The Greater Kruger National Park (GKNP) refers to the over twenty private reserves to the west of the Kruger National Park (KNP) which add 180 000 hectares to the reserve. In total, the whole area covers 20 000 000 hectares of unfenced, wild reserve with free movement of game across this spectacular land. So what's the difference between the GKNP and the KNP when going on safari in Africa?
Highlights of GKNP
- Limited numbers of people are allowed in the area, providing a far less crowded safari experience and giving the visitor the feel of true Africa, unspoilt by too many cars and people
- With the borders between the Kruger National Park and the GKNP being unfenced, there is free movement of all game, allowing sightings of a huge variety of animals
- GKNP is next door to the Kruger Park: daytrips into the park are easy, giving you the best of both worlds
- Walking safaris, game-viewing in safari vehicles and night drives are offered with knowledgeable guides
- Accommodation in the GKNP is more exclusive, with smaller camps, great service and more luxurious amenities
History of the Greater Kruger National Park
The area of the Kruger National Park was first declared a game reserve way back in 1898. First called the Government Wildlife Park, then the Sabi Game Reserve, it was finally called the Kruger National Park in 1926.
Many of the farms surrounding the KNP were also game farms, but privately owned. Over twenty of them got together and established the Associated Private Nature Reserves, a non-profit organisation to uphold the principles and values of conservation, sustainable land use and local community development. In the early 90's, the KNP and Associated Private Nature Reserves dropped their fences (after ensuring the outer borders were adequately fenced), effectively adding 180 000 hectares of land.
This addition to the park increases grazing area for the animals, extends their potential gene pool and - for us - increases the chances of sighting all of the wildlife we go on safari to see!
The Greater Kruger National Park includes Timbavati, Makuya, Letaba, Balule, Klaserie, Umbabat, Manyeleti and Sabi Sand Game Reserves.
GKNP vs KNP: What's The Difference?
A commonly asked question, and easily answered.
Firstly, what's the same? From a fauna and flora point-of-view: there is not much difference.
The parks are next to each other and there are no fences between them, so the animals and birds who call the area home can roam freely, and are found in both. In saying that, however, the area is large, so habitats differ and of course animals gravitate toward whichever habitat is best for them. Some areas are better known for their leopard sightings, others for elephant, etc.
There are three main differences between the two areas.
The parks that make up the GKNP are generally quite strict about how many people are allowed in at a time.This extends to accommodation available, too. This means that your safari experience is far more exclusive and you won't be trying to get through hundreds of other cars to see a lion kill or catch that special photo of a zebra baby.
The Greater Kruger National Park offers safari visitors access to the real African safari experience. Experienced guides take visitors not only on safari vehicles (including to off road areas), but also walking safaris and night drives. You can't get closer to the wild than this - sights, sounds and smells included!
Safaris in the GKNP come with experienced and knowlegeable guides with superlative tracking skills. This ensures that you see not only the big animals - this is Big Five country - but also the birds and the li'l guys. From the smallest insect to the smaller cats and hares to birds and buck, all the way up to the enormous elephant, these rangers know their stuff.
There are a number of lodges in the GKNP. These tend to be more high-end than those found in the KNP. With limited numbers of guests at each, you are assured of a far more private and exclusive experience. Hospitality is personal and service is a priority, to ensure that you get the best possible safari experience.
Parks in the GKNP
The GKNP comprises over twenty game parks, many divided into smaller parks. There are no fences between any of them and each one offers spectacular scenery and a chance to see not only the Big Five, but a huge array of other wild animals and birds!
Balule Private Game Reserve consists of 40 000 hectares of prime game reserve. The park is home not only to the much sought after Big Five, but also an incredible variety of other wildlife – antelope, big cats, wild dogs, giraffe, zebra to name a few – and birdlife. With the perennial Olifants River flowing through it, Balule is a prime game- and bird-watching area.
Kapama Private Game Reserve comprises 13 000 hectares of sweeping wilderness. Both the Kapama River and the Klaserie River flow through the reserve, creating an area of riverine forest amidst sweeping savannah. These serve as natural water sources for the resident wildlife, of which there is a wide array!
One of the largest privately owned reserves in South Africa, Klaserie covers 60 000 hectares of land along the Klaserie River. The owners are deeply committed to conservation and the park hosts three amazing projects: the Ground Hornbill Project, Rhino Protection and The Elephant Project.
Covering over 50 000 hectares of prime game-filled savannah, Timbavati includes the Motswari Game Reserve, Ngala Game Reserve, Tanda Tula Game Reserve and Umlani Game Reserve. The area is known most famously for its white lions which, if you're lucky, you may spot amongst the plethora of wildlife that call Timbavati home.
Thornybush Private Nature Reserve comprises 14 000 hectares of pristine bush, filled with animals and birds.
Sabi Sands incorporates the Mala Mala Reserve, Djuma Game Reserve, Lion Sands, Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve, Londolozi Private Game Reserve, Singita Game Reserve and Ulusaba Private Game Reserve and covers 65 000 hectares. The Sabi River and Sand River run through the area providing diverse habitats for the huge range of animals. The area is known especially for its big cat sightings, most notably of the elusive leopard.
Choosing a safari that includes the Greater Kruger National Park will ensure that you have a far more 'up-close-and-personal' experience of the African bush. These are the slightly more upmarket, way more exclusive options that'll see you participating in incredible activities like walking safaris and bush dinners under the huge, star-filled African skies, with the roar of lions in the distance.