On Safari in Kruger National Park

Welcome to day 2 of our first African safari experience.

If you haven’t already, make sure you check out our first safari post Experiencing Greater Kruger: Balule Game Reservefor our first incredible day on safari that included a sunset safari drive and dinner in the middle of the national park, right next to a very noisy and very large elephant!

But day 2 was what we had been waiting for. We were actually going to explore Kruger National Park and try to spot the elusive Big Five.

kruger national park

About Kruger National Park

If you’ve ever thought about going on a safari in Africa you’re sure to have heard of Kruger National Park. It is world famous for being one of Africa’s best safari destinations, covering nearly 2 million hectares of African bush, and home to one of the highest concentrations of lions in Africa.

Most people coming to Kruger National Park are on a mission, as we were, to spot the iconic BIG FIVE. That is – an elephant, a rhino, a leopard, a lion and a buffalo. These are some of the biggest and baddest animals in the African jungle and how incredible would it be to spot all five in real life!

In addition to the Big Five, this wilderness area is also inhabited by a massive 147 mammal species, as well as 517 bird species and even 336 tree species! Kruger National Park is also considered a world leader in advanced environmental policies and wildlife management practices. It’s really an incredible place to visit and a great place to experience your first safari.

Experiencing Greater Kruger: Balule Game Reserve

safari in kruger national park

Day 2: Kruger National Park

This is definitely what we had been waiting for, a whole day game driving around Kruger National Park. It was definitely what we were most excited about from our safari itinerary.

The day started bright and early at 6am. We were picked up from our lodge and driven about an hour and a half, along a very bumpy and windy road, all the way to Orpen Gate, the starting point for our day in Kruger National Park.

Much to our dismay, the morning started off cold, windy and rainy, and we could not have been more disappointed. We were all huddled under blankets in the open air 4×4, trying to pretend that the wind and rain pelting down on us wasn’t bothering us in the slightest.

When we arrived at the Orpen Gate we transferred to a specially designed game-viewing vehicle, which has been custom built for safaris to give everyone inside the best possible viewing experiences. The safari vehicle was completely open sided and is also elevated, so everyone has the opportunity for beautiful safari photos.

We tried to be positive and ignore the rain as we had a handful of wildlife spots in the morning, but it was difficult to keep the enthusiasm up.Whilst they were spread out and not in great abundance, any wildlife spot is still always exciting. In total we saw one lone male elephant, a tortoise, a buffalo, a chameleon, some impala, as well as lots of monkeys and baboons that were running way to fast to catch in a photo.

hippos in kruger national park

However, on our way to lunch our luck started to change.

We came across a lake that was absolutely filled with hippos. Without a doubt, it was the largest pod of hippos we had seen during our time in Africa. There would have been more than 30 of them swimming around together, including a few babies too. We were even lucky enough to see a couple of males have a little bit of a disagreement – which included lots of loud grunting and poop flinging, who knew that was a real thing!

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After watching the hippos for a while we headed to the restaurant for a quick lunch stop, before loading straight back into the 4×4 safari vehicle. By this time the sun has well and truly come out, it was actually hot in the sunshine, and we were enthusiastic about what the afternoon would bring!

cheetahs in kruger national parkcheetahs in kruger national park

One of the reasons Kruger National Park is so renowned for it’s safari experience is because of it’s open grassy plains that attracts large populations of grazers such as zebras, giraffe and all kind of antelope. Of course, with a high number of grazers you can also expect a high number of predators, accounting for all the lions and cheetahs in the region.

As soon as we took off from lunch we had an incredible spot – two male lions and two cheetahs, lounging under a bush. Apparently there aren’t often cheetah spottings in this area of Kruger National Park, so you could tell that even the guides were super excited by this find.

We sat for ages watching the cheetahs go about their regular lives. It didn’t matter that they were quite far away, or that they weren’t really don’t anything, it was a privilege just to watch them be in their natural environment.

The best thing about the same group game drives is that you can stop whenever you want for as long as you want. The tour leaders are happy to be guided by you, so if you want to watch the cheetahs for half an hour, they don’t mind at all. The safari vehicles are also all equipped with walkie talkies, so if any of the other cars spot something good you can be sure they’ll tell you about it so you can check it out as well!

elephant family in kruger national parkelephants in kruger national park

As we continued to drive around Kruger we came across several lone elephants, before wondering across a huge herd of elephants. This was another long stop, as we wanted the family of elephants bath themselves in mud, with some of the younger ones obviously playing with each other in the mud pool.

It’s so hard to remember that these animals actually live here all the time. That there’s nothing around Kruger stopping them from getting out or roaming across the country if they wanted to. As someone who comes from a country with pretty much no big animals in the wild (unless you’re counting crocodiles in the waterways of course) it was just crazy to wrap your head around.

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kruger national park

Throughout the day we also came across a couple of rhino, zebras, a few distant giraffe, plenty of impala, wildebeest, kudo and even an animal carcass with savages feasting on the remains. Once the sun came out in the late morning, those animals really came out to play and there were plenty of spottings to keep us happy and entertained for the whole day!

It would have been great if we had of had more time to explore Kruger National Park. Despite sending the whole day in the park, we didn’t even make a dent in the area of the park. The main area of Kruger National Park covers 19,633 square kilometres, which doesn’t even include all of the area that Great Kruger covers.

If you’ve got the time to spare,we’d recommend booking a safari that includes at least two full days of game drives in Kruger National Park, if not three if you can really stretch it. There’s so much more of the park to explore and you can always find new ground to cover and more amazing animals to check out in the wild.

Check out all the best places to stay in Kruger National Park

elephant in kruger national parkkruger national park

Visiting Kruger National Park

There are an endless number of safaris that will take you to explore Kruger National Park. We had booked onto the 4 Day Kruger Park Treehouse Camp with African Budget Safaris and it was perfect for our first trip.

While we were in the park we also saw heaps of people doing a self-drive through the park. Not going to lie, we were pretty jealous we hadn’t thought of that before we booked our safari, although the tour guides did give us so much information and value throughout the day that we would have missed out on.

If you’re planning to organise your own visit to Kruger National Park there are three airports surrounding the park –

  • Phalaborwa Airport in Northern Kruger Park
  • Hoedspruit Eastgate Airport in Central Kruger Park
  • Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (KMI) in Southern Kruger Park

You can book a flight to any of these airports from either Johannesburg, Cape Town or Durban. If you’re on a super luxurious trip you can even organise a private charter flight into any Kruger Park Lodge airstrip.

For more information on Kruger National Park and to help you organise your own adventure, make sure you check out the Kruger Park official website. They have literally everything you need including self-drive itineraries, accommodation options, advice on car rentals and what to see and more.

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zebras in kruger national park

A safari through Kruger National Park was just an incredible experience. Completely humbling to see these giant predator animals in their natural environment.

At the end of the day we had seen four of the BIG FIVE animals including an elephant, lion, buffalo and rhino. The only one we missed out on was a leopard, however the rare cheetah sighting did kind of make us feel like we had spotted all five.

After all the excitement of wildlife spotting throughout the day we were accidentally pooped as we made our way back to our treehouse accommodation for the night. We have one more post coming about our safari experience, including all about our treehouse sleepover. Make sure you check back in in about a week or so to read it. We also had most amazing wildlife spot on the very last morning of safari, so you won’t want to miss it.

Share your African safari experience with us in the comments below!

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Emma is a travel writer, photographer and blogger, chasing the sun around Australia. Travelling in her recently renovated vintage Viscount caravan, along with her husband Thom and daughter Macey, she's sharing the very best experiences from around her beloved sunburnt country.

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