Luxury Safari Companykruger national park safari
Travel Company in South Africa
Our consultants have an intimate knowledge of all South African National Parks' properties. If you need professional, prompt advice and service, we can assist with your accommodation and park bookings.
Authenticity, passion and professionalism are just some of the founding principles on which Kruger Wildlife Safaris was built. We believe in the charm and distinct beauty of the Kruger National Park and we want our guests to be able to experience that too. Specialising in small group Kruger safaris, expect an all-round personalised, tailor-made and truly South African experience when you travel with us.
The area covered by the present-day Kruger National Park was subject to human occupation for many millennia before it became a designated conservation area. Stone artefacts show people were living in the area during the Early, Middle and Late Stone Ages. San hunter-gatherers made their appearance in the area about 5,000 - 6,000 years ago and occupied most of the present-day Kruger Park area. It is believed they left the area about 500 years ago after the ancestors of the present-day Bantu-speaking people moved into the region.
Paul Kruger, the president of the Zuid Afrikaansche Republic (ZAR) proclaimed the Gouvernement Wildtuin (Government Game Reserve) on 26 March 1898. He was born Stephanus Johannes Paulus Kruger in the small district of Steynsburg in South Africa in 1825. In 1836, his family joined the Great Trek where they eventually settled near the town of Rustenburg.
A slightly eccentric figure who grew up to be a large thick set, bearded man who often wore a black top hat, he became president of the ZAR in 1880 but left Pretoria in 1900 when British forces advanced on the capital, Pretoria. He was exiled in Europe and passed away in Switzerland in 1904. He is buried in Church St cemetery in Pretoria, South Africa.
The boundaries of the Government Game Reserve extended from the Crocodile River in the South, up to Sabie River in the north and from the Nsikazi River in the west to the Mozambique border in the east.
During the Anglo Boer War (1899-1902) the proclamation of the reserve, however, was nullified. After the war ended, the area was re-proclaimed, this time including the land between the Sabie and Olifants Rivers to extend the size of the reserve. It was named Sabie Game Reserve and its first warden was the legendary Major James Stevenson-Hamilton.
James Stevenson-Hamilton was born in Scotland in 1867, the eldest of nine children. His sense of adventure led him to join the British Army and he eventually made his way to South Africa. He felt a sense of belonging in South Africa’s bushveld and a genuine desire to conserve, rather than destroy.
His military experience and love of the bush made him an ideal candidate and at the age of 35, he became the first warden of the Sabie and Shingwedzi Game Reserves. He was known by his staff in the Kruger National Park as Skukuza, a Shangaan name meaning “He who sweeps clean”. In 1936, the main rest camp, Sabie Bridge was changed to Skukuza in his honour. He retired as warden in 1946 and passed away in 1957.
In 1903, the Shingwedzi (Singwitsi) Game Reserve between the Letaba and Limpopo Rivers was proclaimed and also placed under the authority of Stevenson-Hamilton.
In 1916, the Sabie and Shingwedzi Game Reserves were consolidated and placed under control of the Provincial Secretary of the Transvaal Provincial Council, and subsequently referred to as the Transvaal Game Reserve.
Whilst the Shingwedzi Game Reserve consisted exclusively of government-owned land, the Sabie Game Reserve did not, as a large portion of the Sabie Game Reserve consisted of private land. In fact, 152 farms in total were privately owned. As a result of the private ownership, a large portion of the western areas of the Sabie Game Reserve was excised in 1923 to make way for the creation of a National Park. This privately-owned land largely became known as the present day Sabi Sands Game Reserve (due to the presence of both the Sabie and Sand Rivers which flow through the reserve in an easterly direction towards Mozambique), where many of Africa’s famous luxury safari lodges are situated.
On 31 July 1926, the Parliament of the Union of South Africa passed a National Parks Act and the reserve was renamed the Kruger National Park.
In 1923, the South African Railways began a railway journey of the Lowveld and included an overnight stop at Sabi Bridge, present day Skukuza. No overnight facilities were available to the public at that stage and tourists slept on the train. These excursions became so popular that a ranger later accompanied the tourists and even arranged short bush excursions for them.
