Botswana vs Kruger: Which is Best for Safari?

Botswana vs Kruger: Which is Best for Safari?

If you’re looking for the ideal African safari destination packed with excellent wildlife sightings, and fantastic lodges and camps, they don’t get better than South Africa’s Kruger National Park and Botswana’s Chobe National Park and Okavango Delta. Kruger is one of the biggest game reserves on the continent and well-established as one of the best safari destinations for first-time visitors to Africa. Botswana, on the other hand, is home to the magnificent elephant empire of Chobe and one of nature’s true masterpieces, the Delta.

Location & Landscape

1. Location and Landscape

 

Botswana

Landlocked Botswana is the 48-largest country in the world, about the size of France. Although more or less 70 percent of its mostly flat landscape is dominated by the Kalahari Desert, Botswana is home to one of the biggest inland deltas on Earth, the pristine Okavango.

The Okavango Delta as a safari destination

Arguably one of our planet’s last-remaining Gardens of Eden, the Delta is an emerald-green paradise in the middle of the Kalahari Desert and a World Heritage Site. Permanent wetlands situated in the north-western corner of Botswana, the Delta’s maze of channels, floodplains and woodlands are teeming with wildlife. Most of the eastern side of the Delta is protected by the beautiful Moremi Game Reserve.

Chief’s Island is at the Delta’s heart, a permanent dry land about a third the size of New York’s Long Island. It’s part of the Moremi Game Reserve and home to major predators, including rare wild dog.

Several private concessions are clustered around Moremi. These are clearly defined, exclusive-use areas of the Delta that are run by individual operators. Safari lodges in these private concessions offer game viewing as good as Moremi’s but with far fewer crowds, regulations and restrictions. You can, for example, drive off-road and at night to get to sightings.

 

Zebra at Mombo Camp on Chief’s Island.

 

Chobe National Park as a safari destination 

Botswana’s first and most biologically diverse national park is home to around 70 000 elephants – one of the biggest populations in Africa. Chobe can be divided into three distinct areas:

  • Chobe River – lush floodplains and dense woodlands bordered by the Chobe in the northeast (a major watering spot for wildlife and one of the only places in Botswana where you can see the puku antelope). It is in close proximity to Victoria Falls (day trips are possible) and a safe haven for Africa’s densest concentration of elephants.

 

Watching elephants on the ‘Zambezi Queen’.

 

  • Savuti – fed by the very erratic Savuti Channel (now flowing for the first time since 1982), this mysterious region is covered with savannahs, rolling grasslands and hundreds of dead trees along the channel’s bank. Savuti is famous for the epic battles between large lion prides and hyena clans for food and territory, as well as the powerful lions that take down Africa’s biggest game like buffalo, giraffe and even elephants. Only accessed by air, Botswana’s ‘predator capital’ is a heavy hitter among safari aficionados.

 

Lions spotted at Savuti Camp.

 

  • Linyanti – wedged between Chobe, the Delta and Namibia’s Caprivi Strip, this region is wild, very remote and was once part of a great inland lake. Its wide rivers and spreading floodplains harbour a plethora of wildlife and offer some of the best birdwatching in Southern Africa, home to many rarities and majestic raptors.

 

Leopard at Kwando Lagoon in Linyanti.

The Kruger National Park as an African safari destination

This legendary park lies in the north-eastern part of South Africa and is one of the continent’s biggest game reserves – almost the size of Israel. It was first proclaimed a protected area in 1898 and is now part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, a peace park (transboundary protected area) that links up with the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique and Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park. Kruger also shares borders with private reserves like Thornybush, Sabi Sands, MalaMala and Timbavati.

The Kruger is synonymous with thorny acacia trees along its rivers, and many marula and mopane trees. The eastern half of the park is the most important grazing area, providing red and buffalo grass species as nourishment for its resident herbivores.

Neighbouring areas 

The Limpopo River is Kruger’s natural northern border with Zimbabwe, while the Crocodile River is the park’s southern boundary. The Lebombo Mountains to the east separate the park from Mozambique. To the west lies Phalaborwa, the only town in South Africa that borders the Kruger, and Nelspruit which is home to Kruger-Mpumalanga International Airport.

 

Watching elephants in the Singita concession of the Sabi Sands.

