The Wildebeest's guide to South Africa

Kruger National Park

Afrikaans name: Kruger Nasionale Wildtuin

Olifants River

Waterbuck graze along the Olifants River

Photo © Steven Herbert

Kruger National Park straddles Mpumalanga and Limpopo

Kruger National Park is South Africa's top game park. It is a well-known and popular tourist resort. Hundreds of thousands of visitors visit the park each year and booking is essential for the peak months which include April, June, July, August and December. The winter months are popular as they are cooler and the grass and bush are thinner making game viewing easier. There is also less water around which means that game tends to congregate around rivers, dams and waterholes. Summers are very hot but you get to see a lot of young animals. Most of the rainfall occurs in spring and summer which leads to the bush being thicker and makes water more readily available which tends to cause the game to disperse. On the plus side for birders, during spring and summer the resident bird population is augmented by many species of migrant birds. Most people visiting Kruger do so in their own, or hired, cars. It is an advantage to have a car like a SUV where you sit higher off the ground as this allows you to see when the grass and bush are longer. Those visitors staying just outside the park often make use of the many game drives that are available. Some bus tours are also available.

What was your best ever sighting in Kruger Park?

It is a massive 360 km in length with a width of up to 65 km. It is situated in the north-eastern region of South Africa along the Mozambique border. Portions of it fall into the provinces of Mpumalanga and Limpopo. The road network inside the park is well-developed. Generally there are tar roads linking camps to each other but otherwise the roads are mainly gravel. This need not be a concern as the roads are generally well maintained and suitable for all types of car. Cars towing caravans need to stick to the tar roads. Remember that you need to stay in your car and only get out where it is clearly indicated that you can do so. Many of the animals in the park really are dangerous and should not be approached too closely. Give the animals some room which helps keep them relaxed and gives you a bit of space if the animal gets aggressive (elephants in particular!).

Accommodation near Kruger National Park

Are you looking for accommodation in the area surrounding Kruger National Park?

Accommodation in the vicinity of Kruger Park Lion in Kruger National Park

Above - The Lions of Kruger National Park are the star attraction. Many people visit the park looking for the Big 5 but the Lion is one of the 'must see' mammals. The Leopard almost commands the same status but I think that the Lion is the 'special one' for most people.

Photo © Steven Herbert

The park began as the Sabi Game Reserve in 1898. It was proclaimed by the president of the Transvaal Republic Paul Kruger, after whom the reserve was renamed in 1927. In its early years the park was mainly accessed by means of train trips. In 1927 only 3 cars entered the reserve. One of the influential people in the parks history was Warden James Stephenson-Hamilton. He was warden of the park for 44 years in its early stages of development. There are numerous historical sites scattered throughout the park. These vary from the Thulamela Archaeological Site in the north to the spot where it is believed that Jock of the Bushveld was born. If you are interested in the historical sites then make sure that you buy the map booklet which highlights the sites. Unfortunately sometimes you arrive at a historical site and can’t see anything because of the length of the grass. Another problem is that some sites are missing there plaques which describe the significance of the spot.

Kruger is accessed via a number of entrance gates and there are 21 rest camps of different sizes in the reserve. The camps in the southern half of the park are very popular as they are easier to reach. This means that the roads in this part of Kruger National Park are busy which can be a good and a bad thing. It’s good because you have lots of eyes looking for elusive animals such as Leopard and Cheetah, and bad in that it can get pretty hectic. Popular camps in the south include Satara, Lower Sabie and Skukuza. The northern half of the park is less easily accessible and tends to be quieter. Favourite camps in the northern regions include Shingwedzi and Olifants.

There are a number of different habitats in Kruger National Park each dominated by certain vegetation and animals. The main vegetation types include mopane woodlands, savanna grassland, mixed thorn and marula woodlands, mixed woodland and mixed woodland. Over 200 species of trees have been identified in the park. The rest camps are great places to identify trees and other plants. With the exception of Pretoriuskop camp all the plants in the rest camps are naturally occurring in the area. Look for the Impala Lily which is often seen as an icon of Kruger National Park.


Above - Elephants aren't the only large mammal in the Kruger National Park. There are plenty of Giraffe as well.

Photo © Steven Herbert

Most visitors to Kruger National Park want to see mammals and they shouldn't be disappointed. Besides being home to the Big 5 there are plenty more to look for. Officially the list of mammals is over 140 species but this includes many bats, mice, shrews and other small mammals that you are very unlikely to see. Lion are seen fairly commonly but Cheetah and Leopard less so. Elephants and Buffalo are hard to miss in most areas of the park. Rhino numbers are way down on what they were due to the continual poaching, despite efforts from the Parks Board and private sector to curb it. Some species of antelope such as Impala are very common but others, like Sable Antelope, are not often seen. Click here for a list of mammals.

