Staying in Kruger National Park or one of the surrounding
private game reserves is ideal during a visit to
South Africa. The safari and game lodges range from
artistically elegant to super luxurious with en-suite
bathroom facilities. The expert game rangers whisk
you off on game drives and walking safaris, tracking
the wildlife in their natural habitat.
Above: The Lebombo Motorised
4x4 Eco-Trail follows the eastern boundary of the
Park for 515 kilometres, from Crocodile Bridge to
While Stevenson-Hamilton believed
in ‘a balance
of Nature’, evidence suggests that the natural
environment is never in a constant state of equilibrium,
and is continuously influenced by weather patterns,
fire and fluctuating wildlife populations. Nature
is therefore never in a balance, or at least not
in the way that humans interpret the term. In the
past the Park’s biologists sought to manage
the system in such a way that fluctuations in wildlife
populations were minimised – however, certain
management policies were to have a major impact on
Where Stevenson-Hamilton had relied on intuition
and experience in managing the Park, the 1950s saw
the emergence of a corps of scientists, reliant on
scientific methods and statistical analysis, that
would dominate the management of the Park for more
than 40 years.
Under scientific management it was argued that because
the Kruger Park was entirely surrounded by a game-proof
fence, constant and careful management was necessary.
Not only was the veld burnt at regular intervals,
and other fires actively discouraged, but wildlife
populations were carefully monitored by conducting
an annual census that took over three months to complete.
In 1972, Dr U de V Pienaar wrote, ‘the
Board is trying, by means of the skillful supply
of water and scientific control of grazing, to
build up the numbers of all herbivorous animals
to an optimum level ... considerable numbers of
wildebeest and zebra are being captured in the
overpopulated areas of the central district and
transferred to the underpopulated areas south of
the Sabie River.’
|The frequent occurrence
of droughts, and the bad press that this generated,
was addressed by ‘Water for Game’ campaigns,
which raised substantial sums of money. More than 300
windmills and 65 major dams were constructed, often
in areas where no natural water had occurred historically.
In the Southern Region alone 22 windmills and 11 dams
were constructed from 1960–1971. The water provision
programmes allowed water-dependent species such as
zebra and impala to increase.
|An increase in zebras alters
the nature of grasslands and allows lions to colonise
vacant territories, thus contributing to the decline
of rare antelope such as sable, roan, reedbuck and
tsessebe. These antelope require very specific habitats,
inhabiting open woodlands and grasslands in prime condition.
In the Central Region, 12 new lion prides have become
established since the 1950s in areas where artificial
water points were provided.
species thrived as a result of the water provision
programmes, scientists then argued that it was therefore
necessary to cull elephant, hippo, buffalo, zebra,
wildebeest and impala.
A census in 1967 counted
6 586 elephants, and park biologists decided to limit
the population to 7 000. Culling of elephant and
buffalo commenced in the same year. In time, the
necessity for these programmes was questioned as
a better understanding of the ecosystem emerged,
and eventually all culling campaigns, with the exception
of those for elephant, were abandoned.
In recent years park managers have retreated from
intensive management, and have begun to rethink some
of the direct management policies that were applied
in the past.
A new fire policy allows
fires started by lightning to burn without hindrance,
and current thinking does not support culling except
where certain habitat thresholds have been exceeded.
Management of an intricate ecosystem requires the
compilation of a detailed management plan that allows
for public input and has built-in capacity for policy
March 1999 a revised management plan was approved.
Central to the plan is a clear Mission Statement
which is: ‘To
maintain biodiversity in all its natural facets and
to provide human benefits in keeping with the mission
of the South African National Parks in a manner which
detracts as little as possible from the wilderness
qualities of the Kruger National Park.’
The management plan was compiled from the proceedings
of 52 workshops involving important role players. One
section contains a new elephant management plan that
divides Kruger into six zones. Two botanical zones
have been established, where the vegetation determines
how the area is managed, and these two zones together
cover 15 per cent of the Park.
One of these is situated in the southwestern corner
of Kruger around Pretoriuskop (see map), extending
in a corridor southward to the Malelane Mountains;
the other is in the Far North, extending from Punda
Maria up to Pafuri. Here elephants will be limited
to one animal per 2.86 square kilometres (the average
density for the whole Park at the old ceiling of
7 000 elephants).
Two high impact zones
have been established, covering 40 per cent of the
Park. One extends from just south of Tshokwane up
to the Crocodile River, and the other extends from
west of Satara Camp up to near Mopani Camp. Elephants
will not be culled or captured in these high impact
zones for the foreseeable future.
Finally, there are two low impact zones, one extending
from the Olifants River to just south of Tshokwane;
and the other from Mopani Camp to the edge of the
botanical zone around Punda Maria. The low impact
zones cover 45 per cent of the Park, and in these
areas elephants will be reduced by seven per cent
per year by live capture or culling until certain
habitat criteria have been met.
One of the most important new policies relates to
water. Many of the 300 artificial water holes will
be closed. By limiting the distribution of water,
many of the imbalances that led to culling in the
past will be corrected and natural migratory patterns
will hopefully be restored, which benefits the ecosystem
by providing long rest periods for the vegetation.
The ‘Southern Region’ extends northwards
from the southernmost border of the Park as far north
as the Sabie River; the ‘Central Region’ from
the Sabie River to the Olifants River; the ‘Northern
Region’ from the Olifants to just south of
Punda Maria; and the ‘Far North’ from
Punda Maria up through Pafuri to the Limpopo River.
Note that these regions and the names given to them
here are not officially recognised.
|If you are on a guided African
safari, your chances of encountering problems are minimal.
Tour operators make it their business to know the areas
they travel in thus reducing risk to travellers. However,
it is sensible to take normal precautions on your African
safari, particularly when travelling through urban
|Always have a photocopy
of your passport, and any visas. Also, have a list
of traveller’s cheque numbers. These copies should
be packed separately from the originals. It is never
a good idea to carry large amounts of cash, and most
urban centres (hotels, shops) do accept credit cards
(Visa and Mastercard are most common), and traveller’s
cheques. You might need cash for purchases local markets – keep
this in a travel wallet, or a zip pocket.
|Never leave cameras and
hand luggage unattended, whether in a vehicle, or even
in a hotel foyer. Never pack valuables (this includes
medication), in your check-in luggage.
|When travelling independently
on your African safari, stay informed in terms of the
local news. Ask at your hotel about any unsafe areas,
and codes of dress and behaviour. Don't openly carry
valuables. If you must carry your passport and money,
keep them in a buttoned-down pocket.
|Your guide will always do
a safety talk with you, whether your game viewing is
to be done from a vehicle, or on foot. Wildlife is
potentially dangerous, but as long as you adhere to
what you guide tells you, there is very little to worry
about. At viewpoints, hides and camps, wildlife is
more familiar with people and less intimidated by your
presence. Never tease or corner wild animals - this
may cause an unpredictable response and a potentially
dangerous reaction. Never feed any animals, as this
can cause them to lose their fear of humans.
|Although Africa is known
to be home to a number of potentially dangerous species,
especially snakes, scorpions, spiders, and insects,
very few visitors are adversely affected. Snakes tend
to be shy, and generally stay away from built-up areas.
Lodges and camps generally have insect (especially
mosquito) proofing in their rooms. If you go on a walk,
it is always a good idea to comfortable, enclosed walking
shoes, socks, and long trousers – just as a precaution.
» Valid visa - if required
other picture identification (e.g. driver's licence)
» Photocopy of passport
page to carry in wallet
» Air tickets
» Expense money
» Comprehensive Travel
On safari, most people
wear shorts and a T-shirt during the day and put
on long sleeved shirts and long pants in the evening
for warmth as well as protection from mosquitoes.
Should you be particularly sensitive to the sun a
loose cotton shirt is essential during the day. Khaki,
brown, olive and beige colours are best for and safaris
and game walks.
