SOUTH AFRICA: Kruger NP

africanlanders

February 16, 2022

The Kruger NP is one of the best-known parks in Africa for its huge biodiversity and we would also highlight it as one of the most accessible and affordable parks on the continent. At the same time, it is immense! It is 360 km long and 65 km wide, making it the largest natural park in South Africa and one of the largest on the African continent. It covers an area of ​​19.485 square kilometers and is located in the northeast of the country, almost on the border with Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

The park was first established under the name “Sabie Game Reserve” in 1898 by Transvaal President Paul Kruger. Located in the southern third of the current park, the reserve was initially created to control hunting and protect the declining number of animals in the park. It merged with the Shingwedzi Game Reserve and was declared South Africa’s first national park in 1926. It was eventually renamed Kruger National Park and officially opened to tourism in 1927.

Known for being one of the natural parks where you can see the Big 5 (elephant, lion, rhino, buffalo and leopard), you can also see antelopes, hippos, wildebeests, warthogs, hyenas, impalas, cheetahs, zebras, crocodiles… A non-stop animal that makes it one of the most stunning parks in Africa with an awesome safari experience!

Being so accessible and affordable also makes it very touristy. It is a park with a good network of roads in good condition, where you can visit it with your private car without the need to be a 4×4, and with a good accommodation option for sleeping. All these facilities make it the natural park where we have found more people and more queues to see animals. But also, one of the places where we have seen more variety and more wild experiences!

How to get there?

There are so many ways to get in the Kruger NP. The most common one that many people do is go to Johannesburg Airport and rent a car. From there, you can drive to the park for about 5-6 hours to sleep and start a full day of animals the next morning!

You can also fly to Kruger Mpumalanga International (KMI) an hour south of the park by plane, or hire a local tourism company from Johannesburg.

To enter the Kruger NP, you will find up to nine entrances. Here, we list them and explain how to get there:

– Crocodile Bridge Gate: This is the closest gate to Mozambique. To get there, take the N4 to Komatipoort and turn left, driving for 14 kilometers to Crocodile Bridge Gate. In Komatipoort you will find petrol stations and supermarkets to buy everything you need before entering the Kruger NP, although inside the park you will also find petrol stations and places to buy food. This gate is about 450 kilometers from the city of Johannesburg (about 5-6 hours’ drive). It is the ideal gateway to Lower Sabie, Skukuza or Crocodile Bridge.

– Malelane Gate: This gate is also on the N4 between Johannesburg and Komatipoort. It is located about 410 kilometers from Johannesburg, right next to the town of Malelane and a few kilometers from the town of Nelspruit (also known as Mbombela). It is the best option if you go to Malelane, Berg-en-Dal and Skukuza.

– Numbi Gate: This gate is located southwest of the Kruger NP, about 390 kilometers from Johannesburg. It is located just after the town of Salubindza, where you can get there after taking the R40 just before Nelspruit, and once past the town of White River, take the R538 until you get there. This gate is ideal if you sleep in Skukuza or Pretoriuskop.

– Phabeni Gate: This gate, located just off the Sabie River, is further north than Numbi Gate. 415 km from Johannesburg, it is ideal if you want to reach Skukuza from the west. The nearest town is Hazyview, which is 70 kilometers from Nelspruit on the R40.

– Paul Kruger Gate: This gate, which bears the same name as the national park, is the best option if you want to get to Skukuza directly and quickly. Also located by the Sabie River, the nearest town is Hazyview.

– Orpen Gate: This gate is ideal if you are coming or going to Satara. It has a campsite next to the gate, and around it you can see a family of wild dogs that are usually next to the H7. The nearest town is Klaserie, 44 kilometers from Orpen Gate on the R531. Klaserie is 140 km from Nelspruit on the R40, and about 470 km from the city of Johannesburg. If after or before you want to visit Panorama Route (you can read our experience here), this gate is the best one to enter or exit from Kruger NP. 

– Phalaborwa Gate: This gate is located near the Letaba, Mopani and Olifants camps. There, the presence of cats is not so numerous, but if you are lucky, you can also see them. To get there, the nearest town is Ba-Phalaborwa, 2 km from the gate. To get to this town, you have two options: the first, driving along the entire R40 from Nelspruit to Phalaborwa (passing through the village of Mica) for 240 kilometers; and the second, arriving from Gravelot, a town which is 60 kilometers from the gate. To get to Gravelot, the best option is to take the N1 from Johannesburg to Pietersburg, and there take the R71 for 230 kilometers until you reach the gateway to the Kruger NP.

– Punda Maria Gate: This gate is located north of the park, and is the best option if you want to access the Punda Maria and Shingwedzi camps. The nearest town is Malamulele, 50 km from the access road to the R81 and then the R524. However, the most direct way to get there is via Makhado (also known as Louis Trichardt), a city on the N1 430 km from Johannesburg. From there, Punda Maria Gate is 145 km away on the R524.

– Pafuri Gate: This is the northernmost gate of the Kruger NP, right on the border with Zimbabwe. There, you can see some animals but the most prominent are the birds. Therefore, it is a good gateway for ornithology lovers. You can also find some baobabs, which are not so common in the southern part of the Kruger NP. The nearest town to Pafuri Gate is Madimbo, located 82 km from the gate following the R525. From Johannesburg, the best way to get there is to follow the N1 to the town of Messina (Musina), which is 520 kilometers from the metropolis. From there, take the R525 to the farthest gate from the Kruger NP.

