History of Kruger

The history and establishment of the Kruger National Park

With the proclamation and establishment of the Sabie and Shingwedzi Reserves  (March 1898) during the early 20th century, the concept of nature conservation had taken hold and the renaissance of land and wildlife protection was in full swing.

After the establishment of the National Parks Board and the proclamation of the Kruger National Park in 1926, the board had their first meeting on the 16th September 1926 to determine a way forward for the Park.

If we look back at the reasons behind the establishment, it was for the preservation of wildlife from hunting but also for the intention of preservation for future hunting. The local native tribes hunted for food, the Afrikaner hunted for food and a income and the colonialist generally hunted for sport. The reality was both Afrikaner Republican and British colonial administration recognized the combined decimation of wildlife, and so jointly they realized something need to be done. The Sabie Reserve was proclaimed by the Afrikaner under the South African Republic in 1898 but this all fell away after the British had one the Anglo-Boer War in 1902 when the Treaty of Vereeniging was signed and the Transvaal Republics fell away and Imperialism settled in.  This move unified the common goal of nature conservation and so the Sabie Reserve and Shingwedzi Reserve where consolidated to for the Kruger National Park.

Baby Elephant Kruger Park Safaria

With the Sabie Reserve already proclaimed in 1902 it was necessary to find the right man to preside over the land and ensure the protection and establishment of the wilderness. On 1 July 1902 Sir Godfrey Langdon who was the Native Commissioner of Lydenburg appointed Major James Stevenson-Hamilton to the role of Warden of the Sabie Reserve at a salary of £500 per year and a additional annual allowance of £180. When asked for instructions by Sir Langden on how to perform his task he was merely told to “go down there and make yourself thoroughly disagreeable with everyone!”. Stevenson-Hamilton was short in stature but vigorous and unrelenting in nature. He once told his close friend Strat Coldecott, that he enjoyed the opposition and challenges and if anything it forced him to take even more effective action in the service of conservation.  For Stevenson-Hamilton what started as an adventure away from his regiment of Scottish Dragoons, turned into a career that spanned 44 years as Warden of the Kruger National Park.  As a result of his chosen career he remained a bachelor until his sixties when he met a much younger Hilda Cholmondely in England and they returned to South Africa and the Kruger National Park so he could resume his duties.  On the 3 August 1930 they married and she moved in with him to Skukuza and they lived there until he retired in 1947 and they moved to Gibraltar Farm in White River adjacent to the Park.

The establishment of the Sabie Game Reserve and the decrees to which the wildlife was to be protected received a lot of public opinion and of course created tremendous attention. Between 1902 and 1910 there were a considerable number of changes to the hunting and conservation laws which changed almost annually.

A few of these ordinances where :

  • Ordinance 29 which revoked all prior adopted rules and replaced old ones with new ones.
  • Ordinance 30 gave the administration the right to promulgate game reserves that had been left out prior.
  • Ordinance 46 in 1904 created further restrictions on hunting , forbid fishing over the winter months but formalized trout fishing.
  • Ordinance 6 of 1905 extended prior legislation on game and hunting and make concessions for those who where dependent on it for survival.

 

In 1907 3 new rules where adopted with regards to hunting.  Act 13 prevented the sale of biltong (jerkey), Act 23 restricted the keeping of wild hunting dogs and Act 30 prohibited the keeping and exporting of ostrich eggs. Lastly Act 11 gave the government greater scope in establishing a diverse list of species that required protection and management.

With the land secured and the ordinances set in place, James Stevenson-Hamilton realized that he need assistance as the area was to large for him to manage from Sabie Bridge Camp (Skukuza) and so he set out to appoint the first Game Rangers of the Kruger National Park. At the end of 1902 Stevenson-Hamilton appointed Gaza Gray, Rupert Atmore and Harry Wolhuter as the first rangers with CR de Laporte, Tom Duke and AA Fraser shortly thereafter. All of these men had been former members of the British forces during the Anglo Boer War. Once he had enlisted the necessary man power to assist him, Stevenson Hamilton the proposed a few months after, that the boundaries of the Sabie Reserve to the north be extended as the area was already considered “useless land”. In August 1903 he gained control over the area between the Sabie River and the Olifant’s River, this was a great accomplishment and ensured further protection of wildlife.

In May 1903 the Shingwedzi Reserve was proclaimed. This reserve occupied the area between the Luvuvhu and Limpopo rivers in the north that boundaries Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and the Letaba river in the south. Initially one of the many petitioners of this reserve, LH Ledeboer was then appointed by Stevenson-Hamilton as a Ranger and based just along the Letaba river just north of todays camp.