White is not a suitable colour for these activities,
as it increases your visibility to wildlife you want
to get a closer look at and it will get dirty very
quickly. Fleece or sweater and a windbreaker for
game drives, because it is highly possible that you
may go out on a hot day, but be faced with a chill
evening on your return. Remember that layering your
clothing will keep you warmer than relying on one
pairs khaki cotton pants
» 2 pairs khaki shorts
» 2 long
sleeved shirts/ blouses (for sun protection as well
light sweater or sweatshirt
» 1 lightweight, waterproof
» Swimming costume
» Sturdy walking
or hiking boots
» 3-5 short-sleeved
shirts or T-shirts
» 5 changes underwear
» Hat with a brim (baseball
caps might cover your nose but not your ears and
» Gloves (if you really
feel the cold)
» Down vest or jacket
(if you really feel the cold)
» A sarong or kikoi type
» Toilet kit
including shampoo and soap
» Insect repellent
» Good quality sunglasses plus protective
» Hand wipes or 'Baby wipes'
» Stuff-sacks or plastic
packets; to compartmentalise items within your travel
» Repair kit: needle and thread, nylon cord,
» Camera, film or memory card
» Spare batteries. Film
and batteries can generally be obtained at lodges,
but at a price of course, so please be sure to have
sufficient supplies for your needs
» Paperback reading, writing material (keep
weight at a minimum)
» Sunscreen or block
» Moisturizer, lip balm
» Personal first-aid kit (headache
pills, antihistamine cream etc)
» Large towel and washcloth
(thin, quick-drying) – if
required for camping/overland safari
|For Safari travel, the best
type of luggage to bring is a soft bag, or backpack
with an internal frame. As packing space in Safari
vehicles is limited, only one bag is allowed, but you
should also have a daypack for all of your personal
items/camera/binoculars. Hard suitcases are usually
scuffed or damaged in transit and are inappropriate
for a game safari.
|If part of your itinerary
includes light aircraft flights, there are serious
weight restrictions. You are usually restricted to
10 or 12kg (22 or 26 lbs), per person, in a soft bag.
Storage space in a light aircraft is at a premium,
and the pilot may refuse to take on bulky or excessive
luggage. The most common aircraft types used for charter
work are Cessna 206 or 210, and Cessna 208 Caravans.
Slightly larger aircraft are often used in East Africa,
but luggage is still restricted.
It's important to know
the behavior of the animals you're trying to photograph.
By understanding their behavior you will have a better
chance of finding them and you will be able to predict
By reading up on animal behavior you will learn
the different kinds of terrain the various animals
prefer. You can combine that knowledge with that
of your qualified guide to plan the best African
game drives and bush walks, where you will have the
opportunity to take some amazing photo's.
Security is very important, so make sure that you
don't put yourself in danger. Also never interfere
with the natural behavior of the animals in order
to take a better photo!
Some part of all trips will involve
meeting people from local tribes and with cultural
backgrounds different from ours. Please be courteous
when taking pictures. It is always a good idea
to build rapport with your subjects first and then
ask them if it is OK to take their picture. Tribal
folk can be very suspicious of cameras and vocal
and demonstrative with people who shoot first and
make friends after.
When taking close-up
pictures, focus on the animal's eyes. This guarantees
that most of the animal's face will be in focus.
Be prepared and ready with your camera at all times,
as animals may suddenly appear and disappear just
Range your subject. For example, when taking photos
of an Elephant, take a portrait shot; include one
more with the general habitat in context to the subject,
then another with close-up detail, such as horns
Utilise low contrast film when the sun is intense
and high contrast film when it is overcast or dull.
Take different pictures in vertical and horizontal
approaches. Take photographs from different levels
when you are on a game viewing activity. Pictures
taken at the animal's eye-level will appear more
Do not centre all your shots; leave room in your
subject for the animal to move into. This will prevent
lifeless composition and give an imitate portrayal
of your subject. A good starting point for wildlife
photography is a lens with a 300mm in focal length.
Bird photography will require a 500mm lens. When
the subject is in motion, use a shutter speed of
at least 1/125, except if you are using a panning
method. Birds in flight necessitate speeds of 1/500
You will find incredible
photographic opportunities on your safari. There
are no limitations on the amount of film you can
bring to any of the countries of Southern Africa,
so bring plenty! Film is expensive and can be hard
to find once in Africa. If you are interested in
A PHOTOFRAPHIC JOURNAL of your safari, bring at least
1 roll (36 exposures) per day; it doesn't hurt to
We recommend Kodachrome 64 (slide film) or Fujichrome
100 for most daylight shots in open territory. With
longer lenses, which admit less light, or for low
light situations around dawn and dusk, 400 ASA (or
higher) are also recommended. A flash unit is a useful
addition when taking pictures of dark subjects in
low light conditions, or evening camp fire scenes.
Stow your film in a lead foil bag to protect it from
heat, moisture and airport X-ray machines. There
are two types available, one rated up to 400 ASA
and one to 3200 ASA. The 3200 ASA bag is virtually
impenetrable to X-rays and is worth the extra cost.
A 200 or 300 mm lens
(or 80-300 zoom) is good for most wildlife photography
from vehicles or boats. A 400-500 mm lens will work
well in many situations, especially if you are a
keen bird photographer.
A standard 50mm or wide angle lens is good for scenery
and people shots. If you are an avid photographer
you may want to bring two SLR camera bodies (of the
same type) so you will not have to constantly change
lenses. With two cameras you will spend more time
looking at the wildlife and composing shots than
fumbling in your camera bag, getting dust in your
one camera body, and missing the action!
Skylight and haze filters
are useful for lens protection as well as picture
enhancement. Polarizing filters are useful when taking
pictures over water and with wide-angle shots with
sky and clouds. Although tripods are cumbersome and
you will have few opportunities to use them, if they
are light-weight you may want to bring them along.
A small beanbag is very handy for resting your camera
and lens on the roof of vehicles. We suggest that
you make the bag at home (approx. 6'x 9') and fill
it with beans purchased at a local market (to save
Bring plenty of spare batteries for motor drives,
flash units, etc. and for your camera (they are very
scarce in Africa). It is very handy if all your equipment
uses the same size batteries, so that if you run
short, you can borrow batteries from your other equipment.
If you plan to buy new camera equipment before this
trip, make sure you are completely familiar with
it's operation. Try to envisage the type of lighting
and subject conditions you will experience on the
trip, and use a few rolls of film to experiment and
perfect your technique. A trip to the zoo may help
with identification and technique.
Time spent in preparation will pay dividends in
the field. For those of you who are real camera buffs,
it is a good idea to bring along a small automatic
(point and shoot) camera for convenience, in addition
to your bulky SLR cameras. This will be very useful
as a back up camera and in situations where setting
up an SLR is too time consuming and absorbing. Polaroid
Cameras are usually an instant hit and serve as a
great ice breaker with local folk. If the locals
receive a picture, usually they are very willing
to pose for a shot with your SLR camera.
|The transportation used
in these trips is quite rugged, vibration from engines
and corrugated roads can play havoc with your camera
gear so pack it well. Also, it is not uncommon to drop
cameras in or out of the vehicle. On some trips you
will be on board boats and there is the chance that
you and your gear may take a swim. Insure your equipment.
A home owners policy will usually cover camera gear.
|Some part of all trips will
involve meeting people from local tribes and with cultural
backgrounds different from ours. Please be courteous
when taking pictures. It is always a good idea to build
rapport with your subjects first and then ask them
if it is OK to take their picture. Tribal folk can
be very vocal and demonstrative with people who shoot
first and make friends after.
Do not let your camera
blind you. There is a whole world out there and pictures
only capture the images. The sights and sounds of
these undeveloped areas are all interwoven, and if
you spend an inordinate amount of time peeking through
the viewfinder you will miss most of the trip. Be
ready with your camera at all times. Animals do not
keep appointments; kills happen in a flurry of fur
and snarls; and leopards leap from trees in a split
If your camera isn't loaded or ready you will miss
the award winning shot. The vehicles we use are very
stable, however with 5 to 7 people in them each person's
movement can effect someone's ability to take the
perfect picture. It is a good idea to ask everyone
to be still for just a moment, while you shoot, and
thank them afterwards. Please remember not to monopolise
the best spot for photos and to be considerate of
your fellow trip members' needs and wishes. Your
trip leader will help organise seat rotations within
|A videotape of your wildlife
safari is a wonderful memento. With today's technology
the cameras are as small as an SLR and are very versatile.
