The Kruger National Park, named for Paul Kruger, President of the Boer Republic in the late 1800s, is home to over 150 different kinds of mammals and 500 species of bird life. It is best known for the BIG FIVE: leopard, lion, rhino, elephant and African buffalo (Cape Buffalo).
Kruger occupies over 7,724 square miles in South Africa, measuring 217 miles north to south and 37 miles east to west. Although the accommodations inside the park are expensive, there is one big advantage. Park guests have a little more time for game viewing since they don’t have to get to the exit gate by a specific time. I imagine the animal sounds at night inside the park must be a thrill of a lifetime.
Early reservations are required for those wishing to stay inside Kruger Park. Choices range from huts and safari tents to cottages, bungalows and lodges. Tariffs for accommodations vary between $28 USD to $250 USD per night.
We entered the Crocodile Bridge Gate at the Southern end of the park. It was early morning, about 6:30am, and there was already a line to enter. After paying and securing our passes, we proceeded on the main road. It was a foggy morning and the sun was just starting to peak through the low clouds. We commented that we would probably not see anything right away because of all the traffic in the area. Then, all of a sudden, barely visible through the fog was a huge elephant, grazing just off the road. We name this beautiful site - the Elephant in the Mist.
Guided Safari Tours: There are guided safari tours, which I would highly recommend if you are limited on time and not on a tight budget. Riding in a safari vehicle, provides a better view of the surrounding area than a typical automobile. For a half day game drive expect to pay $46.00 per person; full day $61. This usually includes park entrance fee, light breakfast, bottled water and cool drinks, and a professional guide.
Self-Guided Tours: The advantage of the self-guided tours is that we set the schedule. If we happened on a group of animals, we had the luxury of spending time watching them, and sometime watching them watch us. The baboons were especially curious about these strangers in their world. Our best sightings were on the small side road, away from the main paved roads. It was down one of these side roads that we found a large group of zebra and wildebeest. Several of the zebra had nursing babies. We stopped our car, turned off the engine and enjoyed watching the animals graze and interact with each other.
Among our wildlife sightings were the rhino, Cape Buffalo, hippos, giraffes, zebras, elephants, warthogs, baboons vervet monkeys, impala, kudu, nyala, and wildebeest. Our favorite-feathered friend was the yellow-billed Hornbill, who appeared to enjoy posing for our cameras.
From the Crocodile Bridge Gate to Lower Sabie is only 35km, but it took us almost four hours. Lower Sabie is a Main Camp, one of many inside the park. Main Camps offers restaurant facilities, snack bar, souvenir shops, fenced picnic areas, restrooms and a chance to get out of the car and stretch. Kruger is so large that in the two days we spent there, we only covered one small corner of the park.
In November, December and January (summer months in Africa) gates open at 4:30 in the morning and close at 5:30pm. In July, opening is at 6am, closing at 4pm. Be sure to keep your receipt (travel document), as you will need to present it as you leave the park.
Daily park entrance tariff is $18 USD for foreign guests.