WElCOME TO KRUGER NATIONAL PARK

This Kruger National Park lodging and safari guide offers reservations and accommodation bookings for all your lodging requirements, including luxury private game lodges.

Staying in Kruger National Park or one of the surrounding private game reserves is ideal during a visit to South Africa. The safari and game lodges range from artistically elegant to super luxurious with en-suite bathroom facilities. The expert game rangers whisk you off on game drives and walking safaris, tracking the wildlife in their natural habitat.

 
About Kruger National Park
Siyabona Africa recommended books on Kruger National Park: Authors: Nigel Dennis & Michael Brett.

Above: The Lebombo Motorised 4x4 Eco-Trail follows the eastern boundary of the Park for 515 kilometres, from Crocodile Bridge to Pafuri.

While Stevenson-Hamilton believed in ‘a balance of Nature’, evidence suggests that the natural environment is never in a constant state of equilibrium, and is continuously influenced by weather patterns, fire and fluctuating wildlife populations. Nature is therefore never in a balance, or at least not in the way that humans interpret the term. In the past the Park’s biologists sought to manage the system in such a way that fluctuations in wildlife populations were minimised – however, certain management policies were to have a major impact on some species.

Where Stevenson-Hamilton had relied on intuition and experience in managing the Park, the 1950s saw the emergence of a corps of scientists, reliant on scientific methods and statistical analysis, that would dominate the management of the Park for more than 40 years.

Under scientific management it was argued that because the Kruger Park was entirely surrounded by a game-proof fence, constant and careful management was necessary. Not only was the veld burnt at regular intervals, and other fires actively discouraged, but wildlife populations were carefully monitored by conducting an annual census that took over three months to complete.

In 1972, Dr U de V Pienaar wrote, ‘the Board is trying, by means of the skillful supply of water and scientific control of grazing, to build up the numbers of all herbivorous animals to an optimum level ... considerable numbers of wildebeest and zebra are being captured in the overpopulated areas of the central district and transferred to the underpopulated areas south of the Sabie River.’

A few rare roan antelope survive on the northern plains.
The frequent occurrence of droughts, and the bad press that this generated, was addressed by ‘Water for Game’ campaigns, which raised substantial sums of money. More than 300 windmills and 65 major dams were constructed, often in areas where no natural water had occurred historically. In the Southern Region alone 22 windmills and 11 dams were constructed from 1960–1971. The water provision programmes allowed water-dependent species such as zebra and impala to increase.
An increase in zebras alters the nature of grasslands and allows lions to colonise vacant territories, thus contributing to the decline of rare antelope such as sable, roan, reedbuck and tsessebe. These antelope require very specific habitats, inhabiting open woodlands and grasslands in prime condition. In the Central Region, 12 new lion prides have become established since the 1950s in areas where artificial water points were provided.
Because water-dependent species thrived as a result of the water provision programmes, scientists then argued that it was therefore necessary to cull elephant, hippo, buffalo, zebra, wildebeest and impala.
Large herds of Cape buffalo are a common feature of the northern mopaneveld.

A census in 1967 counted 6 586 elephants, and park biologists decided to limit the population to 7 000. Culling of elephant and buffalo commenced in the same year. In time, the necessity for these programmes was questioned as a better understanding of the ecosystem emerged, and eventually all culling campaigns, with the exception of those for elephant, were abandoned.

In recent years park managers have retreated from intensive management, and have begun to rethink some of the direct management policies that were applied in the past.

A new fire policy allows fires started by lightning to burn without hindrance, and current thinking does not support culling except where certain habitat thresholds have been exceeded.

Management of an intricate ecosystem requires the compilation of a detailed management plan that allows for public input and has built-in capacity for policy changes.

In March 1999 a revised management plan was approved. Central to the plan is a clear Mission Statement which is: ‘To maintain biodiversity in all its natural facets and to provide human benefits in keeping with the mission of the South African National Parks in a manner which detracts as little as possible from the wilderness qualities of the Kruger National Park.’

The management plan was compiled from the proceedings of 52 workshops involving important role players. One section contains a new elephant management plan that divides Kruger into six zones. Two botanical zones have been established, where the vegetation determines how the area is managed, and these two zones together cover 15 per cent of the Park.

One of these is situated in the southwestern corner of Kruger around Pretoriuskop (see map), extending in a corridor southward to the Malelane Mountains; the other is in the Far North, extending from Punda Maria up to Pafuri. Here elephants will be limited to one animal per 2.86 square kilometres (the average density for the whole Park at the old ceiling of 7 000 elephants).

Two high impact zones have been established, covering 40 per cent of the Park. One extends from just south of Tshokwane up to the Crocodile River, and the other extends from west of Satara Camp up to near Mopani Camp. Elephants will not be culled or captured in these high impact zones for the foreseeable future.

Finally, there are two low impact zones, one extending from the Olifants River to just south of Tshokwane; and the other from Mopani Camp to the edge of the botanical zone around Punda Maria. The low impact zones cover 45 per cent of the Park, and in these areas elephants will be reduced by seven per cent per year by live capture or culling until certain habitat criteria have been met.

One of the most important new policies relates to water. Many of the 300 artificial water holes will be closed. By limiting the distribution of water, many of the imbalances that led to culling in the past will be corrected and natural migratory patterns will hopefully be restored, which benefits the ecosystem by providing long rest periods for the vegetation.


The ‘Southern Region’ extends northwards from the southernmost border of the Park as far north as the Sabie River; the ‘Central Region’ from the Sabie River to the Olifants River; the ‘Northern Region’ from the Olifants to just south of Punda Maria; and the ‘Far North’ from Punda Maria up through Pafuri to the Limpopo River. Note that these regions and the names given to them here are not officially recognised.

 
How To Get There

There are 3 easy ways to get to Kruger National Park - flying, shuttle transfers or self driving.

Getting to Kruger National Park should be an easy and pleasant experience, not one fraught with worry and stress. Here are a few options to help you decide which mode of transport is best for you.

Flying:
Flying to Kruger is indeed a stress free event, with 3 world class airports operating in the Kruger Park area.
The southern section of the Park is serviced by the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (KMIA), the central section by Hoedspruit Airport, and the northern section by Phalaborwa Airport. Airlines flying to these airports are SAAirlink and Nationwide Airlines.
SAA is the only airline that travels between Johannesburg and KMIA, as well as Johannesburg and Phalaborwa.

Flights:
Flights depart from Johannesburg to Phalaborwa Airport, Hoedspruit Airport and KMI Airport on a daily basis. KMIA also receives daily flights from Durban and Cape Town. Flights from Cape Town to Hoedspruit is also possible, however, flights from Hoedspruit in via Johannesburg only.

Flights into KMIA are only suitable to the southern camps of the Park and the lodges in the southern part of the Sabi Sands.

The Skukuza Airfield, formally used for daily commercial flights from Johannesburg, is no longer open for commercial flights. No aircraft may land here without prior permission from the Park Director. Daily charter flights can, however, be arranged into Skukuza.

Flights from and to Kruger Park:
There are many daily flights from Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (KMIA) and Johannesburg International Airport. Please enquire here

Charter Flights:

Flights from Johannesburg and Cape Town to the new and improved Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport depart daily, followed by a transfer via charter flight directly to your lodge, should that lodge have an airstrip.

Shuttle Bus Transfers:

Shuttle bus transfers can be organised from the airport into the National Park, however, it is advised to be mobile once you are in the Park as you are not allowed to leave the camp/lodge area on foot.

Please note that Siyabona Africa Travel can only assist with transfers if it is booked in conjunction with accommodation. The cost of the transfer will depend on the route that each individual client needs to travel.
Self Drive/Car Hire:

Self driving is an excellent way to discover the wonders of the Kruger National Park at your own pace. With this type of flexibility, guests can enjoy a more rewarding experience in the Kruger Park.

The roads leading to the Park are tarred and in good condition. Petrol stations are littered along the way and easy to follow road maps are readily available.

Car hire is available at KMIA, Hoedspruit and Phalaborwa Airports, at the Skukuza Camp, or from all major towns in South Africa.

