Tanzania’s wondrous wildlife comes in all shapes and sizes—as do its safaris. The considerations seem as numerous as the Serengeti species, from camps, lodges, and destinations to guides, activities, flights, and services. With seemingly endless choices, planning a Tanzanian safari can be overwhelming.
Few destinations in Africa can rival Tanzania’s diversity of wildlife, cultures, and landscapes. From the classic savanna destinations of the Serengeti, Tarangire, and Ngorongoro Crater to the beaches and coral reefs of Zanzibar and the tropical coast, Tanzania has a lot to offer.
And that’s before you discover the off-the-beaten-track experiences such as chimpanzee trekking in the magisterial rainforests of Mahale and Gombe, or game viewing in the super-remote Selous Game Reserve and great migration in Serengeti National Park.
How To Go To Tanzania Safari
The main advantage of a scheduled-departure safari is that a small group of travelers shares certain fixed costs (e.g., transportation and a specialist guide), thereby decreasing the trip’s per-person price.
This also allows for some very creative itineraries that would otherwise be prohibitively expensive. One of the most important features includes a full-time, professional guide that will be with you throughout the tour.
This is the way to go for those who know what they want from a safari. Once you have communicated
your interests, the operator will design an itinerary built to your specifications.
This offers the most flexibility with both your time and money. A great option for creating a custom safari is working
without sister company International Expeditions.
Their custom safaris combine some of Africa’s best destinations and accommodations and allow you to travel on the dates that work best for you—either on your own or with a group of family and/or friends.
If you’re planning your own safari, be as prepared as possible. Get some good guidebooks, talk to friends who’ve been to Africa and research, research, research……
Accommodations On Your Tanzania Safari
Many destinations offer a range of accommodation options, though choices will be limited in the more remote wilderness areas. Your safari experience will be greatly influenced by the type of accommodation you choose:
Safari hotels tend to focus on luxury and offer all the comforts and amenities one would expect of a high-end
hotel—massages, gourmet meals, televisions, etc. They are often large, less personal, and less intimate versions of lodges.
Many do not operate their own safari vehicles (with some exceptions), so it is necessary to book a vehicle and driver/guide separately.
The term ‘lodge’ is generally used for a smaller, often owner-run accommodation, and is distinct from a larger hotel. Many lodges are beautifully appointed and well-run, usually have swimming pools, and almost all have their own resident vehicles, trackers, and guides.
A tented camp or lodge is a permanent structure in which the accommodations are under canvas. Most tents have solid wooden floors set on a concrete base and proper bathrooms with a flush toilet and running water.
The central bar and restaurant area is usually an excellent structure. Semi-permanent Tented Camp – These camps utilize large, luxurious, semi-permanent tents.
The camp is set up before guests arrive and will not move during your stay. The benefit of the semi-permanent camps is that they pitch according to the seasonal position of the migrating herds, setting you right at the heart of the action.
Mobile Fly Camp
A private, mobile camp, packed up and pitched on a fresh patch of the park each day. Tents are usually small and fairly basic.
This budget-friendly option offers a no-frills safari experience. Travel overland by day and set up camp in a new spot each night. You may need to bring your own bedding, and guests are often expected to help with camp set-up and meal prep. Light cleaning is also sometimes required of guests.
Transportation in Your Tanzania Safari
Your transportation options will be dependent on where you choose to go on safari. Regions like Arusha, Manyara, Mara, Morogoro, and Kilimanjaro, have extensive, well-maintained roads; many wilderness areas have no roads and can only be accessed by plane.
Flying is the most convenient and sometimes the only option for reaching remote wilderness areas. Many African countries have poorly-developed infrastructures, and seemingly short distances can take hours or even days to traverse.
Many camps and lodges maintain their own airstrips and offer frequent flights between major hubs and other camps. Not only do flights maximize your time on the ground, whether visiting a single destination or combining multiple stops, you will also enjoy fantastic aerial scenery and a unique perspective of the areas you visit.
Flights can be scheduled or chartered and are typically done in small planes, from 5 – 30 seats.
Hire a Private Driver
Tanzania’s infrastructure is well developed, and driving is a wonderful way to see the countryside and interact with locals. However, distances can be vast, and roads can be bumpy at times. It is always best to book your car in advance from a reputable company.
