The world-famous Kruger National Park is situated in the north-eastern corner of South Africa.
It is predominantly a semi-arid summer rainfall area with rainfall varying from 350 mm to 800 mm. Most of Kruger is between 250 and 550 metres above sea level, and the interaction of the rainfall and altitude with soil types provides a wide a range of habitats. It covers an area of 19,485 square kilometres (7,523 sq mi) in the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga in northeastern South Africa, and extends 360 kilometres (220 mi) from north to south and 65 kilometres (40 mi) from east to west. The administrative headquarters are in Skukuza. Areas of the park were first protected by the government of the South African Republic in 1898, and it became South Africa’s first national park in 1926.
Lilac-breasted Roller Coracias caudatus ©John Tinkler Birding Ecotours
To the west and south of the Kruger National Park are the two South African provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga. In the north is Zimbabwe, and to the east is Mozambique. It is now part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, a peace park that links Kruger National Park with the Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe, and with the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique.
Kruger River ©Martin Benadie Birding Ecotours
Plants life in the park consists of four main areas:
Thorn trees and red bush-willow veld – This area lies between the western boundary and roughly the centre of the park south of the Olifants River. Combretums, such as the red bush-willow (Combretum apiculatum), and Acacia species predominate while there are a great number of marula trees (Sclerocarya caffra). The Acacias are dominant along the rivers and streams, the very dense Nwatimhiri bush along the Sabie River between Skukuza and Lower Sabie being a very good example.
Knob-thorn and marula veld – South of the Olifants River in the eastern half of the park, this area provides the most important grazing-land. Species such as red grass (Themeda triandra) and buffalo grass (Panicum maximum) predominate while the knob-thorn (Acacia nigrescens), leadwood (Combretum imberbe) and marula (Sclerocarya caffra) are the main tree species.
Red-backed Mannikin Lonchura nigriceps ©Maans Booysen Birding Ecotours
Red bush-willow and mopane veld – This area lies in the western half of the park, north of the Olifants River. The two most prominent species here are the red bush-willow (Combretum apiculatum) and the mopane tree (Colophospermum mopane).
Shrub mopane veld – Shrub mopane covers almost the entire north-eastern part of the park.
There are a number of smaller areas in the park which carry distinctive vegetation such as Pretoriuskop where the sickle bush and the silver cluster-leaf (Terminalia sericea) are prominent. The sandveld communities near Punda Maria are equally definitive, with a wide variety of unique species.
African Scops Owl Otus senegalensis ©Martin Benadie Birding Ecotours
As one of the largest reserves in Africa it boasts over 500 bird species alone. The rest camps, rivers and drainage lines provide for some of the best birding in Kruger in terms of diversity. A morning of intense birding in of these areas in summer may well produce over 150 species. The area around Skukuza restcamp in the south of Kruger is particularly good for birding and is one the best spots for the African Finfoot. Additionally, it hosts a number endemic and near endemics such as Whitethroated Robin and Natal Francolin amongst a diversity of other attractive bushveld and riverine species.
The western half of Kruger is generally more wooded whereas the eastern half of Kruger is generally more open grassland and it is here where species such as Ostrich, Kori Bustard, Lesser Black-winged Plover and Red-crested Korhaan are more commonly found. Raptors in Kruger are plentiful, and it is a great place to view a large diversity of large and small raptors such as the colourful Bateleur or aerial acrobat.
Spotted Hyena Crocuta crocuta ©John Tinkler Birding Ecotours
Five species of vulture are regularly recorded in Kruger and it is not all that uncommon to have all 5 species feeding at one kill. All the Big Five game animals are found at Kruger National Park, which has more species of large mammals than any other African game reserve (at 147 species). There are webcams set up to observe the wildlife. Kruger supports packs of the endangered African wild dog, of which there are thought to be only about 400 in the whole of South Africa. This brings us to what Kruger is famous for – its great diversity of carnivores, large mammals and other wildlife.
There are also 114 species of reptile and thirty-three species of amphibians.
Brown-necked Parrot Poicephalus fusicollis fusicollis ©Maans Booysen Birding Ecotours
Birders are amazed by the reserve, and the opportunity it offers to record a vast number of bird species, whilst at the same time viewing Africa’s charismatic wildlife in a 20,000 square kilometre expanse of wilderness.
Text Source: Fatbirder
Map Source: Googlemaps™
Photo Source: © Birding Ecotours