 
Safari Essentials
General Safety Tips
If you are on a guided African safari, your chances of encountering problems are minimal. Tour operators make it their business to know the areas they travel in thus reducing risk to travellers. However, it is sensible to take normal precautions on your African safari, particularly when travelling through urban areas.
Travel Documents / Money
Always have a photocopy of your passport, and any visas. Also, have a list of traveller’s cheque numbers. These copies should be packed separately from the originals. It is never a good idea to carry large amounts of cash, and most urban centres (hotels, shops) do accept credit cards (Visa and Mastercard are most common), and traveller’s cheques. You might need cash for purchases local markets – keep this in a travel wallet, or a zip pocket.
Luggage
Never leave cameras and hand luggage unattended, whether in a vehicle, or even in a hotel foyer. Never pack valuables (this includes medication), in your check-in luggage.
Personal Safety
When travelling independently on your African safari, stay informed in terms of the local news. Ask at your hotel about any unsafe areas, and codes of dress and behaviour. Don't openly carry valuables. If you must carry your passport and money, keep them in a buttoned-down pocket.
Game Viewing
Your guide will always do a safety talk with you, whether your game viewing is to be done from a vehicle, or on foot. Wildlife is potentially dangerous, but as long as you adhere to what you guide tells you, there is very little to worry about. At viewpoints, hides and camps, wildlife is more familiar with people and less intimidated by your presence. Never tease or corner wild animals - this may cause an unpredictable response and a potentially dangerous reaction. Never feed any animals, as this can cause them to lose their fear of humans.
Creepy Crawlies
Although Africa is known to be home to a number of potentially dangerous species, especially snakes, scorpions, spiders, and insects, very few visitors are adversely affected. Snakes tend to be shy, and generally stay away from built-up areas. Lodges and camps generally have insect (especially mosquito) proofing in their rooms. If you go on a walk, it is always a good idea to comfortable, enclosed walking shoes, socks, and long trousers – just as a precaution.
Packing For Your Safari
The essential thing to remember is to travel light!
Be Certain to Have with You:

» Valid passport
» Valid visa - if required
» One other picture identification (e.g. driver's licence)
» Photocopy of passport page to carry in wallet
» Air tickets
» Expense money
» Comprehensive Travel Insurance Policy

Dressing for Safaris

On safari, most people wear shorts and a T-shirt during the day and put on long sleeved shirts and long pants in the evening for warmth as well as protection from mosquitoes. Should you be particularly sensitive to the sun a loose cotton shirt is essential during the day. Khaki, brown, olive and beige colours are best for and safaris and game walks.

White is not a suitable colour for these activities, as it increases your visibility to wildlife you want to get a closer look at and it will get dirty very quickly. Fleece or sweater and a windbreaker for game drives, because it is highly possible that you may go out on a hot day, but be faced with a chill evening on your return. Remember that layering your clothing will keep you warmer than relying on one thick item.

Clothing to Pack for Safaris

» 2 pairs khaki cotton pants
» 2 pairs khaki shorts
» 2 long sleeved shirts/ blouses (for sun protection as well as warmth)
» 1 light sweater or sweatshirt
» 1 lightweight, waterproof windbreaker
» Swimming costume
» Sturdy walking or hiking boots
» Sandals
» 3-5 short-sleeved shirts or T-shirts
» 5 changes underwear and socks
» Hat with a brim (baseball caps might cover your nose but not your ears and neck)
» Gloves (if you really feel the cold)
» Down vest or jacket (if you really feel the cold)
» A sarong or kikoi type garment

* Most lodges and safari camps offer laundry as part of their service. Hotels all offer laundry, at additional cost.
Essentials:

» Toilet kit including shampoo and soap
» Insect repellent
» Good quality sunglasses plus protective case
» Hand wipes or 'Baby wipes'
» Stuff-sacks or plastic packets; to compartmentalise items within your travel bag
» Repair kit: needle and thread, nylon cord, rip-stop tape
» Camera, film or memory card
» Spare batteries. Film and batteries can generally be obtained at lodges, but at a price of course, so please be sure to have
    sufficient supplies for your needs
» Binoculars
» Paperback reading, writing material (keep weight at a minimum)
» Sunscreen or block
» Moisturizer, lip balm
» Personal first-aid kit (headache pills, antihistamine cream etc)
» Large towel and washcloth (thin, quick-drying) – if required for camping/overland safari

If you take prescription medication, be sure to bring a sufficient supply with you. If you are on a lengthy holiday, we suggest that you carry a copy of your prescription with you.
Luggage for a Mobile Safari
For Safari travel, the best type of luggage to bring is a soft bag, or backpack with an internal frame. As packing space in Safari vehicles is limited, only one bag is allowed, but you should also have a daypack for all of your personal items/camera/binoculars. Hard suitcases are usually scuffed or damaged in transit and are inappropriate for a game safari.
Light aircraft: Important note
If part of your itinerary includes light aircraft flights, there are serious weight restrictions. You are usually restricted to 10 or 12kg (22 or 26 lbs), per person, in a soft bag. Storage space in a light aircraft is at a premium, and the pilot may refuse to take on bulky or excessive luggage. The most common aircraft types used for charter work are Cessna 206 or 210, and Cessna 208 Caravans. Slightly larger aircraft are often used in East Africa, but luggage is still restricted.
A reasonable amount of hand luggage and camera equipment is generally allowed.
* Remember that the charter pilot has the final say in terms of taking the luggage and you will be responsible for costs should your luggage need to be forwarded for you, or should an extra aircraft be required for transportation.
Wild Life Photography Tips

It's important to know the behavior of the animals you're trying to photograph. By understanding their behavior you will have a better chance of finding them and you will be able to predict their actions.

By reading up on animal behavior you will learn the different kinds of terrain the various animals prefer. You can combine that knowledge with that of your qualified guide to plan the best African game drives and bush walks, where you will have the opportunity to take some amazing photo's.

Security is very important, so make sure that you don't put yourself in danger. Also never interfere with the natural behavior of the animals in order to take a better photo!

Some part of all trips will involve meeting people from local tribes and with cultural backgrounds different from ours. Please be courteous when taking pictures. It is always a good idea to build rapport with your subjects first and then ask them if it is OK to take their picture. Tribal folk can be very suspicious of cameras and vocal and demonstrative with people who shoot first and make friends after.

The following tips should help you to take memorable photos while on your African safari:

When taking close-up pictures, focus on the animal's eyes. This guarantees that most of the animal's face will be in focus. Be prepared and ready with your camera at all times, as animals may suddenly appear and disappear just as quickly.

Range your subject. For example, when taking photos of an Elephant, take a portrait shot; include one more with the general habitat in context to the subject, then another with close-up detail, such as horns and face.

Utilise low contrast film when the sun is intense and high contrast film when it is overcast or dull. Take different pictures in vertical and horizontal approaches. Take photographs from different levels when you are on a game viewing activity. Pictures taken at the animal's eye-level will appear more sensational.

Do not centre all your shots; leave room in your subject for the animal to move into. This will prevent lifeless composition and give an imitate portrayal of your subject. A good starting point for wildlife photography is a lens with a 300mm in focal length. Bird photography will require a 500mm lens. When the subject is in motion, use a shutter speed of at least 1/125, except if you are using a panning method. Birds in flight necessitate speeds of 1/500 or more.

Film Requirements:

You will find incredible photographic opportunities on your safari. There are no limitations on the amount of film you can bring to any of the countries of Southern Africa, so bring plenty! Film is expensive and can be hard to find once in Africa. If you are interested in A PHOTOFRAPHIC JOURNAL of your safari, bring at least 1 roll (36 exposures) per day; it doesn't hurt to bring more.

We recommend Kodachrome 64 (slide film) or Fujichrome 100 for most daylight shots in open territory. With longer lenses, which admit less light, or for low light situations around dawn and dusk, 400 ASA (or higher) are also recommended. A flash unit is a useful addition when taking pictures of dark subjects in low light conditions, or evening camp fire scenes. Stow your film in a lead foil bag to protect it from heat, moisture and airport X-ray machines. There are two types available, one rated up to 400 ASA and one to 3200 ASA. The 3200 ASA bag is virtually impenetrable to X-rays and is worth the extra cost.

Lenses:

A 200 or 300 mm lens (or 80-300 zoom) is good for most wildlife photography from vehicles or boats. A 400-500 mm lens will work well in many situations, especially if you are a keen bird photographer.

A standard 50mm or wide angle lens is good for scenery and people shots. If you are an avid photographer you may want to bring two SLR camera bodies (of the same type) so you will not have to constantly change lenses. With two cameras you will spend more time looking at the wildlife and composing shots than fumbling in your camera bag, getting dust in your one camera body, and missing the action!

