Did you know that the Kruger National Park has more species of large mammals than any other game reserve on the African continent? Home to the iconic Big Five, you can expect to see a true plethora of fauna and flora wherever you travel in the national park. This blog article takes a brief look at the history of the Kruger National Park, a South African tourism attraction enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people every single year…
Where is the Kruger National Park Located?
The Kruger National Park takes up a staggering 19,485 square kilometres of land in the far north-east of South Africa. It covers sections of both the Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces, and is separated from Mozambique by the Lebombo Mountains.
The closest South African town to the Kruger Park is Phalaborwa, situated in the Limpopo province. Road travel time from Johannesburg to the Kruger National Park is around 4 hours 21 minutes, and from Durban you’re in for an 8 hour 13 minute journey (timeframes can change depending on road traffic).
*Did you know that the Kruger Park is larger than some European countries?
History of the Kruger National Park – A Timeline:
Before being declared a government wildlife park by Paul Kruger in 1898, the Kruger Park was a wild and untamed eastern section of the then Transvaal Province. Inhabited by the Tsonga people who occupied kraals (settlements) all along the Sabi and Letaba Rivers.
However, as the 19th century drew to a close, a hunter by the name of Abel Chapman noticed that hunting habits in the area was seriously diminishing the number of indigenous, wild animals – and brought this to the attention of the South African government of the time.
1898 – 1926.
It was in 1895 that Jakob Louis van Wyk first presented the idea of a government-sanctioned wildlife preservation park in South Africa. It was by one single vote that the notion was accepted for discussion, and on the 26th of March 1898 Paul Kruger – president of the South African Republic – declared the area a government wildlife park (known then as the Sabi Game Reserve).
In 1923 the first large groups of tourists started visiting the park, as part of the “Round of Nine” tours via train starting from the Mozambican side of the border. The tour included a highly-popular overnight stay in Skukuza, with a short walking safari accompanied by armed rangers into the untamed bushveld.
1926 – 1996.
The park was officially proclaimed as the Kruger National Park in 1926, twenty-two years after the death of its namesake, and by 1927 the park opened its gates to droves of automobiles packed full with excited tourists looking to experience the wonders of the African wilderness first-hand.
However, the park had one fundamental issue during these early years of its existence – there were no boundary fences! It was only in 1959 that work began to completely ring the Kruger National Park with boundary fences. These were installed to facilitate border patrolling and prevent free movement of poachers.
1996 – present date.
In 1996 the Makuleke people, who had been forcefully relocated to the southern section of the park in order to free up park space in the north, submitted a land claim for near on 20,000 hectares of the Kruger National Park. The land was awarded to the Makuleke, but instead of resettling their people – they decided to open their tribal land up to private tourism investment.
This resulted in the building of multiple game lodges much like those seen in the Kruger Park today. Just before the new millennium the fences separating the park from the neighbouring Klaserie, Olifants and Balule game reserves were removed – adding an extra 400,000 hectares of land.
Today, tourists can enjoy the Kruger National Park how ever they wish. The park boasts both permanent and semi-permanent accommodation, and safaris can be undertaken either in safari vehicles or on foot accompanied by armed guides. There are tarred roads running through the park, however most road surfaces are still gravel.
Southern Circle tours is able to facilitate memorable Kruger National Park tours for anyone looking to experience the raw African wilderness in all its natural splendour. Our Kruger Park tours can embark from Johannesburg, Durban or Cape Town – and lengths vary from 3-day tours up to comprehensive 19-day tours. Contact Nic at Southern Circle today to book a Kruger National Park tour today!