Kruger National Park Wilderness Trails: The Complete Guide

African Safari Cape Buffalo Sunset Kruger National Park South Africa

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Situated within the confines of Kruger National Park is a landmass made up of 4.9 million acres of zoned wilderness areas making up a host of wilderness trails, which is almost 50 percent of the surface area of Kruger. The main draw for experiencing the trails is to view the big five in the parks, but there is more than game viewing to see while exploring the trails. The beauty that can be observed while walking the trails ranges from beautiful and diverse plants, trees, and botanical reserves. Use this guide to learn about the seven trails available to explore, including where to stay, key sites to see, and animals you may spot in Kruger National Park.

Bushmans Trail

Located in the southwestern section of Kruger National Park is Bushmans Trail, which comprises private valleys, high rocky bluffs, and spectacular viewing opportunities of big game animals, including elephants and rhinos. Other animals which can be spotted while on the trail include spotted eagle owls and several antelope species such as klipspringer, kudu, and mountain reedbuck. The area also offers a diverse area of plant life and distinctive trees, including a botanical reserve. Due to the high altitude of the location, visitors can expect to see unusual bird sighting encounters of red-throated wryneck and jackal buzzard.

It is a three-night trail that includes two days in between for walking the interesting paths. The wilderness trail typically starts on a Wednesday afternoon through to a Saturday morning or a Sunday afternoon through to a Wednesday morning. Those interested in joining the path usually need to book in advance through the onsite rest camp Berg-en-Dal. The trail ranger usually meets the group at 3:30 p.m. in the designated parking area of the rest camp.

There is only a tiny accommodation offering along this trail which includes four huts, sleeping two people each up to a maximum of eight hikers, so it's suggested to book early if you're a group of this size. Based on need and availability, visitors may have to share the accommodation with participants (male/female) that aren't part of their group booking due to limited accommodation availability. 

Mathikithi Trail

Situated 1,600 feet west of Mathikithi sandstone hill along the banks of N'wanetsi stream is the Mathikithi Trail. It offers an open campfire area, ample lighting for enjoying the site in the evening, and an electrified fence to designate the camp's boundary to animals and visitors. The location additionally offers fantastic views for sundowners as it consists of rocky cliffs for stunning sunsets.

The terrain offers an abundance of chances to get up close to elephants and buffaloes, making it a popular path for game viewing. The wilderness trails start on a Wednesday afternoon to a Saturday morning or a Sunday afternoon to a Wednesday morning. The trail ranger who leads the walks meets the visitors at 3:30 p.m. also at the Satara rest camp in the area of the trail.

A tented campsite is available near the trail area, consisting of four furnished tents, including two single beds that sleep two people each. The camp offers meals specially prepared by a local cook who prepares them on either an open fire or a gas stove. For those interested in special meals such as a vegetarian option, it is suggested to make prior arrangements and inform particular dietary needs. 

Napi Trail 

Napi Trail is positioned on a granitic landscape area between Pretoriuskop and Skukuza rest camps. Mbyamithi and Napi rivers run through the site and offer picturesque walks along the riverbanks with huge trees to cover the area for a bit of shade. Distinctive plants surround the area, such as the summer impala lily, and vegetation consists of broad leave woodlands and tamboti thickets. The Mbiyamithi river is one of the best environments to view thick-billed cuckoo and other unique parasites.

The camp contains four safari tents with en-suite cleansing areas and a large veranda where visitors can view the surrounding bush and the Mbiyamithi river below the tents. Like other tents in the area, there is a maximum availability to sleep eight people sleeping two people in the four tents. The wilderness trails start on a Wednesday afternoon to a Saturday morning or a Sunday afternoon to a Wednesday morning. It is a three-night trail that includes two days in between walking and exploring the trails. 

Nyalaland Trail

Nyalaland is the most remotely located wilderness trail in Kruger National Park, between Punda Maria camp and Pafuri. It offers magnificent views of Lanner and Levhuvhu gorges along the Levhuvhu River. Tourists can marvel at the towering cliffs of the Soutpansberg Mountains, which are the backdrop to the area. Punda Maria Rest Camp is the point where hikers can depart for this trail.

The trail is famed for being the starting point of viewing famous cultural sites in Kruger National Park like Zimbabwe stone culture and San rock art. Also, along the trail, visitors can witness the Levhuvhu gorge, which is home to fossilized remains of two types of dinosaurs. Along the Levhuvhu river, there is also a beautiful walk to the baobab forests and hyena caves.

Additional tourists can expect to see an array of notable species such as nyala, Sharps grysbok, roan antelope, yellow-spotted rock hyrax, eland, elephant shrews, and red rock rabbits.

The area is also one of the best in the country for bird watching and viewing numerous local species such as grey-headed parrots, Verreauxs’ eagle, Pel’s fishing owl, mottled spine tail, and plenty more. 

Olifants Trail 

Located on the banks of the Olifants River, this wilderness trail is popular as it offers access to remote valleys and gorges where the river flows through the Lebombo mountains. It’s an excellent area for viewing game in the wild as it has spans of open plains. Olifants and Letaba Rivers are the main points of interest in the trail experience as these watering holes are home to many hippos and crocodiles.

Another popular reason for hiking this trail is the prime opportunity for bird watching, viewing diverse plant life, and fish eagles. Like other routes, Olifants is accessed through the Letaba Rest Camp and has access to accommodations that consist of four A-frame huts or tents suitable for sleeping two each.  There is also a communal social area (a lapa), with a thatched roof and an open campfire area. A cook is also available to prepare all meals for guests in the camp area. 

Sweni Trail

Situated near Satara Rest Camp is Sweni Trail, popular for the Sweni River, encircled by open flat thorn tree savannahs where large game animals concentrate. The Sweni River is a popular area for spotting anything from lions to white-backed night herons attacking their prey who congregate in the range. The open plains in the area make for excellent opportunities for star gazing at night, as the camp area also offers a covered lapa which is an ideal area for spotting game during the day or the stars at night.

Like other trails in the park, Sweni is a three-night trail that allows for two days to walk the path. It also begins on Wednesday afternoon to Saturday morning or from a Sunday afternoon through to Wednesday morning. The four units of tents, which sleep two people each, also come equipped with all linens and towels, flush toilets in the bathroom areas, and a small fridge is also available. 

Wolhuter Trail 

Wolhuter Trail is the oldest trail in the park. It is found in Berg-en-Dal Rest Camp and the Afsaal picnic site. Those trekking this trail can enjoy views of tall granite boulders and deep valleys on the horizon. Some of the main points of interest along the Wolhuter trail are the relics such as evidence of Bushmen and remnants from the stone and ice ages.

Plenty of white and black rhinos are also traced back to the area. Additional animals sighted in the area include buffalo, elephants, zebras, giraffe, waterbuck, blue wildebeest, kudu, warthog, and reedbuck. Other points of interest for tourists exploring the trail to take in are the bird migrations that occur during the summer months and the botanical reserve situated in the area.