No trip to South Africa would be complete without a visit to the magnificent Kruger National Park, where the true beauty of South Africa’s topography shines without interruption. In addition to spectacular scenery and an abundance of wildlife, there are also a number of Kruger Park lodges throughout the reserve, suited to all tastes and occasions.
But what animals live in the Kruger? And how many animals are there throughout the Kruger? We answer these questions and then some in this handy guide on the Kruger National Park’s animals.
The Kruger National Park is characterised by two regions, both entirely different in not only topography, but in the animals most commonly present. In the south, visitors can expect to see savanna-style plains dotted with acacia trees and flowing yellow grass during the dry season. It’s here where most people decide to visit given the abundance of wildlife. In the north however, the lush greenery, rare vehicle sightings and quietness is a call to those who want an unhindered Kruger experience. But one thing is for sure, no matter which part you decide to venture to (however, we recommend both!), you’re guaranteed to see animals in the Kruger Park.
In terms of the best time to go to the Kruger National Park, we’d recommend after the hot summers and the autumn rains – between June and September is your best bet! And, when adventuring on your safari, opt for early morning or early evening for prime animal viewing.
The table below is a quick guide to the most likely animals you'll see in Kruger and the frequency of sightings:
What Animals Will You See on a Wildlife Safari in The Kruger National Park?
These majestic creatures are always a magnificent sighting, given that you rarely expect to stumble upon them! While white rhinos are indeed more common than the endangered black rhino, both creatures face their own adversity. Given the increasing extinction rates of both black and white rhino, being able to watch one of these incredible animals in their natural habitat is a true gift of its own.
Where Can You See Rhinoceros in The Kruger?
Given that both black and white rhinos’ food of choice is leaves and lush grass, they are more commonly seen in dense bush and thorny thickets. Like most animals in the Kruger, they stay near watering holes for easy access to refreshment. Look out for rhinos in the following Greater Kruger private reserves:
- Sabi Sands Game Reserve
- Thornybush Game Reserve
Stumbling upon one of these elusive big cats is a dream many have when going on safari. Look too quick, and you may just miss the shy leopard stalking through the trees towards its prey. Moving smooth as water, this spectacular big cat is a sight you will remember long after your safari is over, and one most only have the chance of receiving a few times in their lifetime.
Where Can You See Leopard in The Kruger?
Leopards love wooded areas with an abundance of tall trees where they can rest and hide their prey, as well as rivers to refresh and stalk. Because they are so rare to spot (there are only 1,000 of these animals in the Kruger Park!), they prefer to remain in areas where onlookers and the sound of cars are far less. The Sabi Sands Game Reserve, with its dense concentration of leopards, is famous for its sightings.
These gentle giants are both enchanting and intimidating, with their often unpredictable manners and a polarising sense of calm. It’s no wonder they’re on many a safari traveler’s bucket list, as they truly are a magnificent sight to see. Whether you come across a lone bull, or are lucky enough to spot a whole herd (babies in tow!), the elephant will undoubtedly make your whole day that much better!
Where Can You See Elephant in The Kruger?
Elephants love to snack on the leaves of the mopane tree, which is most commonly found in the southern Kruger region. That being said, they’re definitely partial to the occasional acacia snack and aren’t too picky! As long as they have a ton of food and access to watering holes, they’re happy ellies. Sightings are plentiful wherever you choose to go but one of the most memorable places to see ellies in the Greater Kruger is at Kapama Private Game Reserve, sandwiched between the Blyde River Valley and the Kruger National Park.
4. Spotted Hyena
No safari is complete without falling asleep to the laugh-like whoops of the hyena. They may sound playful, but don’t be fooled. These scavenger animals in the Kruger Park can be fierce when they choose to be! The Kruger is primarily occupied by the spotted hyena, who can be identified by their polka-dot-like coat consisting of brown spots.
Where Can You See Spotted Hyena in The Kruger?
