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Kruger National Park

Kruger is South Africa’s best and easiest guarantee of the “big 5”. The south can be VERY busy and full of wildlife which decreases as you move north. You’ll pay a hefty price for the private game reserves to the west with small crowds, exclusive rights, luxury lodges and superior guides. An unlikely first choice for seasoned safari hands but a good call for first-timers on a tight budget.

Kruger National Park can be first class but it remains an enigma for most serious safari hands…here’s why:

In favour of Kruger National Park

  • It’s Africa’s most popular “big 5” destination with easy air access from the international hubs in Johannesburg and Cape Town. There’s simple access to Africa’s “adventure capital” at Victoria Falls and the Mozambique coastline for beach holidays.
  • Kruger is tremendously diverse: at 147 species it has more large mammal species than any other African reserve, the bird list is impressive at 517 – both a reflection of seriously varied habitats.  Wilderness too, with less than 1% of an eco-system roughly the size of the Serengeti actually seen by the public.
  • There’s a wide variety of accommodation options (21 rest camps, 2 private lodge concessions, 15 private lodges within the park) ranging from basic camp sites to the extreme luxury of exclusive lodges (on private game reserves just outside the park). Kruger also has 9 walking trails in a very wild region hardly seen by people which ticks a big box for serious African adventurers.
  • It’s at the forefront of contemporary African conservation. With the largest single population of rhino in the world a rhino war is being waged here in a big way; environmental sustainability is being put to test with burgeoning communities in the region and for generations professional naturalists have and continue to use the park for a wide range of compelling research.

The Cons

  • Kruger’s accessibility by air and the alternate 8 hour drive from Johannesburg puts it in very easy reach. It can be cheap and easy so demand is high. Nearly a million people visit Kruger each year as a result.
  • Road infrastructure is excellent with all of the main routes hard surfaced.With so many rest camp options, each only a game drive distance apart it’s a self-drive safari paradise.  Traffic jams around game activity just off the road aren’t uncommon in the south. If you want to experience the quieter spots you need to drive north where the game is thinner.
  • To miss the crowds and see the best wildlife you have to head to the private game reserves.  Market forces have encouraged “bling” in favour of authenticity?! Prices become dizzyingly expensive for a lesser safari experience.

If the “big 5” is your essential interest and you’re short on time then there’s no place in the country to beat Kruger National Park.

For the a first class safari experience, two old axioms resonate every way you consider Kruger NP – “people make the difference on safari” and you should “go beyond the obvious”.

Use Johannesburg for one reason – go north. Get into wild Africa for a fuller safari

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