Kruger National Park is one of our favorite parks in South Africa – because it has something of almost everything. First of all, it is South Africa’s largest Park (it takes more than 9 hours to drive from the south to north entrances (436 km) near the speed limit of 50 km/hr). Second, it has almost all of southern Africa’s iconic large mammals – and many of them, like elephants and rhino numbering in the thousands. Third, there is great variety of rest camp accommodations some with in-camp short trails. Then there is the large netowrk of dirt roads that allow you to escape much of the crowds that can be found on some of the paved roads in the southern part of the park.
Kruger is far enough from the main urban area of Johannesburg (about 5+ hours driving) for it not to be a weekend destination for locals. This is so because the park’s gates close at sunset, so late arrivals are not possible (except in some extreme occasions). If you avoid school holidays and summer break, the park will mostly be filled with foreign tourists.
Kruger isn’t a mountainous park – it is relatively level for the most part. Some notable hills and granite inselbergs are found in the south of the park and scattered along the Mozambique border and near the northern end of the park. Higher terrain is found west of the park’s boundary, rising to near 1500m in places. But within the park, the topography is undulating, with rivers draining it from west to east. These rivers scour to the bedrock in many places and can be mostly dry in the dry season. Some water in the major rivers always exists but is much greater in the rainy season and especially during landfalling tropical cyclones in Mozambique. Then major floods can occur along Kruger’s rivers, and some rest camps have had major flooding.
We have stayed at all of the main rest camps in Kruger, and have some suggestions for naturalists. There are trails, albeit short, in Berg en Dal, Mopani and Punda Maria rest camps. These allow you to get a flavor of walking in the bush and seeing smaller animals, especially birds, reptiles and insects up close. Most other camps don’t have these natural landscapes; the largest camp, Skukuza has a trail through some wetlands and a good bird hide near the camp (but outside the gate).