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The largest reserve in South Africa, Kruger National Park covers nearly 20,000 km², roughly the size of Slovenia. The park stretches 350 km long from north to south and 60 km wide from east to west. The park is located in the north-east of the country. It is bordered to the west and south by the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga, to the north by Zimbabwe, and to the east by Mozambique. It covers most of the lower eastern Veld. Kruger Park is now grouped together with Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe and with Limpopo National Park in Mozambique in the large Limpopo Transfrontier Park.
The first known human presence in this area is 1,500,000 years old. It was only in the year 200 AD that the first “ngunis” migrated from the north to this region and expelled the San. In 800, the Arabs began their first raids in search of slaves from the ports of the island of Mozambique.
The first Europeans to explore the region were the Dutch in 1725. In 1845, João Albasini, an 18-year-old Italian, was the first European to settle near what is now called Pretoriuskop. Gold was found in 1873 at Pilgrim’s Rest and in 1881 at Barberton creating a gold rush, despite lions, crocodiles and malaria. At this time begins the decline of animal fauna east of the Transvaal.
In 1898, the Sabie Game Reserve was created. After the Second Boer War in 1902, Major James Stevenson-Hamilton was appointed as the first guardian of the reserve. A few months later, the reserve expanded, augmented by areas between the Sabie River and the Olifant River. In 1903, the northern zone was established as a protected area against hunters under the name of Singwitsi Game Reserve including a triangle of land between the rivers Luvuvhu and Limpopo where the borders of Mozambique, South Africa and Southern Rhodesia meet (future Zimbabwe). To protect the region’s wildlife, Kruger National Park was created in 1926 and bears the name of Paul Kruger, former President of South Africa.
In 1935, more than 26,000 people visited the park (around one million in the 2000s). Lions being the main attraction of the park, Stevenson-Hamilton stopped predator hunting. In the 1960s, artificial ponds were created for wildlife. In 1991 Robbie Robinson became the new chief executive of the South African National Parks Board and was responsible for ensuring the transition of the park into the newly liberated apartheid South Africa. He had the fences that demarcated the park of the private reserves which adjoined it, cut down, allowing the free circulation of the animal fauna.
In 1998, David Mabunda became the first black director of Kruger National Park and is now the chief executive of the South African National Parks Board.
The Kruger National Park being very large, it naturally has a remarkable botanical diversity. The northern half of the park, north of the Olifants River is mostly covered with mopane forests to such an extent that it is known as mopane veld. In the south, however, the areas are strewn with thornveld (discontinuous graminaceous dry formation with small and thorny trees). Kruger National Park is divided into 6 different ecosystems of 1,982 plant species. There are 336 species of trees in the park.
There are three ways to discover Kruger Park: self-drive in your own car or rental car, book a safari at a park rest camp and a private lodge. The first two options are by far the most popular because they are aimed at independent travellers. This allows Kruger National Park to be one of the most financially accessible reserves.
Kruger National Park can be visited all year round. It is easier to observe the animals from June to September during the dry season and when the vegetation is then cleared and the animals gather around the water points. This is the best season to have chances to watch the Big 5.
April, May and October, November correspond to autumn and spring. In April, the vegetation begins to lose its density. It’s the rut season for impalas and wildebeest. October and November are the months to observe offspring.
From December to February, vegetation is very dense, particularly in the north and south-west of the park, complicating observations and the climate is hot and humid.
The main health risk is malaria. The Kruger is in zone III and the malaria meets mainly in the malignant form to P. falciparum. The risk is low from June to September during the dry season when water bodies are rare. On the other hand, the months of December, January and February present more risks.
Contact your doctor for taking anti-malaria medication. The best solution is to avoid being stung. Mosquitoes bite in the morning and in the evening. During these times, wear long, loose clothing, spray with an insect repellent, especially around the neck and ankles, close the doors of your home and put the mosquito net if there is one. At night, turn on the air conditioning or the fan.