Skukuza to Me is one of the most under rated areas in the park. For First time visitors this will be the best camp to start at. It is the biggest and Have a Museum to get you in to Kruger’s History and the area from where you can see most of the mammals Kruger as to Offer. Yes there are much more to Kruger than just Skukuza and there are some of the rare species that you only find up North, but what I have found from people on first visits to the park is that they don’t know much about the rare species, well not until they the discovery what Kruger really can offer biodiversity wise.
There are sum down falls to Skukuza. First will be traffic as one off the mayor disadvantage to this area. But it can work to your advantage as well as new people haven’t see loads of animals yet. There are more vehicles around meaning more eyes, meaning better change of seeing stuff and animals tend to be more vehicle tolerant down south than the ones far up North. Unfortunately you will some times have to share with 30 other vehicles a sighting. But even this is also sometimes blown out of proportion as if you know the area and stay away from long weekends and school holidays, and certain roads you can have sightings all to your self or share with only a few others.
Also one thing that depend on sighting wise and areas is the time off year you go to Skukuza. If you go mid summer(Dec to March) and the park had good rains then the area more south of Skukuza is best. Roads will be the H3 to Malelane, S114, S113, S112, S21(N’watimhiri road) H1-1(napi)until Napi boulders. Working out a route in this areas with these roads in mind can be very productive game wise and you have the choice of Afsaal, Nkuhlu and even Skukuza it self for breakfast/Lunch and toilet break stop. Animals possible this time of year includes most of the general game, lion anywhere as with leopard, wilddog early morning close to the 4 way junction just out side Skukuza, the S114 and H3, and even The Napi close to the Transport dam junction is good for them. Cheetah is also possible but not every day occurrence around here but Transport dam, Kwaggaspan vicinity and S21 is you best bet, but have seen cheetah all over this area so anything is possible. Other specials animals will be Black rhino on the plains close to Afsaal and the S113 also have a couple seen on regular basis, Sable some times at Transport, but the hole off the Napi road(H1-1) is good for them. Also look out for Lichtenstein’s hartebeest in this area. The klipspringer koppies( the rocky outcrops close to the H3 H1-1 junction) is also for cats species with little ones. (have seen leopard, lion most of the time, serval and a cheetah with 6 cubs in this area before)
Winter(Mid Mei to Aug) your best bet is wherever there is water you will probably see animals. What better road than the one along the Sabi River, the famous Ellof street. But be worn this road can be worse than JHB morning traffic as every one that know Kruger a little bit know this is the place to be in the dry month. One thing that is not seen a lot on this road is cheetah, but if you take the S30(Salitje road) is one of the parks better roads to see them, specially from 8km down from the High water bridge where the open areas start is always good place. There are a couple of single ones, and also a female with 4 cubs that roam this area and you have a good chance to see them( seen the female with the 4 cubs in July this year again and my guide friends telling me they see them regularly still in this area) The one animal with to Me and most guides are seen in this area and to look out for is leopard. The Sabi river(and you can go read books on this) Have the highest density of leopard per squire km than any other place on earth. And yes with a bit of luck and patient you can have the opportunity to see these wonderful cats. Other things to look out for is lion. Now don’t always try to be the first one out of the gate as the mornings in winter is cold a specially along the rivers. Rather wait until it get little bit hotter here from 08h00 as this is the time things really start cooking along Ellof street. There are lion prides that specialize in catching impala along this road in winter and chance are good to find them on the road or along side them hunting/stoking prey in this area. Also leopard and the time to time the odd wilddog pack hangs around the rivers in winter time looking for the large herds of impalas in this area. Like I said not a lot of cheetah on the south side of the river. One thing also to look for in winter is Nyala. Lots up north but not that common down south. In Winter there is a good number of them along the river that can be seen.
Then what we guides refer to as the lake sides(Mantimahle dam, Olifanst drinkgat, Jones-se-Dam, Manzimhlophe dam) are also good for cheetah, elephant, buffalo, rhino and lion. The 2km back road behind Olifanst drinkgat is also good place for leopard. Jones-se-dam also have a nice heard of Sable and they tend to move between Jones and Manzimhlophe drinkgat.
Then all other things depend on veld conditions(did we have good rains, veld fires) weather and the luck of the draw. Pretoruiskop area to most people is a waste of time (and please I know there are the ones that love that area) but can be rewarding if you go there at the right time. If they started the firebreaks in that area and we get a little bit of rain, that areas become some of the best in the park. But go there middle summer with the grass 2m high and you will not see much unless it in the road. From Skukuza you can drive down the Napi road and do some of the smaller loop and dams on your way down. Napi rocks road have some of the best rhino sightings in the park and they are some of the most relaxed in the park. Also if you there in Sep, Oct, Nov it can be one of the places to find cheetah. I saw some where on this forum in a TR of late that showed the cheetahs in the PK area. You can also found some of the rare antelope species around this area, Tsessebe, Lichtenstein’s Hartebeest, Sable and common reedbuck. Also stop at the Shitlave dam junction with the Napi road and scan the area with good binoculars and maybe you will be lucky to see Eland. There is a small herd of 15-20 that roam the area behind Shitlave Dam and some times seen on The Voortrekker road(H2-2) From Pk the best maybe is S7,S1 via Doispane road back to Skukuza, also Voortrekker via H3 back to Skukuza also option but the Voortrekker tend to be good early morning road and after breakfast can get n bit quite down that way. Other options as BB said will be the golden triangle(Skukuza Tshokwane, lower Sabie) with is normally a full day adventure. Different times of year can also have different things to see along these route. Up to Tshokwane have always been route that can be taken any time of year. Also most of the species can be found at any time but you best chances is out early when gates open. Avoid this route on Monday Mornings as lot of Delivery truck head up this way on that days. From Tshokwane you take the H10 to Lower Sabie and if you do it in the winter month, look out for the large herds of Zebra and Wildebeest in this area and also the predators that follow them. Special species here will be Mountain reedbuck on the Nkumbe Hill and also on the back loop behind Munsthe Mountain. At Nkumbe look out for the Black rhino and as you will see this is cheetah country especially on the Mondozi loop and also S128/S129 junction. Biggest herd of buffalo is also in this area with sometimes it around 800-900 depending if the two group are together or not. They do tend to breakup from time to time and then form 2 smaller group.
Well that is enough said from my side and this is to my experience as being n guide base from Hazyview utilize mostly Numbi/Phabeni/Kruger gate. Skukuza can be very awarding and to my opinion the place to start if you new to Kruger and want to see the biggest variety in a sort amount of time. The Animal group sizes around camp is not that big as in other areas but there are not many areas that can provide the same amount of variety than what Skukuza can. Yes its busy and can get to you and the scenery is not close to places like the H10 or certain northern areas of the park, but that you can explore ones Familiar with the park.
But the golden rule always remains ….expect anything any time at any place, you can sometimes just help your luck by knowing the area and what to look for.
Sorry for this long post but I am just one of those that passionate about Kruger and can never stop talking of it to other people……..think going to get famous for writing these long post…