The choice of things to do and places to stay in Kruger Park are endless. From the game-rich southern section to the Big Cat Capital in central Kruger, the elephant and hippo hub of northern Kruger and the birding paradise of far-north Kruger; you’re guaranteed an exceptional safari holiday.
South Africa’s iconic national park is vast, covering an area of 2.5 million hectares and spanning two provinces. Added to that is 180 000 hectares of unfenced private game reserves that make up Greater Kruger, an exclusive safari destination that lies on Kruger Park’s western boundary.
Where you stay depends on what Kruger Park holiday appeals to you; game viewing, birdwatching, photography, guided wilderness walks, mountain biking and 4×4 eco trails or just the pure joy of being in the bushveld in one of the finest safari destinations in the world.
To help you plan your Kruger Park safari holiday, here’s a comprehensive guide to the region. Remember, the north-eastern corner of South Africa is the safari hub of the country and you can opt to stay in Kruger Park or outside of Kruger Park.
WHY VISIT KRUGER PARK FOR A SAFARI HOLIDAY
Kruger National Park is the oldest and largest national park and one of the finest safari destinations in Africa. It’s neighbour, Greater Kruger, is made up of 7 unfenced private game reserves that are made up of a stunning collection of private safari lodges.
Combined, Kruger Park and Greater Kruger offer wildlife and nature lovers over 21 000 square kilometres of pristine wilderness that’s easily accessible and highly affordable on the current SA exchange rate.
Here are our Top 10 reasons to book a Kruger Park holiday package:
- Outstanding biodiversity
The fauna and flora of Kruger National Park is outstanding. Official figures quote 147 mammals, 507 recorded bird species, 114 reptile species, 34 amphibian species and 49 fish species. There are 200 different kinds of grasses, about 400 different kids of trees and shrubs and over 1 000 plant species.
Kruger Park falls within the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Region which encompasses other national and provincial reserves such as the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve. Three of southern Africa’s most significant biomes are incorporated in the Kruger to Canyon Biosphere.
- Central to the largest Peace Park in Africa
Kruger Park makes up 57 percent of a 35 000 square kilometre Peace Park known as the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park (GLTP). It’s still in development but GLTP will eventually link the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique, Kruger National Park in South Africa and Gonarezhou National Park, Manjinji Pan Sanctuary and Malipati Safari Area in Zimbabwe.
GLTP will also incorporate the area between Kruger Park and Gonarezhou, the Sengwe communal land in Zimbabwe and the Makuleke region in South Africa.
The ultimate territory plan for GLTP will protect almost a 100 000 square kilometres (99 800 s/kms) of pristine African bushveld and its precious natural resources. GLTP will be the largest transfrontier park in Africa and represents some of the most exciting and ambitious conservation projects in the world today.
- Vast protected wilderness region
The sheer size and scale of Kruger Park is hard to comprehend until you fly over it. The national park and its neighbour, Greater Kruger, is over 2 million hectares of protected African bushveld. It’s the largest national park in South Africa and the seventh-largest in Africa.
Kruger Park is roughly the size of Wales and Israel, and slightly smaller than Belgium and Switzerland. It takes about 16 hours to drive from the southern tip of Kruger Park to the northern tip without stopping.
- Year-round holiday destination
You can enjoy a Kruger Park holiday any time of the year as far as weather is concerned. Kruger Park has a sub-tropical climate and the sun shines over the beautiful bushveld most of the year. When you visit Kruger Park for a safari holiday depends on what interests you.
Most visitors arrive in the dry winter months which is best for game viewing. However, if birding interests you more, you’ll arrive in the wet summer months at the same time the migrant birds arrive from Europe.
- Home to the Big 5
Kruger Park safari holidays typically revolve around game viewing and the big attraction is the Big 5. This famous group is made up of elephants, buffalo, rhino, lions and leopards. Don’t get the Big 5 confused with the ‘biggest’ animals in the bush; these five are the ones that will do the biggest damage with their tusks, horns, teeth and claws if they catch you on foot in the bush.
The term Big 5 originated from the old hunting days when these five were considered the most dangerous to encounter in the bush on a hunting safari. Today, the Big 5 is a marketing term for the five most popular animals to see in the bush.
- Best bird watching in southern Africa
Bird life in Kruger Park is prolific but if you want birding par excellence, you have it in spades in far-north Kruger (around Punda Maria and Pafuri). There are 507 recorded bird species in Kruger Park, many of them are endemic to the region and rare or endangered. In just a few days in far-north Kruger, you’re likely to tick at least 200 off the list.
