KRUGER NATIONAL PARK is arguably the emblem of South African tourism, the place that delivers best what most visitors to Africa want to see – scores of elephants, lions and a cast of thousands of other game roaming the savanna. A narrow strip of land hugging the Mozambique border, Kruger stretches across Limpopo Province and Mpumalanga, an astonishing 414-kilometre drive from Pafuri Gate in the north to Malelane Gate in the south, all of it along tar, with many well-kept gravel roads looping off to provide routes for game drives.
Kruger comes pretty close to fulfilling Out of Africa fantasies in the private game reserves on its western flank – where you get luxury accommodation and food, but, more importantly (especially if this is your first safari), qualified rangers to show you the game and the bush with only a tiny group of other guests. The ideal is to do a bit of each, perhaps spending a couple of nights in a private lodge and a further two or so exploring the public section. But whatever you choose, be sure to relax and don't get too obsessed with seeing the Big Five. Remember that wildlife doesn't imitate TV documentaries: you're most unlikely to see lion-kills (you may not see a lion at all), or huge herds of wildebeest migrating across dusty savanna. The element of luck involved is exactly what makes game spotting so addictive.
Walking in the wild is growing in popularity, so much so that in the Kruger Park all of the private reserves and some private operators offer escorted game walks. Note that Kruger National Park is malarial.