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Fascinating Wildlife Species to Marvel at in Kruger National Park

by Cris Puscas

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As the jeep makes its way on the dusty roads, suddenly it comes to a stop. The ranger motions you to stay quiet. The next second, he points to a bush where a family of lions is busy watching the zebras grazing nearby. All the while, there are also wildebeest and antelopes lurking by. 

The animals don’t seem to be bothered by your presence. The lion is too busy figuring out what to have for lunch and the zebras are doing their best to avoid becoming lunch.

Having the chance to come face to face with such complex and breathtaking scenes is what makes safaris unique. It is truly an experience that will linger in your memory for a lifetime, changing you in subtle (or maybe not so subtle) ways.

If having an amazing wildlife experience is also on your bucket list, you should know that one of the best places on Earth to do so is Kruger National Park, South Africa.

Here, you can spot the magnificent Big Five animals, marvel at the graceful antelopes, and even catch a glimpse of the highly endangered wild dog.

From the abundant zebra to the very rare black rhino, here are some of the extraordinary wildlife you may catch a glimpse of during a safari in Kruger National Park:


The Big Five Animals


The reason most safari-goers choose Kruger National Park for their holiday is for the opportunity to get up close and personal with the Big Five.

Initially, the term described the five most difficult animals to hunt on foot in Africa. But thankfully, nowadays, it refers to the five magnificent big animals that roam in Africa that everyone wants to see when they go on a safari.

The African leopard, lion, African elephant, (black and white) rhinoceros, and Cape buffalo can all be seen in the largest and most famous game reserve in South Africa: Kruger National Park.


The African Elephant

african elephant in kruger

The elephants are the world’s largest mammals and live in families led by a female while the mature males wander alone.

These Gentle Giants are highly intelligent creatures. Did you know that they can recognize themselves in the mirror?

Elephants are a common sight in Kruger and are one of the animals are you very likely to see during your safari. You can easily spot them grazing by the side of the road and there are plenty of elephants to see along the river edges of the Olifants.


The Cape Buffalo

cape buffalo in kruger

Well known for their bad temper, Cape buffalos live and eat in large herds of up to 500 individuals. They are common throughout Kruger National Park and can be found in woodland savannas.

Most rangers will advise you that they are the most dangerous of the Big Five animals.

Don’t let their bovine appearance fool you. They are to be fared and respected.

Fun fact: Did you know that a Cape buffalo don’t forgive and forget? They can recognize a person who has hurt them in the past and next time they won’t hesitate to attack.


The African Leopard

african leopard in kruger

Leopards are rarely spotted in Kruger National Park. They are solitary animals, spending the day in hiding and hunting at night. They are agile climbers and when there’s competition from other predators or scavengers, they’ll quickly drag the carcass up the fork of a large tree.

Leopards are the most elusive of the Big Five and are notoriously hard to spot thanks to their extraordinary camouflage. They need some sort of cover such as a bush or rocks.

But, you have the most chance of spotting them in the southern regions of Kruger, on roads that go through dense areas, preferably close or near river beds.

Skukuza to Lower Sabie road follows Sabie River and it is very popular among visitors as it is the place where you may see more leopards in the riverine bush than anywhere else in South Africa.

In northern Kruger, you have the most chances to spot leopards on the Luvuvhu River Drives.

The African Lion

lion in kruger

Lions can be spotted occasionally in Kruger. They are the largest of the big cats and live in a pride organized by hierarchy. The lionesses hunt, while the male lions feast first.

The males are larger than the females, flaunting incredible red, black or light brown manes.  Did you know that the darker the mane, the older the lion?

The roar of the lion is quite impressive and is, perhaps, the most associated with an African safari. It can be heard 8 km/5 mi away.

The best chance of spotting lions in Kruger is on the Skukuza-Satara tar road, climbing out of Sabie River basin into the central grasslands. Another place to see them is on the Lower Sabie to Tshokwane road, one of the most scenic drives in Kruger.


The Black Rhinoceros

black rhino in kruger

Photo credit: Will Sweet via Flick

A sharp increase in poaching means that the black rhino has become a very rare sight in Kruger. They are listed as critically endangered species.