The best time of year for a Kruger Park holiday if you’re an avid birder is late summer, from December to February. The best way to enjoy birdwatching in Kruger Park is on foot on a guided wilderness safari tour.
- Affordable self-drive safari holidays
Unlike the remote and exclusive game reserves of Greater Kruger and the iconic safari destinations in Africa, you can enjoy a Kruger Park holiday driving around in the comfort of your own car (preferably a 4×4 vehicle for the height advantage).
Self-drive Kruger Park holidays are a big drawcard because it keeps the costs down and makes a Kruger Park holiday more affordable for your average safari tourist.
The private game reserves in Greater Kruger and the luxury lodges on private concessions on Kruger Park do not allow self-drive game viewing. Guests are taken out daily in open safari vehicles with a dedicated ranger and tracker.
The best thing about self-drive Kruger Park holidays is you can spend the whole day out in the Park and only need to return in time before gate closes at the rest camp.
- Guided wilderness walking safaris
If you have the time and an adventurous spirit, the best way to enjoy a Kruger Park holiday is on a guided wilderness walking trail. They’re conducted in remote sections of the Park with low tourist numbers and it’s the most authentic way to experience in the African bushveld.
Guided by a dedicated armed ranger and tracker, you experience the bushveld at eye level and get to see the amazing fauna and flora that’s often overlooked in a car or open safari vehicle. You experience the bushveld with all 5 senses, including tasting it when you chew on a piece of sweet grass as you stroll through the beautiful bushveld.
- A region rich in history
Kruger Park safari holidays and seeing the Big 5 are a major drawcard but the national park offers so much more. It’s a dream destination for nature lovers interested in its incredible biodiversity, photographers who are spoilt for choice for perfect photographic opportunities and those with a fascination with history and archeology.
Kruger Park was proclaimed a national park in 1926 but its history is so much richer than its role as a wildlife conservation region. There are over 300 significant archeological sites in Kruger Park and artefacts found in the region that date back to the Stone Age and Iron Age.
This includes Masorini which is a late Iron Age site established in 1800s and Thulamela, a stone-walled site that dates back some 450 to 500 years. The skeleton of a female that dates back to AD 1600 was discovered at Thulamela. A second skeleton of a man found in the same area dates back to AD 1450.
- Something for everyone
Kruger Park is vast and every region offers something unique. The national park has five distinct eco-zones ranging from the lush game-rich southern section to the semi-arid central and northern region and the striking cliffs and wooded riverine forest in the far north.
Let’s narrow the choice down for you…
- if birds are more important than big herds of animals and you’ve got time to travel, stay in the far north in one of the most spectacular corners in Kruger around Punda Maria and Pafuri
- If you want elephants, no crowds and can tolerate very hot, humid and arid conditions; stay in the northern section around Olifants and Letaba
- If you want to see great sightings of lion and the other Big Cats and enjoy great game viewing without the safari crowds, stay in the central section around Orpen and Satara
- If you want to see the Big 5 and as many animals as possible in the shortest space of time and without travelling long distances, stay in the southern section between Pretoriuskop, Lower Sabie and Skukuza
BEST KRUGER NATIONAL PARK HOLIDAY PACKAGES
Kruger Park holiday packages take you from the game-rich southern section to the northernmost tip, where you can re-trace the steps of gentle giants on the ancient elephant migratory paths. In between, you have the ‘Big Cat Capital of Kruger’ in central Kruger and the riverine oases of northern Kruger.
Where to go and where to stay on a Kruger Park holiday? That all depends on how much time you have and what interests you.
You have a wide choice of affordable self-catering accommodation in Kruger Park that’s managed by SANParks as well as luxury safari lodges on the private concessions. The latter offers superior accommodation in pristine bushveld and an exclusive safari experience that’s comparable to the luxury safari lodges in Greater Kruger.
Here’s a quick guide to help you plan your dream Kruger Park safari holiday. For more information on Greater Kruger holiday packages, keep reading.
3-day Kruger Park holiday package
The majority of visitors on a 3-day Kruger Park holiday package visit southern Kruger Park. It’s the most accessible section of the Park if you’re travelling from Johannesburg to Kruger Park. Five out of the 9 entrance gates are located in the southern section, providing easy access to five of the best Kruger Park rest camps.
More importantly, southern Kruger has the highest concentration of animals. You’re guaranteed great animal sightings almost as soon you drive through the southern Kruger gates. This includes the famous Big 5, with large herds of elephant and buffalo as well as strong numbers of rhino found throughout the southern section.
Southern Kruger receives the highest rainfall and is bounded by the Crocodile River and Sabie River. Lush, fertile savanna plains and permanent sources of water means Big 5 game viewing in southern Kruger is outstanding.