Which is the best time to visit Kruger NP?

The best time to visit the Kruger NP is during the dry season, which runs from May to September. It is the best time because the vegetation is not so high and you can more easily see animals drinking water concentrated especially in the waterholes, rivers… It is the most touristy time and where you will find more people touring the park.

In the wet or rainy season, which runs from October to April, the weather is humid and hot. It often rains a lot and this makes the grass taller and the animals hide. During November and December there are many animals that have their young and it is a good time to see migratory birds.

If you want to enjoy the park with not so many people, this is a good time where the whole park is green and nature is in its full splendor!

So, it all depends on your priorities when it comes to choosing the right time!

What to bring to visit Kruger NP?

Doing a safari is not done every day. Whenever it comes time to prepare for luggage, there are some questions about what to bring, whether or not I take too many clothes with me… Here are some tips that are always good when packing for your travel, and especially when we go on a safari, which is a very specific activity:

– Carry only what you need in your backpack. We tend to put everything in our suitcases, although we can usually save them “just in case”. We must keep in mind that the backpack or suitcase we take is preferably made of fabric/canvas, which is not rigid, as in safaris there is not much space inside the car and luggage is usually placed on top of the vehicle to gain space.

– Wear very different clothes. In South Africa the temperatures change a lot during the day. It is usually cool in the mornings and evenings, while at noon it is usually very hot. Long pants in the morning/evening, along with t-shirts/long-sleeved shirts will protect you from the cold as well as from mosquitoes. It is important to wear light and comfortable clothes, with which you feel comfortable and can make many types of movements. At the same time, keep in mind that dark colors, such as navy blue, attract insects, especially the tsetse fly, which is active during the day. It is advisable to wear natural colors such as: dark green, khaki, brown, beige…

– Highly recommended to wear sunglasses, a hat or headscarf, sunscreen and lip balm.

– Include a raincoat inside your backpack: it often rains unexpectedly and suddenly, so having a raincoat on hand can be helpful in not ending up wet as a duck. It also works well as wind protection in the early hours of the morning or evening.

– Bring good binoculars and/or a good camera. They will help you to see the animals you find far from the road, which you sometimes do not find next to you. If you like photography, keep in mind that it is good to have a photo lens of about 300, with extra spare batteries, a good material cleaning kit because there is a lot of dust, enough memory cards and some filters that also protect the lens.

– Travel with good health insurance. We recommend that you contract Chapka Insurance, a company that offers tailor-made packs for your trip. If you click here, you will get a 7% discount.

Permits and prices

Admission fee to the Kruger NP for international tourists is 440R per adult and 220R per child.

This price includes the entry of the vehicle, as this park is one of the most accessible to do with your own car (or rental car). Also, please note that it will be necessary to book your stay in advance and that the ticket is for the day you are staying. That is, if you pay for one night, you will be able to leave the park until the closing time of the next day (you will be inside the park for a total of two days).

Aside from the entry permits, the Kruger NP offers many other activities such as walking safaris, morning safaris with a park safari car, and even night safaris. We did this last activity from the Lower Sabie Camp and it cost us 287.85 Rands (about 16 euros) per person.

Most campsites have different facilities such as swimming pool, restaurant or shops, where you can buy different souvenirs of the Kruger NP as well as the map of the park (which is very useful). All these payments can be made by credit card.

In South Africa, you can buy the Wild Card.  The Wild Card is a card that allows you to visit all the parks in South Africa without having to pay for each day you visit them. It’s a great option if you visit different parks or spend many days in the same park. It lasts a year. From the day of purchase until after 365 days, you can visit more than 80 parks in the country, including some in Eswatini such as Hlane (if you want to know our fantastic experience at Hlane Royal NP, click here).

You can buy the Wild Card online here and you will receive an email with proof of purchase that you can print and show at the park gates. At the same time, when you book accommodation within the Kruger Park, remember to indicate that you have your Wild Card, so you don’t have to pay conservation fees and only pay for the accommodation you book.

Wild Card prices depend on whether you buy the card for one person, for a couple, or for a family.  At the same time, it depends on how many parks you want to get on your card. If you consult their website, you will be able to see a list of parks for each option and make the relevant calculations. As we are travelling all over South Africa, we decided to buy the ALL PARKS CLUSTER INTERNATIONAL option for a couple, and it cost us 5.100 Rands. It’s a lot of money at once, but once you start doing park calculations and the number of days you’ll be there, it usually pays off. So, before you start the trip, we recommend that you make a list of all the parks you will visit, check the ticket prices and compare it with the Wild Card, this way you will see if it really pays off or not for your journey!

The opening and closing times of the park depend on the sunlight. You can check the schedules according to the months in the following image. Keep in mind that if you sleep inside the park, you can leave an hour before your camp to start the journey!

What to do in the Kruger NP? The main places to visit. Where are they located?

As we have already said, the Kruger NP is a very large park with an impressive stretch of roads to cover. It will depend on how many days you want to be there to plan the route, see which areas you can visit and what will be your gateway to and from the park.