Driving yourself can be an economical safari option. However, this is only recommended where the roads are extensive, well-marked, and well-maintained.
While many African countries have scheduled bus service and trains, we do not recommend these transportation forms for safaris. Vehicles are typically not up to Western standards, and service may not be reliable.
Most public transport connects urban centres and some rural villages, not the prime wilderness areas.
Luggage In Your Tanzania Safari
We’ve given you some ideas about what kit to take, but how do you get it to Tanzania? A soft-sided hold-all is ideal, as you’ll probably be flying in a light aircraft at some stage during your holiday; the great majority of visitors do.
Due to the size of the craft and the payload limits when flying in the tropics, baggage quantities are strictly limited to ensure the plane’s safety and passengers.
The luggage pods under the aircraft bellies are also slightly small, so your luggage must be small and flexible enough to be loaded through a small hatch. Luggage limits tend to be between 15 and 20 kg per person.
Bags with wheels, frames, and hard sides just can’t be put into the cargo pods and are often heavier than the contents. A holdall, while not perhaps the height of fashion, is spot on, carrying sufficient for your holiday, as well as being user friendly for the pilots and ground crew. 120 litres should be an adequate size.
You’ll be surprised how little you need to take with you since you can generally get laundry done every day, and it’s often back with you by the evening, ironed and tidily folded. Many camps decline to wash ladies’ underwear for cultural reasons, but there’s no need to worry since you will find soap powder beside the basin in most camps.
Toiletries such as shampoo, shower gel, conditioner, and skin lotion are supplied in the great majority of the camps in National Parks, not just basic supermarket stuff either, but some quality ecologically friendly Tanzanian brands. It’s a big help as you can leave the heavy bottles at home.
There’s no need to worry about heaving your baggage around between vehicles and aircraft; someone is always on hand to help and to take the load for you.
Wildlife in Tanzania Safari
The main objective of most Tanzania safaris is wildlife viewing. While the variety of African wildlife could fill its own guide, here are a few of the most popular wildlife experiences travellers seek and where to find them.
The Big Five
A term originally coined by early game hunters as the five species that were the most difficult and dangerous animals to hunt on foot—elephant, lion, leopard, rhino, and Cape buffalo.
Today the Big Five are the species that safari-goers are most anxious to shoot with cameras. You can spot the Big Five in many Tanzania safari destinations, including Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Mikumi National Park, Selous Game Reserve, Ruaha, and Katavi National Park.
The Great Migration
Every year, more than two million herbivores (wildebeest, zebra, Thompson’s gazelle, and antelopes) make an epic journey from the Serengeti plains in Tanzania to the grasslands of the Masai Mara in Kenya.
Though their movement is largely determined by grazing and weather patterns, herds typically start to converge in the southern Serengeti and Ngorongoro Conservation Area from January to March, where females give birth to their young.
From April to June, the rains begin, and herds are drawn north toward the first river crossings on the Serengeti’s Grumeti River; by July, many are crossing the Mara River, the final barrier to reaching Kenya’s Masai Mara.
The herds remain in Masai Mara and the northern Serengeti from August to October, before the herds begin to return south to their birthing grounds, so the cycle continues.
The African wild dog (also known as the hunting dog or painted dog) is one of Tanzania’s most successful predators. They hunt in packs with incredible speed and stamina and are known to cover large distances while pursuing their prey.
Wild dogs occur in many of Tanzania’s big game reserves and National Parks, but among the best areas to find them are the
Serengeti National Park and Mikumi National Park Other areas where the dogs are known to hunt are the Grumeti game reserve, Ngorongoro Crater, and Selous game reserve.
Cheetahs, the fastest land animal, is most at home on the wide-open plains. Your best bet for finding these elusive cats (an estimated 8,000 individuals left in the wild) is the Ruaha National Park, Serengeti National Park, Arusha National Park, Selous game reserve Mikumi National Park.
No other wildlife encounter in Tanzania can match the experience of coming face to face with a wild gorilla.
Mahale National Park is the best place to seek these primates, though don’t expect to find them from the comfort of your safari vehicle. As the title suggests, trekking through the forest is the only way to view these gentle giants in their natural habitat.
Along the way, you’ll likely spot colourful birds, unique forest creatures, and a variety of primate species.
