Kruger National Park

By Land, Destinations

A brief history

It was at the beginning of the 18th century when the first Europeans set foot in the Mpumalanga Lowveld. In 1725 an expedition proceeded from Delagoa Bay (today, Maputo) to investigate the possibility of trade with the hinterland and also check existing trade routes to the interior. After a skirmish with a party of hostile inhabitants, they retreated. In 1844 the boundary between the South African and Mozambican territories was defined much as they are today.

In 1869 gold was discovered, people soon flocked to the area, and the Lowveld, that had been practically unknown before, soon became a popular hunting area. Highveld farmers moved down to find winter grazing for their herds and, finding themselves in a game-­‐rich area, proceeded to hunt. They were followed by professional hunters seeking ivory, horns and skins. Game numbers declined rapidly, and in 1884 President S. J. Paul Kruger proposed that a game sanctuary be established to preserve the fast-­‐disappearing fauna. It was some 14 years later that the area between the Crocodile and Sabie rivers was proclaimed a wildlife sanctuary in which any person found guilty of destroying, hunting or wounding game animals would be prosecuted and penalised. The proclamation was signed on 26th March 1898. The small Sabi Game Reserve and the Shingwedzi Game Reserve were the beginnings of what has grown into the world-­‐renowned Kruger National Park. The area of the then Sabi Game Reserve was only about 4 600 square km.

After the Anglo-­‐ Boer War, Major (after Colonel) James Stevenson-­‐ Hamilton, known as “Skukuza” was appointed as a warden to begin the great task of saving what remained of the once great herds of game that had been decimated by hunters and both Boer and British soldiers. The continued existence and development of the Park is largely due to his dedication and administration. His efforts were crowned with success when, on 31st May 1926, the National Parks Act was adopted unanimously, adding many hectares of land north of the Sabie River to the old Sabi Game Reserve. The Reserve was renamed the Kruger National Park, in honour of President S. J. P. Kruger, who had done so much for the wildlife conservation in South Africa.

It was in 1927 that the Kruger National Park opened to the general public. It got off to a slow start, as only three vehicles entered the Park that year. Over the years the number of visitors has gradually increased.

The Kruger National Park today

The Kruger National Park is the largest wildlife sanctuary in the Republic of South Africa and one of the largest national parks/ protected areas in the world. It is situated in the far northeast corner of the country, between the Crocodile River in the south and the Limpopo River in the north. The international border with Mozambique, the eastern boundary of the Kruger National Park, follows the line of the Lebombo Mountains in the south and continues beyond them in the north to the Limpopo river. The western boundary is very irregular, separating private, communal land and privately owned conservation area from the Kruger Park. The park as a whole is shaped like a reverse “L” and covers an area of about 20 000 square km.

It is home to the full suite of Africa’s carnivores, 18 species of antelope in addition to African elephant, black and white rhinoceros, giraffe and hippopotamus. It also accommodates 119 species of reptiles, 35 amphibians, more than 500 birds and a myriad of insects.