and Private Game Reserves
History & Safari Information
History of Kruger Park
President of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (ZAR)
officially set aside 250,000 hectares of land in the
'Lowveld' as a 'government reserve' on 26 March 1898.
The fledgling reserve became known as the Sabi Game
Reserve. The reasons for the reserve were many; however,
conservation as we know it today (the protection of
nature for its intrinsic value) was not one of them.
For many years it had been apparent that
which formed a foundation of the Boer republic's economy,
was dwindling. The Volksraad, the governing
body of the ZAR, was empowered to declare areas of
closed to hunters. In actual fact, the primary reason
for the initial proclamation of this reserve was to
provide a 'game reserve' where wildlife could breed
so that it could later be shot.
initial custodians of the reserve were two policemen.
Effective control of the reserve was lost during
the years of the war between the British Empire
and the Boer republics (1899-1902). Major James
Stevenson, intelligence officer in the
sixth Inniskilling Dragoons, was appointed
warden after the war. When Stevenson-Hamilton arrived
in the Lowveld in 1902 he found very little wildlife
there to protect. He immediately set in place measures
to curb the rampant poaching by the local white
and black inhabitants. His devotion to the survival
and furtherance of the new reserve bordered on
the boundary of the reserve was extended 20 kilometres
to the west and the colonial administration created
the Shingwedzi Game Reserve in the northern part
of the Lowveld. This reserve comprised of 500,000
hectares, between the Limpopo and Letaba rivers.
Stevenson-Hamilton was put in charge of both reserves.
area between the Sabi and Shingwedzi reserves was
comprised of private farms owned by large land
companies but nominally occupied by them. Stevenson-Hamilton
negotiated a leasing arrangement whereby the private
farmland effectively became part of the Sabi Reserve.
He therefore gained control of what was to become,
decades later, the greater Lowveld conservation
area. Stevenson-Hamilton's uncompromising opposition
to hunting in the reserves earned him respect but
Stevenson-Hamilton rejoined the British Army in
France for the duration of World War I. During
his absence the Union government deliberated on
the future of the reserves. Since game hunting
was no longer a mainstay of the economy in South
Africa, the idea of the game reserves had lost
its original purpose and there was pressure to
make the area available for farming. The reserves
were expensive to maintain, generated no revenues,
occupied land potentially useful for other purposes
and harbored dangerous animals. Pressure mounted
to have the reserves de-proclaimed.
survival of the Sabi and Shingwedzi reserves was
achieved via a new, radical idea: the national
park. The national park, as it was conceived of
at the beginning of the 20th century, had an aesthetic
rather than economic justification. This idea excited
the South African public. Stevenson-Hamilton, impressed
by the success of national parks in the United
States of America, lobbied for a more permanent
status for the Lowveld reserves. However, nothing
happened in this regard for many years and pressures
from farmers, mining houses and land companies
continued to seriously threaten their existence.
the new Minister of Lands, Piet Grobler, grand-nephew
of Paul Kruger, championed legislation in parliament
for National Park status for the reserves. It was
at this stage that the name 'Kruger National Park'
was suggested. The bill was seconded by the opposition
leader, General Jan Smuts, and was passed with
May 1926 the National Parks Act was promulgated
and the Kruger National Park became its first protected
area. Counting from the proclamation of the Sabi
Reserve in 1898, the Kruger National Park is the
second oldest formally-conserved area in all of
Africa and, at nearly two million hectares, one
of the largest.
area proclaimed as The Kruger National Park was
made up of certain parts of the Sabi Reserve (the
area which now makes up the Sabi-Sands, Timbavati
and Klaserie private nature reserves was excised),
and the Shingwedzi Reserve, as well as the privately
owned farms and state land between them. The basic
form of the Park has remained essentially the same,
with some minor boundary adjustments, ever since.
1926, the Park has become an important national
institution. Following the transition to democracy
in South Africa in 1994, the Park once again faces
political challenges. A new conservation debate
has begun with the Kruger National Park at the
core. The question today is 'How can this national
asset be best used for the benefit of all South
are unresolved issues of ownership: were the Park's
original inhabitants unjustly dispossessed of their
land? If they left willingly, were they adequately
compensated? The conservation of the Park's bio-diversity
seems an abstract luxury to their descendants,
most of whom live in the crowded tribal lands that
border the Park. To them, the Park's tall grass,
firewood and animals represent an underused resource.
