Thursday, June 28, 2007

Kruger National Park - No: 1 of the top 10 destinations in South Africa

The Kruger National Park, which measures a whopping two million hectares, is approximately the size of the whole of Wales and is slightly larger than Isreal. Most of the park is situated in the Lowveld. Restricted to broad valleys below 1 000m above sea level, the Lowveld is what many people consider to be the 'real' Africa. In this low-lying subtropical climate, broad-leaved trees and thorn trees co-exist happily in relatively open woodland, interspersed with long grass - and, of course, wildlife abounds.

In the far north, it gets hotter and the vegetation changes to mopane woodland and, right in the northern part of the country, huge baobab trees dominate the landscape. The rivers here tend to be broad and slow-moving and may consist of no more than a few unconnected pools at the end of the dry season but that's when the game congregates around the few known water sources - so it all evens out. You may have heard the cynical remark that Kruger is 'too developed' with loads of town-like camps and other infrastructure. Well, yes. The park does have a number of good accommodation options - more than 20 SANParks camps and a few 5 star private luxury lodges as well. That may sound like a lot - but remember that Kruger is the size of Wales - and in all that space there is one town - the main camp, Skukuza, is virtually a small town - about a dozen tiny hamlets with less than a hundred families and a few out of they way camps that would probably relate to a small farmstead. That leaves an awful lot of real wilderness. There are huge open spaces (wilderness area) left for the animals, as this is their home and we are just visitors. If you drive along every single road in the Kruger National Park (3500km) and only take 100 meters either side of the road, which you can see clearly you will only see 3.5% of the park.

Room at Bongani Mountain Lodge

You can do Kruger as a self-drive or as a guided tour. Other exciting options include
walking safaris, mountain bike trails and a self-drive 4x4 trail. The nearest airport to the central section of the park is Hoedspruit (or Eastgate) Airport. The southern, more popular, part of Kruger is about four hour's drive from Johannesburg, and a little less from Pretoria. The drive to the more remote, far less utilised, northern part, takes a few hours longer, but it's not on the same route. You could do a great circular tour if you had ten days or so to spare. Enter the park in the south, drive very slowly to the north, spending a day or two at different camps en route, and then drive back to Johannesburg. (Or the other way round, of course.)

Strangely - and contrary to expectations - the northern part, which is truly wild, has less animals than the south so don't feel you're missing out if you've only got a few days in the more busy part of the park. As well as the Kruger National Park, the lowveld is well endowed with private nature reserves, most of which have luxury lodges, where guests are subjected to an outrageous level of pampering and taken on fantastic game drives
and optional walks by very knowledgeable and attentive guides. Many lodges even have attached wellness centres where you can fill in the time between morning and evening game drives with a massage, facial or some other indulgent treatment. You can even fly directly from Johannesburg to many of these luxury 5 star lodges - these lodges may be a bit on the expensive side but offer a real "African Safari" experience, atmosphere and well worth the cost.

Note: If you are planning to travel to the Kruger National Park or Lowveld please be aware that this is a malaria region. Consult your doctor or travel clinic for advice.
For any assistance or information regarding your planned visit to the Kruger Park or the many surrounding luxury camps please do not hesitate to contact the Kruger Park Safari experts - Go Safari.


Welcome to sunny South Africa. At least we could still say this. But today we had to add "a very cold" before sunny, it was the first time since 1981 that it actually snowed in Johannesburg. Even though it was not a huge amount of snow, less than an inch, it was how ever a very exciting morning for a city who has not seen snow for 26 years and most of Johannesburg's population saw and touched snow for the first time. We also experienced cold temperatures -2 deg C to a maximum of 8 deg C when we should be experiencing a maximum of 17 deg C so we have all got our winter wollies out, heaters and fires going at maximum - and moaning as we are not used to this weather and our homes are not built to cope with this cold weather.