The Kruger National Park, which measures a whopping two million hectares, is approximately the size of the whole of Wales. Although there are still fences between parts of the Kruger National Park and Mozambique and Zimbabwe, so the planned Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park is not quite yet a reality. When it is, it will be spectacular. Actually, Kruger already is. Most of the park is situated in the Lowveld. Restricted to broad valleys below 1 000m above sea level, the Lowveld is what many people consider to be the 'real' Africa. In this low-lying subtropical climate, broad-leaved trees and thorn trees co-exist happily in relatively open woodland, interspersed with long grass - and, of course, game. Wildlife abounds.
In the far north, it gets hotter and the vegetation changes to mopane woodland and, right in the northern part of the country, huge baobab trees dominate the landscape. The rivers here tend to be broad and slow-moving and may consist of no more than a few unconnected pools at the end of the dry season but that's when the game congregates around the few known water sources - so it all evens out. You may have heard the cynical remark that Kruger is 'too developed' with loads of town-like camps and other infrastructure. Well, yes. The park does have a number of good accommodation options - more than 20 SANParks camps and a few private luxury lodges as well. That may sound like a lot - but remember that Kruger is the size of Wales - and in all that space there is one town - the main camp, Skukuza, is virtually a small town - about a dozen tiny hamlets with less than a hundred families and a few out of they way camps that would probably relate to a small farmstead. That leaves an awful lot of real wilderness.
You can do Kruger as a self-drive or as a guided tour. Other exciting options include walking safaris, mountain bike trails and a self-drive 4x4 trail. The nearest airport to the park is the Kruger-Mpumalanga International Airport, just outside Nelspruit. The southern, more popular, part of Kruger is about four hour's drive from Johannesburg, and a little less from Pretoria. The drive to the more remote, far less utilised, northern part, takes a few hours longer, but it's not on the same route. You could do a great circular tour if you had ten days or so to spare. Fly in to KMIA and enter the park in the south, drive very slowly to the north, spending a day or two at different camps en route, and then drive back to Johannesburg. (Or the other way round, of course.)
Strangely - and contrary to expectations - the northern part, which is truly wild, has less animals than the south so don't feel you're missing out if you've only got a few days in the more busy part of the park. As well as the Kruger National Park, the lowveld is well endowed with private nature reserves, most of which have luxury lodges, where guests are subjected to an outrageous level of pampering and taken on fantastic game drives and optional walks by very knowledgeable and attentive guides. Many lodges even have attached wellness centres where you can fill in the time between morning and evening game drives with a massage, facial or some other indulgent treatment.
Note: If you are planning to travel to the Kruger National Park or Lowveld please be aware that this is a malaria region. Consult your doctor or travel clinic for advice and refer to our article on malaria.
Check out some amazing video footage of a battle between lions and a herd of buffalo in Kruger National Park - Battle in Kruger Park.
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*Distances are shown as the crow flies and not necessarily the actual travelling