Your Complete Guide To The Greater Kruger National Park

The Greater Kruger National Park, in the North Eastern region of South Africa, is the largest game reserve in the country and one of the largest in Africa. At 19 485 km squared it is the same size as Israel, a third the size of Ireland and a little smaller than Belgium. Being such an enormous area one could get rather confused when picking a destination, lodge or region to visit. Wild & Isle recommends making use of private concessions from which to partake in your safari. These are our favourite regions to explore:

Sabi Sands Game Reserve

Sabi Sands is the most famous private game reserve in South Africa. It is 65 000 hectares in size and is situated on the western border of the Kruger National Park. With no fencing separating the Sabi Sands and Kruger animals are free to roam between the two areas without hindrance. The reserve is named after the two rivers that flow through it, the Sabi River (in the Southernmost region of the reserve) and the Sand River (flowing right through the centre). These rivers are one of the reasons why game viewing is said to be unparalleled as water, we know, will always attract life that relies on it for survival. It is an incredible place to see your big cats, especially leopard, as well as all other members of the famous “Big 5”. The Sabi Sands contains a broad range of accommodation options and here is where you will find some of the most luxurious lodges in all of Africa. Benefits of visiting the Sabi Sands include impeccable service that you will receive at all lodges, highly trained guiding, the prevention of day visitors and therefore extra privacy, the ability to drive off road when encountering big game (something that isn’t allowed in the National Park), and a high amount of water sources to attract animals. The Sabi Sands area is characterised by a landscape mix of undulating hills and thorn scrub, some pronounced granite kopjes and very scenic riverine areas.

Uber Luxurious Lodges in the Sabi Sands:

  • Singita Boulders and Ebony
  • Londolozi
  • Lion Sands Ivory Lodge
  • Cheetah Plains
  • And Beyond Tengile Lodge

Luxury Lodges:

  • Dulini Lodges
  • Sabi Sabi Lodges
  • Chitwa Chitwa
  • Ulusaba Lodges
  • Lion Sands River Lodge

Affordable Options (in high demand and booked out well in advance):

  • Nottens Bush Camp
  • Elephant Plains
  • Nkorho Bush Camp

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Timbavati Game Reserve

The Timbavati Game Reserve is situated on the Western border of the Kruger National Park, north of the Sabi Sands. Its name is derived from the local Shangaan language and means “the place where something sacred came down to Earth from the heavens”. This is in reference to the famous white lions of the region which were first officially documented in 1938. The white lion is not an albino version of a tawny lion but a rare colour mutation which sees cubs born with snow white coats and blue eyes. As they grow older this white coat turns crème coloured but doesn’t seem to pose any real disadvantage to them in the wild. Already a great reason to visit the Timbavati! At 75000 hectares in size, and with no day visitors allowed, Timbavati is an intimate and personal affair with a wide range of animals. It has a great combination of luxury and affordable options with wonderful service and some very experienced guides and trackers. Wildlife viewing is strong all year round while the habitat consists of grassy plains and mixed woodlands.


  • Ngala Tented Camp
  • Tanda Tula
  • Kings Camp
  • Makanyi
  • Motswari (more affordable option)

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Pafuri Region

Wild & Isle always recommends trying at least two lodges on a safari, within different regions. This broadens a visitor’s experience in terms of vegetation and how this affects the wildlife around them, safari activities that one can take part in, and essentially a more rounded trip. The Pafuri area of the Kruger National Park is situated between the Limpopo and Luvuhu rivers, in the Northernmost tip of the Kruger, and is 24000 hectares in size. It is known as the wildest and most remote region of the Kruger Park and consists of magnificent old Baobabs (some over 1000 years old), beautiful fever tree forests, rocky kopjes and gorges. The varied vegetation leads to good wildlife viewing and the best birding in the park. In fact, 75% of the Kruger’s total diversity is found in this 1% of the National Park. In the dry season large herds of buffalo are known to make their way down to the rivers and majestic bull elephants are often encountered on game drives and by foot. The Pafuri is the ancestral home of the Makulele people and is an area filled with folklore of early explorers and ancient civilisations. An interesting area to visit, while spending time in the Pafuri, is “Crookes Corner”. During the 19th Century “Crookes Corner” was a haven for criminals and poachers alike who could escape jurisdiction by jumping the border between South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. A walking safari is a great activity to do in the Pafuri as there is so much to discover off road. With fewer visitors it really does feel like being back in the “Old Africa”.


  • The Outpost
  • Pel’s Post
  • Pafuri Camp

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Other lodges worth mentioning in the Great Kruger

Singita Sweni and Lebombo Lodges compliment their relevant Sabi Sands lodges terrifically. A short flight to the Lebombo mountains, that border Mozambique, from Singita Sabi Sands will give visitors a bird’s eye view of the surrounding bush…an experience in its own! Sweni and Lebombo lodges are situated within this mountain range. Singita runs some great specials when their Sabi Sands and Kruger Park lodges are combined.

Royal Malewane, in the Thornybush region of the Kruger, is pure luxury and its repeat clients include Sir Elton John, Bono, Oprah and Bill Gates. Rated by Conde Nast traveller as “One of the top 20 resorts in the world” they have recently opened their Farmstead lodge where privacy, impeccable design and comfort await visitors. The new lodge consists of three luxury farm suites, with private plunge pools, and The Farmhouse – an incredible private three-and-a-half-bedroom villa with its own chef, butler, housekeeper, private safari vehicle, guide and tracker at your disposal.

Terms & conditions apply and valid for new bookings only.

So when is the best time to visit the Greater Kruger National Park?

There is no bad time to visit any of these game reserves. The summer months can bring rain but also an influx of migratory birds and plenty of young animals bouncing around. The dry, winter months will see movement of animals towards permanent sources of water (such as rivers and waterholes) and, with less foliage, becomes an easier time to spot animals.

How do you get to the Greater Kruger National Park Reserves?

The quickest, and easiest, way to get to the Kruger is via flights into the region. There are direct flights from Johannesburg, Cape Town and even Victoria Falls. It is also now possible to combine an African safari with some beach time in Mozambique with flights from Kruger International Airport to Vilanculos. The closest airports to the different regions are as follows:

Sabi Sands – Skukuza Airport. Many of the lodges will also have airstrip so clients can fly directly through to them.

Timbavati – Eastgate Airport in Hoedspruit and a transfer into the reserve.

Pafuri – A bit more complicated. Private chartered flights are available but the popular way is to fly to Skukuza and take a road transfer from there.

It is also possible to organise direct transfers to and from OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg however these transfers can take a few hours, cutting down your time on safari.

Kruger National Park Safari Add-Ons

The Greater Kruger National Park combines very well with the following destinations:

  • Cape Town
  • Mozambique
  • Victoria Falls



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