Set up in 1898 by Transvaal President Paul Kruger, the reserve was extended by Major Hamilton and declared a national park in 1926. The Big Five and other game, water and bush birds can be seen right across the Kruger National Park but rhinos favour the south with its deciduous trees and tall grasses, grazing animals the central savannah and elephants the scrublands of the north.
Easy access to the south make this a popular area but as elsewhere, vehicles must keep to tarmac and gravel roads. Walking safaris and night drives are available in the main camps. The best viewing season is the southern winter when trees are bare but spring is good for spotting the young and summer for watching birds. Sightings are usually posted at the gates, hot spots include Granokop, the N’wamanzi look out and the Mlondozi and Orpen dams.
South Africa’s Top Reserve, Kruger Big Five
Viewing cannot be guaranteed in such a large area but most visitors encounter at least one or two of the Kruger Big Five. Elephants number around 12 000 and are often seen crossing the road, crashing through trees or heading for a water hole. They can be dangerous when threatened, on a par with the powerful buffaloes who weigh up to 800 kg.
The park is home to two species of rhinos, most easily spotted the square-lipped rhino who prefers open areas. When a vehicle stops at the side of the road, there is usually something to see, often one of the Big Five, maybe a sleeping leopard camouflaged in a tree or a pride of lions lying low in the grass.
The Kruger National Park, Antelopes and Common Game
Antelopes are a common sight, from eland to reedbuck or impala who can jump a distance of nine metres when frightened. Among other common game are Chacma baboons and Vervet monkeys, cheetahs, hyenas, warthogs, jackals, wildebeest, hippos and crocodiles in rivers and dams, and over 100 species of reptiles, most dreaded the black mamba. A torch is essential after dark.
Great favourites in the Kruger National Park are the elegant giraffes peeping above the trees and the herds of zebras grazing near them, ready to scamper off as soon as they signal danger.
Small creatures include nocturnal bushbabies with eyes like diamonds, banded mongoose, chameleon and leopard tortoise.
Water and Bush Birds in the Kruger
Rangers have recorded over 600 species of water and bush birds in South Africa’s top reserve.
Great egrets, reed cormorants and white-faced ducks are found by the water alongside giant kingfishers, grey and green-backed herons, spotted dikkops, plovers and black-winged stilts.
Spotting birds in the Kruger requires time and patience but hornbills are common, as well as eagles, hooded vultures and other birds of prey. Among the most colourful birds are Carmine bee eaters and lilac-breasted rollers. Yellow-billed and Marabou storks, long-tailed shrikes, glossy starlings and sacred ibises are just a few more of the park’s residents.