It is possible to recharge your camera batteries from
some vehicles. You will need to bring approximately
3-4 hours of film, 3 batteries (one in the camera,
one in the recharger, and one spare already charged),
a 12 volt charger with a cigarette lighter attachment,
crocodile clips and some gaffer tape.
|Try recharging your batteries
on your own car first to familiarise yourself with
the recharging set up. Your driver/trip leader will
give you specific instructions about when you can recharge
your batteries. To make the most of your videos - shoot
some practise film before your trip.
|Binoculars are strongly
recommended for every trip member. They are invaluable
for observing larger animals as well as birds. A 7
or 8 power binocular works well for most people, but
if you are particularly interested in birds a 10 power
is best. We recommend that each trip participant bring
his or her own pair, as it is most frustrating to strain
for the sight of a brightly coloured bird high in the
tree, while waiting to borrow a pair of 'Binos', only
to have the bird fly away once you finally get the
binos. Inexpensive binoculars are available at most
places for about US$30-50. TASCO and BUSHNELL are two
brands which are adequate for most purposes and are
type of activities you are interested in
area/s you are interested in
time of year do you want to travel
far in advance should you book
age and level of fitness of the person(s) travelling
|An African safari offers
many exciting activities, abundant opportunities to
observe wildlife and view scenic and picturesque landscapes.
Activities are based on the habitat, existence of rivers,
climate, wildlife and the level of experience of the
guides. Get acquainted with the different habitats
and animal behavior before you travel. If you decide
to focus on a particular area or are concentrating
on certain animals or birds, prepare yourself well
and select your destination based on the safari activities
that suite your interests.
|All game drives are undertaken
in an open safari vehicle, with a driver / guide who
has extensive experience and intimate knowledge of
the area, and is an expert on game movement and other
ecological aspects of the region. Game drives usually
depart in the early morning and late afternoon when
it is cooler, for game to hunt and graze, so there
is a better chance of encountering abundant wildlife.
There are also exciting night game drives where you
can witness fascinating nocturnal animals.
|Most game viewing activities
take place in the early morning and late afternoon,
which maximize the chance of encountering animals when
they are most active. In the warmer months most animals
find shelter during the heat of the day. The greatest
opportunity to see a Lion is usually just after sunrise.
Other large African animals like Buffalo, Giraffe,
Wildebeest, Elephant are more visible an hour before
|Some areas offer better
bird watching opportunities than others. The greatest
number of birds may be seen between October and March,
when the central African migrants are present. Endemic
species will be seen throughout the year.
|There is no finer way to
enjoy the essence of the African bush than on foot.
The freedom of being in the heart of the wilderness
and in close proximity to Africa's magnificent wildlife
is an unforgettable experience. Walking safaris inspire
a degree of respect for the wild environment, as you
soon realise that you are a participant and not just
|In some camps, boating is
one of the activities on offer. You can travel out
into the surrounding areas by boat looking for wild
game, birds and at the general scenery. You can even
fish in certain areas. In Botswana you will have the
opportunity to explore the Okavango Delta by mokoro
(traditional dugout canoes). There is no better way
to relax in the wilderness than a mokoro trip through
the Okavango Delta.
|Other exciting activities
may include; horse-back and Elephant-back safaris,
ballooning, quad bike drives, mountain biking, scenic
flights, game capture, assistance with field research,
Gorilla tracking, anti-poaching exercises...Let us
help you create your dream safari.
|There are certain rules
and regulations that one should be aware of while on
safari. One of the highlights of most safari's is going
on game drives and bush walks, where you get the opportunity
to see amazing wildlife in their natural habitat. However
it is vitally important that you remember to respect
the natural surroundings and wildlife.
Bush vegetation is extremely
sensitive. Off-road driving causes erosion and encourages
the encroachment of unwanted plant species. Observe
the animals silently and with a minimum of disturbance
to their natural activities. Loud talking on game
drives can frighten the animals away.
Night drives with excessive use of spotlights disrupt
the activities of nocturnal animals causing temporary
blindness and disorientation. Never tease or corner
wild animals, this may cause an unpredictable response
and a potentially dangerous reaction.
Do not remove any natural material from wildlife
reserves. This disrupts the ecology of the area and
promotes the spreading of diseases amongst domestic
animals and crops. Never attempt to attract an animal's
attention. Don't imitate animal sounds, clap your
hands, pound the vehicle or throw objects.
Please respect your driver / guide's judgment about
your proximity to certain wild animals. Don't insist
that he take the vehicle closer so you can get a
better photograph. A vehicle driven too close can
hinder a hunt, or cause animals to abandon a hard-earned
Remember that your guide is an expert, so always
follow his advice and ask him questions if you are
unsure of anything. Never sleep outside. Take only
photographs and memories with you.
Litter tossed on the ground can choke or poison
animals and birds and is unsightly. Refrain from
smoking on game drives. The dry African bush ignites
very easily, and a flash fire can kill many animals.
Never attempt to feed or approach any wild animal
on foot. This is especially important near lodges
or in campsites where animals may have become accustomed
to human visitors.
much has been written about the best time of year
to travel in Africa, most countries are a year-round
destination – depending
upon your interests. For many travellers to this vast
and diverse continent, wildlife is the major attraction.
One should always remember that the so-called 'peak
season' is just that, and accommodation establishments
tend to be booked well in advance. Many Safaris Lodges
are small, and therefore space is at a premium. If
you want to experience the majesty of the great migration
in East Africa, it is advisable to book well in advance,
likewise, if your interests are travelling to Cape
Town, and the Winelands in December.
It is important to understand how seasonal trends might
affect your trip. Remember, however, that weather is
variable and so it is quite possible to go for days
without rain during the rainy season, or have thundershowers
in the middle of the dry season!
|The grass can be long in
some areas after the rains; therefore, game viewing
at these times can be difficult. In some areas, the
wildlife will disperse during the rains due to the
ample water supply, as they are not dependent on water
|The best game-viewing period
in Africa is generally during the dry season. Permanent
water supplies attract animals, the vegetation becomes
thinned out, and trees don't have so many leaves to
obstruct the view.
This optimum safari season usually includes winter
(May-August) and the hot spring months of September
and October. The climate is comfortable in the dry
winter months of May, June, July and August. Daytime
temperatures are mild and the nights get a little cool.
|Generally, there is very
little to worry about when travelling in Africa. At
most properties, and in most areas, the water is safe
to drink, and is less chemically treated that you might
imagine. In those rare cases where a property itself
is concerned about water, bottled water is always provided.
Indeed, bottled water is readily available at properties,
and on safari.
Malaria is a prevalent disease in much of Africa, but
lodges all take precautions – with a combination
of mosquito nets, and sprays. Be sure to continue the
prophylactic regime when you return home, as it is
generally required up to 4 weeks after travel as well.
Please see Malaria information for more details.
Yellow Fever is caused by a virus carried by a species
of mosquito, and has been known to occur in certain
East African countries. There have been no recent outbreaks,
but as yellow fever is contagious, many countries require
travellers to get a yellow fever inoculation. Travellers
should be inoculated at least 10 days prior to travel
(a certificate is issued).
The inoculation certificate is not generally required
when entering the country in question (e.g. Kenya or
Tanzania), but is required for your return to your
country of residence. Please consult your Travel Clinic,
or doctor, prior to travel.
Bilharzia (Schistosomiasis) is a waterborne parasite
carried by snails, and occurs in stagnant water of
lakes, dams and slow flowing rivers. However, lodges,
and guides, will always caution you as to where it
is safe to swim. In Africa, many lakes and rivers are
home to Hippopotamus and Crocodiles anyway – so
swimming is not generally recommended!
