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2020 Kruger National Park Travel Guide

2020 Kruger National Park Travel Guide

Overview

The largest game reserve in South Africa, the Kruger National Park is larger than Israel. Over 4 million acres of land that stretch from north to south along the Mozambique border. Many who visit describe it as a “sublime wildlife experience”. The seventh biggest game reserve in Africa, it ranks with the best in Africa and is the flagship of South Africa’s national parks.

Its atmosphere is so unique that it allows those who enter its vastness to immerse themselves in the unpredictability and endless wilderness that is the true quality of Africa. The park has more species of large mammals than any other African game reserve (147 species).

For over 100 years, this giant of the safari world has been enthralling people young and old. I only wish I was around in 1923 when the first tourists were allowed into Kruger… Imagine seeing that wilderness for the first time?! Pity there were no selfies back then.

Where is Kruger National Park

Kruger Park Map from Johannesburg

Kruger National Park is on the north-eastern boundary of South Africa. It shares a border with Mozambique and Zimbabwe. An easy five-hour drive from Johannesburg takes you to the southern part of Kruger, the best and most famous game-viewing area. Flying to the various airports surrounding the park is your best bet to get into the action immediately. Daily flights between Johannesburg and Cape Town travel between:

  • Nelspruit/Kruger International Airport (southern Kruger)
  • Skukuza Airport (southern Kruger)
  • Hoedspruit/Eastgate Airport (central Kruger)
  • Hendrik Van Eck Airport (northern Kruger)

Kruger National Park Animals

Regular Sightings

  • Impala
  • Blue wildebeest
  • Cape buffalo
  • African elephant
  • Hippopotamus
  • Kudu
  • Waterbuck
  • Common duiker
  • Steenbok
  • Warthog
  • Zebra
  • Giraffe
  • Vervet monkey
  • Chacma baboon

Irregular Sightings

  • Lion
  • White rhinoceros
  • Jackal
  • Hyena
  • Nile crocodile

Specialist Sightings

  • Wild dog
  • Honeybadger
  • Porcupine
  • Black rhinoceros
Cape Buffalo
Lion yawning in the morning light, Kruger National Park
African Elephant

Best Time of Year to Visit

Average Annual Temperature Stats

  • LOW
  • HIGH

*All temperatures are monthly averages shown in °C.

Average Annual Rainfall Stats

  • RAIN

*Rainfall stats are monthly averages shown in millimetres.

November to March

  • The scenery is breathtaking
  • There are lots of babies around and the wildlife is in good condition
  • The birdlife is just phenomenal
  • The national park is quiet outside the school holidays. This means sightings are easier to access
  • To experience an African thunderstorm is a privilege unto itself
  • The bushveld is thick and finding animals is not easy
  • There is lots of water in the bushveld due to the rain. The animals do not need to congregate around the permanent water and thus spread out into smaller groups avoiding predators
  • It is very hot during the day
  • Rain can spoil some of the game activities
  • It is malaria season. Kruger is classified as a low-risk area, but please consult your doctor

It is a wise decision to spend more time in Greater Kruger Park during this season. The lodges have set early morning and late afternoon game activities that revolve around the animals and the heat. The guides know their traversing area well thus affording you a better opportunity of finding the animals.

April to October

  • The bushveld opens up as the plants die making it easier to spot animals
  • Animals have to congregate around water sources providing more sighting opportunities as well as the chance to see a kill
  • Great time of year to see more of our birds of prey as the trees are not as thick and some are nesting
  • The weather is perfect. Hardly any rain, mild days, but cold evenings and mornings. Due to this, the animals are active for longer periods
  • The malaria season has passed, but can sometimes extend into autumn depending on the rainfall. Please consult your doctor
  • The bushveld is very dry and colourless. Lots of dust in the air
  • Animals are losing condition due to food and water becoming less and less. Predators are loving life though
  • Morning game drives are very cold
  • It is high season for tourism and the tourist hubs and national parks are crowded. Sightings will be busy in the national park with lots of general traffic and game vehicles

This is a great time of year to explore Kruger National Park for a few days. The national park is all about long, full day game drives and the weather is perfect for this.

