Kruger is a large park, oriented mostly north-south along the border with Mozambique, and it takes more than 9 hours to traverse Kruger from one end to the other. The Google Maps most direct in-park distance is 436 km (271 miles) between the Malelane and Pafuri Gates and this takes 9 h 24 minutes (from Google Maps). And the network of dirt roads (no 4×4 is normally needed on these unless heavy rains have impacted them) is quite extensive. It would take a number of days to traverse all of the park’s roads even once. This is why we like Kruger – away from the rest camps and paved roads you don’t see that many other vehicles. Sometimes we have driven for an hour without seeing another car – which would be unheard of in most US National Parks.
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).
Driving in Kruger-going on Safary
You can take sunset, sunrise or night guided drives offered by the park service, you can stay outside the park and come in with a small salary group and guide or if you have your own car (what we do) you can drive yourself and have enjoy the outstanding experience of finding animals and enjoying beautiful landscapes on your own. The road network in Kruger is quite extensive and many roads are paved. The dirt roads usually are in pretty good shape too. There are many rest camps in the park and some areas are better than others for different kind of game. The landscapes vary as well especially as you drive north and start getting into the tropics.
There are many books/guides you can purchase while in the park at their many souvenir shops, however, a relatively recent book ” ” by is highly recommended.
Photo of the book
It is a heavy book to carry, but the maps and the information regarding most roads and animals in Kruger is very useful. It pays to plan ahead so you can make the most of the day. Camp gates open usually at sunrise but you have to be back before closing time, usually sunset. This book will be invaluable to help you make the most of your time in the park