Probably the most well-known national park in Africa, Kruger is a comfortable, easily explored game reserve where visitors have the opportunity to discover nature at it’s best! This is the ideal park for first-time visitors and veteran safari travelers alike. And it’s especially suitable for families in search of a wildlife and bush experience in Africa.
Our Kruger route took us the whole length of the park from the south to the north, visiting different camps along the way. Here is the route we followed:
The camps we stayed at:
Olifants Rest Camp
Pafuri Wilderness Camp
Punda Maria Camp
There are a wide variety of accommodation options to choose from, catering for all tastes and budgets – rest camps, bushveld camps, luxury guesthouses, caravaning and comfortable camping. See our Kruger Travel Guide for detailed information about this fascinating park.
When traveling in Kruger keep the following in mind:
1. Wake up early to experience the most activity. The wildlife is most active during the cool mornings, so it’s worth getting on the road early. There are guided game drives available from all the main camps. This is a great way to familiarise yourself with the fauna and flora under the expert guidance of a ranger.
2. Pack a picnic basket and prepare for yourself a brunch at one of picnic spots along the way. Gas cookers are available at a small fee. Boiling water is available at most picnic sites – perfect for a coffee top up!
3. Be considerate while at a sighting. Turn off your vehicle’s engine and don’t block the traffic while spending time at the sighting. Never leave your vehicle and don’t drive off the road. Allow other visitors to also enjoy the sighting by giving yourself a reasonable time, then quietly move away.
4. Always stick to the speed limit!
5. Keep the camp gate times in mind when planning your route.
6. Respect all wildlife. Give them the necessary space to move around freely and to feel comfortable.
We entered Kruger National Park through Malelane Gate situated in the southern most point of the reserve. The kids were ready for the adventure, armed with binoculars, tick lists, bird books and snacks. Our first destination was Berg-en-Dal rest camp in the south west section of the park. This is a well-designed, family-friendly camp with large indigenous trees and comfortable chalets. The camp offers a swimming pool, beautiful lawns and gardens. Also available are a filling station, shop and restaurant. Keep an eye out for a pack of Wild Dogs that made this area of the park their home.
On the way to camp we came across a large, relaxed elephant bull strolling along the road plucking tufts of grass from the side before stuffing it into his mouth. Further on we saw a large herd of buffalo grazing along a stream. The kids had a ball identifying the wide variety of birds found in Kruger. With October being the peak of summer, the migratory birds were in abundance.
We were fortunate enough to see not one, but two sightings of Leopards in trees. And on the same game drive! The Matjulu Loop really delivered.
The backroads of Kruger gives travelers the opportunity to spend full days exploring the park. Using the rest camps as a base, we planned each day to visit a different part of Kruger. It gave us an insight into the various biomes and changing scenery that makes up this exceptional wildlife haven. Our Land Cruiser made the dirt roads a pleasure to travel on, but it has to be said that the roads (both tar and gravel) are well-maintained to allow sedan vehicles access to all the backroads on offer.
Next we headed to the central part of Kruger, to an iconic camp called Olifants. Perched on a cliff overlooking the Olifants River ensures spectacular views over the valley below. We had close views of White-Backed Vultures soaring on the thermals right next to the view point. Many activities are available in this area: walking trails (day and multi-day hikes) and MTB trails, as well as the usual game drives in the mornings, afternoons and evenings.
During one of our morning game drives we spotted 10 Lion cubs and 1 female Lioness! And we had the sighting all to ourselves for most of the time. It really was a unique experience, with the cubs interacting and playing with each other, drinking from puddles that formed after the previous nights’ rain, oblivious to our presence.
One of our ‘neighbours’ at Olifants had to dash for cover as a Yellow-Billed Kite flew over.
Another special encounter was on the road to Balule Camp. A short distance from the campsite the local clan of Spotted Hyena were stretched out across the road basking in the late afternoon sun. I parked the vehicle about 30 m from the den, not to disturb them. The pups were constantly harassing the older members of the clan trying to relax. After one of the females chased the trouble makers off, they turned their attention to our vehicle. As if they planned it, the whole lot started moving towards us in a united front. The first few stopped about 10 m away, and two broke off to circle the vehicle from the back. The smallest of the lot didn’t stop until it was about 2 m from the vehicle, just staring at me with inquisitive eyes and a real cute posture.
Further north we stayed at Shingwedzi Camp along the Shinwedzi River. This camp has a true bushveld feel with a laid-back atmosphere. It offers an authentic Kruger experience with the original huts still being used. The interior has been modestly redone. A sense of space and remoteness are experienced here. It was rather hot when we visited there, so the large, sparkling clean swimming pool was a welcome sight! Large trees give much needed shade when needed.
The camp is a bit ‘wilder’ than those in the south. The night creatures visiting camp includes Bushbaby, Civet, African Wild Cat and genet. Birdlife is exceptional as you move north in the Kruger. It is a treat to spot some of the rarities on game drives and walks in camp. The less rare species such as the beautiful Lilac-Breasted Roller also impressed.
PAFURI WILDERNESS CAMP (EXTREME NORTH)
The northern-most part of the Kruger National Park is part of the Makuleke tribes’ land and co-managed by SANParks and Wilderness Safaris. This pristine part of the park is truly majestic with its fever tree forests and thick vegetation. Our stay at Pafuri Wilderness Camp delivered a Crocodile catching an unfortunate Impala right in front of our tented room, a female Leopard that surprised us as we came around a corner, and an array of birds that satisfied our birding tick list!
This private tented camp is set on the banks of the Luvuhvu River and offers luxurious accommodation, wholesome food and exceptional activities to explore the area. We visited Crook’s Corner, a border point where South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique meets. The drive there took us through a spectacular Fevertree forest where the contrast between the light green trees and dark brown soil created a sense of mystery and remoteness, which suits the history of the area. Think gun runners, fugitives and anyone dodging the law…during the 1900’s it was a safe-haven for criminals hopping borders to evade police.
Nowadays the only shooting that takes place is from tourists who click away on their cameras appreciating the rich with biodiversity of the region. We had an incredible sighting of a female leopard strolling through the forest. We followed her until she settled in a cool, shady spot for a rest.
The birdlife is exceptional in this part of the Kruger! Any birder looking for those special ticks will find them here. The guides are very knowledgable and their passion for the area is evident.
PUNDA MARIA (NORTH)
We moved a little south for our next stop at Punda Maria, with its old-fashioned charm. The original thatched chalets built in the 1930’s are comfortable and neat. Birdlife in the camp is prolific with Gorgeous Bushshrike and White-browed Robin-Chat as two lifers for us as a family!
Kruger is a superb destination for first time travelers, families and experienced safari-goers alike! Be sure to book in advance as the park is popular with local and international guests. This is a destination for all seasons of the year. Just ensure to pack accordingly.
For reservations and enquiries, contact SANParks Central Reservations.
*Please Note: We intentionally left out any rhino sightings due to the current poaching crisis in southern Africa.