On 26 March 1898 President Paul Kruger signed a proclamation establishing a sanctuary for wildlife between the Sabie and Crocodile Rivers. On 31 May 1926, The National Parks Act was adopted, adding many hectares to the north of the Sabie River to the old Sabie Game Reserve, which was henceforth known as the Kruger National Park. The Kruger National Park is the largest wildlife sanctuary in the Republic of South Africa and one of the largest controlled nature reserves in the world.
In 1994 the Kruger National Park was divided in two with the Olifants River forming the boundary between the southern section (Mpumalanga) and the northern section (Limpopo Province). The well known Klaserie Nature Reserve, Umbabat Nature Reserve, lngwalala Game Reserve, Timbavati Game Reserve and Manyeleti Game Reserve have been incorporated in the Limpopo Province. Although Kruger National Park has been divided into two units as a result of provincial regrouping, it is still managed by one body, namely SANParks.
The northern section of the Park is the least developed, its landscapes the wildest and most varied. Here nine of the continent’s major ecosystems come together to create a magnificent melange of different vegetation types. No less remarkable is the diversity of animals, birds, trees, bushes and grasses. Many of the species are rare; some are unique to this particular corner of Africa.
Not much settlement took place in this area because people were afraid of contracting malaria and fever. This meant that game and other animals roamed the area freely until Paul Kruger succeeded in 1898 in having the Sabie Reserve proclaimed, with the Sabie and Crocodile rivers forming the boundaries. In 1926 the Sabie and Shingwedzi Reserves were amalgamated to form the Kruger National Park. This world-renowned park stretches from the Limpopo River in the north to the Crocodile River in the south and covers an area of almost two million hectares.
Rainfall and the texture of the soil influence vegetation. The Sabie River is one of several perennial rivers flowing through the Mpumalanga section of the Park. The entrance gates in the Mpumalanga section of the Park are the Crocodile Bridge near Komatipoort, the Malelane gate near Malelane, the Numbi gate near the Pretoriuskop Rest Camp, the Kruger gate near Skukuza and the Orpen gate on the border between the two sections of the park.
The primary objective of National Parks is to ensure that unspoiled areas, representative of the broadest scope of the natural diversity of our country, are preserved. Check this, the SANParks mission is different now. Furthermore, the most salient statement of intent in the mission of the National Parks Board is to preserve natural ecosystems in their most pristine state possible. This not only implies that the full range of animal and plant species, and their habitats, are protected but also that ecological processes, such as droughts, periods of high rainfall – and in many cases even epizootic disease – are allowed to take their course. National Parks are set aside to preserve nature for nature’s sake.
A substantial part of the Lowveld is the home of the Kruger National Park and other smaller sanctuaries, safe from excessive hunting, have flourished and multiplied. We owe much to James Stevenson-Hamilton (1867-1957), who was appointed after the Anglo-Boer War in 1902 as warden of the old Sabi Game Reserve. This Scottish professional soldier obtained a two-year leave of absence from his regiment to begin the great task of saving the remnants of the once great herds of game left by hunters and soldiers of both sides fighting in the war. He became involved in the welfare of his animal charges to such an extent that he stayed for more than forty• four years until his retirement in 1946. The continued existence and development of the Kruger National Park is largely due to his dedication and sound administration.
James Stevenson-Hamilton was born in Dublin, Ireland, of Scottish parents, where his father was then posted. His childhood was spent at the ancestral home Fairholm, in Scotland, and was educated at Rugby School. He proceeded to the Royal Military College at Sandhurst and obtained a commission with the 6th lnniskilling Dragoons, then in South Africa. After the Zululand Campaign he returned to Britain with his regiment, but the attraction of Africa caused him to join a private expedition to the Zambezi and Central Africa in 1898, while on leave from his regiment. He spent several months in the wilds, keeping a diary of his experiences, which he was later to produce in the form of a book.
The next few years found him on active service with his regiment in the Anglo-Boer War (1899 – 1902), at the end of which the Milner Government offered him the wardenship of the Sabi Game Reserve.
It was on the afternoon of 25 July 1902 that he gained his first view of his future domain, from the heights above Bill Sanderson’s place on the farm ‘Peebles’, northeast of present White River. His first journey was via Nelspruit to Barberton in order to establish contact with Major Mcinerney, the resident magistrate, and thence to Komatipoort to introduce himself to Colonel Baron Ludwig Franz (Francis) von Steinaecker (1854-1917), the commander of the famous ‘Steinaecker Horse’, who was away in Britain at the time.
