Mapungubwe is one of the places to visit when you near Kruger. Picture: Supplied.

Kruger National Park is one of the most sought after destinations in South Africa. For those with a bit of extra time to spend on their Kruger Park adventure should consider taking the sights in the areas near Kruger.

With its numerous entrance gates spread over a large distance, Kruger is easily accessible if you wander through the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga.

Consider including a tour into Mozambique. It’s a short  distance from the border near Nelspruit to Maputo, so think about a stop-off at magical Inhaca Island near Maputo. From there it’s a short ride back to South Africa and Kruger.

Mapungubwe near the town of Groblersdal should be on every South African’s travel bucket list since it is core to the history of the African sub-continent. This World Heritage Site was the site of an ancient civilisation known to have existed until the 13th century. UNESCO, which granted it World Heritage status, describes the site as, “The Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape demonstrates the rise and fall of the first indigenous kingdom in Southern Africa between 900 and 1300AD. What survives are the almost untouched remains of the palace sites and also the entire settlement area dependent upon them….”. 

Cultures of the local area, many of which have survived for centuries, are showcased in a number of locations in both provinces. Visitors can learn about traditional practices of the Ndebele, the Shangaan, and the Balobedu, with their intriguing belief in the Rain Queen.

The centre of the Balobedu settlement is known as Modjadjiskloof, which is just over an hour’s drive away from the nearest Kruger gate in Mpumalanga -an area of huge significance for botanical life.  The Cycad Reserve, established to protect the prehistoric cycad plant species, is very important since it is the only place on earth which is home to a forest of this sort.

Nature lovers are also spoilt for choice as regards birds of the area.  The rare blue swallow, for instance, makes its appearance around the town of Kaapsche Hoop, near Nelspruit, bringing birders from around the world. 

Those mad about flowers should head to Kruger via the south-west part of Mpumalanga Province during late summer when fields of cosmos spring up, dotting the horizon with their white and pink blooms.      

As for the history buffs, the restored town of Pilgrim’s Rest, site of a failed gold rush dating from the late 19th century, is worth a visit. 

Whatever your particular interests, you’re bound to satisfy them in the regions around the Kruger National Park, so make sure you do thorough research before you set off. 

Devise a route to the Park that incorporates the lesser-known (but equally exciting) spots you can experience on the way.