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Kruger Park Safaris – A Wildlife Guide

There is one reason, and one reason only, why tourists flock to the Kruger National Park every day.

And that reason is the wildlife.

The wildlife that those on a Kruger Park safari get to see is quite indescribable. The animals that you get to catch sight of are completely unlike the photos or videos you’ve seen. To be up close to any of the animals in the Kruger National Park is a completely surreal experience and it is one that you will hold dear to you for the rest of your life.

From the big game to the smallest of animals, when you are enjoying a Kruger Park safari, it is always helpful to have a few handy tips that you can use to ensure that you have the most memorable time.

As South Africa’s best known wildlife park, the Kruger is famous for its incredibly diverse wildlife populations as well as its huge array of plants and insects. And in this guide, we’ll be sharing some insider information about how to maximise what you see when on your Kruger adventure!

Common Game Viewing

The big game of the Kruger National Park are, without a doubt, one of the biggest reasons why people visit the park. Wildlife like elephant, buffalo, hippo and giraffe are eye catching sights and will most definitely stop any safari tour in their tracks.

But actually catching sight of these majestic animals is often easier said than done because although they are large and as such you’d think they’d be easier to spot, they can be a little sneaky. Hidden in the vegetation, the big game of the Kruger often blend in more than the smaller animals. Because of this, it is important to know how to spot such animals.

As for the smaller wildlife, they too can be exciting to come across and they also require a bit of insight if you want to have optimal game viewing.

Elephants

Chance to have an elephant sighting: 9/10

These graceful animals can be spotted all over the Kruger National Park and they are especially prevalent in the Southern Kruger, where the majority of safari tours take place. Elephants are amongst the most commonly seen animals because their massive size makes them hard to miss.

But while you might see the larger elephants breaking their way through the bush, it is the babies that you are likely to miss if you don’t keep your eyes peeled. Breeding herds can also be quite elusive.

Most herds consist of around 30 to 40 animals and they are led by their matriarch. The best place to see elephant would be along river banks, as these herds need plenty of water each day to stay alive.

You are likely to spot elephant all throughout the year, but the winter months are always the best time of year because without the heavy summer rains and the dense vegetation that grows as a result, elephants are far easier to see.

Wildebeest and Zebra

Chance to have a wildebeest and/or zebra sighting: 9/10

These animals are grouped together because they are almost always spotted roaming the park by each other’s side. Your best chance of seeing them is out on just about any grassy plain, as they are always on the lookout for fresh grass to feed on. These animals are also often seen in the Southern Kruger, where the majority of Kruger Park safaris take place.

The wildebeest and the zebra can be seen all throughout the year, and like most of the animals, the winter months are often the most fruitful for wildlife viewing, because the grass is dry and thinned out.

One of the greatest things about following a herd of wildebeest and zebra is that they are normally followed by predators such as lion and leopard, making one sighting suddenly turn into two incredibly exciting wildlife viewing experiences.

Impala

Chance to have an impala sighting: 10/10

Impala are likely to be the very first animal you spot when you enter the Kruger. They are literally found all over the park, some are even seen right at the gate or within some of the camps, munching away on grass. One of the most amazing experiences, when staying overnight in one of the camps, is to wake up to the sight of an impala right on your doorstep.

Although they can be seen all over the park, impala are mostly seen in big herds in the south of the park as they are not big fans of the mopane shrubveld that can be found in the northern parts.

There is no best time of the year to see these plains game, because they are seen all throughout the year, unless there is a drought, in which case you’ll see them mostly close to water holes and rivers.

Big Cat Game Viewing

The Kruger National Park is home to a variety of big cats including cheetah, leopard and lion, all of which are tremendously exciting to come across.

Lion

Chance to have a lion sighting: 7/10

Everyone coming to the Kruger has hopes of seeing lion and when travelling as a part of a Kruger Park safari your chances are increased thanks to the extra eyes as well as the height of the safari vehicle.

The best place in the Kruger to see lion is in the Satara area which is towards the centre of the park. But it is not uncommon to see them in the southern areas of the park or close to herds of buffalo, wildebeest or zebra. They are also often spotted close to impala herds.

Along with the normal golden coloured lions that have become symbolic of the type of lions that you will see while on your Kruger Park safari, you might be one of the very lucky people who gets to lay their eyes on the incredibly rare white lion. When one of these are seen, there can be a bit of a frenzy as these beasts are absolutely stunning.

Leopard

Chance to have a leopard sighting: 5/10

The leopard is often the last animal that safari goers will tick off of their Big 5 sighting list. And this is because the leopard is well known for being an incredibly elusive cat, preferring the shade and shelter of trees to the dusty ground.

The best place to look for leopard is in the higher branches of massive trees so every time you pass a tree, be sure to carefully study the branches and try to see through the thick leaves. And the absolute best place to catch sight of these amazing creates would be along the river banks, as they like to have easy access to water.

When travelling in the southern Kruger, you will be closer to the Crocodile River, which is a popular place to see leopard, but another good place to see the cat is along the Sabi River.

Cheetah

Chance to have a cheetah sighting: 3/10

You will need plenty of luck to catch sight of a cheetah, and not just because there are only a few hundred left in the park. Cheetah prefer the open plains, something that the southern Kruger is not exactly well-known for having.

Cheetah need open spaces in order to fully unleash their hunting speed, and with any thick bush, they simply won’t be able to reach their full speed potential. Ideally, if you are going to the park to see a cheetah, travel to the central or northern parts of the park and then opt for the quieter roads.

Unusual Animals

Of course, going to the Kruger is not all about seeing the popular animals. Many guests have read up on the more interesting wildlife that they could see and as such have hopes of catching a glimpse of some of these as well.

Pangolin

Chance to have a pangolin sighting: 1/10

These amazing, scaly animals are an unbelievable creature to come across and they are becoming an increasingly rare sighting as they become vulnerable to poachers.

To spot a pangolin, you can count yourself incredibly lucky as only a handful of park visitors are treated to such a sight each year. In fact, there are countless guides and rangers working in the park each day who are still waiting for their first pangolin sighting.

Pangolins come to camps and game lodges within the park to get away from predators so when you are in a camp keep a look out for them.

Aardvark and Aardwolf

Chance to have an aardvark and/or aardwolf: 2/10

The aardvark and the aardwolf are about as elusive as the pangolin. Although they are not being poached into extinction, they are incredibly vulnerable to predators such as lion.

The best chance you’d have to see either of these creatures, is to keep an eye on termite mounds, as they feast on these insects.

Bushbabies

Chance to have a bushbaby: 8/10

Although you can hear their cries at night, even if you are not staying in the park but in the nearby village of Hazyview, actually getting to see one is another story. Although such a sighting is not impossible if you know where to look.

Bushbabies are rather tiny creatures but they are still easier to see when compared to the pangolin, the aardvark or the aardwolf. If you’d like to see these cute little animals, then look carefully at the trees you walk passed at night. Their bright eyes are a dead giveaway.

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