History of the Kruger National Park

Kruger National Park | August 2019

The Kruger National Park and its surrounds have been iconic in terms of preserving natural history, fauna, flora and developing what we now know as a thriving tourism industry. To understand how it came about we need to look at the area between the Sabie and Crocodile Rivers, which was set aside for restricted hunting in 1884. The President of the Transvaal, Paul Kruger, then proclaimed this area as a ‘wildlife reserve’ in the year 1898, and in 1902 appointed legendary and first warden, Col James Stevenson Hamilton, of what was known as “The Sabi Game Reserve”. The Sabi Game Reserve grew as it merged with “The Shingwedzi Game Reserve” which was proclaimed further north (what is now Limpopo Province) and under the new National Parks Act in 1927 these two massive expanses of un-tamed Africa became known as the Kruger National Park.

Historically there have been people moving sporadically throughout the region, dating as far back as 500 000 years for Homo Erectus, and San artefacts that have been uncovered have dated back from 100 000 years to a mere 10 000. As far as recent history is concerned, an ancient civilisation, The Tulamela Citidel sprang up in 1250 AD and lasted until around 1700 AD. The site shows stone walls and a whole host of unrecorded history, such as glass beads that would have derived from trade with the Arabs, as well as porcelain from China. It indicates an advanced civilisation who were even able to derive iron ore, without any European influence. The reason behind the fall of the empire is unknown, whether it be climatic, the death of a ruler, or tribal war over land and resources. What an incredibly mysterious gap in South African history!

Historically the Nguni and even European settlers struggled with permanency in the Lowveld/Kruger area, due to the infestation of tsetse flies carrying sleeping sickness/nagana as well as the high occurrence of malaria in the region, affecting humans and cattle alike.

Tourism started via railway in 1923, which stopped at the then Sabie Bridge (now Skukuza) and after the National Railways approached the Board highlighting the lack of accommodation, the first three rest camps were built, namely; Skukuza, Pretoriuskop and Satara. Over the next 20 years road networks and facilities developed and expanded north, and the number of visitors and the Park’s reputation grew. The thought process and management style of the park has changed substantially over the years, from shooting lions in order to control plains game populations, to banning culling of elephant in 1994, all have been done with the best intentions and have evolved according to ongoing environmental and scientific surveillance.
Ref: David Hilton-Barber

This enormous tract of land covers over 19 600km2 (2 200 000ha) and boasts over 753 species of animal and 1 982 tree species. Even a bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas) was recorded in the north of the Park in the 1950’s, despite being well over 300kms from the Indian Ocean.

The Kruger truly is one of the last true wild places on the continent, where horizons have remained unchanged throughout time, and animals still walk the paths their ancient ancestors have throughout the eons. We are truly privileged to be custodians of a magnificent tract of land, and live the way we do here.