Filters & Accessories

Skylight and haze filters are useful for lens protection as well as picture enhancement. Polarizing filters are useful when taking pictures over water and with wide-angle shots with sky and clouds. Although tripods are cumbersome and you will have few opportunities to use them, if they are light-weight you may want to bring them along. A small beanbag is very handy for resting your camera and lens on the roof of vehicles. We suggest that you make the bag at home (approx. 6'x 9') and fill it with beans purchased at a local market (to save weight).

Bring plenty of spare batteries for motor drives, flash units, etc. and for your camera (they are very scarce in Africa). It is very handy if all your equipment uses the same size batteries, so that if you run short, you can borrow batteries from your other equipment.

If you plan to buy new camera equipment before this trip, make sure you are completely familiar with it's operation. Try to envisage the type of lighting and subject conditions you will experience on the trip, and use a few rolls of film to experiment and perfect your technique. A trip to the zoo may help with identification and technique.

Time spent in preparation will pay dividends in the field. For those of you who are real camera buffs, it is a good idea to bring along a small automatic (point and shoot) camera for convenience, in addition to your bulky SLR cameras. This will be very useful as a back up camera and in situations where setting up an SLR is too time consuming and absorbing. Polaroid Cameras are usually an instant hit and serve as a great ice breaker with local folk. If the locals receive a picture, usually they are very willing to pose for a shot with your SLR camera.

Protection and Insurance
The transportation used in these trips is quite rugged, vibration from engines and corrugated roads can play havoc with your camera gear so pack it well. Also, it is not uncommon to drop cameras in or out of the vehicle. On some trips you will be on board boats and there is the chance that you and your gear may take a swim. Insure your equipment. A home owners policy will usually cover camera gear.
Cultural interaction.
Some part of all trips will involve meeting people from local tribes and with cultural backgrounds different from ours. Please be courteous when taking pictures. It is always a good idea to build rapport with your subjects first and then ask them if it is OK to take their picture. Tribal folk can be very vocal and demonstrative with people who shoot first and make friends after.
Picture-Taking Advice.

Do not let your camera blind you. There is a whole world out there and pictures only capture the images. The sights and sounds of these undeveloped areas are all interwoven, and if you spend an inordinate amount of time peeking through the viewfinder you will miss most of the trip. Be ready with your camera at all times. Animals do not keep appointments; kills happen in a flurry of fur and snarls; and leopards leap from trees in a split second.

If your camera isn't loaded or ready you will miss the award winning shot. The vehicles we use are very stable, however with 5 to 7 people in them each person's movement can effect someone's ability to take the perfect picture. It is a good idea to ask everyone to be still for just a moment, while you shoot, and thank them afterwards. Please remember not to monopolise the best spot for photos and to be considerate of your fellow trip members' needs and wishes. Your trip leader will help organise seat rotations within the vehicle.

Video Equipment
A videotape of your wildlife safari is a wonderful memento. With today's technology the cameras are as small as an SLR and are very versatile. It is possible to recharge your camera batteries from some vehicles. You will need to bring approximately 3-4 hours of film, 3 batteries (one in the camera, one in the recharger, and one spare already charged), a 12 volt charger with a cigarette lighter attachment, crocodile clips and some gaffer tape.
Try recharging your batteries on your own car first to familiarise yourself with the recharging set up. Your driver/trip leader will give you specific instructions about when you can recharge your batteries. To make the most of your videos - shoot some practise film before your trip.
Binoculars:
Binoculars are strongly recommended for every trip member. They are invaluable for observing larger animals as well as birds. A 7 or 8 power binocular works well for most people, but if you are particularly interested in birds a 10 power is best. We recommend that each trip participant bring his or her own pair, as it is most frustrating to strain for the sight of a brightly coloured bird high in the tree, while waiting to borrow a pair of 'Binos', only to have the bird fly away once you finally get the binos. Inexpensive binoculars are available at most places for about US$30-50. TASCO and BUSHNELL are two brands which are adequate for most purposes and are quite durable.
Planning your Safari
When deciding on the type of safari/ tour you want, there are a few points to take into consideration:

» What type of activities you are interested in
» What area/s you are interested in
» What time of year do you want to travel
» How far in advance should you book
»Your budget
» The age and level of fitness of the person(s) travelling

Some Lodges/ Safari Camps do not cater for young children, due to safety concerns, but there also a number of properties that have programmes that cater for children – which still allows for a good number of choices should you be interested in family travel.

Different Types of Safari Activities
An African safari offers many exciting activities, abundant opportunities to observe wildlife and view scenic and picturesque landscapes. Activities are based on the habitat, existence of rivers, climate, wildlife and the level of experience of the guides. Get acquainted with the different habitats and animal behavior before you travel. If you decide to focus on a particular area or are concentrating on certain animals or birds, prepare yourself well and select your destination based on the safari activities that suite your interests.
Game Drives:
All game drives are undertaken in an open safari vehicle, with a driver / guide who has extensive experience and intimate knowledge of the area, and is an expert on game movement and other ecological aspects of the region. Game drives usually depart in the early morning and late afternoon when it is cooler, for game to hunt and graze, so there is a better chance of encountering abundant wildlife. There are also exciting night game drives where you can witness fascinating nocturnal animals.
Game Viewing:
Most game viewing activities take place in the early morning and late afternoon, which maximize the chance of encountering animals when they are most active. In the warmer months most animals find shelter during the heat of the day. The greatest opportunity to see a Lion is usually just after sunrise. Other large African animals like Buffalo, Giraffe, Wildebeest, Elephant are more visible an hour before sunset.
Bird Watching:
Some areas offer better bird watching opportunities than others. The greatest number of birds may be seen between October and March, when the central African migrants are present. Endemic species will be seen throughout the year.
Walking Safaris:
There is no finer way to enjoy the essence of the African bush than on foot. The freedom of being in the heart of the wilderness and in close proximity to Africa's magnificent wildlife is an unforgettable experience. Walking safaris inspire a degree of respect for the wild environment, as you soon realise that you are a participant and not just a spectator.
Boating, Canoeing and Makoro:
In some camps, boating is one of the activities on offer. You can travel out into the surrounding areas by boat looking for wild game, birds and at the general scenery. You can even fish in certain areas. In Botswana you will have the opportunity to explore the Okavango Delta by mokoro (traditional dugout canoes). There is no better way to relax in the wilderness than a mokoro trip through the Okavango Delta.
Other Activities:
Other exciting activities may include; horse-back and Elephant-back safaris, ballooning, quad bike drives, mountain biking, scenic flights, game capture, assistance with field research, Gorilla tracking, anti-poaching exercises...Let us help you create your dream safari.
Safari Etiquette: Respecting Wildlife & Environment
There are certain rules and regulations that one should be aware of while on safari. One of the highlights of most safari's is going on game drives and bush walks, where you get the opportunity to see amazing wildlife in their natural habitat. However it is vitally important that you remember to respect the natural surroundings and wildlife.
The following are some guidelines you should follow:

Bush vegetation is extremely sensitive. Off-road driving causes erosion and encourages the encroachment of unwanted plant species. Observe the animals silently and with a minimum of disturbance to their natural activities. Loud talking on game drives can frighten the animals away.

Night drives with excessive use of spotlights disrupt the activities of nocturnal animals causing temporary blindness and disorientation. Never tease or corner wild animals, this may cause an unpredictable response and a potentially dangerous reaction.

Do not remove any natural material from wildlife reserves. This disrupts the ecology of the area and promotes the spreading of diseases amongst domestic animals and crops. Never attempt to attract an animal's attention. Don't imitate animal sounds, clap your hands, pound the vehicle or throw objects.

Please respect your driver / guide's judgment about your proximity to certain wild animals. Don't insist that he take the vehicle closer so you can get a better photograph. A vehicle driven too close can hinder a hunt, or cause animals to abandon a hard-earned meal.

Remember that your guide is an expert, so always follow his advice and ask him questions if you are unsure of anything. Never sleep outside. Take only photographs and memories with you.

Litter tossed on the ground can choke or poison animals and birds and is unsightly. Refrain from smoking on game drives. The dry African bush ignites very easily, and a flash fire can kill many animals.

Never attempt to feed or approach any wild animal on foot. This is especially important near lodges or in campsites where animals may have become accustomed to human visitors.

When is the Best Time to go on Safari
Although much has been written about the best time of year to travel in Africa, most countries are a year-round destination – depending upon your interests. For many travellers to this vast and diverse continent, wildlife is the major attraction.

