WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
KRUGER NATIONAL PARK LUXURY SAFARI TOURS
For a luxury Kruger safari tour that’s on par with the leading private safari lodges in the Greater Kruger, you now have the option of booking a holiday at one of the deluxe safari lodges on the private concessions in the Kruger National Park. These safari operators lease land in the national park from the government and offer an exceptional safari experience that promises luxurious accommodation, fine dining and thrilling game drives in the heart of the iconic Kruger Park.
The first private concession in the Kruger National Park was established in 2002 and Jock of the Bushveld Camp became the first private luxury lodge to operate in the national park. Up until this time, visitors to the Kruger Park had to contend with SANParks accommodation that ranged from rustic and historically quaint to plain, simple and somewhat dated.
Other private concessions followed in Jock’s wake and became known as ‘SANParks’ Golden Kudus’. They are unashameably marketed to the high-end traveller and compete with the likes of Sabi Sands, Londolozi and MalaMala in the Greater Kruger, which is a 180 000-hectare extension of the national park.
The big difference between the unfenced game reserves that make up the Greater Kruger and the private concessions within the Kruger Park is guests staying at a lodge on a private concession have immediate and unrestricted access to the iconic Kruger Park, which in essence is the core of the Kruger2Canyons and Vhembe UNESCO Man and Biospheres. They enjoy all the benefits on an exclusive safari experience within one of the world’s most renowned national parks.
Private concessions in the Kruger National Park
The private concessions in the Kruger National Park are areas of land that have been allocated by SANParks as restricted-access conservation tracts and private entities operate safari lodges on the concessions under license, issued by the government. Each concession is several thousand hectares in size and is unfenced so game can roam freely across the vast wilderness areas.
What gives the private concessions their exclusivity is access to the area is restricted to the safari operators. In other words, the safari operators in the private concessions have unrestricted access to the public roads in the Kruger but regular Kruger visitors are prohibited from traversing the private concessions.
Another big difference is the safari operators in the private concessions are allowed to go off road with their game vehicles to get closer to wildlife sightings; this is something that’s strictly forbidden in the public areas of the Kruger Park.
Why private concessions were established in the Kruger Park
Kruger National Park is a state-funded national park and is the flagship entity in the nature-based tourism industry in the country. The government has long recognised that a healthy and vibrant tourism industry is essential to its macro-economic strategy to achieve growth, employment and redistribution of wealth in South Africa, and our national parks play an integral role in drawing strong numbers of tourists to the country.
Private concessions in the Kruger Park were established under a strategy termed “Commercialisation for Conservation”, with the aim being to generate a range of social and economic benefits without compromising the ecological integrity of the national park.
These benefits include generating capital investment and foreign exchange, creating employment and stimulating growth of small businesses. In short, the private concessions in the Kruger National Park generate much-needed income for SANParks which is the governing body responsible for the management of 21 national parks in South Africa.
The private concessions in the Kruger Park also presented an opportunity to provide luxury accommodation and an exclusive safari experience for the more discerning traveller. This allows the Kruger Park to compete with the private game reserves that make up the Greater Kruger, who draw high-end tourists away from the national park.
Singita Private Concession
Singita Private Concession is located in a remote corner of the Kruger Park, sharing a border with Mozambique on its eastern boundary. The 15 000 hectare private concession lies south-east of Satara Rest Camp and spans the confluence of two rivers; making it the ideal location for excellent game viewing because it boasts one of the highest concentrations of wildlife in the entire park.
There are two award-winning luxury safari lodges on the Singita Private Concession that have earned international acclaim:
- Singita Lebombo
- Singita Sweni
Mluwati Private Concession
The Mluwati Concession is located a short distance south-east of Talamati Bushveld Camp, some 40 kilometres from Orpen Gate. The 10 000 hectare concession lies in the heart of central Kruger which is known for its strong populations of lion.
There are three luxury safari venues operating in the Mluwati Private Concession which lie nestled in lush riverine bushveld that flanks the N’waswitsontso and Mluwati rivers:
- Imbali Safari Lodge
- Hoya-Hoya Safari Lodge
- Hamiltons Tented Camp
Jock of the Bushveld Private Concession
This is the first private concession that was established in the Kruger National Park, lying nestled in the confluence of the Mitomeni and Biyamiti rivers in southern Kruger. The 6 000-hectare concession is named after Sir James Percy FitzPatrick’s classic written account of life in the Kruger wilderness region with his beloved dog Jock by his side.
