At a glance: Kruger Grand Safari
Everything that can be said about the Kruger National Park has probably already been said, but suffice to say that it is undoubtedly one of the greatest game parks on the planet.It is the tenth largest game reserve on earth, and covers a vast area of 19485 square kilometres (7523 sq miles) and extends 360 kilometres (220 mi) from north to south and 65 kilometres (40 mi) from east to west; that makes the Kruger park only slightly smaller than Belgium! Areas of the park were first protected by order of the government of South Africa in 1898 as a no-hunting zone, and it officially became South Africa’s first national park in 1926. The first motorist entered the park in 1927 for the princely sum of one pound! The Kruger National Park is now part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, a peace park that links Kruger National Park with the Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe and the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique. There are talks of submitting this magnificent peace park to be considered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The park, steeped in history and culture and filled with sites of massive archaeological importance, welcomes more than 1.5 million visitors every year yet never feels crowded. All the famous Big Five game animals (Buffalo, Elephant, Rhinoceros, Lion and Leopard) are found in Kruger National Park, which has more species of large mammals than any other African game reserve (at 147 species). These special species are seen with relative ease in “Kruger”, as the park is affectionately known. Over 520 species of birds have also been seen in the park, along with vast numbers of reptiles (over 110 species), amphibians (33 species), fish (50 species), insects and other fauna and flora. This is diversity at its very best!
This safari will cover most areas of the Kruger National Park. Included in this guided 12 night itinerary is the best of what Kruger has to offer in terms of Big 5 sightings, general wildlife viewing, birding, seeing other fauna and flora, and of course witnessing fantastic African landscapes and vistas. We have chosen this itinerary with care, minimising travel time between camps and ensuring maximum time out in the African bush on your safari vehicle. All accommodation will be in comfortable chalets in main camps, and you will experience diverse habitat and exciting biodiversity during this superb safari. In the South you will see the classic African bushveld, with thorn trees and dense bush along the rivers. The Central portion of the park will feature the expansive grassland savannah where the predators roam. In turn the Northern part of your trip will feature two camps with spectacular vantage points on two impressive rivers.
Get ready for the Kruger trip of a lifetime!
ITINERARY – 12 NIGHT KRUGER GRAND SAFARI
Next Departure date: To be confirmed
Day 1 & 2:
The Kruger National Park, Skukuza Camp
Your Nature Travel guide will meet you at Kruger / Mpumalanga International Airport near White River, a small town on the southwestern corner of the park, and then head straight in to the Kruger National Park via either Malelane, Phabeni, Numbi or Paul Kruger Gate, and make our way to our first camp.
Skukuza is the park’s administrative headquarters, its largest camp and sometimes feels like a small town compared to the other camps in Kruger. It is situated on the southern bank of the Sabie River. This is a perennial river and one of the largest and most biologically diverse in the park. The habitat here comprises riparian zones, with large trees lining the river banks, and Sabie River thickets away from the river courses. The permanent water source here attracts large numbers of Impala, one of the main prey items of Leopard, and we will be on the lookout for these and other predators such as Lion, African Wild Dog and Spotted Hyaena.
African Elephant and African Buffalo are also common in the area, usually heading down to the river as the day heats up. The area is, however, not really suited to large numbers of grazing animals and small herds of browsers such as Greater Kudu and Bushbuck are more common here.
We have three nights at Skukuza, spending time in the mornings and afternoons out in the field looking for mammals, birds and anything else that attracts our interest. We will traverse the southeastern section of the park, going down to Lower Sabie Camp (with its tranquil Sunset dam nearby) or even venturing further south to Crocodile Bridge Camp. We have ample time to make sure we find all our target species in this area of the park.
Our daily routes will depend on what we have seen so far and what the general weather and other wildlife conditions are like. We might also visit the famous Lake Panic hide near Skukuza’s nursery; a great spot from which to see aquatic bird species and animals drinking from close up. Your expert guide will make the decision as to where to point the nose of the safari vehicle to ensure your maximum enjoyment!
