August 24

Botswana vs Kruger: Which Destination Offers the Best Safari?

August 24, 2022

Ladies...gentlemen...avid safari-enthusiasts. Welcome to the ultimate safari showdown! Botswanaaaa vs Kruuugeeer National Park! In this corner, weighing in with various wild landscapes, undefeated when it comes to the world's largest inland delta, and currently holding the world heavyweight title of the biggest concentration of African elephants – Botswana! And, in the other corner, weighing in at 2,000,000 hectares of pristine wilderness, KING of Big 5 game-viewing territory and currently one of the biggest wildlife sanctuaries in the world – I give you the Kruger National Park!

Majestic lion in Kruger National Park – Botswana vs. Kruger National Park

Botswana vs Kruger – where should you go on safari?

Botswana vs Kruger – which destination offers the best safari? It's a tough call. What they offer in terms of wildlife, location, experiences and lodges (albeit different), they each have strengths in equal measure. So, when it comes to the ultimate safari experience in Africa, who will win? Welcome to the clash between two of Africa's greatest contenders.

Stately leopard in the Botswana wilderness

Stately leopard in the Botswana wilderness

Botswana vs Kruger, Round 1 – Location & Landscape

Botswana is a magical land of diverse ecosystems, home to lush floodplains, dense woodlands, vast deserts, and rolling grasslands. And it's very big to boot! As the 48th-largest country in the world (about the size of France), Botswana boasts an unfathomable amount of space where humans seem few and wildlife plus wilderness aplenty.

You'll find this beautiful landlocked country along the borders of ZambiaZimbabweSouth Africa and Namibia. Its most notable safari destinations include the wondrous wetlands of the Okavango DeltaChobe National Parks' northeast region along the Chobe River (filled with lush floodplains and woodland), its Savuti region (famed for its savannahs, grasslands and graveyard of dead trees), Linyanti (characterised for its broad rivers and swamp-like terrain), as well as the Makgadikgadi Pans (known for the largest collection of salt flats on the globe).

Watery tendrils of the Okavango Delta

Botswana vs. Kruger – the Okavango Delta is hard to beat, Photo Credit: Rhino Africa

Lying in the northeastern part of South Africa – bordering Zimbabwe and Mozambique – the legendary Kruger National Park is one of the continent's largest national parks. Expanding on its size, the Kruger shares unfenced borders with private game reserves, including the famous ThornybushSabi SandMalaMala and Timbavati.

Kruger is synonymous with thorny acacia trees along its rivers, shrub mopane veld in the north, central grazing plains peppered with many marula trees to the east, as well as giant baobabs and rocky hills (known as "koppies") found sporadically throughout the region. Botswana seems to be dominating in diversity this round, but don't count Kruger out just yet! What South Africa's largest national park lacks in marshland and salt pans, it makes up for in a potent punch of animal sightings.

Kruger National Park riverbed at dusk

The Kruger National Park landscape at sunset

Botswana vs Kruger, Round 2 – Wildlife Sightings

Both Botswana and the Kruger offer world-renowned heavyweight game viewing. Botswana's Okavango Delta is very flat and flaunts profuse greenery, meandering waterways and lagoons bursting with life. The verdant habitat hosts an array of animals ranging from various antelope and big cats to over 400 bird and 70 fish species.

The Chobe area is best known for its huge elephant herds as well as large families of giraffes, sable and Cape buffalo. In addition to the delta and desert areas, there are grasslands, savannas and salt pans, where innumerable mammals, birds and reptiles reside.

The Chobe River bustles with wildlife

Hippo on the banks of Chobe River

The Big 5 – the lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino – can be found in Botswana's Moremi Game Reserve. However, you may spend several days searching for them. And this is where Kruger lands a sneaky little uppercut to the gut! 

When exploring the Greater Kruger National Park, you're very likely to spot the lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo all in the same day! Well, amongst a myriad of other animals, of course! It looks like Moremi may be winded after that blow…will Botswana come back swinging in the next round?

Lioness spotted in the road

A lion sighting in the Greater Kruger National Park

Botswana vs Kruger, Round 3 – Safari Activities

Game drives and walking safaris are par for the course in Botswana and the Greater Kruger National Park. Via foot or 4x4, professional guides accompany you through the wilderness to track and identify all forms of fauna and flora. And all the while imparting their deep passion and knowledge of the bush.

Hot air ballooning is also a popular pastime in particular areas. In addition, many family-orientated lodges in both destinations offer educational experiences for children, including scavenger hunts, baking lessons, board games, crafts, and even junior ranger programmes.

Elephants observed on a walking safari

Walking safari in the Greater Kruger National Park

It looks like Botswana and Kruger are neck and neck in this one – OOF! No, wait! What's this!? Botswana retaliates with a flurry of punches in the form of unique activities!

Thanks to the watery tendrils of the Okavango Delta and the calm flow of the Chobe River, Botswana has developed some signature experiences! Botswana jabs Kruger in the jaw with a morning mokoro ride (a traditional dug-out canoe) – then left-hooks with a spontaneous motor-boat trip – and finishes with a spinning-backhand sunset boat cruise! Wow! What a comeback!! Kruger is still standing, but for how long?