This section of the national park is rich in history as it served as the gateway to the port of Lourenço Marques (now Mozambique) for ancient traders. It’s also home to Skukuza Rest Camp which is the administrative headquarters of the Park and the largest rest camp in Kruger.
Entrance gates in southern Kruger
- Paul Kruger
- Crocodile Bridge
Main rest camps in southern Kruger
- Lower Sabie
- Crocodile Bridge
Luxury lodges on private concessions
- Lukimbi Safari Lodge
- Camp Shawu
- Camp Shonga
- Shishangeni Private Lodge
- Tinga Narina Lodge
- Tinga Legends Lodge
- Jock Safari Lodge
- Fitzpatrick’s at Jock
4- to 5-day Kruger Park holiday packages
With more time to spare, you can enjoy the best of southern and central Kruger. Book 2 nights in southern Kruger and 2 nights in central Kruger and you get a combo of diverse eco-zones and brilliant animal sightings. Southern Kruger has the highest concentration of game but central Kruger is ‘Big Cat City’.
Central Kruger supports nearly half of the Park’s lion population as well as strong numbers of leopard, hyena and cheetah. It’s estimated that there are at least 60 individual prides of lion in central Kruger.
The central section of Kruger Park is hot, humid and doesn’t receive much rainfall but the grazing is sweet and browsing trees are plentiful. The unique vegetation zone attracts an abundance of antelope and plains game like zebra, giraffe and wildebeest. With plenty to eat, large numbers of Big Cat hang out in central Kruger.
Entrance gates in central Kruger
Main rest camps in central Kruger
Luxury lodges on private concessions
- Singita Lebombo Lodge
- Singita Sweni Lodge
- Imbali Safari Lodge
- Hoyo Hoyo Tsonga Lodge
- Hamiltons Tented Camp
- Plains Camp at Rhino Walking Safaris
6- to 7-day Kruger Park holiday package
Ultimately, you want to spend a whole week in Kruger Park to really experience the sheer scale and extent of its outstanding biodiversity. Once you’ve covered southern and central Kruger, you should head to northern Kruger for a totally different experience. If you can squeeze the far-north section into your Kruger Park holiday plans, you’re guaranteed to have a safari tour of your dreams.
Northern Kruger receives very little annual rainfall and is semi-arid and stark. It’s saving grace is five major rivers forge a path across the valley, the two notable rivers being Olifants and Letaba. These permanent water sources provide fertile grazing zones for animals who hang out in the thick riverine forests and lush river banks.
Game viewing along the banks of the meandering rivers is fantastic, particularly if you love elephants and hippos. In fact, northern Kruger is regarded as the “Elephant Capital of Kruger Park” and is home to the legendary Big Tuskers.
Last count, there were over 9 000 elephants in the region. And that’s not all! Northern Kruger is home to almost 60 percent of the total hippo population of Kruger.
Entrance gates in northern Kruger
Main rest camps in northern Kruger
Far-north Kruger is remote and a long drive from Johannesburg so it’s one of the quietest sections of the Park. The concentration of game is low compared to southern Kruger but you’ll find a decent selection of animals in the far north, including strong numbers of elephant.
The main attraction of this remote section is its outstanding diversity of bird species. Far-north Kruger is regarded as the finest birding destination in southern Africa and is affectionately known as the “Birding Capital of South Africa”.
Far-north Kruger has a unique eco-zone, characterised by sandveld, thorn thickets, wooded savanna and towering shale cliffs. The best way to experience the northernmost tip of Kruger and enjoy one of the best birding experiences of your life is on a guided wilderness walking trail.
A Kruger Park holiday package in the far-north section typically includes a 3-day guided walking trail and accommodation in remote, untouched wilderness areas.
Entrance gates to Far North Kruger
- Punda Maria
Main rest camps in Far North Kruger
- Punda Maria
Luxury lodges on private concessions
- Pafuri Camp
- The Outpost
BEST ACCOMMODATION FOR A KRUGER PARK HOLIDAY
There is a wide selection of accommodation within Kruger Park and surrounding areas and it does become a bit confusing when searching for places to stay. To help you narrow down your choice when planning a Kruger Park holiday, here’s a breakdown of the different type of accommodation in the national park.