He returned to ‘Peebles’ and entered the reserve via Pretoriuskop along Nelmapius Road, now known as ‘Jock of the Bushveld Road’, on which he travelled for four days before his party saw the first evidence of game of any kind. The reserve was in a sorry state and the balance of nature was seriously impaired, especially as regards the larger mammals, and game laws virtually existed on paper only. Giraffe, hippo, buffalo and rhino were extremely rare, elephants occasionally wandered in from Mozambique but did not stay at first, and other species were scarce and very wild.
Arriving at Komatipoort, he was fortunate enough to engage Rupert Atmore, Harry Wolhuter and also several Black assistants before proceeding to Sabi Bridge in November 1902, which was to be his permanent headquarters.
So started his labour of love, involving the patience of Job and careful diplomacy, for he had neither the funds nor the authority to proceed other than exceedingly slowly. Stevenson-Hamilton was given very vague instructions, the only one he remembered clearly was ‘to make himself as unpopular as possible’ amongst the hunters and poachers. One of his first operations was to evict all people other than those required for service in the maintenance of the reserve. For this reason he earned the name ‘Skukuze’, which means: ‘he who sweeps clean‘. This brought him into conflict with various Native Commissioners. He consequently had to rely on persuasion after personal contact, which necessitated many wearisome journeys. Finally he decided to travel to Pretoria and Johannesburg to seek approval and legislation for a set of regulations confirming judicial powers on the Warden of the Reserve. These were ultimately approved and he became Native Commissioner, Customs Official and Justice of the Peace for the territory and appointed rangers to help him in his task.
It was not long before Stevenson-Hamilton realised that the boundaries of the Sabi Game Reserve, defined roughly by the land between the Sabie and Crocodile Rivers, the Lebombo Mountains and the Nsikazi River to the west, were too confined. He decided, on his own initiative, to call on the manager of every land-company owning property north of the Sabie River. A Mr Pott was responsible for effecting the introduction to most of the other managers and advising the modus operandi for approaching each individual, in order to obtain a sympathetic hearing. Eventually these companies agreed to the safeguarding by the Reserve staff of the fauna and flora on their properties in exchange for the collection of rents and taxes and general supervision for a period of five years.
In 1904 the Sabi Game Reserve extended from the Crocodile to the Olifants River and to this was added a new area between the Letaba and the Limpopo called the Shingwedzi Reserve, excluding a strip of ‘foreign’ territory which was proclaimed mining area between the Olifants and the Letaba. The area under control now comprised nearly 14 000 square miles and was guarded by a staff of five White and fifty Black rangers.
The animal population gradually expanded, slowly at first but nevertheless steadily. To encourage this expansion and to assist the balance of nature, the Warden and rangers shot lions, wild dogs and crocodiles. Herds of antelope began to be seen in place of single animals.
During the Great War of 1914-1918 Stevenson-Hamilton left to serve in the Imperial Forces. During his absence a Commission was appointed to investigate the desirability of reducing the areas of the Sabi and Shingwedzi Reserves. For many years there had been agitation by Lowvelders, farmers for the most part, that the Game Reserve was a waste of time; that it occupied marvellous farming land; that it harboured disease for stock such as East Coast Fever, foot-and-mouth, etc. But the Commission, after inspecting in loco, was convinced that the whole area was a sound one and recommended that the Reserve’s status should be raised to that of a National Park.
The years 1921 and 1922 were difficult and dangerous ones for the Reserve. A coal syndicate, backed by political influence, had secured a concession to prospect north of Crocodile Bridge, the Railway Administration was advocating the sale of farms within the Reserve to make the Selati Line pay. Winter grazers (having secured rights in the buffer area of Pretoriuskop) were all for a deeper penetration into the Reserve and farmers just south of the Crocodile River were clamouring for land on the north bank. Various minor newspapers attacked the expenditure of the taxpayers’ money and alleged that the Game Reserve was a harbour for dangerous animals and a focus for disease.
