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Two Southern Africa safari heavyweights - the question of which is better between Hwange National Park vs Kruger National Park is a little more layered than a simple “one or the other”. Both boast everything you would expect from a premier safari destination; Big 5 sightings, four- and five-star accommodation, diverse wildlife, and astounding landscapes that beckon to you for exploration, making it near-impossible to say one is better than the other.

Our advice? Don’t choose. If you are in Southern Africa, a bespoke itinerary provides you the luxury of exploring so much of what the region has to offer. However, should you find yourself having to pick between one or the other, we hope we can make your choice a little easier by shedding some light on what makes each of these impeccable destinations among the best on the continent.

We delve into everything you need to know about these exciting wildlife destinations when making the decision between Hwange vs Kruger.

Summary

Summary

Hwange National Park

Explore the vastness of Hwange on game drives | The Hide Lodge

Hwange is Zimbabwe’s largest national park, renowned for its superabundance of wildlife – with over 100 species of land animals and more than 400 species of bird. This safari paradise is home to the world’s second-largest elephant population, with around 45,000 of these gentle giants roaming Hwange.

The area is also known for its strong population of African wild dogs – a feat largely contributed to the conservation efforts made by the Painted Dog Conservation organisation. Add to that its proximity to popular destination, Victoria Falls, and you have a recipe for the perfect African getaway.

All-in-all, Hwange National Park offers a well-rounded escape that perfectly blends an authentic safari experience with the magic of the world’s largest waterfall and positive impact travel, enabling visitors to contribute meaningfully while exploring the region.

Highlights:

  • Hwange is just a stone’s throw away from the magnificent Victoria Falls
  • All the members of the Big 5 are present
  • An elephant sanctuary with a staggering number of these gentle giants
  • 4* and 5* camps and lodges
  • Offers year-round wildlife viewing

Kruger National Park

The vast plains of the Kruger | Singita Sweni Lodge

For many, it is this iconic South African park that comes to mind when they hear the word “safari”. Being one of the largest game reserves in Africa, the diversity of the Kruger National Park wildlife is as wide as the breadth of the land. Besides the famous Big 5 (featuring both black and white rhinos), the Kruger holds one of the largest populations of the endangered African wild dog, a population of over 400 adult individual cheetahs, as well as the playful but fierce hyena.

The Kruger is a popular safari destination as it offers something every traveller, from families with young kids to honeymooners and those flying solo. Its excellent infrastructure, good travel network, professional guides, superb service, and incredible luxury accommodations make it an ideal vacation spot in Africa.

Highlights:

  • Access to both the national park and private reserves, the latter of which have fewer crowds
  • Amongst the best Big 5 sightings on the continent
  • World-class 4* and 5* accommodation
  • Walking and guided safaris are available, but the network of roads throughout the park makes it easily accessible by vehicle allowing for self-drive safaris
  • Nearly 20,000 km of picturesque panoramic landscapes
Location

Location

Where is Hwange National Park Located?

Kids enjoying a swim in Hwange | Somalisa Acacia Camp

Nestled in the western reaches of Zimbabwe near its border with Botswana and sprawled across approximately 14,600 square kilometres (5,850 square miles) of land, Hwange stands as Zimbabwe’s largest national park. Its varied landscapes transition from lush woodlands and sprawling grasslands to stretches of semi-desert, with a portion of the park located on the edge of the venerable Kalahari Desert.

Just a stone’s throw south lies the majestic Victoria Falls, inviting you to marvel at the grandeur of the world’s largest waterfall and one of the Seven Wonders. But Hwange offers more than proximity to this natural wonder; it serves as a gateway to both Zimbabwe and Zambia, with Victoria Falls straddling the border between these two nations. Moreover, the park offers convenient access to the mighty Zambezi River and other iconic Zimbabwean destinations, including Mana Pools and Matusadona National Park

Where is Kruger National Park Located?

Aerial view of the Kruger | Thornybush Game Lodge

The Kruger National Park is primely situated in the north-eastern part of South Africa. The park also shares borders with Mozambique – separated by the Lebombo mountain range- and Zimbabwe. There are six major rivers and tributaries throughout and surrounding the park, all of which attract a host of wildlife for you to take advantage of during your visit here.

The Sabie River, which flows from the Drakensberg Mountains through to the Kruger, provides excellent game viewing opportunities. To the south of the park flows the reptile-rife Crocodile River and to the north, the grand Limpopo River – one of South Africa’s largest rivers – and the Luvuvhu tributary, which are teeming with hippos, crocs, and a rich birdlife.

