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Kruger National Park | The Complete Guide & How to Get There
The Kruger National Park is one of the largest national game reserves in all of Africa. It is also listed as South Africa’s first national park all the way back in 1929.
The region has over 140 different animal species spread throughout it, with nearly 20,000 square kilometer landscape and is a listed UNESCO world heritage site.
Due to its rich biodiversity and animal life the Kruger National Park is one of the most popular South African destinations for safari enthusiasts and adventurers at heart to visit.
Kruger National Park truly provides all that see it with a taste of untamed Africa. However, many are unsure where to start in this vast wilderness or even how to begin to reach it.
As the park is located in the remote north-east of South Africa (between the Limpopo and Mpumalanga province and bordering on the edge of the coastal nation of Mozambique), the question for many wilderness explorers is,
“What is the easiest and safest route to get to Kruger National Park, from Johannesburg?”
Which is why we have provided you with a guide to the Kruger National Park.
It will tell you everything you’ll need to know on how to get there as well as detailed information on the park.
How to Get to Kruger National Park from Johannesburg
There are a variety of ways to get to the Kruger National Park. But, your starting destination will likely be Johannesburg O.R Tambo international airport.
From there you will have a couple of options that allow you to reach the beautiful and remote Kruger National Park.
1) Private Charter flight
This is by far the most convenient way to reach your lodge in the Kruger. But it’s also the most expensive!
A private charter flight can usually be organised by speaking with a private lodge accommodation which will organise a light aircraft flight for you to the nearest in park airstrip to your lodge.
The flights usually take no more than 90 minutes.
Then a representative or ranger from your lodge will meet you at the airstrip and transfer you via game drive vehicle directly to your lodge.
It’s a great way to reach the park quickly and experience a miniature safari on arrival.
2) Fly to Hoedspruit or Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport.
There are several daily flights operating from O.R Tambo to the two airports in the surrounding Kruger Park area.
Doing this is usually cheaper than option 1.
From these airports you can usually organise a transfer by game vehicle or use a rental vehicle to self-drive to your lodge or rest camp.
If you are flying to the southern regions of the Kruger National Park, the best airport option is Kruger Mpumalanga airport. It’s about 40km from Kruger’s Numbi Gate.
If you are staying in the more northern regions of the park, then Hoedspruit airport is usually the best option. It’s 68km from Kruger’s Orpen gate.
3) Self-Driving to Kruger National Park from Johannesburg
Self-driving to the Kruger Park is a perfectly feasible budget option and will also allow you to take in some scenic routes along the way.
Sure, it mightn’t be as convenient as getting a private charter directly to your accommodation, but it is probably the more realistic transport option for most backpackers.
The journey to the Kruger from O.R Tambo from Johannesburg takes you along two well-maintained highways. The entire route is tarred and well maintained with plenty of service stations along the way for rest stops and fuel fill-ups.
The journey takes approximately 5 hours straight, but around 6 with stops. Driving will also give you the option of selecting the nearest gate to your lodge.
If you plan on driving your vehicle in the park make sure to rent a sturdy or modern 4×4 vehicle that can handle the Kruger’s dirt roads.
In South Africa, they drive on the left side of the road. It is also law to wear a seatbelt at all times and using a mobile phone when driving is prohibited.
A Beginner’s Guide to Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park is a massive region that is around the same size as the European country of Slovenia.
It contains a rich mix of animal life and some of the largest land mammals on Earth. That’s why it draws so many safari lovers and adventurers to its savannah lands.
The whole park and its surrounding areas are made up of a variety of different areas and private concessions. But for practical purposes it’s broken down into 4 main regions.
These regions are the Southern region, the Central region, the Northern region and the Far Northern region.
Each region contains a diverse mix of environments, lodgings and animal species for you to witness.
To help you decide which part of the park is best for you we have provided some information on each region and its unique appeal!
1) The Southern Region
The Southern region makes up the lowest fifth of the Kruger Park. Its natural borders run from the Sabie River in the plains down to the Crocodile River at the very southern edge of the park.