James Stevenson-Hamilton was impressed with the interest shown by the public and, in 1925, began promoting developments to attract more tourists. At the time however, no roads, bridges or tourist facilities were available, and most travelling was done on horseback or ox wagons with pack donkeys.
In mid-1927 it was decided that the Pretoriuskop section be opened to the public, subject to a number of conditions:
Due to malaria and road conditions, the Kruger National Park was closed during the rainy season. And so, tourism into Kruger Park was born and has since then transformed into what it is today - an impressive, well-run and extremely organised National Park that South Africans are extremely proud of.
Ranging from self-drive visitors to safari operators arranging guided Kruger safaris, people from literally all over the world visit the Kruger National Park every year. Our park is much loved and well-protected - long may it continue.
Rough estimates of major large herbivore populations of the Sabie and Shingwedzi Game Reserves in 1918 were as follows:
Sabie Game Reserve
Shingwedzi Game Reserve
|2010/2011||Kruger National Park|
|Rhinoceros||1,500 - 3,000|
|Giraffe||6,800 - 10,300|
The diversity of the Kruger National Park is truly astounding, a veritable nature lover and photography enthusiast’s paradise. All wild and free roaming animals, that have always occurred here naturally, integrating perfectly into their respective ecosystems.
If, as a visitor to the Kruger National Park, you want to see a wide range and diversity of wild animals, there is, in our opinion, no better National Park to visit on the entire African continent. Yes, Kruger Park is commercial and yes, there are a lot of people driving around and, at some sightings especially the Big 5, it can become overcrowded. But the diversity of species found in Kruger Park is fantastic. Visitors are seldom disappointed. We, here at Kruger Wildlife Safaris, have on many occasions during the course of a single morning game drive on one of our safaris, seen all of the Big Five, and it did not end there. You’d be hard pressed to have as exceptional an experience in other National Parks in Africa.
The Big 5 consists of lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo and elephant. Originally a hunting term used to describe Africa’s 5 most dangerous animals to hunt on foot in the bush, the photographic safari industry has “hijacked” the phrase and it’s now used worldwide as a marketing tool to attract tourists to Africa’s National Parks in the hopes of spotting these animals.
And yes, the Big 5 are fantastic to see, but remember, Kruger Park offers so much more than just the Big 5. Antelope, giraffe, hippopotamus, crocodiles, beautiful birds such as ground hornbills, lilac-breasted rollers and fork-tailed drongos and stunning savannah and bush landscapes all make the Kruger National Park a must-see when visiting South Africa.
Access to Kruger Park is relatively simple and there are various options at your disposal to get you into the bush as soon as possible.
The self-drive option could have you in one of the southern camps like Skukuza in about 5 - 6 hours from Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport.
Many of our guests transfer into the Kruger National Park by making use of our air-conditioned vehicles with our drivers. This option allows you to relax and enjoy the scenery whilst someone else does the driving. Transfers depart daily from Johannesburg and will have you in Kruger Park in around 6 - 7 hours.
There are daily flights from Cape Town and Johannesburg into the Kruger National Park and to nearby towns like Nelspruit, Hoedspruit and Phalaborwa. The most convenient is obviously to fly straight into the Kruger National Park. The flight lands at Skukuza Airport. Flights from Johannesburg take just under one hour whilst the flight from Cape Town is around two hours in length.
The Kruger National Park comfortably caters to a wide range of tourist options. From self-drive journeys to Kruger safari tours, multi-day hiking trails, all the way through to 4x4 eco trails. It is advisable, especially if it's your first or second visit to the park to go with a registered company that has trained guides and makes use of open safari vehicles to take you on game drives and show you the bush. Safari trips range anywhere from 2 - 7 days although 4 days is probably the most popular option. Tourists can also choose between a range of safari styles to suit their budgets and operators offer everything from camping safaris and budget accommodated safaris to 5-star luxury lodges.