Bird-watchers will be keen to hear that over 500 species of birds have been identified in the park. Summer is the best time to go birding in the park as the migrant species are back and many other species are in their breeding plumage. Some birds are found easily across most of the park but others are restricted to certain areas as they are linked to certain habitats. The rivers and dams are great places to look for larger birds such as storks, egrets, herons, ducks, geese and more. The rest camps are generally full of bird life and you can easily spend a few hours wandering around a camp and record a substantial list of sightings. In some camps the starlings, weavers and hornbills have become a bit of a pest as they wait for leftover food on the restaurant tables or by the huts. These birds offer great opportunities for photography although the challenge is to try and get them in a natural environment and not sitting on the back of a chair. Some of the camps have owls in residence and they can be heard calling in the evenings. Here is a list of birds that may be seen.

Over 110 species of reptile have been recorded in Kruger National Park. These include over 50 species of snakes and a further 50 species of lizards. Five species of tortoise and terrapin have been recorded. The biggest reptile in the park is the Nile Crocodile and plenty of these may be seen along rivers and at some dams and waterholes. Some individuals of the African Rock Python can reach a length of 6 metres making them the longest species of reptile to be found in Kruger. Around 12 species of snakes can be considered as dangerous but fortunately it is rare for visitors to encounter them. Here is a list of reptiles that might be seen.

Impala herd

Above - If there is one mammal that you are going to see in Kruger National Park it is the Impala. Very often it is the fist mammal that you find after entering the park. There are over 100,000 of them in Kruger! Despite most people ignoring them, I still think that they are one of the most beautiful of the antelopes.

Photo © Steven Herbert

Elephants in Kruger National Park

Above - Impala aren't the only common mammal in the Kruger National Park. The numbers of Elephant have grown tremendously over the last decade or two. There are probably too many of them right now. Remember to keep your distance from them - they can be dangerous.

Photo © Steven Herbert

A magnificent Kruger National Park sunset

Above - Although one has to be back in camp fairly early during winter there are still great opportunities to capture great pictures at sunset. This particular picture was taken from the bridge across the Letaba River.

Photo © Steven Herbert

Kruger National Park squirrels

Above - All too often the little creatures in the Kruger National Park are overlooked. Tree Squirrels are quite common in some of the camps.

Photo © Steven Herbert

African Grey Hornbill

Above - African Grey Hornbill

Photo © Steven Herbert

Some of the Kruger National Park Camps etc.

Skukuza Camp

Malelane Gate

Berg-en-Dal Camp

Malelane Camp

Pretoriuskop Camp

Afsaal Picnic Site

Crocodile River

Matjulu River

Biyamiti River

Mlambane River

Mammals of Kruger National Park

Please note that this is only a guide and, while we have made every effort to be accurate, we can't be held responsible for any errors.