The prospectors of yester-year passed through the area on their journey in search of gold, traversing the untamed wild plains on a path that took them from Delagoa Bay (now Maputo in Mozambique) to the goldfields of Pilgrims Rest in the Lowveld. The Jock of the Bushveld Private Concession is located in an area that’s rich in history and the safari lodges built on the concession elegantly capture the pioneering spirit of that period.
There are two safari lodges operating in the Jock of the Bushveld Private Concession:
- Jock Safari Lodge
- Fitzpatrick’s at Jock
Lukimbi Private Concession
Lukimbi Private Concession is located in southern Kruger on the magical Lwakahle River, making it ideal for outstanding wildlife and bird sightings. The 15 000-hectare concession is about 30 kilometres from Malelane Gate on the southern tip of Kruger Park.
The private concession offers excellent Big 5 sightings as well as an abundance of plains game; largely because it’s situated in an area with two diverse habitats; grasslands that attract strong herds of plains game such as antelope, zebra, wildebeest, rhino and giraffe; and dense wooded and lush riverine thickets that provide secluded cover for more elusive wildlife.
There is one luxury safari lodge operating in the Lukimbi Private Concession:
- Lukimbi Safari Lodge
Tinga Private Concession
Tinga Private Concession is 5 000 hectares in size and located in a game-rich corner of southern Kruger, close to Skukuza Rest Camp. The Sabie and Sand rivers run through the concession which draws an abundance of game, as well as strong numbers of predators. The area around Skukuza has the highest density of leopards in southern Africa. You’ll also see large numbers of lion, cheetah, spotted hyena and wild dog.
There are two luxury safari lodges operating in the Tinga Private Concession:
- Tinga Safari Lodge
- Narina Safari Lodge
Mutlumuvi Private Concession is home to the world-acclaimed rhino walking safaris operation that offers walking trails in a remote and untouched wilderness zone. Zoned wilderness areas are a rare exception in the Kruger Park; they have no road infrastructure and therefore no safari traffic, and off-road driving is not allowed which protects the integrity of the bushveld.
With extremely limited human traffic and virtually no safari vehicles in this remote wilderness zone, the game are unhabituated and truly wild.
There are two safari operations in the Mutlumuvi Concession:
- Plains Camp; home of the Rhino Walking Safaris
- Rhino Post Safari Lodge
Other private lodges in the Kruger National Park
There are a number of private safari lodges and tented camps in the Kruger National Park that offer a more private and exclusive safari experience:
- Camp Shawu
- Camp Shonga
- Pafuri Camp
- Shishangeni Camp
- The Outpost
WHY VISIT THE KRUGER NATIONAL PARK
Kruger National Park is an iconic safari destination in southern Africa. It’s the oldest national park in Africa and the largest protected wildlife reserve on the continent; known for its outstanding biodiversity, archaeological significance and incredibly rich fauna and flora. There are 21 national parks in Southern Africa and the Kruger Park is our flagship park.
The national park is almost 19 500 square kilometres (2 million hectares) in size; with no less than 6 diverse ecosystems and 17 biospheres. Located in the north-eastern region of South Africa, it stretches across the Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces. It’s 352 kilometres from north to south and 65 kilometres east to west; with Mozambique lying on its eastern border and Zimbabwe lying on its far northern boundary.
The Kruger Park is home to the famous Big 5 which includes elephant, buffalo, rhino, lion and leopard and is a protected wildlife sanctuary for an abundance of African game as well as some 500 recorded bird species. The region is rich in history and world-renowned for its San rock art paintings and significant archaeological sites such as Thulamela and Masorini which can be traced back to the Stone and Iron Ages.
On top of all that, the Kruger National Park is the core of the Kruger2Canyons and Vhembe UNESCO Man and Biospheres, and the core of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (GLTP Treaty, 2002) which will eventually span some 35 000 square kilometres of the most valuable wildlife region in the world.
WHERE TO STAY IN THE KRUGER PARK FOR A LUXURY SAFARI TOUR
Where you stay in the Kruger Park depends on what you want animals and birds you want to see. The Park is home to an incredible array of fauna and flora where climatic conditions create 6 different ecosystems with as many as 17 biospheres.
