some are overnight and they last several days in areas of wilderness virtually untouched by humans.

There are no set trails in the wilderness areas; a visitor walks along paths made by animals or seeks out new routes through the bush.

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 Lions, Leopards, Elephants, Rhinos, Buffalos often referred 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 as the birding paradise.

If you choose to self-drive, and aren't experienced in African animal tracking, you will still inevitably see elephants and buffalos, and many variety of antelope.

Impalas are ubiquitous. Rhinos are less common, but big enough to be seen by the untrained eye. Leopards are seen and are commonly seen by the experts, but are camouflaged and in trees, so present a challenge to the untrained.

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.

South Africa is located south of the equator and has therefore a reverse order of summer and winter than Europe and North America.

Generally is the KNP 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 shadow range from 18°-30°C.

Winter (May-August) is warm and dry with temperatures ranging from 8°-22°C. September-April Hot and sunny with sporadic thunder showers. Average temp 18-30°C.

From Nelspruit you will have to choose to which park gate you want to go. Nearest gates are: Malelane (south east), Numbi (south west) and Kruger Gate is south west, slightly north of the Numbi gate.

The N4 is a toll road and you have to pay for its use. Depending on which gate you want to reach, add one or two hours from Nelspruit to find out how long your journey will be.

Please be aware that the KNP gates are closed after sunset and visitors are not permitted to drive at night in the park.

The distance from Johannesburg to the 9 different gates of the KNP are approximately:

- Numbi gate: 411 km

- Malelane gate: 428 km
- Phabeni gate: 430-440 km

- Crocodile Bridge gate: 475 km

- Paul Kruger gate: 460-470 km

- Orpen: 490 km

- Phalaborwa: 490 km

- Punda Maria: 550 km

- Parfuri: 600 km

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 as well as local taxi/minibus services and both of them are difficult to spot at night.

The area of the Numbi gate had a number of incidents involving barriers on roads and South Africans blame the proximity to Mozambique for this.

There are three airports with commercial scheduled flights near Kruger National Park. From south to north, they are Kruger Mpumalanga at Nelspruit, Hoedspruit Airport, and Phalaborwa Airport.

Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport at Nelspruit receives flights from Johannesburg International Airport, Durban, Cape Town, Livingstone and Vilanculos.

It is the largest airport, with the most facilities and but only has services with South African Airlines only.

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 Kruger National Park gates from Kruger Mpumalanga International Airpor are:

- Kruger Gate 82 km

- Malelane Gate 63 km

- Numbi Gate 40 km

- Phabeni Gate 76 km

Eastgate Airport at Hoedspruit has a couple of flights a day to Johannesburg with South African Airlines only.

Avis has a car rental desk there. There is a bar and small shop selling chocolate bars, as well as a souvenir shop, but no serious 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.

Phalaborwa Airport is located 2 km from the Phalaborwa gate of the KNP and serves as a entry route for the northern camps such as Letaba, Olifants, Punda Maria and Shingwedzi.

The airport is well connected to Johannesburg International Airport with two flights per day during the week and a single flight on Saturday and Sunday.

The airport has car rental services. Again, there is only a single carrier operating.

Malelane Regional Airport near the Malelane Gate is only used for private and charter flights.

The Kruger National Park is not open all day and night. Entry gate and camp gate opening and closing times are as follows:

November-January - Open 4h30 (camp gate) and 5h30 (entry gate), close 18h30

February - Open 5h30, close 18h30

March- Open 5h30, close 18h00

April - Open 6h00, close 18h00

May-July - Open 6h00, close 17h30

August/September - Open 6h00, close 18h00

October - Open 5h30, close 18h00

November-January - Open 4h30 (camp) and 5h30 (entry, close 18h30)

If you are later back in the camp or found driving around at night, you will be fined very high rates up to thousands of Rand, it is serious. So make sure to be out or back in the camp before closing time.