Kruger National Park vs Greater Kruger Park

Kruger National Park

Kruger National Park is a government or state-run and funded reserve. It is over 4 million acres in size. Like any government or state-run park, it is open to members of the public and registered operators for various activities. This means that there will be self-drive, open safari vehicle and bus safari-goers in the park on any given day. It is very popular and busy and for very good reason. Some pros and cons for you:

  • With the park being busy, lots of eyes means lots of sightings
  • The animals are used to vehicles and activities and thus they are not scared. Sightings can be very good as the animals are habituated to the hustle and bustle
  • The park has lots of rest camps meaning stopping for a bathroom break or a snack is easy. You can also choose to stay in the park overnight in accommodation ranging from bungalows to campgrounds
  • The main roads are tarred if you have any dust allergies or prefer to stay off the dust roads
  • It is perfect for the more budget-conscious traveller or self-drive safari-goers
  • Great for guests with a limited travel window as you can go in just for the day without having to stay there for the night
  • The reserve teems with game and is a perfect place to view a lot of different animals. You also have a massive area to traverse around and can drive all day if you like without doing the same routes
  • Much more flexibility with regards to game viewing, you can stay out looking for game all day if you choose, bladder size permitted
  • Lots of eyes also mean lots of people attached to those eyes and sightings can be very busy
  • Not ideal for photographers as you have to stay on the road and cannot orientate around the animals. With it being busy, getting a view can also be difficult
  • Rest camps around mealtimes can be pretty busy
  • The accommodation associated with the rest camps is very basic but comfortable
  • Game viewing is limited to daylight hours as the main gates and rest camps close at night. You can choose to go on a game drive in the evening, they are popular and busy so bear that in mind
I love the national park. It has a very special place in my heart and my guests and I have experienced some pretty awesome sightings there. The game viewing is fantastic and is well worth the time and effort to experience. Generally, the safari-goers are friendly and the chats around the rest camps at night can yield some pretty good sightings the next day.
 
Is it a private bush experience, no it is not. It is very popular and very busy and that alone can be very offputting to people wanting to experience an authentic African safari. Accommodation wise, don’t expect The Ritz, it is an adventure after all. If the hustle and bustle is too much, then I suggest Greater Kruger
Kruger National Park game drive
Alert zebra in Kruger National Park
Skukuza Rest Camp bungalows

Greater Kruger National Park (Private Reserves)

Greater Kruger Park is a large wilderness area on the national parks western boundary. The area was once used for farming but became more valuable as a wildlife haven. The fences to the national park have been dropped opening up over 1 million acres of extra bushveld. There are various reserves within this wilderness anthology, all being private and not open to the public. Some pros and cons for you:

  • Significantly less people than the national park
  • Perfect for photographers as you are allowed to go offroad and view the animals from different angles. Little to no traffic also provides better game viewing
  • The reserves have smaller, more private accommodation options ranging from tented safari camps to mega luxury options. You have the choice
  • No tar roads at all. This is an authentic experience as the guides utilise the roads to track animals
  • Due to the privacy of the reserves, you have more freedom and can get out to learn more about the insects, flora and tracks that you don’t get to see in the national park
  • Your day is coordinated with trained guides and activities revolve around the animals movements and the weather. This gives you more time to relax
  • If there is a really good sighting, the private lodges will coordinate with each other to make sure the sighting never gets overcrowded for both guests and the animals involved. This is done via two-way radio
  • If there is a good sighting, you do not have to be back at camp as the sun sets, you can stay out into the night
  • Fewer eyes in the bush means you have to work harder to see the animals and rely on the skill of your ranger, tracker and your recent laser eye surgery
  • The animals see less traffic than the national park and thus respond differently to the vehicles. Some carry on like you aren’t even there, but a few will run away to a safe distance and then stare at you from behind the safety of a nearby bush.
  • At the various safari lodges, the activities and sightings are meticulously planned via two-way radio and that can come across as inauthentic and “setup” to some people
  • Not much flexibility as you stick within the activity times. Unless you choose a private safari, you will only go out when the lodge runs the various activities
  • All activities are conducted in the bushveld and during our dry season it can be very dusty and dry
  • More expensive than the national park due to the privacy and accommodation options
Greater Kruger offers a lot more of an authentic safari option due to the privacy it provides. I guide in two of the private reserves and must say, my guests love the wide-open spaces and the lack of human interaction. For those of you looking for a more adventurous and authentic option, I would suggest Greater Kruger, it will not let you down.
 
If you plan on visiting Africa once, I would recommend going on a safari combining both the national and private part of Kruger. That way, you can weigh it up for yourself and we have some pretty awesome options below that do just that.
A safari drive in The Okavango Delta with Moriti Safaris
Leopard yawning on an Chobe National Park Safari
Nzumba Game Lodge, Klaserie Private Nature Reserve

Kruger National Park Safaris

It is in Kruger National Park, where Moriti Safaris started on new years eve, 2010. Kruger is in my blood and as fortunate as I am to guide all over Africa, my heart will always have kudu horns.
 
I have put together a few safaris that are perfect for families, groups of friends or honeymoon couples. These are specialty safaris as I have tried to set them up as authentic as possible to give you a chance to see the real Kruger. These can all be customised, so chat to me if you want to change anything and, maybe, I’ll see you out there myself:
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