The Greater Kruger offers leopard viewings like nowhere else in the world. © Andrew Schoeman

Best Greater Kruger Safaris

On our first visit to the country, we learnt that often when locals refer to ‘the bush’ what they really mean is Greater Kruger. It’s not only one of South Africa’s best safari destinations, but it’s part of the country’s national identity, and renowned worldwide. So what is it about Greater Kruger that makes it so amazing?

Well, South Africa was the first country to conserve land in Africa, in 1895, and the second to nationalise the parks system, proclaiming the Kruger National Park in 1926. As such, it has a wealth of experience to draw on when it comes to protected areas.

For safari lodges, this translates to a magnificent guest experience, while for the Kruger guides and trackers, it’s resulted in truly honed skills that all but guarantee you excellent sightings.

The place names in the Greater Kruger even sound like a roll call of safari highlights: Sabi Sands, Lion Sands, Timbavati. This is Big Five country par excellence, and your chances of seeing iconic – and more unusual – African species is better here than almost anywhere else on the continent.

Furthermore, the sheer size of the Greater Kruger area – larger than Switzerland – enables it to contain a range of intact ecosystems.

In the prime big-cat habitats of the Sabi Sands, a winning formula has been perfected. It’s here where you’ll find the best of the best: lavish accommodation, impeccable service, spectacular food and the finest guides and trackers in the business, which all add up an unparalleled safari experience.

This experience extends far beyond the conventional (but still wonderful) game drives. Tracking animals on foot is an almost primaeval pleasure, as well as being something of an adrenaline rush (although the presence of an armed and experienced guide means you’re completely safe).

And if you can bear to tear yourself away from your suite, a night sleeping under the Milky Way in a Greater Kruger treehouse can elevate your experience from five stars, to a million.

When to Go

This is the Southern Hemisphere summer and autumn. In the Greater Kruger area, this means higher temperatures and most of the year’s rain. Rainfall tends to be short and sharp rather than prolonged, with exciting electric storms. A cool, post-storm afternoon game drive is a genuine highlight: with the dust knocked out of the air, the light has a limpid quality, and trackers are in their element, with a blank canvas to work from. When it’s green like this, the bushveld at its prettiest, and full of new life.

The cooler winter months are almost entirely rain-free. This means that the vegetation dries and becomes sparser, making it easier to spot wildlife. Short grass and bare branches let the Greater Kruger safari guides use their spotting skills to the fullest. Game begins to concentrate at dwindling waterholes, and this attracts the predators. Be prepared for spectacular sightings, but also pack a safari wardrobe that can cope with both the very fresh early mornings (especially on an open game-viewer) and then warm days peaking at around 23°C.

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