THE BIG 5 OF THE KRUGER PARK
20 minute read08 Apr 2020
The Kruger National Park needs little introduction. It’s an iconic national game reserve located in the north-east corner of South Africa in the lush province of Mpumalanga. It’s easily accessible and significantly cheaper than the private game reserves in South Africa and provides visitors with just as much excitement and brilliant game viewing.
You can drive in through the towns of Nelspruit and White River, which is approximately 5-hours’ drive from Johannesburg, or fly-in either through Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (KMIA) and take a safari transfer vehicle to the Park or fly-in directly to Skukuza Airport which is based just outside the main rest camp of KNP.
It’s the largest game reserve in South Africa with nearly 2 million hectares of wild bushveld that stretches for 20 000 square kilometres from Pafuri in the north to Malelane Gate in the south. It shares a border with Mozambique that runs the length of its east boundary and the southern-most tip of Zimbabwe on its north boundary.
Kruger National Park competes with the likes of the world-acclaimed Okavango Delta in Botswana and the Serengeti and Masai Mara in Tanzania/Kenya for its incredible array of wildlife, birds and biodiversity but what makes KNP one of Africa’s best-loved game reserves is it is easily accessible and highly affordable.
Life-long loyalists to KNP love it for its incredible biodiversity that ranges from mixed bushwillow woodlands in the east and open tree savanna in the south to sandveld thickets in the west and mopane shrubveld and alluvial plains in the north. Every corner of Kruger Park has something special to offer.
Birdlife is prolific; the Park is renowned as a birder’s paradise with rare sightings of endangered bird species that have found sanctuary in the remote wilderness. Many species that are listed as threatened on a global scale can be found in healthy numbers in the reserve, and the alarming decline of some species has even been halted.
The expansive open savanna grasslands are home to scavenging predators, eagle-eye raptors and a vast array of antelope. Don’t be in a rush to tick off the Big 5 because you’ll miss the insects, reptiles and smaller animals that play a vital role in sustaining the Park’s unique ecosystems.
Where do we begin?
Greater Kruger National Park is huge and so diverse that you can visit year after year and always find a new spot to explore. You may prefer the extreme solitude of the north or the vibrant ambience of the Southern circle. You may be looking for the Big 5 or one of the tiny Firefinch bird species; everyone has a different reason to visit Kruger.
Let’s kickstart your journey through South Africa’s favourite game reserve with a review of the Big 5 in each category for easy identification.
BIG 5 KRUGER WILDERNESS ZONES
The Kruger National Park is made up of vast conservation areas that span the north-east of South Africa, the west boundary of Mozambique and the tip of Zimbabwe. The large protected area incorporated into the national reserve is the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park. The addition allows wildlife to move freely between different habitats and gives tourists access to remote wilderness zones that were previously out of reach.
Together with the Greater Kruger National Park, wildlife enthusiasts have nearly 2 million hectares of wild bushveld to explore.
Visitors to these remote regions are only allowed to explore the area on foot and only one group at a time is allowed access to the isolated reaches of the Kruger National Park. Bookings are essential.
There are no facilities in the remote wilderness zones; only portable camps at designated points.
Visitors may only access these areas on foot in the company of a professional ranger. Limited access in self-drive vehicles (4x4s) is allowed by pre-arrangement from SANParks. Access routes are restricted to visitors with bookings for small bush camp facilities or private concession sites.
Private companies operate luxury safari lodges in parts of the Kruger National Park that are restricted to guests with bookings. Game viewing is restricted to 2-track dirt roads in the company of a professional safari operator. Accommodation is only available at the exclusive lodges, but bookings are essential.
Self-drive vehicles have access to a combination of tar and dirt roads that are suitable for sedans. Safari vehicles and tour buses may not access these areas which means the wilderness areas are less congested with safari traffic.
Accommodation in these areas are either one of the larger bush camps or the small self-catering rustic camps.
The camps don’t have the convenience of facilities such as shops, restaurants and fuel pumps but this is no problem as visitors get what they need from the popular rest camps. There are picnic sites with toilets along some of the roads in this area.
Expect more vehicles and cars in these regions as these regions fall within the busiest parts of the Park. Self-drive roads are accessible to buses and safari tour vehicles and are the main routes to the large, popular Kruger rest camps.
The rest camps have convenient facilities such as restaurants, fully-stocked shops, education centres, medical facilities and petrol stations. Accommodation ranges from self-catering bungalows for two or family units for up to 8 people.
The region is a network of quiet dirt roads that take you to picnic spots and look-out dams and main tar roads that link the many Kruger camps. This region is perfect for visitors who have limited time in the Park and prefer to stick to the well-worn paths as opposed to venturing further north into the isolated wilderness regions.
BIG 5 BIO-DIVERSITY REGIONS
The Kruger National Park is divided into four quadrants with no fewer than six eco-systems; baobab sandveld, Lebombo knobthorn-marula bushveld, mixed acacia thicket, combretum-silver clusterleaf, woodland on granite and riverine forest.
Deciding which bio-diversity region you’d like to visit depends on what animals and birds you’d like to see, and whether you want to get away from the busy tourist crowds in the Southern circle or stick to the easily accessible rest camps if time is limited.
The south-east region of the Kruger National Park is accessed by Malalane Gate in the south and Numbi and Phabeni Gate on the south-east boundary.
The busy H3 road takes you from Malalane Gate past Afsaal Trader’s Rest to Skukuza Rest Camp which is basically the “head office” of the Park. The H1-1 from Numbi Gate and S1 from Phabeni Gate will take you to Skukuza. Everything in between is a combination of tar and dirt roads that traverse the lush south-east corner of the Kruger National Park.
The region is characterised by mixed bushwillow woodlands, Pretoriuskop sourveld and Malalane mountain bushveld. Around Phabeni Gate you’ll find a wonderful mix of marula and knobthorn open tree savanna. The highest point of the south-east region is Pretoriuskop which is well-known for a magnificent rock outcrop nicknamed Ship Mountain. This hull-shaped rocky outcrop is the site of an old wagon trail which crosses a stream that marks the birthplace of Kruger’s famous dog, Jock of the Bushveld.
Rolling granite plains are interspersed with wooded thickets which are home to an abundance of antelope and prolific birdlife. Enjoy common sightings of white rhino, elephant and buffalo who favour the open savanna grasslands that lie at the feet of rocky outcrops. Predators such as lion, leopard, cheetah and hyena are drawn to the area which is richer in small plains game such as impala as well as zebra and giraffe.
Popular camps in the south-east region of the Park include Pretoriuskop Rest Camp and Berg-en-Dal.
The south-west corner of the Kruger National Park lies between the Crocodile River in the south, the Sabie River in the north and the Lebombo Mountains that run the length of the western border of Mozambique.
The lush south-west region is accessed at Crocodile Bridge Gate and the H4-2 route takes you on a scenic journey through Delagoa thorn thickets, marula and knobthorn open tree savanna and southern Lebombo mountain bushveld.
The highest point of the south-western region is Khandzalive Mountain which rises some 840 metres off the dolerite plain. Ancient rock figs cling to the side of the granite hills and are home to rock dassies, baboon and klipspringer. If you’re lucky, you may also find the odd leopard hiding out in the rocky outcrops in the region.
White rhinos are particularly fond of the south-western corner of the Park and wander between Pretoriuskop, Mbyamiti River and south of Lower Sabie. The southern biosphere supports greater numbers of game and you should see all the Big 5 if you’re staying in the Park for a few days.
The combretum woodlands, acacia species and bushwillow thickets in southern Kruger attract herds of kudu, impala, giraffe, buffalo, zebra, white rhino and elephant. Cheetah and wild dog are more common in the southern Park because of lower numbers of lion in the region.
Popular camps in south-western Kruger include Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp and Lower Sabie Rest Camp. Skukuza straddles the east and west line in southern Kruger.
The lower-central region is accessed at Orpen Gate and Satara Road takes you on a scenic drive past Orpen Rest Camp to Satara Rest Camp which is in the middle of the narrow biosphere belt.
Around Orpen, you’ll find flat southern basalt and gabbro plains with an incredible array of marula, knobthorn acacia, leadwood, sickle-bush and russet bushwillow species. This is home to the Big 5 and you’re likely to see white and black rhinos as well as plenty of elephants and buffalo. Predators include lion, leopard, cheetah, caracal and serval.
There are a few private concessions between the S36 route and Talamati. This area is characterised by rolling granite plains and mixed bushwillow woodlands. The foot slopes are open savanna grasslands with duplex clay soils which supports unique species including magic guarri, and scented-pod, red and sticky acacias.
A big drawcard to the lower-central region of the Kruger is its large numbers of lion. There are about 60 prides of lion in the central region and they straddle the lower and upper reaches which is home to an abundance of antelope, giraffe, zebra and wildebeest.
Olifants Rest Camp and Letaba Rest Camp are popular rest camps in the upper-central region and accessed from Phalaborwa Gate on the eastern boundary.
The biosphere to the east of Letaba and Olifants is characterised by black clay soils and flat northern basalt and gabbro plains. Magnificent specimens of mopane and leadwood trees are found in the area, as well as red bushwillow and flaky-bark acacia.
Between Orpen and Letaba, rolling granite plains are interspersed with bushwillow woodlands which thrive in the shallow, sandy soils. Between Satara and Olifants, the eco-zone changes dramatically around the Olifants River with unusual species such as purple-pod, cluster-leaf and white-leaved raisin growing in the shallow, clay soils.
The band between Letaba Rest Camp and the far-north region of the Park is semi-arid and characterised by stark vegetation such as shrub mopane which thrives on the hot, low-lying plains. Ironically, northern Kruger has an abundance of water for game because five major rivers run through the narrow corridor.
The rivers in the northern Kruger are home to two-thirds of the Park’s hippo population and attract sizeable herds of elephants. Birdlife is prolific, and you’ll spot plenty of bush pig and riverine antelope in the shady undergrowth of the Luvuvhu River.
If you draw a line down the centre of northern Kruger, you have the Limpopo National Park on the right side and Greater Kruger National Park to the left. Limpopo National Park is made up predominantly of Nwambia sandveld thickets which thrive in the arid clay soil. Left of centre you’ll find rolling granite plains and woodlands made up of red bushwillow and mopane shrubveld.
A thin band of basalt and calcrete pebblebeds runs the length of the north-east border separating Limpopo National Park from Mozambique. The lush Limpopo, Luvuvhu and Shingwedzi valleys are rich in species such as corkwood, purple-pod clusterleaf, Lebombo-ironwood and euphorbia and Baobab trees.
Far North Kruger
The far northern tip of the Kruger National Park is a world-renowned for its unique biosphere and prolific birdlife. In fact, bird-loving tourists from around the world return to the area year after year for rare sightings of species not found anywhere else in Africa. It is accessed from Punda Maria Gate in the far north-east corner.
The incredible biosphere of far north was created by rich soils deposited where rivers such as Shingwedzi, Luvuvhu and Limpopo cross the flat plains. Diverse species such as sycamore figs, nyala trees and southern lala-palms are found in the far north, as well as magnificent tree species such as the natal mahogany and fever tree.
Nwambia sandveld thickets break up the alluvial plains with species such as sand camwood, small false mopane, wing-pod and red bushwillows, and stink-bushwillow thriving in the deep sandy soils. The area becomes more clayey towards the west with thickets of mopane tree savanna.
The area around Punda Maria is characterised by undulating hills and valleys on Soutpansberg sandstone and quartzite. Unusual tree species in this lush eco-zone include kudu-berry, burkea, pod-mahogany, white kirkia, propeller-tree and Lebombo-ironwood.
You’ll also find an array of rare and endangered species in the far north that have found sanctuary in the remote wilderness. These include the knocking sand frog, nocturnal bush pig and the rare Sharpe’s grysbok. Added to this are samango monkeys and packs of endangered wild dog.
The sandstone hills west of Punda Maria is the only place where you will see the Natal red hare and yellow-spotted dassie (hyrax). Over and above these incredible rare species and its unique biosphere, the far north is far less congested with tourists and known for its tranquility and solitude.
BIG 5 REST CAMPS IN THE SOUTH
Berg-en-Dal Rest Camp
Berg-en-Dal (meaning mountain and dale) is situated on the bank of Matjulu Spruit and surrounded by rocky hillsides and lush Malelane mountain bushveld, including rare species such as African Olives.
The self-catering accommodation ranges from camping and caravan sites to traditional Kruger 2- or 3-bedroom bungalows and two 6-sleeper guest houses. It was opened in 1984 and is one of the “newer” rest camps in the Kruger.
There is a restaurant and take-away onsite which overlooks the Matjulu Dam. There is also a well-stocked convenience shop, laundromat and petrol station at Berg-en-Dal.
Day visitors are permitted and may use the designated picnic facility.
A new addition to Berg-en-Dal is a conference facility that accommodates up to 300 delegates.