The attitude of the Government began to veer in favour of what appeared to be public opinion and Stevenson-Hamilton became alarmed. In 1923, at a meeting in Pretoria, several Government Departments claimed the land occupied by the Sabi Game Reserve. However, opportunely as it happened, the SA Railways began its ‘Round-in-nine’ service, which included a night stopover at Sabi Bridge. The passengers declared this was the most exciting and interesting episode of the whole tour, and immediately the Game Reserve began to be recognised for the tourist attraction that it was.
After a change in the government in 1924, which for a time had cancelled all his efforts, he finally won the confidence and support of the Minister of Lands in the new government, P J Grabler, a grandnephew of President Kruger. His efforts were crowned with success when, on 31 May 1926, the National Parks Act was adopted unanimously. This added many hectares of land north of the Sabie River to the old Sabi Game Reserve, which was henceforth known as the Kruger· National Park in honour of President S J P Kruger who had done so much for wildlife conservation in South Africa.
Stevenson-Hamilton was always concerned that the Park should never lose its character and become a glorified zoological garden. The old-timers complain that things are not the same, but for most a visit to the Park is a· very rare enjoyment and a pleasure that no South African should miss.
Retirement came in 1946, when he and his wife settled on his farm Gibraltar, adjacent to Longmere Dam, northeast of White River, where he died on 10 December 1957, at the age of 90. He married Miss Hilda Cholmondeley in 1930 and they had three children, Margaret (1931 ), Jamie (1933) and Anne (1935). Margaret died at the age of 4 years. Hilda died 10 January 1979 and their daughter, Mrs Anne Doyle, of England, left their ashes to the wind on 10 April 1979 near Shirimantanga, 12 km south of Skukuza, in their beloved Kruger National Park.
The Kruger National Park is the largest wildlife sanctuary in the Republic of South Africa and one of the largest controlled nature reserves in the world. Situated in Mpumalanga and the Limpopo Province, and bordered on the eastern side by Mozambique. The Park forms a reversed L with an area of 1 900 000 hectares or 19 000 square kilometres.
The first tourists visited the Park in 1923 when the South African Railways began their roundabout through the Eastern and Northern Transvaal (now known as Mpumalanga and Limpopo Province), and named it ‘Round in 9 days’. These train journeys starting at Johannesburg station with stops at all the bigger towns, including Lourenco Marques (Maputo), and ended in Johannesburg 9 days later. The highlight of the tour was the section through the Kruger National Park with a campfire concert at Huhla station, near Skukuza. Vehicles were specially brought in from Nelspruit to take passengers on game drives.
In 1927 only three cars entered the Park and since then the figure has steadily risen to more than
800 000 visitors annually.
Kruger National Park Statistics
Size: 1948528ha Length: 350km Width: 60km
6 Main Rivers – West to East
8 Entrance gates
2 Punda Maria
11 Main camps with food facilities
1 Punda Maria
2 Shingwedzi-Swim Pool
3 Mopani – Swimming Pool
8 Pretoriuskop – Swim Pool
9 Berg en Dal – Swim Pool
10 Lower Sabie
11 Crocodile Bridge
300 types of Trees
50 fish Species
At last census 1992/93
|White Rhino||2 000|
Visitors to the southern section of the Park should take the N4 for Malelane and Crocodile Bridge Gates. For Numbi and Kruger Gates: follow the R40 from Nelspruit to White River, turn right on the R538 and right again with the R569 to Numbi Gate. For Kruger Gate proceed to Hazyview and then with the R536 to Kruger Gate. The road from Belfast via Lydenburg Sabie and Hazyview to Kruger Gate is also an alternative route.
For camps in the central section of the Park, follow any road from the west to Lydenburg or Middleburg via Groblersdal, to Ohrigstad, Abel Erasmus Pass, and Strijdom . Tunnel to Hoedspruit. Take the R40 to Acornhoek for Orpen Gate or the R530 for Phalaborwa Gate. Phalaborwa Gate can also be reached via Polokwane (Pietersburg), Tzaneen, Letsitele and Gravelotte.
Visitors to the northern section of the Park should travel via Louis Trichardt on the R524 to Punda Maria Gate.
Camps in the Kruger National Park:
Berg en Dal.
This camp is situated in the southwestern corner of the Kruger National Park, on the bank of the Matjulu Spruit, with a view over the softly undulating hills to the east. On the northern and southern sides, dry riverbeds and a dam border the camp. There are large trees along the streams and dry riverbeds. Special care has been taken to preserve the natural vegetation in the camp. Amenities available: Accommodation, restaurant, shop, petrol, caravan/camping site, swimming pool, conference facilities, information centre and electricity.