Fees apply to access the park. If you are not a resident of South Africa, you can choose to either pay daily conservation fees or buy an international visitors wildcard that is 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 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 sidetracks are close to the originals 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 range from 20 to 50 km/h and it is not wise to go much faster, because game tends to cross the roads out of nowhere.

Make sure you have an upto-date map, enough to eat and drink, cameras and binoculars, reference books and a litter bag with you.

Take care when approaching animals. They are wild and unpredictable. If you have the feeling that animals get angry, leave. Elephants and rhinos 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.

Avis is the only car rental company with an office inside the park at Skukuza Camp, but other companies from Nelspruit 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.

Some petrol stations within the park accept payment by credit card.

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 than that in the north.

Consider the distances between camps site 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.

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.

This 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.

Unauthorised walking is not allowed and also extremely foolish.

Crocodile River view point is nearby the Crocodile Camp travelling north on the main road direction Lower Sabie and then following the sign to the Crocodile River view point on a dirt track for a couple of kilometers.

As a reward you can get out of your car and go with a park guide down to the river to watch hippos and crocodiles from a few meters distance.

Masorini is a restored Iron Age village about 10km 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 itself. 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.

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 camp and and some other camps, and cost around 170 Rand (~$30USD) per person.

Experienced rangers will take you in a 4x4 car to the KNP and explain you 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 in the night.

Wilderness trail Discover African flora and fauna on foot is an unforgettable lifetime experience and only few places in Africa offer such tours.

You 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 and 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 two nights and three days, either from Sunday to Wednesday, or from Wednesday to Saturday.

Hikers meet at the designated restcamp at 15:30 on Sundays or Wednesdays from where they leave by vehicle for their trail camp after a short briefing.

Bushman trail Berg en dal camp offers the bushman trail around the Berg en dal camp which is surrounded by granite rocks. Expect to see elephants, white rhinos and buffalos.

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 Check in at Pretoriuskop to enjoy the Napi trail and you may see white rhinos, elephants, lions, leopards, cheetahs and in the past you saw wild dogs which are rare nowadays.

Nyalaland trail Check in Punda Maria camp in the north of the KNP to spot crocodiles, elephants and hippos 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. 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, R10 560 for up to 8 people.

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

To make a reservation or get more information about Wilderness Trails . This is a great way to discover African fauna and flora, a unforgettable lifetime experience only available in a few places in Africa.

Kruger Park Tours, Part 51, Peebles Valley, White River, Mpumalanga, South Africa. Kruger Park Tours is the provider of choice when it comes to African Safaris in Kruger National Park.

Making use of experienced guides for your personal safety and guarantee a service level of excellence by extended knowledge of the park and its animals and their hiding spots.

Experience the magic of the African Bush on a variety of trips as well as custom trip requests throughout the rest of Africa.

Walking Safaris or Africa Walking Safaris, 30 Cambridge Avenue, Craighall Park, Johannesburg, eight walking trails throughout the Greater Kruger National Park.

Offers specialist walking safaris for groups of up to eight guests, led by two armed and experienced trails guides. Prices vary according to the accommodation type, ranging from rustic tented bush camps to luxury safari lodges.

Typically, the day's activities are an early morning walk, setting off at sunrise and covering 5-8 km over 4-6 hours, before returning to camp for brunch.

In the afternoon, guests may elect for a walk, or a game drive in an open game-viewing vehicle which departs around 4pm and returns to camp around 7pm.

This drive includes a sundowner drinks stop at sunset, followed by a night drive with spotlights to view Kruger's nocturnal wildlife. US$200-600 per night.

African Big 5 Safaris, Sinoville, Gauteng 0129, South Africa. African Big 5 Safaris offer a variety of safari options into Kruger National Park and Olifants Reserve that are suitable for different budgets.

From R800 or $116 USD for 2 nights / 3 days tented safari at the Olifants Reserve to R7000 or $1020 USD for 2 nights / 3 days luxury safari at the Kruger National Park.

