Vintage Kruger National Park

The mighty Kruger National Park was first proclaimed as the ‘Sabie Game Reserve’ in 1898 by the president of the Transvaal Republic, Paul Kruger. Although he first proposed the need to protect the Lowveld animals in 1884, his revolutionary vision took another 12 years to be realized. Only in 1916 with the appointment of the Game Reserves Commission was the possibility of tourism raised for the first time, then on 31 May 1926 the National Parks Act was announced, and with it the merging of the Sabie and Shingwedzi Game Reserves into the Kruger National Park. The first motorists entered the park in 1927 for a fee of one pound.

In 1928 the provision of amenities for tourists commenced with the construction of the first ‘rest huts’, which were built at Satara, Pretoriuskop and Skukuza (then still known as Reserve or Sabie Bridge), but it was only in 1939 that the luxury of hot water was installed, on condition that gents were only entitled to hot and cold showers, and that hot bathing water for ladies was only available daily between 5 and 9pm.

From such humble beginnings, today the Kruger National Park is the largest game reserve in South Africa. A wildlife sanctuary like no other, it is considered the crown jewel of the country’s national parks, and is rated as the ultimate safari experience.
Take a look at early memories of the Kruger National Park, then visit the Kruger Park Mpumalanga Game Reserve Accommodation page to see accommodation options on offer.

kruger 1931

Kruger National Park 1931 – Photo via

In the early years of the Kruger National Park there was limited accommodation in the form of rondavels, and so camping played a major role. As early as 1931, only five years after the proclamation of the park in 1926, the board acquired the first six ‘cottage tents’ for Satara and Skukuza. Purchases rapidly increased, and by the mid-1930’s several hundred tents were in use in the larger rest camps, such as Pretoriuskop, Skukuza, Satara and Letaba. Many tourists also pitched their own tents, and the congenial atmosphere created by campers and open fires provided a very special experience for early visitors.

Info via

kruger 1930's

Kruger National Park 1930’s – Photo via

Traveling without air conditioning and modern suspension could only have been something of a nightmare! In these early days park regulations were less stringent than today, and visitors could alight from their vehicles to stretch their legs and cool off. In spite of any such real or perceived ‘hardships’, the park rapidly grew in popularity as evidenced by the sharp increase of visitors during the 1930s.

Photo and info via

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Game viewing in the 1930’s – Photo via SANParks Archives

1 GAME-VIEWING-©-SANparks-Archives vintage kruger 1930's

Game viewing in the 1930’s – Photo via SANParks Archives

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Game viewing in the 1930’s – Photo via SANParks Archives

In those early days park rules were far more relaxed, and visitors could leave their vehicles to view game up close. They were not even compelled to return to the rest camps at night, and were permitted to spend the night in the bush with only a campfire for protection. However, as the popularity of the ‘safari’ concept grew and the numbers of tourists increased, rules had to be enforced in the best interests of visitors and the park.

pontoons across the Crocodile River

Pontoon crossing the Crocodile River – Photo via

To give tourists access to the park pontoons were made available across the Crocodile River (two) and one each over the Sabie at Reserve (as Skukuza was known until 1932), and the Olifants (just below Balule camp). Initial costs for the pontoons was 5/- (five shillings) per vehicle, valid for any number of crossings over the same pontoon for seven days. Pedestrians paid 2/6 (half a crown or two shillings and sixpence) for a group of up to five people, and sixpence for any additional persons. The tariff for vehicle crossings was reduced to 2/6 in 1931.

Photo and info via

Introduction info via SANParks – South African National Parks

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