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Walking in the Kruger National Game Park


The Kruger National Nature Reserve is one of the top attractions in South Africa for foreigners and locals. There are not many game parks on earth where one can mingle with such a wide variety of animals. The park spans 19,485 square kilometers and the landscape is made up of mountains, bush plains and tropical forests. You have an excellent chance of finding all of the “Big 5”: lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and buffalos. Hundreds of other mammals make their home here, as do diverse bird species such as vultures, eagles and storks.

Count the ways

Two popular ways to experience the game park are drives and walks. Thanks to strict conservation ethics, animals are quite used to the presence of people and can be found close to roads – and will often cross them – allowing vehicle occupants to see them up close. Occupants are not allowed to exit their vehicles and a strict speed limit is enforced to ensure drivers can stop in time when an animal crosses the road unexpectedly.

A walk is by far the best way to experience the animal paradise. All you need are comfortable shoes and a reasonable fitness level. Two or more rangers lead walks with weapons as protection. These walking parties are accommodated in remote camps that sleep from six people upwards. A typical day includes an early sunrise walk, brunch back at the camp and a sunset walk followed by dinner. A strict protocol is followed with these walks – in single file behind the rangers, only whispering allowed, no bright clothes to distract animals unnecessarily. Even an orange peel will not be left behind, in case baboons start following humans on their walk.

A lion passed here ten minutes ago

Rangers tell fascinating stories about animals’ behaviour, supported by tracks and droppings along the way. This first-hand presence among animals does not come close to any National Geographic program, which fails to convey the smells, occasional total silence and excellent climate of this game park. Nothing compares to walking within meters of a lioness and her cubs, watching a giraffe reaching for the top of a tree, counting the stripes on a zebra or feeling the rumble under your feet as a herd of buffalo starts moving.

One leaves the Kruger National Game Park with a sense of having visited another planet, where its occupants are respected and treated with the gloves they deserve.