I have toured and conducted safaris in just about every national park in Southern Africa and although each one of these parks offer a great wildlife experience and they are all unique in their own way, the world-renowned Kruger National Park still offers on average the best game viewing experiences. The Kruger National Park is the largest wildlife sanctuary in the Republic of South Africa and one of the largest controlled nature reserves in the world. The park is situated in Mpumalanga and the Northern Province, and bordered on the eastern side by Mozambique.
The Kruger National Park is unrivalled in the diversity of its life forms, with an impressive number of species: 336 trees, 49 fish, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 birds and 147 mammals.
Paul Kruger succeeded in 1898 in having the Sabi Reserve proclaimed, with the Sabi and Crocodile rivers forming the boundaries. In 1903 the Sabi and Shingwedzi Reserves were amalgamated into an area stretching from the Limpopo River in the north to the Crocodile River in the south in the form of a reversed L and covering almost two million hectares of unspoiled, wilderness areas. The Minister of Lands, Mr. P. J. Grobler, a grandnephew of President Kruger proclaimed the old Sabi Game Reserve the Kruger National Park on 31 May 1926 in honour of his great uncle, President S J P Kruger, who had done so much for wildlife conservation in South Africa.
This wilderness area is growing continuously. In the early nineties most of the fences along the western border were removed between the Kruger National Park and various private reserves, such as the Sabi Sand, Manyaleti and Timbavati. In 2006 the presidents of South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique officially opened the Limpopo Trans-Frontier Park, which incorporates the Kruger National Park. When this project is finally complete, it will be the largest park in the world measuring about 8 million hectares.
We owe much to James Stevenson-Hamilton, who was appointed warden of the old Sabi Game Reserve after the Anglo-Boer War in 1902. James Stevenson-Hamilton (1867-1957) was born in Dublin, Ireland, of Scottish parents. After being educated at Rugby School, he proceeded to the Royal Military College at Sandhurst and obtained a commission with the 6th Inniskilling Dragoons, then in South Africa. After the Zululand Campaign he returned to Britain with his regiment, but the attraction of Africa caused him to join a private expedition to the Zambezi and Central Africa in 1898, while on leave from his regiment. The next few years found him on active service with his regiment in the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), at the end of which the Milner Government appointed him warden of the Sabi Game Reserve. He was warden of the Sabi Reserve and later the Kruger National Park for more than 44 years until his retirement in 1946.
When James Stevenson-Hamilton became warden, the reserve was in a sorry state and the balance of nature was seriously impaired, especially as regards the larger mammals, and game laws virtually existed on paper only. Giraffe, hippo, buffalo and rhino were extremely rare, elephants occasionally wandered in from Mozambique but did not stay at first, and other species were scarce and very wild.
So started his labour of love, involving the patience of Job and careful diplomacy, for he had neither the funds nor the authority to proceed other than exceedingly slowly. Stevenson-Hamilton was given very vague instructions, the only one he remembered clearly was `to make himself as unpopular as possible’ amongst the hunters and poachers. One of his first operations was to evict all people other than those required for service in the maintenance of the reserve. For this reason he earned the name `Skukuza’, which means: `he who sweeps clean’, the main camp in the Kruger National Park is called Skukuza. Stevenson-Hamilton was always concerned that the Park should never lose its character and become a glorified zoological garden. The old-timers complain that things are not the same, but for most a visit to the park is a very rare enjoyment and a pleasure that no visitor on safari to South Africa should miss.
The park has numerous camps and all the camps have basically the same 3 star standard of accommodation, as well as camping sites and a restaurant, cafeteria, gift shop and petrol station. However, there are private concessions in the park, as well as private reserves adjoining the park that house 4 and 5 star accommodation, from luxury tented camps to exclusive lodges. Here one can enjoy luxury, comfort and superior service, as you indulge at one of these private camps situated in prime positions within the reserve. These private establishments offer the ultimate South Africa safaris, safaris that will help you escape from the stresses of the world and into a timelessness that will stay with you forever.