The cost of a guided safari in the Kruger National Park ranges from a very well-priced ZAR 5400.00 per person (US$ 385) for a 3 day camping safari, to hundreds of US$ per person per night, if staying in some of the luxury lodges that are situated inside the Kruger National Park.
The advantages of booking a safari with a registered safari operator include the fact that you have one channel of communication to arrange the entire safari, from the moment you are picked up at the airport to going on game drives - all the logistics have been taken care of, you don’t have to do anything else.
Self-drive options, whilst also very appealing, do mean you will need to arrange accommodation, car hire and activities. The bonus is, you can explore Kruger Park at your own pace and many operators do arrange services where they can book your self-catering holiday for a commission.
First time, self-drive visitors to Kruger do miss out. The presence of a knowledgeable guide is always appreciated, and even how to react and prepare yourself for potentially dangerous situations such as elephants walking down the road towards your vehicle is taken care of by an experienced guide.
It allows you to simply sit back and relax and let someone else take the responsibility. How to spot animals in the bush is also a talent that is learned with experience, many first-time visitors simply do not see some animals due to their excellent camouflage.
And then, of course, the simple identification of animals, birds and even trees is often lost to inexperienced visitors. Knowing the difference between a black and white rhino, cheetah and leopard, duiker and steenbok, wild dog and hyena, just to name a few, are challenges some people face. It may seem obvious but, in the bush, not always. We have often come across people claiming to be looking at a leopard when it is in fact a cheetah. A cat lying under a bush 150 metres away from your vehicle is not the easiest to identify.
Many operators start their safaris from Johannesburg where they will pick you up at the airport before departing on safari to the Kruger National Park. Some, like us, also have their own accommodation in Johannesburg where guests can stay overnight before their safari.
This allows guests to comfortably arrive a day before their safari starts and relax before embarking on the 6-hour drive into the Kruger National Park.
We also provide day tours in and around Johannesburg for guests to enjoy before or after their safari with us.
Kruger Park has a few options when it comes to accommodation. There are main camps, satellite camps, bushveld camps, overnight hides and bush lodges.
The main camps are the ones we’ve all heard of - big camps, some bordering on small towns with amenities that include shops, restaurants, conference facilities, campsites, en-suite accommodation, some with museums and most have pools to cool down in during the summer. Kruger Park’s administrative capital is situated at Skukuza Camp - the Kruger’s biggest and busiest camp. Other main camps include Berg-en-Dal, Pretoriuskop, Lower Sabie, Satara, Olifants, Letaba, Mopani, Shingwedzi and Punda Maria.
The accommodation facilities at the main camps consist of campsites, huts with communal ablutions, chalets with en-suite facilities and air-conditioning, some have safari tents with en-suite facilities and guest houses where larger families/friends can stay.
Satellite camps are much smaller, more personal facilities where guests have to self-cater. There are no shops or other amenities available. Guests have to check in and purchase their food, wood and drinks before arriving. Once there, however, you are presented with an opportunity to experience the bush like few other places in the Kruger. We highly recommend booking a satellite camp if you prefer a “wilder” bush experience. Satellite camps include Balule, Malelane, Maroela and Tamboti.
The accommodation options here consist of campsites, huts and safari tents.
Smaller, remote camps with good en-suite chalets make up Kruger’s bushveld camp portfolio. There are no restaurants or shops. Access is obtained via a private road for camp residents only. Guests are able to book individual chalets and do not have to book the entire camp. One of our favourite camps in the entire Kruger is found in this portfolio. Shimuwini, found along the banks of the Letaba River - an interesting 11-kilometre private road from the main H1-4 road that leads to Mopani Camp.
Shimuwini is beautiful and if you feel the need to unwind, this is the place. Other bushveld camps include Bateleur, Biyamiti, Sirheni and Talamati.
The bushveld camps’ accommodation options are en-suite and air-conditioned chalets consisting of a few rooms for slightly larger groups.
An interesting concept, not for the faint hearted. But if you’re a bush lover, the overnight hides give you a rustic bush experience. Basically, you overnight at bird hides that are open to the public during the day. The bird hides have beds that fold down for you to sleep on. You book the entire hide so it's just you for the night!
