Have you ever heard about the Kruger National Park?
Or even luckier- have you ever been yourself? This is one of South Africa’s national treasures. A spectacular piece of land totally protected and roamed by Africa’s most incredible animals.
The Big 5, amongst many more, reside in this wild and wonderful place, and the diverse fauna and flora bring in almost a million visitors every year.
The Kruger National Park is approximately the size of the whole of Wales which measures to 1,948 528 million hectares. It covers both the Mpumalanga and the Limpopo Provinces in the northern parts of South Africa and offers the visitor an exhilarating and up-close wildlife experience.
Is this somewhere you’re itching to go and experience yourself? Read below to find out more about the special rest camps you can visit and more!
Where to begin?
The hub of the Kruger National Park and the biggest rest camp is called Skakuza. There is a small airport called the Skakuza Airport, with a landing strip suited for small planes.
Once you land you immediately get a sense of excitement and can usually spot amazing animals from the plane. As soon as you step out of the plane the wilderness is clear and exciting!
From there airport, visitors usually get picked up by their game lodges accommodation (if you’ve gone that route), or you can hire a car to do your own viewing and travel within the Kruger.
Upon arrival one also has to pay a conservation fee- this is for the upkeep and safety of the National Park as there is a lot of work being done to protect the animals internally.
If you wish to make your dream of exploring the Kruger a reality, these operators can make that a reality for you!
Skukuza Rest Camp
Skukuza, as previously mentioned is the Kruger National Park’s largest rest camp and administrative headquarters.
This camp serves as the ‘headquarters’ for the Kruger, and it is from here you can enjoy a meal and their restaurants and consult the SANParks (South African National Parks) officials about any queries and concerns.
There are also various permits and passes you must obtain from here, wether you’re hiring a car to do your own game drives, or with a guided tour, there are very strict regulations to follow for your own safety as well as the animals safety.
Entry and exit of the camps in relatively strict and there are severe penalties for not meeting the curfew of the camps internally. No one is permitted to do independent night drives- as it is far to dangerous. However, guided tours with special permission occur every evening and one can do so with a permitted company.
Skakuza is situated on the Southern Banks of the Sabie River. The camp is well foliaged and there are lots of lofty trees along the river’s edge. Activities and facilities are diverse in this camp, as are the animals and plants found both within the camp and in the surrounding areas.
When walking around the camp, be careful of mischievous monkeys trying to steal a meal or even a backpack, and keep looking for rare and precious bush babies.
Skakuza, as the largest rest camp, has so much to offer. The accommodation in the camp gives one a real sense of culture in the Kruger as all the accommodation sites are shaped in traditional hut formats- completely round. The African culture in this area believes that having corners in a home is a space where evil spirits can dwell- hence the round huts and rondavels.
5 Things To look for
These are all very lucky to spot, and some break into the camp itself, but mostly one can spot these cute five in the surrounding area and in trees. In the case of the hyena- this certainly won’t be in the camp itself- not to worry.
Just a mile away from the Skakuza camp is a birdwatching point for the avid bird watchers. Its an amazing site called Lake Panic. From here you can enjoy the wildlife that all gathers around this lake. Birds mostly seek comfort here, however, crocodiles, terrapins and hippos are also regulars in this location.
Satara Rest Camp
Satara Camp stakes its reputation on being one of the best spots in the world for viewing Lion, Leopard and Cheetah in the wild. Satara Camp is often referred to as the ‘cat camp’ because of the large numbers of Lion and Cheetah in the area, and is for this reason that Satara is such a popular camp.
Because the fertile grazing land surrounding Satara this attracts vast herds of antelope and other grazers, and therefore, the large cats that prey on them are in abundance for you to see on your South African safari.
Of the smaller animals, the Honeybadger is something to look out for on this South African safari. At night, spotted hyena regularly whoop from the camp’s perimeter while the repetitive sonar chink of fruit bats blends with the chirp of cicada and cricket.
Clearly, Satara is a special camp to visit for its rich and popular wildlife viewing. It is situated around 90 kilometres from Skakuza, and has the most amazing sense of ‘wild’ in the camp.
Plenty of activities like bush barbecues and traditional dances complement the game viewing here. Even an Open Air Theatre is available in this camp for visitors to enjoy. As mentioned earlier, Satara is the best camp for viewing lion, leopard and cheetah and there are good bird watching opportunities from the Sweni Bird Hide near by.
Large cats are frequently spotted in the Muzadzeni area, where a large and successful Lion pride operates, or along the 5100 route that runs east from Satara Camp, hugging the bank of the N’wanetsi stream. This stretch is especially productive in winter when the veld is dry, and Lion and Leopard lie waiting to ambush thirsty Antelope that swarm in large herds to drink at the few remaining pools of water.
