Kruger Park History – From the very Beginning

Kruger Park history begins back in 1898 when Sabie Game Reserve was established.

This park was founded by Paul Kruger after he became aware of the damage being done to wildlife caused by hunting. He wanted to establish a place where hunting could be controlled.

Hunting was spurred by trade in:

  • Animal skins
  • Horns
  • Ivory

Sabie Game Reserve’s development was put on hold during the Anglo-Boer war (1899-1902), but continued afterwards in 1902 under the leadership of warden James Stevenson-Hamilton. The Stevenson-Hamilton Museum in Skukuza is named after him.

The park was expanded to nearly 2 million hectares (4.9 million acres) in 1926 when Sabie Game Reserve was joined up with Shingwedzi Game Reserve and various farms. This new enlarged park was renamed Kruger National Park.

So, when was Kruger National Park opened to the public? The first tourists arrived in 1927 and how it’s changed since then! In the first years there were a couple of hundred tourists. Now there are over a million a year!


The first park tourists arrived on the Selati Railway which ran between Komatipoort and Tzaneen and so the history of Kruger National Park reached a milestone.

The actual train that people travelled on is now the show-piece of the Selati Station Grillhouse at Skukuza Rest Camp. It’s an interesting place to soak up some Kruger history while enjoying fine dining.

In 2002, Kruger National Park agreed to join Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park and the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique. The combined park is now called the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, a so-called “peace park”. Fences have started to come down between the parks to let the animals follow their original migratory routes.

Tribal History

Kruger National Park riverbankA relatively recent piece of Kruger tribal history is about the Makuleke tribe. They submitted a land claim for a portion of northern Kruger National Park for land taken from them under the apartheid regime.

The claim was successful, but the tribe approached the private sector to develop game lodges on the land rather than occupy it themselves.

The Makuleke people are not the only group with tribal history in the region. Long ago, the San people left plenty of rock art evidence and the Nguni herded cattle around the area.

And let’s not forget the Ba-Phalaborwa tribe who ran a prominent iron-smelting trade.


Kruger Park history would be incomplete without mentioning archaeology and the stone age. There are more than 300 archaeological sites of stone age man in Kruger National Park.

Some interesting sites to visit include the Albasini Ruins, the remains of a Portuguese trader’s post and the Thulamela settlement, a mid-16th century walled city.

Implements and cultural artefacts have been found from the period 100,000 to 30,000 years ago. Plus there is substantial evidence that prehistoric man roamed the area between 500,000 and 100,000 years ago!