Kruger National Park

Explore the Kruger National Park

Explore the Kruger National Park

Ngwenya Lodge is perfectly situated along the south-eastern border of the Kruger National Park. Not only does the Resort’s location offer incredible views over the Crocodile River floodplains, where numerous wildlife venture for respite from the African sun, but it is also a stone’s throw away from the Crocodile Bridge Entrance to the Park; offering guests a gateway to explore the Kruger National Park and all the wonderful gems it protects.

Planning a day trip into (or extended journey through) the Kruger often finds families packing some ‘padkos’, deciding on one section of the Park and then aimlessly coasting along the tarmac and occasional dirt road in search for a particular species. This traditional approach certainly is much-loved and nostalgia washes over us when thinking back to how our parents, and grandparents before them, adopted this same technique. Over the years, however, a number of exciting activities, worth-while pit stops and intriguing locations have popped up across the vast collection of nature reserves, inspiring us to forego the traditional in favour of diving deep into the Kruger National Park. Whether you plan on spending a glorious week at Ngwenya Lodge, or pause only for a few days at the Resort before continuing on your road trip through the Kruger, a number of adventures await beyond the Crocodile Bridge gates! Here are a few of our favourite must-try experiences:

Crocodile River Guided Walk

Experience a new perspective of this well-known region of the Kruger. No other wilderness trails exist in this section of the Park, so this guided walk is the only opportunity to experience the Crocodile River up-close-and-personal. Guests are required to meet the guide at the Crocodile Bridge Gate at 05:00 am and are then escorted in through the gates. The guide is a wealth of knowledge on the African bush and teaches hikers an array of interesting flora and fauna facts at a relaxed pace. The excursion lasts a few hours. Interested parties should phone Crocodile Bridge Reception on +27 (0)13 735 6012 to book.

Lebombo 4×4 Trail

Starting at the Crocodile Bridge Gate and wending through rugged terrain towards Parufi Gate on the northern boundary of the Park, this 525 kilometre, 5-day track offers an exciting challenge to avid 4×4 enthusiasts and incredible views of the varying landscape to passengers. The excursion launches on a Sunday morning, travelling through Lower Sabie, Olifants and arriving at Ndzepfuri for a final night of camping, before making the final journey on Thursday to Parufi Gate. As a guided experience, Lodge guests will need to contact SANParks directly on +27 (0)12 426-5111 to book this unique adventure.

Afsaal Picnic Site

Positioned along the Mthlowa River, under the shade of tall trees, is the popular picnic site Afsaal. A collection of neat tables in the cool shade and neat bathroom facilities make this spot a favourite to break up a self-drive through the Kruger and enjoy a hearty breakfast or light lunch. Visitors can pack their own picnic basket of goodies, rent a gas braai or order a bite to eat from the kiosk onsite (we hear the pancakes are delicious!). The area surrounding Afsaal is home to a resident wild dog pack, while a number of bird species have been spotted when relaxing for a meal.

Ntandanyathi Bird & Game Hide

A lovely game-viewing hide along the edge of a large water source, the Ntandanyathi Hide offers a peaceful spot from which to enjoy ample birding and spot a number of game in close range. The name ‘Ntandanyathi’ loosely translates to ‘where the buffalo drink’. Most days, a calm hippo pod can be viewed in the cool waters, while a number of antelope species and the occasional Big 5 member have been spotted at the water’s edge. This bird and game hide is located near the Lower Sabie Rest Camp and is wheelchair-friendly.

Kruger Tablets

Known to be a favourite lounging site of the lion, the Kruger Tablets certainly are a location you should stop by while enjoying your self-guided game drive through the Park. The site was originally dedicated to Paul Kruger, who founded Sabie Nature Reserve (later renamed the Kruger National Park), and the engraved plaques can still be seen on one of the large boulders. Enjoy a leisurely drive around this unique outcrop – chances are you’ll spot the big cat lazing about in the heat of the day and end up with loads of wonderful photos!

Masorini Archaeological Site

Located approximately 10km from the Phalaborwa Gate entrance to the Kruger, the Masorini Archaeological Site offers a peek into the history of the Sotho tribe which lived here. The tribe’s livelihood relied on melting and forging iron and the open air settlement that can be viewed today showcases some of the tools, which date back to the Stone Age, as well as the ruins of foundries. SANParks has since reconstructed the homestead and guests can enjoy a guided excursion of the settlement by booking through SANParks on +27 (0)12 426-5111.

