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Kruger National Park

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Kruger monument in front of the Paul Kruger Gate.

The Kruger National Park (KNP) [1] is in north-east of South Africa and and runs along the border of Mozambique in the east, Zimbabwe in the north, and the southern border is the Crocodile River. The park covers 20,000 square kilometers and is divided in 14 different ecozones, each supporting different wildlife. It is one of the main attractions of South Africa and it is considered the flagship of South African National Parks (SANPark).



The park was established in 1898 by the South African President Paul Kruger as a protected area for wildlife and it opened its gate the general public in 1927 for the first time.

Currently, the park is run by the South African National Park Organization (SANP) and is probably the best managed African National Park. Wildlife conservation, education and tourism are the main objectives of the KNP. Effective measures to prevent poaching are in place and as a result of this cars are generally inspected upon entering and leaving the park.

The Kruger National Park has now been combined with the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique and the Gonarezhou National Park, Manjinji Pan Sanctuary and Malipati Safari Area in Zimbabwe into a new transfrontier park to be called The Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, although border restrictions at crossings still apply, and border posts are not open all day. [2].


Flora and fauna

The southern part of the park along the Sabie and Crocodile river is rich in water and has a lot of game viewing opportunities. Here you can see the best of African flora and fauna such as 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.


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

Map of the Kruger National Park

Get in

By car

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 (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 darkness and it is not permitted to drive at night inside the park.

Animals have the right of way!

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

  • Numbi gate: 411 km
  • Madelane 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 taxis/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.

By plane

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 (KMIA) at Nelspruit [3] receives flights from Johannesburg International Airport, Durban, Cape Town and Vilanculos. It is the largest airport, with the most facilities and also is visited by some discount airlines. Fares to here from Johannesburg can be half the price of the other Kruger airports. Car rental is possible via: Budget, Hertz, Europcar, Imperial Car Rental and National. If you are staying at one of the northern camps, this airport can be 4 or more hours from your entrance gate.
    • Distances to KNP gates from KMIA are
      • Kruger Gate 82 km
      • Malelane Gate 63 km
      • Numbi Gate 40 km
      • Phabeni Gate 76 km
  • Eastgate Airport at Hoedspruit, a dual use airport, with a couple of flights a day to Johannesburg with South African Airlines only. Avis has a car rental desk there, but the range isn't as wide as at Nelspruit.
  • Phalaborwa Airport [4] 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 opportunities. Again, there is only a single carrier operating

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


The KNP 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 charged very high rates. So make sure to be out or back in the camp before closing time!

Male elephant ready for charge.

The maximum speed limit is 50 km/h on tarred roads, 40 on gravel roads and 20 km/h in rest camps. However cruising speed of 30 km/h is recommended for maximum safety. Having such speed restrictions in place it would take you 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.

Get around

By car

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 up-to-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 a 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.

As in the rest of South Africa, petrol stations within the park do not accept payment by credit card.

By foot

It is possible to go on guided walking tours, but unauthorised walking is both not allowed and extremely foolish.


  • Crocodile river view point is nearby the Crocodile camp going north on the main park road direction Lower Sabie and then following the sign to the Crocodile river view point on a dirt track for a couple of miles. As a reward you can get out of your car and go with a park guide down to the river to watch hippos and crocs from a few meters distance.
Sabie river is the place with the most abundant wildlife in the Kruger National Park


  • 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 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 everning to the safety of your camp where dinner awaits. The duration of the trails is three nights and two days, either from Sunday to Wednesday, or from Wednesday to Saturday. Hikers meet at the designated 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. Also listen out for the call of the African Fish Eagle.
    • Sweni Trail Check in at Satara Camp. The Sweni area is popular, in that, there is a high density of both predator and prey, and a trail experience here give hikers the opportunity to observe lion and even cheetah.
    • Wolhuter Trail In the southern part of the park (white rhino country), between the Berg-en-Dal and Pretoriuskop.
Sleeping Rondawel at Wolhuter Trail
  • Olifants River Back Pack Trail, [5]. 42km, 4 Days, from Olifants to Letaba, no frills, no trace camping, no camps provided, sleep in your own tent out in the park with the wildlife. 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
On foot in Kruger

To make a reservation or get more information about Wilderness Trails [6]. This is a great way to discover African fauna and flora, a unforgettable lifetime experience only available in a few places in Africa.

  • Play golf at the 9 hole golf course in Skukuza, originally designed for the local personal it was recently opened to the public. Please bring your golf clubs with you and enjoy this very special golf course. Considering the average temperature in the KNP this is one of the toughest 9 hole golf courses in the world.

  • Bookings can be made by email: , online SANPark link [7], ph: +27 (0)12 428-9111, fax: +27 (0)12 343-0905, by mail South African National Parks, PO Box 787, Pretoria 0001, South Africa
  • Walking Safaris (Africa Walking Safaris), 30 Cambridge Avenue, Craighall Park, Johannesburg (eight walking trails throughout the Greater Kruger National Park), +27(0)82 350 2999 (), [8]. 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, PO Box 13539, Sinoville, Gauteng 0129, South Africa, +27 84 381 5775, [9]. 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. For more detailed information on safari packages and current rates, please check out their website at 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!