Now, we attach you a map of the entire national park so you can see its magnitude. The southern part of the park, which includes the Crocodile Bridge, Lower Sabie, Skukuza and Satara areas, is the most visited part and where there are more animals. We advise that if you have a few days, focus on this area because you will be more likely to see all the animals you want to see. If you have time, we advise you to include the less touristy part of Berg-en-dal on the route because it has different landscapes and also a lot of animals! You can see the recommended itineraries according to the days provided in the section: “How many days do you need to go on a safari in the Kruger NP?”

Besides, one activity we recommend you do during your stay at the Kruger NP is the night safari. This is organized from different camps (you must book the same day you arrive at the camp), and at more than acceptable prices. It usually starts at 8pm and end at 10pm, and you’ll go by car or safari truck (depending on who you are) driving the paths around the lodge to see the animals in action. At the reception of each accommodation, you will see a sign with the animals they saw during the last night safari, so you can have an idea of what you can see. Leopards, elephants, lions, and nocturnal animals such as the civet or the genet are usually seen; among others. We did a night safari from Lower Sabie where we weren’t very lucky, but we were able to see elephants, rabbits, hyenas and the Thick-talled Bushbaby.

Now, we will explain you every Camp where we stayed and also the most populated roads to see animals. Keep in mind that what we write is not the bible, the animals run freely in the park and it will depend on the time, the moment and their needs to be in one place or another.

– CROCODRILE BRIDGE CAMP: Located just south of the park, this camp is right next to the Crocodile River. This area is famous for its large concentration of animals, especially to see herds of lions and rhinos. Right next to the camp is one of the park’s gateways, perfect if you’re coming from Eswatini as was our case.

Highlights roads for easy viewing of animals:

H4-2- Tarred main road leading to Lower Sabie camp. Despite being paved, you can see many animals early in the morning and evening: lions, zebras, impalas, wildebeests, warthogs…

S28- Tarred Road from Crocodile to Lower Sabie, very good to see wild dogs, cheetahs, rhinos, giraffes…

S25 + S108 + H5 – You will drive on left side, first following the Crocodile River where you can see hippos, elephants, giraffes… And if you’re lucky some leopards, cheetahs or wild dogs.

– LOWER SABIE CAMP: This camp, also located south of the park, a few kilometers from Crocodile Bridge Camp, is next to the River Sabie. For us, it is one of the places we liked the most and we were more fortunate to see animals. It is located in an area of ​​great concentration of cheetahs, lions, elephants, leopards, hippos… a paradise!

Highlights roads for easy viewing of animals:

H10- Tarred main road to Satara camp. You can see a lot of lions, cheetahs, leopards, wild dogs… On the other side of the river, you can see crocodiles, hippos, lots of birds, buffalo, elephants… who go to drink water.

S29- Unpaved Road on the right side, we recommend the Mlondozi loop. Cats can often be seen there.

S128 – Unpaved Road where wild dogs, lions and cheetahs can usually be seen.

H4-1 – Main paved road leading to Skukuza camp. On this road we saw lions and also you can see many leopards.

– SKUKUZA CAMP: Skukuza camp is the largest in the entire Kruger. There are usually a lot of people and there are organized groups. There are many accommodation options. We recommend driving around the camp area but not staying there.

Highlights roads for easy viewing of animals:

H4-1 + S21 + S22 + S114 + H1-1- Itinerary very close to the Skukuza camp that we recommend to do in the evening for the possibility of seeing all kinds of animals, including elephants, lions, buffalo…

H1-2 – main paved road from Skukuza camp to Satara. You can usually see a lot of animals, especially cats.

S83- is known as the Marula loop, and we saw a lot of hyenas eating a piece of zebra.

– SATARA CAMP: Satara Camp is the quintessential camp if you want to see cats. We were very lucky and saw many lions, cheetahs, leopards… Besides, it is easy to see other animals because there is less concentration of vegetation.

Highlights roads for easy viewing of animals:

H1-3- Main Road from Lower Sabie to Satara. This is where we saw more leopards from all over the park.

S100 + S41 + H6 + H1-3- This loop is the one that gave us the most joy. We saw very large herds of lions, we saw cheetahs with cubs, we found male lions crossing the road… a feline festival! At the same time, you will find other animals such as impalas, zebras, elephants, baboons, etc…

S126 + S36 + H7- This is another loop to see cats. On the H7 aside, there are a lot of people who have seen wild dogs.

S40 + S12- small loop once you are on the main road H7.  We saw lions fighting with monkeys perched on a tree. In the Girivana Dam, there are usually a lot of animals that go there to see water. We found a lot of giraffes!

H10 (paved) from Lower Sabie to Satara, is one of the most productive in terms of feline sightings.

– OLIFANTS CAMP: As the name suggests, it is one of the best areas to see elephants. It is located next to the Olifants River and is the camp with the most beautiful views in the whole park. Even if you can’t stay there, we recommend that you go and enjoy the views from the restaurant.

Highlights roads for easy viewing of animals:

H1-4 – main paved road from Satara to Olifants and Letaba.

S92 + S89 + H1-4 + S127 + S39 + H1-5 + H8- Go around to see all kind of animals.

S44 + S93 – Two dirt roads with very good views along the Olifants River. You will see many elephants and buffalo herds.

– LETABA CAMP: Located on the Letaba River, this camp is a great place to see elephants and a large concentration of birds. We were not very successful in this camp and did not see many animals. If you have a few days, we recommend that you focus on the southern part of the park where you will surely see more animals.