The region has a large variety of different animal species including impala and kudus as well as lions and rhino throughout.
The four main gates for entry to the southern region of the park include:
- Paul Kruger Gate
- Phabeni Gate
- Numbi Gate and
- Malelane Gate which is the closest gate to Johannesburg
There is a road that runs between the two camps which provide panoramic views and a surprising amount of frequent and diverse game viewing which makes this one of the top 5 game drive routes in the park.
2) The Central Region
The Central region reaches from the Sabie River and up towards the Olifants River and consists of large wide grassy plains and wooded river valleys.
This is one of the most game-rich regions of the park and you can see herds of giraffes, zebra and wildebeest in large numbers throughout the central plains.
Due to the large number of game animals in this area, there is also a wide variety of predators such as lions and hyenas which rest in the shaded valley areas.
The main gates into the central region include:
- Giriyondo Gate
- Orpen Gate and
- Phalaborwa Gate.
The two main rest camps based in this central region include Mopani Rest Camp which focuses hugely on an authentic bush camping experience.
The second main camp in the central region is Letaba Rest Camp which is set on a riverbank and so provides great game watching opportunities.
3) The Northern Region
The Northern region stretches from the Olifants River up to the Tropic of Capricorn and is an area that is mostly dominated by mopane trees.
Elephant sightings are very common in the northern region of the Kruger National Park and large herds of buffalo and zebra can also be found here.
The main gates for the northern region are:
- Punda Maria and
- Phalaborwa Gate
You can also go through Pafuri Border Gate in the northern region which is a border checkpoint and one of the access ways between Kruger National Park and Limpopo National Park in Mozambique.
The northern regions two main camps include Shingwedzi Rest Camp and Olifants Main Camp which offers stunning panoramic views across the Olifants River valley and one of the most scenic overlooks in the entire Kruger National Park.
4) The Far Northern Region
The most remote region of the park, the far northern region stretches from the Tropic of Capricorn all the way to the border with Zimbabwe and the area is mainly arid and flat but dotted with huge baobab trees along its rivers.
The game viewing here is best along the riverways and this is one of the best regions to see nyala (a type of antelope), elephant and buffalo as well as the elusive cheetah and leopard.
This is also one of the best areas of the park for bird watching due to the many Afro-tropical species that live in the region.
There is only one main gate into this region – Pafuri Gate. It’s located on the west side of the park allowing you to access the most northern areas of the park.
The main camp in the region is Pafuri Rest Camp and is the furthest northern camp in the entire Kruger National Park.
Rest Camps within Kruger National Park
All the major rest camps throughout the park have a variety of facilities including:
- Electricity access
- A first-aid center
- A general store
- BBQ and communal kitchen facilities
- A laundromat
- A restaurant or self-service cafeteria and
- Petrol stations for refueling
Rest camps can also provide you with information on the game opportunities and local layout of the region they are based in.
The average cost of these rest camps is $35 USD per night. They are one of the best budget options for staying in the Kruger National Park.
There is also a huge range of luxury lodges throughout the park that offers a premium style stay and these can usually be contacted online to arrange bookings.
Kruger National Park – Entry Costs
The Kruger National Park does have some entry costs that you must keep in mind and as a foreign national visitor.
You will usually need to pay a fee of $27 USD per adult per day that you plan on staying in the park.
Foreign national children cost $14 USD per day when entering the park.
You can pay this entry fee at one of the park’s 11 entry gates and the majority are open from 5am and close at 6pm in the evening.
A Beginner’s Guide to Kruger National Park & How to Get There from Johannesburg
So, there you go.
That’s our guide to the Kruger National Park & how to get there safely from Johannesburg.
- Private Charter Flight
- Fly to Hoedspruit or KMIA
- Self Drive
- The Southern Region
- The Central Region
- The Northern Region
- The Far North Region
- Rest Camps
- Park Costs
Make sure you get the absolute best out of this wonderful part of Africa by arriving safely!