visit kruger national park

Kruger National Park: An Essential Guide to Africa’s Most Iconic Safari Park

Covering an area of almost 2 million hectares, Kruger National Park is one of the largest national parks in the world. It is one of the most popular and famous African safari wildlife parks, and also one of the oldest. Founded in 1898, Kruger is world famous for its incredible wildlife, with hundreds of mammals, birds, and reptiles inhabiting the park.

In this ultimate guide to Kruger National Park, you’ll learn everything you need to know to plan an unforgettable experience. With insider tips on how to visit Kruger National Park and where to stay to the diverse wildlife you’ll find in this iconic national park, you’ll find everything you need to prepare for your ultimate stay.

Kruger National Park
kbarzycki / Depositphotos

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Kruger National Park

Established in 1898 by President Paul Kruger, Kruger National Park in northeastern South Africa is the oldest conservation park in Africa. Now home to an incredible diversity of wildlife including the Big Five animals of Africa, it remains one of the most iconic and well-known safari parks in all of Africa.

Before becoming a national park, Kruger was a popular game reserve owned by the Dutch government. After its initial creation as a national park in 1898, it was expanded between 1903 and 1934 so that it has now covered almost 2 million hectares. The first road to enter Kruger National Park was built in 1927, making it easier for visitors to explore this vast wilderness area.

Today, over 1 million tourists from around the world visit Kruger National Park each year to see its incredible wildlife. Part of the incredible wildlife diversity in the park is due to its six unique ecosystems: grasslands, acacia savanna, thornveld, mopane woodland, miombo woodlands, and riverine forest. These unique features and microclimates allow for a variety of flora and fauna to thrive here.

Besides its diverse animal life, the park is also known for its sustainable tourism practices and outreach efforts, which benefit local communities near the park.

Greater Kruger National Park

In addition to the bounds of Kruger National Park, the area is surrounded by a number of unfenced private game reserves that share the same wildlife and many of the same geographic features as Kruger National Park. Together with Kruger, these game reserves form what is known as Greater Kruger National Park.

Game reserves that form Greater Kruger include the following:

  • Sabi Sands Game Reserve,
  • Makuya Nature Reserve,
  • Letaba Ranch Game Reserve,
  • Timbavati Private Nature Reserve,
  • Manyeleti Game Reserve,
  • Balule Nature Reserve,
  • Klaserie Private Nature Reserve,
  • Umbabat Private Nature Reserve.

Another famous South Africa safari destination, Mala Mala Game Reserve, shares a large unfenced border with Kruger National Park, though it’s technically part of Sabi Sands Game Reserve. Kapama Private Game Reserve is another reserve in the area, though it remains fenced off from Kruger.

Kruger National Park Map

The Kruger National Park is located around the Limpopo River, though not all of its boundaries are defined by geographical features. The park covers a total area of 19,455 square kilometers, making it one of the largest game reserves in Africa!

This Kruger National Park map identifies the extension of the park and the surrounding game reserves and nature reserves that form part of Greater Kruger National Park. Feel free to click around or even download this map for your travels.

Why is Kruger National Park Famous?

Kruger National Park is a world-renowned African safari destination in South Africa, famous for its incredible diversity of wildlife and unmatched safari experience. The park covers an area of nearly 2 million hectares and is home to lions, elephants, buffalo, rhinoceroses, leopards, and many other animals. Home to the Big Five of Africa as well as 147 mammal species and 114 reptile species, it is a great place for nature lovers to visit.

There are numerous archaeological sites and historical places to visit inside the Kruger National Park. This region of South Africa was inhabited by some of the the world’s earliest civilizations, and their mark can still be found in the park today. So if you’re interested in history as well as wildlife, then be sure to visit this amazing national park!

kruger national park wildlife
slowmotiongli / Depositphotos

Kruger National Park Wildlife

As one of the most revered safari destinations in Africa, it’s no surprise that the wildlife at Kruger National Park is unrivaled. Known as being a great destination to see the famous Big Five of Africa (lion, elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros), you’ll have an incredible chance to see all this and much more.

While the national park is filled with far too many animals to name, here are a handful of the animals that make the biggest impression among travelers visiting the park:

  • Big Cats: Cats like the lion, cheetah, leopard, and caracal are all big cats you’ll see within the park. Though some species are harder to spot than others, with some luck you can spot them all/
  • World’s Largest Animals: The savannah elephant, black and white rhinoceros, Cape buffalo, hippopotamus, zebra, and Southern African giraffe are among the world’s largest animals.
  • Africa’s Dogs: African painted dogs, black-backed jackals, and spotted hyenas are also present in Kruger; while African wild dogs are rare, much more commonly sighted in Sabi Sands Game Reserve, you’ll have a much better chance of seeing hyenas.
  • Hooved Mammals: Blue wildebeest, kudu, impala, sable, nyala, bushbuck, and the exquisite small steenbok are all present in Kruger among the ungulates and antelopes.
  • Strange and Exotic Species: Though smaller, the aardwolf, aardvark, pangolin, and stripped polecat are all among some of the park’s most fascinating smaller creatures.