Beyond the riverine ecosystems, the diverse landscapes within the park include savannahs and woodlands, adding to the rich and varied habitat of the Kruger for a wide array of wildlife species.

Costs

Costs: Hwange vs Kruger Safari

Spot your favourite an African animals on game drives | The Hide Lodge

At Go2Africa, we specialise in crafting bespoke safari itineraries tailored to the desires and needs of our clients. This means that no two safaris are alike, nor is there one standard price.

The general cost of any safari depends on numerous factors including:

  • When you travel- peak season versus off-season
  • Your chosen type of safari accommodation
  • Whether you stay in a private reserve/concession or a national park
  • How you choose to travel between destinations

However, we can provide you with a few ballpark figures when deciding between Hwange National Park vs Kruger National Park:

Zimbabwe Safari Cost:

4-Star Comfort 4-Star Luxury 5-Star Luxury
Low High Low High Low High
$800 $1,200 $1,050 $1,600 $2,900 $3,250

South Africa Safari Cost:

4-Star Comfort 4-Star Luxury 5-Star Luxury
Low High Low High Low High
$500 $550 $600 $650-$900 $1,100 $1,200-$1,850

Please note: All costs mentioned above are only guidelines and an average for per person, per night, sharing a room. Rates exclude international flights, visas, and optional activities. Conservation fees, levies and permits are all subject to change.

Safari Accommodation

Safari Accommodation in Hwange vs Kruger

Expert guides and trackers ensure you get the best experience | Thornybush Game Lodge

Hwange National Park

Accommodation in Hwange caters to every kind of traveller, with options ranging from classic bush camps to luxury tented camps. Bush camps provide a more authentic camping experience, bringing you closer to your environment. Luxury camps both juxtapose and blend in effortlessly with the park’s natural beauty, but with a greater emphasis on comfort and providing a deluxe experience.

Our Recommendations:

Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
camp-hwange-waterhole-view-2 camp-hwange-room-exterior camp-hwange-31 camp-hwange-dinner camp-hwange-morning-start camp-hwange-game-drives camp-hwange-bush-dinner

Camp Hwange

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Game drives Guided walks
Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
SomalisaCamp-Activity-ArealView SomalisaCamp-Exterior-ArealView SomalisaCamp-Interior-Lounge SomalisaCamp-Bathroom-LuxuryRoom SomalisaCamp-Interior-LuxuryRoom SomalisaCamp-UpperLevelBedroom-ArealView SomalisaCamp-UpperLevelBedroom-Bathroom

Somalisa Camp

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Game drives Guided walking safaris Guided walks Horse riding
Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
LinkwashaCamp-Exterior-Buffalo LinkwashaCamp-Exterior-Evening LinkwashaCamp-SwimmingPool-ArialView LinkwashaCamp-Interior-Lounge LinkwashaCamp-Exterior-SkyBed LinkwashaCamp-Interior-StandardRoom LinkwashaCamp-UpperLevelBedroom-Evening

Linkwasha Camp

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bird watching Cultural visits Fly camping Game drives

Kruger National Park

The Kruger is known to have some of the most diverse accommodation offerings, ranging from affordable tented camps to luxury lodges and high-end tented camps. Accommodation is one of the aspects of travel where we highly recommend going big, especially within the Kruger. The private reserves or concessions here offer some of the finest accommodations country-wide, including exclusive family-friendly lodges and romantic permanent camps.

Some of the added benefits of staying within a private reserve include a lower number of people, access to five-star/world-class service and amenities – such as star-beds, and private game drives – and prime game viewing only accessible to guests of the concession. Private reserves are truly the epitome of a luxury safari experience.

Our Recommendations:

Kruger Private Concessions, South Africa
Kamara House is set in a game-rich reserve forming part of the Greater Kruger. Large indoor to outdoor living space. Large veranda with plenty of seating to enjoy the view from. Kamara lounge. Expansive veranda and pool deck. Special moments with your family. Cool off in the swimming pool.

Kamara House

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Children's activities Dinner under the stars Nature walks Night drives
Kruger National Park, South Africa
Exterior view. Game drives in Kapama Private Game Reserve. Furnished deck with a private plunge pool. Spacious villas. Kapama Karula entrance and walkways. The main lodge area with sunken firepit. Guided walking safaris.