Popular attractions around Berg-en-Dal includes San (Bushman) paintings in the surrounding hills which provided the ancient tribe with protection from wild game when they moved through the area on hunting expeditions.
Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp
This historic rest camp is situated close to the far south-west corner of the Park and easily accessible if you are visiting from Mozambique or Swaziland. It overlooks the Crocodile River which attracts hordes of game to its watery course and the lush Malalane farmlands on the other side.
The camp falls within the ‘Southern Circle’ which is renowned for its high concentrations of antelope, prides of lion and prolific birdlife. There is also a larger proportion of white rhino in the southern region which makes it an ideal safari destination if you are limited for time.
Self-catering accommodation is a combination of traditional Kruger bungalows and safari tents and has caravan and camping sites. It also offers disable-friendly accommodation. There is a coffee and take-away shop and convenience and liquor store onsite as well as a laundromat and fuel station.
Crocodile Rest Camp is regarded as one of the best run camps in the Kruger and management prides itself on offering the ultimate in comfort and quality service. It’s one of the smaller rest camps in Kruger and is rich in history, having seen hordes of European explorers descend on the area in the 18th century enroute to seek their fortune in the gold belt of Monomotapa.
Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp was one of the first 4 ranger posts when the former Sabie Reserve was proclaimed in the late 19th century. The bridge across the river formed part of the Selati railway line which linked the Malelane farming valley to Skukuza Rest Camp.
Lower Sabie Rest Camp
Lower Sabie Rest Camp is very popular, and visitors need to book well in advance for a place to stay. Wildlife and birds in the area are abundant because it’s positioned on the perennial Sabie River. It’s a family-orientated camp in Kruger with many activities available for young and old.
Self-catering accommodation ranges from family cottages, huts and bungalows to a luxury guest house and safari tents and caravan sites. There are also wheelchair-friendly accommodation options. In recent years, semi-luxury 2-bedded safari tents have been added to the accommodation portfolio which offers visitors a more exclusive safari experience.
The vast green lawns of the rest camp are shaded by a massive sycamore fig tree as well as marula, Natal mahogany and fever trees. Different times bring different bird species which appeals to avid bird watchers.
The surrounding bushveld is home to the Big 5, with herds of buffalo up to 800 strong and an unusually-high number of warthog. Lion, cheetah and leopard are regularly spotted in the area, and sightings of herds of elephants and rhino are common.
A favourite attraction at Lower Sabie Rest Camp is its large restaurant with a wide deck that offers guests a panoramic view of the surrounding bushveld and riverine forest. It’s equipped with everything a family or tour group needs including a well-stocked shop, take-away and coffee shop, liquor outlet and laundromat.
The large swimming pool in the main camp is for visitors only. Day visitors can enjoy a meal at the restaurant or use the camp’s picnic facilities which has its own swimming pool. There’s kid’s entertainment over the holiday season, including film shows on conservation and wildlife.
Pretoriuskop Rest Camp
Pretoriuskop Rest Camp is the oldest in the Kruger National Park and the area is rich is history and wildlife. Game walks and tours of the historic sites in the area can be pre-booked and well worth it to learn more about intrepid explorers who roamed the southern valley decades ago.
Self-catering accommodation ranges from a luxury tented camp, traditional Kruger bungalows and family guest houses to electrified camping and caravan sites. The units are grouped into 3 circles centered around the reception area with expansive lawns between which are mowed by resident impala and warthog.
The rest camp has a licensed restaurant and take-away shop, as well as a well-stocked convenience store. Facilities include a laundromat and fuel station. The camp is disable-friendly with accommodation for wheelchair-bound visitors.
A major attraction at Pretoriuskop is the natural rock swimming pool with picnic facilities. The beautiful pool is built up against a massive granite rock with a plunge pool at the top for small children.
Pretoriuskop Rest Camp is a short 10-kilometre drive from Numbi Gate which is the closest gate to the towns of Hazyview and White River. It’s a popular stop-off for day visitors and tourists who are limited for time.
The rest camp was named after a nearby hill (koppies in Afrikaans) where a Voortrekker by the name of Willem Pretorius is buried. Pretorius was a member of Carl Trichardt’s 1848 expedition to Delagoa Bay in Mozambique on the east coast of Africa. The intrepid explorers were searching for a trading route through the Lowveld to the Portuguese harbours in Mozambique and travelled along a dusty route that is now Voortrekker Road.
João Albasini was the first European trader and elephant hunter to settle in the Lowveld. Between 1845 and 1860, he established various trading posts along the routes between the harbours in Mozambique and the inland mines and centers of the ivory trade. Albasini buried Willem Pretorius at the base of the hill around which the camp was built. The ruins of his homestead north of the rest camp have been partially re-built.
One character that the southern part of Kruger is most famous for is Sir Percy Fitzpatrick who was an early transport rider. His famous dog, Jock, was born in 1885 at a spot marked along Voortrekker Road, which runs south east of Pretoriuskop.
Pretoriuskop Rest Camp dates to the days when tourists were first allowed into the private game reserve and allowed to spend the night at what was then very rustic accommodation. A hut used by the legendary Harry Wolhuter at Pretoriuskop Rest Camp dates to 1930 when he worked in the Park as one of the first wardens. It has been restored to its former glory and well worth a visit for a glimpse of those early rudimentary game ranging days.
Skukuza Rest Camp
Skukuza Rest Camp is the administrative capital of the Kruger National Park. It’s a vast camp that attracts hordes of international tourists bought in by the bus load so it’s not ideal if you’re looking for peace and tranquility in the Park.
It has facilities to cater for your every need from a large upmarket restaurant, take-away deli and coffee shop and massive shop to banking facilities, internet café, library, medical centre and onsite doctor and fuel station.
Recent upgrades include a conference centre for up to 158 delegates. The new Skukuza airport is located a short drive away which makes it a perfect destination for international tourists and business people alike who prefer a fly-in/fly-out option.
The Skukuza staff village is close to a magnificent 9-hole (18-tee) golf course, and there is a massive pool in the village for staff members and their families. There are 2 swimming pools in Skukuza for guests booked into the rest camp.
Self-catering accommodation at Skukuza Rest Camp ranges from semi-luxury lodges and safari tents to family guest houses, traditional Kruger bungalows and camping and caravan sites. There are 21 furnished safari tents positioned along the river walkway which are perfect for visitors wanting a more authentic African safari experience.
When you get back to camp after your daily game drive, walk along the river promenade for more sightings of elephant, buffalo and hippo cooling off in the Sabie River. Regular visitors to the camp include fluffy-tailed bush babies and cheeky yellow-billed hornbills.
Skukuza Rest Camp caters for disabled visitors with drop-curve walkways to the entertainment area and education centre, as well as wheelchair-friendly accommodation.
The most popular attraction at Skukuza Rest Camp is the Stevenson-Hamilton Knowledge Resource Centre which houses a library and museum. The rest camp was named in honour of James Stevenson-Hamilton who was the first Warden of Sabie Game Reserve (now Kruger National Park). Stevenson-Hamilton made sweeping changes to the game reserve; he stopped poaching and worked tirelessly to create a haven for South Africa’s precious wild animals.
The centre was opened in 1961 and you’ll find fascinating artefacts from the old game ranging days, as well as valuable documents that are a record of the history of the national game reserve. One of the most renowned pieces is the skin of a lion that attacked Wolhuter while out on his horse; with a visible hole where Wolhuter managed to stab the lion while in the grip of the powerful beast’s jaws.
BIG 5 REST CAMPS IN THE CENTRE
Balule Private Camp
Balule is a private camp situated 13 kilometres from Olifants Rest Camp. It’s an intimate destination, known for its vintage charm, gas showers and paraffin lanterns. If you’re trying to avoid the crowds that descend on Olifants Rest Camp, Balule is a special option. The private camp is not open to day visitors.
This private camp is for die-hard bush lovers who hate crowds and are happy to “rough it” in nature. It’s included as one of the Big 5 accommodation options in central Kruger because it is hugely popular for wildlife and birding enthusiasts and booked out at least a year in advance.
Self-catering accommodation is rustic and basic; with 15 camp sites and 6 budget-friendly rondavels. There is no electricity in the camp, only gas or paraffin provides energy for a communal fridge and freezer, lighting and showers. There are no fans or windows in the budget huts; staying at Balule is a real step back in time to the old game ranging days.
There is no shop or restaurant onsite, so visitors must bring everything they need for there stay, although Olifants Rest Camp is a short drive away if you run short of something. There is a communal kitchen with scullery and gas stoves.
Guest check-into Balule at Olifants Rest Camp; campers have access to a petrol station, cellphone signal, the restaurant and shop, and swimming pool facilities at Olifants if they need a break from living wild in the bush. Balule Private Camp is a satellite camp of Satara and Olifants rest camps.
Letaba Rest Camp
Letaba Rest Camp is a green oasis in the middle of the semi-arid central region of Kruger Park. The area is renowned for sightings of big cats and birdlife is prolific. The camp is close to three major dams which are a permanent water source and attracts hordes of antelope, giraffe, zebra as well a being home to a resident pod of hippos.
The camp is positioned on a sweeping bend of the Letaba River with spectacular views of the bushveld and riverine forest. The area is characterised by flat northern basalt and gabbro plains with black clay soils. Tree species that thrive in this area include mopane, leadwood, bushwillow and sickle-bush. Red bushwillow and flaky-bark acacia grow in the shallow clay soils in the river valley.
Self-catering accommodation ranges from traditional Kruger bungalows, guest houses, family cottages and furnished safari tents. The camp has electrified camping and caravan points, and a day visitor picnic site with its own swimming pool.
Facilities include a good restaurant and take-away outlet, a well-stocked convenience store, a swimming pool and communal area, laundromat, medical and banking facilities and a fuel station.
The buildings lie nestled under the shade of magnificent species of sycamore fig, Natal mahogany, sausage and apple tree. Green lawns and indigenous gardens add to the character of the camp where tame bushbuck and impala wander between the bungalows. The camp is vibrant when the aloes and impala lily are in full bloom, which attracts a variety of birds. Look out for the white-bellied and marico sunbird, crested barbet, black-headed oriole and black-eyed bulbul.
A major attraction at Letaba is the Goldfields Environmental Education Centre. The facility was established in 1993 and houses impressive elephant displays; including the ivory tusk of one of the most famous of the Magnificent 7 tuskers and a full skeleton of an African elephant on display. The Letaba Elephant Hall receives over 80 000 visitors a year and plays an important role on educating people on elephant conservation.
Letaba means ‘river of sand’ which is the name given to it due to its proximity to the expansive Letaba River which is often dry in the hot summer months. Game viewing and bird watching in central Kruger is excellent and Letaba Rest Camp is the perfect base if you want to pair it with a stay at Olifants Rest Camp.
Olifants Rest Camp
Olifants Rest Camp is situated high up on the foot of Lebombo Mountain and offers panoramic views of the Olifants River and bushveld. Olifants is one of the more spectacular settings and hugely popular for wildlife and bird enthusiasts.
The mighty Olifants River is a permanent water source and attracts an abundance of game, including large herds of elephants. The area is characterised by rhyolite hills and low mountains with lush plantations of red bushwillow, round-leaved bloodwood, knobthorn acacia and sickle-bush. Purple-pod cluster-leaf and white-leaved raisin shrubs thrive in the shallow, clay soils that flank the river.
Self-catering accommodation ranges from traditional 2-, 3- or 4-sleeper Kruger bungalows and a few luxury guesthouses. The bungalows are fitted with an en-suite shower and kitchenette stocked with basic provisions. One of the 2-sleeper bungalows has been adapted for disabled visitors. Olifants Rest Camp does not have camping or caravan sites but there is a day visitor picnic spot in the camp with braai facilities.
There is a small conference centre equipped for up to 20 delegates. Other facilities include a good restaurant and take-away outlet, laundromat, fuel station
Olifants means ‘elephant’ in Afrikaans and was the name given to the rest camp and surrounding area as it was the home of the world-renowned Magnificent 7 elephants. These ancient animals were legendary because of their massive tusks, many which dragged on the ground they were so long and heavy. The original display of one of the big tuskers has been moved from Olifants to Letaba Rest Camp.
The original surveyor of the area, GR von Weilligh, left his mark on a baobab tree in 1891; which can be found a short distance from the camp.
Orpen Rest Camp
Orpen Rest Camp is a small camp located close to the Orpen Gate, on the western boundary of the Kruger Park. It’s perfect if you’ve travelled a long distance to get to the Kruger Park and want a convenient base to explore the central region. It’s a popular destination as the area is renowned for its cats with common sightings of lion, leopard and cheetah.
The area is characterised by open savanna grasslands with scatterings of marula, knobthorn acacia, leadwood, sickle-bush, russet bushwillow and round-leaved bloodwood trees. The rest camp bungalows are nestled in a grove of shady trees and overlook a large waterhole. The rock garden is vibrant in season when aloes and Barberton daisies are flowering.
