Kruger National Park

Kruger National Park

Location: Limpopo and Mpumalanga Provinces Map

Area: 18,989 km2 (7,332 sq mi)


The Kruger National Park is the largest game reserve in South Africa. It is located in the north-east of the country in the Lowveld landscape in the Limpopo province and the eastern section of Mpumalanga. Its area stretches from the Crocodile River in the south to the Limpopo, the border river with Zimbabwe, in the north. The north-south extension is about 350 km, in east-west direction the park is an average of 54 km wide and covers an area of about 20,000 square kilometers. This makes it one of the largest national parks in Africa.

The reserve was established on March 26, 1898 under President Paul Kruger as the Sabie Game Reserve to protect wildlife. In 1926 the area was given national park status and given its current name. The park is home to 147 species of mammals including the "Big Five", as well as around 507 species of birds and 114 species of reptiles, 49 species of fish and 34 species of amphibians.


Rough outline

With 19,624 km², the Kruger National Park is one of the largest protected areas in Africa, but in the dry season most of the game migrates to the areas that border the park to the west. In 1961 the west side was completely fenced off and in 1975 the same was enforced on the east side, preventing the large animals from migrating in and out of the park. Today there are a number of private protected areas in the west, the fences of which towards the Kruger Park have been removed in many cases and allow the animals, at least within these protected areas, unhindered movement across the borders. In the northeast of the Kruger National Park, the fences on the border with Mozambique have recently been removed to allow game movements into the adjacent Limpopo National Park in Mozambique. The destination is a large transboundary park called the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park. In order to make it easier for tourists to switch to Mozambique, new border crossings were built between the parts of the park, for example in Giriyondo. In many places, however, the park still borders on cultivated land.

Numerous large game relocations to the adjacent Limpopo National Park - including elephant, giraffe, zebra and Cape buffalo - have taken place, and not all have been successful. Parts of the relocated herds of elephants have migrated back to South Africa. It could take years to increase wildlife populations on the Mozambique side.



Until about 400 AD, the San lived as hunters and gatherers in the area of ​​today's park, where they left rock paintings in some places. From this time on, black pastoral peoples immigrated from the north and began to displace the native San. In the early 19th century, when the Cape region came under British rule, many Boers who had previously lived further south migrated north to escape the burden of taxes. In addition to the Orange Free State, they founded the Transvaal Republic, which also included the area of ​​today's national park. The whites mainly settled in higher areas (preferably the Highveld) to avoid malaria and other health hazards. However, even in lower-lying areas, such as those that later became Kruger National Park, they stalked wild animals and drastically decimated populations.

As game populations dwindled, the Volksraad, the parliament of the South African Republic, decided to ban hunting in some state-owned areas. At that time, a protected area was not created to preserve original wilderness, but to protect huntable game. By 1889, however, the herds of wild animals had almost disappeared. In 1894 the Volksraad therefore designated a protected area (Pongola Reserve) on the southern border with Swaziland. However, various private individuals, hunting associations and public bodies still demanded a proper sanctuary in the eastern Transvaal.

As a result, on March 26, 1898, with the approval of Paul Kruger, President of the Transvaal Republic, an area of ​​approximately 2500 square kilometers between Sabie and Crocodile River, the Sabie Game Reserve, was officially placed under protection. The nature reserve was founded with a staff of only 5 white and 30 black rangers, which is considered an extraordinary achievement from a modern perspective. However, regulated hunting was permitted in this reserve.

James Stevenson-Hamilton was appointed game warden after the Second Boer War in 1902. Under his leadership, the poaching that was still rampant in the park was fought, laying the foundation for today's abundance of animals. He tirelessly promoted the idea of ​​a national park where visitors could observe the wildlife. In 1903, the Shingwedzi Game Reserve was established north of the reserve with about 5000 square kilometers. In 1926 the Sabie and Shingwedzi Reserve and some adjacent areas were grouped together and declared Kruger National Park. The park has been open to visitors since 1927 and in 1935 there were already 26,000 visitors and 6,000 cars.

Since the beginning of the year 2000, the park has been expanded by merging with protected areas in Mozambique and Zimbabwe. The Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park includes Kruger National Park, Limpopo National Park in Mozambique and Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe.



