The world-renowned Kruger National Park offers a wildlife experience that ranks with the best in Africa
Where nearly 2 million hectares of unrivaled diversity of life forms fuses with historical and archaeological sights - this is real Africa.
Over 1,000,000 people who visit the Kruger National Park annually. Firstly, this unique treasure of natural heritage is home to the famous Big Five, as well as unmatched biodiversity of fauna and flora. Of course, there’s more - an interesting history...
The surface area of Kruger National Park is 7,580 miles² (19,633 km²). About the same size as Israel and Wales and slightly smaller than Belgium.
A brief History of the Kruger National Park
The lowveld has always been considered a hunter's paradise despite the depredations of malaria and sleeping sickness that made summer visits to the region a health risk. By the mid-1800s the area had all but been decimated of game by hunters who operated in an unregulated environment. The loss of wildlife was further compounded by an outbreak of rinderpest in 1896 which led to the deaths of thousands of animals.
The disastrous depletion of game was brought to the attention of the president of the Transvaal Boer Republic, Paul Kruger, who in 1898 proclaimed the Sabie Game Reserve, a 4 600 square-kilometre area between the Crocodile and Sabie Rivers. In the face of virulent opposition from private landowners and hunters, he also proclaimed a second reserve, the Shingwedzi Reserve, which stretched between the Shingwedzi and Luvuvhu Rivers.
These original reserves formed the core of what is the Kruger Park today.Control of the region only became effective after the end of the Anglo-Boer War when James Stevenson-Hamilton was appointed head ranger of both reserves in 1902. With a small force of rangers he enthusiastically enforced his mandate to let animals rule - and made himself unpleasant to anyone getting in his way. He vigorously set about removing people from the demarcated reserve including the indigenous populations who had lived in the area for hundreds of years, earning him his nickname of "Skukuza" ("he who sweeps clean").
Stevenson Hamilton's battle was not only against hunters and poachers, but against sheep farmers and mining entrepreneurs who all perceived that they had a prior claim to the land. His vision of creating a national park that would be sustained by tourism came to fruition in 1926.In 1912, a railway line was routed through the reserve. Stevenson-Hamilton successfully used this to get tourists to stop over for lunch. By 1916 a government commission was appointed to assess the future of the reserves.
On 31 May 1926 the National Parks Act was proclaimed and with it the merging of the Sabie and Shingwedzi Game Reserves into the Kruger National Park, South Africa's first National Park. In 1927, the park was opened to the public who where charged a £1 fee and only three tourist cars entered the park in 1927, jumping to 180 cars in 1928 and 850 cars in 1929. It was only in 1928 that the provision of amenities for tourists commenced with sincerity. The first three so-called “rest huts” were built at Satara, Pretoriuskop and Skukuza (then still known as Reserve or Sabie Bridge).In the early thirties great progress was made with provision of additional tourist amenities.
In 1936 the issue of hot water for baths/shower came under discussion again and it was decided to provide such “luxury” to various other rest camps. This again led to differences in opinion and it was again reasoned that it was an unnecessary luxury, and besides that the Board did not have the funds for the required installation. The issue was again postponed and it was not until 1939 that such installations were brought about – and on condition that gents were only entitled to hot and cold showers, and that hot water for bathing for ladies was available daily between 17:00 and 21:00!!
As from 1927 on, the building – actually de-bushing - of roads was started in all sincerity. Naturally, the first roads were connecting routes between established rangers’ posts.In 1928, construction of the road between Skukuza to Lower Sabie was started, only to be completed in 1931. With this rapid road construction programme, a total of 386 miles (617km) of tourist roads was completed by the end of 1929. The road construction programme continued uninterrupted until mid thirties, and by 1934, approximately 800 miles (1200km) of roads had been completed.
Within a decade, 3 600 kilometres of roads had been built and several camps established.By 1950 a research station and rest camp had been developed at Skukuza, transforming Stevenson-Hamilton's base into the "capital" of Kruger. By 1969 the Park was fenced in by 18 000 kilometres of wire and poles. In the 1960s and 1970s there was enormous pressure on the government to allow the northern part of Kruger to be mined for coal, but this was resisted and the Park was rededicated to conservation.
In the 1990s Kruger went through a process of commercialization by which certain services and activities were outsourced and a number of new private camps were allowed to develop. In 2002 visitor numbers to Kruger topped the one million mark for the ﬁrst time.During this same year the dream of a transnational park was realized when agreement was ﬁnally reached between South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique to merge conservation areas in their respective countries to form the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park. Once this process is complete the transfrontier park will be the biggest game reserve in the world.
There are also many historical tales of the presence of Nguni people and European explorers and settlers in the Kruger area.There are significant archaeological ruins at Thulamela and Masorini. There are numerous examples of San Art scattered throughout the park.
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