Once the last day visitors leave to get to their camp or exit gate, there is nobody else around. One of our guides stayed a night at Sable Hide - the hide is closed off to wild animals, so it's safe but that night, a pride of lions decided to make their presence known barely 50 metres from the hide. Imagine that - a pride of lions roaring all night at your camp and it's only you there! How awesome?! No shops are available so come fully prepared. There are only two overnight hides available in the Kruger National Park. They are the Sable and Shipandani Hides. Sable Hide is located close to Phalaborwa entry gate and Shipandani is not too far from Mopani Camp.
Overnight accommodation options are limited to fold out beds at bird hides. You need to bring your own sleeping bags and cooking equipment.
A bush lodge is the most exclusive option available to public visitors in the Kruger National Park. Basically, you book the entire camp, only you have access to the camp and there is a private road leading to the camp that only you may use whilst residing at the camp.
This type of accommodation is ideally suited to families who would like a more exclusive experience in the Kruger National Park. The camps are self-catering and have all the utensils and equipment you need to prepare meals. There are however no shops, so food and drink needs to be purchased before arriving.
Bush Lodges include Boulders Bush Lodge, Pafuri Border Camp and Roodewal Bush Lodge.
So how do you book and pay for all these fantastic facilities? Bookings can be done via SANParks’ website or you could approach a safari operator to book it on your behalf.
Some restcamps in Kruger Park are more popular than others, mainly due to the variety and number of animals found in the vicinity of the camp. However, almost all restcamps have routes to drive that are popular, be it due to the potential of seeing animals or just because the scenery is beautiful.
Berg-en-Dal Restcamp – The Matjulu Loop (S110) is a scenic drive that encompasses some driving up a mountain and the beautiful views of Kruger that ensue. Wildlife in the area is good and often wild dogs are spotted along with rhino, which also means a great chance to see the more elusive black rhino.
Pretoriuskop Restcamp – A relatively short drive of an hour or two around the Fayi Loop (S14) close to Pretoriuskop is filled with promise and the opportunity to see some interesting animals. Apart from the usual popular species such as leopard, elephant and rhino, Pretoriuskop Restcamp has a reputation for delivering sightings of often rare and elusive antelope, especially for southern Kruger.
On the Fayi loop we have spotted eland, sable antelope and the very rare Lichtensteins hartebeest. One of our guides is also convinced he spotted a super rare species, the aardwolf. Patience is required for drives around Pretoriuskop and if you are patient, you will undoubtedly be rewarded for your efforts.
Lower Sabie – Probably Kruger Park’s most popular Restcamp, Lower Sabie offers visitors excellent opportunities to spot animals. Our pick for an awesome drive in the Lower Sabie area is to cross the Sabie River and drive along the tarred H10 road, as slowly as you can, and make your way to Mlondozi Picnic Site at Mlondozi Dam. From there, take the S29 west and then head back to Lower Sabie on the S128 driving in a southerly direction. We have seen literally all the popular wildlife species on this route, and it conveniently includes a restroom break at Mlondozi Picnic Site.
Skukuza Restcamp – The choices at Skukuza are many as the infrastructure around the camp is well developed. Our pick, however, would be the drive that starts with the H1-1, heading south. Continue on the H1-1 until reaching the dirt road S65, which heads off in the opposite northerly direction for 13 kilometres. Joining the S1, you turn right and make your way back to Skukuza on S1 and later the H1-1. It’s a nice mix of bush, tarred and dirt roads and an opportunity to see lots of animals. Also, an opportunity to visit the famous Mathekenyane Lookout Point where you can safely get out your vehicle and gaze upon the beauty of the park with a near 360 degree view of the African bush.
Nwaswitshaka Waterhole is also found on the S65 dirt road which often delivers lion and rhino. This route is beautiful and a photographer’s delight.
Satara Restcamp – Central Kruger looks different to southern Kruger, it's more a typical savannah-like landscape and you’re generally able to see further into the bush. Marula and leadwood trees dot the landscape, and then there’s wide open plains. Our pick for an awesome morning/afternoon game drive route would be to drive the S100 along the Nwanetsi River all the way to Gudzani Waterhole. After viewing the waterhole, turn south on the S41 and head towards Nwanetsi Picnic Site.
