Safari South Africa: Kruger National Park From South To North

C. Fraser Claire

One Park, A Lifetime of Safari Experiences For Every Safari-Lover

Safari South Africa - Kruger National Park South To North

One Park, A Lifetime of Safari Experiences For Every Safari-Lover

Steve and I often have the conversation: where would you recommend people go on safari with limited time? The answer has to be Kruger National Park in South Africa. The nature and very existence of the park is impressive – huge swathes of land (nearly 20 000 square kilometres) set aside for the conservation of natural heritage and wildlife. Reaching for Zimbabwe and brushing sides with Mozambique, to travel the park north to south is to see the amazing changing landscapes of southern Africa.

As a South African, Kruger has always been a wonder – the place of dream holidays, the place that remains typified by great sightings and visitor-friendly infrastructure. If you’re self-driving, Kruger is well-connected, with an incredible network of tar roads, accommodation options, and parks shops from south to north. If you want to bush camp, there are opportunities in some of the camps – but this popular offering gets snapped up pretty quickly, so fastest finger first on the SANParks booking system is called for. Camping, glamping, simply comfortable chalets, and luxury accommodation – Kruger and surrounds have it all.

Kruger Quick Travel Tips >

Lion on a Kruger National Park Safari by The Safari Store
Where should you go if you want to see wildlife in limited time? Kruger is a top choice.

In recent years, I have been lucky enough to spend long stretches of time in Kruger. This has given me a chance to think and rethink my favourite areas and camps. I have also collected simply outstanding wildlife sightings and bush moments. There are things I love and loathe about Kruger, but the wild spaces of Kruger more than make up for many of these things and my Kruger recollections are dominated by fantastic safari moments I would happily live again.

To have travelled north to south and south to north on more than one occasion is a privilege – and one I recommend for safari-lovers. I would take this a step further and say, if you are a first-time safari-goer (especially if you are self-driving), start in the south and work your way up to the wilder north as you gain confidence and experience. I can think of no better gateway to the Southern African safari experience than Kruger National Park.

These articles predominantly cover the SANParks camps, but the areas in and around Kruger are home to some big-name destinations like Sabi Sabi, Ngala, Londolozi, MalaMala, Singita Boulders Lodge, and many others. Get destination inspiration for Southern Kruger, Central Kruger, and Northern Kruger – with quick travel tips and expert packing advice from seasoned Kruger safari-goers.

What To Pack For Kruger >

Waterbuck on a Kruger National Park Safari by The Safari Store
Wild Dogs on a Kruger National Park Safari by The Safari Store

It Starts In The South

For many, the proximity to Johannesburg means a Kruger safari starts in the South. This is safari Disneyland. Malelane Satellite Camp, Berg-en-Dal, and Crocodile Bridge are all a stone’s throw from park boundary gates.

Expect day-trippers and traffic from external lodges. If it feels like there are more sightings in the South, it is almost certainly because there are more people to see wildlife and report them. Camps like Lower Sabie and Skukuza are undeniable hubs with bustling restaurants (in the case of Skukuza, a collection of eateries) and many day-trippers or day-long game-drivers breaking up their days.

Our drives along the Biyamiti River were a strong contrast. We drove for hours and hardly saw a soul, but saw plenty of wildlife and elevated, expansive bushveld views reaching right for the horizon.

For me, some of the major attractions include the Jock of the Bushveld trade route and historical monuments. The site of the Stevenson-Hamilton Memorial Grave (“Skukuza” – the man who changed everything) is also an unforgettable stop, shadowed by immense boulders. While the restaurants at Skukuza may detract from the wild side of things, the Shalati Railway Restaurant bears memories of a brilliant meal and a reminder that, for all the modern accoutrements, Kruger’s history is one that spans more than a century.

Read About Southern Kruger >

Klipspringer in Southern Kruger National Park by The Safari Store

Central Kruger: The Heart of Parkness

Many of the areas in central Kruger have long held a strong safari mystique for me. Timbavati – the word alone ups the pulse rate. It's home to almost mystical white lions and glorious, snaking sand rivers. It's hard not to fall in love with this lion land – a hop, skip, and a windy game drive from the town of Hoedspruit.

The camps in the Timbavati area are a little more intimate. Orpen is relatively small and located at the gate that leads to the safari metropolis of Hoedspruit and surrounds. Tamboti is a great option for anyone looking to sleep under canvas in a tented camp set-up. These tents line the fence – a great place to watch the day go by if you don’t feel like game driving. Maroela is the satellite campsite, also offering superb views of the sand river and into this gorgeous stretch of bush.

Central Kruger is also home to Satara, one of the more popular camps in Kruger. With long, flat plains, the game-viewing around Satara has something of legendary status. When talking to our walking guides, both mentioned Satara as a walking destination for adrenaline junkies – with a 50/50 chance of seeing lions.

One cannot think about Olifants without thinking about elevation. Looking down over the DNA strands of the river, Olifants is home to momentous bushveld views. Its satellite camp, Balulue, is rustic and wild: thatched rondavels, campsites, and no power – but with a wonderful wild feeling.

I have read articles voting for Letaba as a favourite Kruger camp. One of the larger camps, it balances wild surroundings with modern amenities particularly well. The restaurant has an expansive view of the river – a great place to grab a meal and watch animals and birds. The elephant museum at Letaba is also a wonderful stop-off – and pays tribute to the park’s big tuskers.

Read About Central Kruger >

View from Olifants Rest Camp, Central Kruger National Park

Northern Kruger: Gateway to Southern Africa

The further north you go, the more you will notice changes to the flora and fauna at Kruger National Park. Mopane Camp overlooks a sprawling dam, with game-viewing routes directed through riverine sections, mopane, and grassland. Tsendze is its satellite camp, which offers a rustic camping experience. Boulders Bush Lodge is located nearby – an exclusive and unfenced bush camp.

From here, the camps take on more of a frontier feeling – while offering the same level of SANParks hospitality. Shingwedzi and Sirheni give the feeling of being utterly remote, with limited road routes for game drives and fewer day trippers. There are also sleepover hide options available in this area – Sable and Shipandani Hide.

Punda Maria is the closest camp to Pafuri Gate in the very north of Kruger and this trip north brings with it some real Jungle Book patches of riverine forest and exciting new avian species for birdwatchers. This is also the area of Crook’s Corner – a must-stop location if you are in the area, where the Limpopo and Luvhuvhu Rivers meet and the nations of South Africa, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe converge. There is interesting history attached to this spot, but the glorious trees and peace of the bush make it worthwhile for everyone.

Read About Northern Kruger >

Elephant in Northern Kruger National Park by The Safari Store
Stork in Kruger National Park by The Safari Store

Preparing For Your Safari: South Africa. Travel Tips and Packing Advice For Kruger National Park

View basket