To help make your Kruger National Park safari as successful as possible, we have compiled a few useful tips below.
Although many travel agents and wildlife documentaries will tell you that the dry season is best for game viewing in Africa, this is not necessarily the case. Both wet and dry seasons have advantages and disadvantages, so here are our guidelines:
Dry season (May-October)
The dry season in Kruger has several advantages – temperatures are generally very pleasant, few mosquitoes and other insects are present, vegetation is not too dense, allowing for easier game viewing, and waterholes and river pools attract large quantities of animals and birds. The disadvantages of the dry season are shorter days, cold nights, dry and dull landscapes, and fewer bird species and young animals present.
Wet season (November-April)
Although rainfall is very unpredictable in the Kruger National Park, November to April are generally considered the wet months. Despite the heat, these months can be very productive and enjoyable. Many animals give birth to their young, migrant bird species visit the park, the vegetation is lush, green and very colourful, making it ideal for photography. Days are longer than in the dry season, giving you more time to search for animals. Obvious disadvantages of this time of the year are the high temperatures, large quantities of insects, and thick vegetation which can make game viewing difficult.
Remember that the animals are in the park year-round, so no matter which time of the year you visit, you have a chance of seeing your favourite animal.
If you are hoping to see specific species of animals on your safari, make sure you visit areas of the Kruger National Park in which those species actually occur. For instance, certain parts of the park are better for cheetahs than others. Certain species prefer specific habitats, like open savannas in the case of the cheetah, found in the central and south-eastern part of the park.
To learn more about the Kruger National Park's variety of vegetation types, explore our ecozone map. This map allows you to learn more about the park's different habitats and which animals you can expect to see in each.
Once you are in the right area to find a specific animal, make sure you search during the right time of day. Most animals, especially predators, are most active in the early morning and late afternoon. Don't expect to see too much in the middle of the day when many animals find refuge under thick, shady vegetation. Always drive slowly, because you miss a lot at higher speeds.
By "reading" the signs of the bush you can greatly improve your chances of finding animals on your game drive. If you are searching for predators, listen for warning calls of vervet monkeys and baboons, impalas, squirrels or birds such as guinea fowl or francolins. These species often make a lot of noise when they spot a predator.
Drive with your windows open so that you can hear warning calls, roars, or any other sounds which might give away an animal's position. Also stop when you smell something rotten – there might be a carcass close by... and of course the killer.
It is often worthwhile to switch off the vehicle's engine and just listen quietly for sounds. If you sit long enough at a waterhole or next to a riverbed, you are bound to see something interesting.
It might also be worthwhile to check out the sightings board in camp. Here, visitors have the opportunity to share their sightings with others by placing coloured pins on a map of the region. Each colour depicts a different animal species. If, for instance, lions or a herd of elephants were seen in a specific location during the morning, there is a likelihood that they might still be around in the evening.
Searching for and watching wildlife in the Kruger National Park can be hugely frustrating if you don't have the right gear with you! Here are a few things we recommend you bring along or buy in the park.
The first important piece of equipment is a map of the Kruger National Park. Maps are for sale at the entrance gates and camp shops, and include all the game-viewing roads and picnic sites in the park, as well as handy information on gate times, distances, animals and places of interest.
With a map in hand you can now plan your route. But before you start looking, always remember your glasses or contact lenses. There is nothing more frustrating than not being able to see clearly. At the same time, a good pair of binoculars is a must!
Invest in a good camera or video camera. Remember that a good zoom is necessary for wildlife photography and if you are using a compact digital camera (as opposed to an SLR), don't be fooled by a large digital zoom! It's the optical zoom that counts. An optical zoom of 10x or larger is recommended for wildlife photography. Also, don't be caught with flat batteries or too little space on your memory cards.
Having the right field guides with you is very handy. Use them to learn more about the Kruger National Park's huge diversity of animals, birds, reptiles, insects and plants.
Although this doesn't really fall under gear, it's very important to have enough drinks and snacks with you on your drive. Also take a wet cloth or wet wipes.
Over the years countless books have been written about the Kruger National Park and its wildlife. Here is our list of must-reads:
Getaway Guide to the Kruger National Park – Cameron Ewart-Smith (2005)
This little book contains information about pretty much everything in the Kruger National Park – from camp maps to best game-viewing roads. It covers both public and private park camps and contains some very beautiful photographs. All in all a very handy book to have when planning your Kruger safari.
Prime Origins Guide to Exploring Kruger – Brett Hilton-Barber & Prof. Lee R Berger (2007)
Prime Origins Guide to Best Birding in Kruger – Brett Hilton-Barber & Lou Arthur
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