Kruger National Park – An overview

I have had some inquires from my initial post on Kruger to I did an overview of the park.

Kruger National Park – I have been to Kruger Park twice and plan to return this summer after which I will do an update to this post. This post is current as of 3/6/2010.

Kruger National Park the largest park in South Africa, over 7000 sq mi, it sits along the eastern border that South Africa shares with Mozambique and the northern border with Zimbabwe. It is part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park that links the Limpopo National Park in Zimbabwe and the Gorarezhous National Park in Zimbabwe. It is about a 40 minute flight from Johannesburg to Nelsprit, and then depending on where in the park you are going it can be between 1- 4 hours driving. I would recommend that whether you drive or fly, stay your first night in White River or Hazeyview so you can stock up on provisions before entering the park. The official website for Kruger Park is, which is also the home site for all the national parks in South Africa.

The park has 9 main gates, the Paul Kruger Gate, Numbi Gate, Malelane Gate, Crocodile Bridge Gate, Punda Maria Gate, Orpen Gate, Phalaborwa Gate, Phabeni Gate and Pafuri Gate. The park is made up of camps of different sizes, accommodations and amenities.

It costs $21 per adult and $10 per child to enter and stay within Kruger or you can get a Wild Card. Wild Cards can be bought for an individual, couple or family and as an international visitor you must buy an “All Cluster” card that is good for all of the national parks in South Africa.  Prices for International Wild Cards are $142 for an individual, $247 for a couple or $334 for a family, so you have to look at your own situation and how many days you plan to be in Kruger or any of the other national parks in South Africa  (an International Wild Card is also good for game parks in Swaziland, CapeNature, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and Msinsi) to determine which is the best deal for you. A couple is defined as two people over the age of 18 traveling together. A family is defined as two adults and children under the age of 18 traveling together.

Lodging in the camps can include full guest houses, which can accommodate 8-12 people, down to one bedroom cottages and everything in between. Most accommodations are air conditioned, have en suite bathrooms, maid service and include a covered outside area with a small refrigerator, a stove top, enough plates, utensils, pots pans and glasses for the number of people the accommodation is suited for, a grill, and a table for eating. All of the accommodations I have stayed in at the main camps were clean, comfortable and enjoyable although I did not find a lot of friendly people working at the camps. They tend to be very serious and by the book.

You can check the availability and book all accommodations in Kruger online. I recommend doing your reservations online because calling South Africa can be expensive and trying to communicate with their reservation clerks can be an exercise in futility.

Multiple types of lodging (cottages, camp sites, guest houses or tents) can found within all the camps with varying number of bedrooms, locations within a camp and views. The best views are usually over a location where animals come, a river or a watering hole. Pay attention to location in the camp you are reserving. The accommodations with the better views are slightly more expensive but well worth it in my opinion. There is nothing like grilling wildebeest, watching hippos, drinking wine and watching the African sun go down.

If you plan on self catering (cooking your own food) it makes sense to buy a cooler and provisions in one of the nearby towns (White River or Hazeyview) before entering the park. The groceries in the camp stores are more expensive and you have a much smaller selection. Once in the park you cannot leave without paying the entry fee again.

Once inside the gates you are not to leave your vehicle until you arrive at a camp or designated rest spot. This includes no stopping for pit stops, not too long ago a ranger was killed by a lion after stopping to relieve himself.

Gates close between 5:30pm and 6:30pm depending on the month of the year. Once the gates close you are not allowed outside of a camp unless you are with a ranger on some sort of game ride or hike.

Main Camps – Main camps have the most amenities which can include restaurants, a small grocery store, souvenir shops, museums, conference centers, bike riding, game hikes with a ranger, day or night safari drives (organized through the park registration office), internet access (usually a couple of terminals in the park registration office), and a gas station. Warning: Do not wait until you are on empty before finding gas, stations are few and far between and they do not accept credit cards.

Bushveld Camps – don’t have any stores or the other conveniences that you find in the main camps. You have to self cater but these camps are also less crowed and even more of a rustic experience. Accommodations are very similar to what you would find in the main camps.

Overnight Hides – There are two hides in Kruger, Sable and Shipandani. This gives you one of the most rustic experiences possible within Kruger. During the day they serve as an overlook spot where tourists driving the park, can stop and watch wildlife or relieve themselves using the outhouse style facilities. After the park closes at xx you can reserve the hides to spend a fascinating evening.