Highlights roads for easy viewing of animals:

H1-5- Tarred main road that connects with the H1-4 to Satara. We saw a lot of hyenas early in the morning.

S62- Dirty Road around the river Letaba very beautiful. We saw large numbers of elephants, giraffes, buffaloes and various antelopes. There were a lot of people watching birds.

S46 – Dirty Road that we were not very lucky but there were people who saw leopards on it.

– BERG-EN-DAL CAMP: This camp was the big surprise of the trip.  Located further southwest of the typical routes of the tourist circuit inside the park, the landscape changes and becomes more mountainous. Wild dogs, rhinos, leopards, elephants, buffaloes can be seen all around it.

Highlights roads for easy viewing of animals:

S25- Road from Crocodile to Berg-en-Dal, famous for seeing leopards.

S114 + S121 + S120 + S110- Circular route around the Berg-en-dal camp. We recommend going to the Matjulu waterhole where we saw a clash between elephants and buffaloes.

How many days do you need to go on a Kruger NP safari?

We believe that you should spend at least 3 nights/4 days in the park. Although for us, the best option is to stay there for about 4 nights/5 days to do it in a more relaxed way.

There are different travel options you could do, here are some of the ones we think we would do if we went back:

– OPTION 1: CROCODILE BRIDGE (1 night) – LOWER SABIE (1 night) – SKUKUZA (1 night) = 3 nights. This option could also be done by spending two nights in Lower Sabie and taking out Skukuza. Entrance through the gate of Crocodile Bridge and exit through the gate of Paul Kruger.

– OPTION 2: CROCODILE BRIDGE (1 night) – LOWER SABIE (2 nights) – SATARA (1 night) = 4 nights.  Entrance through the gate of Crocodile Bridge and exit through the gate of Orpen.

– OPTION 3: BERG-EN-DAL (1 night) – LOWER SABIE (2 nights) – SATARA (1 night) = 4 nights. This option is the one we like best.  After the first night in Berg-en-dal, you could visit the Skukuza area or the Lower Sabie area during the day depending on whether your entrance has been (if the gate of Crocodrile Bridge or Paul Kruger), and go to sleep at the next night at Lower Sabie Camp. The exit would be through the Orpen Gate.

If you have one more night and can spend 5 nights in the Kruger, we would recommend adding a second night in Satara.  And if you like birds, the Letaba area is a good place to see it.

Self-drive safari or organized by an agency?

In this park, the answer is very clear: it is much better and cheaper to go on a Kruger on a self-drive safari. It is the best park to do it, as the roads are in very good condition, everything is very well signposted and you don’t need a 4×4 to do it. Any type of car can access it, although for example, motorhomes can only travel on the main paved roads.

Doing the self-drive allows you to lower costs, as entry to the park is cheap compared to other parks in Africa and you can share the costs of gasoline, car rental, insurance… among the components of the group. If you are the only person traveling alone, this is not the best option as it will cost you a lot more. Then, we would recommend that you take an organized tour or go to a camp and from there you can book safaris with guided 4x4s.

Tips for self-drive in Kruger NP

– Always drive at a maximum of 50 km/h on the paved road, even if it is an endless straight. We found the police doing speed checks and imposing fines, so watch out!

– Don’t go fast. If you go fast, you will scare the animals and many times you will not see them. It is much better to go slow and cover short distances. In this way, you’ll see more animals!

– Watch the schedules. Plan your journey so you can arrive inside the camp in time!

– Follow the sun’s schedule. Keep in mind that the best time to see animals is at sunrise and sunset. Get up early, when the gate of your camp will be opened, because the morning will pay off!

– Look at the information panels of the camps: in each camp, you will find some panels with the map of the park where people with magnets, mark the points where they have seen animals during the day by color. There are many animals that are territorial and you may find them in the same area.

– Download the mobile application: Latest Sightings. It’s an app where people upload places where they’ve seen animals and photos can be added. You can check it during the day and see if there are other people in your area who have seen animals. Keep in mind, however, that there are some points in the park where there is no network.

– Talk to people you meet along the way. This is the way we like it the most and it is usually the most successful. Thanks to the warning of some cars, we saw big animals! Now, keep in mind that sharing is living, so if you’ve seen something, it’s a good idea to share it with others!

– People call people. That is, when you see cars parked at some point means that they have seen something. Go over there and ask what they saw.

– Buy Kruger Park’s “Map & Guide” book, which is sold in all the park’s stores in different languages. It will help you prepare for the route and position yourself along the entire road network in the park. We bought it and it went very well!

Safety rules during your safari in Kruger NP

Whether you are traveling with your own vehicle or with an organized tour, here are some of the most important safety rules you should follow to fully enjoy your safari. These are common sense things, but sometimes we forget about them. These are:

– Do not feed animals. Under no circumstances should you feed animals, even birds or monkeys. Feeding them can cause them to adapt to an inadequate diet and move more violently closer to humans. They are in the African savannah and have their own means and resources to feed themselves.

– Don’t get out of the car or look out the window. Think that you are in the wild and that animals can be closer than you think.  Safari cars usually have high open roofs where you can stand and better observe all the animals, but don’t think of getting out of the car to take a better picture of the lion, for example. Sometimes you’ll also be driving on bushy roads, so avoid unnecessary accidents by pulling your arm out the window. In national parks, there are certain protected picnic areas where you will be allowed to get out of the vehicle and even go to the toilet.