African Elephant

African marsh rat

African yellow bat

Anchieta's Pipistrelle

Angolan free-tailed bat

Angoni vlei rat

Ansorge's free-tailed bat

Antbear / Aardvark

Banana Pipistrelle

Banded Mongoose

Bat-eared Fox

Black Rhino

Black-backed Jackal

Blue Wildebeest

Botswana Long-eared Bat

Brown Hyena

Burchell's Zebra

Bush Pig


Bushveld Gerbil

Bushveld Horseshoe Bat

Butterfly bat

Cape Buffalo

Cape Clawless Otter

Cape Hairy Bat

Cape Hare

Cape Porcupine

Cape Serotine Bat


Chacma Baboon


Chestnut climbing mouse


Commerson's Leaf-nosed Bat

Common Duiker

Common Molerat

Damara Woolly Bat

Darling's horseshoe bat

Dwarf Mongoose

Eastern rock sengi

Egyptian free-tailed bat

Egyptian Fruit Bat

Egyptian slit-faced bat


Fat mouse

Four-toed Sengi

Geoffroy's horseshoe bat

Giant Rat


Greater Cane Rat

Grey climbing mouse

Grey Rhebuck

Hildebrandt's horseshoe bat


Honey Badger

House Mouse

House Rat


Juliana's golden mole



Kuhl's Pipistrelle

Lander's horseshoe bat

Large Grey Mongoose

Large Yellow House Bat

Large-spotted Genet


Lesser Bushbaby

Lesser grey-brown musk shrew

Lesser red musk shrew

Lesser Spotted Genet

Lesser Woolly Bat

Lichtenstein's Hartebeest


Little free-tailed bat

Long-tailed House Bat

Madagascan large free-tailed bat

Mauritian tomb bat

Melck's house bat

Meller's Mongoose

Midas free-tailed bat

Mountain Reedbuck

Multimammate Mouse

Namaqua Rock Mouse

Natal Red Rock Rabbit



Pangolin / Scaly Anteater

Peters's Epauletted Fruit Bat

Pouched Mouse

Pygmy Mouse

Red Duiker

Red rock rat

Reddish-gray musk shrew


Roan Antelope

Rock Hyrax

Rufous Mouse-eared Bat

Rüppell's horseshoe bat

Rüppell's Pipistrelle

Rusty Pipistrelle

Sable Antelope

Samango Monkey

Schlieffen's bat

Schreibes's Long-fingered Bat

Scrub Hare

Selous's Mongoose


Sharpe's Grysbok

Short-snouted sengi

Side-striped Jackal

Single-striped grass mouse

Slender Mongoose

South African Hedgehog

Southern multimammate mouse

Spiny Mouse

Spotted Hyena



Striped Polecat

Sundevall's Roundleaf Bat


Swamp musk shrew

Swinny's horseshoe bat

Thick-tailed Bushbaby

Tiny musk shrew

Tree Rat (see 7160)

Tree Squirrel


Vervet Monkey

Wahlberg's Epauletted Fruit Bat


Water Mongoose


Welwitsch's Bat

White Rhino

White-tailed mongoose

Wild Cat

Wild Dog

Woodland Dormouse

Woodland thicket rat

Wood's slit-faced bat

Yellow golden mole

Yellow-spotted Rock Hyrax

Zulu Serotine

References and further reading

Wild Issue 42 - Author: - Published: 2018 - Page: 12

Wild Issue 45 - Author: - Published: 2018 - Page: 48

Wild Issue 36 - Author: - Published: 2016 - Page: 48

Wild Issue 34 - Author: - Published: 2016 - Page: 35

Wild Issue 34 - Author: - Published: 2016 - Page: 48

The Rough Guide to Game Parks of South Africa - Author: P. Briggs - Published: 2020 - Page: 94

The Rough Guide to Game Parks of South Africa - Author: P. Briggs - Published: 2020 - Page: 104

Top Birding Spots in Southern Africa - Author: Hugh Chittenden - Published: 1992 - Page: 107

Where to Watch Birds in Southern Africa - Author: A. Berruti and J.C. Sinclair - Published: 1983 - Page: 131

Wild Issue 13 - Author: - Published: 2010 - Page: 56

Wild Issue 20 - Author: - Published: 2012 - Page: 60

Wild Issue 22 - Author: - Published: 2013 - Page: 66

Wild Issue 24 - Author: - Published: 2013 - Page: 62

Piet van Wyks Field Guide to the Trees of the Kruger National Park - 1st edition - Author: Piet van Wyk - Published: 1988 - Page: 1

Wild Issue 32 - Author: - Published: 2015 - Page: 62

Wild Issue 30 - Author: - Published: 2015 - Page: 50

Wild Issue 28 - Author: - Published: 2014 - Page: 73

Wild Issue 30 - Author: - Published: 2015 - Page: 48

Wild Issue 25 - Author: - Published: 2013 - Page: 89

The Reptiles of the Kruger National Park - Author: U. de V. Pienaar, WD Haacke and NHG Jacobsen - Published: 1983 - Page: 1

The Pictorial Motoring Atlas of South Africa - Author: Maxwell Leigh - Published: 1987 - Page: 128

The National Parks of South Africa - 2nd Edition - Author: Rene Gordon and Anthony Bannister - Published: 1987 - Page: 18

The Freshwater Fishes of the Kruger National Park - Author: U. de V. Pienaar - Published: 0 - Page: 1

Stuarts Field Guide to National Parks & Nature Reserves of SA - 2nd ed - Author: Chris & Mathilde Stuart - Published: 2018 - Page: 16

Southern African Birdfinder - Author: Cohen, Spottiswoode and Rossouw - Published: 2006 - Page: 191

Southern Africa from the Highway - Author: AA RSA - Published: 1991 - Page: 318

Road Tripping South Africa - Author: MapStudio - Published: 2014 - Page: 150

Readers Digest Illustrated Guide to Southern Africa - 4th edition - Author: - Published: 1986 - Page: 272

Places to Visit in Southern Africa - Author: AA RSA - Published: 1995 - Page: 90

Of Hominins, Hunter-Gatherers and Heroes - Author: David Bristow - Published: 2019 - Page: 43

On Route - A region by region guide to South Africa - Author: B.P.J. Erasmus - Published: 1995 - Page: 196

On Route - Explore South Africa region by region - 3rd edition - Author: B.P.J. Erasmus - Published: 2014 - Page: 274