Self-catering accommodation ranges from traditional thatched 2- or 3-sleeper bungalows with access to a communal kitchen and ablution block. There are a few large air-conditioned guest cottages which sleep a maximum of 6 people in each, with an en-suite bathroom. There is a well-stocked convenience store onsite and a small coffee shop but no restaurant. Other facilities include a swimming pool and fuel station.
Game is concentrated in the area around Orpen with large groups of antelope that are attracted to the sweet grass. This in turn attracts predators to the area. A popular attraction close by is Rabelais Dam which is home to pods of hippo and attracts elephants and buffalo to the area.
Orpen Gate and Rest Camp is a relatively new acquisition. The land was generously donated by Eileen Orpen after the death of her husband. The entrance to Kruger on the western boundary was at Rabelais on the periphery of the original farm. A small white rondavel marks the place of the original gate which served as the entrance between 1926 and 1954, and there is a small museum onsite dedicated to JH Orpen and his wife.
JH Orpen was a surveyor and member of the National Parks Board which sponsored boreholes for the park. His wife, Eileen, bought up 7 farms immediately to the west of Rabelais Gate during the 1930s and 1940s which she donated to the national reserve; extending the total area by almost 24 500 hectares. This donation was much-needed as it addressed the need for a permanent water source for the growing number of game.
Satara Rest Camp
Satara is the second largest rest camp in Kruger and the most popular so visitors need to book a bungalow up to a year in advance. The camp has been modernized over the years with the addition of private kitchens, air-conditioning, overhead fans and smart public facilities.
The central region is renowned for its quantity of lions and quality sightings of leopard and cheetah. For this reason, Satara is affectionately called the ‘cat camp’.
Birdlife is also prolific and bird lovers are rewarded with unique sightings that include lappet-faced and Cape vultures, kori and black-bellied bustards, secretary birds and other such exciting birds.
Satara Rest Camp has retained much of its colonial Africa ambience with red-roofed buildings, traditional thatched rondavels (round huts) and neat lawns.
Self-catering accommodation ranges from 2- and 3-sleeper bungalows, family guest lodges and electrified camping and caravan sites. Wheelchair-friendly accommodation is also available.
There is a good restaurant and take-away outlet onsite and a well-stocked convenience store, and other facilities such as a large swimming pool and children’s playground, a television lounge, laundromat and fuel station. There is a picnic spot with a boma on the perimeter of the camp which is available for day visitors.
Satara gets its name from the Hindi word ‘satra’ meaning 17. In the late 1800s, before the Kruger was proclaimed a national park, the region was carved up for human settlement by the Transvaal Republic government. An unnamed Indian surveyor was sent to the Satara region to divide the land and he marked out 17 plots.
BIG 5 REST CAMPS IN THE NORTH
Mopani Rest Camp
Mopani Rest Camp was opened in 1992 and is Kruger’s newest camp. It is nestled in a grove of mopani and baobab trees on a hill overlooking the magnificent Pioneer Dam. The area is teeming in antelope and birds and falls within the ‘big cat circle’.
Mopani exudes an air of tranquility, with stone and thatch features blending into its natural bushveld surroundings. Visitors enjoy spending warm evenings on the deck of the restaurant, listing to the distant call of lions and grunting of grumpy lions. Wake up to the spectacular sound of a fish eagle calling his mate and the chattering of wild birds in the camp.
Kruger rest camp is named after the mopane trees that are abundant in the area. In autumn (September to October), the butterfly-shaped leaves change to striking hues before falling off. The surrounding bushveld is characterised by rolling granite plains and woodlands on crests of shallow, sandy soils. Species that thrive in the more arid central region include red and russet bushwillow and magic guarri.
Self-catering accommodation ranges from an ultra-luxury guesthouse, spacious family cottages and traditional 2-sleeper Kruger bungalows. A unique feature of Mopani Rest Camp is accommodation in an overnight hide that needs to be pre-booked well in advance.
Shipandane Bird Hide is used during the day by Kruger visitors and converted into a sleep-out camp in the evening. The hide has 6 fold-out beds, an eco-toilet and a small boma with barbeque facilities. It’s a perfect getaway for an authentic Kruger safari experience.
Camp facilities include a good restaurant and take-away outlet, well-stocked convenience store, a fuel station, laundromat and braai facilities. There is electricity in the camp and buildings and rooms are air-conditioned.
A major attraction in the central belt is the Shilowa heritage site that lies right of the Tropic of Capricorn along the eastern boundary. The First Site marks a point in history where humans occupied the area between 1 200 AD and 1 600 AD. A second site dates to the late 1700s when the Pedi tribe inhabited the region. Other African tribes descended on the area in the 19th century; trading copper, iron, ivory and gold with the Voortrekkers, hunters and fortune seekers.
Pafuri Camp is a luxury safari lodge on a private concession in the Kruger Park. It lies between the Limpopo and Luvuvhu River in the Makuleke Contract Park and offers guests an unsurpassed wildlife and birdwatching safari experience. The concession falls within the Premier Transfrontier Area, which is the meeting point of South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
It is in what is regarded as South Africa’s premier birding destination with incredible sightings of endangered species. These include rare sightings of the Pel’s fishing owl, narina trogon, crested guineafowl, Arnot’s chat, tropical boubou, Dickinson’s crestel, black-throated wattle-eye and the green-capped eremomela.
The area is characterised by alluvial plains with rich soils that have been deposited by the three might rivers in the region. The large floodplains boast magnificent specimens of tree species which include Ana-trees, sycamore figs, nyala-trees, southern lala-palms, Natal mahogany, fever trees and umbrella acacias.
Accommodation is in luxury safari tents; catering for couples and families. Children are welcome; however, children under 6 years aren’t allowed on game drives and children under 12 years may not go on bush walks.
Pafuri Camp is an excellent destination for foreign tourists as the guests are taken on daily morning and late afternoon game drives and pre-book guided walking safaris. Game drives take you on a magical drive on sandy roads winding through riverine woodlands and lush floodplains to Lanner Gorge, Crook’s Corner and the Fever Tree Forest.
Punda Maria Rest Camp
Punda Maria lies in the northern tip of Kruger, only 8 kilometres from Punda Maria Gate. It is miles away from the busy tourist routes and offers wildlife and birding enthusiasts with the ultimate escape into the remote wilderness.
The region is characterised by a combination of Punda Maria sandveld, Nwambia sandveld thickets and Limpopo Valley rugged veld. Undulating hills and valleys on basalt and calcrete pebblebeds and Soutpansberg sandstone and quartzite produce deep sandy soils which is ideal for red bushwillow, flaky-bark acacias and Lebombo ironwood trees.
Animal numbers in the upper north region are sparse but the area has gained notoriety for its incredible array of rare bird species and wildlife. Basically, Punda Maria is a birder’s paradise and game viewing is secondary to unsurpassed birdwatching moments.
Accommodation at Punda Maria Rest Camp is 7 luxury safari tents as well as white-washed 2- and 4-sleeper bungalows. Each unit is air-conditioned and has a toilet, washbasin and basic kitchenette with a fridge. Visitors staying in the bungalows use a communal ablution block and shared kitchen and barbeque facilities.
There are 50 electrified camping and caravan sites at Shingwedzi. Other facilities include a good restaurant, well-stocked convenience store, laundromat and fuel station.
Captain JJ Coetser was the first ranger to be posted to the area in 1919. He mistakenly named his camp Punda Maria, thinking it was the Swahili word for ‘zebra’. The correct name is ‘punda milia’, which means striped donkey. He chose to keep the name as is in honour of his wife, Maria, with whom he had 12 children.
Shingwedzi Rest Camp
Rest Camp sits on the confluence of the Shingwedzi River and the Mandzemba and Mphongolo spruits. As a result, it’s the perfect base for some of the best game viewing in the Kruger Park. There are always elephants in the river and you may be lucky to see one of the big tuskers.
One of the Magnificent 7 elephants was named after the camp, and he died near it in 1981. His tusks weighed 58 and 47 kilograms respectively. The rest of the Big 5 roam freely in the region, making Shingwedzi Rest Camp an excellent choice for international tourists wanting to tick lion, leopard, rhino and buffalo off their bucket list.
Shingwedzi River only flows in the summer months which provides visitors with a panoramic view of the mighty water course and lush riverine vegetation. However, the best time to visit Shingwedzi Rest Camp is in winter when it’s barren and dry and the animals converge on the sparse water pools to quench their thirsts.
The bushveld is semi-arid, and the region is generally dry with sparse scatterings of mopane shrubveld. However, the impala lily adds a vibrant hue to the camp when in full bloom. Other tree species on the Shingwedzi plains include the leadwood, sickle bush, mustard tree, umbrella thorn, red and russet bushwillow and the magic guarri.
Unusual bird sightings include the Verreaux’s eagle owl, Bennett’s woodpecker, fulvous duck and the great white pelican. Birds attracted to the river valleys include the dwarf bittern, black and corned crakes, Burchell’s coucal, bearded woodpecker and the chorister robin chat.
Self-catering accommodation at Shingwedzi Rest Camp ranges from a luxury guest houses, 8-sleeper family cottage, traditional Kruger bungalows and camping and caravan sites. All units have an en-suite shower/bathroom and have air-conditioning. Onsite facilities include a good restaurant, swimming pool and picnic site, laundromat and fuel station.
In its day, the Shingwedzi basin was known for its breeding herds; its big tuskers. The tusks of Shingwedzi who died close to the rest camp can be seen at Letaba Elephant Hall. The name Shingwedzi is believed to be a Tsonga name for the river; it is a combination of ‘Shing-xa-goli’ which is the name of a prominent chief and ‘njwetse’ which describes the sound of iron being rubbed together.
The Outpost Lodge is a private luxury destination in a remote corner of the far north of the Kruger National Park. It is situated on a hill overlooking the Limpopo and Luvuvhu rivers, with a panoramic view of the surrounding bushveld. It’s far, far away from the busy tourist routes and promises the ultimate African safari experience.
The Outpost was developed as a joint initiative between private investors and the local community. Visitors are taken to Makuleke Village nearby for a wonderful cultural experience, which is also an opportunity to support local woman who sell African crafts.
The luxury outpost was designed by an Italian-born architect, Enrico Daffonchio, who favoured simple, elegant lines combined with elements of steel and canvas. It’s a contemporary oasis in the middle of remote wilderness and blends in perfectly with the lush bushveld.
The Outpost falls in the Makuleke Region which is the epicenter of the Great Limpopo Park. It is made up of the Kruger National Park in South Africa, the Gaza National Park in Mozambique and the Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe. The vision was to create a Peace Park which provided wildlife form all three countries with a protected sanctuary.
BIG 5 KRUGER BUSHVELD CAMPS
These rest camps are off the beaten track and much loved because they’re quiet and remote. They have their own ablution and kitchen facilities, including crockery and cutlery. However, there are no shops or restaurants in the bush camps and no camping is allowed.
Bateleur Bushveld Camp
Bateleur is an exclusive bushveld camp situated on the banks of the Mashokwe Stream in northern Kruger. It’s the oldest and smallest of the bushveld camps in the Kruger and offers visitors an exclusive safari experience. Game viewing and birdwatching from the Bateleur bird hide is excellent.
The private camp was built in the late 1980s and is restricted to guests staying over. It has 7 fully-equipped self-catering chalets. Each one has an en-suite bathroom, air-conditioning or an overhead fan, and barbeque facilities. Linen and towels are provided, and the chalets are serviced daily.
There is a small shop onsite that stocks basic items such as firewood, ice and phone cards. No foodstuff is available, and guests must arrive with everything they need for their stay. Shingwedzi Rest Camp is about 40 kilometres away and visitors can stock up on provisions there or enjoy a meal at the restaurant.
Silvervis and Roobosrand dams are a short drive from Bateleur camp and restricted to guests. Apart from game coming down to drink, birdwatchers delight in sightings of the African spoonbill, yellow-billed stork and African fish eagle. Common water birds include the white-faced duck and knob-billed duck, as well as the greenshank. View all the Kruger Park Safaris Here
Biyamiti Bushveld Camp
Biyamiti Bushveld Camp is situated between Berg-en-Dal and Crocodile Bridge on the Biyamiti River in southern Kruger. It lies nestled amongst jackalberry and wild fig trees in one of the most beautiful camp settings in the Park.
The camp is rich in history as it was built close to an old trade route which served ancient traders transporting iron, gold and copper from inland to the coast of Mozambique. It is only open to guests booked into the camp and offers guests an intimate and tranquil safari experience, away from the busy tourist routes. It is 25 kilometres from Skukuza Airport which is perfect for fly-in/fly-out guests.
Self-catering accommodation is in 15 cozy guest cottages that flank the Biyamiti River. It can accommodate a maximum of 70 visitors and is so popular, it’s booked up a year in advance. Linen, towels and soap are provided, and the cottages are serviced daily.
There is no restaurant at Biyamiti Bushveld Camp and no meat or groceries are sold at the mini shop in reception. Only basic provisions such as firewood and lighters and ice.
