The Central Kruger is the most varied region in the Park and its surroundings. The Blyde Canyon is to the west: spectacular to see, it is the third deepest Canyon in the world. The waters from the Drakensberg mountains, through which it carves, flow down towards the Kruger, meeting the mighty Olifants River before entering the Park. There they swallow up the similarly large Letaba river in the Park, and flow down to meet the sea at Xai Xai on the Indian Ocean coast. These rich perennial rivers sustain a multiplicity of wildlife.
The Central Kruger stretching south from Giriyondo to the N'wanitsisonto river is characterised by scrubby plains across which all of the charismatic megafauna roam. The area of open Savannah around Satara is particularly good for cat sightings, with lions often seen.
Your best chances of wild dog sightings are probably in this Central area, in the Private Reserves to the west which are unfenced with the Kruger to form the Greater Kruger. These include Timbavati, Manyeleti ("Place of the Stars"), Klaserie, and Balule. There is some excellent walking to be had in these.
The Central Kruger has five decent Private Concession Lodges within the Park itself, notably Singita Kruger with its two Lodges, Lebombo and Sweni where the perennial N'wanetsi River guarantees exceptional game viewing.
There are also extremely large tracts of wilderness that are adjacent to the Kruger but currently maintain fences, and can offer value with more managed sightings as a consequence. They share the same ecosystem and are populated largely with the same types of game. The main ones are Thornybush and Kapama which are adjacent to each other.
There are four Government Restcamps here including the spectacularly-located Olifants from which you enjoy the vista in the header of this page. This particular Restcamp has pioneered a number of activities such as mountain biking and astronomy which remain unique in the public Park. In addition there are five satellite camps around the Restcamps aimed at those who want a more "wild" experience and are happy to look after themselves. This compares to only one in the south and four in the north.
If you are driving through the Phalaborwa Gate, there is a very good establishing view at the Albasini Ruins. Resist the urge to drive past because you have just got into the Park. Like most SANParks getting-out-points it is great to be able to stretch your legs but here they get good exercise as you climb up the last of the large Phalaborwa koppies for a stunning vista over the plains, with the bonus of some stone age kiln ruins to explore. It is also an ideal leopard spot so there is a permanent armed Guide stationed here unlike most other get-out places.
Parque Nacional do Limpopo is to the east of the Kruger providing a single conservation area extending into Mozambique and forming the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park. It is possible to cross the border between the two countries within the Kruger at Giriyondo. A 4x4 vehicle is required with the necessary papers for export; once over, there are four Restcamps and some walking on offer on the way to the beach.
Outside the Park to the west in South Africa the major tourist drawcard is the Blyde River Canyon, which we cover in detail, but standout activities are traversing the Panorama Route to take in its wonderful viewpoints - the Three Rondavels, God's Window, Wonder View and at the Pinnacle. Bourkes' Luck Potholes are well worth a stop, as is the historic gold rush town of Pilgrims Rest, and Graskop where you make the transition into our South Kruger region.
Underneath these magnificent views in the base of the Canyon, rafting (seasonal), boating and canoeing are on offer and there is an excellent adventure centre with a wide range of activities at Swadini. Excellent hot air ballooning takes place in the area, over Big Five Reserves when the wind conditions permit. Microlighting over the Canyon provides an amazing perspective, and fixed wing and gyrocopter flights can be organised.
Close by you will find the excellent Khamai Reptile Park and a range of wildlife-related activities including the Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre. It is possible to volunteer for extended periods here, at the lion conservation project, LEO, in the Selati Private Game Reserve, as well as a number of other ecotourism projects. Also conservation-focused and with a good visitor centre is the Hoedspruit Endangered Breeding Centre with a strong reputation for its work with cheetah including the king genetic variant.
The most tourist-focused of the local towns is undoubtably Hoedspruit ("hat creek"). This is where many of the industry's professionals return to when not in the bush and has a surprising number of treats in store for a small bush town, including some very good food and excellent opportunities to provision yourself for your trip. There are currently two flights a day from Johannesburg and two weekly direct from Cape Town which avoid mucking around at ORT International to meet the former on your way.
More industrially diversified is the town of Phalaborwa, supporting a major open-cast copper mine. It is well-connected for Johannesburg flights - up to five a day and not all at hours designed for the main arrivals and departures at Lodges as at Hoedspruit. It can be a very convenient arrival point to the Park, particularly as the Gate is in sight of the local Spar convenience store.
The regional capital of the province, Limpopo, is Tzaneen. Tzaneen is at a higher altitude to the Park, and from here you can drive up through the coffee and tea plantations of Magoebaskloof, past Modjadji, home of the fabled Rain Queen and unique endangered cycads, into the rainforests.