The History of Kruger National Park ( Part 1)

Early picture that shows us the abundance of game in Kruger national Park

The people who was key to Kruger National Park’s start

The old trade routes.

Joao Albasini

Joao Albisini

João Albasini was born in Lisbon, Portugal on 1 June 1813. Beside the fact that his father was a sea captain, little is known about young Albasini’s youth. In 1831, when João was 18, his father left him in charge of a trading post at Delagoa Bay (In present day Mozambique). It was here that the Tsonga people nurtured his hunting skills. After learning on buck he soon became a skilled elephant hunter and traded ivory with interior peoples.

Albasini was 20 when the exiled Zulu chief Shoshangane and soldiers attacked Delagoa Bay, massacring many White people and abducting him. He escaped six months later and returned to Delagoa Bay. Here the Magwaba admired his courage and leadership qualities, called him ‘Jowawa’, and reputedly later made him their chief. In 1838 he met Carel Trichardt with whom he formed a hunting partnership.

After seven years in Delagoa Bay Albasini had built rapport and trust with the Shangaan people inhabiting the area. In 1845, Chief Magashula gave him land on the Sabie River in which is now the Kruger National Park. Here Albasini and his followers built a settlement known as Makashula Kraal, he was the first White person to settle in the lowveld.

The ruins of his brick-built house are not far from where the Hippo Pools are located, near Pretoriuskop in the Kruger National Park. In 1845 he became the first Portuguese person to trade with the voortrekkers led by Andries Potgieter Ohrigstad and in 1847, the first to open a shop.

Andries Hendrik Potgieter

Andries Hendrik Potgieter, Voortrekker leader

The voortrekker leader Andries Hendrik Potgieter was born in the Graaff Reinet district in the Cape Colony on the 19th of December 1792.

Andries fought in the Fourth and Fifth Frontier Wars. Like many other Dutch farmers in the Cape, he decided to leave the Cape colony in 1834. In 1835 a group of Voortrekkers left the colony under his leadership.

Potgieter moved inland to the northern Free State where he developed cordial relationships with local Black leaders who were hiding from Mzilikazi. One of these leaders, Makwena, exchanged some land between the Vet and Vaal Rivers for 49 cattle and protection from Potgieter.

During this time Potgieter explored the surrounding area and traveled as far as one days riding to Zimbabwe. In the 1840s the British took control of Natal, but Potgieter refused to become part of the British Empire and Potchefstroom broke away from the Natal. Andries then decided to establish the new Boer republic of Transvaal. Potgieter also developed an interest in Delagoa Bay as an avenue to the rest of the world. He visited the port city in 1843 and was welcomed by the Portuguese colonizers in the area. This, the advice of several of his Dutch friends and his desire to live beyond the 25th degree of latitude caused him to move closer to the Mozambique border.

The Voortrekker Road (H2-2) south-east of Pretoriuskop in Kruger, was used by Carolus Trichardt, who was the son of the Voortrekker Louis Trichardt. He was commissioned in 1849 by the Transvaal Government of the time to open up a regular route between the northern interior and Delagoa Bay.

Albasini’s caravans were the main users of this road. Over the years his porters transported thousands of kilograms of goods from the coast and carried back loads of ivory. The trader Fernades da Neves accompanied one of Albasini’s caravans in 1860 and reported that it took 24 days to complete the 250 mile journey between the coast and Pretoriuskop. The Vootrekker Road was improved in 1896 by the trader Alois Nelmapius to cater for the transport of supplies to Lydenburg and Mac Mac, where gold had been discovered. The road was used a lot by transport riders on their way to what was then known as Portuguese East Africa (today Mozambique).

Proclamation of the park and its key figures.

Paul Kruger

Paul Kruger (Stephanus Johannes Paulus Kruger) was born on October 10 1825 at his grandfather’s farm, Bulhoek in the Steynsburg district and grew up on the farm, Vaalbank. He wasn’t a well educated man and only had three months formal education. Growing up in a rugged farm area he learnt a lot about the wild. When the Great Trek started in 1836, Kruger’s father, Casper Kruger, joined the trek party of Andries Hendrik Potgieter and the family moved to what later became known as Transvaal, to try an establish and independent state.

Later Paul Kruger’s strong leadership qualities started emerging. He eventually became Commandant-General of the then South African Republic, later known as Transvaal. His leadership skills became more prominent when he was appointed member of a commission of the Volksraad the Transvaal Republican Parliament who were tasked with drawing up a constitution.

In 1882, the 57 year old Paul Kruger was elected president of Transvaal. He left for England in 1883 to revise the Pretoria Convention of 1881, an agreement which was reached between the Boers and the British that ended the first Anglo Boer War.

The discovery of gold in the Transvaal

Miners during the gold rush in the low-veld.

 Many gold-seekers from around the globe flocked to Africa. Hundreds of Europeans and farmers came to the Lowveld. Lured by rumors of gold and the great quantity of valuable commodities such as ivory and skins. This caused the number of game to dramatically decrease due to hunting and trading of animal skins and horns. President Paul Kruger was told about the rapid destruction of wildlife in the area by hunters, after which he succeeded to persuade the Transvaal parliament to establish a protected area for wildlife in the Lowveld region.

In 1895, Jakob Louis van Wyk introduced in the parliment of the old South African Republic a motion to create the game reserve. The area proposed extended from the Crocodile River to the Sabie river in the north. That motion, introduced together with another Volksraad member by the name of R. K. Loveday, and accepted for discussion in September 1895 by a majority of one vote, resulted in the proclamation by Paul Kruger, on 26 March 1898, of a “Government Wildlife Park.”

When Scottish-born James Stevenson-Hamilton was appointed as the first Warden of the park in 1902, it was still known as the Sabie Game Reserve. The Sabie Game Reserve was merged with the Shinwedzi Game Reserve in 1927 (after the proclamation of the National Parks Act) and became the Kruger National Park.

In Part 2 we will discuss the growth and management of the park and its many infamous rangers.

Growing up on a cattle ranch, I developed a keen interest in the outdoors from a young age. After graduating, I started my career in professional guiding, and later on, I become involved in Anti-poaching and conservation in the greater Kruger area. The passion for camping and guiding eventually led us to establish Vumbua Tours and Safari. I’m driven to show people the natural wonders of Southern Africa and have them enjoy the great experience of camping.

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