When we are not out on safari in the park it is important to look around for interesting creatures even inside the camp fence. The camp grounds are well foliaged and there are some lofty trees along the river’s edge. The viewing deck in front of the main restaurant is especially beautiful, with stunning views over the Sabie river and the nearby old railway bridge – get the camera ready! Activities and facilities are diverse, as are the animals and plants found both within the camp and in the surrounding areas. The camp is a great place to spot the dove-sized Wahlberg’s Epauletted Fruit Bat and the very cute South African Thick-tailed Galago.
The camp also houses the Stevenson-Hamilton Memorial Library And Museum (James Stevenson-Hamilton was the first warden of Kruger National Park) which has some fascinating artefacts on display. You’ll get to know some things about Kruger Park that you’d never imagined! There are also very engaging stories to read, like the miraculous tale of Harry Wolhuter, one of Kruger’s very first game rangers, complete with real-life props showing his escape from a lion attack while patrolling on horseback. Being the largest camp in the park, it is also an ideal place to stretch the legs a bit and go for some walks in the beautifully shaded camp.
Day 3 & 4:
The Kruger National Park, Olifants Camp
Next we will move north to one of Kruger’s most beautiful camps. The rather long drive northwards will see the surroundings change, first to grassland and then to Mopane shrubland. Olifants camp has scenically the most dramatic setting of all the camps in the park. It is perched high above the Olifants river with views that are breathtakingly “out of Africa”. Sightseeing views from the modern lookout platforms allow a person to observe the river many hundred feet below. The camp is warm and welcoming and will win many staunch supporters for Kruger Park accommodation.
Because Olifants is situated in a transitional zone, 2 distinct types of vegetation can be found, offering a wide range of game. In the north, the low lying Mopane trees provide cover for Plains Zebra, Impala, Greater Kudu and African Elephant. To the south, rolling plains are dotted with African Buffalo and Giraffe. Along the Olifants River, wildlife such as Lion, Nile Crocodiles and Hippopotamus can be viewed, as well as an abundance of birdlife such as owls, storks and eagles. The Olifants river is the largest in Kruger and its considerable catchment, extending over 54 300 square kilometres, generates four per cent of the total river flow in South Africa.
We have only one night at Olifants, and we will maximise our time looking for mammals, birds and anything else that attracts our interest. We will visit the stunning Olifants lookout point east of the camp, as well as the N’wamanzi lookout point to the west. At both these spots we will be allowed to exit our vehicles and take some stunning photographs. We will also venture northwards to follow the S93 road as it meanders along the Letaba river; a great area for huge herds of African Elephant and soaring Martial Eagles.
When we are not out on safari in the park it is important to look around for interesting creatures even inside the camp fence. The camp grounds are well foliaged and there are some lofty trees. The camp is a great place to spot the Grey-rumped Swallow, Brown-throated Martin and Common Dwarf Mongoose.
Olifants is a good camp from which to do an optional night drive, and on one of these exciting excursions we could see Cape Porcupine, Serval, South African Large-spotted Genet or even Pel’s Fishing Owl.
Day 5 & 6:
The Kruger National Park, Letaba Camp
Our next destination will be Letaba Camp, about 20 kilometres north of Olifants.
Situated on a bend in the Letaba river, this camp has an incredibly scenic setting. The laid-back character of Letaba depends heavily on the tall shady trees (Sycamore Fig, Natal Mahogany, Sausage Tree and Apple Leaf), expansive lawns and indigenous gardens where tame Bushbuck wander. The name Letaba means “river of sand”, and the sandy riverbed is an excellent location for game viewing, particularly African Elephant, which thrive in the area. Letaba is a green oasis in the surrounding mopane veld, and remains a firm favourite with visitors.
We will enjoy two nights in Letaba camp, going on morning and afternoon game drives, and looking for interesting fauna and flora. As game in the region is concentrated near water, any exploration of these picturesque river roads, can produce some of the best game-viewing in the park. We will venture to the always productive Engelhard Dam nearby, as well as drive north in an area known for its excellent Leopard sightings. We will also go west to the Mingerhout dam, another spot known for producing interesting and rare sights. The area around Letaba is also very good for many interesting bird species and a number of species are found here that are not seen anywhere else in Kruger. These include Mourning Collared Dove, Black Heron and Glossy Ibis.