One should always remember that the so-called 'peak season' is just that, and accommodation establishments tend to be booked well in advance. Many Safaris Lodges are small, and therefore space is at a premium. If you want to experience the majesty of the great migration in East Africa, it is advisable to book well in advance, likewise, if your interests are travelling to Cape Town, and the Winelands in December.

It is important to understand how seasonal trends might affect your trip. Remember, however, that weather is variable and so it is quite possible to go for days without rain during the rainy season, or have thundershowers in the middle of the dry season!
Wet Season
The grass can be long in some areas after the rains; therefore, game viewing at these times can be difficult. In some areas, the wildlife will disperse during the rains due to the ample water supply, as they are not dependent on water holes.
Dry Season
The best game-viewing period in Africa is generally during the dry season. Permanent water supplies attract animals, the vegetation becomes thinned out, and trees don't have so many leaves to obstruct the view.
This optimum safari season usually includes winter (May-August) and the hot spring months of September and October. The climate is comfortable in the dry winter months of May, June, July and August. Daytime temperatures are mild and the nights get a little cool.
Your Health On Safari: About vaccinations and water precautions
Generally, there is very little to worry about when travelling in Africa. At most properties, and in most areas, the water is safe to drink, and is less chemically treated that you might imagine. In those rare cases where a property itself is concerned about water, bottled water is always provided. Indeed, bottled water is readily available at properties, and on safari.

Malaria is a prevalent disease in much of Africa, but lodges all take precautions – with a combination of mosquito nets, and sprays. Be sure to continue the prophylactic regime when you return home, as it is generally required up to 4 weeks after travel as well. Please see Malaria information for more details.

Yellow Fever is caused by a virus carried by a species of mosquito, and has been known to occur in certain East African countries. There have been no recent outbreaks, but as yellow fever is contagious, many countries require travellers to get a yellow fever inoculation. Travellers should be inoculated at least 10 days prior to travel (a certificate is issued).

The inoculation certificate is not generally required when entering the country in question (e.g. Kenya or Tanzania), but is required for your return to your country of residence. Please consult your Travel Clinic, or doctor, prior to travel.
Bilharzia (Schistosomiasis) is a waterborne parasite carried by snails, and occurs in stagnant water of lakes, dams and slow flowing rivers. However, lodges, and guides, will always caution you as to where it is safe to swim. In Africa, many lakes and rivers are home to Hippopotamus and Crocodiles anyway – so swimming is not generally recommended!

If you travel extensively in remote areas, you might also want to consult your Travel Clinic about Hepatitis A and B, and tetanus inoculations.

When on Safari, always ensure that you drink sufficient quantities of water. Day time temperatures can be extreme, even in winter, and you don't want to suffer from dehydration.

Complications from sunburn should also not be ignored – always wear a hat with a brim, and ensure that you carry a good supply of protection cream.
Kruger National Park Wildlife
Antelope in Kruger
Towering five metres above the ground and weighing as much as 1 400 kilograms, the giraffe is the tallest animal of the African savanna – yet still falls prey to lion. In
the Central Region, where an abundance of acacias concentrates 60 per cent of the giraffe population, a study found they comprise 15 per cent of all lion kills, but account for nearly half of the food eaten by lion.

Giraffe show a distinct preference for knobthorns. Their consistent browsing often prunes the trees into shapes more in keeping with a manicured garden.

Giraffe browse on about 70 species of trees and shrubs in the Kruger Park, but are particularly partial to combretums, buffalo thorn and acacias, as illustrated above. They feed by wrapping their long tongues aound twigs to reach the fine leaves of these trees.

During the rut, which takes place between April and June, adult impala males establish territories, which they defend by chasing away rival males.
Guttural roars followed by protracted snorts can be heard throughout the day and night, as the dominant male defends his territory against intrusions by neighbouring males. If territorial displays are not effective in fending off rivals, the males resort to horn-clashing duels to determine dominance.

A herd of impala approaches water. For impala, gathering together in a herd has many advantages: many pairs of eyes and ears are constantly alert to danger, and the chances of being caught by a predator are greatly reduced. In the Kruger Park there are approximately 10 000 impala herds with an average herd size of 11 animals.

Impala gather at a water hole in acacia country near Lower Sabie. They have a marked preference for areas where there is a regular supply of water, short grass and dense thickets of shrubs and trees.

These conditions are normally encountered near rivers where a concentration of larger animals, such as elephant and buffalo, further improves the habitat for impala. Impala are prolific breeders and are the most abundant mammal in Kruger, but these medium-sized antelope drink less than one quarter of the water consumed by the Park’s elephants.

A redbilled oxpecker removes ticks from a female impala, the smallest of the antelope attended by these birds. Small flocks of oxpeckers clamber about the host cleaning ectoparasites from its hide. When startled, they move to the opposite side of the host, and peer over its back at the source of disturbance. Their noisy, hissing alarm calls help to warn the animals they are perched upon of impending danger.

Kudu are nonselective browsers and feed on no less than 150 species of trees and shrubs. They avoid trees with a high tannin content in their leaves, and favour acacia and combretum species.

Although they prefer the same trees that are sought after by giraffe, competition between the two species is minimised by feeding at different heights. This beautiful large antelope is the most widely distributed of the Park’s 20 antelope species, but is most common in the Central Region where its favourite food plants are found in abundance.

Although kudu drink when water is available, in times of drought they are more susceptible to a lack of adequate browse than they are to a lack of drinking water. The female weighs about 160 kilograms, but males are much larger and weigh on average 250 kilograms.

A kudu bull displays the longest horns of all the antelope that occur in Kruger. At the age of nine months a male kudu sports two short horns, which begin to grow and curve with age to form the corkscrew shape typical of mature bulls.

The record length of 181 centimetres is more than twice that recorded for a close relative, the nyala. There have been several observations of jousting kudu bulls interlocking their spiral horns and being unable to disengage. Unable to disentangle their horns or flee, the helpless contestants soon fall prey to predators.

Herds of female waterbuck and their young occupy a home range that coincides with the territories of several males.

Relative to their small population size, more waterbuck are killed by lion than any other antelope in Kruger, and 60 to 80 per cent of deaths can be attributed to these predators. Waterbuck are uncommon throughout their range in South Africa and currently number a modest 1 400 in Kruger. They favour open woodland near water.

A male waterbuck, followed by an attentive cattle egret, grazes near the Sabie River. Of the 77 species of African antelope, only the waterbuck has a distinctive white ring around the rump. Grasses of a high nutritional quality and a regular supply of water are both essential habitat requirements for these animals. Cattle egrets, the only members of their family that are not closely dependent on water, feed on grasshoppers and other insects disturbed by large antelope.

The regal sable, arguably the most beautiful antelope in the Park, has specific habitat requirements that include tall grassland and open woodland.

An increase in zebra herds and prolonged drought has caused a considerable decline in sable in recent years. Blue wildebeest favour short grasses and need to drink less than other grazers such as zebra and buffalo. Although wildebeest are dependent on water, the severe drought of 1992/93 had little effect on their population, currently estimated at about 13 000.

A blue wildebeest bull maintains his dominance by means of ritual displays intended to intimidate any intruder. When another bull approaches, the territorial bull’s rocking-horse gait and swishing tail are meant to dissuade his competitor.

If this display fails, the bull drops to his knees and engages in horn-clashing sparring (opposite below). No injuries result from these contests as the impact is absorbed by the bull’s solid horn bosses. One of the bulls eventually surrenders and is chased off the territory by the victor.Wildebeest bulls clash at Bangu, an important water hole on the eastern plains. Males are territorial and even where herds migrate over long distances, temporary territories are established.

In the Kruger Park bushbuck are associated with dense riverine bush, and the road between Skukuza and Lower Sabie offers the best sightings. They are solitary antelope and occupy home ranges that often overlap. Unlike most antelope species, bushbuck are exceptionally tolerant of each other and territorial displays are a rare phenomenon.

The smallest of the antelope most commonly seen in Kruger, steenbok show a marked preference for the open plains in the eastern region of the Park, formed on volcanic basalt. There is some sexual dimorphism, with only male steenbok having horns, and the females being slightly larger than the males.

A nyala male displays the stripes and horn shape typical of this antelope family. Nyala occur mainly north of the Letaba River, especially along the Shingwedzi and Luvuvhu rivers. Only males have horns. Females are a reddish ochre in colour and can be confused with young kudu.