 

BOTSWANA KRUGER NATIONAL PARK
Shares borders with
  • Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Namibia
  • Zimbabwe and Mozambique
Terrain
  • About 70% is semi-desert (Nxai Pan, Makgadikgadi and the Central Kalahari)
  • The Okavango is the world’s largest inland delta
  • Savannah areas around the Chobe River
  • Open woodland or dense acacia scrub
  • Studded with giant trees and rocky hills known as ‘koppies’
Main conservation areas
  • Okavango Delta
  • Moremi Game Reserve
  • Chobe National Park (including Savuti and Linyanti)
  • Central Kalahari
  • Makgadikgadi Pans
  • Nxai Pan
  • The entire national park
  • Private reserves along the Kruger’s western boundary (Sabi Sands, Thornybush, Timbavati, and more)
  • Private concessions within the national park (Imbali, Tinga, and more)
Cost & Budget

2. Costs: Botswana Safari vs Kruger Safari

It’s really tricky to give exact costs for any safari. There are many variables that can influence your budget like:

  • What time of year do you want to travel?
  • How luxurious a stay do you want to have?
  • Do you want to stay in private reserves and concessions?
  • Do you want to fly or drive between destinations?

The general rule of thumb is, the more budget you have available for your safari, the more private and exclusive you can go. Other than personalised service in luxurious camps and lodges, the biggest benefit of staying in a private concession is the quality of game viewing that you will enjoy. National parks can get extremely crowded, especially during peak safari season, and most of the time you’ll have to share animal sightings with other vehicles and groups. A private safari means you have access to a private guide, vehicle and an exclusive-use piece of wilderness to explore. You’ll also be able to go on guided walks and spot-lit night game drives – activities not allowed in the public parks.

The following tables provide approximate costs for a safari in Botswana and the Kruger. These estimates are based on a price-per-person-per-night, including accommodation and transfers:

Botswana

4-star comfort 4-star luxury 5-star luxury
Low High Low High Low High
$400 $550 $550 $850 - $950 $1000 $1200 - $2000

INSIDER’S TIP: In most cases, a safari in Botswana is more expensive than one in the Kruger, as you can usually only fly between destinations like the Okavango Delta and Chobe. You will however, be immersed in one of Africa’s last remaining untouched wildernesses.

 

Kruger National Park

4-star comfort 4-star luxury 5-star luxury
Low High Low High Low High
$350 $400 $500 $550 - $750 $700 $750 - $1200

 

Private game viewing in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve.

 

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Accommodation

3. Best Safari Accommodation in Kruger & Botswana

Botswana

You will find some of Africa’s most beautiful and luxurious safari lodges in Botswana, as well as remote and wonderfully authentic tented camps. Situated in prime wildlife areas, Botswana’s safari accommodation delivers high standards of service, dining and guiding. Chobe and Moremi offer land-based safari lodges, while the rest of the Okavango Delta is synonymous with water-based accommodation.

There is only one lodge situated in Chobe National Park, Chobe Game Lodge, and several private accommodation options available in the Chobe River, Savuti and Linyanti areas.

 

OKAVANGO DELTA CHOBE NATIONAL PARK
Water-based camps / lodges
  • Located at permanent water sites: boating and canoe safaris throughout the year
  • Only one in the national park, Chobe Game Lodge
Land-based camps / lodges
  • Located in seasonally flooded areas: focus more on game drives and may not offer water activities during low-water season
  • Situated in the Chobe River area and the central Savuti region
Private camps / lodges
  • In private concessions around Moremi Game Reserve
  • A few in Linyanti’s three private wildlife reserves: Linyanti, Selinda and Kwando

 

Whether you’re looking for private butlers and copper bathtubs or zero Wi-Fi connectivity and hot-bucket showers, Botswana has it all. Here are some of our favourite options:

View all our accommodation in:

 

Kruger National Park

The best way to experience the magic of Kruger is to stay in one of its private reserves or concessions. Excellent service and fine cuisine go hand in hand at the exclusive camps and lodges – some of which have won international awards. The Kruger National Park also offers affordable tented camps, self-catering rest camps and family-friendly lodges. Most of the accommodation is spread out across the park and its neighbouring private reserves. Our favourite options in the Kruger are:

Big 5 & Game Viewing

4. Big 5 and Game Viewing

Both Botswana and the Kruger are world-renowned wildlife destinations that offer classic, heavyweight game viewing – especially the iconic Big 5. While you’re very likely to see lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo all in the same day in the Kruger, you might have to search a little longer for them in the Okavango Delta’s Moremi Game Reserve.

