30 Interesting Facts about the Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park is the largest national park in Africa and the oldest in South Africa. The iconic wilderness region is situated in the north-eastern part of South Africa. It covers an area of 2 million hectares which makes it a little smaller than Belgium.
In 2002, Kruger Park became part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park. The Transfrontier Park now comprises Kruger National Park in South Africa, Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe and Limpopo National Park in Mozambique. Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park is otherwise known as a Peace Park.
A Peace Park is a multi-international agreement that has led to the fences being taken down between political boarders. In this case, 5 protected wilderness regions spanning South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe were included in the massive project.
The Peace Park allows free movement of animals, safeguards animal migration patterns and ensures sufficient
water and food sources as the animal populations increase. In addition, the Peace Park improves tourism and
economic development that is mutually beneficial across countries.
Most visitors to the Kruger National Park are interested in the Big 5 which includes lions, leopard, elephants, rhino and Cape buffalo. The Big 5 was the collective term given by hunters to 5 of the most dangerous animals to encounter on foot during a hunt expedition. Despite extensive anti- poaching efforts, all 5 species remain listed as endangered.
Kruger Park has 500 species of birds and 6 of these belong to what is affectionately known as the Big 6. These include the lappet-faced vultures, martial eagles, saddle-billed storks and Kori bustards, Pels fishing owl and ground hornbills.
The Big 6 are six large species that are by and large endemic to the Kruger National Park conservation area,
meaning they are not found anywhere else in the world.
Many endangered animal and bird species are found in Kruger Park. It’s home to the only viable wild dog pack in South Africa and the highly-threatened rhino.
On the birding list, there are a number of species that are endangered and being monitored. These include the
Bateleur eagle, southern-ground hornbill, lappet-faced vulture, martial eagle, Kori bustard and grey-headed
The African fish eagle is a prized sighting. Its signature call brings delight to all who hear it. The many dams, rivers and biospheres makes the Kruger Park are popular for bird watching, particularly between November and January when thousands of migrant birds descend on the region to escape the cold European winter.
The best section to visit for outstanding birding in Kruger Park is in the Far North region, around Pafuri Camp.
South Africa has 93 percent of the world’s combined population of black and white rhino and Kruger is home to half of these precious endangered animals. Kruger Park has approximately 12 000 of these fascinating, beautiful creatures.
The anti-poaching units responsible for protecting rhino, elephant and other threatened animals in Kruger Park use highly-skilled game rangers and trackers, drones, dog handlers and bush helicopter pilots. These teams work in conjunction with the police and defense force. Many of the rhino in South Africa have been dehorned and chips devices have been inserted in their thick skin in order to monitor their location and keep track of their movements.
A herd of grazing buffalo, one of the Kruger’s Big 5, might look docile but don’t be fooled. They are powerful, dangerous animals. A lone male buffalo is called a “dagga boy” (mud boy). Dagga boys have typically been kicked out the herd or have gotten too frail to keep up with the group. They are regarded as one of the most dangerous animals to encounter on foot in the Kruger Park.
What about the Little Five? The buffalo weaver, elephant shrew, leopard tortoise, ant lion and rhino beetle are another interesting list to look for in your explorations in the Kruger Park. The best way to discover the Little Five and other important species that are vital for the ecology of the bush veld is on a guided wilderness walking trail in Kruger Park.
The Big 5 trees to spot in Kruger Park are the magnificent baobab, fever tree, knob thorn, Marula and Mopane tree. All are very different and beautiful trees with unique features.
Kruger National Park is a fascinating destination for botanists. There are 6 biosphere regions within South Africa, of which the Kruger to Canyon Biosphere is the third-largest in the world.
The Kruger to Canyon biosphere received international recognition in 2001 when it was registered as a
UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site. There are 4 bush veld regions that all have their own distinct appeal.
Kruger National Park lies is in a subtropical zone and experiences hot and humid temperatures. The north-eastern region receives rain in the summer month between late October to mid-March.
The driest period in Kruger Park is in September and October. This is also regarded as the best time for animal
viewing in Kruger Park because the grass is less thick and shorter and the animals tend to congregate close to
permanent water sources.
There are 9 different guided wilderness trails in the Kruger National Park, run by SANParks. A walking trail offers an extreme wilderness experience and participants are accompanied by highly-experienced trained guides who is armed.
