Heading to Kruger soon and curious to know where to drive in order to find the best wildlife sightings? I can help you out with my curated list of the roads that are pretty consistently productive. I will even let you know which roads to drive to have the best chance of lion, leopard and cheetah sightings (because let’s be honest we all LOVE CATS). BUT first of all I feel it’s important to provide a disclosure of sorts – you can find virtually anything on any road in Kruger. Every road can have a stack of wildlife one day and nothing the next. There have been plenty of times I have had great luck on a particular road and then the next 2 or 3 times I drive it I see virtually nothing! So please take the following with a grain of salt, there is certainly no guarantee that you will have the same experience that I have had!
This advice is drawn from my personal experience as well as that of people I know and the Latest Sightings community – which I monitor pretty much on a daily basis (and it makes me feel very jealous and sad when sitting at home in Australia)! It is by no means exhaustive as there are many roads I have only driven once or perhaps not at all so please add to the knowledge by commenting below with your favourite Kruger roads! Also once again, I won’t be referencing rhinos in the below out of respect for anti-poaching efforts. You may also be interested in reading our top 40 Kruger tips to get the most from your safari in the park, or our tips on booking the best Kruger accommodation (both links open in new windows).
Best roads in the South of Kruger National Park
I feel like I can speak the most about roads in the South because I have had the most experience here and it is certainly where the bulk of Latest Sightings ‘tings’ come from. A note here is that it is the busiest part of the park in general, so in some ways it’s ‘easier’ to find animals because you will come across more cars stopped by the road who can alert you to animals (ie. You don’t have to find it all yourself). This can be a good or bad thing depending on what you’re looking for!
Tar roads: Tar roads are generally more popular than dirt roads and in my experience can be more productive, particularly for general game. The roads that snake along rivers and river beds are also usually a good bet to see wildlife including cats. To be honest there are very few tar roads I have driven in the South and not had great luck on. Probably the least luck I have personally had is on the H10, H1-2 and H1-1 however there are still plenty of sightings posted on these roads and I have seen a leopard run across the road on the H10 as well as had at least one lion sighting on the H1-2 and the H1-1. The H1-1 around Pretoriuskop is also one of the better places to find Cheetah in the park, you can also see wild dogs closer to the H3 junction and lions are spotted frequently on this road as well. It’s a pretty productive road however we just personally haven’t as much luck as others! That being said De Laporte is a handy little waterhole and we’ve had a fair share of awesome ellie sightings here. So which tar roads do I recommend?
H4-1 and H4-2: These roads are great for cats, particularly the H4-1 – you have to be careful to look in the river bed and rocks. We have seen the full Magnificent 7 on these roads (Big 5 + cheetah and wild dogs). It used to be great for wild dogs but I believe one of the packs recently died due to a disease so it is less common (but they are still seeing them occasionally – typically closer to Croc Bridge). It’s not as common for Cheetah as some other roads but still a distinct possibility (recently there has been a mum and cub seen crossing the road a bit around Lower Sabie area and we did see two nice brothers near Lower Sabie back in Feb 2016).
H3: I have driven this road a lot less than the H4-1 and H4-2 but it seems to have its fair share of lion sightings (I have had at least two). It’s good for general game and they have been seeing wild dogs a bit lately as well. It’s also a very scenic road – we chose to drove this out of the park on our last trip rather than our usual Skukuza>Croc Bridge exit.
S1: Just about anything can be seen on the S1 – we even saw a Serval earlier this year. It is good for cats, particularly leopards. There’s a place called Ingwe Donga Just West of the S65 junction where leopards are commonly seen. Personally I haven’t seen one here but I did have one of my best ever Kruger leopard sightings just a few KMs from Phabeni gate a couple of years ago – a mum and two cubs! Wild dogs are also often seen on this road, close to Phabeni gate. Last trip we saw mating lions close to Nyamundwa dam as well.
Dirt roads: Dirt roads are less popular generally, which means you have to try harder to spot things yourself as you rely less on what I call the ‘brake light phenomenon’ (where you simply look for other cars stopped at sightings). The good news though is you can sometimes get better quality sightings as there are much fewer cars to navigate in order to get a good spot for the sighting! I am starting to prefer dirt roads for this reason, though I find them to be more unpredictable than the tar – ie. They can be amazing one day and totally dead the next. Here are my favourites in the South:
S28: This is one of the most popular dirt roads in the park and is renowned for cheetah but also very common to see lions and hyena. We saw a cheetah and two cubs during our last trip, a family that was being seen virtually daily according to Latest Sightings.
S79: This is great for lions and have seen a few leopards ‘tinged’ here too.
S137: Love this area for bigger herds of general plains game like zebras and giraffe, particularly around Duke waterhole (though as at Aug 16 there was no water). It’s also decent for lion sightings.
S3: Tough one as I have driven this quite a bit and not seen much more than elephants and/or buffalo but have had some great sightings of wild dogs and Vin Diesel (well-known large male leopard). Have also seen lions on a kill, leopard on a kill in the past. Definitely unpredictable but can deliver great sightings if you get lucky!
S65: Another unpredictable road – you can see the Big 5 on this one if you are lucky. It’s decent for leopards and lions (I have not heard of cheetah but not to say it’s impossible). We found a leopard by the road this year with a fresh impala kill which was later stolen by lions. It was one of my favourite roads listed in my April Kruger trip overview, but in our more recent August trip we drove it a couple of times and only saw elephants. It is a great road for elephants though, particularly around the waterhole.
