There are three words that instantly invoke the spirit of Africa, Kruger National Park. Arguably the epitome of safari, it's the icon that has people from all over the world salivating for more. It's a bucket list item, the one that never gets crossed off. It's not simply a travel adventure into the thumping heart of Africa, it's a journey. Africa has a unique tendency of getting comfortably under people's skins and there will always be an itch to return to savour more.
The Kruger is the true essence of this experience. It's one of the largest game reserves in Africa, spanning an area of almost 8000 miles in the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga in South Africa. Established in 1898 by Paul Kruger, a former president of South Africa from 1883 to 1900, his conservation crusade was the beginnings of what is now known as the ultimate safari experience. It became South Africa's first national park in 1926.
The South African National Park's Board runs an impressive number of camps and lodges, even some overnight hides but the spotlight always falls directly on to the privately-run game lodges. If there's a spotlight on the private concessions of the Kruger National Park, the stars of the show are the wildlife. Thousands of animals populate the Kruger, everything from the striking Giraffe and endangered wild dogs to nature's most beloved giants, the elephants. The Big 5, made up of lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant, rhino are on most travellers list of "must see" but the diversity and the abundance of the Kruger National Park allows for so much more, it's a wildlife plethora playground.
As thrilling as a trip to the Kruger National Park can be, there a myriad of aspects that need to be considered and questions abound. There are certain terms that you will come across on any safari, that can illuminate the situation if you aren't sure of what to expect, these are a few:
With a trained guide and in an open safari vehicle, this is how you will be transported around the Kruger. With an infinite amount of knowledge, guides and trackers will take you to the best locations for the best viewings. Many of these animals are not threatened by the vehicles and this will let you observe them in their natural habitat unperturbed by your presence. The beauty of the Kruger is to always expect the unexpected. For the nocturnal creatures, night game drives with a spotlight, add a unique layer of mystery and excitement.
We have mentioned the Big 5 and their prowess in the animal kingdom but do you know about the small 5? These are the smaller but no less important creatures that complete any wildlife viewing experience. They include the elephant shrew, the rhino beetle, buffalo weaver, ant lion and the leopard tortoise. This is how you will see the detailed intricacies of Africa's splendour.
During the day, the African sun burns white hot and at the end of a game drive, a refreshing drink is savoured while revelling and toasting in the warm hues of the sunset. Majestic doesn't even begin to describe the feeling of being enveloped by every natural aspect of the Kruger National Park.
The name says it all, but many properties offer a breakfast in a scenic location in the bush. It's a secluded and intimate feel and put you right in the thick of the land.
Lathering up while the sounds of the bush permeate your senses is an experience loved by all. Staff at the camp will, before your requested time, fill a bucket with warm water, hoist it over the shower tent and it will last for about ten minutes.
This is a good-humoured term used to describe the roads that are not paved. The wild is just that, wild. To have an authentic bush experience requires off road bumping and tussling as you track the game through the Kruger reserve. It's all part and parcel of what makes a safari experience truly authentic.
The Kruger National Park is favoured by a year-round sunny climate but it's important to have a few essentials for when you are traipsing through the bush. You will get dirty, your dress code should be neutral colours, this will ensure your comfort and so that you can focus on fully enjoying the experience. These are the items we recommend for any safari, not only in the Kruger:
In a world that is technology driven, it's understandable that your mobile phone and your internet usage is of the utmost importance. But keep in mind that a trip to the Kruger National Park is about the natural wonder of travel. Most areas will have some form of mobile phone network, but signal can often be weak and unreliable. Some of the properties have internet access, whether it's offered at the main lodge or throughout a camp, is dependant. The point of a safari is to disconnect from the concrete jungle and plug into Africa.
The Kruger National Park gets an estimated 1.4 million visitors a year, eager for the safari experience but because of its size, it maintains a great balance of not feeling overcrowded, it will astound you at the amount of times you will be alone with your guides watching game. There are also great number of activities on offer that can enhance your trip to the Kruger National Park, everything from hot air balloon flights to elephant back safaris. On the ground level, you can experience what is being done in terms of conservation efforts including rehabilitation, breeding and endangered species centres.
A Kruger National Park safari is unlike any other travel experience and will have you salivating for more, we recommend you stay for more than three nights and take in all that the quintessential safari has to offer in the iconic land of baobab trees.