 

BOTSWANA KRUGER NATIONAL PARK
Big 5 sightings
  • Easiest in Moremi
  • Extremely reliable all over
Game viewing highlights
  • Tsessebe, red lechwe and sitatunga antelope in the Delta
  • Predators in Moremi, especially lion and leopard
  • Massive elephant herds in Chobe
  • Lion prides competing with hyena clans and taking down very large mammals (buffalo and elephant) in Chobe’s Savuti region
  • Wild dog in Chobe’s Linyanti concession
  • White and black rhino
  • Wild dog
  • Sable antelope
  • Leopard sightings in the private reserves like Sabi Sands, Timbavati and Thornybush
Birdwatching highlights
  • African fish eagle
  • Pel's fishing owl
  • Crested crane
  • Lilac-breasted roller
  • Hamerkop
  • Sacred ibis
  • Regional rarities and raptors in Linyanti
  • Many kingfisher species
  • Lilac-breasted rollers
  • Carmine bee-eaters
  • Raptors like eagles, vultures and owls
  • Waterfowl along dams and rivers

 

Leopard at Kwando Lagoon near Linyanti.

 

INSIDER’S TIP: Because Chobe is a national park and home to one of the biggest elephant populations in Africa, it can get extremely crowded during peak safari season. The Linyanti area’s three private wildlife reserves (Linyanti, Selinda and Kwando) offer a more exclusive experience and activities that are not permitted in the national park – like nature walks and night drives.

Activities

5. Best Safari Activities

Morning and afternoon game drives are par for the course in Botswana and the Kruger National Park. Professional guides take you out into the wilderness in 4x4 vehicles, track animals and identify and explain what you see. You’ll have more activities available in a private reserve that are not permitted in the national parks – like off-road driving, guided nature walks and spot-lit night drives.

 

Walking at Sandibe in the Okavango Delta.

 

Many family-friendly camps and lodges in both destinations offer educational programmes for children. If you’re staying at an exclusive or private lodge, you might be able to try your hand at other activities like archery, interactive cooking classes with professional chefs, or sleeping out in the wilderness on a star bed.

 

The Chalkley Treehouse at Lion Sands.

 

Activities only available in Botswana

  • Mokoro (traditional dug-out canoe) ride: a quintessential Okavango Delta safari experience
  • Motor-boat ride: a wonderful way to explore the Delta’s channels further away from your camp or lodge
  • Sunset boat cruise on the Chobe River: the perfect way to end a day on safari in Chobe National Park

 

Mokoro rides at Mapula Lodge in the Delta.

 

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When to Go

6. When to Go (Best Time of the Year)

The Delta and Kruger are both fantastic year-round safari destinations thanks to abundant wildlife and permanent water sources. Bear in mind the Delta’s seasonal nature, so the best time for a water-based safari is during its high-water season (from about June to August). Kruger’s peak safari season is during its dry winter months (May to October), as animals are easier to spot in the low and scattered vegetation.

Most safari goers visit Chobe National Park during its dry season (from about May to October), renowned for large numbers of animals along the Chobe River and in the Savuti area. Chobe also offers sensational game viewing from August to October, but temperatures are very high during this time of year.

 

BOTSWANA KRUGER NATIONAL PARK
Peak safari season
  • Dry winter months (May to October)
  • Dry winter months (May to October)
Low / Green Season
  • Wet summer months (November to April)
  • Wet summer months (November to April)
Best time for game viewing
  • High water season in the Delta (June to August) – good for boating and canoe safaris
  • September to October in Moremi (hot and dry)
  • Dry season in Chobe (May to October)
  • Dry winter season (May to October)
Best time for birdwatching
  • Green Season in the Delta (November to April)
  • Green Season in Chobe (December to March)
  • Green Season (November to April)

 

Elephant crossing in Chobe.

 

Read more

A seasonal guide to planning your Botswana safari
Safari high vs low season: the best time to see animals
Best time of the year to see the Big 5
No rain, no gain: why travel to Botswana in the Green Season

Best Suited For...

7. Travellers Best Suited For…

Botswana

Whether you’re looking for a luxury safari experience or a rugged adventure, Botswana will deliver. It’s a great destination for multi-generational family vacations, but better suited for families with children older than seven. It’s a fantastic destination for avid birdwatchers and photographers. Wildlife enthusiasts will love the density and diversity of Botswana’s wildlife, especially in Chobe, while the luxurious and exclusive nature of Chobe’s safari accommodation means it's an ideal destination for honeymooners.

Kruger National Park

Whether you’re a first-time visitor to Africa or a veteran of many safaris, the Kruger will not disappoint. This country-sized park offers a wide diversity of wildlife and some of the finest game viewing in Africa. The Kruger also boasts international award-winning accommodation, smooth-running logistics, its very own international airport, and some of the best guides and trackers in the business.