Biyamiti falls within the ‘southern circle’ which is renowned for its high concentration game; including a delightful mix of predators, antelope, giraffe and zebra. You have a good chance of seeing wild dog and cheetah on a self-drive or a pre-book guided safari tour or bush walk.
Access to the Biyamiti Camp and surrounding bushveld is strictly for private residents which means wildlife sightings are exclusive and not shared with hordes of tourists and safari operators. Spend time at the historical sites which capture the tale of intrepid explorers who travelled with wagons and oxen through unchartered territory, often succumbing to tropical diseases such as malaria and tsetse-fly.
Shimuwini Bushveld Camp
Shimuwini Bushveld Camp is set in a remote location on the banks of the Letaba River, north of Phalaborwa Gate in northern Kruger. It is regarded as elephant and buffalo country, with sightings of the rest of the Big 5, and an abundance of antelope and birds.
Self-catering accommodation is 15 family cottages spread out along the Shimuwini Dam with panoramic views of the surrounding bushveld. Basic provisions are provided such as cooking utensils, crockery and cutlery, a fridge, wash sink and gas stove. Bring everything else you need for your stay. Linen, towels and soap are provided.
Each cottage has its own barbeque facility and meat can be kept frozen at a communal freezer in the reception area. The camp uses solar panels for lights and overhead fans, but there are no electrical points to charge phones. This can be done when popping in to one of the bigger rest camps. The nearest restaurant and shop is at the Letaba and Mopani rest camps.
The area is characterised by flat northern basalt and gabbro plains with mopane shrubveld and red bushwillow woodlands. Shimuwini is the Shangaan word meaning ‘Place of the Baobab’ which is an ancient giant tree that looks like it’s been picked up and shoved back into the ground.
Concentrations of game in upper-central Kruger are not as high but what you do see is spectacular including elephant and big cats. The sparse, isolated hills in the west are rich in archaeological history with finds that date back to the Iron-age. The Lebombo Mountain in the east forms a natural boundary between the Kruger Park and Mozambique.
Sirheni Bushveld Camp
Sirheni Bushveld Camp is a small, intimate camp situated next to the Sirheni Dam on the Mphongolo River between Punda Maria and Shingwedzi in northern Kruger. Its location offers visitors panoramic views of the bushveld and excellent game viewing at the dam.
The exclusive camp consists of 5 bush camps nestled in a grove of trees surrounded by mopane shrubveld. It’s one of the more luxurious bushveld camps and offers the ultimate escape from the busy tourist routes.
Self-catering accommodation is 15 family cottages with a fully-equipped kitchen and outside barbeque facilities. The units are spread out along the bank of the Mphongolo River with a view over Sirheni Dam. Linen, towels and soap are provided, and the units are serviced daily.
The camp operates off solar electricity and there are no plug points for charging phones. The main office has a generator that you can use to re-charge torch batteries and phones. There is no restaurant or take-away outlet onsite; you can buy firewood and ice at the reception office.
There are two bird hides just outside Sirheni Camp which are spaced about 100 metres apart and connected by a walking trail. They are raised high on platforms with stunning views of the waterhole and surrounding bushveld.
The name Sirheni means “the grave” in Shangaan and was given to the camp as it marks the site where an old tusker elephant was buried in 1959. He tragically died from anthrax poisoning.
Talamati Bushveld Camp
Talamati Bushveld Camp is situated in open savanna plains and laid out of the banks of the N’waswitsontso River, about 25 kilometres south-west of Orpen Gate. It’s reserved for the exclusive of guests and way off the beaten tourist track, so guests are guaranteed an authentic African safari experience and peace and tranquility.
The surrounding area is characterised by rolling granite plains and mixed bushwillow woodlands. The soil is sandy with patches of clay and tree species that thrive in this eco-system include the silver cluster-leaf, large-fruited and red bushwillows, magic guarri, scented-pod and sticky acacias.
Talamati is one of a few bushveld camps in the Kruger Park that are small but more luxurious than the bigger camps. They’re all located in remote wilderness and only guests are allowed in the camp and access to the surrounding roads. A camp like Talamati is a satellite camp to a bigger rest camp; in this case, Orpen Rest Camp.
Self-catering accommodation at Talamati is well-appointed and secluded cottages nestled under a canopy of trees on the banks of the river. Linen, towels and soap are provided, and the units are serviced daily.
The camp uses solar panels to power electricity for lights and overhead fans and there is a fridge in each unit, but no freezer space. Guests can keep their meat and perishable goods in a communal freezer at reception.
There is no restaurant or large convenience store at Talamati, but visitors can eat out and stock up on provisions at Orpen Rest Camp or Satara Rest Camp. There is a large boma area for group or family barbeques which is positioned away from the accommodation, so guests can get a bit rowdy without disturbing others.
Talamati means ‘lots of water’ but this relates to a vast reservoir of underground water which is sucked up by the spongey clay soil in the region. The N’waswitsontso River is usually dry unless the region is experiencing exceptionally high rainfall but, nevertheless, the valley is lush and fertile and attracts hordes of plain game and predators that follow in their wake.
BIG 5 KRUGER ENTRANCE GATES
Visitors travel through the magnificent Komati Gorge and the fertile farming district of Malalane to reach Malelane Gate on the southern tip of the Kruger National Park. It’s an historic landmark as it’s served as one of the main entrances to the national park since Kruger was established in the early 1900s.
You drive over a bridge that spans the mighty Crocodile River before reaching the entrance gate, and often this is where you’ll see the best game. Herds of elephant and buffalo come to the river to drink and there’s always a selection of antelope, giraffe and zebra hanging out on the water’s edge.
The main road (H3) from Malelane Gate to Skukuza Rest Camp is a busy tourist “highway” but you have the option of several scenic loops and dirt roads for a quieter safari experience. Sightings of rhino are common as they love the open savanna grasslands and bushwillow woodlands between the Crocodile River and Afsaal Trader’s Rest.
Numbi Gate is one of the main entrance points into the Kruger National Park and the gateway to the south-west corner of the Park and the popular ‘Southern Circle’. It’s a high rainfall region and renowned for its lush vegetation and higher concentrations of game.
Pretoriuskop Rest Camp is the closest tourist destination to Numbi Gate and lies on a historic footpath now known as Voortrekker Road (H1-1). It was once a well-worn path used by intrepid traders and hunters to reach Delagoa Bay in Mozambique from inland regions.
The first public tourists to the Kruger Park entered through Numbi Gate in 1926. Pretoriuskop was the only overnight accommodation available for tourists at the time and it took 2 years before a rudimentary network of dirt roads around the rest camp could be used for game viewing.
Napi Road (H1-1) is the “highway” to Skukuza, the capital of Kruger. There are lovely scenic loops you can take to avoid the busy tar road and many waterholes and bird hides you can stop at for game viewing and bird watching.
Orpen Gate is positioned on the western boundary of the Kruger National Park and is the gateway to the lower-central region of the national game reserve. You’ll find a historic landmark 9 kilometres from Orpen called Rabelais Hut which was the original entrance into the Park. The Orpen family generously donated their land to extend the western boundary of the reserve and Orpen Gate became the new entrance.
Popular routes to take from Orpen Gate it the main road (H7) to Satara or you can take the scenic route to Timbavati River (S39) and Tshokwane (S36). The road (S140) from Rabelais Hut to Talamati is scenic and interesting; however, the area surrounding the bushveld camp is restricted to visitors booked in for a stay, so you’ll have to travel back to Orpen Gate on the same road. Fairfield waterhole on the S145 is good for game viewing, with common sightings of giraffe.
The lower-central region of Kruger Park is renowned for sightings of big cats, especially lion. The open savanna grasslands attract hordes of antelope which in turn attracts big cats and smaller predators.
Paul Kruger Gate
Paul Kruger Gate is positioned on the western boundary of Kruger and is the closest entrance to Skukuza Rest Camp. It’s the quickest way to get in and out of the “capital” of the Park which serves as the administration centre.
A massive bust of Paul Kruger stands sentry close to the entrance and was created by sculptor Coert Steynberg. Paul Kruger was the former president of the Transvaal Republic and a controversial man in modern South African history, but he was a conservationist at heart and credited with proclaiming land that served as a sanctuary for South Africa’s precious animals who were under threat from rampant hunting and poaching.
Paul Kruger Gate is positioned close to Sabie River which is a dominant watercourse in southern Kruger. There are several scenic loops you can take to avoid the busy thoroughfare (H11) to Skukuza Rest Camp with beautiful vantage points at dams for excellent game viewing.
For a day trip, take the direct route (H3) from Skukuza Rest Camp to Malelane Gate, with a stop-off for lunch at Afsaal Trader’s Rest.
Punda Maria Gate
Punda Maria Gate is the gateway to the far north corner of Kruger which is a wonderland of remote wilderness and a birder’s paradise. It has recently been upgraded to cater for an increase in tourist traffic as foreigners discover the joy of an unsurpassed safari experience.
Punda Maria Camp is a short 10 kilometre drive from the entrance. A scenic loop around the rest camp takes you along a river course which is excellent for game viewing and bird watching. There are three main drives around Punda Maria: the Mahoni Loop, the Klopperfontein Road (S60/61) past the mythical Gumbadebvu hills and the H13-1 between Punda Maria Gate and Dzundzwini Hill.
At the T-junction of the H13-1 and H1-7/8, turn left and head due north to Pafuri. This takes you to the confluence where South Africa meets Zimbabwe and Mozambique at Crook’s Corner on the Limpopo River.
The S63 takes you to the Pafuri Border Post on the far north-east boundary which takes you to Mozambique.
THE BIG 5
Most international tourists visit the Kruger National Park to see the Big 5. Who or what are the Big 5 in Africa?
This was the term given to five wild animals that hunters feared and treated with absolute respect because of how dangerous and unpredictable they are. Today, the term relates to five spectacular animals that visitors to a game reserve want to see and tick off their bucket list.
The African elephant is the largest of the Big Five as well as the largest land mammal in the world. They are gentle giants unless provoked and are usually seen calmly and silently walking through the bush, browsing on leaves and grass shoots.
Elephants are very sociable and have strong family bonds, led by a matriarch. They can live up to 100 years and magnificent specimens known as the Big Tuskers are showcased at the Letaba Elephant Hall.
Mature bulls form bachelor groups or may be seen wondering through the bush on their own. They communicate over several kilometres using infrasonic sound.
Elephant numbers are under threat from rampant poaching with unscrupulous delinquents selling their precious ivory tusks on the world black market.
Be warned; an angry elephant is extremely dangerous and are not likely to survive an attack if you irritate and provoke it while on a game drive.
There are four species of African buffalo and the Kruger is home to the Cape buffalo. It may look like a harmless cow munching on grass in the bushveld, but buffalo are regarded as one of Africa’s most dangerous animals and have killed more hunters than any of the other Big 5.
Buffalo live in large herds that can range from a few hundred to over a 1 000. You’ll usually see them at or near rivers or waterholes as they must drink water every day. The South African nickname for buffalos is ‘dagga boys’, meaning mud boys. This is because they’re usually covered in mug after a good soak in a muddy waterhole.
They’re a delicious feast for lions and will viciously fight off predators such as lion using their massive horns. They protect their calves by placing them in the middle of the herd but the buffalo that are usually the first to fall prey to lions are the weaker and older ones that hang off the peripheral of the group or live on their own in the bush.
The ox-pecker is the Cape buffalo’ personal cleaner and they remove hundreds of ticks and parasites off a buffalo. It’s a win-win situation as the ox-pecker gets a tasty meal while keeping the buffalo free of parasites.
The elusive leopard is a master of disguise and it’s a real thrill to encounter one lounging on the branch of a big tree, licking its paws after a tasty meal of impala. Leopards are nocturnal animals which means they hunt almost exclusively at night.
They can leap more than 3 metres in the air and almost always carry their prey to safety at the top of a tree so it’s not pinched by hyenas or lions. Leopards tend to ambush their prey, stalking them in thick woodland thickets rather than open grasslands.
They are solitary animals and prefer to stay on their own. They’re not highly territorial and won’t stay in one place for more than a few days which makes it harder to keep track of them. They can run at up to 55 kilometres an hour and are extremely agile. They’re also good swimmers and will cross flowing rivers without hesitating.
If they can’t catch a juicy impala or small antelope, they’ll snack on bugs, fish, monkeys and rodents. They’re not fussy eaters and will make do until something bigger and tastier arrives. Leopard are extremely strong and will carry a heavy buck to a branch high up in a tree.
Leopards communicate with each other through distinctive calls, such as a growl if angry and a purr when happy. A hoarse, raspy cough is a warning to another leopard that it is venturing into its territory.
Lion need no introduction if you’ve watched the Lion King movie. Lions are affectionately called the Kings of the Jungle for good reason; they are a magnificent species and not even seasoned game rangers get bored of lion sightings on safari. There is nothing more spine-chilling and exciting than the roar of a lion in the still of the night.
