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Kruger National Park - A Guide    by Stephanie Bayliss

Lion Male, Kalahari Gemsbok, South AfricaThe Kruger National Park is an incredible expanse of wilderness, being home to a vast array of wildlife; from the big five (Lion, Leopard, Buffalo, Elephant and Rhino) to the smallest of animals and birds.

A Brief History Of Kruger National Park

Kruger has developed out of the Sabie Game Reserve; an area between the Crocodile and Sabie rivers, which was proclaimed to be a Game reserve in 1898, thanks to the tireless conservation efforts of Paul Kruger, born into a farming family in 1825 and eventually made President in 1883.

In May 1926, with the emergence of The National Parks Act, both Sabie and Shingwedzi Game Reserves were merged to become the Kruger National Park that we know today.

About the Kruger National Park

At 380km long and at an average 60km wide, Kruger National Park presents 20,000km² of rich and diverse animal, bird and plant life. From open savannahs, to densely wooded areas and all fed by 6 rivers, Kruger National Park is made up of a huge variety of Ecosystems.

The best time for game viewing in Kruger National Park is the winter months of April - September. Vegitation is less dense allowing good visability and access to water is restricted to waterholes and rivers, where wildlife can be found congregating.

During Summer time, (October to March) the rains ensure that the landscape is lush, green and very beautiful. This is an excellent time for watching birdlife.

Kruger National Park is loosly split into 4 regions; the Southern Region, Central Region, Northern Region and Far Northern Region.

The Southern Region

Krugers Southern region is bordered by the Crocodile River in the south and the Sabie (pronounced Sar-bee) River to its North.

Khandzalive, at 839 metres is the highest point of Kruger National Park and lies in the South-western corner of the Southern Region.

Most of the White Rhino in Kruger are found in the Southern Region, the majority of sightings around Pretoriuskop, Mbyamiti River, and south of Lower Sabie. Thanks to abundant food sources and the protection of the national park, Kruger has the largest population of White Rhino in Africa, with over 2600 in residence.

Rainfail is high in the Southern Region, up to around 718m, therefore the area is largely lush woodland. Although the woodland does not sustain large herds of game, reasonable numbers of impala, kudu, zebra, giraffe, buffalo, white rhino and elephant are present in in the area. Numbers of Wildebeest and Zebra are low in the region, and as they are the preferred prey of Lion, number of Lion are low in the region compared to the Central Region.

The low numbers of Lion in the area means that there are reasonable numbers of wild dog and cheetah; in fact, fugures suggest that half of Kruger's cheetah occur in this region.

The rare Wild Dogs are most common in the mountainous land near Berg-en-dal, and can often be seen on the road between Berg-en-dal and Skukuza.

Leopards are also found in the dense bushwillow woodland, however these cats are rarely seen thanks to their excellent camoflague. A sighting of one of these wonderful cats should be treasured!

The Sabie river to the north of the region is home to around 600 Hippos and a large population of crocodiles, and is excellent for bird watching.

White Square-Lipped Rhino, NamibiaThe Central Region

The Central Region extends from the Sabie River in the South, to the Olifants River in its north.

This region accounts for approximately only 30% of Kruger National Park, but supports the largest populations of impala, buffalo, giraffe, kudu, wildebeest, zebra, waterbuck and sable and also supports almost half of Kruger's Lion population. Leopard, Hyaena and Cheetah numbers are also substantial in the region.

More than 60 lion prides, with an average of 12 lions to each pride, ensures that the region is exceptionally popular with tourists. This number of Lions has caused a negative impact on Cheetah and wild dog numbers in the region. Lion attacks account for around a third of wild dog pups deaths.

Marula (Sclerocarya birrea) and Knobthorn (Acacia nigrescens) trees dominate the savannah in the region. The leaves and bark of the Marula are eaten by Elephants who are widely distributed through the area, whilst Giraffe and Kudu are partial to the leaves of the Knobthorn, though by grazing at different heights, they avoid competition for their food.

Black Rhino exist in stable numbers in the region, though they are rarely seen.

The Northern Region

The semi-arid Northern Region extends north from the Olifants River. The region is blanketed in shrub mopane which thrives in arid conditions.

Few browsers feed on the leaves of the mopane, however elephants eat them as an important part of their diet. The caterpillars of the emporer moth, often known as mopane worms, also feed on the leaves of the mopane. These mopane worms are considered a delicacy of the african people.

In the region, the Letaba and Olifants rivers are home to 60% of the hippos found in Kruger. Half of the Elephants in Kruger also reside in the region gathering aside the Letaba, Shingwedzi and Mphongolo rivers.

Waterbuck, bushbuck, impala and kudu are common in the region. Numbers of lion, leopard and hyaena are concentrated in the area, where prey is abundant.

Acacia Trees, Kruger National Park, South AfricaThe Far-Northern Region

This region extends to the Limpopo River at its northern-most point.

The region is home to a number of species only found here; including the Kruger knocking sand frog and 13 species of bat.

Five packs of the rare wild dog have been observed in this region.

Bird enthusiasts consider this region to be of great importance, with sightings of 29 species of the birds recorded in the Park only occuring at Pafuri. These rare sightings include the trumpeter hornbill, Cape parrot, tropical boubou, Mashona hyliota, broadbilled roller, olive bush shrike, threebanded courser, cinnamon dove, mottled spinetail and yellow white-eye.

Things you need to know...

Malaria is prevalent in the area, so precautions must be taken. An effective insect repellent is a must, as are anti-Malaria tablets - this should be discussed with your doctor or pharmacist before travelling.

Costs of Visiting Kruger National Park

Visitors to Kruger National Park are required to pay a daily conservation / entrance fee of 120 ZAR (South African Rand). (At the time of writing, this calculates to about £12.) This fee is payable by both day visitors and by those staying in accomodation in the park. All National Parks throughout South Africa charge a conservation fee, with the funds raised contributing to the conservation of the national and cultural heritage of the parks.

Accomodation in Kruger National Park

There are plenty of accomodation options within Kruger National Park; from tented camps and bungalows, to luxury accomodation.

Kruger National Park accommodation

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About the Author - Stephanie Bayliss has written many articles on travelling. Find the very best travel information for Kruger National Park at the Travel Monkey Website.

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Latest update: July 18, 2016