Etosha National Park vs Kruger National Park: Which is the best safari destination for me?
If you are considering booking an unforgettable African safari adventure, then deciding on the best place to visit may just be the most difficult question you have to answer.
Southern Africa alone is home to plethora of amazing safari destinations-from Namibia and Tanzania to Botswana and South Africa- with each country boasting their own unique blend of stunning attractions and natural beauty.
One of the biggest appeals of a safari adventure is the opportunity to witness an abundance of spectacular wildlife up close and personal in their natural habitats, which is why thousands of eager tourists are drawn to two of the most iconic National Parks in the entire Southern African Region: Etosha National Park in Namibia and Kruger National Park in South Africa.
In this article we’ll give you the lowdown on each of these two famous national parks, outlining information such as what wildlife can expect to see, how to get there, and when is the best time to visit.
Regardless of whether this is your maiden safari trip or your tenth, the landscape can have a huge impact on your safari experience. In this respect Kruger National Park and Etosha have many differences that you may want to consider.
Situated in the northeast region of South Africa, the Kruger landscape is characterized by savannah and grasslands, with thick and lush vegetation widespread particularly in the areas surrounding the Crocodile rivers and Limpopo. Although the thick vegetation doesn’t mean that spotting wildlife is impossible, it can make things a little more difficult given that some animals tend to roam behind the dense bushes.
Conversely, Etosha National Park, which stretches across an area 50km wide and 130km long, is a lot drier and more desolate, characterized by low growing vegetation scattered over flat arid plains. Wildlife viewing here is largely unobstructed given that the animas have few places to hide and in the dry season you can often see for miles in all directions.
Driving in Kruger National Park vs Driving in Etosha National Park
Although some safari goers prefer the convenience of a private guided safari tour, others may be considering a self-drive safari adventure whereby you hire your own vehicle and explore at your own pace.
If you’re contemplating a self-drive safari adventure around Kruger or Etosha then it’s important to consider the roads and how easy it is to navigate these national parks.
Inside Kruger you’ll find tarred roads that mostly take you from camp to camp and these have a speed limit of 50km. You will also encounter dirt roads (also labelled S roads), which are used to access waterholes, and these have a speed limit of 40km. Generally, the roads in Kruger National Park are well maintained but be careful driving on the dirt roads because you can often encounter large stones, and approach river crossings with extra care as these can be quite steep.
When driving through Etosha you’ll find the main road, which trails the edge of the Etosha Pan, and then secondary roads that lead towards the waterholes and loops. However, none of these roads are tarred and they can be quite uneven so expect a little bit of a bumpy ride, especially in the dry season when deep ruts can appear. If you’re driving around Etosha, it’s advisable to hire a 4x4.
When is the best time to visit each National Park?
Whilst you can explore both national parks during any season, the best time to visit Kruger and Etosha is in both their respective dry seasons because wildlife tends to congregate around the few remaining waterholes, making animals much easier to spot.
The best time to visit Kruger for game viewing is between May- September. As November and December approach the temperatures often exceed 30C during the day, which encourages many animals to roam during the night when the conditions are cooler. December is also the start of the rainy season, which gives rise to thicker vegetation which can make wildlife harder to spot.
For Etosha National Park, the prime time to visit is between July and October. The wet season starts in November and lasts up until April, which can give rise to lush vegetation making it harder to spot wildlife during this period.
Wildlife viewing in Kruger and Etosha National Park
Kruger and Etosha are each home to hundreds of incredible wildlife species but if you have you heart set on spotting a specific group of animals then this could have a significant influence on where you decide to go.
If you visit Etosha you’ll encounter well over 100 species of mammals including most of Africa’s ‘Big Five’ such as lions, leopards and elephants. The park also boasts a huge population of the magnificent black rhino as well thousands of antelopes like gemsbok and springbok. Further, Etosha is a birdwatchers paradise with the area home to 340 species of stunning birds and over 100 different reptiles.
Kruger National park, on the other hand, is more renowned for predators. Latest estimates suggest that there are 2,000 lions, 2,000 spotted hyenas and close to 1,000 leopards that roam the park. As well as predators, Kruger is home to a huge population of buffalo and large herds of antelopes like waterbuck and kudu. Visitors to Kruger will also encounter plenty of rodents as well as hippos and reptiles!
Accommodation in Kruger and Etosha National Park
After a long game drive you’ll no doubt want to retreat to the comfort of your digs and you’ll be pleased to know that both Kruger and Etosha boast a plethora of wonderful accommodation options from campsites right through to luxury lodges.
In Etosha there are 6 camps, with accommodation options ranging from basic tents through to luxury chalets and lodges that feature glorious amenities such as swimming pools, private bedrooms and even Jacuzzis! These luxury accommodation options are perfect for couples on honeymoon, or large groups/families who want to kick back in splendour.
Kruger National Park is home to 20 camps, again with accommodation options that are tailored to suit different tastes and budgets. There are private chalets that boast bedrooms with glorious panoramic views, as well as more modest camp sites that are located within the vicinity of waterholes- perfect if you want to rise at the crack of dawn and spot some incredible wildlife.