S23: This is a new favourite road of ours since our most recent trip. To begin with it’s a stunningly pretty road to drive ending at Biyamiti Weir (which is technically on the S114), which is an awesome place for photography! Our first drive on this road we managed to find a leopard by ourselves (though it was just as soon gone – no pics) and then four big Eastern Bank male lions resting near the weir. We have seen the full Big 5 on this road (including the junction with the S114). Good road for leopards and lions.
S112: This was a new favourite from our latest trip in August as well – twice we drove this road in the late evening and both times this paid off – once with a great wild dog sighting (my first wild dog pup sighting!) and once with a great lion sighting where three lionesses were walking in the road next to our car. It’s short and sweet and ends at the ever popular Renosterkoppies, which is also good for lion and elephant sightings.
S114: Another newbie (can you tell I had not driven much on dirt roads in the south prior to our last trip?) – this road in our experience is a bit slower towards Skukuza but can be pretty fruitful if you persevere and drive the whole thing. We spotted the whole Big 5 just from Biyamiti Weir down to Malelane, including the same Eastern Bank males right on the road and one of my favourite ellie sightings at the amazingly beautiful Biyamiti Weir.
Best roads in Central Kruger National Park
Tar roads: When talking about central Kruger I’m referring to the area between Tshokwane and Olifants – the difficulty around here is that I have had less experience and as it is less popular in general there are fewer sightings tinged here. So if you are someone who has driven extensively in this area (particularly the dirt roads) – please share your experience and thoughts in the comments below! There are two awesome tar roads in this area that I can call out:
H1-3: This is a cracker road – again you can get the Big 5 pretty easily driving this road. It is particularly good for lions – I do not think I have ever driven this road without seeing lions. Mazithi and Kumuna Dams are hot spots for animal life, particularly Kumana (when it has water, which is most of the time except in severe drought like February this year). It’s great for leopards as well, also around Kumana Dam and S86 areas! Have had one of my best ever leopard in tree sightings on this road.
H7: I have only ever driven the H7 pretty much in the middle of the day, which is not ideal, but even so I have had some good luck on this road. It is good for the Big 5 and excellent for cats – you can get leopards, lions and cheetah all on this road. In fact it’s good for the Magnificent Seven, as there is also a pack of wild dogs (known as the Orpen pack) that are commonly seen on this road, particularly in the early morning. If you are staying at Satara or entering the park from Orpen, this is a great road to drive in the morning – but you can still see awesome stuff all day (we had fantastic cheetah and lions sightings in middle of the day here). Another of Kruger’s best tar roads.
Dirt roads: Unfortunately I do not have much experience driving dirt roads in central Kruger and since it is typically not as frequented by those who post in Latest Sightings I can’t lean on them to help. I know that the lion pride with the white lion can be found on the S41 but we didn’t have much luck when driving it the couple of times we did (admittedly both in the middle of the day so not ideal). The only road we have had good luck on (and that is another famous Kruger dirt road) is…
S100: Very lucky for lions and cheetah. There is a resident (Shishangaan) lion pride that includes the famous male white lion that frequents this road – we just missed him when we drove it on our last trip. We did see a nice big male beside the road with a kill and we also caught a family of four cheetah on two different occasions on this road. Being next to the N’wanetzi river it’s likely also decent for leopard if you are lucky enough. We saw a tiny little elephant as well 🙂
Best roads in the North of Kruger National Park
Tar roads: When I’m talking about the North I’m referring to area between Olifants right up to Pafuri, which is a very large area, but again somewhere I have less experience and a lot less busy than the South and Central of Kruger – so again, sightings are less reported. Once again – if you happen to have some tips for the North, please share!
H1-5 and H1-6: Around this area the Mopani gets a lot more prevalent (particularly closer to Letaba and Mopani camps) which in general is less popular with wildlife as most animals prefer not to eat it (exception is elephants). That being said, we have had some lion and leopard luck on these roads. Predators do well up north and the elephants seem to get bigger and more prevalent as well. We had a lot of awesome elephant bull sightings on the H1-6! We saw a lion pride with small cubs twice during our trip in February just North of Letaba on the H1-6 near the junction with the H15 (OK one of them was really on the H15 but you could see it from the H1-6). During our last trip we had mating lions (three in total) on the H1-5 a few kms north of Olifants, and while we were watching them on the sunset drive (from Letaba) another younger male came onto the scene – obviously looking for his own action!
Dirt roads: I have even less experience with dirt roads in the north, but here’s what I have heard:
S46 and S93: These two snake around with the river and I believe there is often good leopard and lion sightings here – we have just not been so lucky (only driven these roads I think twice though).
S56: We drove this road a couple of times during our trip in February to Shingwedzi but unfortunately we had no luck. However the sightings book at Shingwedzi indicated this road is great for lions and leopards – and even sometimes wild dogs! It is a very pretty road that snakes around a river, so worth driving even if you aren’t as lucky like us. Great for ellies and buffalo in the river bed too.
S63: Right up in the very North of the park and almost at the Mozambique border, this is another extremely pretty little road (particularly the dirt part) – when we drove it it was in the middle of the day and very hot but I can see this would be a great place to find leopard! It’s worth driving if you’re in that neck of the woods just for the scenery.
So there you have it – a list of the best roads in Kruger according to our experience and with help from Latest Sightings! Don’t forget to comment below to let us know what your favourite Kruger Park roads are and why!