It covers a vast 19,485 km2 (7523 sq miles) of African wilderness, and extends 360 kilometres (220 mi) from north to south and 65 kilometres (40 mi) from east to west. It is the tenth largest game reserve on earth. The Limpopo and the Crocodile rivers act as the park’s boundaries in the north and south respectively. To the east the Lebombo mountain range separate it from Mozambique, and in the west a fence separates it from the republic. Several other important rivers run from west to east through the park, including the Sabie, Olifants, Letaba and Luvuvhu. The park varies in altitude between 200 metres (660 ft) and 840 metres (2,760 ft) above sea level.
Areas of “Kruger”, as it is affectionately known, were first protected with the help of politician Paul Kruger in 1898, and it became South Africa’s first national park in 1926. Since 2002 it has been part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, a peace park that links Kruger National Park with the Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe and the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique. The Kruger park is also part of the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere, an area designated by UNESCO as an International Man and Biosphere Reserve.
The climate of Kruger and the surrounding lowveld is subtropical, specifically a hot semi-arid climate, with a rainy season from September until May. Vegetation in the park consists mainly of woodland savannah in a gently undulating landscape. Some of the most famous trees in the park are the mythical Baobab, shade-giving Marula and the Mopane with its heart-shaped leaves.
All of the famous Big Five game animals (African Elephant, African Buffalo, Lion, Leopard and two species of rhino) are found in Kruger National Park, along with another 141 species of mammal, more than any other African game reserve. Other special species include African Wild Dog, Cheetah, Spotted Hyaena, Hippopotamus, Giraffe, Sable and Roan Antelope, Greater Kudu, Waterbuck, Steenbok, Plains Zebra, Common Wildebeest, Common Warthog, Honey Badger and several smaller ones.
Also, over 520 species of birds have been seen in Kruger, including special species like the “Big Six”. These are Lappet-faced Vulture, Martial Eagle, Saddle-billed Stork, Kori Bustard, Southern Ground Hornbill and the rare Pel’s Fishing Owl. Other star birds include Bateleur, White-headed Vulture, African Finfoot, Brown-headed and Brown-necked Parrot, Thick-billed Cuckoo, Senegal and White-crowned Lapwing, Yellow-billed Oxpecker and Lilac-breasted Roller to name just a few.
Kruger also boasts 114 species of reptiles (including the fearsome Black Mamba and about 3,000 Nile Crocodiles), 50 fish species, 33 amphibians, 219 butterfly species, 350 arachnids and much more.
The park welcomes more than 1.5 million visitors every year, in accommodation ranging from basic campsites to super luxurious 5-star lodges. The park has 9 entrance gates, 12 main rest camps and several smaller camps. The largest camp, and the headquarters for Kruger, is Skukuza, located in the south. Nine different wilderness walking trails are on offer in the park, and there is also a 4×4 trail and even mountain biking trails. Each year in August there is a half marathon (13 miles) running race that takes place in the park, attracting a field of over 1,000 adventurous fitness fanatics. Kruger truly has it all!
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