Kruger National park is one of the greatest wild life riserve 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. Throughout the reserve, from the north to the south part, you can find several eco zones with the consequent changing flora and landscape. It is home to 147 mammal species (more species than any other game reserve in the world), over 500 bird species, 114 reptile species, ranging from crocodiles to chameleons, 49 fish species, 34 frog species, over 2,000 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.
Driving around the park is very easy, the main road crossing the reserve and the roads joining the camp sites / lodge are asphalted, with all the signs to get to your destination. Anyways , with a jeep vehicle , you can also drive along the dirty road. During my trip to South Africa I spent 2 days inside the reserve sleeping out of the Park. My first day was a self drive tour, and i got in through the Phalaborwa gate at 6.00 a.m.
After paying the entrance fee i visited the west and central part (towards the south), going through the rest camps of Letaba, Olifants, Satara and Skukuza. To be honest, the first part of my game drive was not so exciting, I spotted just few animals, but during my second part, from Satara to Skukuza and around Skukuza, I saw several animals like Lions, elephants, buffalos, hippos, many antelopes, giraffes, hyaenas with babies, a leopard resting on a tree and a wild dog too! It could be nice to spot a cheetah and a rhino as well but I couldn’t ask better , sure my day trip was very lucky.
The next day i arranged the 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 dirty 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, many different bird species. Obviously they are wild animals so you have to be lucky to spot them and a day is different from the other, but it was the most amazing part of the reserve that i visited and if you travel to South Africa this is a National Park not to be missed!
Private Game reserve: inside Kruger National park is located Ngala private game reserve. Meaning Lion in shangaan language, it was the first private safari reserve to be incorporated in the Kruger National Park, and with no doubt, due to its game-rich wilderness, Ngala offers an extraordinary African wildlife safari experience. 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 leaded 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.
How to get there: from Johannesburg you can get 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 closest gate is Phalaborwa.
Sleeping outside the park: the best towns where you can sleep 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.
Sleeping inside the park: with no doubt it s an amazing experience. At first you have to plan wich part you want to visit and then choose the best option for you. In the central part of the reserve the main camp sites are Letaba, Olifants and Satara , in the south part are Skukuza, lower Sabie, Crocodile bridge. Lower Sabie is really amazing, just besides the sabie river, with the terrace of restaurant facing the river. If you decide to sleep inside the park you have to book and pay in advance because is always very crowded, above all in the dry season. You can make your reservation using the official website. In the camp sites they offer morning game drive (3 hrs), afternoon game drive (3 hrs), night safari (2 hrs), and walking safari with a local ranger .
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 agency. Here some websites for the most beautiful south part from Hazyview:
Entrance fee and opening hours: the entrance fee (foreign visitors) is 304 rand per day (about 23 US dollars) and for the opening time check here: Gate Hours
Map: here you can see the towns and roads out of the park and the main roads and camp sites inside kruger.