Fodor's Expert Review Kruger National Park

Kruger National Park Park (National/State/Provincial)

Kruger National Park is undoubtedly one of the world's best game parks, where teeming game roams freely over an area the size of Wales or Israel. The southern and central sections of the park are probably the best for sightings because riverine forests, thorny thickets, and large, grassy plains studded with knobthorn and marula trees, typical vegetation of this region, make ideal habitats for a variety of animals, including black and white rhinos, leopards, giraffes, hyenas, numerous kinds of antelope, lions, and the rare "painted wolf"—a wild dog.

As you drive north to Olifants, Letaba and Shingwedzi, you enter major elephant country, although you're likely to spot lots of other game, too, including lions and cheetahs. North of Letaba, however, the landscape becomes a monotonous blur of mopane trees, the result of nutrient-poor land that supports smaller numbers of animals, although the lugubrious-looking tsessebe (sess-a-bee) antelope and the magnificent and uncommon... READ MORE

Kruger National Park is undoubtedly one of the world's best game parks, where teeming game roams freely over an area the size of Wales or Israel. The southern and central sections of the park are probably the best for sightings because riverine forests, thorny thickets, and large, grassy plains studded with knobthorn and marula trees, typical vegetation of this region, make ideal habitats for a variety of animals, including black and white rhinos, leopards, giraffes, hyenas, numerous kinds of antelope, lions, and the rare "painted wolf"—a wild dog.

As you drive north to Olifants, Letaba and Shingwedzi, you enter major elephant country, although you're likely to spot lots of other game, too, including lions and cheetahs. North of Letaba, however, the landscape becomes a monotonous blur of mopane trees, the result of nutrient-poor land that supports smaller numbers of animals, although the lugubrious-looking tsessebe (sess-a-bee) antelope and the magnificent and uncommon roan antelope, with its twisty horns, thrive here. Elephants love mopane, and you'll certainly see plenty of them. The Shingwedzi River Drive towards the Kanniedood Dam is one of the park's most rewarding drives, with elephants, leopards, giraffes, and other game. Park your vehicle underneath the lovely hide on this drive, then sit upstairs and take in life on the river, including waterbirds, hippos, and basking crocs. To experience the full richness of the northern Kruger, visit the Pafuri Picnic Site (hot water and braais available), where ancient massive leadwood and jackalberry trees lean over the often dry Luvuvhu River, the haunt of the scarlet-and-green Narina trogon (a bird) and the much-sought-after Pel's fishing owl. But don't leave your picnic unattended while you look for more special birds, such as the wattle-eyed flycatcher, because the vervet monkeys will have it in a flash.

Since the bush is unpredictable, you may get some of your best sightings where and when you least expect them: a pack of wild dogs lying in the road just outside the Skukuza camp gate or a cheetah and two cubs sitting in the middle of the tar road 100 yards inside the Orpen Gate. If you have a week in Kruger, it's worth driving north, as there are always fewer people here. However, if you are short on time, then stick to the south or central sections of the park. But wherever you go, don't get out of your vehicle except at certain well-marked picnic sites or view sites, unless you want to make an international headline.

There are nine entrance gates to Kruger, namely (counterclockwise from the north) Pafuri, Punda Maria, Phalaborwa, Orpen, Paul Kruger, Phabeni, Numbi, Malelane, and Crocodile Bridge. National access roads to all the entrance gates are paved. You can arrange for a late-entry escort until 9 [pm] for the following gates (and their nearby camps): Paul Kruger (Skukuza), Numbi (Pretoriuskop), Malelane (Berg-en-Dal and Malelane), Crocodile Bridge (Crocodile Bridge), Punda Maria (Punda Maria), and Orpen (Orpen). Always check at your gate for pamphlets, maps, and books (also available in the camp shops).

There is a daily conservation fee, but Wild Cards, available at the gates or online, are more economical for stays of more than a few days. Reservations for all accommodations, bush drives, wilderness trails, and other park activities must be made through South African National Parks (SANParks).

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Park (National/State/Provincial)

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Kruger National Park, Mpumalanga  South Africa

012-428–9111-reservations

www.sanparks.org

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