– Don’t make a lot of noise and stay quiet. Think that if the animals hear noises, they often disappear. They are in their habitat and we must respect them. Don’t put on music or make gestures to make them move, because you can make others not enjoy the safari. In addition, any noise can frighten the animal, causing it to try to defend itself and endanger your integrity.

– It is forbidden to fly drones. This practice has become very popular in recent years, but in this African savannah it is totally forbidden unless you have a special permit such as the recording of documentaries.

– As you approach the animals, don’t open at all your windows up for safety. You never know how that animal might react, so you better make sure he can’t get inside from anywhere. Don’t trust picnic areas either, because sometimes monkeys appear and even if you have a window open, they’ll try to get inside looking for food.

– If you are driving yourself, do not go off the beaten path at any time. At the entrance to the park, you will be given directions to follow and many of them are marked with signs. Do not deviate from the road because often the animals are resting under the bushes or camouflaged in the middle of the grass.

– Respect speed limits and drive slowly. You are in a park where many wild animals live. Go slowly. This will make it easier for you to locate more animals and not scare them away.

– Strictly follow your check-in times. Tickets to the parks usually last 24 hours. In Kruger NP, the entrance ends the afternoon of the last day you are inside the park and don’t have accommodation booking. Do not extend your stay illegally because you could face a considerable fine. If you carry firearms, you must declare them before entering the park.

Where to sleep in Kruger NP? Kruger NP accommodation type.

When going on a safari in the Kruger there are many tourists who prefer to be outside the park for a little more comfort and luxury. There are many lodges around the park, near the gates with different types of accommodation. However, we recommend that you stay inside the park because it is much more comfortable and you can leave an hour before the opening of the park to go and see animals.

There are 12 main campsites that have a gas station and shop but not all of them have a restaurant. If you are staying in one of them, you must keep in mind that you must leave the accommodation at 9 am and that you must check in after 2 pm.

There are different types of accommodation inside the camps, among which we highlight:

– Campsites: Caravan or tent sites: most have electricity (except Balule and some in Punda Maria). The sites at the bottom of Sabie have designated boundaries and their own water taps.

Cabin: Single rooms with communal kitchen and communal ablution facilities.

– Safari Tent: Permanent canvas tent bedrooms on permanent platforms. Some have communal kitchen and communal ablution facilities, while others are fully equipped and have more luxurious trimmings.

– Bungalow: Single rooms with bathroom. Some have communal kitchens, while others have their own kitchenette with basic kitchen equipment.  Some bungalows have perimeter or river views, while others have been upgraded to luxury status.

– Cottage: Single rooms with living room, bathroom and kitchen.

– Family Cottage: Multiple apartments with living room, bathroom and kitchen.

You must book online your accommodation before your stay on the SANPARKS website.
There, in the “Where to stay?”, you will need to check the availability of the campsites you want to stay in and what accommodation options are available. Do this in advance, especially if you are going during the holiday season, as the accommodation is running out quickly.

You can then use the new booking page they created (you can click here) to pre-register with a user. Some people also book through phone or email (+27 (0) 12 428 9111 / reservations@sanparks.org) to formalize the booking.

Our experience

Now, we will tell you about our experience at Kruger NP. We want to make it clear beforehand, however, that each visitor has their own experience and that this can never be repeated the same because the animals roam freely throughout the national park. So, this is just a summary where we explain what we experienced in person, but knowing that everyone will experience it in their own way and that they may see more animals or see fewer. This is the key of the safari game! However, the Kruger NP for sure will not to disappoint you!

Our day in the park was as follows: we got up very early in the morning (the gates often open at 5am) in order to go on a safari for 3-4 hours and observe the animals that, as yet not it is very hot, they are usually more active. We then returned to the accommodation and advanced to the next point on the different paths we had marked on the map. Sometimes we had lunch at the next camp where we rested, or at other times we had a picnic on the way. Then, from 3pm to 4pm, we went on an afternoon safari where it’s also a good time to watch animals in action before the sun goes down. Once we arrived at the accommodation, we had dinner and went to bed early to repeat the same schedule the next day. However, the day was not at all routine because every day you had new animals and new surprises!

We were in the park for 4 nights with Laia’s family in November 2021; and then for 3 nights the same month with two friends, Joan and Berta. Since we were traveling with the Wild Card, it was very worthwhile to spend many days in the park enjoying the wildlife. Here are some of the highlights of the day at Kruger NP, illustrating some of the photos we took and describing the experience we had. Think that seeing zebras, impalas, warthogs and antelopes there is the most common thing. We see hundreds of them every day. But, on the other hand, other animals were more difficult to find… Do you want to read our experiences?

