Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park
The Kruger National Park is one of the most iconic safari destinations in South Africa – if not, all of Africa. Its name alone carries huge weight: It is one of Africa’s largest and oldest game reserves and is a huge attraction for thousands of tourists every year – both international tourists and South African residents. Located in northeastern South Africa, the park has a diversity of wildlife including the desired Big Five which includes the elephant, the buffalo, the Cape buffalo, the lion, and the leopard.
There are several ways to access Kruger National Park. From Johannesburg, it is a four-hour drive, but we would recommend that you fly into the park, arriving in Hoedspruit, Skukuza, or the Kruger Mpumalanga airstrips. There are flights departing from major cities like Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, and Cape Town, so combining South African destinations is very doable and popular.
The park itself is just under 20,000 km2 and borders Mozambique to its east. Within its large area, you’ll get the opportunity to see elephant, buffalo, rhino, giraffe, zebra, hippo, crocodile, lion, leopard, and hyena among many more. Because of its huge expanse and the need to cover such huge distances, the African wild dogs are also seen in Kruger National Park and the surrounding private reserves. Birdlife in the Kruger National Park is also very impressive, with over 500 species found. Although a good variety of birdlife can be seen year-round, it’s often at its best between November and April, when migrant birds from Europe and North Africa arrive into the park.
The Kruger National Park itself is open to the public and the game viewing must be adhered to the tarmac roads only. While you can see plenty from these roads, the Kruger National Park is bordered by a collection of private game reserves that allow you to off-road. Some of these reserves include Sabi Sand Game Reserve, Timbavati Reserve, Klaserie Reserve, and MalaMala Game Reserve among others. These reserves are much more exclusive in terms of the safari experience offered. The only people who are able to game drive in the reserves are those who are staying in the camps or lodges inside the reserve. Off-roading is also permitted for certain sightings, as well as activities like night drives and walking safaris, alongside your usual game drives.
Although there are several options for your South Africa safari within the country, the Kruger National Park and surrounding private reserves really will offer an incredible luxury safari experience. The 4 and 5-star safari lodges that we recommend are extremely comfortable, and often have views out to waterholes or riverbanks where elephants and other wildlife come down to drink. It’s a very special place, and one we can’t wait to start planning for you.
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With a Kenyan father, Indian grandparents, and a Portuguese surname, travel is in my blood. I am enthralled by Africa and would happily talk about this diverse continent’s wildlife, cultures and experiences all day, every day.
Africa Specialist+1 844 879 7838
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Best safari lodges in the Kruger National Park and Private Game Reserves
There is a wealth of accommodation choices when it comes to safari lodges in the Kruger National Park and surrounding areas. There are over 20 private reserves surrounding the national park and these offer a much more exclusive and diverse experience – as you can do night drives, walking safaris, and off-roading for particular sightings. While all of these private reserves offer exceptional wildlife sightings, there are some that are, in our opinion, unrivaled.
Established in 1979, the Sabi Sand Private Reserve is one of our personal favorite reserves bordering the Kruger National Park. The reserve sits within the Greater Kruger and is home to a diverse landscape – bushy scrublands, open plains, sandy riverbanks, and more. As well as being home to the Big Five, it is particularly famous for its leopard sightings – the highest number in South Africa! There are plenty of luxury safari lodges in both the Kruger and private reserves and our specialists can advise which are best for you.
When to visit the Kruger National Park
You can visit the Kruger National Park year-round, but there are times that are better than others in terms of game viewing. The best time is arguably the winter months which is between June and October. This period can be quite cold – especially first thing in the mornings and evenings on game drives – so make sure you pack layers and appropriate clothing. In terms of game viewing, winter months are the driest, so the grasses and vegetation are lower which creates better visibility. It also means that animals tend to congregate around permanent water sources, so the wildlife is concentrated around waterholes and riverbanks.
The ‘summer’ months of January to April is also a good time to visit the Kruger National Park as the days are hot and there is plenty of sunshine. The park is beautiful as its often very green and vibrant, which attracts an array of migrant birds. This is also a good time of the year to visit if you are combining other South African destinations like Cape Town, because of the hotter weather. The festive period of December (and into early January) is very busy so please plan well in advance if you want to travel during this time.
Gemma our African Specialist
Will I see the Big Five in the Kruger National Park?
The Kruger National Park is home to the Big Five, which includes elephants, buffalo, rhino, lions, and leopards. Although they have faced an extremely destructive amount of poaching, Kruger National Park and its surrounding reserves still remains one of the most reliable parks in Africa to see rhino. There is plenty of protection for rhinos in South Africa, with anti-poaching ranger teams and constant monitoring working around the clock to ensure the safety of these animals. As the surrounding reserves and concessions are privately owned and run, some are trailing methods like dehorning to ensure their safety and wellbeing.
How much is a luxury Kruger safari?
This completely depends on where you stay for your safari. There are plenty of safari camps and lodges inside the Kruger National Park which offer good value and experience. However, if you are looking for a heightened and more exclusive safari, I would recommend staying in the private conservancies and reserves surrounding the Kruger National Park. These are going to be more expensive and can range anywhere from $700 per person per night up to $1,500 per person per night. The cost of the safari lodge is not only reflective of its location and guiding experience but also its design and amenities. These 5-star lodges will have huge rooms, private plunge pools, spas, stunning lounge areas, and swimming pools among others. It’s also worth noting that these prices are inclusive of everything – from your park and to all of your meals and game drives.
Should I visit the Sabi Sand Private Reserve for a safari?
The Sabi Sand is a private reserve bordering the Kruger National Park. It has an exceptional reputation for its resident wildlife sightings, and rightly so. The reserve is renowned for its leopard population and, from experience, it really does live up to its name. The Sabi Sand is home to a collection of luxury lodges, including Dulini, Kirkmans Camp, and Savanna. While these lodges are more expensive, they offer unparalleled luxury accommodation, food, and service, as well as an unforgettable safari experience. As they are sat on the private reserve, the guide can take you off-road to exclusive sightings, as well as offer bush walks and night drives.
Can I combine a luxury Kruger safari and Victoria Falls?
Logistics in South Africa makes it very possible to combine destinations, so yes, absolutely. The Kruger National Park has three airports which make it accessible to cities in South Africa like Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, and Johannesburg. It also offers flights up to Victoria Falls which is a very popular option. Although this flight is limited to certain days of flying, it makes for a much more direct route to combine a luxury South Africa safari with a visit to Africa’s largest, and most impressive waterfall. We’d recommend two or three nights in Victoria Falls as there is plenty to do, and our travel specialists can organize this for you.
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