The best place for seeing wildlife in the Kruger National Park is at the Nature’s Valley campsite, where you can spot nocturnal animals like leopards and hyenas. However, if you’re hoping to see the Big Five, your best bet is at one of the larger campsites like Skukuza or Lower Sabie.

If it’s an adventure you are looking for, Kruger National Park has it all. For starters, go on a game drive at the Phalaborwa gate. Try the Wolhuter Wilderness Trail. Another great option is the Tshokwane Picnic Site.

If you’re looking for something more challenging, check out the Napi Wilderness Trail or Olifants Wilderness Trail. And finally, if you really want to push yourself, consider doing the Sweni Wilderness Trail.

Kruger National Park Big Five

Many travelers in Kruger National Park, particularly first-time safari travelers, want to make sure to see all of the Big Five of Africa while visiting the park. While sighting all five of these animals isn’t guaranteed, you’ll have an excellent shot! These are the Big Five animals in Kruger, and the most up-to-date details about the frequency of their sightings by travelers.

Read More: What Are the Big Five of Africa? + How To Spot Them

Lions in Kruger National Park

Lions are quite common in Kruger, and you’ll likely encounter multiple over the course of your South Africa safari, especially in this iconic national park. There are an estimated 1,600 lions in the park, quite a healthy number for a park of this size.

While you can see lions throughout the park, Camp Shawu with its dam is an area that is known for its abundant lion sightings.

Leopards in Kruger National Park

While leopards are much more elusive than lions in this national park, there is a decently-sized population of leopards, giving you a good chance to see them during your safari. Leopards tend to be more solitary and sneaky than lions, making them harder to spot, though Kruger is a great place for it.

Elephants in Kruger National Park

Elephants are incredibly abundant in Kruger National Park and throughout the Greater Kruger area, making them a mainstay on safaris here. While elephants are one of the Big Five species you’ll most frequently encounter in the park, you’ll still savor the special moments with these gentle yet fearsome giants.

Buffalo in Kruger National Park

Like elephants, buffalo are plentiful in Kruger National Park. Large herds call this national park home, making them incredibly easy to spot, and likely to be a daily fixture on your game drives.

Rhinos in Kruger National Park

While black rhinos are traditionally the rhino species associated with the Big Five animals, Kruger is home to significantly more white rhinos than black rhinos. A frequent target of poachers, black rhinos now only number to a few hundred in Kruger, while several thousand white rhinos still remain in the park.

Best Sabi Sands Lodges

Kruger National Park Safaris

If you’re looking for an African safari adventure, look no further than Kruger National Park, regardless of your budget. Whether you’re looking for a luxurious lodge or a budget-friendly experience in the bush, you’re sure to find it in Kruger.

Choose from a variety of different safaris to suit your interests and budget, including group or private tours with flexible options for driving yourself or having a guide take you around.

Self-Driving Safaris in Kruger National Park

One of the aspects of Kruger National Park that makes it so affordable is that, as a national park, visitors can drive themselves through the park. That means no guides are needed – just plan for the cost of your rental car! This is a great way to save money if you don’t have the budget for an expensive lodge with game drives included.

Of course, self-driving safaris aren’t for everyone. Many safari travelers prefer exploring with trained guides. However, they’re a great option to consider for budget-friendly travel or if you’re looking for the independence to plan your own days.

Keep in mind that you can’t venture off the roads on self-driving safaris, as you can when experiencing a guided game drive on the private game reserves surrounding Kruger National Park. This can make it harder to see wildlife at times – come prepared with binoculars to get the best view!

Kruger National Park Guided Tours

Travelers looking for savings but who would like a guided drive rather than a self-driving experience can book one-day guided drives through Kruger National Park. These are quite economical and can really enhance the experience!

Alternatively, you can also find inclusive multi-day safari tours through Kruger National Park, with transportation included for a totally hassle-free guided experience through the park.

If you’d prefer the experience of guided game drives as part of a stay at a safari lodge, plan to stay at one of the private concessions located within Kruger National Park. Among the best are the Singita Lebombo and Singita Sweni lodges along Kruger’s border with Mozambique; Singita’s impressive conservation efforts make these ecolodges Earth-positive among this protected terrain.

best sabi sands lodges / Depositphotos

Where to Stay in Kruger National Park

No matter your budget, you’ll find an incredible array of options to choose from when deciding where to stay in Kruger National Park. From luxury lodges to basic rest camps and even campsites for tent camping, you’ll be able to choose the option that’s right for you, one of the major benefits of choosing this South Africa safari destination.