These experiences are only a handful of the options available to Kruger National Park visitors; each one offering a unique biome to explore, history to discover and wildlife sightings to be enjoyed. Venture into a new direction on your next visit to explore the Kruger National Park and all it has to offer; a new adventure each time you stay at your beloved home-away-from-home: Ngwenya Lodge.

Which are some of your favourite pit stops when exploring the Kruger National Park? Leave your suggestions for other travellers in the comments section.

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Project Ivory

Project Ivory

While sitting comfortably on a bench in the Lions Corner game-viewing hide, hot coffee and rusks setting the tone for a relaxed early morning, we notice a herd of elephants meandering along the riverbank, just below. Their incredible presence leaves many of us mouths agape, silent ‘wow’s balancing on our lips. It doesn’t take long for hushed whispers to break into a conversation on these sentient beings and quickly a lesson on Project Ivory commences.

Elephants have long been under threat of poaching for their ivory tusks. In fact, according to Ivory’s Ghosts by John Frederick Walker, excavations revealed artistic ivory carvings from around the sixth millennium BCE. Traditionally, elephant ivory has been revered for its unique properties which make it easy to carve and sculpt. In many instances, sculptures and artwork are thought of, but many varying products have been unearthed by archaeologists: buttons, chopsticks, spear and bow tips and, an item made of ivory until recently, piano keys. In Asian culture elephant ivory has always held value and been seen as a statement of wealth; at its peak, in the year 2014, the price for ivory was around $2100 per kilo, but by 2017, its value had decreased to $730 for the same quantity.

Kruger National Park: Rangers pull over to show tourists an African Bush Elephant bull

While the decrease in value holds hope for the African Bush Elephant, poaching in the Kruger National Park has seen an increase in recent years. In 2014, two elephants were poached in the Kruger, but this number has multiplied to 71 in 2018; a growth of 3 550%. While this increase is drastic, Chief Ranger, Nicholas Funda, referring to the Kruger National Park, currently home to 19 000 elephants which have an annual growth of 4% (or 760 new additions), said that, while SANParks aims to be proactive in curbing all forms of poaching, their concern is not that elephant poaching will increase uncontrollably, but rather the element of criminality. In an interview in January 2019, Funda said: “What we are concerned with is criminality; we cannot allow criminals to harvest or to steal from the public. That’s our mandate; we are mandated to protect that. I think elephant poaching is going to be ugly. Elephants are easy to see. If poaching gets out of hand, it will be very difficult to curb. Therefore to be pro-active is critical for us.”

Two Rangers walk through the Park on patrol

It was during this interview that Project Ivory was announced to the public. With its main base of operations in Phalaborwa, Limpopo, (where the highest concentration of elephants can be found) Project Ivory aims to prevent poachers from entering the Park at all. In support of these efforts, the Honourary Rangers donated a group of tracker dogs for the northern section of the Park, as well as agreed to sponsor the first horse unit. The seven horses provide a better means of transport for the rangers who have to track wildlife and poachers across the uneven terrain; the horses move quietly, provide a height advantage and are able to move closer to game than a ranger can on foot. In addition, the Honourary Rangers donated the infrastructure required as a Cessna plane will be moved from Skukuza to offer air support. “It becomes very much important for us to become part of this project. We need to mobilise our communities in support of these initiatives.” – Seaparo Sekoati, MEC for the Limpopo Department of Economic Development, Environment and Tourism, stated.

A large African Bush Elephant

The efforts of the Project Ivory Team and SANParks Rangers will undoubtedly provide valuable support to South Africa’s elephant population within the Kruger National Park. It is imperative for us all to work towards providing protected safe havens for our country’s wildlife and to see groups making progress in the fight against poaching activity is incredible. Read up on the Honourary Rangers and get involved in their projects here.

If you enjoyed this blog, you might like to find out more on the K9 Units which operate within the Kruger National Park. Read our blog, ‘The Game Changers’. Find out more on the fascinating biology of these humble giants in our blog, ‘A Tribute to Elephants’.

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The Kruger Park “Game Changers”

The Kruger Park “Game Changers”

The bond between man and man’s best friend, the canine, is a love story for the ages. While we appreciate our companions and their unwavering love within our homes, the Kruger Park has their own companions and guardians: The Kruger Park “Game Changers”. This elite K-9 Unit specialises in the tracking and apprehension of poachers and smugglers across the Park.