To the thousands of black South Africans who live
facilities seem designed to cater exclusively for
wealthy white people and foreigners. The debate
Park - twentieth century
The human population
of the Lowveld at the time of the Park's proclamation
was probably at its lowest point ever. The human economy
depended upon cattle and wildlife and the Lowveld was
rife with 'nagana', a fatal disease of cattle carried
by the Tsetse Fly.
wildlife decimation in the area started by hunting
was completed by rinderpest, a virulent
disease of cattle and wildlife that originated in
Asia and swept through eastern and southern Africa
1896 and 1898, killing about 95 percent of the cattle
and related antelope species, such as Buffalo, in
the areas affected by the disease. Ironically,
rinderpest epidemic and demise of the cattle and
wildlife, the Tsetse fly was also eradicated in
development of effective prophylactics against
malaria in the 1930's, combined with new and effective
use of insecticides, such as DDT, to combat mosquitoes,
was the final step which opened up the Lowveld
for human development.
twentieth century has seen the Lowveld transformed
from an inhospitable
wilderness into a region of high human population
and significant economic activity. Most of the
by the Kruger Park is too arid or infertile to support
crop agriculture and its value as a tourism venue
far exceeds the income that could be expected from
Park has become the core of a vast natural resource
management area that includes privately and communally
owned protected areas, as well as reserves in the
adjacent countries. Tourism is fast becoming a
foundation of the South African economy and the
welfare of the people is once again dependent upon
the variety and abundance of the African landscape
and biological diversity.
There are several flights
a day between Johannesburg International Airport and
the Skukuza landing strip. Visitors may enter the Park
at any of the various gates; but the gates are only
open during daylight hours. Visitors must also be able
to reach their overnight accommodation within the Park
by sundown. Visitors who arrive at their camps after
sunset may be fined.
must have a solid roof and visitors are not permitted
to leave their vehicles except in the rest camps
and at designated locations within the Park.
consist of a range of huts, cottages and tents
of different sizes and degrees of luxury. Visitors
may park caravans or set up tents in the campsites,
or they may use one of the permanent 'safari' tents.
Basic groceries, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks,
clothing and curios are available from shops in
the various rest camps. Most rest camps also have
a restaurant where breakfasts, lunches and dinners
are served and drinks and snacks are available
in between meal times.
Kruger National Park is flanked by several privately
owned wildlife areas (see our Map
of Lowveld Reserves) which offer luxurious
accommodation and very personalized service.
7,523 square miles (19,485 square kilometres)
make it nearly the size of the state of Massachusetts.
The Park is 55 miles wide at its widest point and
220 miles (355 km) long. The Park had always been
totally fenced until fairly recently, when the
fences separating the Timbavati and Sabi Sand
Reserves were taken down, effectively increasing
the size of the reserve by 15 percent and allowing
wildlife greater freedom of movement. However,
the annual winter migration routes of antelope,
zebra and various other species in search of water
and better grazing are still cut off by fences.
Several hundred windmills and artificial water holes
have been constructed to provide the water so desperately
needed in the dry season.
The most popular area
in South Africa for wildlife safaris for international
visitors is the private reserves that lie along Kruger
National Park's western border, possibly followed by
Kruger National Park itself.
is a tremendous difference in the variety and quality
of experience between visiting Kruger National
Park and experiencing the adjacent private reserves.
In Kruger, which has over 500,000 tourists each
year, only closed vehicles are allowed and off-roading
is strictly prohibited. Night game drives can only
be conducted by Park rangers in large Park vehicles;
night drives in private vehicles are not allowed.
Facilities in Kruger are fair.
adjacent private reserves, day and night game viewing
is conducted in open safari vehicles, walking is
permitted and facilities are excellent. Essentially,
visitors to the private reserves have a greater
opportunity to experience the bush than they would
in Kruger. However, staying in the private reserves
is far more expensive and Kruger Park does offer
fantastic opportunities to see the exact same game
as in the private reserves.
The Kruger National
Park contains an incredible diversity of plants and
animals as follows (number of species given): Mammals-147;
Birds-492; Reptiles-118; Amphibia-34; Freshwater fishes-49;
Trees and shrubs-404; Grasses-224; Other plants-1,275.
following shows numbers of herbivores (averaged
for 1982-1992); all numbers are conservative estimates
of current populations: Black Rhino-50;
Buffalo-29,200; Eland-650; Elephant-7,600;
Giraffe-5,000; Hippo-2,600; Impala-125,500; Kudu-8,700;
Nyala-300; Roan-300; Sable-2,000; Tsessebe-900;
Warthog-2,600; Waterbuck-3,400; White
Rhino-1,000; Wildebeest-13,300; Zebra-30,000. These
are highly conservative numbers and not adjusted
for undercounting; in the case of Impala, the true
number is probably twice what is reflected here,
and for Warthog it may be ten times higher. (Source:
Annual Report of National Parks Board.)
of the above was excerpted from two sources:
Kruger National Park-Wonders of an African Eden by
Nigel J. Dennis and Bob Scholes; and
Africa's Top Wildlife Countries by Mark
The photos above are James', from his November
1995 visit to Kruger.
to Map of South
further information about South Africa, click More
a map of Safari Camps in the Lowveld Game Reserves,
a map of Safari Camps in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve,
click Sabi Sand Camps
a map of Safari Camps in Northern KwaZulu-Natal, click KwaZulu