If you’re on the hunt for a hyena, you’re most likely guaranteed to get a dual sighting of a larger predator in tow – given that hyenas are never far from a kill. They are complete opportunists, and will remain on the move throughout the evening until they find a carcass to call their own. As such, they’re primarily in the regions where you can expect to see lion and leopard.
Nature’s (somewhat awkward) supermodel, the long-legged giraffe is a truly fantastical creature. The tallest animals in the world, giraffes are characterised by their long purple tongues, brown patches and antler-like horns. Although primarily slow movers, giraffes can gallop at rather impressive speeds (mostly away from danger!). They are usually found in pairs or groups of three to eight, and prefer to eat the newest leaves blooming at the top of trees and large shrubs.
Where Can You See Giraffe in The Kruger?
Giraffes are quite common Kruger animals throughout the entirety of the national park and its private game reserves, so spotting one shouldn't be difficult – unless of course you mistake them for a tree! That being said, they primarily frequent locations near watering holes with lush fauna that’s suited to their height.
Don’t let their cute faces and round bodies fool you, because hippos are considered to be one of the most dangerous animals in Africa. Regardless, watching them gracefully move through the water or waddle out to the shores for a sunbathe is a magical sight worth seeing. Oftentimes, you may miss them as only their eyes stick out of the surface. But, when the sun is shining, you may just be lucky enough to see them graze around the watering hole.
Where Can You See Hippopotamus in The Kruger?
Naturally, hippos always stay next to watering holes, dams and lakes, so where there is a large enough body of water for them to submerge, there they will be! Hippo Pool, which sits near Kruger's southern border, acts as one of the Kruger National Park's premier locations for viewing hippos - as its name implies.
No animal checklist would be complete without mentioning the King of the Jungle. From their incredible roar that travels miles to the surprising size of their muscular bodies, lions are a part of the Big 5 for (many) a reason. Spotting a lion resting under a tree in the late afternoon is a magical sight in itself, but catching a pride of lions during a kill is an experience you will never forget, should you be lucky enough to witness it.
Where Can You See Lion in The Kruger?
Lions prefer to frequent wide, open spaces where they can easily access their prey. They do however, always remain close to a source of water and shade. Areas of richer, grassier soils and higher rainfall support more animals to prey on, meaning lion densities will be higher. If you're planning on a Kruger lion safari, we recommend heading to these private reserves:
- Sabi Sands Game Reserve - this is one of the most reliable places to see lions in Africa.
- Timbavati Game Reserve - this private reserve is your best bet in seeing white lions in Africa. Timbavati is an anglicisation of the the traditional name 'Tsimba Vati', which means 'place where the star lions fell to Earth'.
Chances are if you’re venturing into any game reserve within Southern Africa, you will come across many a zebra! Quintessential to the local safari experience, zebras are almost always found in large herds often featuring a wildebeest or two. The Kruger National Park is home to the Burchell’s Zebra, characterised by the black and white stripes all over its body that begin to fade on the legs.
Where Can You See Zebra in The Kruger?
Although zebras are one of the most common Kruger animals to spot throughout the park, they are primarily seen in the wide plains and vast grasslands of the southern regions.
9. Black-Backed Jackal
These opportunistic canines are swift movers and fast thinkers, but they’re also rather lovely to look at. As their name suggests, the black-backed jackal has a dark ‘saddle’ on its back with white flecks throughout, and has a small, fox-like snout. When they’re not trailing wildlife in the Kruger like lions and leopards to catch a bite of their leftover prey, they’re spending time with their significant other as black-backed jackals mate for life.
Where Can You See Black-Backed Jackal in The Kruger?
Black-backed jackals are extremely territorial, and often remain within the same small hunting radius. If you’ve sighted a black-backed jackal in a specific location while out on a game drive, chances are you will see it again nearby should you wish to return. They’re usually found where the big cats are.
Kudu are a species of large woodland antelope native to southern and eastern Africa, who frequent the vegetation-rich regions of the Kruger. Given that they’re browsers, Kudu are usually found making their way through the thick brush – so much so that they are often missed when out on safari. Their incredible spiral horns, white-striped ‘face paint’ and large ears (often used to mimic wide eyes for the purpose of scaring off prey) are all unique identifying features of these Kruger animals.