The Kruger National Park is home to a number of threatened species, whose latest predators (poachers) have had an advantage over anti-poaching efforts until the recent introduction of the K-9 unit, often referred to as the ‘game changers’. These canines are bred through existing, and proven, bloodlines to produce dogs that are the most efficient in the war against poaching. Different breeds have been selected for their inherent abilities: Beagles and Labradors are more commonly used to sniff out contraband in vehicles entering and leaving the park; a mixed breed of Bloodhound and Doberman are used as trackers and; the Belgian Shepherds, commonly referred to as Malinois, are trained to apprehend poachers. There are currently 55 dogs operating within the Kruger National Park, with an additional 20 located in national parks throughout South Africa.

Most notably increasing the success of anti-poaching efforts has been that of the tracking hounds. Traditionally, these working dogs had been led on-leash through sections of the Kruger by a handler, searching for scent; this process is slow-going and often poachers manage to escape. Recently, however, the introductions of hound groups have been deployed to manoeuvre off-leash. Dog handlers and rangers follow the dogs from a helicopter, where they can scour the surrounds for danger, while the pack races along a trail. It is remarkable to see these animals move uniformly through the veld on a trail, often shifting positions as lead runners fatigue. Once the team spots a threat the dogs are called off and collected to be safely removed from the scene, while Rangers assist in the arrest of poachers. Two distinct groups of dogs used in free-run chases can be noted: that of the South African Wildlife College and an import of Texan hounds. To date these K-9 Units have been deployed in over 70 chases, leading to the successful arrests of over 140 poachers; an increase of approximately 50% on poaching efforts.

Credit to ©Ravi Gajjar for Rhino Tears, as adapted from Africa Geographic

These canines can certainly be awarded the title of the Kruger Park ‘game changers’, then. While their work is incredible to witness, this job is also extremely high-risk. Not only are these dogs working hard, across large distances and under the African sun, where exhaustion and heat reign supreme; but the threat of dangerous wildlife and fire-power of poachers needs to be taken into consideration, as well. The hounds are trained by the best, but accidents and mishaps can occur at any time. The costs of running a successful operation of this magnitude also add up; dog breeding operations, satellite collars for the dogs, helicopters, training apparatus and a number of other elements require funding.


If you wish to get involved with this proven anti-poaching unit, please click here.

After experiencing the abilities of these hounds, it is no surprise that not only are the Kruger Park ‘game changers’ man’s best friend but the best friend and guardian of South Africa’s heritage: its wildlife.

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Skukuza Railway Bridge

Skukuza Railway Bridge

Near Skukuza Camp lies the Skukuza Railway Bridge; an outcrop of metal and stone which forms the bridge for the age-old Selati Train. It stretches across the Sabie river and makes one reminisce about the days when motorists could not travel through the Kruger National Park and the only way to see the wildlife was from the train itself.



The Selati Railway was established more than 100 years ago, in 1892, to connect the town of Komatipoort and the Selati River, as the area showed promise of gold.  The railway expanded 80 kilometres through the Sabie Game Reserve but before completion, the Selati Railway Company dissolved, leaving the 80km track abandoned and unused. This railway line is said to be one of the most expensive railways ever built, as Selati owed near one million Rand to shareholders when the company collapsed. South African Railways later bought the railway in 1912 and completed construction to Tzaneen before initiating a nine-day train tour through the Lowveld. This tour stopped over at the Sabie Bridge for a one night stay and departed early the next day to continue the tour.

In the years following, a number of trains and tours through, what we now know as, the Kruger National Park, created a boom in tourism for the area. With the introduction of the first roads in the nature reserve and due to too many animals being injured and killed because of the trains, the decision was made to halt all locomotive activity. The steam train 3638, also known as “Skukuza”, was donated to the National Parks Board to display and was turned into a unique restaurant in the 1980’s – the Selati Station Grill House.

Photo: Thebe Tourism

This rich historical site is set to be revived over the course of the next two years and will pay tribute to the original Selati Railway Line.

The development will form part of a new tourism campaign for guests to relive the rich history that once formed part of the Kruger National Park.  A stationary train will form the hotel on the Selati Bridge going by the name of Kruger Shalati, while extension plans are afoot to offer guests dining experiences. Plans show that the train hotel will encompass “Afro-chic styled” boutique accommodation with enough space to accommodate approximately 60 guests; 48 on the train itself and 12 in the Bridge House, in close proximity to the train. This unique architectural project will see to create a living experience reminiscent of days gone by offering travellers unique accommodation, as well as a recreational and entertainment area complete with eateries and family-friendly fun.

For now, though, the old railway line lies in anticipation and visitors eager to see the development come to life ponder on the incredible wildlife sightings to be enjoyed from the bridge overlooking the Sabie River.

Posted by WSC_Dev in Kruger National Park, 0 comments