Tanzania is a fantastic bird-watching destination. With the sheer diversity of habitats, nearly 2,500 species are at home somewhere in the country. If you would like to do some birding during your safari, the most popular and rewarding destinations are Serengeti National Park, Kilimanjaro National Park, Manyara Lake, and Ngorongoro Crater.
The best time for birdwatching is from November to March when local birds are joined by thousands of migratory species from the north.
Top Tanzania Safari Destinations
Serengeti National Park
Few destinations can offer an experience to match the Serengeti’s Great Migration. Forming the centrepiece of most Tanzania safaris, the migration is regarded as Nature at her most extravagant and involves hundreds of thousands of wildebeest, zebra, and antelope running the gauntlet of predators as they migrate around the Maasai Mara/Serengeti ecosystem.
Ruaha National Park
The largest national park in Tanzania is named after the Great Ruaha River, which flows along the southeastern border. Noted for its large elephant population, which numbers around 10,000, the park is also home to all the usual game species and more than 570 bird species.
Katavi National Park
Remote and seldom visited, Katavi is a true wilderness. The main focus for wildlife viewing is the Katuma River and surrounding floodplains, a haven for waterfowl and Tanzania’s highest hippo and crocodile concentration.
As the waters recede, huge herds of elephant and buffalo gather here, along with an abundance of giraffe, zebra, impala, and reedbuck. Numerous lions and hyenas can be found here as well.
The Ngorongoro Crater is a breathtakingly beautiful setting and one of Tanzania’s best places to see the Big Five. The world’s largest inactive volcanic caldera
is also one of the most fertile and richest grazing areas in Africa, with the highest density of big game on the continent. However, as one of the world’s most astonishing and renowned natural wonders, the Ngorongoro Crater does get busy, and at times very busy.
Mahale National Park
This park is home to some of Africa’s last remaining wild chimpanzees, a population of around 900 habituated to human visitors. The park also borders the world’s longest, second deepest, and least polluted freshwater lake—Lake Tanganyika.
With its mountainous terrain, safari vehicles are left behind in favor of nature hikes through the dense rainforest, where nine primates species can be found. Snorkeling, fishing, kayaking, and relaxing on the sandy beaches round out your experiences here.
Selous Game Reserve
This large reserve was granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 1982 due to its diversity of wildlife and undisturbed habitats. There are no permanent inhabitants, and typical savanna species—elephants, lions, wild dogs, cheetahs, buffalos, and giraffe are found in large
numbers here. Walking safaris and boat trips on the Rufiji River are popular game-viewing options.
Mount Kilimanjaro National Park
Mount Kilimanjaro is an inactive volcano in north-eastern Tanzania, near the border with Kenya. At 5,892 meters (19,331 feet) above sea level, Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest peak and the world’s highest free-standing mountain.
Although positioned close to the equator, Mount Kilimanjaro is famous for its snow-capped peak looming over the savannah’s plains. The mountain has become a major tourist attraction for mountaineers and trekkers from around the world.
The island of Unguja, part of Zanzibar, makes up the final Spice Island. Once part of the British Empire, today Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania. For centuries, the African island has been an important trading center, a melting pot of African, Indian and Arab influences. Zanzibar’s major tourist attraction is Stone Town, with its whitewashed coral rag houses. Another big draw is its beautiful white sandy beaches.
In the wet season, Lake Manyara is home to almost 300 different migratory bird species, including thousands of flamingos. In the dry season, alkaline mud-flats take the place of the waters.
This is the best time to see large mammals such as hippos, elephants, wildebeest, and giraffe. Several safari lodges provide tourists with lodging and day and night safaris to see the wildlife.
Also part of the Spice Islands, but smaller than Pemba, Mafia Island has around 40,000 people. Don’t expect organized crime: the name derives either from the Swahili”mahali pa afya,” meaning “a healthy dwelling-place,” or from the Arabic “mortiyeh,” meaning archipelago.”
The island attracts scuba divers, game fishers, and people wanting to relax on one of the island’s white sandy beaches.
Tarangire National Park
Smaller than Ruaha, this national park is a paradise for bird watchers as more than 550 different species frequent the park. Tarangire is also known for its huge number of elephants, baobab trees, and tree-climbing lions. Huge termite mounds can be found all around the park.
Known as the Green Island in Arabic, Pemba Island lies in the Indian Ocean and is part of the “Spice Islands.” As neighboring Zanzibar is becoming more popular with tourists, more adventurous travelers seek out the less-crowded Pemba.