Where Can You See Kudu in The Kruger?
Where there is an abundance of leaves and thickets, there will most likely be a kudu or two. Kudus also choose these areas to shield themselves from the watchful eyes of predators. As such, one can expect to view kudu around the camps where acacia trees and the like make up the majority of the vegetation.
The fastest mammal on the planet, the cheetah is undoubtedly a sight many hope to see while on safari. Often camouflaged by the tall savanna-style grass where they choose to frequent, these beautiful big cats are easy to miss if you’re not keeping a watchful eye. Whether you’re lucky enough to spot one on the hunt, or simply on the move between the grasslands, watching a cheetah in its natural habitat is a sight you won’t soon forget.
Where Can You See Cheetah in The Kruger?
Wide, open plains with lots of room to run and hunt are the cheetahs primary playground. Clearings where they can remain concealed below the grass while still watching for prey, are where these big cats are likely to be.
These unpredictable members of the Big 5 are considered to be some of the most dangerous animals on Earth, although you’d never think so looking at them. Large indeed, their cow-like shapes are often misinterpreted for them being docile animals however, the Cape buffalo is far from it. Their large busks, heavy weight and staggering speed are just a few of the reasons these Kruger animals have very little predators.
Where Can You See Buffalo in The Kruger?
Stumbling upon a herd of buffalo is a rather common occurrence in the Kruger, given that they’re often found spread throughout the entirety of the park – however, most of them remain in the south. One must be extra cautious around lone male buffalo, named “Dagga (referring either to mud or as a slang term for crazy) Boys'' by the locals, as they are considered to be extremely hostile.
13. Vervet Monkey
These playful primates are more than likely to come to you as opposed to you to them. Characterised by their grey bodies and black faces, vervet monkeys are notorious for causing a bit of havoc wherever they go, given their gregarious nature. That being said, their comical personality is bound to make for an entertaining viewing.
Where Can You See Vervet Money in The Kruger?
Finding a vervet monkey in the Kruger is like finding milk at a dairy farm! You’re almost guaranteed to stumble upon many of these animals in the Kruger Park throughout your safari, which is wonderful news for monkey lovers.
14. Wild Dog
These utterly elusive canines are a mere dream sighting for most, given that they’re notoriously rare and much prefer to keep to themselves. Even though they are pack animals, being able to see even just one wild dog while on safari is extremely rare, but, should you be lucky enough to have a viewing of these animals in the Kruger Park, you will remember it for the rest of your life.
Where Can You See Wild Dog in The Kruger?
There are only 150 to 200 wild dogs spread throughout the entirety of the park, so it's no wonder not many people see them while on safari. In addition to their small numbers, wild dogs remain on the move and never stay in one spot for too long. That being said, recurring sightings have been recorded in the following private reserves:
- Sabi Sands Game Reserve
- Timbavati Game Reserve
Made famous by the character Pumba in the Lion King, warthogs are considered a sight many hope to see while on safari. With their humorous behavior and radio-antenna-like tails, these fast-moving animals are often found in groups reminiscent of a small family – most likely with a baby in tow!
Where Can You See Warthog in The Kruger?
Warthogs are big mud lovers, and remain in nearby marshy areas and watering holes. Their diet of choice is also grass, so they are most commonly found in the savanna-style plains of the southern Kruger.
Different Ways to See Wildlife in The Kruger National Park
Perhaps the most common method of viewing wildlife in the Kruger is going on guided game drives with your safari lodge or camp. But, if you’re looking for something a little more out of the box, there are other ways to spot the Kruger animals!
|Activity||Best Place to Do It|
|Hot air balloon safaris||A selection of lodges in the Kruger’s private game reserves|
|Walking safaris||A selection of lodges in the Kruger’s private game reserves|
Ready to Start Planning Your Safari in Kruger?
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