It’s an excellent choice for safari first-timers and honeymooners. Family-friendly lodges offer specialised safari programmes for children, and you can expect luxurious suites and superlative service at the private camps and lodges.

 

BOTSWANA KRUGER NATIONAL PARK
First-time safari goers
  • Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park
  • Ideal
Honeymooners
  • Private reserves around Moremi
  • Private and intimate accommodation in Chobe
  • Private reserves and concessions
Families
  • Suitable for children over seven years
  • Suitable for all ages
Self-drivers
  • Not recommended
  • You cannot drive between destinations in the Delta and Chobe
  • Good option – easy accessibility and excellent infrastructure
Birdwatchers
  • Excellent choice, especially the Delta and Chobe’s Linyanti
  • Good choice
Exclusivity seekers
  • Private reserves around Moremi
  • Chobe’s Linyanti area
  • Private reserves like Sabi Sands, Thornybush and Timbavati, as well as Singita's concessions
Active travellers
  • Canoe safaris in the Delta
  • Guided walks in the Delta and Chobe River area
  • Guided walks in private reserves and concessions
  • Several private lodges have fully-equipped gyms

 

Outdoor tub at Sable Alley’s honeymoon suite.

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Africa’s best family destinations: safari in Botswana

Malaria, Health & Safety

8. Malaria, Health and Safety

 

BOTSWANA KRUGER NATIONAL PARK
Risk of malaria
  • Very low, unless you visit rural villages
  • Very slight risk during the rainy season, especially between January and April
  • Virtually no risk at all during the long dry season from about May to October

 

Both Botswana and the Kruger National Park are safe destinations and many travellers go on safari there every year. Go2Africa has been tailor-making Botswana and Kruger safaris for our clients since 1998 – here are our top tips when it comes to health and safety:

Before your safari

  • Chat to your doctor or travel clinic about necessary vaccinations.
  • If it’s decided to take a prophylactic for malaria and you’ll be scuba diving after your safari, ensure that your doctor knows about it, as some medication will interfere with diving.

During your safari

  • Always stay hydrated and wear sunscreen – the main risk on an African safari is sun stroke.
  • Listen to your guide’s warnings and instructions, he/she is there to keep you safe in the wild.
  • Make sure you’re escorted by a guide when walking to your tent or room at night, even if the camp or lodge is fenced.
  • Some accommodation is unfenced and it’s not unusual for animals to wander through camp – don’t keep any food in your tent, you might get an unwanted visit!

 

Fighting lions at Sabi Sabi.

Read more

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Combine Best With...

9. Combine Best With…

Because of their proximity to one another, Botswana and the Kruger are actually easy to combine in a Southern African safari itinerary. Sir Seretse Khama in Gaborone is Botswana’s main international airport, but almost all safari goers skip it and fly from South Africa’s Johannesburg to:

  • Maun – easy access to the Delta
  • Kasane – gateway to Chobe and 100km / 62mi from Victoria Falls

Kruger’s major airport, Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport, is located in Nelspruit and travellers can fly from here to destinations like Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and even Mozambique. The smaller Hoedspruit Airport makes it easier to get to the park’s private reserves like Thornybush, Sabi Sands and Timbavati, while Phalaborwa Airport serves the northern Kruger.

 

DESTINATION WHY GO
Kalahari
  • The annual zebra migration
  • Unique wildlife like meerkat, pangolin and aardwolf
  • Beautiful scenery and staggering night sky in Makgadikgadi
  • Baines Baobabs in Nxai Pan
Victoria Falls
  • See the biggest waterfall in the world
  • Luxurious riverside lodges and boat cruises on the Zambezi
Zimbabwe
  • Fantastic big game viewing in Hwange National Park and Mana Pools
  • Off-the-beaten track safari experience
Zambia
  • Raw beauty without any crowds
  • Excellent walking safaris in South Luangwa
  • Canoe safari in the beautiful Lower Zambezi
Cape Town
  • World-class beaches and winelands
  • Experience the Garden Route
Namibia
  • Visit the world’s oldest desert, the Namib
  • Sensational game viewing in Etosha
  • Dramatic scenery of the Skeleton Coast
Mozambique
  • Postcard-perfect island of the Bazaruto Archipelago
  • Exclusive private islands of the Quirimbas Archipelago
  • Fantastic scuba diving and snorkelling

 

Light aircraft flying over the Delta.

Popular Itinerary Ideas

10. Most Popular Itinerary Ideas

Botswana:

 

Kruger National Park:

All Go2Africa’s Botswana and Kruger safari itineraries are completely flexible around your budget and travel wishes. Get in touch with one of our Africa Safari Experts to start planning your dream vacation.