For most of us, a trip to the Kruger National Park involves hours and hours of driving. But there’s nothing quite like exploring the park on foot.

As slow travel becomes more popular, many visitors to the Kruger National Park are keen to discover the ample pleasures of park walks. For some, it’s a relaxed stroll along a camp’s perimeter at dusk, others wake up at the crack of dawn for a couple of hours of guided tracking, while a multi-day experience on foot is the memory of a lifetime for some.

Over the years, SANParks has developed a comprehensive range of walking options, complemented by some private concessions. Now, a new book by Hlengiwe Magagula, contributor to Wild magazine, details the many ways to enjoy a diverse variety of walking experiences.

Wild asked Hlengiwe to share some little-known facts about Kruger walks.

Staying outside the park? You can still do a dawn walk.

Sometimes, by choice or necessity, you may stay at one of the many lodges adjacent to Kruger’s gates. This doesn’t mean you need to miss out on the chance of a dawn walk. All of the park’s gates offer walks subject to minimum booking numbers. You won’t find these online – phone the specific gate to make a reservation, or let your lodge do that for you.

Walks start at 04:30 in summer, 05:30 in winter, last about three hours and cost R621 per person. You don’t need to pay daily conservation fees if you only enter for a gate walk. You must be over 12 years old and should wear earth-coloured clothing. Water and a snack are provided.

Walking from off-the-grid camps

Kruger’s best kept secret is a couple of really special multi-day walking opportunities you won’t find on the SANParks website. That’s because they’re run by the SANParks Honorary Rangers as part of their many fundraising initiatives. Sand River Bush Camp (near Skukuza) and Nyarhi Rustic Camp (near Mopani) can be reserved by groups of up to eight hikers. Honorary Rangers do the guiding, cooking and storytelling. Send an email to [email protected] for more information.

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Honorary Ranger Francois van der Merwe shares some interesting facts about hippo teeth.

Deep in the park, a walk accessible to day visitors

As they leave very early or late in the day, the walks from Kruger camps are generally restricted to visitors with an overnight booking. There is one exception though. The River Walk at Olifants Rest Camp is timed in such a way that day visitors can share in the excitement. It departs at 09:30 and explores the rich habitat along the banks of the Olifants River. Make your way through the Phalaborwa Gate as soon as it opens, and don’t delay too much en route to Olifants Rest Camp.

Save money on backpacking trails

Kruger’s northern section offers three backpacking trails ideal for folks who like to sleep wild. In search of a good deal? You can save up to R400 on these trips by booking at the right time. In the steamiest months of summer, the backpacking trails take some time out. And on the shoulders of the break – February and November – Lonely Bull and Mphongolo trails are discounted. In November 2018 and February 2019 hikers will pay only R2,724 (R3,128 thereafter).

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Time for a breather while enjoying the many marvels of the Olifants Backpack Trail.

Backpacking minus the backpack

What if you adore wild camping but don’t really fancy carrying all your necessities? Don’t worry, there’s something for you too. In the tropical Makuleke Concession, tucked away on the park’s borders with Zimbabwe and Mozambique, Pafuri Walking Trails offers slackpacking trips – your backpack travels by vehicle while you enjoy walking light.

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Hikers approach a baobab tree in the Kruger’s Makuleke Concession. Picture by Andrew Beck/Wild Eye/Pafuri Walking Trails

A wilderness trail with an en-suite

SANParks operates seven wilderness trail camps – all incredibly popular. For three nights, small groups can enjoy daily bush walks well away from public tarred roads. Each has a similar level of accommodation with A-frame huts or walk-in tents and shared ablutions. Except one. Did you know that all tents at Napi Bush Camp boast en-suite facilities? Alternatively, the private concessions operated by Pafuri Walking Trails and Rhino Walking Safaris both have bush camps with en-suites.

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Crossing the Limpopo with Pafuri Walking Trails. Picture by RETURNAfrica

About the book

Hlengiwe’s new book is the first-ever guide to walking in Kruger. It explains how to plan and book, the best time to go and what to bring. It includes every SANParks offer from must-do dawn walks to the immensely popular wilderness trails, as well as tempting trails from private concessions.

Guide to walking in Kruger National Park is available on Amazon in paperback, or for Kindle from just R80.