Visiting the Kruger National Park? Here’s how to make your trip even better
In its ranking of South Africa’s 12 top-rated tourist attractions, travel website Planetware.com ranks the Kruger National Park as number one. That’s quite a significant recognition for this iconic South African tourist destination that draws thousands of visitors locally and from all over the world.
For those with a bit of extra time to spend on their Kruger adventure, it’s well worth considering taking in some of the great sights in nearby areas. The park itself has numerous entrance gates spread over a large area, making it easy to combine a journey through the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga with a visit to the park itself.
You should also consider including a tour into Mozambique. It’s a short distance from the border near Nelspruit to Maputo, so think about visiting magical Inhaca Island near Maputo. From there it’s a short ride back to South Africa and the Kruger National Park.
The many treasures of the two provinces near the park have become somewhat overshadowed by the popularity of the Kruger, which is well-known throughout the world. There’s something for everyone in this region: nature at its best, African culture in abundance, deep history from both ancient and more recent times, quirky towns and good food. Limpopo and Mpumalanga offer it all, in addition to incredible wildlife experiences.
A visit to Mapungubwe, near the town of Groblersdal, should be on every South African’s bucket list, as it is core to the history of the African sub-continent. Located north-east of Pretoria, it makes sense for visitors travelling by road from Gauteng to the Kruger to stop here.
It’s the site of an ancient civilisation known to have existed until the 13th century. Unesco, which declared it a World Heritage Site, says: “The Mapungubwe cultural landscape demonstrates the rise and fall of the first indigenous kingdom in Southern Africa between 900 and 1300 AD. What survives are the almost untouched remains of the palace sites and also the entire settlement area dependent upon them.”
The cultures of the local area, many of which have survived for centuries, are showcased in a number of locations in both provinces. You can learn more about the traditional practices of the Ndebele and the Shangaan, or the Balobedu with their intriguing beliefs focused on the Rain Queen.
The centre of the Balobedu settlement is known as Modjadjiskloof, which is just more than an hour’s drive from the nearest Kruger gate in Mpumalanga.
Modjadjiskloof is also an area of huge significance for botanical life. The Cycad Reserve, established to protect the prehistoric cycad plant species, is the only place on Earth that is home to a forest of this type.
Bird lovers are also spoilt for choice in the area. The rare blue swallow, for instance, makes its appearance around the curious town of Kaapsche Hoop, near Nelspruit, attracting birders from around the world.
Those mad about flowers should head to the Kruger via the south-west part of Mpumalanga during late summer when fields of cosmos spring up, dotting the horizon with their white and pink blooms.
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History buffs will be keen on Mapungubwe as well as the restored town of Pilgrim’s Rest, the site of a failed gold rush during the late 19th century.
Whatever your particular interests, you’re bound to satisfy them in the regions around the Kruger National Park, so do your research before you set off. Devise a route to the park that includes these lesser-known (but equally exciting) spots along the way.
This article was paid for by Protea Hotels.