Main rest camps
- selection of self-catering bungalows and guest houses
- basic provisions supplied for self-catering Kruger Park holiday
- units serviced daily
- ensuite and communal ablutions
- onsite restaurant
- onsite shop
- onsite fuel station
- onsite ATM
- swimming pool and outdoor recreation facilities
Caravan and camping sites
- located in the main Kruger Park rest camps
- electrified and non-electrified sites
- communal ablutions and kitchen facilities
- onsite shop, restaurant, fuel station and ATM facilities
Satellite and bushveld camps
- smaller than main rest camps
- located a short drive from the main rest camps
- selection of self-catering bungalows and chalets
- basic provisions supplied for self-catering Kruger Park holiday
- communal ablutions
- no shops, restaurants, fuel pumps or ATM facilities
- check-in at the main rest camp or entrance camp
- private self-catering lodges booked on an exclusive-use basis
- restricted to paying guests
- basic provisions supplied for self-catering Kruger Park holiday
- no shops, restaurant, fuel pumps or ATM facilities
- check-in at the main rest camp or entrance gate
- rustic camp in remote area
- basic provisions supplied for a self-catering Kruger Park holiday
Luxury safari lodges
- ultra-luxury accommodation and facilities on private concessions
- marketed to the high-end traveller
- daily game drives in an open safari vehicle with dedicated ranger
- exclusive access to the private concession
- access to public roads in Kruger Park
WHY VISIT GREATER KRUGER
Many people are confused over the difference between Kruger Park and Greater Kruger so let’s clear that up for you before you start searching for Kruger National Park holiday packages. The two regions are vastly different, although they lie adjacent to each other.
What is the difference between Kruger Park and Greater Kruger?
Kruger Park is a state-supported national park that’s managed by South African National Parks (SANParks). Greater Kruger is made up of 18 unfenced private game reserves and is managed under the auspices of Associated Private Nature Reserves (APNR).
In 1993, the fences around the private game reserves in the region were removed to create Greater Kruger. Collectively, the 7 private game reserves and the independent game reserves within each reserve cover an area of some 180 000 hectares.
The boundary fence between Kruger Park and Greater Kruger was also removed. Animals are free to roam between the two protected wilderness areas but not human visitors.
The luxury safari lodges in Greater Kruger have exclusive access to their private land as well as unrestricted access to the public roads in Kruger Park. Guests staying at the private lodges in Greater Kruger enter through the main gates and pay an entrance fee for a day tour of Kruger
It’s anything from a 40- to 50-minute drive from the different entrance gates to Greater Kruger and the closest Kruger Park entrance gate.
Game rangers taking guests from Greater Kruger to Kruger Park are not permitted to drive across the other private game reserves and cross over the unfenced boundary into Kruger Park.
The private game reserves that make up Greater Kruger are:
Balule Private Game Reserve: 40 000 hectares
- Mohlabetsi (include Jejane Private Nature Reserve)
- Mohlabetsi River
Timbavati Game Reserve: 14 000 hectares
- Tanda Tula
Sabi Sand Game Reserve: 65 000 hectares
- Lion Sands
- Sabi Sabi
Umbabat Private Game Reserve
Klaserie Private Game Reserve: 60 000 hectares
Thornybush Private Game Reserve: 11 500 hectares
Manyeleti Private Game Reserve: 23 000
Main differences between Greater Kruger and Kruger Park
- made up of a collection of unfenced private game reserves
- collectively, covers an area of 180 000 hectares
- managed under the auspices of APNR
- exclusive access to private land
- luxury safari lodges marketed to the high-end traveller
- daily game drives in open safari vehicles with dedicated ranger
- not restricted to gate closing times
Kruger National Park
- state-supported national park
- covers an area of 2 million hectares
- managed by SANParks
- wide selection of affordable self-catering accommodation
- luxury safari lodges on private concessions
- unrestricted access to public roads
- restricted access to private concessions
- allow self-drive game drives
- restricted to gate closing times
FAQS: KRUGER NATIONAL PARK HOLIDAY PACKAGES
Here are a few of the most common questions people ask when they’re planning a dream safari holiday to Kruger Park:
Where is Kruger National Park?
Kruger National Park is located in the north-eastern corner of South Africa and spans the boundaries of Mpumalanga Province and Limpopo Province. Kruger Park shares an international boundary with Zimbabwe on its northern boundary and Mozambique on its eastern boundary.
Greater Kruger lies adjacent to Kruger Park, on its western boundary. Timbavati, Manyeleti and Sabi Sands lie on the unfenced boundary with the Park.
What are the closest towns to Kruger National Park?
Hazyview and Hoedspruit are the closest towns to the busiest sections of Kruger Park. They serve as the safari hub for wildlife tourism in South Africa.
Southern Kruger Park
- White River
Central Kruger Park
Northern Kruger Park
- Louis Trichardt
What airports service Kruger Park and Greater Kruger
Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport receives the most international safari tourists for Kruger Park holidays. The national park also has its own airport, located 10-minutes’ drive from Skukuza Airport.