The Kruger National Park lies to the east of the so-called Great Escarpment. About 90 km west of the park, the plateau drops off steeply from about 1800 m to 1200 m. Then the landscape continues to descend slowly to 800 m to the limit of the park. Within the park, the elevation varies from 823 m (Khandizwe) in the hilly south-west to 183 m in the eastern areas. In the northern part of the park, the hilly and northern section of the Lebomboberg Mountains forms the eastern boundary of the park. The highest point of this chain is 496 m. To the north, around Camp Punda Maria, the easternmost foothills of the Soutpansberg chain reach into the national park. With the exception of the corners of the south-west and north-west and the Lebombo Mountains, the park is relatively flat and consists of undulating land, from which some rocky islands, the so-called koppies, rise in many places. These rocks are ideal habitats for klipspringers, baboons and leopards. Only in the hills and rocky areas of the southwest around Berg en Dal is the mountain reedbuck found, which is found nowhere else in the park.

The park has numerous rivers, most of which do not carry water permanently, but become rivulets or dry up completely during the winter dry season. In the rainy season, however, they can form powerful and wide streams that can lead to flooding. The major rivers flowing through the park (to the east and south-east) are the Luvuvhu (flowing into the Limpopo at Crook's Corner), the Shingwedzi, the Letaba (flowing into the Olifants), the Olifants, the Timbavati (flowing into the Olifants), the Sand (flows into the Sabie) and the Sabie. In addition, the Crocodile forms the border river of the park in the south and the Limpopo forms the border of the park with Zimbabwe in the north. An ecological problem is the enormous amount of pollutants that the few year-round rivers, such as the Olifants, carry with them, especially in the dry season. This is reinforced by the withdrawal of water for industry and agriculture. More recently, some artificial water features have been created. They provide water access for wild animals in the dry season. Some of these artificial water points created new ecological problems, such as overgrazing of the surrounding areas.

The northern part includes all areas north of the Olifants River and accounts for half of the entire park. The vegetation here consists mainly of mopane forests (Cholophospermum mopane), which are interspersed with scrub willows (Combretum apiculatum), especially on the hilltops. You can also find the mighty baobab trees in the north. In general, wildlife density is lower here than in the southern parts of the park, but numerous elephant, buffalo, eland, roan and lyre live in this sub-area. Only the area in the extreme north, where the park borders the Limpopo, differs significantly from the other northern, overall rather monotonous landscapes. The vegetation here is extremely varied, and one of the characteristic tree species of this area is the fever tree.

The central part of the park, between the Olifants and Sabie rivers, includes open grass and tree savannas and is home to most of the zebra, wildebeest and giraffe. Tree species characteristic of the entire southern area include sweet thorn acacia (Acacia nigrescens), marula tree (Sclerocarya birrea) and scrub willow.

The vegetation of the southern parts is extremely varied, but also consists mainly of thorn-armed acacia and grassland.

When the national park area was part of the former Sabie Sand Reserve, sheep grazed there in the winter, so the grass was burned down every year. This ceased when the national park was established in 1926, and by 1954 fires were actively being fought. As a result, the landscape around Pretoriuskop, which was once largely grassland, now consists mainly of scrub and woodland, with the exception of the so-called vleis. Although natural fires have been tolerated again for some time, the area has remained relatively wooded, presumably because the trees have now reached a size at which the fire can do little to them.



There are two geologically different areas in the park, separated by a narrow band of sandstone. In the western half one finds mainly types of rock such as gneiss, slate and granite. In its eastern half these rock units are overlain by basaltoid rocks of the Karoo system.



Summers are hot and rainy, winters are warm and dry. During and immediately after the rainy season (November-April), when there is plenty of water everywhere, the game spreads out over a large area in the park. In the dry season, on the other hand, the large animals concentrate on the surroundings of the rivers and waterholes.

The first rains usually start in September or October. The sky usually fills with clouds several days beforehand. Average annual rainfall varies from 740 mm in the southwest to 440 mm in the northeast. The greatest amount of it falls between November and March. The lowest rainfall occurs between July and August.

The rainy season is very hot, and the temperature often rises to over 40 °C. In the dry season, on the other hand, it can get very cold at night (sometimes below 0 °C), but most years are frost-free and even in winter temperatures often rise to 20-30 °C.



The most common large carnivores are spotted hyenas with around 2000, lions with around 1500 and leopards with around 1000 specimens (as of 2003). Rarer are African wild dogs with about 350 animals and cheetahs with a population of only about 200 animals (as of 2002/2003).

