A trip to Africa would not be complete without a safari, where you experience at close range some of the qualities which set this continent apart: the magic of the bush, the power of an African sunset, the magnificent wildlife, and the overarching sense of wildness that brings to every traveller the wonder of Africa’s beauty.
Luckily safaris are not in short supply, thanks to the many distinctive game parks and reserves which offer you a variety of safari packages, each as unique as their ecological backgrounds and settings. Arguably one of Africa’s most famous safari destinations, the Kruger National park is usually the go-to for those seeking an immersive bush experience. However, just north of South Africa’s expansive Kruger, Zimbabwe offers a number of fantastic parks and reserves which provide you with a unique and unforgettable safaris.
One such must-see destination is Zimbabwe’s wildlife giant, Hwange National Park. Pristine, accessible, and teeming with wildlife, we take a closer look at what Hwange has to offer in comparison to Kruger National Park, so that you can make your next trip with MoAfrika as diverse and exciting as Africa is.
MoAfrika Tours also offer affordable Pilanesberg safaris and day tours.
What makes Hwange National Park different?
While Kruger National Park enjoys the position as one of the largest game reserves in Africa, Hwange National Park is the largest in Zimbabwe, and is ranked as one of Africa’s top national parks.
Hwange is situated in the south west of Zimbabwe between Bulawayo and Victoria Falls, and most of the park is underlain by Kalahari sands, lending it a differentiated experience from that of the dense bush of the Kruger National Park.
What sets Hwange apart is its noticeable lack of crowds, which is only achieved in Kruger during low season. Hwange has the biggest diversity of mammals out of the world’s national parks, and its wide reaches give way to lush savannah grasslands and woodlands in which you can view all of the Big Five.
Hwange hosts over 100 mammal species, including 19 large herbivores and eight large carnivores. The Kruger National Park is renowned for being a protectorate of Africa’s distinctive wildlife, but Hwange is also home to Zimbabwe’s specially protected animals, and is the only protected area where Oryx and brown hyena occur in reasonable numbers.
Another special offering at Hwange is its excellent elephant sightings, being home to a population of some 50 000 elephants. While Kruger is also famous for its frequent viewings of these majestic giants, Hwange’s dry regional climate means that you are offered a rare close-range view of these gentle herds at many of the park’s iconic waterholes in all of their splendour.
The open plains at Hwange also allow you to easily spot lion, African leopard, cheetah, and African wild dog. Both Hwange and Kruger conduct initiatives to support the endangered wild dog, and Hwange’s Painted Dog Project aims to protect and increase their range and numbers both in Zimbabwe and elsewhere in Africa. Thriving beside the park’s African wild dogs, Hwange’s population of Cape wild dogs is considered to be of one of the larger surviving groups in Africa today, along with that of Kruger National Park.
Hwange National Park’s sprawling setting offers you a rare experience of the enchanting silence and endemic flora which occurs on the edges of the Kalahari. Kruger also envelops you in the serene beauty of the bush, but the two are ultimately different experiences in distinct African settings.
Hwange’s Kalahari woodland consists of Zambezi Teak, Sand Camwood and Kalahari bauhinia, while the north and north-west of the park are dominated by Mopani woodland. The park also becomes saturated with seasonal wetlands which transform the landscape during their summer rains.
The Kruger National Park treasures its population of Baobab trees, which is one of the most recognized trees in Southern Africa. The baobab boasts a particularly beautiful white flower which blooms during spring.
Twitchers will find a myriad of birdlife at both parks, with over 417 species found at Hwange and 505 species at Kruger. While birdwatchers may experience a slightly greater variety of birdlife at Kruger, the relative silence and openness at Hwange might offer a more close-range birding experience.
The best time to visit
Both Hwange National Park and Kruger National Park are best experienced during the seasonal dry periods. For your Kruger Park trip, this is usually from May to September, while at Hwange the dry season occurs from August to November.
During the dry season at Kruger you benefit from clear skies and a more temperate climate, while at Hwange water becomes scarce and you can enjoy the diverse variety of wildlife and birdlife which come to drink at the waterholes.
Kruger National Park covers the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga, and is bordered on the North by Zimbabwe and on the East by Mozambique. You can board a connecting flight from OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg to the nearby Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport or Skukuza Airport, and enter the park through one of its ten gates. Hwange National Park is just as easily accessible. You can fly into Victoria Falls and either hire a car or get a road transfer to the park, which is an hour’s drive away.
MoAfrika Tours offers guided safaris to Hwangwe National Park as well as Kruger National Park safaris. Select from a variety of tailored packages which are inclusive of transfers.
Kruger National Park covers a massive territory which is home to a wide range of accommodation, from 5-star bush lodges to tented camps and self-catering options. All of these come at different price points and offer a number of activities, such as guided bush-walks, and fantastic amenities, from swimming pools to spas.
Hwangwe also covers an extensive terrain, being Zimbabwe’s largest national park, but is often touted for offering a wild and intimate experience, where you are ensconced in the wildness and vast reaches of its less populated surrounds. The park offers an array of camps and lodges to suit any number of needs, including luxury lodges and romantic camp sites where you can sleep directly beneath the sparkling African sky.
You might also like to go on a Cape Town Safari on your visit to South Africa.