Kruger National Park & Mpumalanga

Kruger National Park & Mpumalanga

There is one area of South Africa where the animals rule and mankind obeys. Almost 2 million hectares of eastern Lowveld have been reserved for one of Africa's most unique assets; the Kruger National Park. Founded in 1926, the park is the second largest in Africa; covering 19,000 square kilometers (7,336 square miles) - approximately the same size as Wales.

Today the KNP supports the greatest variety of animal species in Africa with 137 mammal species and more than 450 species of birds. There are more than 2600 kilometers (1615 miles) of tarred and gravel roads and 22 rest camps which provide a variety of accommodation choices. Within leisurely driving distance of each camp are waterholes, viewsites, picnic spots and a wealth of scenic and wildlife splendor. Despite all this though, the KNP remains unspoiled. Everything introduced by man - the rest camps and the designated areas - take up less than 3% of the total area. The remaining 97% belongs to nature. (Read about the RSA-O Kruger Park adventure here.)

The game reserve's history stretches back to a time when vast herds of game roamed in the northern areas of South Africa. The arrival of the white settles in the 19th century decimated these animals at an alarming rate (it was estimated that over 2 million animal hides were exported to Europe before the end of 1870). It was President Paul Kruger who first perceived the catastrophic effects of uncontrolled plunder; and he actively began to expound the necessity for conservation. In 1850 he declared it illegal for hunters to kill more than that was needed for consumption, followed by a new law in 1870 prohibiting the use of snares and pit-traps. In 1890 Kruger began the creation of wild-life sanctuaries; the first being a tract of land between the Crocodile River and Sabie River which was called the Sabie Game Reserve.
After the Boer war, James Stevenson-Hamilton was appointed as South Africa's first game warden. This ex-British major played an important role in shaping South Africa's wild-life conservation efforts. He engineered the extension of the Sabie Game Reserve's borders, convinced the South African parliament to pass the National Parks Act in 1926, and shortly afterwards consolidated the Sabie Game Reserve with the second (bordering) reserve; Shingwedzi. Appropriately it was named in honor of the country's first conservationist, President Paul Kruger.

There are many private game reserves around the KNP area; three of the largest being Sabie Sands, Timbavati and Klaserie. Created by the consolidation of a number of individual farms, the reserves together have one of the highest concentrations of game in South Africa. These private reserves offer wonderful wild-life experiences and homely accommodation with a personal touch. The game drives in open jeeps are unforgettable experiences! Our trip to the Nkhoro Game Reserve gives testimony to this! Also, read about the wide range of animals visible at the KNP.

Further away from the KNP, in the Mpumalanga area, visitors will find a wealth of historical & natural wonders as well as unsurpassed beauty. A trip to the KNP simply is not complete without including what is called the Summit Route, situated at the summit of the Drakensberg escarpment. Attractions along the way include the Mac Mac Pools & Waterfalls, the Blyde River Canyon (a 26 kilometer-long ravine formed over millions of years), God's Window, Bourke's Luck potholes, and Pilgrim's Rest. This was a mining village established in 1873, where newly-found gold deposits brought 1400 diggers panning for gold near the town. In 8 years the deposits were depleted and some R80-million in nuggets were taken from the river. Today it is preserved as a living museum and a reminder of South Africa's gold mining heritage.