Where to find the “big five” in South Africa

The Kruger National Park is one of the most significant wildlife reserves in the world, and it preserves a sensational diversity of animal, bird and plant life. The park is about 380 km long, 60 km wide and approximately 20.000 km square. From the north to the south part, you can find several ecozones with the consequent changing flora and landscape throughout the reserve.

  • Fauna in Kruger National Park

It is home to 147 mammal species (more species than any other game reserve globally), over 500 bird species, 114 reptile species, ranging from crocodiles to chameleons, 49 fish species, 34 frogs species, over 2000 plant species, including 456 tree and shrub species. Here, you can spot the most wanted “big five“:  Lion,  Elephant,  Buffalo, Leopard and Rhino. The best wildlife viewing in Kruger is during the dry winter months from May to September. At this time, the bush thins out, and animals congregate around waterholes and rivers.

South Africa, Kruger NP
A group of Lions, Kruger National Park

Driving around the park is very easy. The main road that crosses the reserve and the roads joining the campsites/lodge are tarred,  with all the signs to get to your destination.  Anyways, the best choice is a 4wd vehicle because you can have a complete tour even driving along the park’s dirt roads. 

South Africa, Kruger NP

Our Kruger NP safari

We spent 2 days inside the reserve during our trip to South Africa but sleeping outside of Kruger. Our first day was a self-drive tour, and we entered through the Phalaborwa gate at 6.00 am. After paying the entrance fee, we visited the west and central part (towards the south), going through the rest camps of Letaba, Olifants, Satara and Skukuza. The first part of our game drive was not so exciting; we spotted just a few animals. During our second part, from Satara to Skukuza and around Skukuza, we saw several animals like Lions, elephants, buffalos, hippos, many antelopes, giraffes, and hyenas, a leopard resting on a tree and a wild dog too!  It could be great to spot a cheetah and a rhino as well, but we couldn’t ask better. Our day trip was fortunate.

South Africa, Kruger NP

On the next day, we arranged a full-day game drive with a local agency, sure the best choice to spot animals with a high open vehicle able to go also along the dirt roads and with an experienced driver. I visited the south part of the Kruger, from Skukuza to Lower Sabie, with no doubt the most beautiful part of the park and plenty of animals. Here the vegetation is lush because of the Sabie River, and it homes lions, elephants, giraffes, buffalos, crocodiles, hippos, antelopes, and many different bird species. They are wild animals, so you have to be lucky to spot them, and one day is different from the other. It was the most amazing part of the reserve that we visited, and if you travel to South Africa, this is a National Park not to be missed!

South Africa, Kruger NP

Private Game reserve

Inside Kruger National park is located Ngala private game reserve. Meaning Lion in the Shangaan language was the first private safari reserve to be incorporated into the Kruger National Park. Without a doubt, Ngala offers an extraordinary African wildlife safari experience due to its game-rich wilderness. Inside the reserve, around its 14 700 hectares, you can easily spot the big five. Here you have a wide range of activities: game drive with 4×4 open vehicles, night game drive and walking safari led by rangers that will bring you face to face with the amazing African fauna and flora. You can stay inside the reserve, sleeping at Ngala Safari Lodge, Ngala Tented Camp and wilderness Walking Safari Camp.

Need to Know about Kruger National Park

1. How to get there

From Johannesburg, you can get to the park by car through the Phalaborwa Gate (500 km), Orpen Gate (460 km), Paul Kruger or Phabeni Gate (420 km). If you first decide to visit the Blyde River Canyon before getting to the park, the Phalaborwa gate’s closest entrance.


2. Sleeping outside the park

The best towns to sleep in are Phalaborwa (west and central part) and Hazyview (south part). Here you can find several cheap accommodations and also some lodges. Phalaborwa is just 5 km from the Phalaborwa gate, Hazyview is about 20 km from Phabeni Gate and 45 km from Paul Kruger gate.


3. Sleeping inside the park

At first, you have to plan how many days you’d like to spend around and which part you want to visit. In the central part of the Reserve, the main campsites are  Letaba, Olifants, Tamboti, Maroela and Satara; in the south part are Skukuza, Lower Sabie, Crocodile bridge. Lower Sabie is fantastic, just beside the Sabie River, with the restaurant’s terrace facing the river itself.

If you decide to sleep inside the park, you should book (and pay) in advance because it is always very crowded, above all in the dry season. You can make your reservation using the official website. The campsites offer sunrise game drives, afternoon game drives, night safaris, and walking safaris with a local ranger. Click here to see the main campsites and the accommodations/camping and activities tariffs.   

4. Game drive with a local tour operator

If you decide to sleep outside the park (inside either), you can arrange a full day safari with one of the several local agencies. They use open jeep vehicles; therefore, you can enjoy the wildlife better than with your sedan. Here are some websites of local agencies we found there from Hazyview (south part):

Here are other Tour Operators from Phalaborwa (central and north part):

If you like to arrange a longer trip through South Africa or visit the neighbouring countries, we suggest contacting Undhuvu Tour and Safaris.

Entrance fee and opening hours: the entrance fee until 31.10.2019 (foreign visitors) is 372 Rand per day (about 25 US dollars). You can get information about the Gates opening time by clicking here.

Map: You can see the towns and roads out of the park and the main roads and campsites inside Kruger NP.

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