South Africa - Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park is the largest national park in South Africa, and one of the best wildlife reserves in the world. It stretches from the Limpopo River in the north, to the Crocodile River 352 km (220 miles) to the south. The park averages 60 km (38 miles) from east to west. It is a great wilderness covering 19, 633 square km (7,580 square miles). Kruger National Park is divided into 16 distinct regions, based upon the vegetation found there.
The Thrill Of Game Watching
For many visitors, South Africa means wildlife. There is probably no better place to see African animals in their own habitat than in Kruger National Park. Among the diverse animal population are more than 3,000 hippos and 5,000 giraffe. From elevated game-watching platforms, visitors can safely watch for elephants, lions, leopards, nialas, water buffalo, eland, antelope, impala, zebra, and wildebeest. Bird lovers can see such exotic species as the crimson and green Narina trogon, crested guinea fowl, longtailed starlings, and white-fronted bee-eaters.
Camp Under the African Sky
There are several camps visitors can stay at to really experience the wilderness of South Africa. Shingwedzi is on the summit of a hill, and so has a great view of the surrounding countryside and the Pioneer Dam. It also has a pool, so visitors can get a break from the heat. One of the best camps is on the Letaba River. The chalets here are in semi-circles overlooking the river. This is the site of Elephant Hall, where you can see some of the largest tusks ever found in Africa. Other popular camps are at Olifonts, Satara, and Orpen.
Besides the animals, Kruger National Park also offers some of the most magnificent scenery in South Africa. From the Nkumbe lookout point you have a splendid view of the surrounding plains. If you take the Southern Kruger Tour, you will see the granite koppies, outcrops of rock that punctuate the woodland. This tour also takes in the picturesque Sabie River. If you stop for lunch at the Nkuhlu Picnic Site, watch out for the monkeys who boldly come down from the trees to steal food right off of plates. Tours to the northern part of Kruger are usually less crowded than the southern tour. Besides wildlife, the northern tours also give you the opportunity to see Africa’s iconic baobab trees.
A patchwork of private game reserves border the western part of Kruger National Park. A fence once separated these smaller sanctuaries from the big park, but it was taken down in 1994 so that the animals would have freer movement. The private reserves often feature luxury lodges that provide some of the best services in South Africa. They can accommodate small groups of tourists, and offer exclusive “bush experiences”. Trained rangers take guests on fascinating bush walks and night drives. They also provide tenting expeditions for the more adventurous. The best known of the private preserves are the Sable Sand Complex, the Manyeleti Reserve, the Timbavanti Game Reserve, and Klaserie, an area that encompasses many private preserves. Even if you decide to stay at a private preserve, be sure to put aside a day or two to visit beautiful Kruger National Park.