As famous as Tanzania’s Serengeti and Botswana’s Okavango Delta, the Kruger National Park is South Africa’s finest game reserve, with outstanding game viewing and plenty of big five. The Kruger’s fame however has come with a price; the sheer volume of tourists means this is one of the continent's most visited parks. There are quieter areas: the Sabi Sands in particular where both the game viewing and the quality of accommodation are world class. People love Kruger and often come back year after year.
Kruger National Park and The Greater Kruger
The major advantage of safari in South Africa is the very high quality of the accommodation on offer; some of the continent's most luxurious lodges are to be found here. To truly understand Kruger (which can become confusing) Kruger broadly can be divided into two sections: the National Park and the Greater Kruger.
The former is where opinions are split the most. The big five game viewing is some of the best in Africa, but the easy access from Johannesburg (and the resulting crowds) and the network of tarmac roads covering much of the national park mean that this undeniably excellent game viewing is tempered by a lack of the true wilderness that we believe Africa is really all about.
It is however perfect if you want to guarantee viewing lots of big game within a limited period of time. There are a huge number of accommodation options here from bigger hotels to smaller and more intimate classic safari lodges.
The Greater Kruger is the Private section of game reserves that are have no fences between them and the National Park and although this allows the animals to move freely, visitors from the National Park are not allowed here. The Greater Kruger is made up of an abundance of properties including the Sabi Sands Reserve, the Manyeleti and the TImbavati.
Although the National Park is fantastic, it pales in comparison to the adjacent private reserves. Sabi Sands in particular benefits from the exceptional Kruger wildlife, but without coming into contact with the main self-drive routes and tarmac roads which make way for tourism.
The major factor when deciding on your South African safari is to to ascertain the differences between the Sabi Sands and the Kruger National Park
. Our blog post explains this everything from the vehicles used, to the different types of game viewing on offer. Visiting the Greater Kruger, especially the Sabi Sands really is our recommendation here, but we would recommend calling us up and explaining your criteria so we can point you in the direction which is suited specifically to you.
Where to stay in the Kruger National Park?
The most luxurious option in the Kruger (and outside Sabi Sands) is the Singita properties, Singita Sweni and Singita Lebombo. These are set to the east of the Kruger, in an untouched section of the park. Its luxury can be cited in its location, but also in the luxurious nature of Singita properties which are of a similar world-class standard throughout the continent.
Lion Sands also run two lodges in the National Park, however they are on their own private piece of land so coming into contact with National Park visitors is a minimum. Tinga and Narina are both beautiful lodges with stunning views of the Sand River and their idyllic locations are well known for their fantastic density of big game.
Although there are a lot of options and too many to mention them all in the Greater Kruger, &Beyond's Ngala Tented Camp in the Timbavati and Tintswalo's Safari Lodge in the Manyeleti are our favourites. They are both exceptionally luxurious lodges and well worth a visit. Ngala's location makes it the best place in the Kruger to potentially spot wild white lions and Tintswalo's open plains are great for cheetah sightings. Both have exceptional service, brillant game viewing and are excellent value for money.