Although the Dutch visited Lourenço Marques (present day Maputo) in March of 1721, in order to establish a trading post, they made no effort to travel inland.
The first documented occurrence of outsiders exploring this area comes from Dutchman François de Cuiper who led a Dutch East India Company expedition, in June of 1725, looking for local inhabitants. By July of that year, they had crossed the Komati and Crocodiles Rivers.
The latter was crossed some 3 kilometres northeast of the present day Crocodile Bridge Restcamp, and thus the expedition members were with first Europeans to “enter” the Park. Interestingly some of the river names that De Cuiper got from the local people in 1725 are still in use today. Examples include Sabe (Sabie), Matibawati (Timbavati), and Imbaloele (Balule).
The local inhabitants were found, or rather, they found the Dutch and it wasn't long before De Cuiper’s Expeditions were driven back to the coast. It was only with the arrival of the Voortrekkers in 1838 that Europeans were able to establish safe and permanent
The Voortrekkers / Louis Trichardt
They left the Cape in 1835, and reached the Soutpansberg (staying until 23 August 1837). Trichardt’s group then left for Lourenço Marques. The trek crossed the border of the present day Kruger National Park on the 6 March 1838, at Tshokwane. They trekked through the Malaria and Nagana (sleeping sickness) infested area, and the remnants of the party reached Lourenço Marques (Delagoa Bay) on 13 April 1838. Louis Trichardt and most of his followers died during the journey and a memorial was set up which commemorates him.
In 1843, Andries Potgieter attempted to find a more southerly route from Pretoria to Lourenço Marques, but the one that his party took turned out to be almost impossible to negotiate. The trek came to a halt at the edge of the Drakensberg Escarpment from which there was no possible way to descend. A scouting party was sent out, which consequently discovered an animal track that permitted access to the Lowveld.
Evidence still exists of a route from Lydenburg to Delagoa Bay, which was established by the Afrikaners to gain access to the sea for trade purposes, in order that they did not have to be dependent on British ports.
Although the Voortrekkers were establishing themselves in the area, others, with an eye on trading and profits, have left their mark, not least of whom was João Albasini.