By far the park's most common larger wildlife is the impala, which was estimated to number 150,000 in 2003. Since 1980, when the population was estimated at around 90,000, this species has almost doubled in the park. The most numerous large wild animal species are elephants with 11,700 animals, southern blue wildebeest (C. t. taurinus) with 17,000 animals, cape buffalo with 25,000 animals and plains zebra with 32,000 animals (as of 2003). Also common are giraffes, whose numbers have increased from 5,000 in 1980 to 9,000 in 2003. The southern subspecies of giraffe, the so-called Cape giraffe (G. c. giraffa), lives in the Kruger Park. Greater kudu (5000-8000), elliptical waterbuck (5000), warthog (3100-5700) and hippo (about 2500) are other common large herbivores. The stocks of elephants, buffaloes and hippos are regulated by artificial interventions (shooting, resettlement) by the park administration.

Kruger National Park is an important reserve for the nyala. Sable antelope populations have fallen from around 2,000 animals in the 1980s to just around 400 in 2006. The reasons for this are unclear. Sable antelopes mainly inhabit the western areas of the park. The rare large herbivores also include the lyre antelope (subspecies Sassaby) with around 200-300 animals, the eland with an estimated around 400 animals and the roan antelope. Only about 60-70 animals of this antelope species remain in the northern part of the park (as of 2006).

Rhino poachers have been causing significant problems in Kruger National Park since around 2008. They are particularly interested in rhino horn. The southern white rhino (C. s. simum) was already extinct in the Lowveld by 1896. However, in 1961, 351 animals from the Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park were successfully reintroduced into the Pretoriuskop region of the Kruger National Park. According to the national park administration, the population had stabilized at around 10,000 animals by 2010. Since then, poachers have killed an estimated 2,000 animals. In 2013 alone, 520 animals were killed. Even the use of police and army units with drones and helicopters has not curbed poaching to date (end of 2014). Since the problem cannot be solved by controls and army operations alone, as many rhinos as possible are to be brought to safety in the south-west of the park. This area is easier to monitor and further from the border, so the national park administration has set up an "Intensive Protection Zone" here.

In contrast to the again common white rhino, the black rhino is rarely seen in the park. It disappeared in the Lowveld around 1936. In 1971, 20 animals were introduced in the Pretoriuskop area. Today there are between 200 and 470 specimens in the park. Most of the park's large reedbuck (at least 400) live in the south-eastern area around Melelane and Pretoriuskop. Mountain Reedbuck and Roebuck were reintroduced but are still quite rare today. They live only in the wetter southwest of the park. Oribis also lived in the southwesternmost part of the sanctuary in the late 19th century, but became extinct there in the early 20th century. Release attempts since 1969 have had little success. The park may be a little too dry for Oribis, and the climatic conditions may once have been a little wetter. The Lichtenstein's antelope once occurred and later became extinct in at least the northernmost (possibly southern) areas of the park. The species has now been reintroduced into the national park. A total of 30 of these Malawi antelopes were released south of Punda Maria in 1985/86 and have successfully bred. The Lichtenstein's antelope can already be seen on cave drawings in the Petoriuskop region.


Other ungulates include bush pig, bushbuck, klipspringer, Sharpe's sirebuck, steenbok, crowned duiker and the tiny dwarf buck (far north only). Baboons (about 200 groups in total) and vervet monkeys are also common sights. Other primates that are seen less frequently are the white-throated monkey, the giant galago and the southern galago. The smaller predator species are represented in the park by the caracal, serval, bay cat, black-footed cat, lesser spotted genet, greater spotted genet, civet, black-backed jackal, striped jackal, aardwolf, honey badger, polecat, otter, white-tailed mongoose, southern dwarf mongoose, banded mongoose, marsh mongoose and slender mongoose.

Other conspicuous smaller mammals are the steppe pangolin, the aardvark, porcupine, spring hare, bush hare and kaphase, as well as wood squirrels, rock hyrax and wood hyrax.

The largest bird in the park is the ostrich. Other noticeably large bird species include marabou, ground hornbills, secretary and kori bustard. Large waterfowl such as saddle stork, Goliath heron, purple heron, gray heron, great egret, white stork, black stork, glutton and pelicans can be found on the water, as well as numerous other species such as the Egyptian goose. Among the largest birds of prey are the martial eagle, the predatory eagle, the crowned eagle and the fish eagle. The vultures are represented by lappet vultures, white-backed vultures, cape vultures, woolly-headed vultures and hooded vultures. Jugglers were once widespread in South Africa, but today they are almost exclusively found in the Kruger National Park. There is also a large variety of small and medium-sized bird species in the park, such as tokos and glossy starlings.