Five rivers cross the Kruger Park from west to east which naturally create animal corridors. Birders usually head far north to some of the best birding destinations in the country, and wildlife enthusiasts tend to explore the central and southern regions which support larger populations of wild animals.
Southern Kruger Park
Southern Kruger is bordered by the Crocodile River in the south and the Sabi River in the north. It’s the busiest part of the Kruger to visit because it has the highest concentration of game and it’s the easiest region to access from Nelspruit and Hazyview.
Massive granite slabs lie under more than 80 percent of the southern Kruger which creates large ochre-colour granite outcrops (known as koppies) such as Shabeni, Shirimantanga and Napi. These massive rounded hills are a signature feature of the south and home to klipspringer (rock climbing antelope), baboon and leopard as well a groupings of rock hyrax in the western parts.
Most of Kruger Park’s white rhinos are found in the southern region. The best sightings are around Pretoriuskop, south of Lower Sabie and close to Mbyamiti River.
Luxury accommodation in southern Kruger Park:
- Jock Safari Lodge
- Lukimbi Safari Lodge
- Shishangeni Private Lodge
- Tinga Lodge
- Narina Lodge
Central Kruger Park
Central region is known as the ‘Big Cat Capital’ of Kruger Park because of its strong populations of lion. The high numbers of predators in the region are attracted by the availability of prey, mostly because the majority of central Kruger is vast savanna grasslands which support large herds of zebra, impala, wildebeest, buffalo and giraffe.
Luxury accommodation in central Kruger Park:
- Singita Lebombo Lodge
- Singita Sweni
- Plains Camp
- Rhino Post Game Lodge
- Imbali Safari Lodge
- Hoya-Hoya Safari Lodge
- Hamiltons Tented Camp
Northern Kruger is characterised by vast open savanna plains and archaeologically-rich hills. The region is best known as a birders’ paradise with many rare and endemic bird species found in these parts. In fact, the northern region has far fewer animals than the central and southern sections of Kruger Park but makes up for it in exceptional bird sightings.
One of the top birding destinations in the country is the Shingwedzi flood plains. There are sleep-over hides near Phalaborwa Gate and Mopani Camp which put you in the heart of birding heaven, close to important grasslands east of Mopani.
What northern Kruger is famous for is its strong numbers of elephant, including the legendary big tuskers. Most of the Magnificent Seven inhabited the Shingwedzi flood plains, which you can learn more about at the Letaba Elephant Museum located in the Letaba Rest Camp.
Luxury accommodation in northern Kruger Park:
- The Outpost
- Pafuri Camp
WHAT TO EXPECT ON A KRUGER PARK BUDGET SAFARI TOUR
The national park is truly impressive for its array of biodiversity. A big drawcard to the Park is the Big 5 which includes elephant, buffalo, rhino, lion and elephant but don’t let that detract you from the wealth of flora and fauna you’ll find on your safari tour of the Kruger Park.
Official figures note that there are 49 species of fish, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 birds and 147 mammals. But that’s not all; there are 400 different kinds of trees and shrubs and well over 1 000 species of plants.
About half of southern Africa’s known species of insects are found in the Kruger which adds up to a mind-boggling 20 000 insect species, including 169 species of ants. The insects sustain 39 different species of insectivorous bats.
2-day Kruger Park luxury safari tour
A 2-day Kruger Park luxury safari tour is a whistle-stop trip that offers you a chance to experience the scenic wonders of the national park and its bounty of natural resources, although you’ll experience just a tip of the proverbial ice tip.
Guests are picked up from Johannesburg and usually taken to the southern section of Kruger Park where they stay overnight at a luxury safari lodge in a private concession.
You’ll have time for a late afternoon and early morning game drive. If you’d like to stretch you time out in the bush a bit longer, you have the option of booking a night drive in an open safari vehicle run exclusively by SANParks who provide a professional ranger to accompany you. It’s a great opportunity to experience the bushveld at night and spot the elusive nocturnal animals.
3-day Kruger Park luxury safari tour
A 3-day Kruger Park luxury safari tour offers you one full day in the Park; with two late afternoon game drives and two early morning game drives. You wake up early as the sun is rising and enjoy coffee/tea and rusks (South African breakfast biscuits) before departing for a leisurely 3-hour game drive.