Gliding on the quiet Delta waters via mokoro

Water safari via mokoro in the Okavango Delta

Botswana vs Kruger, Round 4 – Accommodation

Ding! It's round 4, and Botswana throws several authentic tented camps to keep Kruger at arm's reach. However, Kruger looks surprisingly confident in this competition of accommodation and simply sidesteps Botswana – ready to retaliate.

You will find some of Africa's most beautiful safari lodges in Botswana. And – although delivering high standards of service – most accommodation comes in the canvas variety. Botswana's tented camps are a nature lover's dream with only fabric between you and the wild! The camps tend to have very basic facilities (no TVs, air conditioning, internet etc.), and in the place of a grand bathtub, you may find bucket showers instead. However, a handful of luxury lodges have all the modern conveniences ready for you.

A luxury safari tent of Duba Plains Camp

Canvas tents at Duba Plains Camp in the Okavango Delta, Image Credit: Duba Plains Camp

The Greater Kruger is renowned for its luxury safari lodges – some having won international awards. The best way to experience the magic of Kruger is to stay in one of its private reserves. Fewer folk, state-of-the-art facilities, sterling service and exquisite cuisine, go hand in hand with exclusive camps and lodges. 

Albeit sparsely spaced, there are several lodges to choose from – which lends itself to some healthy competition! As a result, every aspect of a Kruger lodge is in an invariable state of enhancing the guest's safari experience. Advancing with luxury safari tents, sumptuous suites and private plunge pools, there's no doubt that Kruger has made up some points. After this round, the fight could go either way…

Contemporary and stylish interior of a Silvan Safari suite

Sumptuous suite at Silvan Safari

Botswana vs Kruger, Round 5 – Cost of a Safari

We're coming down to the wire here, ladies and gents. Neither Botswana nor Kruger are backing down. So, the question is, who will you put your money on?

Many variables can influence the cost of a safari. For example, the time of year you'd like to travel, the level of luxury you ultimately want, the location you desire, and the logistics thereof. Furthermore, it's safe to assume that the more budget you have, the more exclusive your safari will be.

Woman content in solitude observing the beauty of the Delta

Exclusivity means more space and luxury all to yourself

Exclusivity is key and can make all the difference in a safari experience. That's why private reserves and lodges are most favourable as you'll have the benefit of an exclusive-use piece of wilderness to explore whilst avoiding a torrent of tourists. Both Botswana and Kruger offer many all-inclusive options in this regard.

Botswana can be an expensive destination as there are not as many camps. Therefore, fewer guests are allowed in the wilderness areas. Per person per night, prices range from $550 - $700 (comfy 4-star), $750 - $1,500 (luxury 4-star), and $1,550 - $3,000 (luxury 5-star).

On the other hand, Kruger is extremely competitive when it comes to costs. The exceptional standard of accommodation alongside the price thereof is virtually unbeatable. Per person per night, prices range from $350 - $550 (comfy 4-star), $600 - $950 (luxury 4-star), and $1,000 - $2,000 (luxury 5-star).

Exclusive game drive in the Sabi Sand

Avoid the crowds by staying in a private concession

Botswana vs Kruger, Final Round!

It's the final round, folks! Both corners are feeling confident about their chances, but this round could well make the difference on the official cards.

Botswana attacks with its signature Okavango Delta uppercut. Kruger counters with a high density of wildlife. Botswana bobs, using numerous water-based activities. Kruger lands a luxury-lodge-left-hook to the body of Bots. Then, Botswana smothers Kruger with a barrage of exclusivity, but Kruger retaliates with astonishing affordability. DING DING DING!!!

Two lionesses in the private Sabi Sand Game Reserve

Two lionesses in the private Sabi Sand Game Reserve

When it comes to choosing a champion between Botswana and the Kruger National Park, it's a tough decision. The diverse and dramatic landscapes, rich variety of wildlife, world-class lodges, and myriad of activities on offer in both destinations mean that, between Botswana and Kruger, there simply is no loser. 

They each have equally compelling reasons to visit. So, with the help of our African Travel Experts, you be the judge. We look forward to welcoming you to Africa!

Also, check out the links below to find out the best times to travel to Botswana and Kruger, as well as some tantalising itinerary ideas.

Botswana vs Kruger: Best Time to Travel

Itinerary Ideas

Botswana

Kruger National Park

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About the author 

Michelle Welvering

Growing up, Michelle always wanted to become a world-renowned artist, a kickboxing-champion and an eccentric explorer – aka a Kickboxing Exploring Artist! After pursuing an education in Fine Arts and opening her own Kickboxing gym in Pretoria, an unexpected twist led her to a six-year stint as a travel consultant in South African tourism. She believes that all things happen for a reason and, driven by adventure, she was eager to find a more “wild” and cultural space to call home. This led her to wander the Western Cape coastline, fall in love with the city of Cape Town and, of course, her workplace, Rhino Africa.

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