Gonarezhou National Park vs Kruger National Park: The ultimate comparison

Africa has long been a popular destination with tourists the world over. This alluring continent has endless appeal, filled with diverse cultures, wildlife and landscapes, and there is often no better way to gain a close experience of Africa’s natural treasures than on a wildlife safari.

The Kruger National Park has delighted generations of visitors with its vibrant bush-veld, its majestic big 5, its array of sparkling accommodation and its convenient accessibility. But just north of South Africa’s crown jewel lies the Gonarezhou National Park, a vast and pristine wilderness that places you at the feet of Africa’s mighty beauty. Defined by iconic landscapes and an untouched wildness, Gonarezhou National Park offers a safari experience away from the bustle of your fellow travellers, where you can witness the freedom that has made Africa famous.

In this ultimate comparison, we take a closer look at the difference between Gonarezhou National Park and Kruger National Park, so that you can make your next journey with MoAfrica as diverse and enriching as Africa is. You can also contact MoAfrika Tours for an exciting Cape Town Safari when you visit South Africa.

What makes Gonarezhou National Park different?

Gonarezhou National Park is Zimbabwe’s second-largest park, after Hwange, and is part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, which links Gonarezhou with the Kruger National Park in South Africa and the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique. Owing to this structure, wildlife is able to move freely across the borders of the three national parks.

Due to this open trans-border mingling of animals you would almost expect to find a similar safari experience at Gonarezhou as at Kruger, but you’d be much mistaken. What sets Gonarezhou apart from Kruger is the innate wildness of its vast, rugged terrain and the fact that it is located at a distance from many well-travelled tourist sites. The exceeding popularity of Kruger National Park means that you would be hard-pressed to find such an exclusive closeness with the wild as you would at Gonarezhou.

For photographers who prefer to make a regular pilgrimage to Kruger for its astounding wildlife sightings, Gonarezhou’s setting takes you beyond the confines of wildlife photography into the impressive natural scape of its beautiful vistas.

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Situated in a relatively remote corner of Zimbabwe’s Masvingo Province, Gonarezhou is made majestic by deep gorges and thundering waterfalls, trackless ironwood forests gathered closely around pans and floodplains, and awe-striking stretches of sandveld and mopane woodland.

Added to this, Gonarezhou’s Chilojo Cliffs create an astounding cathedral landscape that you won’t find in the soft-sanded and close bushveld of the Kruger region. Looming at 200 meters above the floodplain of the wide Runde River, the Chilojo Cliffs’ 13-kilometre sandstone rampart is an iconic feature of this unspoiled and wild park.

Like Kruger, Gonarezhou is home to the Big 5, but is known as ‘the place of elephants’. Though its population counts are less than you’ll find at Kruger, the opportunity to spot these iconic giants in the sanctity of solitude makes for a different viewing experience than is found in Kruger’s well-loved camps. Other animals include giraffe, hippo, Cape buffalo, zebra, wildebeest, and hyena. Gonarezhou is also the historic habitat of the Cape wild dog, whose numbers have been increasing in recent years.

On your visit to Gonarezhou and your Kruger Park Tour you will see impressive numbers of birdlife, with 505 species found at Kruger and 400 at Gonarezhou.

Gonarezhou also shares another icon with its southern sister Kruger, namely the baobab tree, featuring thousands of these ancestors of the forest which lend a further photogenic angle to the park’s picture-perfect scenery.

While the Kruger National Park has been successful in combining the bush experience with the convenience of modern amenities, including a great number of shops and easily navigable tar roads, Gonarezhou lends a break from the modern world. Free of tar roads, fenced campsites or shops, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re the only human there.

Where Kruger’s vibrant bush that sparkles and cracks with wildlife will fill you with the warmth of Africa’s beauty, Gonarezhou will bring you home to Africa’s vastness, and to the visceral wonder of a pristine ancientness.

Best time to visit

Both Gonarezhou National Park and Kruger National Park are best experienced during the seasonal dry periods. At Kruger, this is usually from May to September, while at Gonarezhou the dry season extends a bit further from May to October.

In both instances the dry season makes the parks more accessible for game-viewing. During the summer wet season at Gonarezhou the Limpopo, Runde and Save Rivers are in flood, so access to certain areas of the park will be restricted. The Save River can even become flooded in July or August, so that the best time to visit the park is around September and October.

Rainy season at Kruger can result in more lush vegetation, which can making sightings more difficult, but the fuller rivers and pans make for a beautiful fertile setting.

Accessibility

Kruger National Park covers the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga, and is bordered on the North by Zimbabwe and on the East by Mozambique. Visitors 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.

Part of the charm of Gonarezhou National Park is its remoteness, but you can fly into Victoria Falls Airport (VFA) or Harare International Airport (HRE) and receive a transfer to the park.

MoAfrika Tours offers guided safaris to Gonarezhou National Park, Kruger National Park and guided Pilanesburg Safaris. Select from a variety of tailored packages which are inclusive of transfers.

Accommodation

Years of steady demand for Kruger National Park have resulted in a rich variety of accommodation, on your Kruger Park Safari you can expect 5-star bush lodges, 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.

While Gonarezhou National Park also offers a variety of accommodation options, from remote campsites to self-catered chalets, the wildness of the park makes for an unforgettable and immersive camping experience. The park has three exclusive campsites that offer a secluded bush experience.

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