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Getting Wild in South Africa

The creatures of Kruger National Park surprise and delight in endlessly fascinating ways.

Getting Wild in South Africa

Kruger National Park, South Africa.

This itinerary is part of Travel Tales, a series of life-changing adventures on afar.com. Read more stories of transformative trips and inspired itineraries on the Travel Tales home page. Though COVID-19 has stalled many travel plans, we hope our stories can offer inspiration for your future adventures—and a bit of hope.

The name alone is enough to spark imaginations: Kruger National Park, a gorgeous, four-million-acre swath of South Africa, comes packed with wildlife, making for some of the continent’s best game viewing. Yes, the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo) reside here, but they’re just the beginning of a window into the ancient rhythms of an ever-evolving natural setting. Here’s how to spend some time in this world.

Protea Hotel Kruger Gate, South Africa

Protea Hotel Kruger Gate, South Africa

Creature Comforts

From Johannesburg, take a shuttle or fly to nearby Kruger Mpumalanga airport. Your home here is Protea Hotel Kruger Gate, a lodge-style hotel with a treetop ambience and long walkways that lead to open-air public areas that look out across the tundra.

Check into your spacious room or suite and start looking for wildlife right away—you won’t even have to leave the property. Go for a swim in the hotel’s infinity pool and you may well see antelope and zebras strolling by along the Sabie River. The spa, too, offers views of the veld; you won’t miss a sighting even when enjoying a massage.

Continue to scan the landscape each evening as you sit on the deck in a swinging chair and order a drink. Then enjoy memorable meals, with authentic cuisine served around a campfire and out under the stars. Saturdays bring live entertainment, like traditional dancers, an African choral group, or marimba bands.

Kruger National Park, South Africa

Kruger National Park, South Africa

Into the Wild

Choose from a host of options for experiencing Kruger’s natural treasures. Game drives will likely be at the top of your list, and they’re easy to do, since the park entrance is right at your doorstep.

Never knowing exactly what you’ll see on a game drive only adds to the magic. Perhaps it’s towering giraffes munching on leaves high in the trees, while lions lounge in the sun or stalk an unsuspecting antelope. You may see mischievous baboons playing by the side the of road, vultures circling overhead, or a hippo in the water, its head peeking above the surface and massive mouth wide open. Break for lunch (when the animals are napping) and begin your exploration again.

Spend some time at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre to learn how this organization is leading conservation efforts for at-risk species, like cheetahs hunted for their pelts or rhinos whose horns are coveted by poachers.

You can also begin one morning in a spectacular way: On an early-morning hot air balloon ride, soaring high over the veld, looking down at acacia trees and out at the vast horizon, imagining the adventures the day ahead will bring.

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