The land that lay between these two reserves was still privately owned but Stevenson-Hamilton struck a deal with them to manage the game and protect it , which was well received and the land owners even committed to stop hunting excessively and also focus on rather conserving. Thus success of this negation meant that roughly 2 million hectares where now under Stevenson-Hamilton’s control and started to outline his greater vision for this region. Admittedly there had been a few tribes of local Africans that resided in these areas of which Stevenson-Hamilton and negotiated to resettle outside of the boundaries but in some cases he allowed a few tribes to remain so long they did not posses guns or hunting dogs. He then used these people as informants inside the reserve to send updates on any illegal hunting or poaching activity. With time he then recruited many of these individuals as field rangers and staff. Once employed these staff where charged a tax and then later in 1905 it was also determined that local Africans living on state land be charged a squatters tax which was then used in the establishment of the parks infrastructure and roads. Its believed that all the roads that where built had been done so by convicts remunerated through these taxes. What also followed was a hunting tax for the rights to hunt in this land although this only became relevant from 1910 when the game numbers slowly started to increase again.

Although there where no real “reliable” games census  conducted in these early years Stevenson-Hamilton noted a steady yet slow increase in game numbers. The objectives of establishing a protected Park were slowly realizing themselves and this contributed positively to the Parks direction and of course Stevenson-Hamilton’s abilities. Whilst his appointment as Warden in 1902 was only intended for 2 years, by 1910 he was starting to realize a greater vision in the Sabie & Shingwedzi Reserves and this enjoyed the support of the commission. A significant directional shift was inspired in 1905 with a trip to Yellowstone National Park in the United States. Up until this point the two new Reserves where being partially funded by the commission as well as land and occupancy taxes but the reality was this would last forever and Stevenson-Hamilton’s vision was far greater than just a protected peace of wilderness. It needed vision and resources for it to unfold into todays famous Kruger National Park.  The period between 1910 and 1915 were however very challenging years. The Unification of state lead to a new drive and the Transvaal Provincial Council saw greater prospects for the Reserves land mass and as a result of a growing economic plan, land was seen as an opportunity to make money and conservation and land protection was regarded as less of a priority. At this time the Legislators where even looking at the old archaic ordinances that created it.

In 1913 the first motion to the Provincial Council for the nationalization of the reserves was put forward by TJ Kleinenberg of Soutpansberg district. There wasn’t much interest and the discussion was carried over and eventually struck from the agenda.

 This continued for some time until the Provincial Council, after having been requested to make the Sabie Reserve smaller for economic reasons, appointed JF Ludorf to investigate just how much land was needed and report back. Interestingly though in 1914 additional land was added, some 250,000 hectares, between the Letaba and Olifant’s rivers creating a far greater area that was in near touching distance now of the Sabie Reserve. At the end of 1914 World War 1 broke out and Stevenson-Hamilton enlisted back into the Imperial armed forces leaving CR de Laporte and then Major AA Fraser in charge of the Reserves. Finally after his involvement in the Sudan War he returned to his beloved Reserve in 1920 finding it very neglected and in ruin. The War had created a general economic turmoil, staff reductions had ensued and poaching, mining and agriculture had all entered the Reserve.  In 1923 after much agitation by local farmers and mining companies, Stevenson-Hamilton was summonsed to the office Land Administration to discuss the future existence of the Reserve – things were in peril. Having thought all was lost Stevenson-Hamilton wasn’t optimistic about the outcome but is passion directed Somervilles recommendations to set up a meeting with the Minister of Lands, Colonel Deneys Reitz. In August of 1923 Minster Reitz visited the Reserves on Stevenson-Hamilton’s invitation and very soon realized the enormous potential of wildlife tourism for the Transvaal and the Union. Further to his first visit, Minster Reitz then undertook a deeper investigation with members of the Provincial Council and by the time that they had concluded their visit, they all saw the economic viability of National Park that both contributed financially and also served to protect a national asset. There was finally traction and there seemed to support and agreement but before the idea of a National Park could be presented before Provincial Council, there was a change in Government with an election in 1924 where Barry Hertzog and the National Party came into power. The good news for Stevenson-Hamilton was that the National Party was in favour of conservation but passing a new act would take time as a new Government needed to establish its legislative position.