You’ll either spend the whole day out in the bushveld with a pitstop for lunch at a popular Kruger rest camp or you’ll return to your safari lodge in the private concession for lunch and relaxation. Late afternoon, it’s time to depart for a 3-hour afternoon game drive in search of game and birds you didn’t see earlier and returning to your lodge as the sun is setting.
4-day Kruger Park luxury safari tour
A 4-day Kruger Park luxury safari tour gives you ample time to extend your game drives to explore other sections of the Park. If you’re staying in southern Kruger, you can spend one of the two full days in the central region which is known as the “Big Cat Capital” of Kruger. Central Kruger is characterised by vast open savanna plains which are rich in nutrients and attract an abundance of antelope which in turn attract strong numbers of lion and other predators.
Likewise, if you’re staying in central Kruger, you can head southwards to explore areas around Skukuza, Lower Sabie and Pretoriuskop with have higher concentrations of game and are also important historic areas. Skukuza Rest Camp is the largest rest camp in the Kruger and is the administrative hub of the national park, and where you’ll find the Stevenson-Hamilton Memorial Library.
5-day Kruger Park luxury safari tour
A 5-day Kruger Park luxury safari tour gives you three full days in the Park and you might want to use one of those to explore the highlights of the Greater Kruger. This region is an extension of the Kruger Park and is made up of 19 unfenced private game reserves. Wild animals from the Kruger Park are able to roam freely across this unfenced protected conservation region which makes the private game reserves sought-after Big 5 safari destinations.
Highlights of the Greater Kruger region include a visit to the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre and Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre; both are unique conservation facilities that care for rare, vulnerable and threatened species including cheetah and orphaned or injured birds of prey, rhino and predators such as wild dog and hyena.
If you don’t want to leave the Kruger Park, things to do on a 5-day Kruger Park budget safari tour include visiting:
- the Elephant Museum at Letaba Rest Camp: showcases the skulls and bones of the Magnificent 7
- the Stevenson-Hamilton Memorial Library at Skukuza Rest Camp: houses a fascinating collection of memoirs, paintings and memorabilia donated by Kruger’s first and most famous game warden
- the Engelhard Dam: a large concrete weir in the Letaba River that attracts an abundance of game and birds; named after the American millionaire businessman who donated funds to the national parks board for its construction
- Masorini settlement: a site situated some 11 kilometres from the Phalaborwa Gate on the road to Letaba, where you’ll find a collection of artefacts and signs of inhabitation that date back to the Stone Age
- Thulamela: a 500-year old walled archaeological settlement in Pafuri Triangle which is a late Iron Age site that forms part of the Great Zimbabwe culture; when Great Zimbabwe was abandoned, several groups moved south across the Limpopo River and established smaller chiefdoms such as Thulamela
- Albasini Ruins: located close to Phabeni Gate, you’ll find the 19-th century ruins of a famous Portuguese trader named Joao Albasini; he opened the trading post in 1847 is believed to be the first White person to settle in the Lowveld and the first Portuguese person to trade with the Voortrekkers
6-day Kruger Park luxury safari tour
A 6-day Kruger Park luxury safari tour can be split between time in the southern and central Kruger which is rich in game and the northern and far north region which is world-renowned as a birders paradise. Travelling so far north is a rare opportunity for your average Kruger Park visitor and it takes you to a remote corner of the national park that perfectly devoid of safari vehicle congestion.
The northern region of Kruger stretches from Shingwedzi Camp to Crooks Corner on the border of Mozambique and Zimbabwe. It’s characterised by eerie fever tree forests, massive baobabs and lush riverine forests. It’s home to some of the most rare and endangered bird species and other species that are endemic to the region.
A walking trail with an armed and experienced game ranger is highly recommended to truly appreciate the scenic wonders of this birding paradise.
THINGS TO DO IN THE KRUGER NATIONAL PARK
MoAfrika Tours is a leading African safari tour operator based in Johannesburg. We’ve been taking local and international visitors to the Kruger National Park for the past two decades and have an intimate knowledge of where to go and what to do in South Africa’s favourite national park.
Speak to us when you’re planning a safari tour to the Kruger Park and we’ll recommend a range of packages to suit your travel budget. MoAfrika Tours also offers Big 5 budget safari tours to destinations in the Greater Kruger National Park.