South Africa

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The Kruger National Park is situated in the north-east of South Africa in the eastern parts of Limpopo and Mpumalanga. At over nineteen and a half thousand square kilometres or seven and a half thousand square miles it is one of the largest game reserves in Africa. To the north, the Limpopo River, and to the south the Crocodile River, act as natural boundaries. To the east, are the Lebombo Mountains that separate South Africa from Mozambique.

Kruger National Park

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When first investigating the animals you hope to see during your visit, you will soon come across the term “the big five”, this refers to the lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and Cape buffalo. The term “big five” originated from big game hunting when it referred to the problems with hunting these animals due to their ferocious temperaments when cornered. People who organize safari tours took the phrase and used it as a marketing tool. I am sure that today’s visitors would hope to see all of these, but surely observing a giraffe, cheetah or hippo would be just as rewarding.

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Every effort is being made to reduce the amount of poaching within the park, with automated movement sensors, particularly in areas close to the Mozambique border where buffer zones have been introduced. To help the 650 or so anti-poaching unit, two helicopters have been introduced, and a specialist dog unit has been employed. The anti-poaching committee oversees and coordinates all activities.

Always obey the park’s speed limits. Stay inside your vehicle except in designated safe areas. No pets are permitted in the park. On no account feed the animals. The best choice is to tour the park in one of the park’s vehicles, you will have a higher ride height, and your guide will know the places to see certain animals. Also your guide will be skilled at spotting animals in the bush, it is surprising how close you can sometimes get to a large animal and still not see it.

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Wilderness trails are available within the park, with some tours necessitating an overnight stay. These are held in areas where few people get to visit and no man made trails exist, so the visitor has the opportunity to walk the animal made trails. However the parks policy is not to surprise the animals, so in practice you will be walking through the bush at a brisk pace with a couple of armed guards for protection, this can result in actually seeing less wildlife than when viewing from a game vehicle.

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Kruger has over 500 species of birds of which approximately half are residents of the park. Many of the larger birds inhabit large territories which restrict them to large conservation areas such as Kruger. There are believed to be 20-30 breeding pairs of Saddle-billed Storks, and an estimated 180 family groups of Ground Hornbills. There have also been reported sightings of the reclusive Pel’s Fishing Owl.

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In 1898 the President of the Transvaal Republic, Paul Kruger proclaimed the setting up of a Government Wildlife Park, which became known as the Sabi Game Reserve. Later in 1926 the Sabi Game Reserve was expanded and became the Kruger National Park. The park was created in an attempt to protect the wildlife whose numbers were found to be diminishing at an alarming rate.

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Within the boundaries of the Kruger National Park are 21 rest camps, 15 designated private safari lodges, plus 2 private lodge concessions. These concessions operate on areas of land in partnership with the local communities, which include outsourcing the management of private lodges. Camping in designated areas has also become very popular with tourists and backpackers alike as this can reduce the costs when visiting the park.

The Kruger National Park has a subtropical climate, summers can be hot and humid with temperatures reaching up to 40 degrees C. September into October is the driest time with the rains coming near the end of October. The best time to visit the Kruger National Park is during the dry winter season as there is less risk of contracting malaria, and the wildlife is easier to spot, as animals are more attracted to the waterhole's with the mornings and evenings being the best viewing times, Plus the vegetation is much reduced during this period, again making it much easier to spot the wildlife. Precautions against malaria are advised and medical advise should be sought in good time prior to visiting, as often medication needs to be taken some days in advance.

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