Whilst Government was establishing itself the South African Railway had established a new railway route and tourism initiative through the Eastern Transvaal called the “Round in 9” which had included the Sabie Game Reserve into its itinerary. This inclusion brought about great attention from travellers and was immediately a hit. The route used the Selati Rail and stopped just north of Sabie Bridge (Skukuza) at a site called Huhla and shared with guests the exceptional beauty of the Park whilst enjoy and evening around a campfire listening to Lions and Nightjars. This exposure to the Sabie Reserve would bode well for Stevenson-Hamilton as it established the first media and PR program putting the reserve front and center in the public space and right in front of potential guests and travellers.

Numbi Gate Kruger Park Safaria

As soon as the National Party had entrenched itself in 1925, Oswald Pirow then Minister of Defense, and great advocate for nature and conservation help Stevenson-Hamilton by calling a meeting with the new Minister of Land Piet Grobler who was also the grandnephew of President Paul Kruger. 

Stevenson-Hamilton was finally in the right company and Mister Grobler assured him that we would do his absolute best for the land and country. IN a last effort to derail Stevenson-Hamilton’s momentum, farmers, corporations and mining company all tried in a last effort to stop the positive sentiments and direction of a possible National Parks act however nature conservationists and supporters through their weight behind the initiative and a possible victory for Stevenson-Hamilton was in sight.

With the notion of a National Parks act and the protection of one of the most beautiful areas of the country, many prominent artists, writers and photographers supported Stevenson-Hamilton and the notion by flooding the newspapers and headlines with wonder-filled images and sentiments of this exceptional piece of wilderness. Well-known photographers such as Colonel FRG Hoare, Herbert Lang and Paul Selby along with artists and writer Charles Astley-Maberly provided wonderful images and columns as well as Harry Caldecott who ensured regular articles being published promoting the Reserve and tourism. ON the 14th December 1925 “Die Burger” newspaper officially proposed that the new name for the park be called The Kruger National Park and this got strong support by readers and members of Government.

On the 9th December 1925, Minister Piet Grobler met with big land owning companies and opponents of the reserve and their proxy and chairperson, a Mr P Greathead. The discussion was diplomatic and whilst there was an attempt at steering the state in another direction Minister Grobler calmly indicated that if there was no cooperation, land would be expropriated without compensation. The companies conceded and 100,000 hectares of land was then added to both the Shingwedzi and Sabi Reserves finally bringing them together and creating a complete Reserve of 1,900million hectares.

Finally all the pieces where in place and a draft National Parks bill was drawn up by the states legal advisor Mr Arnold Schoch.  The big day finally arrived on the 31st May 1926 where the Minster of Land, Mr Piet Grobler tabled the National Parks Bill (Act 56 of 1926) in Parliament.  To a loud applause the Act was held up and acknowledged and accepted by the house and the opposition head General Jan Smuts. The Park was to be named the Kruger National Park and after finally being confirmed by the senate on June of 1926, it made headlines and the next journey of development for Stevenson-Hamilton began.

FAQ's

Planning a trip to the Kruger National Park can be a bit daunting if you doing it yourself but with the way travel Is changing and travellers wanting to plan their own trips, it can be simple and easy as long as you pick the right travel partners. 

 We are a boutique, family owned, Private Kruger Park Safari operator that takes what we do very seriously. Regarded as the “Harbingers” of Kruger Safaris we have changed the standards and raised the bar without raising the rates. For our client’s best interests we hold all the necessary certifications, insurances and affiliations to ensure transparency, commitment and intention. We don’t do offer the sausage machine approach but rather a personalised Private Kruger Safari experience that’s trusted and regarded as the premium Privately Guided Kruger Park Safari.

 So welcome to Safaria. We have personalised hundreds of Day and Overnight Kruger Park Safaris for our clients through personal experience have put together a few Frequently Asked Questions to help you better understand the destination. If you find there is something missing get in touch with us at [email protected] and we’ll gladly help you with planning your Kruger Park Safari.

One of the most commonly asked questions is what time of year is the best time to visit the Kruger National Park. Of course anytime is the right time and that’s because our climate is temperate all year round and the reality is that because its not a zoo you can never guarantee any sightings…BUT.

Whilst you cant predict what the game is going to do, you can give yourself the best odds by being in the know of what the seasons do. Summer (October to April) is very hot with regular thunderstorms and as a result the bush is beautifully green and thick. This of course makes game viewing very difficult but on the other hand the conditions are wonderful and the savanna is bursting with life. There are regular sightings of most general game from antelopes to Elephants but Lion, Leopard and Cheetah are more challenging, as the grass is high. That said it’s an amazing season to experience with over 500 birds, all the flora in full bloom and the insects fill the airwaves. 