Kapama Karula

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Animal tracking experience Elephant interactive experience Game drives Guided walks
Kruger National Park, South Africa
editedRiver-Lodge-Firepit-Lounge LionSandsRiverLodge-Exterior-ArialView LionSandsRiverLodge-Entrance-LuxuryRoom LionSandsRiverLodge-Exterior-DeckPatio LionSandsRiverLodge-SwimmingPool-Afternoon LionSandsRiverLodge-UpperLevelBedroom-Afternoon LionSandsRiverLodge-Bathroom-LuxuryRoom

Lion Sands River Lodge

Activities Travellers Enjoyed
Bird watching Bush dining Children's activities Game drives
Wildlife

Wildlife

Wildlife in Hwange

Lioness walking past antelope | Little Makalolo Camp

Hwange is known as one of the best places to go on safari in Zimbabwe, and for good reason. A little more untamed than the Kruger, the Zimbabwean reserve welcomes you to explore 15,000 km² of expansive land, home to over 100 species of mammal and more than 100 species of bird – a treat for bird enthusiasts. Notably, the reserve is also home to the continent’s second-largest elephant population with over 45,000 of these colossal mammals, preceded only by Botswana’s Chobe National Park.

Thanks to the Painted Dog organisation, Hwange has a thriving African wild dog population with over 30 packs of these social canids, as well as other predators including leopards, cheetahs, and lions – all of which are present in healthy numbers. Although the Big 5 are technically present in Hwange, it is important to note that the local rhinos do not roam the reserve because they are protected by the Community Rhino Conservation Initiative.

Wildlife in the Kruger

Leopard in a tree | Thornybush Game Lodge

There is plenty of wildlife in the Kruger for you to see. The park is one of the best places on the continent to spot the Big 5. So much so that you may even tick all five of these coveted creatures off your bucket list in a single day. But the park has much more to offer than just the famous five. Minimal fencing means animals can roam around freely, so you never know what else you might find crouched just a few meters from your safari vehicle.

You can also expect rare sightings of the elusive African wild dog, and if you’re lucky, you may even catch the fastest land mammal on the planet – the cheetah – on the hunt. Other regular sightings include an abundance of zebra, giraffe, and hippo, as well as many a vervet monkey.

Activities

Activities

Hwange

Enjoy armchair safaris from a sleepout hide | Linkwasha Camp

From wilderness walks to classic 4×4 safaris and more, Hwange has much to offer in wildlife sightings. Getting on the ground during a guided walking experience is one of the best ways to experience the ecosystem – it’s a chance to fully immerse yourself in the varying landscapes. Under the guidance of a knowledgeable guide, you’ll have the special opportunity to get up close to the vivid and varying flora and fauna, the colourful birdlife, and of course, some of the fiercest wildlife on the planet.

Outside of the usual safari endeavours, Victoria Falls, one of the world’s Seven Natural Wonders, stands in its grandiosity just a charter flight away. Several Hwange accommodations offer the one-of-a-kind opportunity to sleep under the night sky in star beds – a romantic bonding experience for couples or an exciting one to enjoy with the little ones. Finally, Hwange is one of the best places to combine with other southern gems such as Mana Pools or Matusadona National Park.

Kruger

Explore the Kruger in a variety of ways, including biking | Singita Boulders Lodge

Due to the sheer size of the Kruger, many of the sites in it are quite far apart, even by car. The main focus for visitors is the game, but worry not, there is plenty to do outside of going on safari – but what you have access to may depend on where you decide to stay, so choose carefully.

Within the Kruger, important sites such as the Letaba Elephant Museum and the Thulamela Archaeological Site make for enriching historical visits. Luxury lodges in private reserves also offer a wealth of activities. From guided stargazing to sleeping beneath the stars or experiencing fly camping, the choices are diverse. Outdoors you can enjoy personalised adventures with conservationists and researchers or try your hand at sports like tennis and archery. Adults can unwind with wine tasting, yoga, specialist photography courses and private cooking lessons at their own pace. Finally, spending a night under the African sky in the sky beds is a must.

More adventure can be found just outside the Kruger. Golf, hot-air ballooning, visiting animal sanctuaries, and hiking picturesque paths are just a few activities to add to your to-do list.

When to Go

When to Go

Stay in luxury accommodation | Saseka Tented Camp

While the Kruger is a fantastic year-round destination, Hwange (and much of Zimbabwe) has a wet and dry season. During the wet season, the region experiences heavy rains, which causes certain areas to become inaccessible, forcing many lodges and camps to close for a period of time. Zimbabwe’s rainy season runs from late November to March (occasionally into April too).

