As you pass north of the Tropic of Capricorn across the Olifants river, the scenery changes to fairly uniform mopane veld. But go further, across the Luvhuvu river, and you enter one of the best parts of the Kruger, a real hidden treat. Few people venture this far away from the metropolis, and you will have large chunks of this quite secret paradise to yourself, particularly in the dry winter months.
You have Mashatu and the Tuli Block in Botswana and Zimbabwe next door to travel in to if you wish to extend your trip. And there is a 4×4 route from here into Mozambique and the Great Limpopo Park through the Pafuri border.
Hard work to get to, but outstanding when you get to it, we strongly recommend this northern section of the park to second or third time visitors, with walkers and birders particularly rewarded. We have some exceptional Guides here, and some unique access to the area.
The highlight of the north is the Makuleke Contractual Park, a sub-tropical Paradise and an entirely different ecosystem. Characterised by remarkable groves of baobab trees, fever tree forests and beautiful springs, this area has the best birdlife in South Africa.
Hard work to get to, but outstanding when there, we strongly recommend the far north to seasoned visitors, with walkers and birders particularly rewarded. We have some exceptional guides here and unique access to the area.
It supports the Big Five and has massive seasonal herds of buffalo and elephant in search of water.
Herds of eland, the largest of the antelope, roam the fever tree forest. Your best chance of sightings of the highly endangered sable and roan antelope in the wild are probably here.
The 19th Century novelist and traveller Rudyard Kipling’s “great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River” defines the border between three countries at Crooks Corner, where there is an abundance of crocodile and hippo in modern days.
This is real wilderness. Nevertheless, there is at least one scheduled flight every day; charters are possible too.
There is the least infrastructure in the Kruger, but what there is is extremely well maintained. There are few tar roads. There are some old military and rangers tracks used by the private lodges which give unique access to places like the Lanner Gorge. Here is a place where you will want to get off the vehicle and walk for miles, looked after by your guides.
There are some real cultural gems. Bushman rock paintings adorn the walls of large numbers of ancient caves – you will need to book a Wilderness Trail or walk with our Guides. The remains of the once-formidable Kingdom of Thulamela are so far off the beaten track that they were only rediscovered by a Ranger in the 1970s. No-one knows why this trading dynasty came to its knees in the seventeenth century. A visit is possible by arrangement with our guides or through Punda Maria restcamp. Mapunguwbe, close to the northern Kruger boundaries, is also accessible from here, the remains of a related ancient trading civilisation and now also a National Park in its own right. More recently, Crooks Corner at the junction of three countries was a no man’s jurisdiction for escaping vagabonds.
There are two excellent private lodge groups in this area, who operate in close co-operation with the Makuleke community, the latter having been removed from the land in the 1970s. We recommend them both and interview them on our Makuleke page.
North of the Tropic of Capricorn lie Kruger’s quietest government restcamps. They are some of the oldest – Punda Maria and Shingwedzi date back to the 1930s and retain their elegant style and unhurried feel.