The chances of coming across a kill is far higher in central Kruger than almost anywhere else in the Park. The eastern half of the central grassland consists mostly of wide open basalt plains that support nutritious grazing and limited tree growth. The grasslands are contained to the east by the central Lebombo, which has its own unique ecosystem.
The quality of grazing on the granite soils of the western grasslands is not as good as that of the basalt to the east. The western grasslands are more heavily treed, with pockets of bushwillow, knob-thorn and marula woodland. There are no major rivers running through the central grasslands, but there are a number of secondary watercourses, the main ones being the N’wanetsi, Sweni and Timbavati. Most of Kruger’s larger raptors are found in the central grasslands, which have the biggest vulture populations in the Park.
- Mixed woodlands to the west of the Tshokwane – Satara main road
- Open grasslands with sweet grazing to the east of the Tshokwane – Satara main road
- Pockets of sweetveld around Orpen
- Open savanna grasslands around Satara
- Lebombo koppies around Singita Lebombo
- Olifants rugged veld between Satara and Olifants
Studies by mammal expert Gus Mills show that Kruger lions eat more buffalo during drier years, while their taste shifts to zebra during periods of higher rainfall. This may be due to buffalo being prone to rapid loss of condition during droughts.
There also appears to be a difference in favoured prey between lions and lionesses. Lions are prone to hunt buffalo, whereas lionesses select slightly smaller prey such as zebra and wildebeest.
The black-backed jackal is a low-key predator in central Kruger compared to the big cats. It gets most of its dietary requirements from scavenging, although jackals in Kruger are known to have formed packs to hunt impala, steenbok, duiker and wildebeest calves.
Best Drive in the Central GrasslandsOrpen to Olifants via Timbavati Road: The Timbavati Road tracks the river through thorn thickets, riverine bush and mixed woodland into central Kruger; stop at Leeubron, Timbavati picnic spot, Ratelpan and Roodewal. Game densities are not high but sightings are usually interesting. Allow four hours between Orpen and Olifants, including a stop.
Camps in Central Grasslands
Orpen Gate Explorer Options
- Main Road to Satara (H7); (48km; 2 hours) tar road; mixed woodlands leading into savanna grasslands; excellent game country; good for buffalo and lion;
- Talamati Drive (S140); (38km from Rabelais Hut and back again; 1,5 hours); dust road through mixed woodlands to upper catchment area of N’waswitsontso watercourse; very good sunset drive with many lion prides in the area;
- Timbavati River Road to Bobejaanskrans then on to Olifants (S39); (60km; 2,5 hours); dust road; one of the best drives in Kruger, a road of surprises with diverse species, habitats and geological zones along the Timbavati River; lots of good views over the riverine bush;
- Muzandzeni Road from Bobbejaanskrans to Tshokwane (S36); (65km; 2,5 hours); mixed bushwillow and acacia savanna with patches of dense woodland and several good water holes; good for raptors;