Africa / Animals / travel / Wildlife

A Guide to The Kruger National Park

elephants on safari in south africa. A mother elephant walking with a baby elephant behind.

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African elephants
Ever since I can remember I have wanted to go on Safari in Africa, the obsession probably started after I first saw The Lion King. I am obsessed with the animals we share our planet with, mammals, insects, reptiles, fish; they just fascinate me. So when the opportunity arose while I was in South Africa to visit the Kruger National Park I jumped at the chance.

Facts about The Kruger National Park:
It is home to all of ‘The Big Five’ (Rhino, Lion, Buffalo, Leopard and Elephant)
It is also home to approximately 147 mammal species, more 507 bird species, 114 reptile species, over 49 fish species and 227 butterfly species.
It is one of Africa’s largest game reserves at a size of 19485 km².
The reserve has an anti poaching unit of 650 rangers, employed solely to protect the animals from being hunted.

Getting to The Kruger National Park from London
Easiest route: Fly from Heathrow > Johannesburg > Phalaborwa
Cheapest Route: Fly from Heathrow > Johannesburg > Bus to Phalaborwa

Safari options
Hire a car and self drive – Ensure you research and plan your route through the reserve beforehand.
Book your tour through an operator in the U.K (Most likely the most expensive option).
Book your safari once you arrive at the Kruger with the Rangers ( These guys know the park better than anyone!).
If you choose to stay over night at one of the campsites, a Ranger night drive can be booked but these sell out very quickly, so make sure you reserve your place as soon as you arrive. You can not self drive through the park at night.

Guide book I recommend: Kruger National Park: Questions & Answers

watering hole

My trip was a self drive tour, however the driver had visited the Kruger so many times and knew the reserve extremely well. We arrived via the Orpen Gate at 6.30am as the park opened  and spent the entire day there until closing (6.30pm) where we exited through the Phalaborwa gate. Hopefully from the map you see how much of a small section this is; we drove for roughly 10 hours but yet covered hardly any ground in comparison to how big the reserve actually is. Tip:  If you can, allocate at least two days of your trip at the Kruger National Park.

kruger national park map
When it comes to the wildlife, while it is in abundance what you see is completely luck of the draw. All of the animals are wild and completely free to roam where they wish, they are constantly on the move. This also makes it so exciting as you are constantly on the look out and excited about what you may spot next. As we first arrived we were lucky enough to see a Cheetah and her cub, with the Cheetah being the least populated mammal in the reserve (only 225 known) this was incredibly rare, yet there are 3500 White Rhino but we didn’t see one. It really is all down to luck.
Top tip: If you see another car slow down and stop, do the same – there is a very good chance they have spotted something you may not have seen yet. Don’t forget to check up in the trees as well – a favourite place for a sleeping Leopard.

Sighting boards are displayed at all of the rest stops and have daily records of the latest sightings, these can be incredibly useful for planning  the next part of your route, but again remember they could have moved from the vicinity by the time you reach there.  The watering holes are also a great place to check out, with midday and late afternoon being the most populated times, remember to spend time looking at the beautiful bird life that also live by the watering hole.  Drive slow and take in everything.

Most allocated rest stops also have cafes to eat as well as gift shops, while these places are more than you would expect to pay outside of the reserve, it is still relatively inexpensive to British prices and the food is delicious, however if you are on a strict budget look out for rest stops with secure picnic areas.    Tip: Ensure you use the restrooms at every stop, it is roughly around a three-hour drive between each available stop.

hyena cub
As we were there during the African Summer the grounds were incredibly dry and in desperate need of rain. This does mean some animals, such as Lions, are a lot harder to spot as they tend to blend in with the colours of the bush but it did also mean we saw a large amount of incredibly cute infant animals that had been born in the Spring.

warthog family
The Kruger National Park is some where I imagine to look completely different at every season and is a completely new experience every time you visit.  Visiting the Kruger National Park was everything I imagined and more, a truly beautiful day of breathtaking moments and one I will never forget. Seeing all the magnificent species completely wild and free was such a humbling experience and one I feel extremely privileged to have witnessed.  It is a complete must for any bucket list, not just the animal fanatic like myself.

charm baboon family

zebra and buffalo

Guide to the kruger national park

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  • Vicki
    February 6, 2016 at 10:51 am

    What great photos – and what an experience! I’m heading to Africa on a 6 week overland safari later this year – and a I am beyond excited! I don’t think Kruger is on our itinerary – but we will be visiting reserves in Botswana & Namibia before heading back down the coast of SA to Cape Town before the Garden Route to Jo’Burg – surely i’ll see all the animals at some point?! But like you say – it’s all about luck on the day.
    Glad to hear your safari experience was everything you had hoped for and more!

    Happy Travels!

  • Cameron
    February 6, 2016 at 1:00 pm

    GREAT wildlife photos. I’m definitely bookmarking this post. Planning to travel through Africa for a few months this year, and need all the help I can get.

  • Elena
    February 7, 2016 at 5:54 pm

    First of all, fantastic photos! Just looking through them made me want to go there. A family of monkeys look so purposeful, and hyena’s face is so cute. I like your tip about slowing down and stopping if a car in front did the same. Let them do all animal spotting ;). Cheers!

  • Alyssa | Adjust Your Focus®
    February 7, 2016 at 11:52 pm

    Great recap! I visited here in 2013 and loved it as well. There’s something so special about seeing wildlife in their natural habitat, as it should be. South Africa is an amazing place!

  • Stacey from Follow The Guides
    June 14, 2017 at 9:35 am

    We really enjoyed reading your enthusiastic article on the place we call home 🙂 I went in 2012 and loved it so much I moved to Nelspruit with my fiance and we are both now fully qualified safari guides. For 3 years we went to kruger every 2 weeks. We now live and work as guides in Namibia and spend as much time as possible in Etosha National Park.
    I honestly think you would like our instagram page followthetravelguides as we have loads of our own photos from Kruger.
    Warning for those travelling to Kruger in the near future, most of the restaurants are shut at the moment as the franchises have closed down.
    If you want to visit any more of Southern Africa’s parks get in touch 🙂 We love guiding like-minded animal fanatics 🙂
    Also love all your posts on Orlando – My family are moving to Florida soon so I often share your posts with them 🙂


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