Lions are impressive and excellent hunters, although the females do all the hard work and the male has the privilege of feeding first. They spend most of the day resting in the shade and will head off late afternoon/early evening to scout for food. A pride can sleep up to 20 hours a day.
They are sociable animals that observe a strict hierarchy within the pride. When food is scarce, many cubs starve to death as they cannot compete with the adults at a kill. Lionesses help each other with baby-sitting duties and rear cubs in a nursery-like environment.
There are two species of rhino in Africa; the rare black rhino and the more common white rhino. The black rhino is highly endangered, and the white rhino is fast becoming endangered as they suffer from the plight of rampant poaching.
The black rhino has a distinctive hooked lip which it uses to browse on shrub leaves. It prefers to stay hidden in dense woodland thickets. It is far more aggressive than the white rhino and not someone you want to walk into on a guided bush walk.
The white rhino has a square lip which is adapted for grazing on open savanna grasslands. It is the larger of the two species and a little less aggressive. Rhinos are short-sighted and rely on an incredible sense of smell. They may look bulky and heavy-footed but don’t make a mistake in the bush - they are fast and furious when on the run; reaching a speed of up to 35 miles per hour on full throttle.
BIG 5 KRUGER REGULARS
They may not get all the glory of the Big 5 in the Kruger Park, but the common regulars are just as exciting to spot on a game drive.
The hippo is one of nature’s most powerful beasts. They are extremely dangerous when grumpy and irritated so stay out of harm’s way when anywhere near one of them. They can reach great speeds in water despite their barrel-shaped massive bodies.
Hippos are the second-largest land animals with first place going to elephants. A mature male hippo can weigh up to 3 200 kilograms. They tend to live in groups or a pod, with one large dominant male calling the shots.
They spend their days wallowing in rivers, lakes or dams to stay cool in the scorching African heat. Only their eyes, nose and ears stick out above the water, but you’ll know there’s a hippo in the water by its noisy grunts and splashing.
Hippo secrete an oil red liquid which acts as sunblock against burning under harsh sun rays. When completely submerged under water, their ears and nostrils fold shut to keep water out. Hippo can stay underwater for a long period of time.
Hippo are active at night and are known to walk miles into the bushveld, far from the river course, to graze. They are herbivores which means they mainly eat grass. And they eat a lot of grass, up to 35 kilograms a night.
It’s not hard to spot a giraffe on the open savanna plains of the Kruger Park. They are the tallest living land animals in the world with an adult male growing to around 5.5 metres. That’s three adult humans standing one on top of the other.
Not only do they have a height advantage for spotting hungry predators, they also have excellent eyesight. Lions are wary of giraffe and tend to keep their distance unless very hungry because the instinctively know that one vicious blow to the head by a giraffe hoof will kill them instantly.
Giraffe are herbivores and will be found grazing in thick wooded shrubveld. Their favourite snack is the leaves of the acacia tree and they use their long tongues to wrap around and pull them off the branch. Giraffe eat all day, consuming anything up to 45 kilograms of leaves and twigs a day.
Giraffe don’t need to drink much water, which is a good thing as it’s a real effort to stretch out their long, gangly legs to take a sip of water from a waterhole or river. They get most of the water they need from the leaves they eat and usually only drink once every few days.
Female giraffe give birth standing up and it’s a 1.5 metre drop for a baby giraffe to the ground. They’re hardy little things and are usually up and standing within a half hour of dropping down to earth. A few hours later, they’ve got their legs sorted and will run alongside their mother.
The way to tell if you’re looking at a female or male giraffe is to check the horn on the top of their heads. If the horn is covered in tufts of hair, it’s a female. If it’s bald, it’s a male. This is because a male giraffe’s horn is worn out from “necking” which is how they fight; butting their long necks and heads until someone backs off.
Zebras look like donkeys in stripped pyjamas and are common sightings in the Kruger. An interesting fact is that the stripes of a zebra are unique to each animal like human fingerprints and no two zebras have a similar pattern. A newborn zebra stays close to its mother and imprints her pattern.
There are two species in southern Africa and the Burchell’s zebra is the most common. The southern Burchell zebra has a distinctive brown shadow stripe in the white stripe which diminishes the further north the species occurs. They are larger than the Mountain zebra which is found more commonly in the Cape.
A herd of zebra is small, usually made up of one stallion and a few mares with their foals. Bachelor stallions are kicked out of the herd as soon as they start challenging the primary stallion for the females. The stallion will put up a good fight if a youngster attempts to cover one of his females, viciously kicking and biting each other until someone backs down.
There bold black and white stripes are hardly useful for camouflage and one wonders why nature bestowed them with such conspicuous hide. Scientists believe that the complex pattern confuses predators when they huddle in a tight circle, which makes it difficult to isolate a weaker or younger zebra.
Zebra are extremely social animals and are often seen nuzzling and grooming each other. The mares look after the foals as a collective group and the stallion will aggressively defend its family when under threat from a lurking lion. A kick in the face from an adult stallion can be lethal for a lion or at the very least break its jaw. Zebras will grunt and snort loudly to alert the rest of the herd if they get a sense danger is near.
The red-billed oxpecker is usually found hitching a ride on the back of a zebra, grazing on ticks and insects on its hide. And other birds such as the fork-tailed drongo, carmine bee-eater and wattled starlings, are usually found around their feet catching insects disturbed in the grass.
A mare gives birth to one baby zebra which will be up and standing within 15 minutes of birth and running with the herd within in an hour. A full-grown zebra can run at a speed of 65 kilometres an hour when in full chase.
The Burchell's zebra is the closest relative to the extinct Quagga which roamed the southern plains of South Africa until the 19th century. The species is so closely related that scientists are having a lot of success using DNA from chosen individual to bring the Quagga species back to Africa.
Impala are what locals call the “fast food” of the bush. Rangers also joke that they’re sponsored by McDonald’s because they have a distinctive M marking on their rumps.
These slender, agile antelope are small, but they can move like the wind when under threat, reaching speeds of over 60 kilometres an hour and leaping high into the air to gain distance from a predator in pursuit. Impala live in large herds of up to 100 and evade capture by scattering and causing huge confusion. They release a scent from a gland in their heels when they high kick in the air which helps the herd gather together after they’ve scattered in a chase.
Female impalas (known as ewes) are clever mommies because they can delay giving birth for up to a month until it’s safe; usually during a rainstorm when the smell of blood can be washed away and always at mid-day when predators are usually off snoozing under a shady tree. Half of newborns are killed by predators within the first few weeks and it’s very sad to witness a mother bleating loudly in grief when she loses her baby.
Only rams (males) have horns which are lyre-shaped and ringed, and up to 75cm long. It takes years for a male’s horns to reach full length and until then, the bachelors cannot take on a dominant position in the herd. Rams produce a scent from a gland on their foreheads which they use to mark their breeding territory. When a ram loses his rank, his scent gland disappears.
Rangers call warthogs bush radios because you’ll see them scurrying through the bush with their little tails sticking straight up like radio antennaes. The little tuft of hair at the tip of the tail looks like a flag waving in the air when a warthog is trotting through the bush.
They are members of the pig family and only found in Africa, preferring more arid plains and open savanna grasslands. A warthog can survive lengthy periods without water; from several months to up to a year. They aren’t on the endangered list, but they are under great threat from hunting.
Warthogs aren’t the prettiest to look like and get their name from the large wart-like bumps on their long faces. Their skin is covered in hard bristles, they have a scraggy mane and two pairs of curved tusks which they use in fights in mating season or defend themselves against predators. At full speed, warthog can reach speeds of up to 30 kilometres an hour on little legs carrying a round, podgy body.
A quirky feature of the warthog family is they graze on grass and dig for roots on their padded knees. They have poor eyesight but an excellent sense of smell and hearing. They set off the alarm with a high pitch squeal when predators are in the area which sends antelope and zebra bolting off.
A female warthog will give birth to 4 babies and each one has exclusive use of one teat. If a baby warthog dies, the free teat isn’t taken over by the other babies. Youngsters stay with their mother until the birth of the next litter.
BIG 5 KRUGER LARGE ANTELOPE
The Kruger National Park boasts an abundance of antelope; big and small. The southern and central region is a breeding ground for magnificent species of larger solitary antelope and large herds of impala.
Also known as a bridled gnu, the blue wildebeest has a dark silver-grey body marked with dark vertical bands on its front quarters. It has a long black mane and a beard that hangs from its throat and neck. Both sexes have curved horns; an adult bull’s horns are heavily bossed.
Blue wildebeest give birth to a single cow in the summer months and the calf will run with the herd almost immediately after birth.
Wildebeest have survived for generations because of a natural survival strategy where they will cross expansive planes, rivers and gorges to find better food sources during wet and dry seasons. It is a gregarious herbivore, feeding in wooded shrubveld and open savanna grasslands.
An eland is a stately mammal recognisable by its heavy physique and thick curved horns. It is light in colour with a pale throat and has a noticeable hump at its shoulders and a prominent dewlap. They also have distinctive white stripes on their flank.
Both sexes have a heavy horn that slants backwards; males are heavier than females and can weigh up to 450 kilograms. Male eland are easily distinguished by a dark patch of hair on their forehead which covers glands under the skin.
Eland ae browsers and are mostly found in wooded thickets. They can go long periods of time without water but are reliant on certain fruits to keep hydrated.
Calves are born throughout the year as eland don’t have a specific breeding season but there tends to be a peak season when females in the herd drop their young within a short space of each other. Calves are up and running with the herd within a few hours of being born.
Eland are highly sociable and very protective of their young. They form a nursery of sorts when threatened by predators, where the large males create a fortress around nursing calves and their mothers.
You’ll find eland in dry, semi-arid areas which means you’re more likely to find them in central Kruger. Eland are nocturnal mammals and browse on vegetation that has absorbed moisture during the day; providing ample sustenance when water sources are dry.
Eland are large and powerful, and their thick horns are lethal. They are preyed on most often by lion and packs of spotted hyena. Cheetah and wild dogs may go for the younger or weaker in the herd but will never take on a full-grown eland.
A kudu is a striking animal with thick, long spiral horns which can be as long as 1.5 metres. Its grey-tawny coat is marked with white strips and it has a V-shaped ban on its forehead and white spots on its cheeks. Its long main extends from the back of its head to the end of its tail.
They are browsers and are usually found in thick bushveld thickets grazing on shrub leaves which often have fruit and pods on them.
Rutting season in Kruger Park is April to May and a single calf is born six months later in January or February. The calf is kept hidden in long grass for the first 6 weeks and the mother comes to the spot to nurse it.
Kudu herds are not very big; they tend to split up when it reaches 20 in the herd. Young cows always stay with their mothers, but young bulls will break away and form a bachelor group when they are ready to start mating. Kudu bulls only join the family group in mating season.
You’ll find higher concentrations of kudu in dense shrubveld and woodlands at the foot of rocky outcrops. They rarely venture out onto the open savanna grasslands.
Sable antelope are the royalty of Kruger Park; with their beautiful, charcoal-black soft pelt and striking horns. It’s a sight to behold to spot a sable antelope in the thick riverine forests where they spend most of their time. They tend to avoid open grasslands.
Sable are solitary and territorial animals and usually occupy a territory that they mark with a secretion from glands in their abdomen. They are active from late afternoon/early evening and only active during the day in mating season.
A sable antelope is grazers with a preference for grass. They are known to chew on bones from carcasses lying in the bushveld which counters phosphorous deficiencies. Calves start eating grass from a young age and are fully weaned by eight months.
A sable antelope will confront at predator when threatened, using its lethal curved horns to defend itself.
Waterbuck are large antelope with a brown-grey shaggy coat. They’re so wooly, they look be suited for snow-capped mountain reserves. They are easily distinguishable by a round white rump on their rump that looks like they’ve sat on a toilet seat with wet white paint. Only bulls have long, forward-curving horns; both have prominent round ears.
A key feature to it survival is a waterbuck emits a strong musky smell that tends to repel predators. The coat is slimy to taste and they’re not first choice on the dinner table for hungry predators. A major threat for waterbuck is crocodiles as they spend a lot of time at waterholes and rivers.
As their name suggests, waterbuck are usually found grazing on grass close to permanent water sources or knee-deep in shallow water. They play a vital role in the Kruger eco-system as they are happy to eat grass in poor condition; if they have enough water to drink on a daily basis.
A female waterbuck gives birth to one calf; there is no specific breeding season, but calving tends to peak in the summer months. Like roan antelope, young calves are kept hidden in thick grass or wooded thickets until they can join the herd. They are strong swimmers and when chased, will take refuge in deep water.
Dominant bulls are territorial and aggressively defend their turf from young bachelors. You’ll either find a small group of young bachelors on their own or a larger herd of some 30 waterbuck made up of a dominant bull, females and their calves.
