Southern Kruger Park | 380km
Nelspruit, capital of Mpumalanga province, lies in the fertile valley of the Crocodile River in an area known for its production of a variety of tropical fruit (pawpaws, bananas and avocados), nuts (pecan and macadamia) and citrus fruit. The town's development was closely linked to the building of the railway line between Pretoria and Lourenço Marques (Maputo). The section of the line from Komatipoort on the Mozambican border reached Nelspruit in 1892 and a town steadily developed around the railhead. During the final phase of the South African War, Nelspruit briefly served as the capital of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (ZAR). Proclaimed in 1905, the town's name honours the Nel brothers, who used the area for winter grazing in the 1870s and in 1890 bought the farm on which the town developed.
...lies amid an intensive agricultural area where tropical fruit, citrus and vegetables are produced and is also a stop-over on the way to the Kruger National Park. The town was founded in 1904 by Lord Alfred Milner, administrator of the Transvaal after the South African War, as a settlement for Boer and British soldiers. It was established on the banks of the Emanzimhlope River, a Swazi name translated as 'white waters'.
KRUGER NATIONAL PARK (KNP)
Covering nearly 2 000 000 ha, the Kruger National Park is one of Africa's great game parks and ranks among the world's top conservation areas. From the Crocodile River in the south, the park stretches northwards for 350 km to the Limpopo River, and ranges in width from 25 km in the far north to 85 km in the south. This unspoilt wilderness of bushveld, woodland and thornveld is home to a rich diversity of wildlife which includes 147 mammal species. In addition to the Big Five (elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard), the park is home to a wide variety of antelope, such as sable, roan, impala, Lichtenstein's hartebeest, waterbuck, tsessebe, kudu and nyala, as well as hippo, giraffe and Burchell's zebra.
It also provides protection to the only viable wild dog population in South Africa. With 490 bird species recorded to date (about 55 per cent of the total number found in southern Africa), the park is truly a paradise for bird enthusiasts on South African holidays. More than 50 raptor species have been recorded, while many of the species occurring in the north of the park have a limited distribution elsewhere in South Africa.
The park is also an archaeological treasure chest, with over 250 cultural heritage sites, ranging from rock art sites (about 130 have been recorded) and Late Iron Age settlements to early transport routes. Access to Kruger is via eight gates, and accommodation ranges from rest camps with all the necessary facilities (filling station, shop, restaurant) to smaller bushveld camps without facilities, and bush lodges for groups. A vast network of roads traverses the bush, providing access to rivers, water holes, dams and viewpoints, while picnic sites in the bush allow motorists to take a break from the driving. In addition to self-drive game-viewing, the park offers a host of outdoor and adventure activities such as short, self-guided nature walks in some of the rest camps, night drives and guided walks of between three and four hours. There are also seven three-day guided wilderness trails in various remote areas of the park. Because the park lies within a malaria area, it is advisable to consult a doctor about prophylaxis, especially if visiting between December and April.
The southern portion of Kruger constitutes the historic heart of the park proclaimed in 1926. The first step to conserve the abundant wildlife of the area was taken when the Sabie Game Reserve was proclaimed between the Crocodile and Sabie rivers in 1898. The south is one of the most popular destinations in the park for South African holidays, and is renowned for its excellent game-viewing, changing landscapes and a rich diversity of vegetation types.
Nestling among rocky granite outcrops on gently undulating plains, the Pretoriuskop area is rich in history. It has been suggested that the outcrop was named after Willem Pretorius, who died nearby of malaria during an expedition led by Carolus Trichardt in 1848 to find a wagon route from Lydenburg to Lourenço Marques (Maputo). Pretoriuskop was a well-known outspan on the ox-wagon route to Delagoa Bay, and was built in the mid-1870s by Alois Nellmapius. The prevalence of the tsetse fly, however, initially prevented the use of oxen on the route and goods had to be carried by porters from the Lebombo Mountains to near Pretoriuskop. The first huts were built in the late 1920s, and until malaria was brought under control in the Lowveld it was the only rest camp which remained open throughout the year. Among the camp's attractions are a swimming pool in a natural setting and an interpretive walk. The vegetation surrounding Pretoriuskop consists of tree savannah characterised by silver clusterleaf, sicklebush and bushwillow. Game occurring here includes white rhino, sable, mountain reedbuck, kudu and giraffe.
The ruins of a shop and homestead along the Pabenispruit mark the site of what was once the trading post of legendary elephant hunter and trader, João Albasini, who settled here in 1846. Still visible are the remains of the furrow he dug to water a small orchard and a vegetable garden. Using ancient trade routes from the coast to the interior, Albasini's porters carried supplies from Delagoa Bay to the post, from where they were taken by ox wagon to the Transvaal's interior.
...is by far the largest rest camp 3 in the Kruger National Park and also serves as the park's headquarters. The camp was named after the park's first warden, Colonel James Stevenson-Hamilton, who was given the Tsonga name of Skukuza, meaning 'the person who turned everything upside down'. Stevenson-Hamilton earned the reputation because of the many people he removed from the park and the changes he made after he became warden in 1902. In 1909, he moved the headquarters of the old Sabie Game Reserve from the Crocodile River to a new site on the banks of the Sabie River, known as Sabie Bridge, or Reserve, and later renamed Skukuza.
Of interest in the rest camp is the Stevenson-Hamilton Memorial Library, where the skin of a lion killed with a knife by the legendary game ranger Harry Wolhuter in 1904, can be seen. Visitors can also see the locomotive used on the historic Selati railway line, the bridge over the Sabie River and a section of the Selati line. Skukuza lies in an area with a rich diversity of game, including big cats, wild dog, elephant, buffalo, kudu and giraffe.
...takes its name from the river along which it was laid out, a name variously said to mean 'river of fear' or 'sand river'. Situated in an area known for its outstanding game-viewing, the camp was established in 1929 with three huts. The Lower Sabie Road is famous for its sightings of lion, and among the wide variety of game to be seen are elephant breeding herds, buffalo, lion, wild dog, giraffe, Burchell's zebra and antelope such as kudu, impala and bushbuck. The savannah bush in the area is dominated by marula, knob thorn and round-leaved teak trees, while the lush riverine forest is comprised of tall leadwoods, sausage trees, tamboti and ilala palms.
DE CUIPER MEMORIAL
A memorial at Gomondwane marks the site where the expedition led by Captain Frans de Cuiper camped in July 1725 while searching for a route from Delagoa Bay to the goldfields of Monomotapa. The 31-man party left Delagoa Bay on 27 June 1725; after reaching Komatipoort, they crossed the Crocodile River and continued to Gomondwane where they camped for three days. On 12 July their camp was attacked, forcing them to retreat back into Mozambique. As a result of the attack, no further expeditions were undertaken in the area for over a century.
Opened in 1984, Berg-en-dal, meaning 'mountain and valley' was the first rest camp in the Kruger National Park to deviate from the traditional thatch-and-whitewashed-wall buildings that are so characteristic of the older rest camps. Instead, its face-brick buildings were designed to blend into the natural landscape, which has been disturbed as little as possible. Camp facilities include a swimming pool. Visitors on South African holidays can familiarise themselves with some of the trees in the area on a 1,6-km self-guided walk. Situated in the rugged Malelane Mountains, the landscape surrounding Berg-en-dal is characterised by low granitic mountains, rocky domes and valleys dominated by red bushwillow trees. Game frequenting the area includes white rhino, giraffe, kudu, mountain reedbuck, waterbuck and impala.