Yellow-billed oxpeckers died out around 1904 in South Africa in the course of the appearance of rinderpest and the tick poisons used around 1896. The animals were first sighted again in the north of the park in the mid-1970s. Within 15 years they had spread south. The decisive factors were the use of less harmful toxins against ticks and the recovery of wildlife populations, especially the Cape buffalo.

Among the reptiles, the large Nile crocodiles and monitor lizards (two species) are particularly noteworthy. There are also at least 53 smaller species of lizards, divided into geckos (14 species), skinks (13 species), lizards (19 species), agamas (three species) and chameleons (one species). Of the 54 species of snakes, nine are very venomous, such as cobras, puff adders and the black mamba. The largest snake in the area is the rock python. Three species of aquatic turtles and three species of tortoises, including the leopard tortoise, are also native. Among the fish, the African catfish (Clarias gariepinus) is particularly worth mentioning.

From the realm of insects, the mighty castles of the termites are particularly striking. Pillworms and the caterpillars of the peacock moth Gonimbrasia belina are also typical. The Anopheles mosquitoes are feared as disease vectors.

The park is home to a total of 147 species of mammals, 492 species of birds, 118 species of reptiles, 34 species of amphibians and 49 species of freshwater fish that are included in the Kruger National Park Vertebrate Species List. The flora includes 404 species of trees, bushes and shrubs, 224 species of grass and 1275 other species of plants.



The park can be reached via several entrances:
In the south: Malelane and Crocodile Bridge (directly at/to the camp of the same name)
In the southwest: Numbi, Phabeni and Paul Kruger
To the west: Orpen and Phalaborwa
In the north: Pafuri and Punda Maria

Additionally, there are inputs from the Mozambican side:
Pafuri Border Post

Scattered throughout the park are a number of camps and rest areas where you can rest, eat, or stay the night. There are a total of 21 so-called rest camps with overnight accommodations and 11 upscale private lodges in the park. The rest camps are divided into two groups, the larger main camps and the smaller bushveld camps. Furthermore, seven areas were granted as concessions to private companies, which also operate lodges there.

main camp
The 13 Main Camps (German: Haupt-Camps) of the Kruger National Park absorb the bulk of the guests. They offer more comfort than the smaller bushveld camps and often have restaurants, shops and petrol stations.

Berg-en-Dal: This modern camp was opened on February 24, 1984 on the banks of the Matjulu Spruit River near a prehistoric settlement. It is the park's only camp in a mountainous region and offers accommodation for around 500 visitors.
Crocodile Bridge: This relatively small camp opened in the 1930's on the banks of the Crocodile River in the southeast corner of the park. The camp also serves as the park entrance.
Letaba: This camp is one of the largest in the park and is situated on the banks of the Letaba River
Lower Sabie: The camp is located on a dam that dams the Sabie River and can accommodate nearly 300 guests.
Mopani: Opened in 1989 on the east bank of a reservoir and can accommodate around 500 guests
Olifants: Located in the north of the park about two hundred meters above the Olifants river with a panoramic view
Orpen: This relatively small camp in the west of the park also serves as the park entrance
Pretoriuskop: Located on the wagon route from the Lydenburg Goldfields to the coast. Was named after Andries Pretorius' son, Willem Pretorius. It is the westernmost and highest camp in the park.
Punda Maria: Built in 1919 as a game wardens' station in the north corner of the park and converted to a rest camp in 1933. From this camp, the nearby archaeological site of Thulamela can be visited.
Satara: Prior to the creation of the park, the area around Satara was inhabited by settlers from the Transvaal Republic. One of the Indian surveyors marked present-day Satara with the Hindi word "Satra" meaning 17. With a capacity of around 450 overnight guests, it is one of the park's largest camps.
Shingwedzi: This is the largest camp in the northernmost parts of the park.
Skukuza: The park's main camp on the south bank of the Sabie River offers overnight accommodation for more than 1,000 visitors. The camp offers a 9-hole golf course and a bank. The camp was called Sabie Bridge when it opened in 1902, but was renamed Skukuza in 1936 after James Stevenson-Hamilton's nickname in the Shangaan language.