Once again, be sure to keep an eye out inside the camp for all sorts of interesting fauna and flora species. The camp is well spread out with the highlight being a paved footpath which runs along the northern perimeter through broad leaved riparian vegetation and then back along roads skirting the southern perimeter of the camp next to the Letaba river and its floodplain. We will definitely be spending time enjoying the view of the river from the promenade on the river’s edge and watch animals come down to bathe and drink. We will be hoping for sightings of African Elephant, African Buffalo, Giraffe and many others. Letaba also offers excellent birdwatching opportunities all year round. Pearl-spotted Owlet, Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl and Orange-breasted Bushshrike are regularly seen in the camp.
The camp also houses the brilliant exhibition of Kruger’s famous “Magnificent Seven” big tuskers in the Goldfields Environmental Education Centre; definitely worth a visit.
Day 7 & 8:
The Kruger National Park, Satara Camp
Our next exciting destination is Satara Camp in the park’s central grassland zone.
Satara camp itself , although fairly large, has a rustic charm, with the bulk of the accommodation set out in a series of circles. The nightly fires burning in front of the bungalows are a special sight. The ambience of the camp, Kruger’s third biggest, recalls the mood of colonial Africa with red-roofed public buildings, thatched chalets and neatly raked paths.
We will spend two nights here, going on morning and afternoon game drives, thus maximising our chances of seeing animals, birds and other interesting fauna and flora. Will definitely explore one of the most famous roads in the entire park, the S100, that runs east-west from Satara towards the Lebombo mountains and Mozambique. Many long-time visitors to Kruger swear by this road for spectacular sightings of the Big Five, many species of raptors and other rare creatures. Will also venture to the nearby Nsemani and Sweni dams that are always worth a “stop-and-scan”.
The sweet grasses that grow on the fertile soils formed on shale and volcanic basalt, and an abundance of excellent browsing trees, sustain the largest Impala, African Buffalo, Giraffe, Greater Kudu, Common Wildebeest, Plains Zebra, Waterbuck and Sable Antelope populations in the Park. Satara, however, is Lion territory, as no fewer than 50 prides occupy home ranges in this area, with an average pride size of 12 lions. Within a 20 kilometre radius of Satara, 22 lion prides have been counted! Satara is rightly known as “cat camp”. Lions are inevitably followed by scavengers, and this area also contains large numbers of Spotted Hyaena, Black-backed Jackal and vultures. It is also one of the best areas in the entire Kruger to see Cheetah.
The camp itself is always worth exploring, and a walk inside the fence perimeter might give us views of Honey Badger, African Scops Owl and Red-billed Buffalo Weaver. There is also a webcam just outside the fence of the camp directed at a drinking hole – some amazing animal interactions have been seen and caught on camera here! An optional night drive from Satara might yield Cape Porcupine, Leopard and even the elusive Aardvark.
Day 9 & 10:
The Kruger National Park, Pretoriuskop Camp
Next we will head further south to Pretoriuskop Camp, near the western border of the southern section of the park.
Pretoriuskop takes its name from the nearby kopje (hill) where Voortrekker Willem Pretorius, a member of Carl Trichardt’s 1848 expedition to Delagoa Bay, is buried. It is the park’s oldest rest camp, situated in the region of the park that receives the highest rainfall and the area is dominated by a veld type known as Pretoriuskop Sourveld. The tall, coarse grasses growing here are not too palatable, so the area does not hold large numbers of grazers, though it is particularly good for White Rhinoceros and the rare and beautiful Sable Antelope.
When the world was still young, some 3 500 million years ago, molten rock forced its way through the earth’s crust and solidified to form the spectacular granite outcrops where Pretoriuskop Camp is now nestled. The most impressive of these, the granite dome known as “Shabeni Hill” is not far from the camp.
It is immediately apparent to any visitor that Pretoriuskop is unique as brilliant red Common Coral trees adorn the camp, pre-dating the decision to make exclusive use of indigenous plants in laying out rest camp gardens. Nostalgia prompted an exception to the rule for Pretoriuskop, and exotic flowering plants were allowed to stay, enhancing the strong sense of the past that is so pervasive.