A family of 12 lionesses with their puppies that came out of the river bed shortly before the park gates closed

Joan and Berta were with us during our afternoon safari on the S100, near the Satara camp. We weren’t very lucky when, when we saw a car and they were told us that they had seen a male lion on the S41. It was about 90 minutes before the gates closed, but we drove quickly to the S41 road. The male lion was at the third river crossing, but just before we got there, we saw two more cars parked in the path. What was going on? Joan suddenly shouted: “A lioness!” Lionesses and their puppies began to emerge from the side of a riverbed. A dozen of them came out, and we stood there watching them approach. Some puppies were playing with each other, another was trying to climb a tree, while the biggest lioness was the one leading the group. The first drops of water were falling and it was only 45 minutes before the park gates closed. So, after being well excited with the number of lionesses we had in front of us (the male lion they told us we didn’t see), we quickly headed back to Satara Camp contemplating a fantastic sunset. However, we still had another surprise to live …

Two male lions and a lioness passing by us right at the gate of Satara Camp

That day of the 12 lions, when we were already on the H1-4, a few hundred meters from the gate of Satara Camp, we found a row of cars. We thought they were queuing up to enter the camp as it took a few minutes for the doors to close. But our surprise was when we suddenly saw that a lioness and two lions were advancing in an Indian line right in the middle of the road and next to the cars, with their heads held high and very majestic, walking and approaching where we were. They passed literally less than a meter from the door, and just behind us they turned into the African savannah. The beginning of that afternoon was not very promising because we had not seen many animals, but in the end, everything turned upside down and we saw a family of 12 lionesses with their puppies, and some lions very close to our car. What a wonderful way to finish the day!

Three male lions lying in the middle of the road from Berg-en-Dal to Skukuza

That day, with Joan and Berta, we had woken up in Berg-en-Dal, one of the accommodations located southwest of the park. After a safari in the early hours of the morning, a car alerted us that they had seen two male lions just a few kilometers from where we were at a H3 turnoff. We went there, and we started walking that path. Along the way, we found another vehicle that was also looking for the animals. After a while, without luck we said goodbye and continued our route on the H3 towards Skukuza when suddenly a safari car coming in front of us signaled us to hurry to see something. What would it be? After all, on a climb, we had right in front of us a well-stretched male lion in the middle of the H3. After him, two more were in the middle of the road. The car in front of us drove on the side of the lions, and continued on the road; but we stopped to look at those felines we had very close to us. They don’t seem to be doing anything, but they’re all beasts! After a while, they got up, walked down the middle of the road, and entered the African savannah. Really, they are the kings of the jungle!

Two cheetahs sitting on the ground right in the middle of a road near Lower Sabie

It was our first day on the Kruger NP, with Laia’s family. We entered Crocodile Bridge, and on our way to Lower Sabie, they were impressed to see their first zebras, the first antelopes, and the first elephants. After lunch, we started our first afternoon safari.  Just as we were starting to drive into the S28, at the bottom of the road we saw two silhouettes lying in the middle of the path.  At first it looked like two hyenas but as we approached, we could see perfectly well that they were two cheetahs resting in the middle of the road. There were no cars around us, so we got a little closer until they got up and started walking along the plain next to the road. Seeing a cheetah up close is tricky, so imagine finding two cheetahs right in front of you on your first day of safari!

A lion and a lioness who occasionally got up to try to catch baboons taking refuge in a tree

It was the last day at the Kruger NP with Laia’s family. After four intense days on the Kruger NP, we had to say goodbye to discover the Panorama route. Before, however, as we were driving along the H7 towards Orpen Gate, a car with a couple of retired South Africans told us that they had seen two lions on the S40. We went there. We had been told that we would find them about 6-8 kilometers away, but we didn’t see them. After a while, we came across a safari car that confirmed to us that a few hundred meters away there was a pair of lions (male and female) under a tree. We got there, and we got behind a row of 3 more vehicles. There, under the tree, we saw the male lion’s head and the lioness’s body as we heart the cries of baboons warning their companions of danger. Suddenly, the lioness got up quickly and ran to one of the baboons, which climbed to the top of the tree. The lioness stayed there for a while and rested again in the shade of the tree where the male lion was. This scene was repeated a few times, with the baboons at the top of the tree not daring to leave until the lioness and the lioness finally got up and ran quickly to an inner area where we were. The baboons from the top of the tree were able to come down from the tree but we don’t know if there were any collateral victims during the chase of the lioness and the lion …

A group of giraffes walking in front of our car, where some drank water and others stood still watching us at Giriviana Dam

Right after the lion scene with the baboons, we went back to the H7 to Orpen Gate. We took the S12 that passes by the Giriviana waterhole and there we were surprised to find a large group of giraffes on either side of the road. Some drank water, some ate, and some looked at us intently. From time to time, they would walk past us and exchange positions. Truly, these animals are the most elegant in the entire African savannah. We were stunned to observe for about 30 minutes each of its steps, its style and its beauty. One of Laia’s favorite animals!

A family of hyenas during our night safari in Lower Sabie

In Zambia, in the South Luangwa NP, we went on a night safari that we loved: there, in addition to seeing nocturnal animals, we could see a leopard preparing to hunt a group of impalas. The Kruger NP is one of the other African national parks where you can go on a night safari. So, we decided that Lower Sabie would be our place, as it is an area with a strong presence of animals… With Joan and Berta, we got on a safari truck and drove on the H4-1 to the search for animals. We, as we sat behind the truck, were in charge of moving the spotlights up and down to focus on the animals we were finding.  Honestly, we didn’t find leopards or lions, but we did see genets, elephants, and a family of hyenas standing by the side of the road. We recommend a night safari on the Kruger NP because it is not a very expensive activity and it is a different way to see the park and wildlife.

An early morning hyena on the Letaba Camp road approached behind our car and tried to climb into it.