Situated in the southeastern corner of the Kruger National Park, near the bank of the Crocodile River. This camp also serves as an entrance gate into the Park and is only 13 km north of Komatipoort and the National N4 highway. Five kilometres from the camp visitors may leave their vehicles for a short walk to the river to watch the hippo lazing in the pools. Elephant and rhino are often sighted in this vicinity. Amenities: Accommodation, shop, petrol, caravan/camping site, and electricity.
Letaba rest camp
The camp is situated on the southern bank of the Letaba River, 50 km from Phalaborwa Gate. The camp and Caravan Park have beautiful lawns and colossal shady trees. The area is well known for its large apple-leaf, umbrella thorn and mopane trees. Rare animal species, such as eland, Sharpe’s grysbok and roan antelope may be seen. Areas worth visiting include the Engelhard Dam and the Mingerhout Dam. The gravel road to Olifants Rest Camp along the Letaba River provides a beautiful scenic drive on which game is frequently sighted. Amenities: Accommodation, AA Emergency Services, electricity, caravan/camping site, Elephant hall, petrol, restaurant, and shop.
This camp is a popular family destination, with large lawns and shady trees, situated on the bank of a dam in the Sabie River. Amenities: Accommodation, electricity, petrol, restaurant, shop, and caravan/camping site.
Small camping area, 4 km from Orpen Gate, overlooking the Timbavati River. Visitors have to report at the reception office at Orpen. There is no electricity. A communal freezer is available.
This camp is situated 45 km north of Letaba Rest Camp, on the eastern bank of the Pioneer Dam. The nearest entrance gate is Phalaborwa, 74 km away. Amenities: Accommodation, electricity, restaurant and ladies bar, petrol, swimming pool, shop, conference facilities.
This camp overlooks the Olifants River and surroundings and is situated approximately 82 km west of Phalaborwa Gate. Amenities: Accommodation, electricity, petrol, restaurant and shop.
This is a beautiful little camp at the Orpen Gate. A large variety of game may be seen at the water hole just outside the camp. Amenities: Accommodation, petrol and shop.
This is one of the first camps established in the Kruger National Park, situated in the southwestern part of the Park, and 9 km from Numbi Gate. The camp lies on a hill region with many interesting and picturesque rocky outcrops. Amenities: Accommodation, electricity, petrol, restaurant, shop, swimming pool and caravan/camping site.
Named by Ranger J J Coetzer when he arrived from East Africa in 1919. The name is a composition of Punda, from punda malia, meaning a ‘striped donkey’ in Swahili, referring to the first animal (zebra) he saw, and Maria, the name of his wife. This camp lies in the northern most part of the Park, 10 km from Punda Maria Gate, and situated in the sandveld region, which is often described as the botanical garden of the Park. Amenities: Accommodation, electricity, caravan/camping sites, petrol, restaurant and shop.
This was the name of the farm given by the surveyor who had an Indian assistant. It is an incorrect spelling of the Hindi word Satara, meaning ‘seventeen’. This camp lies in the knobthorn veld on the basaltic flats, which offer the best grazing in the Park. Large concentrations of game and lions occur here. The area is known for its spectacular sunsets. Amenities: Accommodation, electricity, caravan/camping sites, AA Emergency Services, petrol, restaurant and ladies bar, shop.
Shingwedzi lies in the northern section of the Park in the centre of Mopane country. There is a scenic game drive along the Shingwedzi River. Amenities: Accommodation, electricity, caravan/camping site, petrol, restaurant, shop and swimming pool.
This is the largest rest camp and also the operational and administrative headquarters of the Park. The camp is situated on the banks of the Sabie River. The Stevenson-Hamilton Memorial Library is open to the public. Amenities: Accommodation, electricity, caravan/camping sites, AA Emergency Services, Information Centre, Reference Library, petrol, restaurant, shop, nursery for indigenous plants. Special services: Medical doctor, Bank, Police Station, Post Office and airport.
Tamboti Tented Camp
This is a tented camp, situated 3 km from Orpen Gate. The camp overlooks the Timbavati River. Reservations can be made at Orpen Gate. Amenities: Accommodation in fully furnished tents.