If you’re interested in camping, there are campsites throughout the park; set up your tent and enjoy nature at its finest. There are also several lodges located on private concessions inside the park, offering a more comfortable experience while still giving you the opportunity to photograph wildlife. These are some of the best places to stay in Kruger!

Jock Safari Lodge

The first private lodge built in Kruger National Park, Jock Safari Lodge offers a feeling of an earlier time. Perched along the banks of the Mitomeni and Biyamiti rivers in the Bushveld Concession Area, Jock Safari Lodge enjoys a privileged spot in a region known as one of the greatest in the Kruger National Park.

In addition to impressive and comfortable furnishings, Jock Safari Lodge is known for its incredible and unique safari experiences. To view the area’s rich wildlife, visitors may take daily game drives in open safari vehicles. Walk into the neighboring bush to observe historic Bushmen artwork.

During the rainy season, go on a frog safari to observe the many species frogs that live in the region and learn about the stories told by the stars.

Bateleur BushVeld Camp

Bateleur Camp, known as “Family Cottages,” was constructed in the late 1980s and has seven completely furnished chalets. Each accommodation is air-conditioned or has a ceiling fan, and many of the bedrooms have en-suite bathrooms. At Bateleur Camp, all lodging spaces are serviced daily and furnished with linens, towels, and soap.

A game-watching hide that looks out over a waterhole is one of the numerous attractions at Bateleur Camp. In the presence of knowledgeable drivers and trackers, night drives give you the chance to partake in the nocturnal animal inhabitants of Kruger Park’s nighttime activities.

Shimuwini Bushveld Camp

Shimuwini Bushveld Camp offers basic accommodations but its secluded, picturesque location along the banks of the Letaba River is unforgettable. Offering stunning river vistas and almost guaranteed wildlife encounters year-round, you’ll enjoy easy access to excellent elephant and buffalo country.

Activities at the camp are morning drives, night drives, and guided bush walks, all led by knowledgeable guides and trackers. Offering a great safari experience at an affordable price, it’s a hidden gem within Kruger National Park.

Singita Sweni Lodge

Located on Singita’s impressive private concession within Kruger National Park, Singita Sweni Lodge is an impressive luxury lodge located on the lush banks of the Sweni River. Just a few miles from the border of Mozambique, this impressive lodge features just seven private suites nestled among trees for a secluded and romantic safari experience you won’t forget.

No expense is spared at Singita Sweni in even the smallest detail of the guest experience. Expansive open-concept rooms feature gorgeous furnishings and private indoor/outdoor spaces with pool and outdoor shower included! The riverside location is perfect for animal and bird encounters even before you head out on incredible game drives.

kruger national park visit
londondeposit / Depositphotos

Kruger National Park – FAQ

Where is Kruger National Park?

The Kruger National Park is located in the northeast corner of South Africa, bordering Mozambique to the east and Zimbabwe to the north. The park covers an area of 19,485 square kilometers (7,523 sq mi), making it one of the largest national parks in Africa.

The Kruger National Park is located in two provinces: Mpumalanga and Limpopo. The park covers an area of about 19,485 square kilometers (7,523 sq mi), making it one of the largest game reserves in South Africa.

How Big is Kruger National Park?

Kruger National Park is one of the largest and most popular safari parks in Africa. It covers an impressive 19,485 square kilometers of land, which is larger than almost 60 countries! This makes it a must-see destination for tourists from all over the world, certainly a bucket list destination you won’t want to miss.

When Did The Park Open?

1927 is when the gates opened at Kruger National Park for the first time. At that time, just three cars were permitted into the park each year! Needless to say, things have changed a lot since then.

Today, Kruger National Park is one of Africa’s most popular tourist destinations. More than one million people visit every year, and the park continues to grow in popularity. There’s something for everyone here from lions and elephants to bird-watching and hiking. So if you’re looking for an amazing African safari experience, be sure to add Kruger National Park to your list!

How Many Animals are in Kruger National Park?

Kruger National Park is home to a very large variety of animals, including the Big Five of Africa. In fact, it is estimated that the park has between 120 and 240 African wild dogs, up to 13,100 blue wildebeest, 35,300 plains zebras, 120 cheetahs, 4,420 Nile crocodiles, 500 bushbucks, and 37,130 African buffalo. There are also 460 eland present in the park, as well as 3,100 hippopotamuses.

How Many Tourists Visit the Park Each Year?

Kruger National Park is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Africa and receives an estimated one million visitors or more every year. Safari vehicles are a great way to see the park without getting too close to any animal interactions. The park is divided into five regions, each with its own unique attractions and landscapes.

carley rojas avila

Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual New York-based travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Explorers Away and Home to Havana. Carley is an expert on all things Latin America, the Caribbean, and Cuba, having lived and worked in four different countries in the region. Her writing has appeared on the Associated Press wires and in Travel + Leisure, Yahoo, MSN, Euronews, The Weather Channel, and more. When she's not writing about her travels, find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.