BIG 5 KRUGER COMMON ANTELOPE
These antelope are common features in the Kruger but still a joy to see on a safari tour.
This shy, elusive antelope is a solitary animal and usually found minding its own business in dense bush at the foot of rocky hills or along river courses. They need to drink regularly so they don’t wonder far from a permanent source of water.
Bushbuck are a close relative of the kudu and nyala, but more smaller and more elegant in appearance with a dark-greyish brown coat and distinctive white spots on the flank and prominent white socks. They have very sharp horns which are dangerous if they’re cornered or wounded.
When a male bushbuck is trying to get the attention of a female, it walks in a tense, high-stepping gait and arches its back to make its white markings stand out. There is a rigid hierarchy among bushbuck and very rarely will males fight over their breeding territory.
Bushbuck are browsers and selective feeders, preferring delicate shrubs found along the river courses. On rare occasions they’ll eat grass but only if they need to in dry periods.
The gestation period is short, so a female can have two babies a year. After giving birth, the female licks the newborn clean and eats the placenta to get rid of the bloody evidence which attracts predators. A calf is kept well-hidden in thick bush for up to 4 months before it ventures out. Its Mom visits and suckles it a few times a day and will eat its dung to remove any scent in the hiding place.
Bushbuck are fairly adaptable when it comes to behaviour and will become almost entirely nocturnal if they are frequently disturbed during the day. When accosted by a predator, they’ll either sink to the ground and lie dead still or they’ll bound a way making a series of hoarse barks.
The common or grey duiker is a small, shy antelope that is usually seen at dawn and dusk browsing in wooden shrubveld. It gets its name from the Afrikaans word for ‘dive’ because of its habit of ducking and diving into bushes when threatened by predators. They avoid open savanna grasslands where there is no shelter and solitary animals, usually only pairing up during mating season.
It lives off a wide range of bushveld food; anything from leaves, fruit, pods and seeds to insects like caterpillars and small carrion like bush mice and nesting birds. They can go long periods without water, getting enough moisture from the food they eat.
A male duiker has short horns and both sexes have a black bank around the lower part of the face near the nostrils. A female duiker gives birth to one young, and very rarely twins. The female will find a safe hiding place before she births and will stay hidden with her calf until it can run, which it will do about a day later.
When chased by a predator, it runs in a distinctive zig-zag motion, diving into shrubs and then darting off again. Its alarm call is a nasal snort and if caught it bleats loudly. As they are so small, they often fall prey to snakes like pythons and crocodiles at water sources where they drink.
A klipspringer has tight, coarse hair and looks more suited to the snowy alps than the scorching African bushveld. It walks on the tips of its hoofs, which as long, narrow soles and blunt rounded tips. It gets its name from the Afrikaans word meaning ‘rock jumper’ because its rounded hoofs are adapted to spring across rock outcrops and large boulders.
It’s a small but stocky antelope, weighing no more than 11-13 kilograms and standing 500-600mm high. Rams have short, pointy horns which are ringed at the base and both sexes have noticeable dark markings on their faces.
Klipspringer often fall prey to leopard, jackal and spotted hyena who can climb up rocky outcrops. Eagles and baboons are a threat for newborn calves because they are left on their own when the mother goes off to forage. When threatened, they’ll flee to higher ground and then let off a piercing whistle to alert other klipspringer of danger.
Klipspringer are browsers and will eat flowers, tender green shoots and fruits found on species growing at the foot or on rocky outcrops. They hardly ever eat grass and do not need drink a lot of water, getting what they need from what they eat.
Rams and ewes form lasting bonds and will stay in the same territory for life unless they’re forced to move elsewhere. They’re a sociable species and form groupings of an 8-10 strong family unit.
An oribi is a small, elegant antelope which has a long, slender neck and thin, dainty legs. It has a rufous-brown coat with a distinct white under belly and a short black tail. Two large pre-orbital glands are situated close to the inner corner of its eyes.
Rams have short, pointy horns which stick out straight and act as little spears. When alarmed, an oribi leaps vertically into the air with straight legs which game rangers call ‘stotting’.
Oribi are grazers and usually found in open shrubveld and savanna grasslands. You’ll often find them close to permanent water sources but that’s because they grass is more lush and sweeter in those areas. An oribi is not dependent on surface water and gets most moisture that it needs from what it eats.
Oribi are seasonal breeder and in the Kruger Park the birthing season peaks mid-summer in November/December. Lambs are hidden for about a month in thick undergrowth until they can join their mother grazing in the bush. They’re weaned at about four to five months.
They form small monogamous groups of a ram with two ewes and are territorial. Bachelor rams will be kicked out of a group when they threaten the primary ram over his ewes, and they’ll often go off in pairs for company.
You get three types of reedbuck in the Kruger; common, mountain and grey. The common reedbuck is distinctive has it has a light fawn coat much like an impala, where the other two have grey-brown coats. All three have a distinctive white underbelly. Only rams have horns.
Reedbuck are grazers, preferring grass in wet habitats. They are mostly nocturnal animals and are usually seen on early morning and evening game drives, although they occasionally graze on grass during the day.
A quirky characteristic of reedbuck is their distinctive run; which is an unusual rocking gait with its tail straight up and its white underside exposed. Oribi form monogamous pairs and females will break away from the family unit when old enough to find its own mate. Bachelors are tolerated until they threaten the main ram and then they are chased out.
Steenbok are the daintiest and bravest of the common antelope. They are solitary animals and always found on their own in the bush. They measure 520mm at the shoulder and weigh no more than 10-12 kilograms. Rams have distinctive small, sharp horns and both sexes conspicuous black facial grands that ring their large, dark-brown eyes.
Steenbok are browsers and usually found in open shrubveld, foraging for young leaves, flowers, fruits and green shoots. They can go long periods without water and get most of the moisture they need from what they eat. When food is short in dry seasons, they’ll resort to digging up roots and tubers which are also high in moisture content. On rare occasions, steenbok may scavenge on small carrion such as ground birds and mice, but this is only when there is a severe shortage of food.
A steenbok ewe gives birth to one lamb which is hidden in dense bush for up to 4 months before it is old enough to venture out to forage with its mother. To hide its scent, the ewe will eat the faeces of its young and drink its urine during its visits to nurse it. This keeps the hiding spot odour free and there is less risk of a predator finding the young lamb.
Steenbok are always found on their own, but they are happy to share their territory with another steenbok. Males mark their territory using urine and secretions for a gland under its chin. In a reserve like Kruger, steenbok rams use roads and telephone poles as boundaries.
Because they are so small, steenbok can safely hide out in open savanna grasslands when the grass is taller or may seek refuge in sparse shrubveld. They sometimes take refuge in abandoned ant-bear holes and have their young in them if it’s a safer option.
They’re a tasty snack for leopard, caracal, wild dog and cheetah and often fall prey to snakes like pythons or large birds-of-prey like the Martial eagle.
BIG 5 KRUGER BIG BIRDS
We’re ticking off the top of the iceberg with big birds in the Kruger Park, but these species are easily identified and the ones you’ll see lots of on a safari tour. We’ve left off the common ostrich and of course, he’s the biggest and tallest in the bushveld. Most people can identify a long-legged gangly ostrich so we’re including real bushveld species in the Big 5 big bird list.
You can’t miss a goliath heron in the Kruger; it’s the largest heron in Africa. An adult goliath heron stands about 135 centimeters at shoulder level and weighs over 4 kilograms. Both sexes have the same distinctive plumage; with a brown-grey shaggy back and chestnut front and head. Its front neck is mottled, it has a sharp prominent beak and yellow eyes.
Goliath heron mainly feed in or around permanent water courses, living on large fish, frogs and crabs. It’s vary its diet with a selection of water lizards, snakes and insects but it is mainly a fish eater. They often have to fend off fish eagles and saddle-billed storks who are the fish thieves of the bush.
They are usually found on their own and are highly territorial. If you see two goliath heron together, it’ll be their breeding season. They are monogamous and only will take a new mate if the other one dies. They nest in nests made high up on thick branches of a tall tree. They lay between 2 and 5 eggs which are a beautiful blue colour.
They hunt by standing in shallow water and intently staring at their feet. They’ll stand dead still for ages to prevent causing ripples and will stab a fish with its sharp long beak and swallow it whole. The average goliath heron catches between 2 to 3 large fish a day; preferring bream, tilapia and carp.
The goliath heron has a recognisable deep bark which can be heard up to 2 kilometres away. If it is disturbed by a predator, it will give out a high-pitched sharp bark. It rarely ventures far from water and usually only flies along the length of a bank to get to its nest or a better fishing spot.
The kori bustard is the heaviest flying bird in Africa and adult males weigh up to 20 kilograms. They are land birds and often hard to find in the open savanna grasslands because they have light brown and grey plumage that is good camouflage in the dry bushveld. They rarely fly, and some bird enthusiasts refer to them as a flightless species.
The kori bustard is an omnivore meaning it eats plants and protein; with a diet that rangers from berries to insects, lizards and small snakes. A unique quirk of the kori bustard is it drinks using a sucking/slurping motion as opposed to most birds which scoop up water with their bills.
A fascinating sighting in the bush is a male kori bustard doing its mating dance to get a female’s attention. They puff up their neck and its wings droop on the ground as it does a little bird dance. They often ruffle their feathers to look like a big white ball of fluff, and they bow to the female while puffing out their cheeks. Throw in a booming sound in the mating ritual and it’s quite a sight to see.
Males duck off when the deed is done, leaving the females to incubate and raise the chicks entirely on her own. The females often don’t bother with building a nest and will lay eggs on soft, sandy ground.
It gets its name from the word bustard which means “birds that walk”. They live the majority of their life on ground level and rarely fly because of their weight. They live for a long time and breed slowly and tend to be highly territorial. You’ll recognise them by their long, slow stride and regal posture. You’ll find the kori bustard in open savanna grasslands or lightly wooded shrubveld.
The saddle-billed stork is a large wading bird that is easy to recognise with its distinctive thick black and red striped beak with a yellow frontal shield. It has a striking long black neck and beautiful white and black plumage. Its long legs are black with pink hocks and it has a distinctive bare red patch of skin on its chest which darkens in breeding season.
This majestic stork is listed as endangered and there are only 25 to 30 breeding pairs in the Kruger Park, and a handful of non-breeding storks. In fact, it is more rare and special to see a saddle-billed stork than it is to see cheetah and wild dog in Kruger.
They are a prominent feature on river banks and at permanent waterholes hunting for their favourite food. They live on a diet of fish, frogs and crabs. Occasionally they may snatch a small wading bird or water reptile. They hunt by moving in a slow, stealthy manner; surprising their catch even though they are so tall and conspicuous.
Saddle-billed storks fly with their necks outstretched, unlike herons who fly with their necks retracted. They prefer to hang out in riverine forests and open savanna flood plains. The lay one or two eggs in a large deep stick nest; each egg weighs almost 150 kilograms. They are a solo bird species and will pair up with a mate during the breeding season, otherwise they prefer their own company knee-deep in river sand on the banks of a mighty Kruger river.
The secretary bird strikes a majestic pose in the bush, standing tall at 1.3 metres with its distinctive grey and black plumage and red eye mask. It is unlike other raptors having long legs, wings and a tail. You’ll see it striding out on its own in open savanna grasslands, walking for up to 3 kilometres at a stretch to look for prey.
It gets its name from its crest of 20 long black feathers sticking out the back of its head. People who name birds thought they looked like the quill pens from the 19th century which they’d tuck behind their ears. Its long legs are feathers half way creating the impression the bird is wearing pantaloons. Its long tail feathers are shaggy with two black central streamers.
It has long powerful legs which it uses to stomp on small animals or hold them down while it tears at them with its beak. It mainly lives on a diet of insects but will snack on a selection of snakes like puffadders, rodents and game bird. It’s even been known to swallow small tortoises whole.
The secretary bird is commonly seen around Lower Sabie and Satara. They do fly occasionally to get to different habitats and will join in vultures soaring on thermals.
Southern ground hornbill
Southern ground hornbills are very easy to identify; they look like prehistoric dodo birds stomping through the bush. They are highly endangered so it’s a real treat to find a breeding pair or family in the bush. They are the largest members of the hornbill family.
An incredible characteristic of the southern ground hornbill is its booming call which is often mistaken for a lion’s roar. You know you’ve woken up in the Kruger Park when you hear them calling in the early morning.
Local superstition is driving these majestic species to near extinction and they are only surviving through dedicated conservation initiatives. Indigenous people believe the southern ground hornbill possesses magical powers that can bring rain and prevent lightening strikes. They have a high bounty on their head and are poached for their beaks and other body parts that are ground up to make traditional medicine.
Records show there are no more than 600 to 700 southern ground hornbills in the Kruger which are usually found in open woodland and savanna grasslands. They sleep in trees at night and forage on the ground during the day; snacking on a diet of termites and other insects, frogs, small snakes, squirrels and mongooses.
