Two of Africa’s most iconic safari destinations are put head-to-head to see who will be on top. Serengeti National Park lies in the Mara Region along the northern border of Tanzania with Kenya, while Kruger National Park lies in the north of South Africa across the provinces - Mpumalanga and Limpopo. These eight factors highlight the strengths of each of the parks.
Both parks deliver when it comes to wildlife: giraffe, zebra, wildebeest and other common safari wildlife. In the southern Serengeti, cheetahs are common, while in central Kruger there are fewer. Kruger is best for greater kudu, sable, nyala and bushbuck, while Serengeti is better for the world’s largest antelope the Eland. The Kruger is home to a few of the remaining endangered African wild dogs’ population, while in the Serengeti several can be spotted regularly. Kruger offers night drives to see smaller nocturnal wildlife, which could be worth it.
Both parks are great for first-timers on safari who want to see the big five. Buffalo, elephant and lion are guaranteed to be seen over a few days. Serengeti is more of an open terrain and is best for viewing lions, while Kruger is denser and is better for viewing elephants. The Kruger is home to the important black rhino; however, this endangered grazer can also be seen from the Ngorongoro Crater to the Serengeti. Seronera River (Serengeti) and Sabi River (Kruger) are perfect places to seek leopard.
Serengeti is known for their variety of wildlife. The annual migration of about two million wildebeest and zebra though the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem. To see the annual migration it requires timing and the luck of being in the right place at the right time, but don’t worry if you miss the migration there are still plenty of wildlife on the Serengeti plains. As dense as the Kruger is, you could drive for 30 minutes and only see small wildlife such as guinea fowl.
There are more than 500 different species of recorded birds. Both parks are spectacular bird destinations. In summer, Kruger can be filled with colourful kingfishers, rollers and bee-eaters on shrubs, a variety of water bird species, as well as soaring raptors. The open terrain of the southern Serengeti doesn’t compare in terms of variety however the more remote north and west locations are magnificent.
Kruger is the best for independent travel as a 4WD is not needed, the entrances and camps are equipped with everything needed to guide oneself around the signposted roads. The camps are well-stocked grocery stores as well as affordable restaurants. The Serengeti takes a different approach to independent travel. Campers need a 4WD, must supply own food and beverages, and there is a small amount of material and signpost to guide one around. This makes the Serengeti best for guided safaris by expert guides who track animals and give a degree of certainty in spotting animals.
Serengeti offers magnificent views which include the Ngorongoro Crater floor and the grassy plains filled with rugged granite kopjes. Kruger, on the other hand, is tangled shrub especially in the winter which happens to be the best time to view wildlife. Kruger certainly has stunning views like the Lebombo Mountains providing an unforgettable backdrop to eastern Kruger, and Olifants Rest Camp provides a view over the eponymous river.
Both parks have crowded areas; Serengeti crowded area is within a 10km radius of Seronera, while the Kruger’s crowded area is south of the Sabi River as it is closest to Johannesburg the biggest city in South Africa. It is possible to escape the crowds in both these parks. Escaping the crowds in Serengeti will be pricier, as you will be staying in bush camps in remote areas. In the Kruger sticking to dirt roads and travelling to camps in the north of Olifants River will get you away from the crowds.
The East of Africa tends to be a little less budget-friendly than South Africa, and both parks are no exception. To a certain extent, this could be linked to the independent travel factors that were highlighted earlier. However there are other factors such as the daily entrance fee, the Serengeti is US$50 per person while the Kruger is US$20. There is a Wild Card which gives a year’s access to any South African national park at a discounted rate and these cards cost US$150 (optional). Almost all the accommodation in the Serengeti is over US$300 per person per night, while accommodation in Kruger starts from US$50.
Travellers that are budget-conscious or want to travel independently would prefer Kruger. These travellers could enjoy two weeks exploring the Kruger on their own for the same cost as a three-night Serengeti safari. A Serengeti Safari provides luxury accommodation, five-star cuisine and activities to leave most in awe, all well worth the money spent.
The Kruger is best suited for the budget safari traveller when staying at selected camps, while the Serengeti offers luxury and activities beyond the norm. So the answer to who does it better is not an easy one and will be up to each individual and personal preferences.
However, it should come down to when are you travelling. If weather conditions determine when you will be on safari, then be aware that the Kruger at the end of the dry season (July to early October) is aesthetically pleasing. In this period the vegetation is low and the wildlife is nearer to the watering points, while the best period to visit the Serengeti is from December to May, when the wildebeest are in the south.
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