Sites of interest
Kruger's big appeal is its landscape and wildlife, but scattered around the park you will encounter plaques and memorials to notable historic incidents, as well as a handful of low key but interesting 'attractions'.
Kruger has more than 250 archaeological sites, representing a rich cultural and historical heritage stretching back to the Stone Age. Visitors can get a glimpse of the past at three sites with preserved or reconstructed archaeology, Alabasini, Masorini and Thulamela.
Close to the Phabeni gate, there is a small information centre and toilets. This is the site of a nineteenth century trading store run by the famous Portuguses trader Joao Albasini. It lay on an important trade route between the Mozambique coast and the lowveld interior.
Masorini archaeological site
About 12km in from the Phalaborwa gate this restored village with a small museum makes a pleasant spot to stop for a picnic. There are toilets, gas braais and cold drinks available. You can get a sense of the Iron Age lifestyle of the BaPhalaborwa people who lived here in the 19th century, smelting and forging iron weapons and tools for trade. Guided tours to the top of hillside lead you to reconstructed huts and a dome-shaped clay furnace, where skin bags would have been used as bellows. Masorini lay on an important trade route, and the iron smelters would have traded their goods for food, animal products, ivory and glass beads, with the Portuguese on the east coast, and the Venda people to the north.
Thulamela archaeological site
In far north Kruger, just south of the Luvuvhu river, Thulamela can only be visited if you are accompanied by a guide, bookable at Punda Maria. You also need a 4x4 to handle the rough access road. Thulamela was the site of a major royal settlement between the 15th and 17th centuries, with as many as 1,000 people living on the hilltop, and another 2,000 in the surrounding area. The inhabitants were believed to trace their lineage back to the earlier kingdoms of Great Zimbabwe, and before that Mapungubwe, to the north west. Archaeologists have found artefacts from as far afield as West Africa, the Middle East and China, as well as uncovering the skeletal remains of two people. The king, or Khosi, would have been treated as a sacred figure, living in seclusion in the hilltop palace, and only seen by a select few people. The site was on an important trade route linking the African interior with the Middle East, South east Asia, China and India
For visitors whose interest lies more with history of a natural kind, there are some other attractions to look out for.
Letaba elephant museum
You can't (and shouldn't) miss the museum in Letaba rest camp, as it has a life size elephant statue outside. Inside are well presented and informative displays telling you everything you could want to know about elephant natural history, and impressive examples of some of Kruger's great tuskers.
Stevenson-Hamilton memorial library and museum
In Skukuza camp, this pleasingly old-fashioned small museum has some interesting displays and a selection of magazines and books for browsing if you want a break from the heat or rain. Look out for the skin of the lion which nearly killed Harry Wolhuter. The museum was scheduled for an overhaul in the first half of 2013 with a view to reopening in July, but don't be surprised if this runs over. The library will still be open during the refurbishment work.
A short drive from Crocodile Bridge along the S25 then S27. Accompanied by an armed ranger you can visit a small pool for close-up views of hippos wallowing. Do not leave your car if a ranger is not present.
Skukuza indigenous plant nursery
Located a few kilometres drive west of Skukuza, near the Lake Panic bird hide, the nursery is principally of interest to South African visitors hoping to buy indigenous plants for their gardens. But if you're a keen gardener or botanist it makes a pleasant change from sitting in your car. Most of the plants are endemic to Kruger, and much of the seed is collected in the park. It's open from 07:00 to 16:00 Monday to Friday, and from 08:00 to 12:00 and 13:00 to 16:00 on weekends and public holidays.
At the nursery there is also a recently opened and attractively designed boardwalk, with interpretative signs, to give you a taste of the importance of wetland habitats in the park.