Skukuza and Surrounds:
Skukuza is the “capital” and biggest camp of Kruger National Park. Skukuza is perfect for the first time visitor to Kruger Park; at Skukuza you can learn about the history of Kruger Park at the library and Steven-Hamilton Museum.
Skukuza is situated on the junction of the Sabie and N’waswitshaka Rivers, providing some of the best drives in Kruger Park. Previously known as Sabie Bridge, it was Stevenson-Hamilton’s base during the early years of Kruger Park.
Skukuza is a Shangaan word meaning either “he who sweeps clean' or 'he who turns everything upside down'. Stevenson-Hamilton, the first warden of Kruger National Park was given the name by his Shangaan staff.
A highly advised drive around Skukuza is the loop around the Sabie and the Sand Rivers (H1-2, H12 and H4-1). Although there is usually heavy tourist traffic, it is probably the best chance of seeing Lion and a variety of other game in the shortest space of time.
Due to its proximity to the thick bush of the Sabie River, Skukuza is Leopard country. Leopard are elusive and good sightings depend on luck. A night game drive is recommended; please note that night game drives must be booked at the reception of your camp. The Skukuza area is also known for the Hyena population; the best time to see predators is the early morning or late afternoon.
South of Skukuza is 2 excellent game viewing points that provide stunning views of the bush. Mathekenyane Koppie (385m), 10 kms (6 miles) from Skukuza on the H1-1, is one of a series of hills that goes from Bushbuckridge eastwards to Skukuza.
Nearby, on the S112 is Shirimantanga Hill where Stevenson-Hamilton and his wife Hilda, asked for their ashes to be strewn. Shirimantanga Hill is part of a scenic collection of hills collectively known as “Rhino Koppies” where Rhino is seen. This area is perfect for sunset drives.
When you need a rest, some refreshment and some extra recreation, Skukuza is perfect camp.
Services and facilities include:
- Photograph development
- Activities for children including
- Resident doctor and pharmacy
- Restaurants and fast food outlets
- Care hire and vehicle repair facilities
- Store/shop with essentials, clothing and African craft
- The Stevenson-Hamilton Memorial Library/Museum
- ATMs, Post Office, Internet Facilities, a swimming pool
- An open air amphitheatre where wildlife movies are shown
- The Campbell 1929 Hut Museum (the oldest hut) on Skukuza (S1)
Skukuza is a good place to see the Big Five. Common predators found in Skukuza are Lion, Wild Dog and Spotted Hyena. Common browsers and grazers found in Skukuza are Elephant, Impala, greater Kudu, black Rhino, Hippo, Klipspringer and Warthog.
The Napi Road to Skukuza (H1-1):
The main road from Numbi to Skukuza is the Napi Road (H1-1) which descends from the granite foothills into the rolling hills of mixed bushwillow woodlands south of Skukuza. Although the bush is quite thick and game is difficult to see, there are often Sable Antelope in the area as well as Eland.
The landscape then transforms into grassland which hosts a large variety of seed-eating birds – a “Little Brown Jobs” or “LBJ” birder’s paradise. Shitlhave waterhole is a good place to stop on this road. Named after the ranger Jafuta Shitlhave, it is the source of the Biyamiti River, and situated on the same belt of gabbro from which Ship Mountain protrudes.
Look out for southern Reedbuck and Waterbuck in the tall grass around the waterhole. By the time you reach the Napi Boulders (505m), the bush starts getting slim out and the game viewing is better. The Napi Road winds past Mlaleni Hill (492m).
Stop at Transport (Vervoer) Dam which is the sweetveld. Grazers like Zebra and Buffalo are usually seen around Transport Dam. Elephant can also be spotted.
Afsaal to Skukuza (H3):
The road from Afsaal to Skukuza passes by some lovely granite outcrops along the gentle rolling landscape. The hills offer spectacular views of the Sabie’s southern water reservoir area. Slow down when passing the Makhutlwanine Koppies, there are good chances for Cheetah and Lion sightings.
The entrance to Skukuza is dominated by a mini-escarpment marking the drainage area of the Sabie River. You will learn that more water means, more animal and plant life can be supported. The trees in the Sabie catchment area are bigger, the bush is denser and more diverse and animal and bird life is very strong.
Phabeni to Skukuza - the Doispane Road (S1):
Soon afterwards, the road enters the Sabie Crocodile thorn thickets. This is generally sourveld which means that, aside from the Impala and small Zebra herds, there are not many grazers to be seen. Although the S1 does not have a good reputation for game viewing, if you are lucky you might spot a Sable antelope, Reedbuck, Leopard or Wild Dog.
The closer one gets to Skukuza, the more variety of animals there are to be seen. An interesting detour to Skukuza is to turn right on the S65 which crosses the N’waswitshaka River and joins up with the Napi Road from Pretoriuskop. There are usually good sightings along this 13 km (8 miles) route.
Skukuza to Tshokwane (H-2):
The road from Skukuza to Tshokwane (H1-2) is wonderful, offering a wide range of landscapes and wildlife. The vegetation is quite thick, but as the thorn thickets slim out, there is more open grassland where large herds of grazing animals and predators can be found.
A number of waterholes are available on this road; the dams are Manzimhale Dam, Elephant’s Drinking Hole and N’wathindlopfu. N’wathindlopfu is a very good wildlife photography site, mainly during winter and spring when water is scarce and lot of the wildlife come to this dam. The light is perfect for photography early in the morning.
There are 2 good places where you can get out of your car on the Skukuza-Tshokwane Road. These are at the Kruger Tablets memorial and the Eileen Orpen plaque. Leeupan and Shilolweni Dam are 2 good waterholes for game photography.
An alternative route from Skukuza to Tshokwane is the S36. Tshokwane was a place Stevenson-Hamilton used to inspect the northern areas of the old Sabie Reserve. It is a very game rich area.
The Vutomi Road joins up with the Trichardt Road (S37) which follows the path taken by the troubled Voortrekker expedition to Delagoa Bay led by Louis Trichardt.
Although his entourage eventually arrived at the port in 1838, most of them died from malaria. From a game viewing viewpoint, the S37 is good, because it takes you through the land favoured by large herds of grazers.
Between Orpen Dam and the Trichardt Road is the Lindanda Road (S35). It was close to this road that ranger Harry Wolhuter had his near death experience with a Lion. It is fascinating to see that stone reminders that mark the distance he was dragged by the Lion which knocked him off his horse, before he managed to kill it with a pen knife.
Ultimately, Tshokwane is the ideal game viewing region. With diverse habitats, a great water supply and with plenty of grazing and browsing possible, the various wildlife species can be seen. Please don’t be tempted to feed the baboons along as this encourages their dependence on humans and undermines their self-reliance.