The island is especially popular with divers who come here for the untouched coral and abundant marine life.
Insurance In Your Tanzania Safari
Comprehensive travel insurance is essential for anyone visiting Tanzania. It’s designed to cover you should you have the misfortune to fall ill, as well as for the unlikely eventuality that you have to cancel your holiday.
Medical evacuation costs can be huge, so you must have these covered by insurance. Ensure that whatever activities you plan to take part in, such as riding, climbing Kilimanjaro, or white water rafting, are covered by the policy. Some insurers know Tanzania and understand what it entails well, while some do not.
Health And Vaccinations
We’ve all heard tales of woe from friends or colleagues who’ve come back from a
dream holiday, having been ill, but did you know that more than one million people
go on Tanzania safari every year and have a fabulous trouble-free time, and return in glowing good health with fully laden memory cards and some great stories to tell.
The greatest causes of illness are dehydration, heat, and the fatigue of international flights. Often people don’t drink enough in Tanzania’s heat, regardless of being reminded to do so.
At The Tanzania Tourism, we are meticulous about preparing readers for their travels to Tanzania, with
comprehensive information covering every aspect of their holiday, including health matters, tipping, climate, some language tips, and guidance about how Tanzania is different from life at home.
You must protect yourself before traveling with vaccinations and also be aware of the risk of malaria. Some wonderful parts of Africa are malaria-free should you be concerned about the medication aspect.
The two primary ways to protect against malaria are:
Bite Avoidance: Since there is no such thing as a 100% effective prophylaxis against malaria, a crucial first defense line is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.
Keep your legs and arms covered between sunset and sunrise; wear long-sleeved shirts, socks, and trousers, and avoid dark colors. Make sure your bed is covered with a mosquito net while sleeping.
If you stay in a tent, you do not need an additional net over your bed since the tents are sealed to prevent insects from getting in, and the interior is usually sprayed before you go to bed.
This is done while you are having dinner, along with turning down the beds and closing windows, tent flaps, or nets if you are in a room.
It’s wise to apply insect repellent to any skin not covered by clothing, especially feet, ankles, and legs. You should source products of a good standard, the most effective containing 25-35% DEET; those lotions with a higher concentration are no more effective, and due to being so much oilier, are less easy to apply.
Some people find that products using citronella or eucalyptus oil work just as well as ones that have DEET and can be nicer for the user and your skin. You may
find these a suitable alternative, but this is likely to depend on the countries in which you plan to travel.
Malarone, which incorporates the compounds proguanil and atovaquone, is the preferred choice for most people and situations. It must be taken for one day before arrival
in a malarial area and just a week after leaving it. A pediatric dose of Malarone is available in the UK and many European countries. Produced specifically for children, the tablets have a neutral-tasting
coating to mask the drug’s usual bitterness, but they can also be crushed if need be.
The advice about usages is the same as for adults. Please make sure you ask your doctor for an accurate prescription for your children, as the dose will be based on their weight.
Vaccinations: We advise that you discuss which vaccinations you’ll need with your GP. Give yourself plenty of time to have the injections, as some may take some time to become effective, and others cannot be given together. Ideally, there will be no less than two weeks between finishing the vaccinations and departure to Tanzania. Here’s a list of vaccination that is widely recommended:
- Hepatitis A
This is a virus that’s carried by mosquitoes, which are active by day.
On arrival in Tanzania, you will have to show a current yellow fever vaccination certificate. When arriving from a country where the disease exists, you will also need to provide the certificate.
You will need to obtain up to date advice on the current health regulations at the time of travel.
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Best Time For Tanzania Safari
December to March is summer in Tanzania, and temperatures are warm, with short, sporadic rain from early November to late March. Game viewing in the Serengeti is excellent during this time.
The rainy season runs from early April through early June; however, this is still a good time for safaris when rates are lower and fewer crowds.
July to November offers comfortable
temperatures and is a popular time for travel because of the Northern Hemisphere’s summer holidays. It can get jam-packed, so make sure to book well in advance.
The Great Migration timing can shift from year to year; typically, from December to March, animals congregate around.
Lake Ndutu in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. As the rains end in May, the animals start moving northwest to the Mara region, where they remain until June. The herds move to Kenya in July and August and remain through the dry season.
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