If you travel extensively in remote areas, you might
also want to consult your Travel Clinic about Hepatitis
A and B, and tetanus inoculations.
When on Safari, always ensure that you drink sufficient
quantities of water. Day time temperatures can be extreme,
even in winter, and you don't want to suffer from dehydration.
Complications from sunburn should also not be ignored – always
wear a hat with a brim, and ensure that you carry a
good supply of protection cream.
|Towering five metres above
the ground and weighing as much as 1 400 kilograms,
the giraffe is the tallest animal of the African savanna – yet
still falls prey to lion. In
the Central Region, where an abundance of acacias concentrates
60 per cent of the giraffe population, a study found
they comprise 15 per cent of all lion kills, but account
for nearly half of the food eaten by lion.
Giraffe show a distinct
preference for knobthorns. Their consistent browsing
often prunes the trees into shapes more in keeping
with a manicured garden.
Giraffe browse on about 70 species of trees and shrubs
in the Kruger Park, but are particularly partial to
combretums, buffalo thorn and acacias, as illustrated
above. They feed by wrapping their long tongues aound
twigs to reach the fine leaves of these trees.
During the rut, which takes place between April
and June, adult impala males establish territories,
which they defend by chasing away rival males.
Guttural roars followed by protracted snorts can
be heard throughout the day and night, as the dominant
male defends his territory against intrusions by
neighbouring males. If territorial displays are not
effective in fending off rivals, the males resort
to horn-clashing duels to determine dominance.
A herd of impala approaches water. For impala, gathering
together in a herd has many advantages: many pairs
of eyes and ears are constantly alert to danger,
and the chances of being caught by a predator are
greatly reduced. In the Kruger Park there are approximately
10 000 impala herds with an average herd size of
Impala gather at a water hole in acacia country
near Lower Sabie. They have a marked preference for
areas where there is a regular supply of water, short
grass and dense thickets of shrubs and trees.
These conditions are normally encountered near rivers
where a concentration of larger animals, such as
elephant and buffalo, further improves the habitat
for impala. Impala are prolific breeders and are
the most abundant mammal in Kruger, but these medium-sized
antelope drink less than one quarter of the water
consumed by the Park’s elephants.
A redbilled oxpecker removes ticks from a female
impala, the smallest of the antelope attended by
these birds. Small flocks of oxpeckers clamber about
the host cleaning ectoparasites from its hide. When
startled, they move to the opposite side of the host,
and peer over its back at the source of disturbance.
Their noisy, hissing alarm calls help to warn the
animals they are perched upon of impending danger.
Kudu are nonselective browsers and feed on no less
than 150 species of trees and shrubs. They avoid
trees with a high tannin content in their leaves,
and favour acacia and combretum species.
Although they prefer the same trees that are sought
after by giraffe, competition between the two species
is minimised by feeding at different heights. This
beautiful large antelope is the most widely distributed
of the Park’s 20 antelope species, but is most
common in the Central Region where its favourite
food plants are found in abundance.
Although kudu drink when water is available, in
times of drought they are more susceptible to a lack
of adequate browse than they are to a lack of drinking
water. The female weighs about 160 kilograms, but
males are much larger and weigh on average 250 kilograms.
A kudu bull displays the longest horns of all the
antelope that occur in Kruger. At the age of nine
months a male kudu sports two short horns, which
begin to grow and curve with age to form the corkscrew
shape typical of mature bulls.
The record length of 181 centimetres is more than
twice that recorded for a close relative, the nyala.
There have been several observations of jousting
kudu bulls interlocking their spiral horns and being
unable to disengage. Unable to disentangle their
horns or flee, the helpless contestants soon fall
prey to predators.
Herds of female waterbuck and their young occupy
a home range that coincides with the territories
of several males.
Relative to their small population size, more waterbuck
are killed by lion than any other antelope in Kruger,
and 60 to 80 per cent of deaths can be attributed
to these predators. Waterbuck are uncommon throughout
their range in South Africa and currently number
a modest 1 400 in Kruger. They favour open woodland
A male waterbuck, followed by an attentive cattle
egret, grazes near the Sabie River. Of the 77 species
of African antelope, only the waterbuck has a distinctive
white ring around the rump. Grasses of a high nutritional
quality and a regular supply of water are both essential
habitat requirements for these animals. Cattle egrets,
the only members of their family that are not closely
dependent on water, feed on grasshoppers and other
insects disturbed by large antelope.
The regal sable, arguably the most beautiful antelope
in the Park, has specific habitat requirements that
include tall grassland and open woodland.
An increase in zebra herds and prolonged drought
has caused a considerable decline in sable in recent
years. Blue wildebeest favour short grasses and need
to drink less than other grazers such as zebra and
buffalo. Although wildebeest are dependent on water,
the severe drought of 1992/93 had little effect on
their population, currently estimated at about 13
A blue wildebeest bull maintains his dominance by
means of ritual displays intended to intimidate any
intruder. When another bull approaches, the territorial
bull’s rocking-horse gait and swishing tail
are meant to dissuade his competitor.
If this display fails, the bull drops to his knees
and engages in horn-clashing sparring (opposite below).
No injuries result from these contests as the impact
is absorbed by the bull’s solid horn bosses.
One of the bulls eventually surrenders and is chased
off the territory by the victor.Wildebeest bulls
clash at Bangu, an important water hole on the eastern
plains. Males are territorial and even where herds
migrate over long distances, temporary territories
In the Kruger Park bushbuck are associated with
dense riverine bush, and the road between Skukuza
and Lower Sabie offers the best sightings. They are
solitary antelope and occupy home ranges that often
overlap. Unlike most antelope species, bushbuck are
exceptionally tolerant of each other and territorial
displays are a rare phenomenon.
The smallest of the antelope most commonly seen
in Kruger, steenbok show a marked preference for
the open plains in the eastern region of the Park,
formed on volcanic basalt. There is some sexual dimorphism,
with only male steenbok having horns, and the females
being slightly larger than the males.
A nyala male displays the stripes and horn shape
typical of this antelope family. Nyala occur mainly
north of the Letaba River, especially along the Shingwedzi
and Luvuvhu rivers. Only males have horns. Females
are a reddish ochre in colour and can be confused
with young kudu.
The roan antelope is classified as
an endangered species in South Africa. Following
the harsh drought of 1992/93, roan nearly became
extinct in the Park, and the population fell from
452 in 1986 to 44. Kruger mostly contains habitats
that are marginal to their requirements, as roan
survive better on wetter savannas. They avoid areas
of short grass and overutilised areas, and occur
only in open woodland with a well-developed cover
of tall grass.
|By 1896 white rhino were
extinct in the Lowveld, while elsewhere a relic 50
animals survived between the White and Black Umfolozi
rivers in Zululand. Successful
conservation measures made it possible to re-introduce
337 rhino from 1961 onwards, and the Kruger Park now
safeguards the world’s largest population.
White rhino require a reliable supply of water, both
for drinking (every two to three days) and for the
protective layer of mud that helps shield their hides
from biting insects. In Kruger 85 per cent of the population
occurs in the Southern Region, where rainfall is higher
than average and water holes are evenly distributed.
Their senses of smell and hearing are good, but their
eyesight is poor and redbilled oxpeckers warn them
of potential danger.
A white rhino bull marks his territory by spray-urinating
along its boundaries. Only territorial males do this;
subordinate males are allowed to live within the territory
so long as they remain submissive. Females are free
to wander across the territories of several males.
White rhino coat their hides in mud to reduce bites
from irritating flies, and during the hot summer months
mud wallows help to regulate body temperature. With
considerable body mass of up to 2 300 kilograms, and
a vast surface area that is increased by folds of skin,
white rhino can remove large quantities of mud from
a wallow with each visit. Over the decades this has
the effect of excavating significant depressions in
the veld, which are rapidly filled during the rainy
season to form pans.
|An elephant drinks from
a pool in the Mphongolo River that still holds water
during winter months. An elephant can draw 17 litres
of water at a time. During winter,
elephant are usually concentrated within six kilometres
of water and drink on average every two days, consuming
between 180 and 400 litres per visit.