Winter (May to August) is more bland in its color and the savanna is far less vibrant but the low rainfall and high visibility make for great game viewing as the animals are drawn to what water is available. This of course means the predators are in close pursuit and with vegetation you have a far better opportunity of seeing them.

The truth is that the more time you spend on Safari the better your chances are of seeing the Big 5. All our Safaris are Privately Guided aboard luxurious Open Safari Vehicles and our hand picked Guides will do their absolute best to get all the sightings your heart desires. That’s said, a Day Safari in Kruger wont offer you the kind of sightings a 2, 3, 4 or 5 Day Kruger National Park Safari will.

On a Day Safari in Kruger we recommend the Full Day Safari or Sunrise Safari and to be honest the chances are still pretty good that you will see 3 of the Big 5 but nothing will compare with spending 3 or 4 nights in the Kruger. Kruger National Park is so much more than just a place to view wildlife. The real Kruger experience lies in the destination itself. It offers guests the opportunity to explore a timeless savanna that has been protected for over 100 years. It’s the diversity of Eco-zones, the sheer magnitude of fauna and flora, the incredible views and look out and calm tranquility of its many wonderful camps.

So if you had to ask us we would suggest that you set at least 4 nights aside so that you could truly experience the vast wonderful of the beautiful destination.

The Kruger National Park offers guests a wide variety of accommodation options from a simple Safari Tent to a Bungalow, Family Cottage or the large Guest Houses. All of the accommodation provided for by Kruger is based on a self-catering basis and is considered 3 star. What Kruger lacks in stars though it makes up for in ambience and experience and there is no other nature reserve in Africa that will offer you the same level of infrastructure at such affordable rates.

Kruger National Park has 12 Main Camps spread across the length and breadth of its 20,000 square kilometers. Each one of these camps offers the traveller a well stocked Shop which offers a variety of groceries as well as basic household items and curio.

Apart from the Parks own accommodation, there are 7 privately owned concessions in the Park that offer guests a 5 star experience but at an increased overnight rate from $500pppn sharing upwards to $2800pppn sharing.

 From experience we have our own preferences to which camps we use base don location, landscape, game viewing and access to amenities such as shops, curio and restaurants.

All of our overnight Safaris are personalised and whilst we have a basic outline for each safari, we can tailor make according to your preference.

 Within the Parks 12 Main Camps, which are spread out across the length of the Park, each camp has accommodation that ranges from a basic Safari tent with on-suite bathroom to a Bungalow which can sleep 2 or 3 guests to family cottages that sleep 4 to 6 and then the Guest Houses which can sleep 6+ guests. The type of accommodation that we select for our clients will be based on the size of the group and each one offers a fully serviced unit with bed linen and towelling daily.

 Our preference is to units with an on-suite bathroom, kitchenette, ceiling fan and air-conditioning. All bungalows have power and guests can charge devices. Also all of the main camps in Kruger have a shop which offer a wide variety of food, beverage and personal supplies. For the guests who prefers a quitter setting there are 5 Bushveld Camps in the Kruger Park that are spread out in the more remote regions of the Park. These are smaller camps that offer greater exclusivity with usually less than 20 cottages and the focus is on a more intimate Kruger Park experience. These bushveld camps also have the same Bungalows and Cottages as the larger camps but due to their size feel more private. They don not however have a shop or restaurant but are within an hour of most main camps.

 New to the Kruger National Park is the Skukuza Lodge, which is based at Skukuza Camp. This is a 4 star hotel based inside Skukuza camp that offers all the regular amenities of your typical hotel. It is however smaller and more intimate and situated in such a way that you feel apart of the bush and not a busy hotel.  A further addition is the new and unique Kruger Shalati Train Hotel which is a luxury 5 Star Train hotel with fixed cabins positioned on the old Shalati Bridge overlooking the Sabie River.  This is a very unique and beautiful destination that is well worth the experience.

 All of the 12 Main Camps in the Kruger National Park have a main sit down restaurant as well as take-away and a Park shop that has a wide variety of food and beverage as well as self-catering groceries which you can take back to your bungalow and prepare. There are also two outpost kitchens in the southern Region named Tshokwane and Afsaal, which offer a bush kitchen menu with local South African breakfast favorites.