Kruger National Park Map - 2010 - Author: Joy Frandsen - Published: 2010 - Page: 3

Kruger National Park Questions and Answers - Author: P.F. Fourie - Published: 1987 - Page: 1

Kruger National Park, Visitors Map 1996 - Author: - Published: 1996 - Page: 1

Kruger Park Guide & Map 2016 - Author: Andy and Lorain Tinker - Published: 2016 - Page: 1

Mammals of the Kruger and other National Parks - Author: The National Parks Board - Published: 1980 - Page: 1

Insiders Guide - Top Wildlife Photography Spots in South Africa - Author: Shem Compion - Published: 2010 - Page: 115

Insiders Guide - Top Wildlife Photography Spots in South Africa - Author: Shem Compion - Published: 2010 - Page: 157

Kruger - Portrait of a National Park - Author: David Paynter with Wilf Nussey - Published: 1986 - Page: 1

Grasses of the Kruger National Park and surrounding bushveld - Author: Veronica Roodt - Published: 2011 - Page: 1

Historical Sites of the Kruger National Park - Author: Ron Hopkins - Published: 2014 - Page: 1

Hit the Road - 2nd Edition - Author: MapStudio - Published: 2018 - Page: 144

Illustrated Guide to the Game Parks and Nature Reserves of SA - 2nd edn - Author: Readers Digest - Published: 1991 - Page: 10

go! - Kruger Special Edition - Author: - Published: 2011 - Page: 1

go! Drive & Camp No 39 - Author: - Published: 2020 - Page: 43

go! - Issue 131 - Author: - Published: 2017 - Page: 30

go! - Issue 142 - Author: - Published: 2018 - Page: 137

go! - Issue 167 - Author: - Published: 2020 - Page: 34

go! - Issue 171 - Author: - Published: 2020 - Page: 37

go! - Kruger - Author: - Published: 2017 - Page: 1

Getaway - Vol 32 No 02 - Author: - Published: 2020 - Page: 70

Go Birding in the Transvaal - Author: Brendan Ryan and John Isom - Published: 1990 - Page: 69

Field Guide to the Mammals of the Kruger National Park - Author: U. de V. Pienaar et al. - Published: 1987 - Page: 1

Field Guide to the Trees of the Kruger National Park - 5th edition - Author: Piet van Wyk - Published: 2008 - Page: 1

Getaway - Vol 32 No 02 - Author: - Published: 2020 - Page: 16

Getaway - Vol 32 No 02 - Author: - Published: 2020 - Page: 54

Getaway - Vol 24 No 04 - Author: - Published: 2012 - Page: 38

Getaway - Vol 28 No 11 - Author: - Published: 2017 - Page: 44

Getaway - Vol 30 No 06 - Author: - Published: 2018 - Page: 78

Country Life - Issue 254 - Author: - Published: 2017 - Page: 40

Field Guide to the Birds of Kruger National Park - Author: Ian Sinclair and Ian Whyte - Published: 1991 - Page: 1

Country Life - Issue 230 - Author: - Published: 2015 - Page: 76

Country Life - Issue 224 - Author: - Published: 2015 - Page: 58

Conollys Guide to Southern Africa - 2nd edition - Author: Denis Conolly - Published: 1982 - Page: 306

Butterflies of the Kruger National Park - Author: Johan Kloppers and the late Dr. G. Van Son - Published: 1978 - Page: 1

Caravan & Outdoor Life - Issue 639 - Author: - Published: 2015 - Page: 17

Caravan & Outdoor Life - Issue 641 - Author: - Published: 2015 - Page: 14

Chris and Tilde Stuarts Guide to Southern African Game and Nature Reserves - Author: Chris and Tilde Stuart - Published: 1989 - Page: 34

Atlas of National Parks and Reserves of South Africa - Author: Marielle Renssen - Published: 2006 - Page: 116

Atlas of National Parks and Reserves of South Africa - Author: Marielle Renssen - Published: 2006 - Page: 98

Animals of the Kruger National Park - Author: G. de Graaff - Published: 1987 - Page: 1

Africa Geographic Vol 19 No 3 - Author: - Published: 2011 - Page: 24

African Wildlife - Vol 36 No 2 - Author: - Published: 1982 - Page: 69

A site-by-site guide to trees in the Kruger National Park - Author: Marissa Greeff - Published: 2017 - Page: 1

A First Guide to South African Birds - 7th Edition - Author: Leonard Gill - Published: 1975 - Page: 209

A - Z of South African National Parks - Author: South African National Parks - Published: 0 - Page: 34

A First Guide to South African Birds - 6th Edition - Author: Leonard Gill - Published: 1959 - Page: 208


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