The Kruger National Park is the largest of all the South African National Parks. The park was first proclaimed in 1898 as the Sabie Game Reserve by the then president of the Transvaal Republic, Paul Kruger. He first proposed the need to protect the animals of the Lowveld in 1884, but his revolutionary vision took another 12 years to be realised when the area between the Sabie and Crocodile Rivers was set aside for restricted hunting. Nowadays hunting is prohibited in the Kruger National Park and surrounding private game reserves. The best way to experience the park is in your own vehicle. All roads in the park are usually in good condition, well sign-posted and accessible to normal sedan cars. Another option is to book an organised safaris with one of the many companies that offer Open Safari Vehicle (OSV) trips. You will be driven around in an open vehicle which is covered with a canvas roof. The sides of the vehicles are open. The roads in the park are generally speaking well maintained and in good condition. The main roads are tarred and the secondary roads are dirt roads. If you’re self driving in a rental car then check with your car rental company if your car insurance policy allows you to drive on dirt roads.
I’ve noticed that a lot of international tourists stay outside the park and enter the park as a day-visitor. I personally prefer to book accommodation inside the park. Accommodation inside the park is not more expensive than accommodation outside the park so I don’t see the advantage of staying outside the park. Another reason for staying inside the park is that this guarantees that you will be allowed to enter the park. The number of people that is allowed into the park is limited. For day visitors, entry into the Kruger Park is on a first come first serve basis and strict quotas are applicable for each gate. You are advised to get to your gate of choice as early as possible, particularly over peak season periods to stand a chance of being allowed to enter the park. These rules do not affect guests with overnight accommodation bookings.
Wildlife viewing in the park is probably best in the south of the park. General game is abundant there and predator sightings are usually very good. The South of the park is also the busiest area of the park as it is very popular with international tourists. The reason the south is so popular is because of the relative proximity to Johannesburg. It is only a five hour drive from Johannesburg to Malelane Gate in the South of the Park. Most tourists stay outside the park and visit the park using OSV’s.
Although the South can be a bit busy, especially on the main roads, I really like the the area. My favourite camps in the south are Lower Sabie and Biyamiti bush camp. Both these camps are located in prime game viewing areas. The south of the park is good for general game like Kudu, Impala, Zebra, Giraffe, Elephant and it is the best area for seeing both Black and White Rhino. Lion and leopard density is high in the South and African Wild Dogs are also frequently seen in the Crocodile Bridge area If you only have a couple of days to spend in the park then my advise is to spend them in the Southern area of the park.
Another area of the park which I really like is the area in middle of the park between Orpen and Olifants rest camps. This area offers good grazing grounds for antelope and other grazers and attracts big herds of zebra and wildbeest. The high density of grazers supports a high number of lions, leopards and cheetahs. The area around Satara is generally regarded as the best area in the park for cheetah and lion sightings. Visitor numbers in this part of the part are high, but it is not as crowded as the south of the park. General game in the Satara area includes Blue Wildebeest, Zebra, Waterbuck, Giraffe and Impala. Rhino, Buffalo and Elephant are also often seen.
The North of park is without a doubt the most beautiful area of the park. General game in the North is not as abundant as in other areas of the park. It is a prime location for birders.Especially the area around Shingwedzi, Punda Maria and the Luvuvhu river can be very rewarding to birders. The area around the Luvuvhu river is especially beautiful and is probably the most scenic area of the park.