They’re both iconic destinations, known for their prolific wildlife and once-in-a-lifetime viewing experiences, but when it comes to safaris, do you choose East Africa or Southern Africa? Well, that depends on several factors. Let’s unpack each park in a little more detail before we share the verdict.
Table of Contents
- The Kruger National Park, South Africa
- The Serengeti National Park – Tanzania
- The Kruger vs Serengeti:
- The Final Verdict
The Kruger National Park, South Africa
The Kruger National Park is one of the continent’s largest game reserves, covering an extensive 7576 square miles of northeastern South Africa. It is home to a huge array of wildlife, including over 500 bird species, 150 mammal species, and 100 reptile species. It also boasts an incredible display of plant life and is home to several important archaeological sites, including the Thulamela iron-age settlement and Makahane Ruins.
Kruger National Park Pros
• It’s easily self-driveable, meaning you don’t have to pay for a guide or rent an expensive four-wheel drive.
• Camps are equipped with shops, groceries, and an array of restaurants, so travelers don’t have to stock up hugely in advance.
• Offers several incredible lodges for luxury travelers and some more affordable options.
• A must-see for those who love African bush art since there are around 130 documented sites.
• Best place to spot the Big 5!
Top wildlife to see at the Kruger: Rhinos, lions, buffalo, zebra, hyenas, and leopards (if you’re super lucky).
The Serengeti National Park – Tanzania
The Serengeti in Tanzania spans 5700 square miles and is partly adjacent to Kenya’s border. It’s world-renowned for its super high concentration of wildlife and the captivating savannas captured perfectly in glossy coffee table guides.
The Serengeti is also world-famous for being the home of the ultimate wildlife migration each year. The Great Migration is the largest global overland migration on the planet. During this time, over two million mammals -including wildebeest, zebras, antelopes and impalas – cross the vast landscape of East Africa – including the Serengeti – in search of sustenance.
Serengeti National Park Pros
• The chance to witness the incredible Great Migration – a truly unparalleled experience.
• The possibility of spotting elusive creatures like cheetahs.
• Fantastic all-year-long viewing thanks to the excellent climate.
• Gorgeous, vast sweeping savannas which are perfect for photographs.
Top wildlife to see in the Serengeti: Lion prides (who adore the open terrain of the Serengeti), buffalo, wildebeest, elephants, cheetah, and wild dogs.
The Kruger vs Serengeti:
Both parks have so much to offer. At a quick glance, each park will appeal to different travelers and their unique needs.
Independent / self-driving travelers: The Kruger Wins
If you’re traveling without a guide and don’t have a 4X4, then the Kruger is a better bet as there are loads of signposts which makes navigation a pretty easy feat. The camps are also fully stocked with equipment and food supplies, and there are plenty of restaurants around. The Serengeti, on the other hand, requires four-wheel drives, and travelers should largely bring their own food and supplies – unless staying at a luxury lodge.
Travelers on a smaller budget: The Kruger Wins
Budget-conscious folk will be better off visiting the Kruger as East Africa tends to have higher price points. Nonetheless, the Kruger also has some seriously lavish lodges for those looking to spend a pretty penny. Those on a budget, however, will probably find cheaper deals at the Kruger
Unique wildlife phenomenon: The Serengeti Wins
While both parks will appeal to nature lovers, the Serengeti offers something extraordinary if you’re able to catch the Great Migration. You’ll see hundreds of thousands of hoofed creatures crossing the vast plains and might even spot predators like the lion trying to catch in on the action. The Serengeti is also superb if you want to spot a cheetah or wild dog and has the hugest concentration of wildlife on the continent.
Nonetheless, the Kruger also boasts a myriad of animal life and is definitely the best spot to find elephants and rhinos!
For Scenery: Both Are Stunning!
This is a tough one as both options offer a plethora of gorgeous views and landscapes, albeit different. The Serengeti boasts a more open landscape creating a seemingly more authentic experience. The landscape lends itself to lion viewing and those typical Lion King-Esque open savannas. The Kruger, on the other hand, is made up of scenic woodlands and dense forest areas.
For Bird Watching: Both Are Great!
Both destinations have an incredible selection of birdlife, making them must-visit spots for birding enthusiasts. Rest camps and water spots are great places to find bird species. At the Kruger, you can spot lappet-faced vultures, ground hornbills, martial eagles, and kori bustards. The Serengeti is also home to many species of bird, including Fischer’s Lovebird, the grey-breasted spurfowl, and the secretary bird.
For Weather Considerations: The Serengeti Wins
The Serengeti boasts a temperate climate all year long, meaning that you don’t have to travel in accordance with the seasons. As a tropical destination, season fluctuations are much less dramatic than in South Africa. If you choose Kruger, visit in the drier summer seasons between November and March.
The Final Verdict
Both the Kruger National Park and the Serengeti offer travelers an unforgettable experience. In a dream world – where you’ve won the lottery and quit the day job – I’d suggest experiencing both. However, if you’ve got to choose one, base your decision on your budget, the top animals you want to see, and what you’d like to do after your safari adventure.
If you want to travel further, choose your experience in the country you would best like to explore after the safari. South Africa is a must-see if you love gorgeous wines, urbanized spaces, and a bucket-load of history. Tanzania is better suited for those wanting to revel in Zanzibar island vibes or go Gorilla trekking.
Both destinations have an abundance of activities and experiences for travelers, and both occasions will likely rank high on your travel experience list if you get the chance.
Let us know which destination you choose! And if you have been lucky enough to visit both, share your favorites with us! If you are keen to explore more of Africa, take a look at our ultimate Namibia Itinerary and Morocco guide.