July to October welcome the dry season and is considered peak safari season in Zimbabwe. This is regarded as the best time to visit Hwange National Parl. It’s important to know that this is also the time that attracts the most people, so the main areas within the park tend to get slightly crowded. From April to September there is little rain, and is also considered a good period to visit the park.

The two seasons in the Kruger are the dry and rainy season. Winter (May to October) is dry season, while the rainy season runs from November to April. While the dry winter season is considered the best time to view game, the Kruger is particularly special in that it is accessible year-round, and each season brings a unique experience to your explorations across the South African plains.

Hwange National Park Kruger National Park
Peak safari season Dry winter months (July to October) Dry winter months (May to October)
Low season Wet summer months (November to April) Wet summer months (November to April)
Best time for game viewing Dry winter months (July to October) Dry winter season (May to October)
Best time for birdwatching Green Season (Mid-November to March) Green Season (November to April)
Best Suited For

Best Suited For

Age-appropriate activities ensure children have the best time | Somalisa Acacia Camp
Hwange National Park Kruger National Park
First-time safari goers Well-suited Ideal
Couples & honeymooners Perfect for romantics Private reserves and concessions
Families There are family-friendly lodges that cater especially to families Is renowned as a family-friendly destination and is suitable for all ages
Self-drive safaris Available, but requires preparation and planning – more common in camps that do not offer guided game drives Common and easily accessible with suitable infrastructure
Birdwatchers Excellent, one of the best places in Southern Africa for birding A great choice
Exclusivity Available at certain camps and lodges Private reserves provide exclusive and personalised service
Malaria, Health & Safety

Malaria, Health, and Safety

Immerse yourself in nature without compromising on comfort | Royal Malewane Lodge
Hwange National Park Kruger National Park
Risk of malaria ·        Hwange is known as a malaria zone, with the highest risk prevalent in the wet season (October to May). Mosquito repellent and anti-malarial drugs are recommended.
  • During the Kruger’s rainy season (January to April), there is a very low but still present risk of contracting malaria.
  • During the dry season (May to October), there is virtually no risk of contracting malaria at all.

 

Keep in mind:

  • Use repellents containing 20-35% DEET.
  • Wear long-sleeved clothing and keep your skin covered when possible, during dawn and dusk.
  • Always make use of mosquito nets. Request one if not readily available.

Your Go2Africa African Safari expert will inform you of which vaccinations are recommended (such as Yellow Fever, Typhoid, Hepatitis A & B etc). However, it is important to consult your physician prior to your time of travel and ensure they are aware of all advised vaccinations, as well as activities such as scuba diving.

Best Combined With

Best Combined With

Sundowners during a game drive | Linkwasha Camp

As Southern African countries that share borders with other premier safari destinations, both Hwange National Park and Kruger National Park are easy to combine with their neighbours.

Hwange

Hwange is best combined with other Zimbabwean destinations, as well as Zambia, a trip to Victoria Falls, and is even commonly combined with Botswana’s Chobe National Park.

Combine Hwange with:

  • Mana Pools (Zimbabwe)
  • Matusadona National Park (Zimbabwe)
  • Lake Kariba (on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia)
  • Victoria Falls (between Zimbabwe to the south and Zambia to the north, halfway along the course of the Zambezi River)
  • Chobe National Park

Kruger

Due to Kruger’s major airports being served by flights from major cities Johannesburg (O.R. Tambo International Airport) and Cape Town (Cape Town International Airport), it is one of the easiest destinations to pair across Africa.

Combine Kruger with:

  • Quirimbas Archipelago (Mozambique)
  • Mauritius
  • Cape Town (South Africa)
  • Victoria Falls (between Zimbabwe to the south and Zambia to the north, halfway along the course of the Zambezi River)
  • Masai Mara (Kenya)
Positive Impact

Positive Impact

Visit local communities in Hwange | Somalisa Camp

There might be a few differences between a safari in Hwange vs Kruger, but one thing both destinations have in common is their love and passion for the environment and wildlife. The below safari itineraries form part of our Trips With A Purpose collection, which are tours that support local conservation and community initiatives. Not only will you enjoy an unforgettable safari experience, but you’ll also contribute to meaningful causes in Africa.

Positive Impact in Hwange & Kruger:

Itinerary Ideas

Itinerary Ideas

Hwange National Park

Kruger National Park

Ready to Plan Your African Safari?

With over two decades of experience, our African Safari Experts possess extensive first-hand knowledge and experience of both Hwange and Kruger National Park. Get in touch to start planning your bespoke safari itinerary, tailor-made to your interests and needs.

Tammy Straker
Written By

Tammy Straker

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