It was the last day at the Kruger NP with Laia’s family. Sílvia, her sister, and we got up early to go on our last morning safari. It was about a few minutes past 5am when we left Letaba on the H9. A few meters later, we saw a hyena right next to the road. We had it very close. We stopped and after a while, another hyena came out of the bushes and advanced towards the back of our car. Suddenly, we felt like a blow and as if he was trying to climb… We started to accelerate fast! Then, some hours later, we noticed what had happened. The night before, while we were preparing the sandwiches, some liquid fell from the container of ham on the chassis of the car. Surely the hyena would have smelled it and that’s why he wanted to eat part of our car!

We found a large group of buffaloes in the middle of the road in the northern part of Letaba

We didn’t find a lot of cats in Letaba. And the land near the river and with trees was ideal for leopards! We were taking the S62 towards the Engelhard viewpoint. We stopped at the Mantambeni viewpoint where we experienced pleasant surprises, and on the way back after the afternoon safari to our accommodation, in the middle of the road we had passed maybe 40 minutes ago we found a large herd of buffaloes. It was the first time we had them so close with Laia’s family! They didn’t want to get out of the way, and there were so many. In fact, they say that these animals are very territorial, so we moved slowly and finally we were able to continue the route until we reached Letaba.

A cheetah with two cubs lying down playing with its mother, away from the road, near Satara

Satara’s S100 was one of the busiest animal roads when we arrived at the accommodation the day before. So, we decided to go on a safari early the next morning to make a round there. We went with the car looking at different antelopes, zebras, elephants and baboons… but we couldn’t find any of the big cats. When we were back on the same road to Satara for breakfast, we found a couple of cars parked in the middle of the road. They looked with binoculars to their left. We took ours, and from a distance we could see a cheetah mother playing with her two cubs. They were far away to see them with the eyes, but with binoculars they looked great! Finally, the morning safari for the S100 had paid off.

A rhino walking quietly across the river where we were

With Joan and Berta, the day we saw the lions lying in the middle of the H3 road, we also saw one of the other hardest animals to see in the Kruger. Right next to the road and the river where we were, we found a rhino walking calmly. We were surprised to see that it had no horn, but we soon realized that the horn of this animal is the most precious treasure of poachers. If he didn’t have a horn, hunters would no longer have as many incentives to catch them. Due to the scourge of poaching that affects many national parks, you will not find the exact location of rhinos to protect them from these hunters, so you can keep this endangered species alive.

A leopard lying just under a tree between Crocodrile Bridge and Berg-en-Dal

It was the first day at the Kruger NP with Joan and Berta. After getting up early and entering the Crocodile Bridge Gate, we headed to Lower Sabie where we saw our first animals. Since we had the reservation in Berg-en-Dal that night, we drove along the S25 towards there. After a few quiet kilometers, we found a few cars parked. When you see them that way, it means something is going on nearby. We slowed down and to our left, just below a tree was a leopard sitting watching the situation. We had a great time because these animals are so hard to see and so close. They get scared very quickly of any noise, but it seems calm. He got up a few times but only turned around in the shade of the tree just below. The cars coming face to face asked us what we were seeing, and when we told them in a low voice that there was a leopard, they were surprised and they turned the car around to find a good position to see it!

Two leopards copulating under a tree, very close to the road from Skukuza to Satara

We had left Lower Sabie direction to Satara, passing through Skukuza. We weren’t very lucky that day, and apart from the usual animals (giraffes, elephants, zebras, antelopes …), we hadn’t seen much. We had taken the S83, and stopped to eat at the Tshokwane Picnic Area. There, we had lunch and bought some drinks for the evening. Inside the store, a man told us that he had seen three leopards on the side of the road a little further up, on the H1-3. We quickly got into the car, and drove on until we found a couple of parked cars. On our side, on the other side of the river, were two leopards sitting under a tree. They were there, looking like they were resting, but it was weird to see two adults together… Suddenly, the male leopard got up and went around in front of the female leopard until it copulated from behind. The cars we had had left a few minutes ago, so they missed that scene worthy of being broadcast by National Geographic! Later, we found the other missing leopard, which was resting on the trunk of a tree, perhaps waiting for the romantic scene between the other two to end…

A large group of elephants with cubs passed right in front of our car near Lower Sabie

Elephants are Esteve’s favorite animal. These are animals that you have to be very careful about, because they are territorial and if they get angry, they can destroy your car. However, his majesty, his attitude within the group and his grandeur makes him one of the most photographed animals on any safari. At the Kruger NP, we saw a lot of them… With Laia’s family, a group of elephant cubs once passed right in front of us and left us with a heart attack. We all had to be quiet, with the engine off waiting for them to pass and not turn. Only one of the little ones turned, raised his ears towards us but, fortunately, continued to move towards where his mother was. Seeing elephants is great, but it also leaves you with a lot of heartbreak because they are giant beasts!

A group of hyenas fighting over a piece of zebra meat near Skukuza

After seeing the male lions of the H3 in the middle of the road, we continued our route towards Skukuza deviating by the S112. In that area, we found a parked car looking out onto the water. We couldn’t see anything from where we were, but after a few seconds we saw a hyena stick its head out. Then another, and finally we saw what was going on. There was a piece of zebra meat and different hyenas fighting to eat a slice of it. It was amazing to hear her howl. Berta, who knew how to imitate them very well, howled for a moment and they answered. It seemed like we were talking to them. One finally approached and passed in front of our car, but ignored us and continued on the other side of the road… A great sound and visual experience!

