The Kruger National Park is South Africa’s most well-known (and largest) game reserve. Comparable in size to Wales or Israel, it’s home to the Big Five, the Little Five and the birding Big Six. But apart from the approximately 145 mammal species, 110 reptile species, more than 500 bird species, 336 types of trees, 49 fish species and 34 amphibian species that keep tourists glued to their binoculars, the Kruger National Park offers accommodation to suit the most picky of guests.
The brainchild of Paul Kruger, the President of the erstwhile Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (ZAR), the Kruger National Park was established in 1898 as the Sabie Game Reserve. Nowadays the Kruger National Park forms part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park. This park of 35 000 km2 has no internal borders and joins the Kruger National Park to the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique and the Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe.
The Kruger National Park comprises six ecosystems: riverine forest, combretum-silver clusterleaf woodland on granite, mixed acacia thicket, mopane scrub, baobab sandveld and lebombo knobthorn-marula bushveld. The Park also forms part of the “Kruger to Canyons” biosphere. This is one of UNESCO’s biosphere reserves that aim to recognise and conserve biodiversity and develop the necessary scientific know-how to successfully conserve the area. But apart from the natural beauty and diversity, the area is rich in archaeological artefacts and sites – from rock paintings to the Iron Age stone furnaces at Masorini.
But what keeps tourists coming back again and again (more than a million tourists now visit the Kruger National Park every year), are the sights, sounds and smells of the African bush. Nothing compares to a balmy evening, a campfire, the starry southern skies and the distant (or not too distant) sound of lions roaring, or hearing the bush wake up as you watch the passing parade around a waterhole at daybreak.
The Kruger National Park offers accommodation to suit every pocket and taste. There are a number of main rest camps, smaller satellite camps, bushveld camps, overnight hides and bush lodges – all managed by SANParks. Then there are also a number of luxury lodges on concession land, which are managed by private companies under strict SANParks conservation rules.
Although there are restaurants in all of the main rest camps of the Kruger National Park (except Orpen and Crocodile Bridge), the emphasis is on a self-catering ( self contained ) bush experience. The main rest camps are Berg-en-Dal, Letaba, Lower Sabie, Mopani, Olifants, Orpen, Pretoriuskop, Punda Maria, Satara, Shingwedzi, Skukuza and Crocodile Bridge. These camps offer a mix of bungalows, cottages of varying sizes, safari tents and campsites. There are also a number of satellite camps, viz Balule (near Olifants), Malelane, Maroela and Tamboti. The Bush Camps Biyamiti, Shimuwini. Sirheni, Bateleur and Talamati offer more accommodation. For a novel experience, try one of the two overnight hides Shipandani or Sable. There are also two Bush Lodges, namely Boulders and Roodewal. Tsendze only offers camping facilities. There are also a number of luxury lodges, which are operated in the Kruger National Park by private companies on a concession basis. These include Imbali Safari Lodges, Hoyo-Hoyo Tsonga Lodge, Hamiltons Tented Camp, Jock Safari Lodge, Little Jock, Lukimbi Safari Lodge, Rhino Walking Safaris, Plains Camp, Shishangeni Private Lodge, Camp Shawu, Camp Shonga, Singita Lebombo Private Game Lodge, Singita Sweni, Tinga Private Game Lodge and Pafuri Camp.