Two young elephants play on the soft, cool sandy bed
of the Mphongolo River. Elephants live in well-ordered
family groups that are usually led by the oldest female,
the matriarch. In addition to the matriarch, the group
consists of her older female calves, related females
and their offspring. Males leave the herd from the
age of 12 years.
Elephant with its dextrous trunk, which is composed
of 50 000 muscles, an elephant is able to carefully
select leaves from among the thorny branches of a thicket
of Delagoa thorns (Acacia delagoensis).
|A young buffalo depends
on the structure of the herd for protection. Buffalo
are almost exclusively grazers, and half the Kruger
population occurs on the open savannas of the Central
Region. These bovids consume large quantities of grass
of a moderate quality, and in doing so play a valuable
role in the ecosystem by reducing tall grasslands and
opening up areas for the antelope that feed only on
As an adult can weigh more than 750 kilograms, buffalo
comprise a quarter of Kruger’s total biomass,
or live weight of animals. Although lion working together
can overpower an adult bull, the availability of sufficient
grass is the most important limiting factor on herd
A lone buffalo bull near Crocodile Bridge. Unlike most
antelope species, male buffalo voluntarily leave the
breeding herd and rejoin at a later stage. A herd does
not occupy a fixed territory, and its favoured home
range includes certain areas that are utilised during
winter, and an expanded range that is used during summer.
Typically, old bulls eventually become permanently
separated from the herd to live a solitary existence,
or form small bachelor groups, which make up about
5 per cent of the total buffalo population.
In winter, buffalo concentrate within eight kilometres
of permanent water, especially along the Sabie, Olifants,
Letaba and Shingwedzi rivers, and the sight of a herd
of several hundred buffalo raising clouds of red dust
as they trek to water is one of the most memorable
that the Park can offer.
A dominant buffalo bull asserts his position by holding
his head high while pointing his nose towards the ground.
Head-tossing and a hooking motion of the horns are
also used. If this fails, the bull will batter his
solid horn boss against that of his rival until he
|Under favourable conditions,
when game concentrates around water holes and there
is a steady supply of prey, a lioness can give birth
to a litter of one to five cubs every two years. Within
a pride most cubs are born at the same time, mostly
between February and April when young prey animals
This magnificent lion was seen hunting early in the
morning very close to Skukuza Camp. Since the establishment
of the Park in 1898, lion have increased proportionately
to a significant increase in their prey species. In
the 1920s Stevenson-Hamilton counted 600 lion in the
Park. Today, Kruger supports about 2 000, representing
one of the largest populations in Africa.
The mane of a dominant pride lion protects the head
and neck from injury and deters rival males by making
the lion appear more formidable. In East Africa the
Maasai people have copied this mask, and warriors wear
feathered headdresses to appear taller and more menacing.
Lion keep a close watch on descending vultures in the
hope of locating a potential meal. Lion are opportunistic
predators that will also scavenge food from other
predators, and in this instance were able to locate
the vultures and the remains of a kill in less than
Although lion spend much of the day resting, a charging
lion dispels any doubts about their strength, speed
and agility. Most chases are short and do not exceed
200 metres, but a lion can attain a speed of 60 kilometres
an hour in a final burst of speed before bringing down
Play activities within the safety of the pride prepare
lion cubs for hunting success in adulthood. Young cubs
display a pattern of brown spots and rosettes that
similar to the patterning on the coat of leopard, and
may be useful as camouflage.
|A large male leopard can
weigh as much as 70 kilograms, but females are much
lighter at about 30 kilograms. Impala comprise 78 per
cent of the leopard’s diet in Kruger. An adult
leopard requires prey equivalent to about 20 impala
per year, so leopard predation is not a major limiting
factor on impala numbers.
As leopard are primarily nocturnal and active when
lion and hyaena are about, these powerful cats have
to face strong competition. In the Kruger Park they
prey mainly on impala and aggressively defend their
kills against rival predators. Essentially ground dwelling,
leopard readily climb trees to escape from danger and
to store their kills safely out of the reach of other
Long believed to be very scarce, in the 1970s an American
researcher captured a surprising number of leopard
within a few kilometres of Skukuza, and the estimate
of the total number in the Park was revised to about
1 000. The number is believed to have remained relatively
unchanged up to the present. This is because – barring
major habitat changes and human interference – leopard
populations tend to remain stable, kept in balance
by the availability of prey species and the corresponding
size of each leopard’s territory.
While leopard inhabit all 16 of Kruger’s major
vegetation types, the highest densities occur in dense
riverine bush bordering rivers such as the Sabie and
|A grey lourie feeds on the
flowers of a knobthorn. Nineteenth-century hunters
named these vocal birds ‘go-away birds’,
a reference to their call and their habit of alerting
game to the presence of a hunter.
Sunset Dam, just west of Lower Sabie, offers some of
the best opportunities for observing waterbirds in
the Kruger Park. Buffalo weaver nests adorn the dead
tree which also provides a popular roost for yellowbilled
|The shy greenbacked heron belongs to
the Ardeidae family, which includes herons, egrets
and bitterns. Sixteenmembers of the family have been
recorded in Kruger.
As these birds feed mostly on aquatic animals, some
species are present only during wet years.
|A yellowbilled stork quietly stalks through
shallow water in search of fish, frogs, crustaceans
and insects, occasionally stirring the bottom of the
dam with its feet to disturb prey. These large, attractive
birds are associated with rivers, pans and dams.
|A martial eagle perches in a tree with
a recently caught leguaan (monitor lizard). These large
eagles catch a wide variety of prey including guineafowl,
ducks, small antelope, hares and reptiles.
|Although the bateleur eagle hunts a wide
range of birds, small mammals and reptiles, it will
also scavenge and has been observed stealing food from
other eagles and vultures. This eagle spends much of
the day on the wing, often swooping in acrobatic flight
or circling overhead, behaviour in keeping with its
common name, which is French for acrobat.
|Egyptian geese feed on grass, seeds,
aquatic rhizomes and tubers.
These birds are territorial and will frequently fly
up and down a dam to mark their territory. Egyptian
geese breed throughout the year, and lay their eggs
in a nest hidden in dense vegetation. Both sexes take
care of the young, and newly hatched chicks leave the
nest six hours after hatching in response to a call
from the female.
|A resident of dams, pans and marshes,
the blackwinged stilt feeds by sweeping its bill over
the water in search of insects, worms, crustaceans
and molluscs. The young are usually raised during the
dry winter months in a nest built on the ground, or
on top of a mound of vegetation placed in shallow water.
|A reed cormorant dries its wings between
fishing expeditions. These birds feed on very small
frogs and fish weighing no more than a few grams. They
usually fish alone, although they roost together in
reedbeds and in dead trees.
|At times unkindly likened to an undertaker,
the marabou stork is primarily a scavenger, but its
diverse diet includes frogs, snakes, lizards, young
crocodiles, fish, rodents, birds and carrion.
The hamerkop is the only member of
its family, and this fascinating bird is regarded
as an ill omen by many African people (perhaps in
part because of its curious mating dance and uncanny
A solitary bird, the hamerkop feeds mainly on frogs
and fish. It builds a sizeable nest from twigs, reeds
and weeds, that can weigh as much as 50 kilograms,
in the fork of a robust tree or on a cliff. Construction
of the nest can take up to six months, and the bird
builds an interior chamber and plasters it with mud.
A mud-lined entrance tunnel, about 50 centimetres
in length, leads to the inner chamber of the nest
where between three and five eggs are laid. Both
parents feed the nestlings.
kite hovers over grasslands in search of prey. Rodents
comprise 90 per cent of this small raptor’s diet and, once a mouse has
been spotted, the bird drops with lightning speed with
legs extended to seize its prey. A widespread bird
of prey, the blackshouldered kite is found in Africa,
Madagascar, southern Europe and tropical Asia as far
east as New Guinea.