 All of the Main Camps restaurants have a menu which caters for breakfast, lunch and dinner and also provide a vegetarian option. The Park unfortunately does not cater for a Halaal option so this you would need to provide for yourself.

 On our overnight Safari we include 2 meals a day as part of the itinerary with a 3rd meal being lunch as optional. We have found from experience that a morning coffee stop with biscotti and rusks (local dipping biscuit) along with a brunch stop around 10h00 and then dinner from 18h30 is usually the preferred option for guests exploring Kruger.

On our Day Safari is Kruger we will stop around 08h30 to 09h00 for breakfast and then 13h30 for lunch at one of the Camps or Outposts. Guests should budget on around R140pp for a full breakfast and cappuccino.  

 For guests who have booked a Day Safari they are most welcome to bring their own cooler box with food to picnic but no alcohol hos allowed to be brought in. For Overnight Safari Clients we can prepare a personal self-catered menu which we will prepare for you in Camp and you are allowed to bring alcohol in as well as purchase form the Shops inside the Park.

 This is very personal and would of course depend on what you have. We believe that any picture is better than no picture so what ever your level of photography make sure you bring what you have. Nowadays the photographic ability of most smart phones is exceptional and provides great landscapes, fairly good zoom images but is great for social media and telling your story as it happens.

We use a standard DSLR camera with two different lenses – 18mm to 55mm and a 70mm to 300mm. For optimal wildlife photography we would suggest a 100mm to 400mm lenses as this will provide great close up images as well as good landscape.

The most important reminder is to bring all the necessary charging equipment as you will be able to charge in your bungalows. We do also have USB ports on our Safari vehicle to charge phones and battery banks. 

The most important thing to remember about Safari is that its not about instant gratification. Safari is a journey through the wilderness and about connecting with nature and letting it evoke the senses. There are never any guarantees on what you will see and its important to remember that the Kruger National Park  is not a Zoo. It’s a completely free and organic experience that is as unique to you as your own fingerprint. Nobody will have the same experience as you will.

That said the beauty of Kruger is its bio-diversity with incredible landscapes and diversity of flora and fauna. The Kruger National Park has 151 mammals, roughly 520 bird species, over 2,400 species of flora of which 263 are grasses alone. There are few places in Africa with such diversity and population sizes like Kruger.

On a Day Safari time is of course the limitation. The more time you spend in the bush the more will of course encounter but that doesn’t mean that you wont see any animals. On a Sunrise or Full Day Safari we will typically encounter a variety of antelope species that include Impala, Steenbok, Kudu, Waterbuck and then larger species such as Blue Wildebeest, Zebra, Giraffe, Buffalo, Hippo and Elephant. These are all fairly common with the following population sizes : 

Impala                    150 000

Kudu                       10 000

Blue Wildebeest     15 000

Giraffe                    12 000

Warthog                   3 500

Hippo                       4 000

Zebra                      40 000

Buffalo                    42 000

Elephant                 21 000

Leopard                    2 500

Lion                          2 000

Spotted Hyena        7 000

The Kruger National Parks Rare mammal species include the following :

Cheetah                               420

Wild Dog                             400

Eland                                   250

Reedbuck                            300

Nyala                                   400

Roan                                      80

Sable                                   500

Lichtenstein Hartebeest        80

Tsessebe                              300

One of the most common questions is of course around the taking of Malaria prophylaxis. We do recommend that every guest consult their Doctor prior to travelling to Kruger. For more insights please refer to our BLOG on Malaria for greater insights and recommendations. https://www.safaria.co.za/malaria-in-the-kruger-national-park/

Lets first start by saying YES it is safe!

There are so many videos across social media that create fear and anxiety but its not the norm and we have a clear history of safe safaris and we intend to keep it that way.

The simple truth is that even on a Open Safari Vehicle the wildlife does not recognize us and our human profile or scent because be are camouflaged by the vehicle and its mechanical scent. The purpose of a Open Safari Vehicle is not to showcase you as bait but to rather expose you and provide a deeper sense of connection with the environment whilst safely positioned on the vehicle. Your Safaria guide is an expert and has hundreds of hours of experience and will manage and control each situation and encounter. The goal is to expose you to the wildlife and interesting encounters and experiences without disrupting the wildlife and appreciating it for a safe and ethical distance.

It’s a safe, wonderful, free and liberating experience that will reconnect you with the surroundings from a safe environment. Apart from a walking Safari there is no better way to experience the African savanna and your will simply not have the same experience from a car or van.