Bushveld Camps
The bushveld camps are smaller than the large main camps and do not have gas stations, shops or restaurants. In contrast to the main camps, they are only accessible to overnight guests.
Balule: On the south bank of the Olifant. Very small camp with no electricity.
Biyamiti Bushveld Camp at Biyamiti
Malelane: A small camp near the larger Berg-en-Dal camp, based on the remains of an earlier, larger camp. It offers accommodation for up to 19 guests.
Maroela: A small campsite on the Timbavati River next to Orpen Camp
Sirheni: A small camp in a gallery forest on the Sirheni Dam that dams the Mphongolo River
Shimuwini: Bushveld Camp on the Letaba River
Talamati: Bushveld Camp at a waterhole in the south-central part of the park
Tamboti Tented Camp: A small tented camp in a wooded area on a bend of the Timbavati River near Orpen Camp
Tsendze Rustic camp: A small campsite opened in 2006 about 7 km from Mopani camp next to the Mooiplaas rest area

private lodges
Boulder's Bush Lodge
Roodewal Bush Lodge
The Outpost Lodge: Located in Crook's Corner.

Rest areas (with service)
Afsaal Tearoom (on the Malelane Entrance–Skukuza route)
Balabala (on the Shingwedzi-Punda Maria route)
Tshokwane (on the Skukuza–Satara line)
Nkhulu (on the Skukuza–Lower Sabie route)

Concessions with private lodges
Imbali: A 100 km² concession consisting of two lodges, Imbali Safari Lodge, situated on the banks of the Nwatswitswonto River and Hoyo Hoyo Tsonga Lodge, built in the style of a traditional Tsonga village on the banks of the Mluwati River.
Hamilton's Tented Camp
Jock Safari Lodge: A 60km² concession between Pretoriuskop and Lower Sabie. The lodge with its twelve suites was the first private lodge in the park.
Lukimbi: A 150 km² concession area in the southern part of the park. The lodge is situated on the banks of the Lwakahle River near Malelane
Mutlumuvi: The only concession authorized to offer guided walks in the 120 km² concession (Rhino Walking Safaris). Alongside this, Rhino Post Safari Lodge offers 5-star luxury.
Ngala Tented Safari Camp: A tented camp on a 147 km² concession
Singita Lebombo Lodge: A 100 km² concession area to the east of the park. The lodge is situated on the south bank of the Nwanetsi River east of Satara camp near the Lebombo Mountains.
Tinga: A 50 km² concession consisting of two lodges, Narina Lodge and Legends Lodge.
Londolozi: This property is located on the Sabie Sand property and is adjacent to the Sand River.
Silvan Safari Lodge: Also located on the Sabie Sand Concession and offers six suites.

Wilderness trails
Seven 3-day hiking routes offer the opportunity to explore the park's more remote regions on foot and experience the wilderness up close. No paths were created for the routes, the hikers use deer crossing or cross country.
Bushman: Near Berg-en-Dal
Metsi-Metsi: Near Orpen Dam and N'wamuriwa Mountains
Napi: Between Skukuza and Pretoriuskop
Nyalaland: North of Punda Maria near the Luvuvhu River
Olifants: Near Olifants Rest Camp, along the Olifants River
Sweni: Near N'wanetsi
Wolhuter: Between Berg-en-Dal and Pretoriuskop

management and safeguards
Poaching in the Kruger National Park is having a significant impact on wildlife in the region and adjacent areas. Rhinos are particularly endangered. National park rangers have been following the illegal activities for a long time. South Africa has deployed its army (SANDF) against poachers since 2011. In addition to police units (SAPS), an Intelligence Tactical Regiment from Potchefstroom and other military special forces with helicopter support and night vision devices are also involved in these activities. The activities of the poachers reached cross-border dimensions, favored by the good local knowledge of those involved. As part of Operation Corona, which actually serves to secure and monitor the country's external borders, 64 people were arrested in Kruger National Park with the help of SANDF units in 2011. Poachers, armed with Kalashnikovs and hand grenades, were killed and injured in firefights with the army and police units and law enforcement agencies involved. According to the South African army, many of the poachers are former Mozambican soldiers with a good level of military training.

The increasing militarization of nature conservation in the park is also the subject of criticism and scientific debate (green militarization).