Kruger National Park is a huge, fascinating national park of the Republic of South Africa that has tens of thousands of lions, leopards, rhinos, hippos, giraffes, hyenas, monkeys, baboons, and over 140 other species you have probably never heard of like kudu, eland, and wildebeest.
The park isn’t a place you would want to walk around unprepared — unless you want to be some predator’s lunch — but it is open to tourists who come from all over the world every month of the year.
In this article, we will answer common questions from kids about the world’s best-known animal preserve. But first, let’s look at some fast facts about Kruger National Park.
- Kruger National Park Facts for Kids
- What country is Kruger National Park in?
- What is the history of Kruger National Park?
- How big is the park?
- How many animals are in Kruger National Park?
- Can kids visit Kruger National Park?
Kruger National Park Facts for Kids
- The Park has the world’s largest crocodiles.
- Kruger National Park has rhinos and hippos.
- It’s home to 12,000 elephants.
- Kruger National Park is larger than 50 countries.
- The Park is one of Africa’s biggest game reserves.
Now we’ll consider the answers to some of the most common questions kids ask about Kruger National Park.
What country is Kruger National Park in?
Kruger National Park is in the northeastern corner of the Republic of South Africa, the southernmost of the 54 countries in the continent of Africa.
It’s more specifically in a part of the Republic of South Africa known as the Transvaal, north of the Vaal River, wedged between the nations of Mozambique, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, and Botswana.
What is the history of Kruger National Park?
For hundreds of thousands of years, native tribes of what is now northeast Africa hunted in an area they called Mpumalanga, on the north side of the Crocodile River.
By 1725, Dutch colonists had claimed an area on the eastern coast of South Africa to set up a port, and they sent an expedition to check out Mpumalanga as a possible overland trade route.
They took a quick look at the fierce animals and fierce natives and made a hasty retreat.
There weren’t any organized groups of European explorers through the land that is now Kruger National Park until 1844. A group of Boer settlers known as the Voortrekkers stayed north of the Crocodile River and passed through Mbhatsi Gorge to the Lebombo Mountains.
There they met with Portuguese officials, who had claimed what is now Mozambique, and they set up the boundaries of the future nation of South Africa as well as the park.
South African settlers discovered the amazing wildlife of the area and promptly went about killing it for hides, skins, and ivory. By 1884, South African President S. J. P. Kruger declared that the area now known as Kruger National Park should be set aside as a game sanctuary so all the native animals would not be killed.
The people of South Africa were not happy with the presidential decree. They continued killing animals at an increasing pace. Finally, in 1898, the South African government issued a law that anyone hunting or harming animals in this part of South Africa would be prosecuted and punished.
The first areas protected by the decree, called the Sabi Game Preserve and the Shingwedzi Game reserve, were just a small part of the area that is Kruger National Park today.
For years after the park was formed, poaching continued so that there were almost no animals left. It was another 30 years before the park reached its full size, more animals wandered in from Mozambique, and roads were built to bring tourists to the park, the first road tourist arriving in 1927.
In 1940, there was a report (that turned out to be false) that 2,000 Nazis were camped around the park’s unprotected border with Mozambique. The park warden had to explain that the arrival of even one person of European heritage would be so unusual that everyone who lived in the park would be talking about it for days.
But the news about the park reached Europe and inspired a royal visit by the King of Greece (who was a cousin of Queen Elizabeth) in 1941. Fuel rationing during World War II prevented more visits, but by the year after the end of the war, 1946, thousands of wealthy tourists from around the world were eager to visit the park to see the animals.
As more and more people came to the park to see the animals, not to kill them, scientists made a surprising discovery. The greasy, green Limpopo River at the edge of the park didn’t just have huge crocodiles. It also had sharks.
In the 1950s, the park was completely surrounded by fences. In the 1980s, Park tour operators and hotels finally started extending the same courtesy to Black visitors as they did to white visitors.
And in more recent years, the park has dealt with complex issues such as massive invasions of blue-green algae in watering holes because of excess hippo poop. But the park has survived drought and poachers to become an international model of welcoming tourists from all nations and preservation of endangered species.
How big is the park?
Kruger National Park is huge. It covers 7,523 square miles (19,485 square kilometers) in the provinces of Mpumalanga and Limpopo in the Republic of South Africa.
It is bigger than the US states of New Jersey, Hawaii, Connecticut, Delaware, or Rhode Island.
It is bigger than whole countries, including New Caledonia, Fiji, Kuwait, Montenegro, Gambia, Jamaica, and dozens more.
How many animals are in Kruger National Park?
Kruger National Park rangers keep counts of some of the larger animals in Kruger National Park. In the latest counts, there are:
- Between 120 and 240 African wild dogs.
- Between 590 and 660 black rhinoceroses.
- As many as 13,100 blue wildebeest.
- 120 cheetahs.
- 4,420 Nile crocodiles.
- Up to 35,300 plains zebras.
- 500 bushbucks.
- 37,130 African buffalo.
- 460 eland.
- 13,750 African bush elephants.
- Up to 5,420 spotted hyenas.
- Up to 17,300 greater kudus.
- 3,100 hippopotamuses.
- Between 132,300 and 176,400 impalas.
- 50 hartebeest.
- Between 1,680 and 1,720 lions.
- 150 mountain reedbucks.
- 300 nyalas.
- 90 roan antelopes.