After checking in at the camp associated with the hide you will receive mattresses, a five gallon jug of clean water and a gas lantern and you are on your own. The blinds have fold down beds, outhouse style toilets and a protected (fenced in) boma (a boma is usually a round area set up for a fire and barbeque pit or grill).Once in the blind you are supposed to stay inside the enclosure until morning). You can only reserve a hide for one night.

Shapandani Hide – has beds for 6 people and overlooks a river full of hippos. Our night in this hide was one of the most memorable I have ever had in Africa. Watching a pod of hippos playing and fighting with an occasional croc swimming by was quite a way to enjoy the evening. After the sun was down the noise of hyenas and hippos throughout the night will be burned as one of my most amazing African experiences.

Sable Hide – The Sable Hide has beds for 9 people and has a larger boma and two outhouse style bathrooms with sinks but no running water. It overlooks a watering hole just down from the Sable Dam.

Bush Lodges – There are two bush lodges in Kruger, Boulders and Roodewal. Bush lodges are self catering and are an exclusive, private lodge where you reserve the whole lodge, no other guests, just your group.

The Boulders Bush lodge is 15 miles from the Mopani camp and allows a maximum of 12 people at a time. There is no reception office, restaurant, or shops. The living area includes a fully equipped kitchen, dining room, lounge, grill, and viewing deck. The kitchen has a gas stove with oven, refrigerator, freezer, utensils, pots and pans. Solar panels provide enough power for lights and fans only. The main lodge has two bedrooms and en suite bathrooms. Cost per night is $281 for the first 4 people $57 for additional adults, $28 for additional children.

The Roodewal Bush lodge is 27 miles north of the Satara camp, on the banks of the Timbavati River. Roodewal can accommodate 19 people per night, all bedrooms have en suite bathrooms and solar panels to power lights and fans. There is one family cottage with 2br 2ba and three bungalows that have 3 beds each, a loft with 2 mattresses, a en suite bathroom and a small refrigerator. The living area has a fully equipped kitchen, dining room, bar, lounge, grill and viewing deck.  Cost per night $536 for the first 8 people, $57 for additional adults, $28 for additional children.

Wilderness Trails – Kruger also has xx wilderness trials. Wilderness trails are a three night adventure that start out on a Sunday or a Wednesday. Two rangers will take you on a three day hike. Nights are in small rustic cottages with no electricity, water and outhouse style bathrooms or campsites.  

Luxury lodges or private concessions – There are 8 luxury lodges within Kruger and many more outside of the park. Luxury lodges are quite a bit more expensive (from $500 per person per night to over $1000 pp). These lodges usually are all inclusive, including lodging, food and two game drives per day (one early morning and one early evening that ends with a night drive). Accommodations are luxurious the camps are usually gorgeous. One visit we had a tent that was so beautiful it made my wife cry. Many have onsite spas, swimming pools, and beautiful lounges. Game drives in a private reserve are a whole different experience then you will get inside the park, usually done in an open Land Rover, complete with your own armed ranger and tracker, snacks, blankets, rain jackets and other amenities. The private lodges are allowed to go off road and get up close and personal with wildlife, many times you could reach out and touch the animals. I have experienced two private reserves in Timbavati, Tanda Tula and Kings Camp, both were incredible experiences that I would not miss. If you have the budget you should absolutely stay in a private lodge at least 2 nights.  

Bush Braai’s – You can schedule your own personal bush braii with the park office where they will take you and your group on a game drive early in the evening. As dusk arrives you will drive into a barbeque setup up with a campfire and lanterns. After dinner a ranger takes you on an evening game ride back to your camp.     

Wildlife population As of 2009According to wikipedia[update]
Species   Count  
African Buffalo 27,000
African Hunting Dogs 350
Black Rhinoceros 350
White Rhinoceros 7000 to 12000[15]
Burchell’s Zebras 17,797
Bushbucks 500
Cheetahs 200
Common Eland 300
Giraffes 5,114
Greater Kudus 5,798
Hippopotamus 3,000
Lions 1,500
Leopards 1,000
Spotted Hyenas 2,000
Elephants 11,672
Waterbuck 5,000
Blue Wildebeest 9,612
Impalas 90,000