About the Grasslands
Orpen to Olifants
Orpen to Satara
Orpen to Skukuza
Satara and Surrounds
Satara to Olifants
Satara to the Lebombo
The Central Lebombo
The Mluwati Concession
See Kruger Park Grasslands Self-drive Map
Kruger's buffalo were almost completely wiped out by excessive hunting and the rinderpest plague at the end of the 19th century but within 50 years their numbers had built up significantly. Buffalo suffered another calamity in 1992, when the drought almost halved the population. An estimated 15 000 buffalo died of hunger and thirst during this time.
Orpen Gate leads one directly into lion country. The open grasslands stretching through to Satara and on to N'wanetsi are one of the best places in the Park to see lions and other predators. That's because of the large herds of grazing animals found here. With such a readily available supply of food it is not surprising that this is a popular environment for lions.
The reason for the abundance of game in this area is that Orpen sits on the edge of a continuous band of sweetveld that stretches from east to west across Kruger. Elsewhere in the Park the sourveld dominates the west, while the sweetveld is confined to the eastern plains.
The Orpen sweetveld sits on gabbro rock, which forms intrusions such as Masala Koppie (500m) some 14km from the gate. The gabbro is similar to basalt in that it retains water and doesn't leach easily. The mineral-rich soils support nutritious grasses which are favoured by buffalo, zebra, wildebeest, impala and warthog. Because the grazing is good all year round, there are almost always animals visible from the road in the Orpen area.
Knob-thorn and buffalo-thorn are the most common acacias in the Orpen thornveld. There are also marula, round-leaved bloodwood and magic guarri in the woodlands, which become thicker along the drainage lines where large jackal-berries and sycamore figs occur.