From the picnic site, head west on the H6 for 19 kilometres before turning back towards camp on the H1-3 where it’s a short drive back to Satara. It’s an awesome drive, with excellent opportunities to spot predators such as lion, hyena, leopard and cheetah, that makes Satara such a popular area for visitors. Some of our best lion sightings have come from this loop.
Just don’t forget to stop for the other animals too as giraffe, zebra, elephant and wildebeest, to name but a few, are prolific in this region of the Kruger National Park. And herds! You often see big herds of African wildlife here, something that’s not as common in southern Kruger.
Olifants Restcamp – As we proceed north in the Kruger, the infrastructure and access to the park becomes less. As a result, there are generally fewer visitors to the north of Kruger Park. Wildlife is also a little scarcer because it's generally drier and the north is regarded more as a bush veteran or wildlife connoisseur’s paradise.
When we, at Kruger Wildlife Safaris, go on holiday, believe it or not, we go to the Kruger National Park, and we head north. The drive along the Olifants River on the S44 soon takes you to the Letaba River, this road eventually becomes the S46 and the entire time is spent driving next to two of the Kruger National Park’s more famous rivers. Along the rivers, there are animals, especially in drier environments so your chances of seeing something exciting are good.
Once you reach Letaba Restcamp, stop over for a late breakfast or coffee and head back along the tarred H1-5 back to Olifants Restcamp.
Letaba Restcamp – Nestled amongst tall Jackalberry trees on the banks of the Letaba River, this camp is a sleepy, lazy and awesome camp to relax and take in the sounds and smells of Africa. Our pick for a game drive route would be to head north on the H1-6, take the short S95 loop that hugs the Letaba River, cross the Letaba River bridge where you can get out your car to view animals and then turn left onto the S62 for an interesting drive to Engelhard Dam. On the way there is a turn-off to Matambeni Bird Hide, take it as you can get out of your car to view animals and birds from a hide that overlooks the Letaba River. Drive the same road back to Letaba Restcamp.
Mopani Restcamp – Without a doubt the Tropic of Capricorn loop will have you writing books and poems on Africa and its beauty. This loop is quite long but oh so beautiful. We generally have a good opportunity to see some rare antelope species on this loop - animals such as eland and tsessebe, for example. From Mopani Restcamp travel north on the H1-6 until you reach the Tropic of Capricorn.
From there turn right in an easterly direction on the S143, continue on the S143 18 kilometres before joining up with the S50 where you turn south heading towards three waterholes on the Nshawu watercourse. Turn onto the S49 and head back towards Mopani Restcamp.
Tlhongonyeni waterhole on the S143, always bustles with wildlife. From 3 kilometres out, slow down, drive slow, keep your windows open and look, listen and smell. Large herds of elephant and buffalo (sometimes hundreds strong) antelope, zebra, lion and cheetah are occasionally seen - Africa in all its glory.
Shingwedzi Restcamp – Road infrastructure this far north becomes limited, but what a beautiful area of the Kruger National Park it is. It’s probably the only really significant drive in this area but it's well worth it.
Take the tarred road north from Shingwedzi. The first turn off is the short S55 loop which joins the main road again. Continue north before arriving at the Mphongolo loop which takes you all the way up to Babalala Picnic Site. After freshening up, head back south on the tarred road to Shingwedzi. Roan antelope! This is your mission for the day - super rare in the Kruger National Park. Also, early morning on the Mphongolo loop often delivers predators such as lions and leopards.
Punda Maria Restcamp – This is far northern Kruger and your goal must be to go all the way up to the Limpopo River and into the fever tree forest. It’s a full day’s drive so leave early and expect to come back late. Another very special, shorter route is the Mahonie loop around Punda Maria Restcamp. This short 23-kilometre drive is perfect for an afternoon drive before the gates close and you start your fire for the braai, with an ice-cold beer in-hand.
Apart from providing accommodation, the Kruger National Park also provides activities catering to people looking for all types of adventure.