The hisses and squeals of the whitebacked
vulture are a common sound at the remains of a kill
after the larger predators have eaten their fill.
hese vultures feed mostly on the softer parts of
an animal and will follow other scavengers to locate
food. The much larger lappetfaced vulture weighs
between six and eight kilograms. Its powerful bill
is able to tear through tough hide, and lappetfaced
dominate all other vultures gathered around a carcass.
|In an unusual display, a
female saddlebilled stork at Sunset Dam near Lower
Sabie repeatedly throws a stick into the air and retrieves
it amidst much flapping of her wings.
breed mainly in February and March, and both sexes
build a nest of sticks in the crest of a tree near
to water. As there were no other storks present at
the dam, it is unlikely that this was courtship behaviour.
Perhaps the stork was practising catching fish. These
storks feed mainly on fish weighing up to 500 grams,
and will also eat frogs, molluscs and reptiles. When
feeding, they walk slowly in shallow water stabbing
at prey with their long bills, or stand quietly waiting
for fish to swim past. After catching a fish, the stork
may toss it into the air before catching and swallowing
|The yellowbilled hornbill is a common
bird that often gathers at picnic sites. During its
breeding season in summer, the female is sealed inside
a nest in a hollow tree with only a narrow slit for
an opening. Food is passed into the nest by the male,
who spends much of the day catching insects to feed
the female. About 20 days after the first egg has hatched,
the female breaks out and the chicks reseal the nest
without any help from the parents.
|The ground hornbill is an intriguing
and rare bird that weighs up to four kilograms. It
is reluctant to fly, and groups range in size from
two to eight birds. It may be seen foraging on the
ground for reptiles, frogs, snails and small mammals.
Only one female in a group breeds, and she lays two
eggs at the beginning of summer in a hollow tree. While
attending the eggs, the female is fed by the adult
male and sometimes by immature birds.
|Noisy, colourful and conspicuous, the
glossy starling feeds on insects, fruit and aloe nectar,
as indicated in the photograph. Aloes flower in winter
and provide these birds with an ample food source.
Starlings often gather at picnic sites, where their
resonant calls are an integral part of the Kruger Park’s
|The crested barbet bores holes in dead
trees and raises its young from August to February.
These birds are often seen hopping about on the ground,
with tail and crest feathers erect, in search of insects.
|The blue waxbill is the most common of
the four waxbill species found in the Park. Small groups
are often seen foraging for seeds on the ground. They
have been known to build their nests near wasps for
|The Burchell’s coucal’s watery
call is often heard before the onset of rain, which
has earned it the nickname of rainbird. This coucal
is often encountered in riverine bush and in dense
stands of grass, where it perches in low bushes and
hunts for prey.
|The scarletchested sunbird is one of
the more striking of the six sunbird species that occur
in the Park. This bird is common in rest camps, where
it can be seen feeding on nectar from aloes and coral
|Of five species of roller recorded in
Kruger, only the lilac-breasted and purple roller can
be seen throughout the year. Whether hawking insects
or perching on a branch near the roadside, lilacbreasted
rollers display a feathery palette of dazzling colours.
|Redbilled Ox-peckers are particularly
partial to giraffe. These birds consume vast numbers
of ticks each day, and their loud hissing call is the
sound most often associated with the usually silent
|The bed of the Mphongolo
River in northern Kruger is framed by a tall apple-leaf,
while flowering knobthorns add a colourful backdrop.
Many African people regard the apple-leaf as a rain
tree; when sap-sucking aphids pierce its bark, they
eject almost pure water that drips down to form a
wet patch on the ground.
Sunset over the ,
one of the most important rivers in the Kruger Park.
The Sabie, at one time the northern boundary of the
original Sabi Game Reserve, flows across the Park for
104 kilometres before entering Mozambique through a
rocky gorge in the Lebombo range.
, near Bateleur
Bushveld Camp, is one of the prettiest in the Park,
and an ideal place for watching waterbirds such as
whitefaced whistling ducks. Drowned leadwoods (Combretum
imberbe), in the far distance, can remain in the water
for many years as their wood is especially fine grained
and very heavy, weighing 1 200 kilograms per cubic
Early morning mist rises from the central plains below
Nkumbe Mountain, as the rising sun casts its tinted
rays across a fever tree. The clay soils of this region,
underpinned by basalt, support large concentrations
of zebra and wildebeest. The lookout at Nkumbe, 94
metres above the plain, provides one of the finest
panoramas in the Park, and herds of zebra and wildebeest
can often be seen trekking across the grasslands below.
Shaded by a fever tree (Acacia xanthophloea) a pool
in the Mphongolo River in northern Kruger is a valuable
source of water in a region where permanent water is
In the surrounding semi-arid mopaneveld, rainfall is
erratic and seldom exceeds 450 millimetres a year.
In the nineteenth century, the tree’s conspicuous
yellow bark served as a beacon indicating the presence
of water to thirsty travellers. However, as malaria-carrying
mosquitoes favoured the same habitat, the fevers that
the disease brought on were incorrectly blamed on the
The has a submerged rhizome that roots
in the muddy floor of quiet streams and ponds, where
the plant provides a protective environment for water
insects, frogs and young fish.
A above a small stream – near
Olifants Camp – that holds water for a few months
into winter. This miniature aquatic ecosystem is a
haven for waterbirds, foam-nest frogs and dragonflies,
while birds such as black crake and painted snipe favour
the dense vegetation along the stream bank.
|A tree felled by an elephant provides
a perfect vantage point for two cheetah males searching
for suitable prey. Although they are ill-equipped for
climbing, cheetah will climb trees with sloping trunks
to survey the surroundings. Male cheetah, usually brothers,
form co-operative associations that may last for years.
|A female cheetah rests after successfully
catching and feeding on an impala, this cat’s
principal prey in Kruger. Cheetah hunt mostly in the
early morning or late afternoon, but will also hunt at night when the moon
is full. After bringing down an impala, cheetah feed
quickly while keeping constant watch for rival predators,
and even the arrival of vultures will dislodge them
from a kill.
|Cheetah are usually solitary, but family
parties of a mother and two subadult cubs are common.
The cubs are always from the same litter, and leave
the mother when about 18 months old and before the
next litter is born. Cheetah occupy large home ranges
and, despite an abundance of their favourite prey,
in no region of the Park does their density exceed
one cheetah to every 45 square kilometres.
A cheetah and her two young cubs near Duke water hole
south of Lower Sabie. Mother cheetah give birth in
tall grass or dense cover. The cubs are carefully hidden
for the first few weeks, and the mother moves them
frequently to new hiding places to avoid detection
by other predators. While the cubs are small, the mother
is vulnerable as she has to remain and hunt within
a confined area, and is
thus less able to avoid attacks from lion.
|Members of a wild dog pack spare no time
in devouring an impala that they have just caught.
Aware of hyaena howling nearby, these dogs consumed
their kill in under three minutes, and by the time
the hyaena arrived on the scene there was no sign of
the kill. Competition from other predators, and direct
attacks by lion on
both adults and cubs, reduces wild dog numbers even
within optimum habitat.
A complex social arrangement governs wild dog and they
are able to live in large packs with few signs of conflict.
Wild dog travel over vast distances, but are sedentary
for a three month period when the pups are raised in
an underground den. Some adult members of the pack
leave the den site daily in search of prey. Here, the ‘baby-sitters’ encourage
a returning hunter to regurgitate food, which is done
for both the pups and their minders.
The Kruger Park is a stronghold for the endangered
wild dog, although nowhere can it be considered common.
Researchers have identified 27 packs with an estimated
total population of 360 for the entire park. Wild dog
have a highly developed social system and produce large
numbers of pups, but remain rare even in areas where
their favoured prey animals are abundant.
While diseases and lion predation are major limiting
factors, research has shown that there is a lack of
genetic variability in the Kruger population and this
may have resulted in inbreeding.