Bigger camp sites such as the Lower Sabie and Skukuza have comfortable shopping facilities and you can buy almost everything there - right in the middle of nowhere. This includes groceries and wine and beer and souvenirs. Artistic wood carvings can be found there as well and is usually of reasonable quality and cheaper than in Cape Town. Carving can be found in and around the gates to the Kruger National Park as well.


Two white rhinos searching for food

The KNP has several eat options ranging from self-catering and provides therefore some shopping facilities in the park, designated picnic areas, cafeterias in most of the camps and restaurants in some of them. Most of the facilities look clean and will generally cater simple snacks and decent food. Lodges inside and outside the park will cater luxurious food often arranged in well-sheltered outdoor restaurants with open fireplace and barbeque South African specialties such as:

  • wart hog sausage
  • springbok tenderloin
  • ostrich steak
  • Biltong made of game, like Kudu, Zebra or Elephant


Inside the KNP

All camps listed below offer various types of accommodation for 2 to 6 persons in a hut/bungalow/tent/rondavels without kitchen and bathroom whereas others offer access to a communal kitchen and some places have fully equipped kitchens.

  • Balule has camp sites.
  • Berg en Dal has cottages, camp sites for tents/caravan and chalets.
  • Crocodile Bridge has bungalows, camp sites for tents/caravan and chalets
  • Letaba has cottages, huts, camp sites for tents/caravan, chalets and guesthouse.
  • Lower Sabi has cottages.
  • Mopani has guesthouse and chalets.
  • Olifants has 2-4 bed bungalows.
  • Pretoriuskop has huts, bungalows, cottages and camp sites.
  • Punda Maria has cottages, bungalows and camp sites.
  • Shingwedzi has camp sites, huts, cottages, and guesthouse.
  • Skukuza - Main camp. Has camp sites, furnished tents, bungalows, guest cottages, guesthouse and youthhostel.
  • Tamboti is a tent camp in 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.

Outside the KNP

  • Pestana Kruger Lodge, R570, Malelane Gate, +27 (0)13 790-2503 (, fax: +27 (0)13 790-2503), [10]. 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, +27 (0)13 790-3304 (fax: +27 (0)13 790-3303), [11]. Luxury accommodation next to the Malelane gate into the KNP. It is well situated next to the Crocodile River and close to the most attractive game viewing opportunities in the KNP. Its facilities include 9 hole golf course, tennis, swimming pool, restaurant, car park and bar. It has a high viewing deck onto the Crocodile river, from which one can often see hippos, elephant, crocodiles, antelope and other wildlife. From R800 per person.
  • Protea Kruger Gate, On the Sabie River at the Kruger Gate, +27 (0)13 735-5671 (fax: +27 (0)13 735-5676), [12]. 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 Game Lodge, + 27 (0)83 326-2835 (). Nestled a the Crocodile River and only a few minutes from either Malelane and Crocodile Bridge Gate. The Lodge has its own population of giraffe, zebra, lion and other animals. Transfers from the surrounding airports and game drives can be arranged. They four-star lodge offers Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. All rooms are equipped with satellite TV and MNet and coffee/tea facilities. From R450 to R1200 per person.
  • Khaya Umdani Kruger, Korhaanlaan 2907, Marloth Park, + 27 (0)84 565-5916 (), [13]. 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.

Stay safe

  • Respecting speed limits inside the KNP 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 [14] 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 KNP
  • Do not feed animals for you own safety as well as for the animal well-being.
  • KNP 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.

Get out

Private Game Reserves and Lodges

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 KNP and private game parks have been dismantled and animals can freely choose were to go.

  • Idube Safari Lodge, +27 (0)11 431-1120 (, fax: +27 (0)11 431-3597), [15]. 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, +27 (0)11 886-4382 (, fax: +27 (0)11 789-2677), [16]. 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, +27 (0)11 483-3939 (, fax: +27 (0)11 483-3799), [17]. Sabi Sabi is among the most famous and pricey game lodges around the KNP. Together with Mala Mala they pioneered private game reserves and this is partly because of their much favoured location near the Sand River as a source of permanent water. Game viewing is absolutely superb and you stand good chances of seeing many highlights. Bookings for the different lodges should be made through the above contact details. From R5600.
    • Selati Lodge is a charming place decorated in colonial style from the 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.

  • Singita, 27'' (0)21 683-3424 (, fax: +27 (0)21 683-3502), [18]. Constantly wins awards for Best Hotel and Safari.
    • Ebony Lodge
    • Boulders Lodge
    • Lebombo Lodge
    • Sweni Lodge
    • Castleton Camp

Other destinations

  • Durban is primarily a holiday/resort city at the Indian Ocean but also boasts South Africa's busiest container port.
  • Drakensberg -- Massive and spectacular mountain range. Peaks exceed 3000 meters above sea level. Climbing, hiking, wilderness trails, mountain biking, fly fishing, and more.
  • Johannesburg (the biggest city south of the Sahara) and Pretoria in the Gauteng Province are busy cities of banks and government institutions.
  • Lesotho -- real Africa right on South Africa's doorstep.

This is a usable article. It has information about the park, for getting in, about a few attractions, and about accommodations in the park. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!



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