One of the largest Game Reserves in Africa, Kruger National Park spreads over an area of 19,633 sq. km. The National Park is situated in the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga. The area was turned into a national Park in 1926. The park is a part of the Kruger Canyons Biosphere, which is an area designated by the UNESCO as an International Man and Biosphere Reserve. There are 9 different gates to the park which allow access to the various camps located in and around the park.
A little into history…The park was earlier a game reserve which was later converted into the Kruger National Park. Once upon a time the park was called the Sabi Game Reserve and was expanded into the Kruger National Park in 1926. Later on Sabi Game Reserve was combined with small farms to create Kruger National Park. The sole purpose behind the creation of the park was to control hunting and protect the diminished number of animals in the park. It became a tourist attraction in 1923. The visitors were taken on a tour which included an overnight tour of the Sabi Bridge and a short walk escorted by armed rangers into the bush. This soon became the highlight of the tour and it gave valuable support to the campaign to proclaim the Sabi Game Reserve as a National Park.
During 1959, work commenced to completely fence the park boundaries. The purpose behind the construction of the fence was to curb the spread of diseases, facilitate border patrolling and paralyze the movement of poachers. In the year 1996 a lot of game lodges were constructed within the park. In 2002, Kruger National Park, Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe and Limpopo National Park in Mozambique, were merged into a Peace Park ( a protected area that spans boundaries of more than one country where the political border sections that are enclosed within the area are abolished), which came to be known as the Great Limpopo Trans frontier Park.
The park is nestled in the Eastern part of the Limpopo province, which lies in the North east of South Africa. Limpopo is the only town that shares its boundaries with the park. The park consists of a number of rivers flowing from west to east, including the Sabi, Olifants, Crocodile, Letaba and the Limpopo rivers.
During summers the days are hot & humid and the rains start from September till May. The best time to visit the park is during the dry winter season, the reason being that there are rare chances of contracting malaria, since the trees are not that dense it is easier to view wildlife, also the animals are drawn to the water holes to drink every morning and evening.
There are basically four main types of plants life present in the park, that are-
- Thorn trees and Red Bush Willow veld- this plant type spreads between the areas of the western boundary and roughly to the center of the park. The areas near the rivers and streams are also dominated by this plant type.
- Knob Thorn and Marula Veld- this plant type spreads across the areas in the eastern half of the park and provides the most important grazing land.
Then there are the Red Bush Willow and the Mopane Veld, which lies in the area of the western part of the park. Then there is the Shrub Mopane Veld, which successfully covers the entire north eastern part of the park.
There are around 517 species of birds found at Kruger; these include the residents, non-breeding migrants and the nomads. There is a group of birds called the ‘ Big Six Birds’, which includes six species namely, the Lappet Faced Vulture, Martial Eagle, Saddled Billed Stork, Ground Hornbill and the Pel’s Fishing Owl. These six species are restricted to Kruger and other extensive conservation areas.
The park is a home to various mammals that include the Big five game animals ( Lion, Rhinoceros, African Elephant, Cape Buffalo and Leopard), Cheetah, Waterbuck, Impala, Burchell’s Zebra, Hippopotamus, Blue Wildebeest, Black Rhinos, Spotted Hyena, African Buffalo etc. Kruger Park supports packs of the endangered African Wild Dog also known as the Painted Wolf, which are thought to have reduced to merely 400 in number.
There are around 114 species of reptiles including the Black Mamba and about 3000 species of Crocodiles, within the park.
Apart from the Mammals and Reptiles, the park houses 33 species of Amphibians and 50 species of Fish.
The park has around nine gates to it namely, The Crocodile Bridge Gate, Malelane Gate, Numbi Gate, Phabeni Gate, Paul Kruger Gate, Orpen Gate, Phalaborwa Gate, Punda Maria Gate and Pafuri Gate.
One need not worry about places to stay, since the park has rest camps such as- the Crocodile Bridge Camp, Lower Sabie Camp, Orpen Camp etc. Then there are several Designated Private Lodges such as Hamilton’s Tented Camp, Plains Camp, Rhino Post Camp and many others.
The national park is strictly against poaching and so it has made numerous arrangements to control poaching within the park. Among the anti-poaching arrangements, there is a specialist dog unit that operates to track down poaching activities.
The park is a paradise for wildlife lovers and budding photographers. Take some time out and do visit the Kruger National Park, South Africa.