History of the park
The Kruger National Park was first established by the President of the Transvaal, Paul Kruger, in 1898. Realising that the Lowveld animals needed to be protected, the area between the Sabie and Crocodile Rivers was set aside for restricted hunting in 1884. Kruger’s revolutionary plan only fully came to fruition in 1898 when the Sabie Game Reserve was established (later to be renamed the Kruger National Park).
When Scottish-born James Stevenson-Hamilton was appointed as the first Warden of the park in 1902, it was still known as the Sabie Game Reserve. The Sabie Game Reserve was merged with the Shinwedzi Game Reserve in 1927 (after the proclamation of the National Parks Act) and became the Kruger National Park. Motorists paid 1 pound entrance fee to the park. Accounts of these early days can be found in the Stevenson-Hamilton Memorial Library at Skukuza, which houses a collection of ecologically orientated books, paintings and memorabilia and is well worth a visit for the history-orientated traveller.
The surface area of the park is 19,633 square kilometres and plays host to more than 753 species of animal and 1982 species of plants in the park. There are 254 known cultural heritage sites in the Kruger, including 130 rock art sites.
Homo erectus roamed the area about 500 000 years ago and cultural artefacts from 100 000 to 30 000 years ago have been found and confirmed. More than 300 archaeological sites of Stone Age humans have been found, making the Kruger National Park a place of great history. Significant archaeological ruins can be found at Thulamela and Masorini and are well worth seeing, while there are numerous examples of San Rock Art scattered through the park and worthy of exploration.
In more recent times the San (Bushmen) and Iron Age peoples lived in the area about 1500 years ago making way for the Nguni people of further North and the European explorers and settlers who arrived in the 19th century.
In 1957 the first wilderness trails were pioneered by a Natal Parks Board game ranger named Ian Player (brother of legendary South African golfer Gary Player) and his friend and mentor Magquba Ntombela. Dr Player is well-known for his work in environmental fields and international involvement in wildlife conservation.
The wilderness trails established by Dr Player, as well as the walking safaris, were pioneered in South Africa in the 1950s and 1960s by visionary South African conservationists and forward-thinking individuals which has partly resulted in the Kruger National Park we know and love today.