The roan antelope is classified as an endangered species in South Africa. Following the harsh drought of 1992/93, roan nearly became extinct in the Park, and the population fell from 452 in 1986 to 44. Kruger mostly contains habitats that are marginal to their requirements, as roan survive better on wetter savannas. They avoid areas of short grass and overutilised areas, and occur only in open woodland with a well-developed cover of tall grass.


Big Five in Kruger
White Rhino
By 1896 white rhino were extinct in the Lowveld, while elsewhere a relic 50 animals survived between the White and Black Umfolozi rivers in Zululand. Successful
conservation measures made it possible to re-introduce 337 rhino from 1961 onwards, and the Kruger Park now safeguards the world’s largest population.

White rhino require a reliable supply of water, both for drinking (every two to three days) and for the protective layer of mud that helps shield their hides from biting insects. In Kruger 85 per cent of the population occurs in the Southern Region, where rainfall is higher than average and water holes are evenly distributed. Their senses of smell and hearing are good, but their eyesight is poor and redbilled oxpeckers warn them of potential danger.

A white rhino bull marks his territory by spray-urinating along its boundaries. Only territorial males do this; subordinate males are allowed to live within the territory so long as they remain submissive. Females are free to wander across the territories of several males.

White rhino coat their hides in mud to reduce bites from irritating flies, and during the hot summer months mud wallows help to regulate body temperature. With a
considerable body mass of up to 2 300 kilograms, and a vast surface area that is increased by folds of skin, white rhino can remove large quantities of mud from a wallow with each visit. Over the decades this has the effect of excavating significant depressions in the veld, which are rapidly filled during the rainy season to form pans.
Elephant
An elephant drinks from a pool in the Mphongolo River that still holds water during winter months. An elephant can draw 17 litres of water at a time. During winter,
elephant are usually concentrated within six kilometres of water and drink on average every two days, consuming between 180 and 400 litres per visit.

Two young elephants play on the soft, cool sandy bed of the Mphongolo River. Elephants live in well-ordered family groups that are usually led by the oldest female, the matriarch. In addition to the matriarch, the group consists of her older female calves, related females and their offspring. Males leave the herd from the age of 12 years.

Elephant with its dextrous trunk, which is composed of 50 000 muscles, an elephant is able to carefully select leaves from among the thorny branches of a thicket of Delagoa thorns (Acacia delagoensis).
Buffalo
A young buffalo depends on the structure of the herd for protection. Buffalo are almost exclusively grazers, and half the Kruger population occurs on the open savannas of the Central Region. These bovids consume large quantities of grass of a moderate quality, and in doing so play a valuable role in the ecosystem by reducing tall grasslands and opening up areas for the antelope that feed only on short grasses.

As an adult can weigh more than 750 kilograms, buffalo comprise a quarter of Kruger’s total biomass, or live weight of animals. Although lion working together can overpower an adult bull, the availability of sufficient grass is the most important limiting factor on herd size.

A lone buffalo bull near Crocodile Bridge. Unlike most antelope species, male buffalo voluntarily leave the breeding herd and rejoin at a later stage. A herd does
not occupy a fixed territory, and its favoured home range includes certain areas that are utilised during winter, and an expanded range that is used during summer. Typically, old bulls eventually become permanently separated from the herd to live a solitary existence, or form small bachelor groups, which make up about 5 per cent of the total buffalo population.

In winter, buffalo concentrate within eight kilometres of permanent water, especially along the Sabie, Olifants, Letaba and Shingwedzi rivers, and the sight of a herd of several hundred buffalo raising clouds of red dust as they trek to water is one of the most memorable that the Park can offer.
A dominant buffalo bull asserts his position by holding his head high while pointing his nose towards the ground. Head-tossing and a hooking motion of the horns are also used. If this fails, the bull will batter his solid horn boss against that of his rival until he gives in.
Lion
Under favourable conditions, when game concentrates around water holes and there is a steady supply of prey, a lioness can give birth to a litter of one to five cubs every two years. Within a pride most cubs are born at the same time, mostly between February and April when young prey animals are abundant.

This magnificent lion was seen hunting early in the morning very close to Skukuza Camp. Since the establishment of the Park in 1898, lion have increased proportionately to a significant increase in their prey species. In the 1920s Stevenson-Hamilton counted 600 lion in the Park. Today, Kruger supports about 2 000, representing one of the largest populations in Africa.

The mane of a dominant pride lion protects the head and neck from injury and deters rival males by making the lion appear more formidable. In East Africa the Maasai people have copied this mask, and warriors wear feathered headdresses to appear taller and more menacing.

Lion keep a close watch on descending vultures in the hope of locating a potential meal. Lion are opportunistic predators that will also scavenge food from other
predators, and in this instance were able to locate the vultures and the remains of a kill in less than 20 minutes.

Although lion spend much of the day resting, a charging lion dispels any doubts about their strength, speed and agility. Most chases are short and do not exceed 200 metres, but a lion can attain a speed of 60 kilometres an hour in a final burst of speed before bringing down prey.

Play activities within the safety of the pride prepare lion cubs for hunting success in adulthood. Young cubs display a pattern of brown spots and rosettes that is
similar to the patterning on the coat of leopard, and may be useful as camouflage.
Leopard
A large male leopard can weigh as much as 70 kilograms, but females are much lighter at about 30 kilograms. Impala comprise 78 per cent of the leopard’s diet in Kruger. An adult leopard requires prey equivalent to about 20 impala per year, so leopard predation is not a major limiting factor on impala numbers.

As leopard are primarily nocturnal and active when lion and hyaena are about, these powerful cats have to face strong competition. In the Kruger Park they prey mainly on impala and aggressively defend their kills against rival predators. Essentially ground dwelling, leopard readily climb trees to escape from danger and to store their kills safely out of the reach of other predators.

Long believed to be very scarce, in the 1970s an American researcher captured a surprising number of leopard within a few kilometres of Skukuza, and the estimate of the total number in the Park was revised to about 1 000. The number is believed to have remained relatively unchanged up to the present. This is because – barring major habitat changes and human interference – leopard populations tend to remain stable, kept in balance by the availability of prey species and the corresponding size of each leopard’s territory.

While leopard inhabit all 16 of Kruger’s major vegetation types, the highest densities occur in dense riverine bush bordering rivers such as the Sabie and Shingwedzi.
Birdlife in Kruger
Grey Lourie
A grey lourie feeds on the flowers of a knobthorn. Nineteenth-century hunters named these vocal birds ‘go-away birds’, a reference to their call and their habit of alerting game to the presence of a hunter.

Sunset Dam, just west of Lower Sabie, offers some of the best opportunities for observing waterbirds in the Kruger Park. Buffalo weaver nests adorn the dead tree which also provides a popular roost for yellowbilled storks.
Greenbacked Heron
The shy greenbacked heron belongs to the Ardeidae family, which includes herons, egrets and bitterns. Sixteenmembers of the family have been recorded in Kruger.
As these birds feed mostly on aquatic animals, some species are present only during wet years.
Yellowbilled Stork
A yellowbilled stork quietly stalks through shallow water in search of fish, frogs, crustaceans and insects, occasionally stirring the bottom of the dam with its feet to disturb prey. These large, attractive birds are associated with rivers, pans and dams.
Martial Eagle
A martial eagle perches in a tree with a recently caught leguaan (monitor lizard). These large eagles catch a wide variety of prey including guineafowl, ducks, small antelope, hares and reptiles.
Bateleur Eagle
Although the bateleur eagle hunts a wide range of birds, small mammals and reptiles, it will also scavenge and has been observed stealing food from other eagles and vultures. This eagle spends much of the day on the wing, often swooping in acrobatic flight or circling overhead, behaviour in keeping with its common name, which is French for acrobat.
Egyptian Goose
Egyptian geese feed on grass, seeds, aquatic rhizomes and tubers.
These birds are territorial and will frequently fly up and down a dam to mark their territory. Egyptian geese breed throughout the year, and lay their eggs in a nest hidden in dense vegetation. Both sexes take care of the young, and newly hatched chicks leave the nest six hours after hatching in response to a call from the female.
Blackwinged Stilt
A resident of dams, pans and marshes, the blackwinged stilt feeds by sweeping its bill over the water in search of insects, worms, crustaceans and molluscs. The young are usually raised during the dry winter months in a nest built on the ground, or on top of a mound of vegetation placed in shallow water.
Reed Cormorant
A reed cormorant dries its wings between fishing expeditions. These birds feed on very small frogs and fish weighing no more than a few grams. They usually fish alone, although they roost together in reedbeds and in dead trees.
Marabou Stork
At times unkindly likened to an undertaker, the marabou stork is primarily a scavenger, but its diverse diet includes frogs, snakes, lizards, young crocodiles, fish, rodents, birds and carrion.
Hamerkop

The hamerkop is the only member of its family, and this fascinating bird is regarded as an ill omen by many African people (perhaps in part because of its curious mating dance and uncanny appearance).