We will enjoy another two nights in Pretoriuskop Camp, going on morning and afternoon game drives, and looking for interesting fauna and flora. We will venture down to the famous Afsaal picnic spot via the Voortrekker road, and explore the area around the camp for Leopard and rare antelope species, like Lichtenstein’s Hartebeest. We might also explore the beautiful Phabeni area north of the camp, a spot renowned for fantastic game viewing encounters. The area around Pretoriuskop is also very good for many interesting bird species and a number of species are found here that are not seen anywhere else in Kruger.
Once again, be sure to keep an eye out inside the camp for all sorts of interesting fauna and flora species on the Sable trail, like Brown-headed Parrot, Cape Golden Mole and Smith’s Bush Squirrel.
The camp has what many visitors consider to be the best swimming pool in the entire park. We might take a dip in the heat of the day to cool down a bit!
Day 11 & 12:
The Kruger National Park, Berg en Dal Camp
Our last camp will be a short morning drive away, and we will head even more south. Berg en Dal, meaning ‘mountain and dale’, is aptly named for its superb location on the bank of the Matjulu spruit and is surrounded by rocky hillsides. It is one of the new generation of camps and was opened in 1984. Great care has been taken to preserve the natural vegetation in the camp area, which comprises Malelane Mountain Bushveld (woodland), attracting a variety of grazers.
The area hosts high numbers of White Rhinoceros, Greater Kudu, Impala, Giraffe, some African Elephant, Southern Reedbuck, Klipspringer, Grey Rhebok and Common Warthog. Leopard and African Wild Dog are also regularly seen in the region.
We will spend our last two nights at Berg en Dal Camp, going on morning and afternoon game drives. We will look for all sorts of interesting animals, birds, plants and anything else that catches our eyes! We might venture north towards the famous Afsaal picnic spot, or eastwards along the Crocodile river on one of Kruger’s most productive dirt roads.
As always in Kruger, it is important to explore the rest camp itself for some fascinating fauna and flora. Berg en Dal is especially suited to extra exploration. On one of the days we might try the Rhino Perimeter Trail walk that goes around the rest camp. Not only is it a beautiful, relaxing and informative exercise, we might get to see something interesting! Recently on this walk there have been sightings of the rare White-backed Night Heron, the ferocious Honey Badger and the sought-after Thick-billed Cuckoo, to name just a few.
The camp has a beautiful swimming pool to cool off in, as well as good restaurant facilities and a nightly video show with some interesting local nature programmes if you are interested.
After your 6 night southern Kruger extravaganza, your Nature Travel guide will, via the nearby Malelane Gate, transfer you back to the airport (or your chosen point of departure) for your onward journey.
Customize your safari:
Although the above is a finalised itinerary, we can customise this itinerary in order to create the perfect Kruger National Park safari for you.
You are more than welcome to change anything from the length of your stay, to the number of days in a specific camp, to the order of your stay at the various camps. You can also choose to take a road transfer from O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg or fly straight into the new Skukuza Airport inside the Kruger National Park.
We can also add a luxury option for you at one of the lodges in the adjacent Sabi Sands Game Reserve on Kruger’s western border or inside the park itself if this is within your budget, or we can add an exciting activity like a bush walk, bush breakfast or a night drive to your stay.
We can also accommodate various special interest you might have on your safari. For instance, if you have a specific interest in photography, birdwatching, or maybe even want to focus on trees or insects, we can make this happen for you. We can even have our guide focus on specific species, like African Wild Dog, for the duration of your safari!
In terms of food, most of the safari will be self-catering, with your Nature Travel guide doing the cooking or coffee-making. We will provide breakfast and dinner (you will get to experience the classic South African barbeque!) and coffee and tea, and lunch will be for your own account in the various restaurants in the camps or at picnic spots.
We here at Nature Travel Kruger pride ourselves in individualising each safari according to your specific requests or needs. We are here to make your Kruger Park safari dreams come true!
To book this safari or customize your own, contact the Nature Travel Kruger team at firstname.lastname@example.org