They also offer one day safaris for those pressed for time, as well as the multi day safaris that take you deep into the Kruger National Park territory.

Kurt Safari, 426 Kudu Street, Skukuza, Kruger National Park 1350, Located in the Kruger National Park, Skukuza Camp.

Kurt Safari offers once in a life time Kruger Park safaris and tours. With 3, 4, or 5 day group tours you can get the full Kruger National Park experience.

If you are on a budget why not try Kurt Safaris budget Kruger tours. With full open group vehicle safaris and tailor made photographic tours you can capture the perfect picture for your collection.

The two guides Marcel and Retief are also the co-owners of the company. They are experienced, attentive, and safety conscious. Their knowledge of animal behavior and scientific facts is outstanding! US$200-600 pp per tour.

Play golf at the 9 hole golf course in Skukuza, originally designed for the local personnel it was recently opened to the public.

Please bring your own golf clubs with you and enjoy this very special golf course. Considering the average temperature in the Kruger National Park this is one of the toughest 9 hole golf courses in the world.

Bigger camp sites such as the Lower Sabie and Skukuza have comfortable shopping facilities and you can buy foodstuffs and 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 there.

Fresh milk particularly can be in short supply. Overall, it can be said that all item in the shops are very reasonably priced and only a few cents more expensive than in regular South African supermarkets.

Artistic wood carvings can be found there as well and is usually of reasonable quality and cheaper than in 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.

For self catering, there are designated picnic areas in the camps, as well as some picnic areas away from the camps, with an armed attendant. The picnic areas have braai barbecue facilities and tables.

The camp shops sell food to barbecue and drinks at quite reasonable prices, as well as firewood. They only sell take-away alcohol to those who have proof they are staying in the park.

Many of the camps have cafeterias and restaurants, but don't plan on any variety between the camps. 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 made of game, like Kudu, Zebra or Elephant

Alcohol cannot be brought into the park. Take away alcohol cannot be bought from the park shops, unless you are staying in the park. The camp restaurants and bars sell beer, wine and spirits.

The bars in camp aren't crowded of an evening with people recalling tales of wildlife seen during the day.

Generally people aren't visiting Kruger for the nightlife, and are more likely to spend the evening with a braai ready for an early start the following day.

Several camps inside the KNP provide accommodation and shelter to visitors and are the only places inside the park where you may leave your car safely.

The level of service depends on the camp size and can range from a tent site with a picnic area and bathroom facilities to a small town with swimming pool, library, restaurant, cafeteria, filling station, supermarket and golf course.

Most accept payment by credit card. Travel from one site to another takes on average 2 hours, whereas distances in the south are shorter and northern camps can be a little bit further apart.

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.

Berg en Dal, a medium sized camp located 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, morning drive, night drive and the Rhino trail camp walk.

Crocodile Bridge, The third smallest camp of KNP and located close to Crocodile River, Crocodile Bridge is in the most southern part of Kruger National Park and it is a camp and as well a gate site.

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 Kruger National Park gates are shut.

Facilities include laundry service. There is a great amount game around this camp / gate, consider yourself very unlucky if you do not spot Lions in this area.

Letaba, One of the more beautiful camps, Letaba is in the central section of Kruger National Park 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 an exhibition about the elephant life cycle.

Camp facilities include: cafeteria, fence perimeter, laundry, restaurant and a swimming pool.

Lower Sabie, The most luxurious camp, recently renovated after it was destroyed by a fire. 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 to drink.

Accommodation is the bare bone minimum such as simple one, two, three and five bed huts without kitchen and bathroom and cooking utensils are not provided.

That ultimately leaves visitors from overseas outside of this camp, nevertheless it is a great opportunity to stop in this camp for a rest.

Mopani, The newest and most comfortable rest camp in the Kruger National Park. Mopani has been built near a dam that attracts a lot of wildlife into the monotone northern mopane dominated shrupveld 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 you are prepared for dinner in the local restaurant which is supposed to be far better than in other camps and it offers dinner a la carte.