A solitary bird, the hamerkop feeds mainly on frogs and fish. It builds a sizeable nest from twigs, reeds and weeds, that can weigh as much as 50 kilograms, in the fork of a robust tree or on a cliff. Construction of the nest can take up to six months, and the bird builds an interior chamber and plasters it with mud. A mud-lined entrance tunnel, about 50 centimetres in length, leads to the inner chamber of the nest where between three and five eggs are laid. Both parents feed the nestlings.

Blackshouldered Kite
A blackshouldered kite hovers over grasslands in search of prey. Rodents comprise 90 per cent of this small raptor’s diet and, once a mouse has been spotted, the bird drops with lightning speed with legs extended to seize its prey. A widespread bird of prey, the blackshouldered kite is found in Africa, Madagascar, southern Europe and tropical Asia as far east as New Guinea.
Whitebacked Vulture

The hisses and squeals of the whitebacked vulture are a common sound at the remains of a kill after the larger predators have eaten their fill.

hese vultures feed mostly on the softer parts of an animal and will follow other scavengers to locate food. The much larger lappetfaced vulture weighs between six and eight kilograms. Its powerful bill is able to tear through tough hide, and lappetfaced dominate all other vultures gathered around a carcass.

Saddlebilled Stork
In an unusual display, a female saddlebilled stork at Sunset Dam near Lower Sabie repeatedly throws a stick into the air and retrieves it amidst much flapping of her wings.
These storks breed mainly in February and March, and both sexes build a nest of sticks in the crest of a tree near to water. As there were no other storks present at the dam, it is unlikely that this was courtship behaviour. Perhaps the stork was practising catching fish. These storks feed mainly on fish weighing up to 500 grams, and will also eat frogs, molluscs and reptiles. When feeding, they walk slowly in shallow water stabbing at prey with their long bills, or stand quietly waiting for fish to swim past. After catching a fish, the stork may toss it into the air before catching and swallowing it.
Yellowbilled Hornbill
The yellowbilled hornbill is a common bird that often gathers at picnic sites. During its breeding season in summer, the female is sealed inside a nest in a hollow tree with only a narrow slit for an opening. Food is passed into the nest by the male, who spends much of the day catching insects to feed the female. About 20 days after the first egg has hatched, the female breaks out and the chicks reseal the nest without any help from the parents.
Ground Hornbill
The ground hornbill is an intriguing and rare bird that weighs up to four kilograms. It is reluctant to fly, and groups range in size from two to eight birds. It may be seen foraging on the ground for reptiles, frogs, snails and small mammals. Only one female in a group breeds, and she lays two eggs at the beginning of summer in a hollow tree. While attending the eggs, the female is fed by the adult male and sometimes by immature birds.
Glossy Starling
Noisy, colourful and conspicuous, the glossy starling feeds on insects, fruit and aloe nectar, as indicated in the photograph. Aloes flower in winter and provide these birds with an ample food source. Starlings often gather at picnic sites, where their resonant calls are an integral part of the Kruger Park’s distinct ambience.
Crested Barbet
The crested barbet bores holes in dead trees and raises its young from August to February. These birds are often seen hopping about on the ground, with tail and crest feathers erect, in search of insects.
Blue Waxbill
The blue waxbill is the most common of the four waxbill species found in the Park. Small groups are often seen foraging for seeds on the ground. They have been known to build their nests near wasps for protection.
Burchell’s Coucal
The Burchell’s coucal’s watery call is often heard before the onset of rain, which has earned it the nickname of rainbird. This coucal is often encountered in riverine bush and in dense stands of grass, where it perches in low bushes and hunts for prey.
Scarlet Chested Sunbird
The scarletchested sunbird is one of the more striking of the six sunbird species that occur in the Park. This bird is common in rest camps, where it can be seen feeding on nectar from aloes and coral trees.
Lilac-Breasted Roller
Of five species of roller recorded in Kruger, only the lilac-breasted and purple roller can be seen throughout the year. Whether hawking insects or perching on a branch near the roadside, lilacbreasted rollers display a feathery palette of dazzling colours.
Redbilled Ox-peckers
Redbilled Ox-peckers are particularly partial to giraffe. These birds consume vast numbers of ticks each day, and their loud hissing call is the sound most often associated with the usually silent giraffe.
Ecology in Kruger
The bed of the Mphongolo River in northern Kruger is framed by a tall apple-leaf, while flowering knobthorns add a colourful backdrop. Many African people regard the apple-leaf as a rain tree; when sap-sucking aphids pierce its bark, they eject almost pure water that drips down to form a wet patch on the ground.

Sunset over the
Sabie River, one of the most important rivers in the Kruger Park. The Sabie, at one time the northern boundary of the original Sabi Game Reserve, flows across the Park for 104 kilometres before entering Mozambique through a rocky gorge in the Lebombo range.

Rooibosrant Dam, near Bateleur Bushveld Camp, is one of the prettiest in the Park, and an ideal place for watching waterbirds such as whitefaced whistling ducks. Drowned leadwoods (Combretum imberbe), in the far distance, can remain in the water for many years as their wood is especially fine grained and very heavy, weighing 1 200 kilograms per cubic metre.

Early morning mist rises from the central plains below Nkumbe Mountain, as the rising sun casts its tinted rays across a fever tree. The clay soils of this region, underpinned by basalt, support large concentrations of zebra and wildebeest. The lookout at Nkumbe, 94 metres above the plain, provides one of the finest panoramas in the Park, and herds of zebra and wildebeest can often be seen trekking across the grasslands below.

Shaded by a fever tree (Acacia xanthophloea) a pool in the Mphongolo River in northern Kruger is a valuable source of water in a region where permanent water is scarce.

In the surrounding semi-arid mopaneveld, rainfall is erratic and seldom exceeds 450 millimetres a year. In the nineteenth century, the tree’s conspicuous yellow bark served as a beacon indicating the presence of water to thirsty travellers. However, as malaria-carrying mosquitoes favoured the same habitat, the fevers that the disease brought on were incorrectly blamed on the tree.

The
blue water lily has a submerged rhizome that roots in the muddy floor of quiet streams and ponds, where the plant provides a protective environment for water insects, frogs and young fish.

A
knobthorn flowers above a small stream – near Olifants Camp – that holds water for a few months into winter. This miniature aquatic ecosystem is a haven for waterbirds, foam-nest frogs and dragonflies, while birds such as black crake and painted snipe favour the dense vegetation along the stream bank.
Predators in Kruger
A tree felled by an elephant provides a perfect vantage point for two cheetah males searching for suitable prey. Although they are ill-equipped for climbing, cheetah will climb trees with sloping trunks to survey the surroundings. Male cheetah, usually brothers, form co-operative associations that may last for years.
Cheetah
A female cheetah rests after successfully catching and feeding on an impala, this cat’s principal prey in Kruger. Cheetah hunt mostly in the early morning or late afternoon, but will also hunt at night when the moon is full. After bringing down an impala, cheetah feed quickly while keeping constant watch for rival predators, and even the arrival of vultures will dislodge them from a kill.
Cheetah are usually solitary, but family parties of a mother and two subadult cubs are common. The cubs are always from the same litter, and leave the mother when about 18 months old and before the next litter is born. Cheetah occupy large home ranges and, despite an abundance of their favourite prey, in no region of the Park does their density exceed one cheetah to every 45 square kilometres.

A cheetah and her two young cubs near Duke water hole south of Lower Sabie. Mother cheetah give birth in tall grass or dense cover. The cubs are carefully hidden for the first few weeks, and the mother moves them frequently to new hiding places to avoid detection by other predators. While the cubs are small, the mother is vulnerable as she has to remain and hunt within a confined area, and is
thus less able to avoid attacks from lion.
Wild dog
Members of a wild dog pack spare no time in devouring an impala that they have just caught. Aware of hyaena howling nearby, these dogs consumed their kill in under three minutes, and by the time the hyaena arrived on the scene there was no sign of the kill. Competition from other predators, and direct attacks by lion on
both adults and cubs, reduces wild dog numbers even within optimum habitat.