They will walk for miles a day foraging for food; sometimes over 10 kilometres at a time. They tend to live in groups of 4 to 5 and will hunt collectively; where someone flushes out prey and the others catch it. Sometimes they’ll all surround a log and tap on it with their beaks to flush out rodents, lizards or a small snake.
When you see a group of southern ground hornbills, make a note of the sighting with the date, exact GPS location, time of day, number of birds and their condition. Log your sighting on the SANParks website to contribute to an ongoing census that is conducted to keep track of these mighty but vulnerable birds.
This prehistoric-looking stork unfortunately has made a name for itself as the ‘undertaker of the bush’ and is on the list of the Ugly 5 of Kruger. It has a very somber demeanor which suits its grisly task of cleaning up dead and dying animals.
You’ll find them on the outskirts of a kill and always in attendance when there has been a veld fire. They’ll pick through the burnt bush, downing morsels of ashen dead animals which range from rats and mice to tortoises and dead game birds. Its featherless skull looks like it’s been singed in a fire or devoured by a 1 000 flesh-eating parasites.
An adult marabou stork stands about 1.5 metres high and weighs about 6 kilogram. It’s the largest stork in Africa and needs to consume up to a kilogram of food a day to fill it up. Its sharp bill and bare head and neck are perfect for climbing into the carcass of a dead elephant. It uses its beak as a stabbing spear. You’ll also often find it at rivers where it will nab something large like a barbel fish.
Marabou storks gather in large numbers and as many as 200 have been spotted in and around an elephant carcass. They usually stand back and let the vultures into the carcass first but will put up scuffle if left out of the bushveld restaurant for too long.
Marabou storks are fearless scavengers and have been known to raid bird nests and crocodile nests, stealing eggs and live hatchlings. In periods of drought, they survive by gathering at drying pools and fishing out dying fish. A quirky habit of the marabou is it will defecate on its own legs to keep cool on hot days. The white droppings act as a heat reflector
Ironically, marabou storks are high flyers. They’ll catch thermal updrafts and soar up to 1.5 kilometres above the bushveld. They can spend almost the whole day soaring on thermals.
They may be part of the Ugly 5 but sightings of marabou storks are extra special. The species is classified as near-threatened in southern Africa and are protected by conservation initiatives in the Kruger Park.
BIG 5 KRUGER EAGLES
Bird enthusiasts are spoilt for choice if its eagles they’re looking for in the Kruger Park. Here are 5 of the most common eagles you’ll spot on a game drive and a few fascinating facts about these majestic birds.
The Bateleur eagle is a magnificent species and known as the Kruger’s top snake catcher. Its name is the French term for ‘tightrope walker’ which it earned because of its distinctive aerial acrobatics.
Its colouring is distinctive; with pitch-black feathers and white under its wings. It has a bright red face which is devoid of feathers, bright red legs and a mop of black tawny feathers on its head. Female Bateleurs are large than their male counterparts. Juveniles look very different until they reach adulthood at the age of 3 years, and then only comes out in full glory from the age of 8 years.
A bateleur eagle has a massive wingspan but a very short tail so it’s easy to spot a bateleur in flight as its feet extend beyond its tail.
They spend a large part of the day in the air hunting for food and will feed on anything from mice and small carrion to snakes, lizards and even small antelope like a steenbok. They’re often seen on one of the tar roads picking at road kill.
The female lays a single egg in nest perched on top of a large, tall tree. She sits on the egg to keep it warm while the male searches for food and sticks to prop up the nest. Sometimes they switch roles and the male eagle sits on the egg.
A juvenile bateleur eagle leaves the nest after 3-4 months but it continues to be fed by its parents until it reaches adulthood. Sadly, only 2% of chicks make it to adulthood.
The crowned eagle is as impressive in size as the Verreaux’s eagle, but it has a smaller wingspan. It has adapted to its habitat which is thick riverine bushveld and wooden thickets. It can swoop through dense bush to catch its prey.
You’ll find the crowned eagle sitting majestically atop tall trees on the banks of a river or permanent water hole or flying low over a riverine forest. The mottled feather pattern on its chest provides good camouflage in dappled sunlight in the forests.
The crowned eagle is known for its immense strength and beats the Verreaux’s and Martial eagle when it comes to lifting heavy prey from river beds and tree tops. They usually hunt in pairs where one bird flies low over trees to cause panic amongst a troop of monkeys and its mate swoops in to grab one that has been isolated from the group.
The crowned eagle kills its prey instantly by crushing its skull with its powerful talons. Only when it has succumbed will the eagle take it to its nest to be shared with its mate and chicks. Pairs bond for life and return to the same nest year after year. They’re a noisy lot and will sit on their nests in the breeding shouting kwee-kwee-kwee and attracting a lot of attention.
One quirky trait of the crowned eagle is it will sit on top of an ant’s nest with its wings and breast feathers smothering the mound. The insects climb all over biting into it which bird enthusiasts believed is the eagle’s way of ridding itself of excess skin and feathers.
Most of its diet consists of small mammals like monkey, mongoose, scrub hare, tree squirrels, dassies and occasionally small antelope like a steenbok. It may catch game birds and the occasional lizard which it will dismember and hide in its nest for a future snack.
The crowned eagle loves riverine forests and are common sightings on the Luvuvhu and Limpopo Rivers in northern Kruger.
The brown snake-eagle is a common sighting and a species you’ll tick off your list early on a Kruger safari tour. It has very distinctive plumage; it’s a prominent percher and its legs are whitish with not feathers. It’s piercing yellow eyes are a distinctive feature.
It is one of several snake eagles in Kruger; preying on a smorgasbord of dangerous snakes such as puffadder, mamba, boomslang and grass snakes. It’s also snack on a selection of leguaans, monitor lizards and chameleons.
You’ll spot the brown snake-eagle hanging around wooded shrublands and granite koppies and are common residents around Skukuza.
The African fish eagle is an iconic Kruger bird species; standing out in its majestic glory with distinctive black, brown and white plumage. Its distinctive call gives you goosebumps. If the lion is the King of the jungle, the fish eagle is its queen.
It gets its name from its love of fish and will prey on anything from small river fish to flamingoes. It sometimes eats carrion and is classified as a kleptoparasite because it has a bad habit of stealing prey from other birds. The fish eagle will eat live or dead fish but prefer them to be alive.
It has two distinct calls; one when it is in flight or perched atop a tall tree and one it uses when near its nest. The female’s call is shrill and less mellow than the male, and that is the call most visitors hear in the bush.
Like most large birds of prey, fish eagle usually hunt in the morning using heat thermals. They settle back in the nest or on top of trees from mid-morning and spend the rest of the day surveying their territory.
As fish lovers, you’ll find fish eagle in trees flanking the banks of large rivers or permanent waterholes. They are very territorial and will usually return year after year to the same nest. They only move off in very wet weather to seek a dryer spot.
The Martial eagle is the largest African eagle and one of the most powerful. A full-grown male can weight up to 6 kilograms and has a wingspan of almost 2 metres.
Its upper body is dark brown with a white underbelly and black streaks. Its fluffy legs are white, and it has very large talons. A juvenile Martial eagle looks very different to its parents.
Martial eagles live on a diet of guineafowl, francolins, bustards and on rare occasions storks. It may feed off small carrion like an impala calf or steenbok and is known to snatch baby monkeys and mongoose. It prefers a meal of game birds but may snatch snakes and large lizards to supplement its diet.
A pair will build a nest high above the ground in the largest trees in the area, usually on steep hills or in a gorge. This means it has a clear sweep off the nest to hunt for food. Martial eagles will have one or two nests in a region; they’re massive structures up to 2 metres across and a metre deep. They are made using large sticks and lined with green leaves.
Once the fledging eagle arrives, the female is usually left on her own to care and feed them and the male makes himself scarce. When the young eagle is ready to fly, it will return to the next for a few days after it has gained its independence but will move away shortly thereafter.
Martial eagles are commonly found in thornbush and open savanna grasslands, perched on tall trees with panoramic views over the bushveld. They tend to hunt in the late morning using thermals created as the bushveld heats up and warm air rises.
A Martial eagle can soar for hours on thermals, often for pleasure and not just when it is hunting. It attacks its prey at great speed, coming in at a slanting angle. Most of its kills are surprise attacks on unsuspecting game birds in the open bushveld.
The Verreaux’s eagle is a large African bird of prey; also known as the black eagle in southern Africa. It lives around rocky outcrops and mountain gorges, preying on its favourite food source which is the dassie (rock hyrax). When dassies are scarce, it will catch game birds, hares, monkeys and even small antelope.
These eagles are easily identified by their enormous size and distinctive black and white pattern on its back. A juvenile has a different colour to the adult species but still has the distinctive plumage. You also easily spot a Verreaux’s eagle in flight as it wing shape can be described as a paddle or spoon-shaped, and it soars in a pronounced dihedral with its wings held slightly above the back and its upturned tip makes a V shape.
It is mostly silent but will make chirruping sounds like a francolin when it finds its mate. It’s emit a scream or bark when under threat from a predator.
The Verreaux’s eagle is thriving in Kruger but still under threat as it is a unique species, preferring a single food source which is the dassie. Populations of dassies are decreasing due to habitat encroachment which means the eagle is forced to adapt its diet.
BIG 5 KRUGER VULTURES
If there are vultures in the area, good chance you’ll find a predator kill. Vultures are nature’s vacuum cleaners and play a vital role in cleaning up the eco-system. They are the ultimate scavengers and will patiently wait for predators to move off a kill so they can move in and strip the carcass down to bare bones.
Vultures on a kill are ruthless and will fight for whatever scraps they can get. They will eat a kilogram of meat in a minute and strip a carcass within a few hours. They are essential for the bushveld ecology as they minimise the risk of disease by ridding the veld of carrion. After gorging themselves, they bathe in rivers to wash off the blood.
Vultures can spend most of the day in the air soaring high above ground in thermal currents. They have excellent eyesight and keep an eye for any animal activity. They will wait patiently in a large group in tall trees around a kill and can wait for up to 36 hours if its lions on a kill.
Vultures are the ultimate scavengers will a strong, hooked beak used for tearing open skin and flesh. It does not have feet suited for killing prey itself but it may drop in on a termite hill for a snack or grab the odd lizard or rodent.
South Africa has 9 vulture species and 7 of them are listed on the Red Data Book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland meaning they face a real threat of extinction. Vultures are killed or badly injured on power lines but are mainly threatened by poisoning and traditional healers. In the Kruger, the tree-nesting species are under threat because there has been a marked increase in elephant numbers who knock down trees and destroy their nesting options.
Many farmers and game farm owners have set up what are known as “vulture restaurants” which are safe places designated to vultures. Large predators are kept out of the area and they’re popular tourist attractions.
Other interesting facts about vultures include; a group of 50 vultures can strip a carcass of an impala or sheep in 20 minutes; vultures feed on carrion (dead carcasses) and do not kill their own prey because they have weak feet; they don’t fly at all because they are too heavy and rely on heat thermals to keep them soaring in the air; a female vulture lays one egg every year; and always have a good bath after a bloody feeding frenzy.
The Cape vulture is the only endemic vulture species in southern Africa. The species has been upgraded to endangered with only 2 900 breeding pairs found in southern Africa and has been declining steadily since the 1980s.
The Cape vulture has a creamy-buff plumage with dark tail feathers and a black bill. It’s honey-coloured eyes are naked, it has a blueish throat and silvery feathers on the underside of its wings. Juvenile Cape vultures are born without feathers which only start to appear when they get older.
This vulture species prefers open savanna grasslands and shrubveld but will nest on cliff faces or crags in mountain regions.
The lappet-faced vulture was listed as Vulnerable in the Red Data Book but this has recently been amended to Endangered. It is estimated that there are only about 2 500 mature lappet-faced vultures left in their natural habitats.
The lappet-faced vulture is the largest of the vulture species found in southern Africa. It is easy to identify; with a massive beak and large bare head with pink and blueish skin. It has prominent skin folds on its face and neck which is the reason for its name. Both sexes look the same.
The hooded vulture is the scruffy cousin in the vulture world; it’s small and has dark-brown plumage with a downy nape and hind neck, and a longer, pointy beak. It’s a common species in Kruger and follows the same habits as its bigger cousins.
Its broad wings and short tail feathers are suited for soaring at great heights for long periods of time, always on the look-out for a recent kill or dead carcass.
The female hooded vulture lays one egg in a stick nest situated high in a tall tree on open savanna grasslands. They are quite territorial and will return to the same nesting area each year. It lives in large flocks and a few are dispatched each day to soar above and look for food.
This vulture species is known as the ‘garbage collector’ as they’ve become habituated humans and are often seen scavenging in rubbish dumps outside of towns and safari lodges. Their status has been uplisted from endangered to critically endangered, largely because they are very susceptible to being poisoned or killed for traditional medicine because they tend to come too close to human settlements.