Admittedly the most popular activity is a Kruger safari (please could we send this hyperlink to the ‘Explore Our Most Popular Packages’ section on the homepage). Safari operators take you on game drives in open vehicles with experienced guides, pointing out animals, birds, trees and reptiles.
It's very popular and, to be honest, the perfect way to see lots of wildlife. Safaris range from day drives all the way through to 7-day, fully-catered and guided safari experiences.
These depart from Kruger Park’s main camps in the early morning or afternoon. You are transferred into the bush by an open vehicle, from where you would begin your walk. Walks are typically a few hours in duration and guides focus on the smaller aspects of the Kruger National Park’s diverse wildlife offering, for example, trees and birds. Most animals are very shy and tend to move away when they see, hear or smell people. Because of this, sightings of animals on walks can sometimes be quite rare. However, this is Big 5 country and lions, elephants, rhino and buffalo are seen on some walks. Leopards less so but it is possible.
Did you know that 49% of the Kruger National Park’s total area of about 2 million hectares is classified as wilderness? It is here where these trails are conducted. This is an authentic wilderness experience - you walk and camp in your own small tent in the bush with a few other guests and qualified guides. That’s it, nobody else for miles around. Kruger Park does not get more remote than this. Trails are usually two nights in duration, with no showers, and water is collected from streams and small rivers. Pure wilderness, that’s all.
These are similar to Backpackers Trails, except that on Wilderness Trails, you don’t camp in your own tent that you carry with you. Visitors stay in rustic, primitive camps and walk every day from the camp.
Eco Trails allow visitors to the Kruger National Park to get off the beaten track and Kruger’s main roads, and explore a side of Kruger Park that few people ever get to experience. Parts of the route are unfit for normal vehicle activity and 4x4s are a prerequisite for booking. The Mafunyane 4x4 Eco Trail is a four-day, three-night self-catering adventure that is accompanied by guides.
The trail is about 270 kilometres long and visitors are expected to drive their own vehicles as well as bring their own camping equipment. Overnight sites have a fireplace, eco-friendly toilet facilities and a shower that you need to heat yourself with water from a fire.
Skukuza Golf Course was originally built for personnel and staff working at Skukuza. It is, however, now open to the public and offers a, well, interesting golf experience. The course is home to the Big 5 so a word of caution - if you lose your ball in the rough, maybe just leave it there!
You may hear the phrase, Greater Kruger National Park, used a lot in marketing private lodges in South Africa. A private lodge is exactly that, a private hotel situated on a private piece of land usually within a wildlife reserve. The Greater Kruger National Park is an area made up of the Kruger National Park and additional, privately-owned land adjacent to and adjoining Kruger Park, where fences have been broken down to allow animals access to more land. In essence, it now forms part of the Kruger National Park.
Because this land is privately owned, it is generally not open to the public and only visitors with bookings at the various lodges can gain access to the properties. As in the Kruger National Park, the main activities at private lodges are centred around wildlife and viewing and photographing wild African animals in their natural habitat.
Private lodges are also in general more luxurious than what you would find inside the Kruger National Park at a main camp, and overnight stays can go up to as high as hundreds of US$s per person per night. Some operators, such as ourselves, offer guests an opportunity to experience both regions on one safari. Here at Kruger Wildlife Safaris, we call it a Combo Safari and we combine a stay in one of Kruger Park’s main camps with a private lodge in the Greater Kruger National Park.
There are literally hundreds of lodges in the vicinity of Kruger Park and listing them all in one article would be impractical. Booking these lodges can be done via their own websites or a safari operator like us, that offer various packages to lodges that we know offer excellent service and a good wildlife experience.
It has a lot to offer but above all, is a bastion of African conservation and an example to many countries throughout the world that professional and well-managed National Parks such as Kruger Park, can be successful whilst also being the pride of a nation’s population.
We, South Africans, hold the Kruger National Park very dear to our hearts and many people have stories of generations of families making their annual pilgrimage to this special place to reconnect with themselves, in the bush - in the Kruger National Park.