A wild dog pup displays some of the distinct markings
that make it possible to identify individuals. Only
one female usually breeds in a pack, but litters of
up to 21 pups have been recorded. The pups are raised
in an old aardvark or warthog burrow in a termite mound,
and are carefully cared for by adults in the pack.
Wild dog pups are born after a gestation period of
about 70 days, and are suckled by the dominant female
for three months, either in the den or near its entrance.
Other adult members of the pack take an active part
in cleaning the pups, and will return strays to the
den. The pups begin to beg for meat from the age of
14 days, and when old enough are led by the adult dogs
in search of prey.
Juvenile wild dogs playfully interact at a den site
south of Lower Sabie. Fighting among pack members is
rare, and a relaxed tail indicates a dog’s playful
mood. The pups are boisterous, and the mother disciplines
them by holding them down on the ground by their necks.
|The spotted hyaena’s powerful jaws
can crush bones and slice through thick hides, useful
for a scavenger that often feeds on a carcass that
has had the tender meat removed by lion. The hyaena’s
skull is shaped to accommodate the strong muscles that
operate the lower jaw.
A young spotted hyaena rests at a roadside den. Hyaena
are largely nocturnal, and form clans dominated by
females. Dominant females always feed first at a carcass
and return to the den to suckle their pups, which rely
on their mother’s milk for the first nine months.
A hierarchy also exists amongst males, but the highest
ranked male is considered inferior to the lowest ranked
Hyaena have learned to use the culverts under the main
roads in Kruger as dens to raise their young. During
the heat of the day, especially in summer, these concrete tunnels can become exceptionally hot and the cubs may
emerge to rest near the entrance.
Interesting comparisons have been drawn between the
numbers of predators in Kruger and the hoofed animals
on which they prey. In the Central Region, the ratio
of lion to prey is 1:110, which is exceptionally high
when compared to 1:1 000 in Tanzania’s Serengeti.
Lion in Kruger sometimes change their prey preferences
during wet and dry cycles.
During wet cycles it is easier to stalk and catch zebra
and wildebeest, while in times of drought they tend
to kill more buffalo, often animals that would anyway
have perished from lack of food. Most predators are
small in comparison to the mass of their prey. In Kruger,
the combined biomass of the major predators is equal
to just one per cent of their prey species. This is
because between each feeding level in the food chain
there is substantial loss of energy, so a 60-kilogram
hyaena is dependent on 6 000 kilograms of hoofed animals,
equivalent to a herd of 105 impala. The fate of all
predators is therefore intricately interwoven with
that of their prey.
Young hyaena often rest outside their roadside dens.
Hyaena clans are dominated by females, and a female
pup inherits her mother’s social status. Litters
consist of one or two cubs, and if two females are
born then one will invariably kill the other.
|A large Nile crocodile emerges from the
water to feed on a hippo calf that had died in Sunset
Dam. Crocodiles prefer fresh food, however, and catfish
form the major portion of their diet. They perform
an important ecological function in keeping the numbers
of these hardy fish in check. During periods of above-average
rainfall, crocodiles colonise dams up to 45 kilometres
from perennial rivers.
|The black-backed jackal is a scavenger
that is often seen on the fringes of a lion or cheetah
kill, where it will wait for the opportunity to steal
a morsel. An unusual behaviour pattern that has been
observed is their tendency to follow larger predators,
especially leopard, while emitting a repetitive yapping
call that alerts other jackal to the possibility of
|A serval listens attentively for rodents
scurrying through the dense grassland of a vlei near
Orpen Dam. Serval prey mainly on rodents, especially
vlei rats, and show a marked preference for tall grassland
habitat situated near water.
Many animals, especially predators like the small spotted
genet and even antelope such as bushbuck and grey duiker,
are active mainly at night and depend on their keen
senses of smell and hearing to locate food.
Cool mornings and evenings, but temperatures and
humidity rise during the day, more moisture; winds
indicate spring is on its way. Yellow hue dominates
the bush as sjambok pod and knob thorns begin flowering;
mopane is russet-coloured. Good game viewing at
waterholes; particularly in the eastern sweetveld
plains on top of basalt. Temperature 12-28
The month of spring; occasional showers but water
is still scarce. Weeping boer-beans flower in red;
new mopane leaves. First migrant birds appear from
the north; weavers begin breeding; game still concentrated
around waterholes. Temperature 12-28
Usually the beginning of the rainy season, but can
be very hot if rains are late. Grass becomes greener;
bulbous plants begin appearing; magic guarri and
sickle bush flower. Good game viewing as bush is
still not too thick; birds engaged in courtship rituals
and displays; steppe eagles begin to arrive. Temperature
Rainfall usually double that of October.Vegetation
more lush. Lots of young animals visible; woodland
kingfishers make an appearance. Temperature 16-32
Height of summer and the rainy season; days are hot
and humid; often spectacular thunderstorms. Wild
morning glory and flame lilies in flower. Impala
breeding season brings out lots of predators; lush
vegetation starts making game viewing harder. Temperature
Height of rainy season; days are hot and humid; good
thunderstorms. Rain-dependent plants flowering, making
landscape very colourful; marulas begin fruiting.
Animals spread over wider areas because of water
availability; dung beetles prevalent; lesser spotted
eagles arrive and generally good birding. Temperature
Hot and humid; plants are at their most nutritious.
Many summer flowering plants in bloom. Waterbuck
breeding; excellent birding; animals get fatter.
End of summer, generally the last major rain. Vegetation
dense. Kudu and buffalo breeding peak, erratic game
viewing. Temperature 18-33
Seasonal shift towards autumn; noticeable drop in
temperatures; occasional late summer rains.Vegetation
dense, many trees are bearing fruit or seeds; red
bushwillow is very striking. Most animals in peak
condition, game spotting difficult; impala, wildebeest
and warthog rutting season. Temperature 13-28
Autumn gives way to winter; Rainfall drops off dramatically.
White seringas in flower, wide range of autumn colours;
kiaats begin seeding. Impala rut continues, internal
migrations of animals towards warmer areas, whitebacked
vultures breeding; wild dog breeding; elephants from
Zimbabwe and Mozambique migrate to winter grazing
grounds in northern Kruger. Temperature 13-28
Winter; cool evenings and warm days; temperate climate
that is generally wind-free. Grass cover recedes
and many trees lose leaves; baobabs in flower, mopane
begins yellowing. Game begins concentrating around
waterholes; animals are much more visible as the
bush thins out. Temperatures 9-26
Wind begins picking up a little. Clear winter days
with little chance of rain. Mopaneveld appears as
dappled gold; potato bush begins flowering. Nights
can be very cold. Game viewing very good; many winter
birds fly from highveld down to the Park (eg stonechat)
The baobab (Adansonia digitata) is southern Africa’s
most distinctive tree with its extremely stout, fleshy
trunk and widely spreading crown. An African legend
holds that a giant child of the gods once pulled the
baobab out of the ground and then stuck it back upside
down, which accounts for its root-like branches. The
baobab can grow up to 25 metres tall and has an astounding
longevity – some trees in Kruger are believed
to be well over 4 000 years old. The baobab has many
uses, particularly because of the tartaric acid in
the fruit, which is favoured by man and beast. It has
a particularly beautiful white flower which blooms
during spring .
The magic guarri (Euclea divinorum) acts as an early
warning beacon to other trees in times of impending
drought. Distributed throughout the Park, this slow-growing,
dense, evergreen shrub produces a pheromone when it
becomes stressed. This triggers the release of tannin
in the leaves of surrounding trees which makes them
unpalatable to browsers such as kudu. The increase
in tannin content is a self-protection mechanism that
prevents the bush from being eaten out. The guarri
itself is not favoured by animals although birds like
its fruit. Alcoholic beverages have been made from
the fruit while twigs broken off from the tree were
used as toothbrushes in the old days because of the
Most of the wooden carvings and bowls one sees on sale
as one drives into southern Kruger are made out of
kiaat, or wild teak (Pterocarpus angolensis). This
tree is limited mostly to the Pretoriuskop area where
it is quite dominant. It does favour other areas where
there is a deep and sandy soil, but is not common throughout
the Park. It is a slow grower, and is loved by elephants.