One of the more stately and elegant of the vulture species, the white-headed vulture has a handsome black and white plumage and a bright pinkish-red beak. Its face and neck are naked, and they have a fluffy black mane.
This majestic species has been uplifted from endangered to critically endangered. It is estimated that there are only 160 adult birds in South Africa. Their biggest threat is poisoning and being killed for the traditional medicine industry.
You’ll find the white-headed vulture in mixed woodlands and open shrubveld. White-head vultures are monogamous and will return to the same nest or nesting area each year; although two-thirds of this species breed every alternate year.
The white-headed vulture flies lower over the ground and is often the first to arrive at a kill. They are usually found on the outskirts of the carcass as they can’t compete effectively with their big cousins. They may feed on smaller carcasses like dead rodents and snakes but rarely kill their own prey.
The white-backed vulture is the most widespread and common of the vulture species in Africa and the one you’re most likely to see in Kruger. At the same time, their status has been uplifted from endangered to critically endangered where 90% of the species has been reduced in size in the last 3 generations. It is estimated there are about 7 350 mature birds left in its regional habitat in Africa.
This species prefers open wooded savanna plains and prefer to nest in tall trees. They sometimes build nests on electricity pylons. They live in loose colonies and tend to come together to feed gregariously at kills.
BIG 5 KRUGER DANGEROUS SNAKES
Snakes are vital to the Kruger eco-system although we like to keep them at an arm’s distance; particularly if we are walking through the bush. There are a few extremely venomous snakes in South Africa but they are not considered dangerous because there’s a very slim chance that you’ll encounter one as an average tourist on a safari trip.
The snakes you’re likely to encounter on a safari tour of the Kruger National Park are all highly venomous but your chances of being bitten by one are low unless you’re living rough in the bush and disturbing them in their territories.
Here’s what you should know about the 5 most common snakes in Kruger Park and how they behave.
African rock python
The African rock python is the largest snake found in Africa. It has a long, stout body with bold blotchy patterns that vary in colour from brown, olive, chestnut and ochre. It has a triangular head with a mark on top which makes it appear like a spear.
Its scales are like all pythons, small and smooth to touch. It has heat-sensitive tips around its lips which it uses to seek out warm-blooded prey. It hunts well in the dark as it relies on this feature rather than sight.
It’s a non-venomous snake and kills its prey by constricting it. When a snake gets a grip on its prey, it coils around it tightly. Death is not caused by asphyxiation or crushing but usually from cardiac arrest.
A rock python feeds on anything; from game birds and bats to small antelope, reptiles and rodents. A large rock python will kill warthogs, bushbuck and even small crocodiles. They swallow their prey whole and may take months to digest a large meal.
It lays 20 to 100 hard-shelled eggs, usually in an old animal burrow or shallow cave. The female coils around its clutch, protecting them from predators and keeping them warm.
The black mamba is the most dangerous and most feared snake in Africa. It is the largest venomous snake and can reach up to 5 metres in length. It stores a lot of venom in its system and bites readily if provoked or surprised.
Fortunately, black mambas are very shy and nervous and will flee a scene before you’ve spotted it. The danger is if you surprise them or accidently corner them; then they will strike quickly and aggressively. Because they are so shy, it’s very uncommon to find them in homes or buildings.
An angry black mamba has a habit of standing straight up on its tail. Because it is so long, it reaches chest height in humans which makes a bite extremely dangerous as it is more likely to hit you closer to the heart than a ground dwelling snake.
Black mambas have strong neurotoxic venom which quickly shuts down the human nervous system and is deadly if not treated immediately. If you surprise a black mamba and it rises up to strike, keep dead still. Do not panic or run. A black mamba will usually look for a way out of attacking someone and with luck with slither away quickly in the opposite direction.
If bitten, use a compression bandage to slow down the spread of the venom but seek medical attention as quickly as possible. Every second counts with a black mamba bite.
The boomslang’s venom is hemotoxic and very dangerous. However, it lives up in trees and is hardly ever seen. They tend to scare easily and will disappear if there is a lot of human activity in their habitat.
The venom disables the blood clotting process and the victim will die of internal or external bleeding if medical help is not administered immediately. The venom is slow-acting and symptoms only develop a few hours after a bite so you have some time to get to a hospital. A boomslang bite is extremely dangerous and must be taken seriously.
Drop by drop the boomslang has the most potent venom of any snake in Africa and the amount of venom required to kill a human is so small you can hardly see it with a naked eye. However, there are hardly ever more than one or two boomslang bites a year in South Africa and the victims are usually snake handlers. This is because a boomslang snake will only bite if severely provoked. It will puff itself up and warn a person to back off before it strikes which gives you time to back away slowly.
The boomslang is a back-fanged snake meaning they need to strike a few times before they can apply adequate pressure to release the venom. Most people walking in the bush experience a dry bite from a boomslang.
The female boomslang is a grey colour with a light under belly and it has a slim head; the male boomslang is bright green with large eyes and has an egg-shaped head.
There are two species of cobra found in the Kruger and both are highly venomous; the snouted cobra and Mozambique-spitting cobra. The snouted cobra is more common than the Mozambique spitting cobra as the spitting cobra is like the mamba and prefers as little interaction with humans as possible.
When confronted, cobras either curl up tightly or they raise their heads and draw a hood.
Snouted cobras are stocky with big scales and can grow up to 2 metres in length. They are a pale yellow colour with darker mottles. They are nocturnal hunters and you may bump into on pathways at safari lodges. Always shine a torch in front of you when walking around the Kruger rest camp at night. Fortunately, snouted cobras make themselves scarce and, like the mamba, will do its best to avoid human interaction.
A bite from a snouted cobra is extremely painful; the bite area swells up and causes tissue damage, and victims experience breathing problems because the venom is neurotoxic. Seek medical help as quickly as possible.
The Mozambique spitting cobra gets its name because it will raise its hooded hit and spit venom in the eyes of its prey. If you find one in your home or property, get a professional snake handler to remove it. Always wear sunglasses when walking in the bush in case you encounter one which spits in your eyes.
Its venom is cytotoxic and neurotoxic so you’ll experience tissue damage in the bite area and breathing problems if bitten by one. They are not shy snakes and have become habituated to humans. It’s not scared to slither into a home or building at night where it will roll up to sleep off a big meal. The biggest risk is rolling onto one in your sleep so keep windows shut and air-con on from late afternoon if this thought terrifies you.
The puff adder is highly venomous and one of the more common and widespread species in southern Africa. The puff adder is a thick, heavily-built snake with a flat, triangular head.
Fortunately, it is quite easy to avoid getting bitten by a puff adder. Watch where you are walking if you in the bush and stay on clear, open paths at the rest camps.
If a puff adder is disturbed, it coils into a defensive S-shaped posture and hisses loudly, which is where it got its name. This is a warning signal; don’t ignore it -back up and get out of its way. If it gets very angry, it moves extremely fast and you have little chance of escaping a deadly bite.
The puff adder is well camouflaged in the bush but easily recognisable if you see it in time. It has a very distinct patterned skin which is a combination of yellow, light brown, orange and reddish U-shaped bands. Its belly is white or yellow and its head has two very obvious dark banks; one is on its crown and the other is between its eyes.
This camouflage is necessary because puff adders often fall prey to warthogs, honey badgers and large birds of prey like the snake eagles. They are dangerous because they are slow and sluggish and don’t get out of the way for humans. They rely on their patterned body as camouflage, so the danger is someone stepping on one.
80% of the time a puff adder won’t bite a person. If it is stretched out, it will coil backwards and away from you and hiss to warn you to back off. You’re in more trouble if the puff adder is already coiled and ready to strike.
BIG 5 KRUGER PARK RULES
Kruger National Park is home to wild animals and dangerous snakes and insects. Visitors enter the national game reserve at their own risk and must follow the Park’s rules and regulations for the safety of the animals and themselves.
These are 5 issues to take seriously on a trip to the Kruger Park if you want to have a wonderful safari experience and get out alive.
Take malaria seriously
The Kruger Park is a malaria area. The risk in southern Kruger is slightly lower than in the northern regions but it’s advised to take the necessary precautions to prevent contracting malaria wherever you stay in the game reserve.
You will only get malaria if you are bitten by the female mosquito carrying the malaria strain. Not all mosquitos carry malaria but you need to protect yourself against that one rare nophilly lurking in dark and damp corners.
Consult your doctor or visit a travel clinic for a prescription for anti-malaria tablets. Prophylaxis treatment is effective but it is wise to take other precautions such as spraying your room and yourself with a mosquito spray in the evenings, sleeping under mosquito nets, spraying your car with mosquito spray in the morning and wearing long sleeves and long pants with socks in the evening.
The incubation period for malaria is 7 to 14 days so if you experience any of the malaria symptoms from the date of arriving in Kruger, consult your doctor or go immediately to a hospital for a blood test. Symptoms include: bad headache with chills, fevers and sweats, aswell as extreme fatigue, joint pain, vomiting, nausea and diarrhea.
Keep to the speed limit
The speed limit on tar roads is 50 kilometres/per hour.
The speed limit on dirt roads is 40 kilometres/per hour.
Speed traps are set up on busy roads in the park and you’ll find yourself reporting to the Chief Traffic Officer in Skukuza if caught well over the speed limit. In some cases, speedsters are banned for life from visiting the Kruger Park.
Please stick to the speed limit because you risk badly hurting or killing an animal if it runs into your path. It’s also extremely annoying and selfish to disturb other peoples visits with reckless and inconsiderate driving in the Kruger Park.
Do not get out of vehicles
Visitors must always remain in their vehicles unless in designated areas like picnic spots, bird hides and rest camps.
No body part may protrude from an open window or sunroof. Don’t let children sit on car windowsills or stand up through an open sunroof. There is a hefty fine charged if you break this rule and other visitors are encouraged to take a photo or video and post it online. Authorities will contact you and fine you if identified through a vehicle registration number.
Wild animals are masters in disguise, particularly lions. If you think you can spot one in the bush, think again! Don’t be an idiot and you’ll leave the Kruger Park alive and in one piece.
No dangerous weapons or drones allowed
Firearms and weapons are strictly forbidden unless declared at the entrance gate. Poaching of rhino and elephant in the Kruger Park is a serious problem and if caught with a firearm, you will be arrested and thrown into jail.
The same applies to drones. There is a heavy fine if you are caught using a drone in the park to view animals and take photographs. Not only do these disturb the game and annoy other visitors, they are banned because they are used by poachers.
Contravening these two rules will lead to a lifetime ban on visiting the Kruger Park.
Don’t be that idiot that annoys other people staying in the rest camps and enjoying a wonderful safari in the Kruger Park.
Be respectful at game sightings. Don’t hog space; move on when you’ve spent enough time there and taken a few photos. Never get out of your car to take a closer look!
Be respectful of the amount of noise you make in the rest camps and at wildlife sightings. Keep your voices down and don’t let your children shriek or call out. Turn down your radio or car music if your windows are rolled down.
Loud music is not tolerated in the rest camps and shouting and singing loudly is appalling behaviour and selfish. People come to the Kruger Park for peace and tranquility; don’t ruin it for others.
Roller-skates, bicycles, motorbikes and skateboards are strictly prohibited in the rest camps. Don’t bring very young children to the Park if you think you’ll battle to keep them entertained after the morning game drive. Malaria treatment is highly toxic for young children and it’s not worth the risk for babies and toddlers.
Don’t be an idiot and provoke wild game on the roads. Watch a few YouTube videos and you’ll see the twit in the car that revs and elephant or gets too close to it, ALWAYS comes off second best. The tragedy is an animal that attacks and harms a visitor in the Park is often shot and killed because such an incident makes them weary of tourists and aggressive.
BIG 5 KRUGER EMMERGENCY CONTACT NUMBERS
SANParks (South African National Parks) Reservations
Malaria info hotline (7am-7pm)
Doctor/Skukuza Medical Centre (24-hr hotline)
Nationwide Emergency Response (SAPS)
This is the nationwide emergency for police response and can be dialed from anywhere in South Africa. The response operator will determine if the emergency call requires the support of the local police or the Flying Squad.
Calls to 10111 made on a landline are free. Calls made from a cell phone are charged at the normal cell phone rates.
Cell phone emergency call
The number 112 can be called from any cell phone in South Africa. It will transfer your line to a call centre and they will route you to the emergency service closest to you.
When this number is dialed, it is followed by an automated menu. But remain calm, because the menu exists as a form of triage (priority of treatment) control and filters out abuse of the medical and emergency system.
A call to 112 on a cell phone is free and is even possible on a cell phone that does not have airtime.
The 10177 number can be used in the case of a medical emergency and can be called in conjunction with both the fire and police department respectively, depending on whether there are casualties.
The response operator needs the following information:
• nature of the emergency
• exact location of the incident (including nearby landmarks)
• details about any injuries and possible suspects
• personal information and contact details
Store them on your phone as follows:
Emergency - Ambulance (10177)
Emergency - Cell phone (112)
Emergency - National (10111)