- 290 sable antelopes
- 5,700 warthogs.
- Up to 10,500 white rhinoceroses.
More about the mammals in Kruger National Park
Many people come to Kruger National Park to see the “Big 5” mammals up close. They look forward to seeing:
- Lions. If you see lions, chances are you won’t see just one. Lions travel in prides of three to five members.
- Leopards. These big cats are hard to spot because their camouflage spots blend in with the scenery. Leopards mostly travel alone except for female leopards raising their young.
- Buffalo. The most dangerous animals in the park aren’t lions, leopards, or elephants. The Cape buffalo is the most threatening animal in Kruger National Park because they have quick tempers.
- Black and white rhinos. With rhinos, it’s the smaller, black rhinos that are the most likely to charge at a group of tourists.
- Elephants. These animals that weigh as much as 11,000 pounds (5,500 kg) often travel in herds that you can’t possibly miss.
Many kids ask if there are tigers in Kruger National Park. There are lions, civets, genets, housecat-sized African wildcats, caracals, servals, and cheetahs, but no tigers. In addition to the cats, there are many other predators in Kruger National Park, such as hyenas, jackals, aardwolves, and wild dogs.
Kruger National Park is home to monkeys, baboons, and five kinds of mongooses. They are spring hares, scrub hares, rock squirrels, and gorillas, a close relative of the skunk that shares its spraying ability. There’s even a tiny relative of the elephants known as a hyrax, which is small enough to be vulnerable to eagles when it lies out in the sun.
Not to be overlooked in Kruger National Park is its amazing diversity of grazing animals. These include the magnificent giraffes, which feed on the leaves in thorn trees (by wrapping their tongues around the thorns), several kinds of antelopes, and a huge variety of animals in the deer family.
Big birds in Kruger National Park
There are 517 species of birds in the park. Six of these species are known as the “Big Birds,” including the martial eagle, the saddle-billed stork, the lappet-faced vulture, the ground hornbill, the kori bustard, and Pel’s fishing owl.
There aren’t a lot of the big birds, just 22 pairs of eagles, 178 families of ground hornbills, and 25 to 30 breeding pairs of saddle-billed storks. Pel’s fishing owls, which snatch fish and frogs out of creeks at night, are very seldom seen or heard.
The reptiles you don’t want to meet in Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park has 126 species of reptiles. These include black mambas, which have extremely toxic venom. They usually open their mouths wide and hiss just before they leap at animals or people they find threatening and bite multiple times.
Without fast administration of antivenom, black mamba bites are fatal. If you visit Kruger National Park, the black mambas will probably leave you alone if you leave them alone, but they are a very dangerous snake.
The Park’s African rock pythons are one of the biggest snakes in the world, growing up to 20 feet (6 meters) long. It can eat animals up to the size of an antelope and sometimes even eats crocodiles. It has many sharp teeth that curve backward to pull its prey back into its throat.
The Nile crocodiles tend to share fishing spots, large animals that they capture, and the best rocks for lying in the sun. The biggest male crocodiles always take the best spots on sunning rocks, and they will fight to the death for their spot if they are challenged. Crocodiles sun with their jaws open to keep from overheating. A crocodile that cannot open its jaws can quickly die of sunstroke.
Every Nile crocodile has 68 huge, pointed teeth for grasping prey. Their jaws can bite down with a force of 5,000 pounds, but the muscles that hold their mouths open are so weak that someone could hold their mouths shut — but the crocodile can hold its breath for up to 2 hours.
Very few people have a dangerous encounter with a crocodile in the park, although, around the world, several hundred people are killed by Nile crocodiles every year.
Other animals in Kruger National Park
The bull shark that swims up to 700 miles from the Indian Ocean up to the park is the same kind of shark featured in movies like Jaws and Sharknado.
Kruger National Park has tiny animals that make big shows, such as termites. Throughout the park, you will find giant termite mounds. There are also over 350 kinds of spiders.
Can kids visit Kruger National Park?
For kids and adults alike, a visit to Kruger National Park is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about how kids and their families can visit Kruger National Park.
Can kids join a safari in Kruger National Park?
Yes! Kids need to be old enough and large enough to see out the windows of a Range Rover to enjoy the safari.
There are no lower age limits on who can visit the park, although it’s not really a place for kids under the age of five. Some safari operators can even accommodate newborns, and most safari operators treat kids 12 and older as adults.
Where should my parents book reservations for us to stay?
There are tents, shelters, cabanas, and even a few hotel rooms in the park, that varying cost amounts. (They aren’t cheap.)
But the best way to decide where the family will stay is on the basis of the animals they want to see. Choose a place to stay closest to the biggest concentration of the animals you want to see.
Lodge safaris usually offer tours in open-air vehicles. These vehicles can go off-road to get closer to the animals. It’s possible to hire a driver and a vehicle for a personally guided tour on your family’s schedule focusing on the animals your family wants to see.
It is also possible for your family to rent a vehicle and drive around on their own. Some families first take a lodge safari to get the feel of the park, and then rent their own vehicle to explore at their own pace, and then take a lodge safari to get closer to the animals.
Has any kid ever been eaten by an animal in Kruger National Park?
No one, no kid, and no adult have ever been killed by an animal in Kruger National Park.
However, several people have been killed in road accidents when the driver was speeding.
You will need to take malaria medication, however, before you visit the park.