Strolling In The Kruger National Park
Bush Walks & Trails
Lying in the heart of South Africa’s Lowveld is a wildlife sanctuary like no other, its atmosphere, so unique that it allows those who enter its vastness to immerse themselves in the unpredictability and endless wilderness that is the true quality of Africa.
The Kruger Park is a self-drive destination, although there are guided tour operators, with an excellent infrastructure that includes picnic sites, rest camps, waterholes and hides. The Kruger Park is a remarkable reserve offering an incredible experience of Africa at its most wild
The central region of the Kruger National Park supports nearly half the park’s lion population as well as large numbers of leopard, hyena and cheetah. Possibly the main reason for this is the quantity of sweet grasses and abundant browsing trees found in this area that support a large group of antelope, giraffe, buffalo, zebra and wildebeest. This abundance of wildlife in this area means that it’s a popular region amongst tourists, and subsequently there are a number of camps in this region. It’s understandable, as the chances of sighting even one of the 60 prides of lion that make the central region their home is a huge draw card.
Sightings of rare birdlife and major areas of sand formed by river flood plains, combined with sandstone formations of the Mozambique coastal plain, make it attractive to visitors. There are also a number of tropical aspects as part of the region lies in a rain shadow and along the banks of the Luvuvhu River are a series of riverine forests. A picnic site on the river bank provides hours of splendid bird viewing.
What you can witness in this part of the Kruger National Park is extraordinary – the knocking sand frog, a collection of bats, the nocturnal bushpig and the rare Sharpe’s grysbok. There are samango monkeys, packs of endangered wild dog, and the major water pans across the Wambiya sandveld are a good place to sight tropical warm-water fish, such as the rainbow killifish, not found anywhere else in South Africa. The sandstone hills, just west of Punda Maria, is the only place where you can see the Natal red hare and yellow-spotted rock dassie, or hyrax. What makes a visit to this remote part of the Kruger park so meaningful is the solitude.
Vegetation here changes very little from the unvarying shrub mopane, which thrives in hot, low-lying valleys. However, across this great expanse of hot dryness, five rivers forge their way, providing narrow corridors along whose banks grow trees distinctly different from the mopane – the nyala, the sycamore fig, the tamboti and the tall apple leaf. The Letaba and Olifants rivers contain as much as 60% of the Kruger park’s hippo population, and bird life here abounds. There are plenty of bushpig in the undergrowth of the Luvuvhu River and on most of the river banks you can hope to see sizeable herds of elephant (the Kruger National park’s latest estimate is as many as 9000 of these beautiful beasts), buffalo, bushbuck, impala and kudu concentrated near a water supply.
Lion Cubs in Kruger National Park
The valleys are home to trees rarely found in other parts of the Kruger park, such as the Cape chestnut, coral tree and lavender fever-berry; and granite lies beneath most of the region, producing distinctive smoothed koppies at irregular intervals, which are typically surrounded by rock figs and form ideal locations for rock dassies or hyrax, baboon and klipspringer, not to mention the oddleopard.
This is the region where you’re almost sure of seeing a white rhino as most of them occur here, particularly around Pretoriuskop, Mbyamiti River and south of lower Sabie. On the whole, there is more game purported to exist in the southern part of the park, so if you don’t make it to the northern reaches of the Kruger National Park , you won’t miss out. This part of the Kruger park is to some extent shrouded in history. Around Pretoriuskop, known for its profusion of trees, is Ship Mountain, its hull-shape the site of an old wagon trail that crosses a stream marking the birthplace of Jock of the Bushveld. The combretum woodlands, also part of this region, attract reasonable herds of kudu, impala, giraffe, buffalo, zebra, white rhino and elephant, and the scarcity of lion in this part of the park, makes way for the cheetah and wild dog.
If you love being alone in nature, there is something you should consider. Walking in the Kruger National Park. The Kruger Park offers all sorts of bush walks and bush trails that the general public can go on accompanied by trained game rangers. All the main rest camps in the Kruger National Park offer bush walks, normally about 3 hours, which take you on an amazing interesting walk through the wild bush. The rangers will show you all sorts of amazing things such as plants, insects, tracks, and offer superb information on all of them. You also could encounter large and small mammals on your walk and get close enough to them to experience what people were 100’s of years a go. A Kruger National Park Bush Walk from the camps is a must do!
What to Do Whilst in the Kruger Park
Game drives are what the Kruger National Park is all about. If you’re on a kruger park safari then the highlight to any day is venturing out on the back of an off-road vehicle, binoculars clutched in one hand whilst the other hangs on for all you’re worth to the constantly rolling vehicle as it makes its way through the bush in hot pursuit of the latest pride of lions, sighted feeding on a kill just over the rise.
For those booked on a safari or into a private game lodge, regular game drives with an experienced ranger are part and parcel of your trip, and for those on self-drives through the Kruger National Park, Olifants, Mopani and Letaba restcamps provide night drives, whilst most of the restcamps offer early morning, mid-morning and sunset game drives. For the most part game drives last around 3 hours, and private lodges and game farms usually include a coffee break, breakfast or sundowners in the bush as part of the game drive experience.
Nothing can possibly beat the heart stopping excitement of tracking rhino, elephant and lion on foot through the heat of the bush. But it’s also one of the most incredible ways to learn about the fragility of the ecosystems of the Kruger Park and to see the smaller, but in no way less exciting, animals and insects of the park like termites, spiders, snakes and plants that tend to be ignored when on the more fast paced game drives. Bush walks can last up to four hours and stops are made to allow replenishment and a chance to take in the beauty of an area. In the Kruger Park it’s advisable to take your own snacks and sunscreen and most of the camps do morning and afternoon walks.
