Different Kruger Tastes
With dozens of activities and attractions on offer, the tourism potential of the Kruger National Park is huge and some visitors may be overwhelmed by the scale of this enormous conservation area. So, the best advice for Kruger National Park newbies is to visit the park for yourself and seek out the things that interest you the most. And rest assured that whatever aspect of the park you choose to explore, it’s all good. No-one can say that one kind of bush experience is more ‘authentic’ than another. They are all equally worthy and it’s up to you to select a slice of Kruger that you will enjoy.
When you’re in the park, for the latest game viewing news, chat to your fellow visitors and the knowledgeable Kruger National Park staff. Local conditions and game spotting recommendations change with the seasons and there are few hard and fast rules about where to see what – despite all the books claiming otherwise. So, ask around and be prepared to modify your plans to be in sync with the restless face of the Kruger National Park.
Tourists on a Game Drive watching Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), Kruger National Park.
The first thing to consider when planning your trip to Kruger is the distance you can cover in a day. Once inside the park, you cannot drive very fast as the speed limits are low and, as a rule of thumb, you should plan on covering no more than 25 km in an hour, and this doesn’t include long stops to view game. In any case, it would be plain stupid to gallop through a game reserve. So, choose an area or rest camp and stick to it. Don’t be too ambitious.
To help you make your decision about where to go, some Krugerites have divided the reserve into three sections: the circus, the zoo and the Wilderness.
Baby Elephants, Kruger National Park.
The South, they say, is the Circus. It is the closest region to the Gauteng metropolis (between 4 and 5 hours away, depending on your entry gate) and is accordingly the busiest part of the Kruger National Park with the highest density of cars and day trippers. However, the south also has a lot of game, especially the Big Five, and the spotting can be excellent. The landscape is varied, ranging from lush riverine environments to bushy mountains and open plains (the latter being ideal for game spotting). As is to be expected, the rest camps in the south are both large and well equipped. But, in the busy holiday seasons, prepare yourself for hectic crowds and traffic jams around every elephant.
Giraffe at a waterhole, Kruger National Park.
The Central region is called the Zoo. The game spotting is good and the tourism infrastructure is well developed but not overwhelming. This part of the Kruger National Park is not as busy as the south, but can get crowded at peak times, especially over school holidays. The habitat is characterised by open, grassy plains, which are great for game spotting. Orpen and Phalaborwa gates are between 5 and 6 hours from Gauteng.
The north of the Kruger National Park can quite legitimately be called the Wilderness. It is far from any major cities and feels much more remote than the bustling southern regions. The landscape in the North is also more dramatic; boasting mountains, broad river valleys, thick forests and sandy floodplains. Yet there is good game here, including the regionally-specific nyala, eland and the ubiquitous elephant, and the human traffic is very light. There are only a couple of rest camps in the north but, if you’ve got a bit of extra time, it’s well worth exploring this pristine part of the Kruger National Park. Punda Maria and Pafuri gates are between 6 and 7 hours from Gauteng.
By David Fleminger