The airports that service Kruger Park and Greater Kruger include:
- Nelspruit International Airport
- Skukuza Airport
- Hoedspruit Airport
- Phalaborwa Airport
What is the best time of year for a Kruger Park holiday?
The region has a sub-tropical climate and year-round sunny weather so you can enjoy a Kruger Park holiday any time of the year. When you visit depends on what interests you.
- best time for game viewing in Kruger Park: dry winter months between mid-April to mid-September when the grass is shorter, thinned out and the game congregates close to rivers and waterholes
- best time for birdwatching in Kruger Park: wet summer months between November and February when the migrant birds have arrived from Europe
- busiest time in Kruger Park: South African holiday season, particularly end of year/Christmas holiday between December/January and Easter/school holiday in March/April
Is there malaria in Kruger National Park?
Kruger Park is located in a malaria area. The southern and central section is regarded as a low-to-medium risk malaria area and the northern and far north section is a medium-to-high risk malaria region. The risk of malaria in Kruger Park increases in the wet summer months between November and February.
Malaria is a life-threatening disease and can be fatal if not diagnosed or treated early. It’s highly recommended you take anti-malaria tablets for a Kruger Park holiday and take precautions to avoid being bitten.
Best place to book for a Kruger Park safari holiday
There is a wide selection of accommodation both within Kruger Park and surrounding areas. The majority of visitors stay in affordable, self-catering accommodation at the main rest camps. You also have the option of a number of bushveld camps, satellite camps and tented camps in more remote areas of the Park.
For a more exclusive safari experience, you can book accommodation at one of the luxury safari lodges on the private concessions in Kruger Park. These luxury lodges are marketed to the high-end traveller and offer superb facilities and excellent game viewing in open safari vehicles.
Accommodation outside of Kruger Park for a safari holiday ranges from hotels, B&Bs, resorts and self-catering guesthouses in Hazyview, Hoedspruit or Phalaborwa to ultra-luxury safari lodges in the private game reserves of Greater Kruger. Visitors enjoy full-day tours in Kruger Park and return to their accommodation after the gate closing times.
Are there shops in Kruger Park?
Each main rest camp has a convenience store where you can buy basic provisions for a self-catering Kruger Park holiday as well as sweets, snacks, drinks and gifts. The largest shop in Kruger Park is located at Skukuza Rest Camp.
Where can I fill up with fuel on a Kruger Park holiday?
The main rest camps in Kruger Park have fuel/petrol pumps. You can also have your tyres checked and pumped with air at the Kruger fuel stations.
Skukuza Rest Camp has a mechanics workshop that can help if you have car trouble or breakdown while on a Kruger Park holiday.
Where can I get medical attention on a Kruger Park holiday?
A General Practitioner is available at the medical clinic at Skukuza Rest Camp. The doctor sees and treats patients with minor injuries and ailments. Anyone with a more complicated or life-threatening condition is sent to a private hospital in either Nelspruit or Phalaborwa.
It’s highly recommended that you take out comprehensive travel insurance for a Kruger Park holiday. This should include medical insurance that covers an emergency evacuation from Kruger Park, worse case scenario to be airlifted to the nearest hospital.
How much does it cost to stay at Kruger National Park?
Kruger National Park offers a wide range of accommodation and the prices differ depending on where you stay. SANParks aims to provide affordable self-catering accommodation for a broader market.
Other reasons why Kruger Park is more affordable than popular safari destinations in countries like Botswana, Tanzania and Zambia is because the national park:
- is accessible to Johannesburg; expensive charter flights to remote areas aren’t necessary
- allows self-drive safari tours
- offers self-catering accommodation
The luxury safari lodges on the private concessions in Kruger Park and the private game reserves of Greater Kruger are unashameably marketed to the high-end traveller. The prices are high because the luxury lodges follow a ‘high-quality/low numbers’ tourism model.
Other costs to factor into your budget for a Kruger Park holiday package include:
- entry fee and daily conservation fee; rates for SA citizens, SADC nationals and foreign visitors
- community fund levy; 1 percent added to the cost of all accommodation
Refer to the official SANParks website for up-to-date entry and conservation fees.
Search for Kruger Park holiday packages
The Kruger Co specialises in safari tours to Kruger Park and Greater Kruger. Check our website for a wide choice of Kruger Park holiday packages, ranging from 3-day Kruger tours to 10-day Kruger tours. We also offer private Kruger tours which can be customised to your interests, timing and budget.
Join us for a safari holiday of your dreams in the iconic Kruger region.