Accommodation in this camp offers fully equipped kitchen and supports up to 6 persons in a house.

Olifants, Probably the best known camp among South African tourists. Olifants is in the middle of the KNP on top of a hill overlooking the banks of the Olifant River.

You can see Africa unfold from your terrace and the Olifant camp has the best settings from all camps. You can see kudu, elephants, lions and giraffes from your room when they come to the Olifant River to bath and to drink.

Orpen, the smallest camp 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.

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, rhinos, giraffes and wild dogs in the surrounding shrubs.

Accommodations are traditionally thatched rondawels for up to three visitors without bathroom. Other camp facilities include swimming pool, laundry, restaurant and cafeteria.

Punda Maria, the most northerly camp, also the 2nd 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.

Satara, A bushveld camp that is situated centrally in the park, surrounded by hot plains that offer good grazing opportunities and attracts a lot of game.

It is the second biggest camp in the Kruger National Park and offers accommodation, restaurant, cafeteria and laundry facilities.

Shingwedzi, nice quiet camp in the far north of the park. Shingwedzi lies in the middle of the mopane shrubveld and benefits from the proximity of the Shingwedzi River and the Kaniedood Dam which attract most of the game in this area.

The camp facilities include accommodation, restaurant, swimming pool, cafeteria and laundry. Nyala country.

Skukuza, located in the southwest of the Kruger National Park and serves as the Headquarter of KNP, Skukuza is located 20 minutes from the Kuger Gate and is the biggest camp inside the Kruger National Park.

If offers a gas station or pump, library, post office, car rental, grocery store, youth hostel, 9 hole golf course which is the hottest one in the world and swimming pool.

Skukuza is situated directly at the Sabie River and animals often come here to drink.

Tsendze, The newest camp in the park. Opened for visitors in November 2006.

Balule, a satellite camp of Satara, Balule is a rustic bush camp with little luxury, but a lot of bush romantic.

It is in the middle of the Kruger National Park near the Olifant camp where you have to check in and then drive 11 km to get to the Balule camp.

The camp is on the banks of the olifant river and it suits you best when you are prepared for self catering and if a you are happy to share a communal kitchen.

Malelane, a satellite camp of Berg-en-Dal, situated near the Malelane Entrance gate on the very southern border of the park.

Maroela, a satellite of Orpen the camp is situated on the banks of the Timbavati River. This is apparently the only camp in the park that allows for caravans and camper-vans.

Tamboti, a satellite of Orpen, Tamboti is a tented camp situated on the banks of the seasonal Timbavati River and you can see the beasts from your tent coming to the river.

Facilities include accommodation and communal kitchen without cooking utensils.

Pionier, is a tented camp, administered by Letaba.

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 hairdriers.

Bateleur, a camp in the northern area of the park. It has 4 and 6 bed cottages, a mini shop and cottages have basic television facilities.

Biyamiti, in the southern area of the part, this camp has a mixture of 1 and 2 bedroom cottages. It has a mini shop and offers game drives and walks.

Shimuwini, this camp is in the middle of the park. Its name means Place of the Baobab and is situated along the banks of the Letaba river which is lined with these trees.

Sirheni, in the northern areas of the park, this camp is situated near the Sirheni dam.

Talamati, located in the lower-middle area of the park, It offers 2 an 1 bedroom cottages, a mini shop, a bird hide and a game hide.

Boulders, one of the larger private camps

Roodewal, another small private camp.

Lukimbi Safari Lodge.

Tinga Private Game Lodge.

Jock Safari Lodge,From R3.500pps.

Singita Private Game Lodge. Sweni and Lebombo Lodges

Imbali Safari Lodge.

Rhino Walking Safaris. Part of Isibindi

Shishangeni Lodge.

Pestana Kruger Lodge, R570, Malelane Gate. 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. Luxury accommodation next to the Malelane gate into the Kruger National Park.