A rhino walking early in the morning between Lower Sabie and Crocodrile Bridge

After our first night in Lower Sabie with Laia’s family, Sílvia and we went on a morning safari. We knew the S28 and H4-2 were good routes to see animals in action early in the morning, so we went there to see what we found. Going down the S28, Laia, who was already on the lookout for safaris from other national parks on our way to Africa, saw a rhino on the side of the road. We were alone, watching how the animal was eating… One of the hardest animals to find in the Kruger! All the cars stopped, and they could also see the animal camouflaging itself inside the bush.

An eagle eating a mongoose (or something similar) in Berg-en-Dal

We had already arrived in Berg-en-Dal where we would spend the night with Joan and Berta, their first night at the Kruger NP. That area is known for being a rhino’s area and for having a more mountainous landscape which makes it a rather curious place within the Kruger NP. That afternoon, we were advancing north of the camp, following the S110, when about a kilometer away, after a climb, we saw an eagle eating an animal. It looked like a mongoose, and there are a lot of eagles in the Kruger NP that need to be fed. Seeing how the mongoose (or that animal we didn’t identify because it was already well chopped) went inside that beak was amazing.

A group of elephants out a herd of buffaloes in the Matjulu waterhole

Just after seeing the eagle eating the mongoose, we continued on the S110 until we reached the Matjulu waterhole. There were some cars watching a large herd of buffaloes resting in a meadow and in the waterhole. Some were cooling off inside, others were eating outside, others were lying down, and some were walking inland. After a few minutes, suddenly, we saw three elephants (which looked like a mother’s family with two cubs) running towards the waterhole, knocking out a few buffaloes, which run away from there. Some stood still challenging the elephants, but the elephants managed to get most of them out to have space to drink water. It seems incredible how three elephants could manage with all that herd of buffaloes!

Nine crocodiles out of the water at the Mantambeni viewpoint

Our last afternoon safari with Laia’s family we decided to drive on the S62, north of Letaba. That terrain was ideal for seeing leopards, but despite approaching all the trees we found near the river, we didn’t see any. We advanced to the Mantambeni viewpoint, where we got out of the vehicle and from the wooden structure, we could see different animals that were in the river: there were some hippos playing and chasing each other in the water; others who were motionless resting; there were also different birds; and we also saw nine crocodiles together out of the water. Nine crocodiles!  It was amazing to see that wildlife from there in the lookout. Just as we were leaving, we heard a noise just below the woods where the water was also reaching. Hidden in the grass, there was a hippo that was camouflaged and that we had not seen… Stopping the viewpoints is a good way to see the animals from another perspective and also to stretch the legs in a safe place.

Two African royal eagles in the Kruger NP

The Kruger NP is also notable for being a national park with a large presence of birds.  We saw a lot of local people visiting the park to see different species of birds. However, we were not great experts in ornithology. But we did see a lot of birds! Some rolling on the ground; others hunting; vultures; marabous; owls and even golden eagles. We saw a lot of eagles, like these two African royals resting together in a tree!

A prey on top of a tree between Lower Sabie and Satara

It was the second day at the Kruger NP with Laia’s family. That morning, with Sílvia we had seen rhinos and lions; and the day before, in the afternoon we had seen two cheetahs together. Now, we were heading for the leopard. Sílvia had bet that if we found a leopard she would give us her iPhone, so we took her seriously in search of this animal that is so hard to see because it camouflages itself very well. We went from Lower Sabie to Satara via the S29 and then the S122. There, a car told us that on top of a tree they had seen a prey of an animal, probably a leopard. We drove there and saw a South African number plate car where a couple of retirees were eating, waiting for the owner of the prey to come over and eat it. We wait there a good time too. The prey, which looked like an antelope, was perched on a tree and was hunted by a leopard. The leopard was probably resting in an area where we couldn’t see him. Despite waiting more than 20 minutes for the leopard to approach, we were unlucky and continued on our way. Finally, we didn’t get Sílvia’s mobile phone but we were very close, with this leopard prey!

Two hippos playing in Nsemani’s waterhole

Just as we were saying goodbye to the Kruger NP with Joan and Berta and after our morning safari through the Satara area, we drove along the H7 to the Nsemani waterhole. There, we’ve always seen hippos; but this time there were two who were very playful. We don’t know if they were zealous and were a breeding couple, but they ran out of the water with their fat, low legs, and came back in; they went round the bushes and returned to the water; they swam one after the other… It was as if the male was empathizing with the female. A very funny scene but at the same time very wild before saying goodbye to the Kruger NP!

Two giraffes caressing on the S122

After seeing that the leopard was not going to look for the prey, we had seen on the S122, we followed the route. We were able to see different animals like zebras, warthogs, impalas, elephants and giraffes. We saw the latter in a very tender scene. Two giraffes that were further away from the group played with each other’s tongue and head (they didn’t fight because they didn’t hit each other’s necks like they usually do when males get angry). The male giraffe surrounded the female and caressed her until at one point she decided to ride her. However, the female giraffe left quickly and that love scene of beautiful, quiet caresses came to an end.

Categories: SOUTH AFRICA
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