The Mphongolo, Lonely Bull and Oliphant’s Backpack wilderness trails are the toughest and most
adventurous. They’re conducted in remote areas where very few tourists travel and the walkers are equipped
with the bare essentials, sleeping under the stars and carrying all their own provisions. Guided wilderness
trails in Kruger Park are for travelers with an adventurous spirit and one of the best ways to experience the
Kruger Park is a fascinating destination for archaeological enthusiasts. There is ample evidence that prehistoric man (Homo erectus) lived in the area over 500 000 years ago. There are 254 known cultural heritage sites in the Kruger Park, which includes 130 rock art sites.
Archaeological sites have been found in Kruger Park that date back to the Stone Age and Iron Age. There is also
ample evidence that Bushman tribes inhabited the region many decades ago
The first official tourist cars entered the Kruger Park in 1927. The gate fee was one pound and the visitors had to arrange to be accompanied by a guide. The only mode of transport was via railway, ox wagon, donkey or horse. It’s a scary thought, considering the number of wild animals in the area. Now at least 1.4 million visitors pass through the Kruger Park gates each year.
Kruger National Park was proclaimed in 1898, originally as Sabie Game Reserve. The game reserve later merged with Shingwedzi Game Reserve to form the Kruger National Park.
Kruger Park is named after the man behind the drive to create a no-hunting zone, the then-president of the Transvaal Republic and passionate conservationist, Paul Kruger. At the time, conservationists were alarmed at the scale of unchecked hunting in the area.
Paul Kruger was a fascinating man with strong leadership skills. He was instrumental in negotiations with the British on behalf of the Boers that helped to end the first Anglo-Boer war. He had 7 daughters and 10 sons. Despite little formal education, Kruger was an intelligent man. He died in exile after the second Anglo-Boer war.
The Tsonga people were displaced from their historical lands and relocated in some areas to form Kruger National Park. This caused great upset at the time.
What is now Kruger Park had been under threat in previous decades before it received national park status. There were numerous factions that wanted the area for farming, prospectors wanted access for mining of gold, copper and coal; and vets were campaigning for the eradication of wildlife to contain the tsetse fly disease that threatened livestock.
During the First World War, the national park had been mismanaged and was nearly taken over by developers
wanting the wilderness area for agricultural land.
Kruger Park has periodically experienced crippling droughts. The worst one was in 1993 and went on until 2016. This lead to the heart-breaking culling of many hippos by Park management.
The first warden of Kruger National Park was a Scotsman named James Stevenson-Hamilton. He was appointed in 1902 to run what was then Sabie Game Reserve. His nickname was the Zulu word Skukuza, meaning to “sweep clean or broom”. His no-nonsense approach earned him a fearsome reputation with poachers and illegal prospectors.
Dr Ian Player was a renowned conservationist and environmentalist in South Africa (15 March 1927 to 30 November 2014). In addition to his many accomplishments, Dr Player developed the first wilderness trails in the Kruger Park in 1957.
Dr Player was also instrumental in moving a rhino herd from the Umfolozi area to Kruger Park to save the
animals from ultimate death from excessive poaching and the anthrax disease. Dr Player’s actions ensured the
survival of the rhino herd and provided a bigger gene pool in Kruger Park.
A world-famous vet by the name of Toni Haarthoorn pioneered the “dope dart” technique that was used in Operation Rhino. The dope dart has been instrumental in the successful translocation of animals between national park and game reserves.
The location of Kruger Park is interesting. In the Pafuri region in Far North Kruger Park, you can stand on a spot at Crookes Corner where the boarders of Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa converge.
There are many fascinating cultural sites in the Kruger National Park that you can visit between daily game drives. These include the following:
- Letaba Elephant museum
For educational and fun facts about elephants as well as 6 of the Magnificent 7 greatest tuskers
- Albasini Ruins
These are the remnants of the 19th century trading post of the Portuguese traders from Lourenco Marques (now
Where there is evidence of early man from the late Iron Age and advanced methods of mining and trading of
- Thulamela archaeological sites
This is a stone walled site in northern Kruger dating back over 500 years, comprising of evidence of the
- Stevenson- Hamilton Memorial library
The knowledge and resource center located at Skukuza depicting the life and times of the first warden of the
Kruger Park offers a wide selection of accommodation, catering for everyone’s budget. It has 12 main rest camps, 5 bushveld camps, 2 bush lodges and 4 satellite camps. These are managed by South African National Parks (SANParks), the governing body of Kruger Park.
There are also 15 luxury safari lodges located on private concession in Kruger Park. The deluxe lodges offer
guests an exclusive safari experience, where rangers and visitors have exclusive access in open safari vehicles to
their private land.
There are plans under discussion to add other wilderness areas to the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park which would eventually increase its size to 100 000 square kilometres. The aim is to ensure the survival of southern Africa’s incredible wildlife which is the envy of all wildlife and nature enthusiasts around the world.