Although there are no major rivers, there are watercourses lined with well-developed trees. There are 3 dams and 6 waterholes in the area, offering you plenty of opportunity to spot the Big Five.
Night drives allow you in on the nocturnal activities of Kruger’s secretive creatures while in the company of experienced guides and trackers. Guided bush walks on this South African safari with trained field guides who take groups of up to 8 people out into the bush for a few hours are not to be missed. There are also regular game drives. Please Note: If you must walk at night please do not do so without a torch, as it can disturb the animals.
Satara, like other camps, has a plethora of resident birds. Particularly prominent are Red-billed buffalo weaver, glossy, greater Blue-eared and Burchell’s starling and mourning dove. At night, giant eagle, barn owl, scops and pearl spotted-owls can be seen and heard in the camp. The open plains to the north of the camp are a good place to record Montagu’s and pallid harrier for a South Africa safari.
In summer, after heavy rain, the high water levels reduce the bird-life. However, it is an excellent venue to see Blue-cheeked bee-eater that is regularly in attendance.
5 Things To Seek
- Red-billed Buffalo Weaver
- Blue Wildebeest
Satara Camp has a restaurant where those who don’t feel like cooking can relax and be served. But overall, this a a prime destination to visit if you ever find yourself in the Kruger. The chances of seeing beautiful cats are relatively high and the other experiences available are sure to make it a spectacular experience all round.
Lower Sabie is a camp which graces the banks of the Sabie River, one of the few perennial rivers to flow through the Kruger National Park. Visitors cannot but feel soothed by the view towards the river and the Lebombo Mountains beyond.
In this rest camp, the bounty and plenitude of nature are very evident, eloquently symbolised by the most conspicuous of its numerous trees, the mighty sycamore fig, which provides generously for the livelihood of many birds and insects. Not only do these giants produce fruit at least twice a year, but different trees produce fruit at different times, extending the gifts of life over many months. Watching the endless procession of animals coming to drink at the Sabie River establishes a sense of one’s own place in the eternal cycle.
5 Things To Seek
- Goliath Heron
- Giant Kingfisher
When visiting this camp, expect the unexpected. The amount of animals in the area are so exciting. As a rule of thumb in an river area in the Kruger there is bound to be some activity. There is also an unbelievable restaurant on the river which will certainly provide an amazing meal for you.
Guests that visit Olifants will be exposed to an unforgettable window of Africa. This camp is situated a top a hill which towers several hundred feet over the Olifants river. Views from the lookout platforms allow one to see the river below, just as a soaring eagle would survey it, as it hunts from the skies.
Because Olifants Camp 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 Zebra, Impala, Kudu and Elephant.
To the south, rolling plains are dotted with Buffalo, Giraffe and Kudu. While along the Olifants River, wildlife such as Lion, Crocodiles and Hippopotamus can be viewed on gameviewing and sightseeing excursions in Kruger Park, as well as an abundance of birdlife such as Owls, Storks and Eagles.
Game viewing is possible from Olifants Rest Camp where a shaded lookout platform is positioned. Here at your Kruger Park accommodation you are sure to spot Hippopotamus, Crocodiles in the Olifants River as well as the occasional Lion kill.
Around the Olifants River, guided game walks are the perfect way to learn more about the bush from close up. Morning or evening bush braais (barbeques) can be enjoyed as you soak up the warmth of a campfire and Kruger Park nightlife. Olifants Camp, like the other Kruger Park accommodation facilities, is suitable for year-round visits, but the summer months are often hot and balmy, 40 C, interrupted occasionally by sporadic thunder showers.
‘Olifants’ is the Afrikaans word for Elephants, which are commonly found in the area. Kruger National Park attractions include seeing the tusks of 6 of the famous Magnificent Seven Elephants, which used to be on display at the reception but can now be found at Letaba.
5 Things To Seek
- Nile Crocodile
- Martial Eagle
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 Rest Camp is now nestled.
The impressive granite dome known as “Shabeni Hill” is not far from the camp, which is found in the south-western corner of the Kruger National Park. It is immediately apparent to any visitor that Pretoriuskop is unique as brilliant red 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, the Kruger National Park’s oldest rest camp, and exotic flowering plants were allowed to stay, enhancing the strong sense of the past that is so pervasive.
5 Things To Seek
- Sable Antelope
- Lichtenstein’s Hartebeest
- Wild Dog
- Brown-headed Parrot
Summary on Kruger National Park
Overall, the Kruger is the most unbelievable place to visit. These are merely some of the parks camps. But one cannot exclude the other places within the Kruger that contain the most incredible scenes.
To get inspired by the endless opportunities of animal encounters available in the Kruger, have a look at Nature Travel Kruger tours.