General information: These small camps satisfy the demand for smaller, more remote camps. There are no shops, restaurants or petrol, but the Bushveld camps are all within easy reach of larger rest camps where these facilities are available. Except for Jakkalsbessie, each camp has its own reception office. Access to a Bushveld camp is restricted to visitors who have reserved accommodation. Electricity is generated by solar panels in these camps. Electrical equipment, such as hair dryers,- cannot be used except at Jakkalsbessie and Bateleur camps. One or more cottages may be reserved in the Bushveld camps.
Situated on the bank of the Sabie River, 7 km north of Skukuza, near the airport. Conference facilities are available. Overnight visitors must report to the reception desk at Skukuza at least half an hour before the gates close.
This small camp lies just west of the road linking Mopani and Shingwedzi. The camp overlooks the dry Mashokwe Creek and a raised platform provides excellent vantage over a water hole. The Rooibosrand Dam and the Silwervis Dam are both less than 10 km from this camp.
Taking its name from the usually dry riverbed that overlooks the camp. Biyamiti is situated in the extreme south of the Park near Crocodile Bridge, 13 km from Komatipoort.
Located between Phalaborwa Gate and Mopani Rest Camp, Shimuwini overlooks the dam in the Letaba River from which it takes its name. This is roan antelope and buffalo country, with herds of elephants and occasionally sable antelope.
With a total of 15 cottages, this camp adjoins the Sirheni dam midway between Shingwedzi and Punda Maria. As is usual with these Bushveld camps, Sirheni has its own access road, leading off the Mphongolo loop road, which is reserved for use only by residents in the camp.
Positioned somewhat south of the road linking Orpen and Satara, this remote camp lies in a transition zone of mixed combretum veld typical of the south-western part of the Park. Easiest access is via Orpen Gate, followed by a leisurely hour-long drive most of which is along a scenic road. As in most other bushveld camps there are only 15 cottages.
There are four private camps in the Park. A private camp is meant for a single group of people who have to reserve and occupy the camp as a whole. There is no resident camp manager. The personnel in the camp are responsible only for cleaning up.
This delightful little camp always evokes exclamations of surprise and admiration from visitors fortunate enough to spend time in this almost forgotten outpost. Well removed from the normal tourist haunts and accessible only by way of a private ‘no-entry’ road, this oasis of luxury stands as a permanent compliment to the designer who put considerable thought into planning the camp. Unfenced, with all the buildings raised on sturdy stilts, the camp lies nestled into the side of a magnificent bouldered hill – hence the name. There are four independent units, each with two beds, shower, bath, toilet, hand basin and veranda. A total of 12 people can therefore use this quaint exclusive camp. People who wish to visit this camp have to check in at Mopani Rest Camp.
Jock of the Bushveld.
This camp can accommodate up to 12 people. It is a ‘theme’ camp, full of atmosphere that starts right at the attractive wagon wheeled gate. The old transport route, linking Lydenburg with Delagoa Bay and along which supplies were transported in ox-wagons, passed very near the camp. This route is known today as Jock of the Bushveld route, made famous by Percy Fitzpatrick in his book Jock of the Bushveld. Accommodation consists of three spacious, self contained family cottages each sleeping four people. Guests have to check in at Berg en Dal Rest Camp.
Situated near the border with Mozambique, Nwanetsi lies on the banks of the lily-clad river after which the camp is named. Nwanetsi is a Xitsonga name and means ‘shiny’, because the river has shiny clean water. The camp itself is small, providing accommodation for a maximum of 16 people. There are six bungalows, each with two or three beds, built-in cupboards, shower, toilet and a hand-basin.
Situated on the banks of the Timbavati River, this attractive private camp lies roughly between Satara and Olifants Rest Camps. Very small, it accommodates a maximum of 19 people and has to be reserved en block. Roodewal falls under the control of Olifants Camp. The grounds contain a fully equipped family cottage with four beds, and three G-type luxury huts with five beds and a shower and toilet. An outside kitchen unit with refrigerator and stove is conveniently situated in the camp.
An educational service is offered in the Park. Trained officials take visitors to parts of the Park, which are usually inaccessible. This service is offered from Skukuza, Berg en Dal and Letaba.
Night drives are offered at certain rest camps. For further details contact SANParks, Pretoria. This service may be booked a year in advance.