A true heavyweight among Africa's parks and reserves and weighing in at a shade under 20 000 km², the Kruger National Park is roughly the size of Israel or Wales and spans two of South Africa's provinces. The park itself is however just one of the four elements that make up the Greater Kruger National Park, and travellers planning their Kruger safari should be familiar with the physical make-up of this extraordinary destination.
Panorama Route: stunning scenery & self-drive safaris
An extravagantly scenic region to the west of the Kruger National Park, the Panorama Route is rugged, mountainous country, scored with deep gorges and breathtaking views but is well served by easy roads and small, friendly towns. There are many places of interest throughout the Panorama Route - highlights include the Blyde River Canyon and Bourke's Luck Potholes, God's Window and the traditional village of Pilgrim's Rest.
It's where to go for a day or two of pure relaxation after all those crack-of-dawn starts in the Kruger and you'll be spoilt for choice when it comes down for somewhere to stay: accommodation on the Panorama Route ranges from world-class spas and luxurious retreats to family-friendly lodges and safari lodges. And if you do have energy left over from your safari, the Panorama Route is famous for its wealth of sporting and adventure activities - golf, cultural tours, horse-riding and quad biking are among the most popular.
Kruger National Park: South Africa's flagship reserve
South Africa's largest, most diverse and oldest conservation area is simply known as 'Kruger' and refers to the national park itself, managed by the government parastatal SANParks and open to the public.
Straddling both Limpopo and Mpumalanga Provinces, the Kruger National Park is fully fenced, has an extensive network of tarred and gravel roads and is home to a wide range of accommodation and visitor facilities, most of which are located in the south and central regions where game viewing is traditionally better.
Kruger's Private Reserves: Africa's best Big 5 game viewing
Running along much of the Kruger's western boundary are a number of privately owned and run game reserves, usually grouped in large blocks and then divided into individual reserves.
No longer fenced off from the park, these conservation-minded reserves include some of the best and biggest brand names in safari travel such as Sabi Sabi, Thornybush, Londolozi and Mala Mala, and they offer what many consider to be the ultimate African safari.
Not only is the accommodation, management and guiding astonishingly good, but your chances of seeing the Big 5 are virtually guaranteed. There are fewer restrictions than in the park so with off-road driving, guided nature walks and night drives permitted, you will get every opportunity to spot animals, which in any case tend to be more habituated to people, allowing for closer and more frequent sightings.
Kruger's Private Concessions: luxury & exclusivity within the park
Run along similar lines to the private reserves, the Kruger Park's private concessions are exclusive-use areas contained within the park itself. Game viewing tends to be spectacular, and the standard of accommodation and guiding in the concessions is exceptionally high with activities such as off-road driving for close-up sightings, night drives and bush walks allowed.
Although private concessions offer a very similar luxury safari experience to the private reserves, staying in one means that game drives may venture into the Kruger National Park which will suit visitors who want to explore the heart of the park.