Kruger National Park in South Africa is the best place to see wildlife in action. And it is this quality that has given the park an iconic status among all the national parks in the world. So if you are willing to see some wildlife in true settings and amidst the best of amenities then welcome to Kruger National Park.
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The Kruger National Park is situated in the north-east of South Africa bordering Mozambique and Zimbabwe. This 20,000 square kilometer park was established by Paul Kruger, the South African President, in 1898. This protected area was opened to the public in 1927 and ever since it has attracted millions of visitors from all over the world. Kruger has been accommodated into a new trans-frontier park called the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park along with Limpopo National Park in Mozambique; Gonarezhou National Park, Manjinji Pan Sanctuary and Malipati Safari Area in Zimbabwe.
Basically the Kruger National Park is situated in the open grasslands of South Africa, the Velds. The area between the western boundary and the center is dominated by the red-bush willow and the acacia species. There are also quite a few numbers of marula trees. The eastern side of the park is a great grazing ground and is covered mostly by red grass, buffalo grass, knob-thorn and marula. The north eastern part is covered with sickle bush and silver cluster leaves while the north western part also is dominated by red bush willow.
The claim that Kruger National Park is the largest showcase of wildlife in their natural habitat is no fiction is proved by the fact that the national park has 517 species of birds alone out of which 253 species are resident of the region. A further 117 are migrant species while 147 species are nomads. The most famous mammals of the park are the big five – African elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard, lion and black rhinoceros.
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The park is also home to the African wild dog, an endangered species having only about 400 members left. The total number of mammal species in the park numbers to 147, the most that any other national park has. They include the Burchell’s zebra, cheetah, wildebeest, spotted hyena, waterbuck, impala, hippopotamus, giraffe, etc. There are 114 species of reptiles including over 3000 crocodiles and the infamous black mamba. The amphibians and fishes also are quite a few in number and most of the streams support a variety of aquatic life.
Getting in the Kruger National Park is not at all difficult and it is one of the few national parks in the world where you can drive around in your own car. Though there are some rules that one must obey and driving in the dark is not permitted. Moreover, you should get into the park before darkness as all the 9 gates are closed after dark and it is advisable not to linger outside the park till day breaks. Kruger is also accessible by air. There are 3 regular airports including one international airport. There is also an airport that caters only to chartered and private flights.
Staying Inside Kruger National Park
Within the Kruger National Park there are plenty of places to stay. There are about a dozed camp sites inside the park and all these places offer accommodations of all types ranging from huts, cottages, chalets, bungalows and tent and rondtravels. There are almost all the amenities within these camp sites that one can think of.
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There are filling stations, laundry service, swimming pools, restaurants, markets, spa services and of course the park management offices and even golf courses. Almost all of these camps are situated within two hours’ drives from one another. While there are many ordinary camp sites, there are also many Bush lodges and Bushveld camps. For those wanting luxury there are many hotels to cater to them too.
Activities within the Park
For the first timers the best way to see around the Kruger National Park is to take a guided tour with the local park guides. This is also recommended for those who do not have much time at hand or may not return to the park frequently. These guided rides are available from the Berg en dal, Skukuza and Letaba camps. A tour with a ranger is a great way to learn about the small details of game spotting. A ranger is also a must for another interesting way to see the wildlife and that is in the night drives. These thrilling rides give the visitors a first hand experience of the nocturnal life of the animals as well as some great opportunities to watch the animals that come out only at night.
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The best way to explore the flora and fauna of a place is to explore the area on foot. These walking trails last up to 3 days and a limited number of visitors are allowed to accompany the forest mates and rangers on each trail. The trails take a new circular route every morning and come back to the safety and comfort of the camp in the evening. There are several trails that start from various camps. Most of these trails give the visitors close looks at most of the Big Five if not all of them.
Kruger National Park has started three new trails into the Trans-frontier Limpopo region. These are the Shingwezdi 4×4 Eco-Trail, the Machampane Wilderness Trail and the Massingir Hiking Trail.
Those willing to visit the park on tour packages can choose from a wide range of packages ranging from family packages and adventure packages to the honeymoon packages and the luxury packages. While the family packages include special activities for the children, the classic safaris include dining under the stars and the honeymoon packages offer hot air balloon rides. However, the ultimate experiences are the luxury packages that pamper the visitors with the opulence of the 20th century. One interesting package is the African Culture package where the visitors get close to the Shangaan culture experiencing the music, dance and a session of story-telling.