A complex social arrangement governs wild dog and they are able to live in large packs with few signs of conflict. Wild dog travel over vast distances, but are sedentary for a three month period when the pups are raised in an underground den. Some adult members of the pack leave the den site daily in search of prey. Here, the ‘baby-sitters’ encourage a returning hunter to regurgitate food, which is done for both the pups and their minders.

The Kruger Park is a stronghold for the endangered wild dog, although nowhere can it be considered common. Researchers have identified 27 packs with an estimated total population of 360 for the entire park. Wild dog have a highly developed social system and produce large numbers of pups, but remain rare even in areas where their favoured prey animals are abundant.

While diseases and lion predation are major limiting factors, research has shown that there is a lack of genetic variability in the Kruger population and this may have resulted in inbreeding.

A wild dog pup displays some of the distinct markings that make it possible to identify individuals. Only one female usually breeds in a pack, but litters of up to 21 pups have been recorded. The pups are raised in an old aardvark or warthog burrow in a termite mound, and are carefully cared for by adults in the pack.

Wild dog pups are born after a gestation period of about 70 days, and are suckled by the dominant female for three months, either in the den or near its entrance. Other adult members of the pack take an active part in cleaning the pups, and will return strays to the den. The pups begin to beg for meat from the age of 14 days, and when old enough are led by the adult dogs in search of prey.

Juvenile wild dogs playfully interact at a den site south of Lower Sabie. Fighting among pack members is rare, and a relaxed tail indicates a dog’s playful mood. The pups are boisterous, and the mother disciplines them by holding them down on the ground by their necks.
Spotted Hyaena
The spotted hyaena’s powerful jaws can crush bones and slice through thick hides, useful for a scavenger that often feeds on a carcass that has had the tender meat removed by lion. The hyaena’s skull is shaped to accommodate the strong muscles that operate the lower jaw.

A young spotted hyaena rests at a roadside den. Hyaena are largely nocturnal, and form clans dominated by females. Dominant females always feed first at a carcass and return to the den to suckle their pups, which rely on their mother’s milk for the first nine months. A hierarchy also exists amongst males, but the highest ranked male is considered inferior to the lowest ranked female.

Hyaena have learned to use the culverts under the main roads in Kruger as dens to raise their young. During the heat of the day, especially in summer, these concrete tunnels can become exceptionally hot and the cubs may emerge to rest near the entrance.

Interesting comparisons have been drawn between the numbers of predators in Kruger and the hoofed animals on which they prey. In the Central Region, the ratio of lion to prey is 1:110, which is exceptionally high when compared to 1:1 000 in Tanzania’s Serengeti. Lion in Kruger sometimes change their prey preferences during wet and dry cycles.

During wet cycles it is easier to stalk and catch zebra and wildebeest, while in times of drought they tend to kill more buffalo, often animals that would anyway have perished from lack of food. Most predators are small in comparison to the mass of their prey. In Kruger, the combined biomass of the major predators is equal to just one per cent of their prey species. This is because between each feeding level in the food chain there is substantial loss of energy, so a 60-kilogram hyaena is dependent on 6 000 kilograms of hoofed animals, equivalent to a herd of 105 impala. The fate of all predators is therefore intricately interwoven with that of their prey.

Young hyaena often rest outside their roadside dens. Hyaena clans are dominated by females, and a female pup inherits her mother’s social status. Litters consist of one or two cubs, and if two females are born then one will invariably kill the other.
Nile crocodile
A large Nile crocodile emerges from the water to feed on a hippo calf that had died in Sunset Dam. Crocodiles prefer fresh food, however, and catfish form the major portion of their diet. They perform an important ecological function in keeping the numbers of these hardy fish in check. During periods of above-average rainfall, crocodiles colonise dams up to 45 kilometres from perennial rivers.
Black-backed jackal
The black-backed jackal is a scavenger that is often seen on the fringes of a lion or cheetah kill, where it will wait for the opportunity to steal a morsel. An unusual behaviour pattern that has been observed is their tendency to follow larger predators, especially leopard, while emitting a repetitive yapping call that alerts other jackal to the possibility of a kill.
Rodents
A serval listens attentively for rodents scurrying through the dense grassland of a vlei near Orpen Dam. Serval prey mainly on rodents, especially vlei rats, and show a marked preference for tall grassland habitat situated near water.

Many animals, especially predators like the small spotted genet and even antelope such as bushbuck and grey duiker, are active mainly at night and depend on their keen senses of smell and hearing to locate food.
The Kruger Calendar

August
Cool mornings and evenings, but temperatures and humidity rise during the day, more moisture; winds indicate spring is on its way. Yellow hue dominates the bush as sjambok pod and knob thorns begin flowering; mopane is russet-coloured. Good game viewing at waterholes; particularly in the eastern sweetveld plains on top of basalt. Temperature 12-28

September
The month of spring; occasional showers but water is still scarce. Weeping boer-beans flower in red; new mopane leaves. First migrant birds appear from the north; weavers begin breeding; game still concentrated around waterholes. Temperature 12-28

October
Usually the beginning of the rainy season, but can be very hot if rains are late. Grass becomes greener; bulbous plants begin appearing; magic guarri and sickle bush flower. Good game viewing as bush is still not too thick; birds engaged in courtship rituals and displays; steppe eagles begin to arrive. Temperature 16-32

November
Rainfall usually double that of October.Vegetation more lush. Lots of young animals visible; woodland kingfishers make an appearance. Temperature 16-32

December
Height of summer and the rainy season; days are hot and humid; often spectacular thunderstorms. Wild morning glory and flame lilies in flower. Impala breeding season brings out lots of predators; lush vegetation starts making game viewing harder. Temperature 18-34

January
Height of rainy season; days are hot and humid; good thunderstorms. Rain-dependent plants flowering, making landscape very colourful; marulas begin fruiting. Animals spread over wider areas because of water availability; dung beetles prevalent; lesser spotted eagles arrive and generally good birding. Temperature 18-34

February
Hot and humid; plants are at their most nutritious. Many summer flowering plants in bloom. Waterbuck breeding; excellent birding; animals get fatter. Temperature 18-33

March

End of summer, generally the last major rain. Vegetation dense. Kudu and buffalo breeding peak, erratic game viewing. Temperature 18-33

April
Seasonal shift towards autumn; noticeable drop in temperatures; occasional late summer rains.Vegetation dense, many trees are bearing fruit or seeds; red bushwillow is very striking. Most animals in peak condition, game spotting difficult; impala, wildebeest and warthog rutting season. Temperature 13-28

May
Autumn gives way to winter; Rainfall drops off dramatically. White seringas in flower, wide range of autumn colours; kiaats begin seeding. Impala rut continues, internal migrations of animals towards warmer areas, whitebacked vultures breeding; wild dog breeding; elephants from Zimbabwe and Mozambique migrate to winter grazing grounds in northern Kruger. Temperature 13-28

June
Winter; cool evenings and warm days; temperate climate that is generally wind-free. Grass cover recedes and many trees lose leaves; baobabs in flower, mopane begins yellowing. Game begins concentrating around waterholes; animals are much more visible as the bush thins out. Temperatures 9-26

July
Wind begins picking up a little. Clear winter days with little chance of rain. Mopaneveld appears as dappled gold; potato bush begins flowering. Nights can be very cold. Game viewing very good; many winter birds fly from highveld down to the Park (eg stonechat) Temperature 9-26

Trees in Kruger Park
The Baobab
The baobab (Adansonia digitata) is southern Africa’s most distinctive tree with its extremely stout, fleshy trunk and widely spreading crown. An African legend holds that a giant child of the gods once pulled the baobab out of the ground and then stuck it back upside down, which accounts for its root-like branches. The baobab can grow up to 25 metres tall and has an astounding longevity – some trees in Kruger are believed to be well over 4 000 years old. The baobab has many uses, particularly because of the tartaric acid in the fruit, which is favoured by man and beast. It has a particularly beautiful white flower which blooms during spring .

The magic guarri
The magic guarri (Euclea divinorum) acts as an early warning beacon to other trees in times of impending drought. Distributed throughout the Park, this slow-growing, dense, evergreen shrub produces a pheromone when it becomes stressed. This triggers the release of tannin in the leaves of surrounding trees which makes them unpalatable to browsers such as kudu. The increase in tannin content is a self-protection mechanism that prevents the bush from being eaten out. The guarri itself is not favoured by animals although birds like its fruit. Alcoholic beverages have been made from the fruit while twigs broken off from the tree were used as toothbrushes in the old days because of the fibrous texture.

