The flagship among the national parks in southern Africa is to become part of a transboundary protected area of enormous size in the near future.
In recent years, border fences with Limpopo National Park in Mozambique have already been dismantled to ensure that the migration of large animals is not impeded, buffers have been created in the western part of the area thanks to the establishment of private game farms, and a corridor has been created with Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park to allow animals to migrate northward.
Nevertheless, wildlife is very unevenly distributed throughout the park area: While large numbers of wildlife were effectively wiped out there as a late consequence of the Mozambican civil war, animals had to be relocated from Kruger-National Park, which has not always been successful.
The area of the Kruger Park with its almost 20000 square kilometers has different forms of landscape and vegetation zones.
For example, the altitude varies from 823 m in the hilly southwest to 183 m in the eastern areas.
Apart from this, the park consists of flat and undulating terrain, from which rocky islands, called koppies, rise in many places. These are ideal habitats for klipspringers, baboons and leopards.
Although most of the park’s rivers carry water only during the rainy season, they then become mighty wide streams.
The vegetation of the park in the northern part (north of the Olifants River) differs significantly from the southern part. In the north, mopane forests dominate, interspersed with red bush willows, especially on the hilltops. Massive baobab trees can be found here as well.
The characteristic vegetation of the central part between Olifants and Sabie is characterized by open grass and tree savannahs ( many zebras, wildebeests and giraffes can be spotted here) with sweet thorn acacias, marula trees and bush pastures. The grassland of the southern part is dotted with thorny acacias.
Due to its size and diverse ecosystems, Kruger-National Park hosts a biodiversity that is unparalleled: 114 species of reptiles, 507 species of birds and 145 species of mammals are all represented in its territory. Among the mammals, impala, buffalo, zebra, elephant, wildebeest, kudu, giraffe, waterbuck, hippo and spotted hyena are the most common, while things look less rosy for lion, leopard, roan antelope and eland, not to mention the African wild dog and cheetah, which are numerically at the bottom of the scale.
Among the park’s 517 bird species, the ostrich is the largest. Marabou, ground hornbill, secretary bird and kori bustard are also conspicuous. On waters one can find large water birds such as saddle-billed stork, goliath heron, purple heron, gray and great egret, white and black stork, yellow-billed stork and pelican. Among the largest raptors are the martial eagle, the raptor eagle, the crowned eagle and the African fish eagle. Vultures are represented by lappet-faced vulture, white-backed vultures, cape vultures, white-headed vultures and hooded vultures.
The park’s well-maintained and complex road system is a consolation for the fact that visitors are only allowed to leave their vehicles in a few selected places and in the fenced camps.
The park’s rest camps allow a stay of several days, allowing visitors to get acquainted with the different vegetation and habitats of the area.
Due to its relative proximity to Johannesburg, Kruger-National Park is an ideal start or end point of a round trip through South Africa.