It is commonly used for furniture as it works easily
and polishes well. It is recognizable in the wild by
its distinct roundish pods, which ripen in late summer,
and its small, golden yellow flowers in spring.
One of the staple diets of browsers is the red bushwillow
(Combretum apiculatum). Found throughout the Park but
dominant in the south, this smallish deciduous tree
is the second most common tree after mopane. While
its leaves are palatable, animals avoid its seeds which
are mildly poisonous and can cause prolonged hiccupping.
It gets its name from the fact that its leaves turn
reddish brown in winter. Its drought resistance ensures
that it is a food source for browsers even in the driest
of times. It is recognizable by the small four-wing
clusters of fruit which ripen in late summer and autumn.
The third most common tree in the Park after the mopane
and red bushwillow is the knob thorn (Acacia nigrescens).
It is a medium to large tree with a spreading crown,
growing up to 16 metres tall. It is most easily recognizable
in spring when its bright yellow fl owers liven up
the landscape. It has thorn-tipped knobs which are
more conspicuous on younger trees. In winter its narrow
pods become black (hence the name nigrescens – Latin
for “becoming black”). It is a heavy wood
with lots of tannin, grows slowly and is both drought-resistant
and sensitive to frost.
There are two main kinds of palm trees in Kruger – the
wild date palm (Phoenix reclinata) and the lala palm
(Hyphaene atalensis). The wild date palm is more common
in the south of the Park on the banks of rivers and
spruits. Primates and birds enjoy the clusters of yellow-brown
fruit, while elephants eat the leaves and stems. The
Lala Palm does well on the basaltic corridor, and is
more abundant in the north, and there are some fine
examples of these trees around Letaba and Shingwedzi
camps. The fibre of both palms has been used traditionally
by Shangaan-speakers for making mats and ropes and
a fine alcoholic beverage can be brewed from the sap.
|Young vervet monkeys are born mainly
from October to January after a gestation period of
140 days. Vervets emit distinct alarm barks for different
predators, and young monkeys are taught to recognise
these warning signals and run for cover. As they share
the riverine forest with a host of birds, including
one of their major predators – the crowned eagle – young
monkeys must quickly learn to distinguish between dangerous
and harmless birds.
Although they occur throughout Kruger, vervet monkeys
show a distinct preference for riverine bush. Vervets
are gregarious animals and are normally found in troops
numbering up to 20 individuals. They feed in the tree
canopy and on the ground, eating a wide variety of
plant material including flowers, fruit, berries, roots
|A horned baboon spider photographed in
sandveld habitat in Kruger’s far north. The baboon
spider derives its name from a dense covering of hair
that supposedly resembles the coat of a baboon. They
are not web-builders, instead relying on speed and
agility to catch prey. They dig tunnels in the ground
where they rest and care for their young.
Safe within the protection afforded by a troop, a baboon
finds time to doze for a few minutes. Within the troop
vulnerable members are protected from predators by
the dominant males. The close associations formed between
members are important for ensuring co-operation in
locating sufficient food.
Baboons feed and rest in trees, but they are primarily
ground-dwellers and the troop spends much of the day
searching for food within a few kilometres of a favourite
sleeping site, which is usually a steep cliff or a
Baboons give birth to a single infant and are attentive
parents. The infant is dependent on the mother for
milk for six to eight months. Within the troop, all
females are related, and bonds between them are strong.
When the mother retreats into dense vegetation to give
birth, the other females often gather to watch
the event. Other members of the troop enjoy spending
time carrying, grooming and playing with the babies.
A young baboon tests a handful of roots for palatability.
Baboons are born after a gestation period of six months,
and are carefully cared for by their mothers. Although
other females in the troop like to play with the infant,
the mother will only allow them to hold it once it
has learned to walk. When an adult male is threatened
by dominant males, he will often grab an infant from
any female in the troop, which successfully foils the
A baboon combs its fur in search of ticks and fleas.
In baboon troops this activity is usually performed
by other individuals. Apart from keeping the fur free
of ticks and fleas, the daily pattern of grooming is
vital for the effective functioning of a troop as it
maintains the bonds formed between members. Female
baboons form alliances, but will also depend on male
allies, which they recruit through grooming.
|Hippo are sensitive to sunburn and spend
much of the day resting in water. After dark they travel
up to 20 kilometres from water, eating up to 130 kilograms
of grass in one night. When they submerge, special
muscles prevent water from entering their nostrils
and ear passages.
A hippo in the Sabie River displays the fearsome incisors
that can inflict serious wounds during territorial
contests. Hippo favour deep pools of slow-moving water,
and along the Sabie River there are several well-known
pools that they have occupied for many years.
About 2 300 hippo inhabit Kruger’s rivers, with
the majority of the population sheltering in the Sabie,
Olifants and Letaba. Water extraction outside the Park’s
borders has reduced the flow of the Letaba and Luvuvhu,
and these rivers are no longer perennial. In order
to guarantee a reliable water supply for wildlife,
65 large dams have been built, creating perfect habitats
|Alert to potential danger, a Burchell’s
zebra crosses a water course. During the drier winter
months zebra usually congregate within seven kilometres
of permanent water. As lion are often concealed in
dense bush near water holes, zebra approach cautiously
Zebra are dependent on water and visit water holes
about every 35 hours during winter. Where artificial
water holes have been established, zebra herds have
increased to the detriment of the rare sable and roan
As zebra prefer grass of a medium height, they were
hardly affected by the severe drought of 1992/1993.
Because the zebra’s digestive system processes
grass faster than the chambered stomach of a ruminant – an
animal that chews the cud – they can feed on
grasses that are poor in nutrition, while rows of incisor
teeth allow them to crop short grasses.
An estimated 29 000 zebra are found in the Kruger Park,
with the highest concentrations occurring on the grassy
plains of the Central Region.
|Warthogs lack a thick coat of hair and
have little body fat, and are therefore susceptible
to cold and wet weather. Similarly, during hot summer
months they are poorly protected against the scorching
sun. By wallowing in mud they are able to reduce their
body temperature by as much as 7ºC, and mud packs
also help to protect their skin from biting insects.
After wallowing in mud, a convenient tree stump always
serves as a rubbing post and helps locate itchy spots
missed by the mud.
As night approaches, a warthog descends into a burrow.
Warthogs are active during daylight hours, and underground
burrows provide protection at night from both cold
and predators. Although a pack of wild dog were raising
pups in a den adjacent to this one, these predators
made no attempt to catch the warthogs and instead tried – unsuccessfully – to
chase them away from the site.
Water leguaan (monitors) forage in rivers for crabs,
mussels, frogs, fish, fledgling birds and crocodile
eggs. The female digs a nest in an active termite mound,
where, aided by the constant temperature and humidity,
the eggs develop. The following summer, the young lizards
dig their way out and head for the nearest water, where
they feed on insects and small frogs.
|The bushpig is a secretive animal associated
with reedbeds and dense forest. They are seldom seen,
and were thought to occur only along the Luvuvhu River
and in restricted localities along the Olifants River.
In Percy FitzPatrick’s book Jock of the Bushveld,
set in 1885, bushpig are recorded in the present-day
Southern Region, and this individual was recently photographed
on the Mbyamiti River near Biyamiti Bushveld Camp.
The dwarf mongoose weighs just 300 grams and spends
around five hours a day on average searching for insects,
spiders and rodents. The remainder of the day is devoted
to sleeping at a den in an old termite mound, or grooming
other members of the band.
|A large stick insect, measuring 16 centimetres
in length, raises a protective umbrella-like wing to
frighten off any potential predator. Stick insects
are masters of
camouflage, blending in colour and shape with their
favoured habitat of trees and plants. They will even
pretend to sway in the wind, the better to convincingly
imitate the branch of a tree.
|The tree squirrel, particularly common
in dry woodland, builds a nest in a hole in a tree.
The nest is lined with dry leaves, and a squirrel family
shares the same nest and rests together in it during the hottest times of