5. Independent travel
Kruger comes up trumps here. Independent travelers don’t need a 4WD to get around (any salon car will do) and entrance gates camps are stocked with all the maps and interpretive literature required to guide oneself around the clearly signposted road system. What’s more, it’s a doddle to book accommodation and camping through their user-friendly website, and rst camps are served by well-stocked grocery shops and affordable resrtaurants. By contrast, a self-drive in Serengeti needs to be approached in the spirit of an expedition – a 4WD is essential, capers mus t be self-sufficient for food, and there is little in the way of decent interpretive material or signposts to get you around.
Score: Kruger 5 / Serengeti 1
The drive from Arusha to Serengeti, which offers views over the Ngorongoro Crater floor fron its forested rim, is truly spectacular, and the park itself – grassy plains studded with rugged granites kopjes – is imbued with a thrilling sense of space. You can’t really say the same for the tangled scrub that characterizes much of the Kruger, especially during the parks’s yellowing and hazy winter incarnation (which is when game viewing is best). Still, the Lebombo Mountains provide a memorable backdrop to eastern Kruger, and Olifants Rest Camp offers a gob smacking viewpoint over the eponymous river.
Score: Kruger 3 / Serengeti 5
7. Crowd control
Both parks are regularly accused of being more commercialized and trammeled than certain more remote safari destinations. This is a fair criticism (such is the price of popularity), but only to a point. The Serengeti can seem busier than it really is, largely because most tourist traffic is clustered within a 10km radius of Seronera, and it doesn’t help that the larger lodges tend to be monolithic in style and to operate in a way that excludes the surrounding bush after nightfall.
Uneven tourist distribution I also a feature of the Kruger, with the section south of the Sabi River (the closest part of the park to Johannesburg) being the most visited. And, it must be said that Kruger’s tarred trunk roads also routinely offend the purists. But it is possible to escape the crowd in both parks. In the Serengeti it generally means paying top dollar to stay in exclusive bush camps, which are set in more remote areas, whereas in the Kruger it can be achieved by sticking to dirt back roads and allocating a few days to the rest camps north of the Olifants River.
Score: Kruger 3 / Serengeti 4
East Africa’s highlights tend to be less budget-friendly than the South African counterparks, and the Serengeti and Kruger are no exception. To same extent, this is associated with the independent travel factors discussed above. But daily park entrance fees also kick in: USD 50 per person for Serengeti, as compared to around USD 20 for Kruger (furthermore, a Wild Card allowing a year’s access to all South African national parks costs international visitors a bargain of USD 150). Likewise, rest camp accommodation in Kruger starts at around USD 50 for double hut, whereas lodges in the Serengeti are almost all over the USD 300 bracket. Budhet-conscious travelers, or those who simply prefer to travel independently than with a guide, could probably spend two great weeks exploring the Kruger at their own relaxed pace for the same cost as a rushed three-night Serengeti safari.
Score: Kruger 5 / Serengeti 1
For the few of you who might rank each of the eiht categories with equal weight, you could still be in a quandary, seeing that Kruger is ahead on total score by 33-30, but behind the Serengeti when it comes to category wins. For you and any others, it may simply come down to when you are travelling. If outside factors dictate when you’ll be on safari, and then be aware that Kruger comes into its own towards the end of the dry season (July to early October) when vegetation is low and wildlife is concentrated at watering points, while Serengeti is at its best over December to May, when the wildebeest are concentrated in the south.
If, however, you were to brush aside all logistical and cost considerations and just stick with the “wow” factor, then Serengeti would be my personal choice – I feel it offers better overall game viewing, and feels wilder and more exciting.