Foot Safaris in the Kruger National Park – Time spent on foot in a Wilderness area is the very embodiment of a memorable safari experience.
There are a few incredible wilderness trails in the Kruger National Park, some in areas virtually untouched by humans.
Private Overnight Bush Walks The Kruger National Park also offers walking trails of 4 days or so. This will be the most amazing experience of your life. You sleep over at the designated base camp in comfortable huts and walk in different areas from there each day. The trained rangers ensure your safety and provide you with priceless bush knowledge.
“It’s the heterogeneity that makes the Kruger so fascinating, so different such a feast for the eyes, ears and other senses”.The Kruger is an extremely heterogeneic region and is why it is so rich in flora and fauna. It is the reason why scenes change so frequently, suddenly and in hard to describe ways. It is why in some areas Wildebees abound and yet in others you will hardly see a single one.
- Kruger National Park Game Drives
- Morning, Sunset And Night
Kruger National Park game drives are the only way to travel around the park at night. Catch a glimpse of the nocturnal animals on a driving tour!
A ranger will drive you in an open-sided four wheel drive out of your rest camp and into the park.
The game drive options are:
- Early morning drives
- Sunset drives
- Night drives
Early morning drives leave well before dawn. If you don’t fancy getting up that early, you could go on a sunset or night drive. A part of each of these drives will be in the dark.
It’s a lot harder spotting animals at night than in the day. Your ranger will give you lights to shine into the bush. Look for the reflecting eyes of the animals. If you see one, shout “stop” to the ranger. Then the ranger will help you identify the animal.
Sometimes you might not see any nocturnal animals at all. There’s still a really good chance of seeing an animal though. You might only get a fleeting glimpse of some animals because your view is limited by the torchlight. Plus animals run into the bush when they see you coming. Despite this, a game drive is definitely worth going on. It’s an amazing and daunting experience knowing that you’re out in the open in a game park at night!
Your ranger will tell you some really interesting stories along the way too. A ranger once told us he watched a 24 hour battle between a lion and a buffal
Game drives leave or come back after the rest camp gates open or close. So you must be staying overnight at the rest camp that your game drive leaves from.
In that time you’ll be driven around the park in an open-sided safari vehicle. It will be the only vehicle on the road after dark! It’s quite amazing and sometimes daunting to think about the reality of the situation – one 4×4 vehicle in the midst of a park bigger than some countries with wild animals lurking in the darkness out there!
It’s not possible to drive yourself around the park at night and because the vehicle you’re in is the only one on the road, you’ll come across an unusual array of animals which have settled, undisturbed, in the middle of the road.
On one such drive our way was barred by sets of eyes. As we got closer the owners of the eyes were revealed to us – a family of hyenas!
On night drives, a Kruger Park game ranger drives you around and provides very interesting commentary about the vegetation and animals that you come across. You can ask the ranger any questions that you may have too. The ranger will also give spotlights to passengers in the vehicle. They use them to scan the bush for animal eyes reflecting in the light.
The ranger will help identify any animal that you see. You’ll come across a good selection of nocturnal animals during the drive, such as nightjars, servals, African wild cats, springhares and owls.
What you actually see depends on the vegetation in the particular part of the park that you’re in and what crosses your path at the time.
You won’t just see nocturnal animals on a night drive though. You could see any type of animal.
The Big 5
Africa’s Most Sought After Animals
The Kruger National Park big 5, lions, elephants, buffalos, rhinos and leopards, are the animals that people definitely try to see when they’re in the park.
Why? Because in the past these animals were most wanted for their ivory, horns and skins and this made them famous. Today they’re just wanted for photographs and good sightings.
You’ll need to look carefully for lions. Their light yellow-brown colour blends in well with the bush and makes them difficult to see. Sometimes vultures circling in the air can indicate that lions are below them hunting.
Lions are lazy though. When they’re not hunting, they’re lying down, making them harder to see. There are also only about 1,500 of them, which makes your chances of seeing one smaller in the game reserve the size of Kruger National Park.
On the other hand, elephants are the easiest to see of the big five. Kruger National Park has around 12,000 of them! Plus it’s hard to miss a great majestic elephant lumbering close to you! If you only spend a day in the park you’re almost guaranteed to see an elephant. Elephants are the largest land animal and can make the vehicle you’re travelling in seem very small! Be careful around them. They always have right of way!
Buffalos are tough animals. They look like placid grazing animals, but they’re very strong and have sharp horns.
Although there are only 2,500 of them in the park, they seem to be everywhere.
They usually stay together in herds, some of which are made up of hundreds of buffalo. You might have to wait a while for a buffalo herd to cross the road in front of you and, just like elephants, give them right of way.
There are two types of rhinos in Kruger National Park. Black rhinos and white rhinos.
There are around 5,000 of the square-lipped white rhinos, but black rhinos with their pointed lips are far rarer. There are only about 350 of them!
If you spend a couple of days in the park, there’s a good chance that you’ll see a white rhino.
Leopards are the hardest of the Kruger National Park big 5 to find and the sleekest hunters in the bush. We once spent a week in the park and only saw one leopard 20 minutes before leaving! There are 1,000 leopards in the park though.
Seeing a leopard will come down to being in the right place at the right time.