Things to Do in Kruger National Park
The Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve holds the third-largest canyon in the world, which boasts cliffs that rise nearly 2625 feet (800 meters) from the river bed below. Adventurous travelers can explore the canyon’s lush green scenery, waterfalls, and wildlife on hikes, boat excursions, and rock climbing adventures.
Located within Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, Bourke’s Luck Potholes were formed by centuries of swirling whirlpools at the confluence of the Treur and Blyde Rivers, eroding away the sandstone bedrock. Named after Tom Bourke, an unsuccessful gold prospector working in the area, this natural attraction comprises a series of interconnected cylindrical pools divided by sandstone outcrops.
Viewing platforms and bridges cross above some of the best formations, and depending on the time of day, river levels and mineral content in the water, the view of the holes and multi-colored sandstone changes.
Graskop is an historic small town not far from the border of Kruger National Park. Originally set up as a gold mining town in the 1880s, it has maintained much of its historic town center and has become a popular tourist attraction in the area. One of the reasons visitors go to Graskop is that it's an ideal starting point for trips to see natural wonders like the Blyde River Canyon, Mac Mac Falls, and the viewpoint known as God's Window, which overlooks the Drakensberg escarpment.
Other nearby historic towns include Pilgrim's Rest and Sabie, and Graskop is also the starting point for a tour of the Panorama Route.
Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre is home to some of South Africa's fiercest animals—lions, leopards, wild dogs, and even honey badgers. Sitting at the base of the Drakensberg escarpment in Hoedspruit, the center helps travelers understand the plight of endangered species in the bush through education programs and guided tours.
South Africa's Panorama Route includes historic mining towns, beautiful waterfalls, lofty views, a gorgeous canyon, and lots of wildlife. The mining town of Graskop serves as an ideal starting point for a trip around the Mpumalanga's Panorama Route, and nearby attractions include the viewpoint called God's Window (featured in the film “The Gods Must Be Crazy”). From there, you can enjoy the views over Blyde River Canyon and see the collection of dramatic waterfalls near Sabie.
As the name suggests, the Panorama Route is known primarily for its scenery. There is abundant wildlife in the region, too, so be on the lookout. Fall and winter are the best times to see wildlife, when there are fewer leaves on the trees.
Most people travel to northeast South Africa for game drives and lush canyons, but the Mpumalanga Province offers something else: waterfalls. Mac Mac Falls is one of the most dramatic examples—a national monument featuring a pair of 213-foot (65-meter) cascades, viewable from an observation deck above the falls.
Since 2006 this rustic sanctuary stationed in the picturesque Umhloti Nature Reserve just outside Neispruit, has been a hub for conservation, education and eco-tourism. Chimpanzees that have been orphaned, displaced from natural habitats or survived the bush meat trade find a new home in Chimp Eden’s semi-wild enclosures. Three groups of primates currently reside at the sanctuary, and easy to access viewpoints make it easy for visitors to observe their interactions. Travelers can book an institute tour and enjoy lunch at the Chimp Eden restaurant before exploring the locally sourced crafts in the sanctuary shop.
Hoedspruitt Endangered Species Centre (HESC) houses some of Africa’s most rare and vulnerable species, including elephants, rhinos, cheetahs, and sable antelope. The center nurses injured animals back to health, breeds endangered species for release back into the wild, and provides educational programs for students and travelers.
Kruger may be the most-visited game park in South Africa, but nearby Sabi Sands is an equally impressive private reserve where visitors are offered a luxury safari experience. Unlike Kruger, guides at Sabi Sands can take visitors “off road” and into the bush, which practically guarantees visitors will spot all of Africa’s Big Five.
There are no fences between Kruger and Sabi Sands, so lions, elephants, wild dogs and cheetahs roam freely between the parks, making this reserve a destination for African safaris. The reserve is known for its practically commonplace sightings of the elusive leopard, and for large numbers of indigenous bird species.
Because Sabi Sands is a private reserve, visitors are not allowed to tour on their own. Instead, guests must register at one of the numerous lodges inside the park, where meals, game drives and safari activities are typically included in the daily rates. Drives typically take place at sunrise and sunset, when bigger animals tend to be more active.
This vast savannah near Kruger Park borders the Kampama Game Reserve and is home to nearly 150 mammals, including all of Africa’s Big Five. A wealth of indigenous reptile, bird, fish, amphibian and plant species make this fenced-in park a destination for ecotourism.
Six privately owned lodges exist within the reserve, and each offers a unique safari experience to visitors of Thornybush. It’s easiest to spot game in dry months, from May through October, while intense humidity and wet rains make October and November ideal for birding. Travelers who visit Thornybush between December and April have the best chance of spotting young offspring, and baby animals mean an increased chance of witnessing a predatory hunt while on Safari.