It is well situated next to the Crocodile River and close to the most attractive game viewing opportunities in the Kruger National Park.

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. Elegant lodge in front of the Kruger gate situated in the banks of the Sabie river 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 and it sound like tam-tam and a fabulous display of exquisite 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 Safari Lodge. checkin: 14:00; checkout: 10:00. Nestled in Marloth Park, on the banks of the Crocodile River and only a few minutes from Crocodile Bridge Gate.

The Lodge has its own population of giraffe, zebra, lion and other wildlife. Game drives into the Kruger National Park as well as scenic tours can be arranged.

The four-star lodge offers Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. All rooms are equipped with aircon and coffee/tea facilities. Accommodation rates from R2000 per night.

Khaya Umdani Kruger, Korhaanlaan 2907, Marloth Park. 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 just 8 km from the Crocodile Bridge Gate, Nelspruit (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. Ideally situated 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 itself 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 exclusive and intimate, able to provide guests exclusive use of the camp and facilities for up to 12 guests. Ideal for honeymooners, singles or families with children of all ages.

Awesome Game walks, Game drives in open 4x4 Game drive vehicles and wonderful 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, local villages and so on. From R750 per night/per person full board incl. tea and coffee.

Mainly located in the north east of the Mpumalanga Province and often share a border with the south-western part of the KNP.

In recent years, most fences between the Kruger National Park and private game parks have been dismantled and animals can freely choose were to go.

Idube Safari Lodge. 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. Mala Mala is famous for easily seeing the big five and it has been operated for nearly 40 years. It is often the rest 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 a ex-cattle farm in a colonial style house near the sand river. Decoration reminds the visitor of past times and the reception looks like a exposition of old weapons, animal skins and other hunting trophies.

Facilities include swimming pool, bar and private airstrip.

Sabi Sabi. Sabi Sabi is among the most famous and pricey game lodges around the Kruger National Park. 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 nineteenth 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 located 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.

Simbavati 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. Constantly wins awards for Best Hotel and Safari.

Ebony Lodge

Boulders Lodge

Lebombo Lodge

Sweni Lodge

Castleton Camp

Central Kruger Park near Hoedspruit - Limpopo province:

Masodini Private Game Lodge – A very cozy and personally managed lodge in Greater Kruger National Park: 40,000 hectares Balule Nature Reserve is integrated directly into Kruger Park. Animals roam free on more than 2.2 million hectares between Mozambique and South Africa.

The lodge is an oasis in BIG FIVE territory, surrounded by Fever trees and evergreen palms in the bush. Children of all ages are very welcome. African style bush chalets, double rooms and loghome rooms await the guests.

The kitchen is legendary and the nights around the campfire will be a long lasting memory. Rates from about 80Euro (850Rand) including full board. Masodini GAME LODGE, Balulue Nature Reserve, Limpopo, South Africa,

Respecting speed limits inside the Kruger National Park is mandatory. Big game is crossing 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 50km/h on tarred roads and 40km/h on gravel roads.

You must not get out of your car inside the Kruger National Park unless you reach a designated place like viewpoints or between the yellow lines on high water bridges. These are camps, picnic places and designated view points.

You are not allowed to drive at dark through the park, the gates normally close and open in daylight. Please be careful when driving outside the park at night, especially in rural areas.

Firearms must be declared and sealed at the entrance gate.

No pets are permitted in the Kruger National Park.

Do not feed animals for your own safety as well as for the animal well-being.

Kruger National Park and surrounding areas in the eastern part of the country are in a seasonal malaria zone.
Consult a physician regarding appropriate precautions given the time of year you will be travelling.

The most important defenses against malaria are: using DEET-based mosquito repellent; covering your skin, especially around dusk and using mosquito nets while sleeping.

South African pharmacies also offer a wide range of malaria tablets, which you can take a few days prior to arrival in a malaria zone and that are by far cheaper than in other parts of the world.

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, is a 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.

Tourism Observer

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