Elephants of northern Kruger.

The Kruger National Park is a massive protected area, measuring some 20 000+ square kilometers in size, roughly. That’s the size of Wales or Israel, just for comparison. The southern third of the park, from about Satara Rest Camp southwards, is generally considered to be the best region in terms of game viewing, especially in terms of the big cats, water availability, road density and habitat diversity all playing a role. In comparison cats can be scarce in the north; going several days without seeing any Lions or Leopards is not unusual by any means. The habitat in the north is also somewhat less diverse, vast swathes of the region north of the Olifants River are dominated by Mopane (Colophospermum mopane), a broad-leaf tree that can become quite large but in many areas the soil quality is such that they remain ‘stunted’, Elephants of course also handicapping them in the vertical realm. But this doesn’t mean ‘the north’ is not appealing. Quite the opposite in fact, the north appeals because there are fewer camps and no major tourist towns outside the park gates, apart from Phalaborwa near Letaba Rest Camp – this means fewer tourists than one finds in the south, giving it a more ‘remote’ feeling. The stunted Mopane veld also makes for unobstructed views in many areas, and horizon to horizon vistas create a sense of ‘epic-ness’ that one doesn’t often get in the south. And another plus for the north is the Elephants. While you do of course get Elephants in the south, and plenty of them, the north is renowned for big tuskers – home ranges of many past and current big tuskers are centered on the Letaba / Mopani region. On a recent visit we had some great views of these behemoths of the north at a couple of water points in the vast Mopane belt of the central / northern region of the park – with very few other tourists around to share it with us. In fact, our sighting of the big tusker N’wendlamuhari  (‘the river that is fierce when in flood’) was entirely private apart from two game scouts on foot patrol in the area.  So, while the south is a must, especially for the first time visitor, the north is not without its appeal by any means. Birding is equally good northwards up to the Punda Maria / Pafuri area, where it gets even better. The bottom line is that any part of Kruger is great, each has its own appeal (and that’s why we include three or more camps, to show off the diversity of this incredible national park), and any day in Kruger is a great day!