Also known as the hook-lipped rhino, the black rhino is often found in the bush. The original member of the Big Five is smaller than their cousin (white rhino) but more aggressive.

The White Rhinoceros

white rhino in kruger

Photo credit: Esculapio

Occasionally, you may spot a white rhino in Kruger. They are larger than their cousins (black rhinos) and have longer horns. The calves always walk in front of the parents, whereas the black rhino calves follow the parents.

They are a threatened species but due to poaching, they may soon become vulnerable.

On the Malelane to Skukuza road, in the Malelane area, you have the most chances to spot white rhinos. They can also be seen on Voortrekker Road.


Other animals in Kruger National Park


From the common giraffe, hippo, and hyena to the very rare wild dog, Kruger National Park is teaming with wildlife. Enjoy getting a glimpse of them and snapping that perfect shot you’ve been waiting for.

The Giraffe

giraffe in kruger

The tallest animal on the planet boasts long necks and purple tongues. Males can weigh as much as a truck!

They are common throughout Kruger. Spot them as they feed on the thorny treetops. Or when they are most vulnerable as they drink water.


The Hippopotamus

hippo in kruger

The hippos spend all day in the water. They feed at night, munching on the short grass. You are likely to find them near or partly submerged in water.

Don’t be fooled by their appearance. They may look harmless, but they are responsible for most human deaths by a mammal in Africa.


The Kudu

kudu in kruger

They are usually seen in small groups, feasting on leaves and shoots.

Kudus are easily recognized by the males’ spiral horns. The cows have no horns, have shorter hair, and warmer shade of brown.


The Blue Wildebeest

blue wildebeest in kruger

The blue wildebeest (or brindled gnu) can be found in large herds in acacia savanna and short grass plains. They are a common sight in Kruger. Both males and females sport cow-like horns.

Despite their size, they can easily reach speeds of up to 80kph (50mph).

You have good chances of spotting them on the Timbavati Road.


The Impala

impala in kruger

Impalas are thriving in Kruger and can be found in lush grasslands bordering open savanna woodland.

The superb S-shaped horns are worn exclusively by the males. However, both males and females of this antelope species are very graceful.



The Waterbuck

waterbuck in kruger

They live in small herds and feel safe near water.

Well know for their lyre-shaped horns and a white ring around the rump, waterbucks elude the predators by entering the water.

The Zebra

zebra in kruger

Zebras are abundant in Kruger. Known for their black and white stripes, they congregate at waterholes and favorite grazing areas, where they can be spotted in large numbers.

They are often seen in close association with wildebeest and antelopes.

The Warthog

warthog in kruger

Because they have bad eyesight, they often tend to come close to visitors. Warthogs they live in burrows or places with extra vegetation.

They are the only pigs that can survive in hot water, without water, for months.

Females are often found in groups, together with their piglets, whereas males prefer to roam alone.

The Cheetah

cheetah in kruger

Photo credit: Esculapio


The cheetah is the world’s fastest land animal. Capable of sprinting to 113kmph/70mph, this beautiful big cat is quite a rare occurrence in Kruger National Park.

They are qualified as vulnerable but a few hundreds of these predators call the park their home.


The Spotted Hyena

spotted hyena in kruger

Photo credit: flowcomm via Flickr

One of the most well-known scavengers in Africa, the spotted hyena is known for their whooping laughter. It is part of the evening’s “soundtrack” in Kruger!

They live in clans, lead by a female.

The hyenas can be spotted on the Lower Sabie to Tshokwane road, as well as on the road from Malelane to Skukuza.


The Black-backed Jackal

jackal in kruger

Typically nocturnal, jackals are less likely to be seen during the day. They are among the most widespread and successful scavengers in Africa.

Adapting easily to any environment, jackals feast on rodents, hares, birds, and even small antelopes, but they don’t shy away from eating fruits and berries, either.


The Wild Dog

wild dogs in kruger

The wild dog – or painted dog – is highly endangered and is a very rare sight in Kruger. Wild dogs can be found in areas of moderate bush and open plains.

It lives in large groups and is the largest canid on the continent.

They are highly social and well organized when they hunt.

Can’t wait to see Kruger’s fascinating wildlife with your own eyes? Book yourself a spot on a jeep safari in Kruger National Park and be prepared for an unforgettable experience!

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