One of the world’s largest game reserves, Kruger National Park is a wildlife experience that has the power to transform. No one leaves unchanged or unmoved in some way. Most people know the park is home to lions, elephants, Cape buffalo, leopards and rhinos. Here are 12 things about Kruger National Park that will surprise you.
Parts of this article originally appeared on AFKTravel.com. Dana Sanchez contributed to this list.
Kruger Park can only sustain about 8,000 elephants. The park started giving elephants contraceptives in 1995, but stopped that because it upset the herds and there were delivery problems. They practice of culling elephants stopped in 1994 and the park tried tried relocating them. By 2004 the population had increased to 11,670 elephants. By 2006 there were 13,500 elephants and by 2009, 11,672.
It’s certainly not Disney World. The Magic Kingdom gets 17.2 million visitors a year. It’s still kind of hard to imagine that more than 1 million people enter the Kruger Park’s nine gates every year to see the incredible wildlife.
…in parts of Kruger Park but only with an armed game ranger. Small groups eight people maximum can be arranged. Wilderness trails allow visitors to see not only the large mammals but also the smaller creatures — things behind the bushes that are easily overlooked when driving around Kruger Park. Keep in mind that there are animals that can hurt you. There are multiple trails. The Nyalaland Trail winds through baobab and fever tree forests. There are fossil sites along the trail, and the beauty of this wild area more than compensates for its lack of big game, according to KrugerPark.co.za.
While most people go to see animals, some people like to tee off at Skukuza Golf Course, a nine-hole (18-tee) course on the outskirts of Skukuza Rest Camp. The course is not fenced in, and wildlife has been known to approach and watch as people play. Golfers have reported seeing hippos in the waterholes, and warthog and impala roaming the course.
Beginning in 2013, South African National Parks decided to establish Kruger Park branches of several famous chain restaurants inside park grounds. Mugg and Bean opened three locations, while the burger chain, Wimpy, has two. One of the most notable Kruger Park restaurants is Crocafellas, — a thatched boma in the middle of the Crocodile River. Diners can see seven resident crocs from the wooden deck while chowing down on 500-gram T-bone steaks, peri-peri chicken and seafood. African Business Review listed the Kruger Park Crocafellas one of the top 10 restaurants in Africa in 2012.
Kruger National Park is made up of six different ecosystems, including mixed acacia thicket, lebombo knobthorn-marula bushveld, baobab sandveld, riverine forest, mopane scrub and combretum-silver cluster leaf woodland. Between them, these ecosystems include more than 2,000 different plant species.
Kruger National Park is more of a small country than a typical park. One of the largest national parks in the world, it occupies an area of 2 million hectares or 4.9 million acres. The park is about 360 kilometers (220 miles) long, and has an average width of 65 kilometers (40 miles). It’s about the size of Israel and larger than the state of Connecticut.
Cultural artifacts in the park date back between 30,000 and 100,000 years, and provide evidence that Stone Age humans once lived in the area. Some of these artifacts include gold beads, ivory and metal rings, ostrich-shell beads, perforated ornamental cowrie shells and clay spindle whorls.
On the northern and southern borders, Kruger Park is bounded by two natural landmarks, the Limpopo and Crocodile rivers — and yes, there are crocodiles in them. It’s also bordered by Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
Yes you heard that right, 500. More accurately, there are 517 species of birds more about half of them being year-round residents. The park is also known for the “Big Six” birds, which include the ground hornbill, lappet-faced vulture, martial eagle, saddle-billed stork, Pel’s fishing owl and the kori bustard.
There are only 150 wild dogs left (as of 2009 official numbers), and Kruger Park is one of the only places in Africa that still supports packs of these critically endangered animals. There are just 400 or so still living on the entire continent.
When Kruger Park originally opened in 1927, the entrance fee was 1 pound. The rand replaced the pound in the former British colony in 1961. If only it was that cheap today! Non-South African day visitors (adults) pay 264 rand (US$23) for admission into Kruger Park. South Africans pay 66 rand (US$5.50)