Kiaat
Most of the wooden carvings and bowls one sees on sale as one drives into southern Kruger are made out of kiaat, or wild teak (Pterocarpus angolensis). This tree is limited mostly to the Pretoriuskop area where it is quite dominant. It does favour other areas where there is a deep and sandy soil, but is not common throughout the Park. It is a slow grower, and is loved by elephants. It is commonly used for furniture as it works easily and polishes well. It is recognizable in the wild by its distinct roundish pods, which ripen in late summer, and its small, golden yellow flowers in spring.

Red bushwillow
One of the staple diets of browsers is the red bushwillow (Combretum apiculatum). Found throughout the Park but dominant in the south, this smallish deciduous tree is the second most common tree after mopane. While its leaves are palatable, animals avoid its seeds which are mildly poisonous and can cause prolonged hiccupping. It gets its name from the fact that its leaves turn reddish brown in winter. Its drought resistance ensures that it is a food source for browsers even in the driest of times. It is recognizable by the small four-wing clusters of fruit which ripen in late summer and autumn.

Knob thorn

The third most common tree in the Park after the mopane and red bushwillow is the knob thorn (Acacia nigrescens). It is a medium to large tree with a spreading crown, growing up to 16 metres tall. It is most easily recognizable in spring when its bright yellow fl owers liven up the landscape. It has thorn-tipped knobs which are more conspicuous on younger trees. In winter its narrow pods become black (hence the name nigrescens – Latin for “becoming black”). It is a heavy wood with lots of tannin, grows slowly and is both drought-resistant and sensitive to frost.

Palm trees in Kruger
There are two main kinds of palm trees in Kruger – the wild date palm (Phoenix reclinata) and the lala palm (Hyphaene atalensis). The wild date palm is more common in the south of the Park on the banks of rivers and spruits. Primates and birds enjoy the clusters of yellow-brown fruit, while elephants eat the leaves and stems. The Lala Palm does well on the basaltic corridor, and is more abundant in the north, and there are some fine examples of these trees around Letaba and Shingwedzi camps. The fibre of both palms has been used traditionally by Shangaan-speakers for making mats and ropes and a fine alcoholic beverage can be brewed from the sap.
Wildlife in Kruger
Monkeys
Young vervet monkeys are born mainly from October to January after a gestation period of 140 days. Vervets emit distinct alarm barks for different predators, and young monkeys are taught to recognise these warning signals and run for cover. As they share the riverine forest with a host of birds, including one of their major predators – the crowned eagle – young monkeys must quickly learn to distinguish between dangerous and harmless birds.
Although they occur throughout Kruger, vervet monkeys show a distinct preference for riverine bush. Vervets are gregarious animals and are normally found in troops
numbering up to 20 individuals. They feed in the tree canopy and on the ground, eating a wide variety of plant material including flowers, fruit, berries, roots and leaves.
Horned baboon spider
A horned baboon spider photographed in sandveld habitat in Kruger’s far north. The baboon spider derives its name from a dense covering of hair that supposedly resembles the coat of a baboon. They are not web-builders, instead relying on speed and agility to catch prey. They dig tunnels in the ground where they rest and care for their young.
Safe within the protection afforded by a troop, a baboon finds time to doze for a few minutes. Within the troop vulnerable members are protected from predators by the dominant males. The close associations formed between members are important for ensuring co-operation in locating sufficient food.

Baboons feed and rest in trees, but they are primarily ground-dwellers and the troop spends much of the day searching for food within a few kilometres of a favourite sleeping site, which is usually a steep cliff or a large tree.

Baboons give birth to a single infant and are attentive parents. The infant is dependent on the mother for milk for six to eight months. Within the troop, all
females are related, and bonds between them are strong. When the mother retreats into dense vegetation to give birth, the other females often gather to watch
the event. Other members of the troop enjoy spending time carrying, grooming and playing with the babies.

A young baboon tests a handful of roots for palatability. Baboons are born after a gestation period of six months, and are carefully cared for by their mothers. Although other females in the troop like to play with the infant, the mother will only allow them to hold it once it has learned to walk. When an adult male is threatened by dominant males, he will often grab an infant from any female in the troop, which successfully foils the attack.

A baboon combs its fur in search of ticks and fleas. In baboon troops this activity is usually performed by other individuals. Apart from keeping the fur free of ticks and fleas, the daily pattern of grooming is vital for the effective functioning of a troop as it maintains the bonds formed between members. Female baboons form alliances, but will also depend on male allies, which they recruit through grooming.
Hippo
Hippo are sensitive to sunburn and spend much of the day resting in water. After dark they travel up to 20 kilometres from water, eating up to 130 kilograms of grass in one night. When they submerge, special muscles prevent water from entering their nostrils and ear passages.

A hippo in the Sabie River displays the fearsome incisors that can inflict serious wounds during territorial contests. Hippo favour deep pools of slow-moving water, and along the Sabie River there are several well-known pools that they have occupied for many years.

About 2 300 hippo inhabit Kruger’s rivers, with the majority of the population sheltering in the Sabie, Olifants and Letaba. Water extraction outside the Park’s borders has reduced the flow of the Letaba and Luvuvhu, and these rivers are no longer perennial. In order to guarantee a reliable water supply for wildlife, 65 large dams have been built, creating perfect habitats for hippo.
Zebra
Alert to potential danger, a Burchell’s zebra crosses a water course. During the drier winter months zebra usually congregate within seven kilometres of permanent water. As lion are often concealed in dense bush near water holes, zebra approach cautiously to drink.

Zebra are dependent on water and visit water holes about every 35 hours during winter. Where artificial water holes have been established, zebra herds have increased to the detriment of the rare sable and roan antelope.

As zebra prefer grass of a medium height, they were hardly affected by the severe drought of 1992/1993. Because the zebra’s digestive system processes grass faster than the chambered stomach of a ruminant – an animal that chews the cud – they can feed on grasses that are poor in nutrition, while rows of incisor teeth allow them to crop short grasses.

An estimated 29 000 zebra are found in the Kruger Park, with the highest concentrations occurring on the grassy plains of the Central Region.
Warthog
Warthogs lack a thick coat of hair and have little body fat, and are therefore susceptible to cold and wet weather. Similarly, during hot summer months they are poorly protected against the scorching sun. By wallowing in mud they are able to reduce their body temperature by as much as 7ºC, and mud packs also help to protect their skin from biting insects. After wallowing in mud, a convenient tree stump always serves as a rubbing post and helps locate itchy spots missed by the mud.

As night approaches, a warthog descends into a burrow. Warthogs are active during daylight hours, and underground burrows provide protection at night from both cold and predators. Although a pack of wild dog were raising pups in a den adjacent to this one, these predators made no attempt to catch the warthogs and instead tried – unsuccessfully – to chase them away from the site.

Water leguaan (monitors) forage in rivers for crabs, mussels, frogs, fish, fledgling birds and crocodile eggs. The female digs a nest in an active termite mound, where, aided by the constant temperature and humidity, the eggs develop. The following summer, the young lizards dig their way out and head for the nearest water, where they feed on insects and small frogs.
Bushpig
The bushpig is a secretive animal associated with reedbeds and dense forest. They are seldom seen, and were thought to occur only along the Luvuvhu River and in restricted localities along the Olifants River. In Percy FitzPatrick’s book Jock of the Bushveld, set in 1885, bushpig are recorded in the present-day Southern Region, and this individual was recently photographed on the Mbyamiti River near Biyamiti Bushveld Camp.

The dwarf mongoose weighs just 300 grams and spends around five hours a day on average searching for insects, spiders and rodents. The remainder of the day is devoted to sleeping at a den in an old termite mound, or grooming other members of the band
.
Stick insect
A large stick insect, measuring 16 centimetres in length, raises a protective umbrella-like wing to frighten off any potential predator. Stick insects are masters of
camouflage, blending in colour and shape with their favoured habitat of trees and plants. They will even pretend to sway in the wind, the better to convincingly imitate the branch of a tree.
Squirrel
The tree squirrel, particularly common in dry woodland, builds a nest in a hole in a tree. The nest is lined with dry leaves, and a squirrel family shares the same nest and rests together in it during the hottest times of the day.
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