Tanzania Safari – Wildlife at its Brilliant and Abundant Best
Tanzania Safari Overview
There are more wild land mammals in Tanzania than anywhere else in Africa. This is the home of the great wildebeest migration, the epic Serengeti plains, Ngorongoro Crater, Mount Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar. It has world wonders too evocative to imagine. Every safari in Tanzania takes on superlative proportions. It’s surreal, sublime, and the safari experience of a lifetime.
A Tanzania Safari
Tanzania safaris are all about scale. You don’t see an elephant but a huge herd. It’s not a lone wildebeest, it’s hundreds of thousands of them. On a Tanzania safari you end up being centerstage in an epic wildlife theatre, with animals stretching out in all directions. Nowhere else has as much life and the wildlife abundance is simply staggering. But it’s not all about quantity. Quality is equally a highlight, from a beautiful camp to small details revealed only to you.
Let’s first indulge on the scale. Tanzania is home to the great wildebeest migration, with more than 2 million mammals making an annual journey around the Serengeti. That 2 million is in addition to all the year round residents. This is one of Africa’s largest countries and has many of the continent’s largest game reserves and national parks. You need a lot of wilderness to support lots of animals and Tanzania is on another level compared to its neighbours.
So the many wildebeest and zebra are just one reason a Tanzania safari is superb for spotting the big cats. Predators are numerous and encountering lions is part of the everyday. Then there’s a sundry cast of elephants, hippos, giraffe, buffalo and various antelope. Other than a lucky encounter in Ngorongoro it’s unlikely you will see any rhinos. Still, we think that a population of over 4 million wild mammals more than compensates for missing one from the big five.
Having so many reserves and wildernesses offer you lots of choice. There is safari all over the country, although most visitors head straight for the famous northern circuit, consisting of the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire and Lake Manyara. You can easily visit two or more of these destinations as they are contiguous with each other. Another option lies to the south, where Ruaha and Selous provide a really wild off the beaten track safari. Other destinations on safari wish lists are trekking with chimpanzees in the Mahale Mountains, plus going off the beaten track in Katavi National Park.
Most of Tanzania’s safari destinations have the same basic appeal: a huge number of animals and the opportunity to see how they behave and interact with each other. We can advise you about different parks, not just the animals that live there but the types of activities and experiences you can enjoy. With most safaris you go direct from park to park, so you become fully tuned with the animal kingdom.
Beyond the animals there is more wonder to discover. Mount Kilimanjaro is located in Tanzania and trekking to its summit takes six or seven days. Added to this is an extra little treat: Zanzibar. The postcard-perfect island is part of Tanzania, located just off the coast in the Indian Ocean. The island is a perfect place to relax before or after a safari. Just lounge around the white beaches and soak up all the tranquility. Most visitors prefer the beach break after the safari. If you’ve been really stressed then consider doing it the other way around.
Tanzania Safari Highlights
- Experience the great wildebeest migration on a safari in the Serengeti, any month from October to June.
- Explore the evocative wildlife Eden of Ngorongoro Crater, discovering what resides inside the world’s largest intact volcanic caldera.
- Escape to white sand and bask in paradise, with Zanzibar providing so many options for a beach break.
- Discover how lions climb trees with a safari in picturesque Lake Manyara.
- Meet with elephant herds and baobab trees, just two highlights to a Tanzania safari in Tarangire.
- Go off the beaten track with a three-day safari in Ruaha, an adventurist’s paradise.
- Visit Africa’s largest game reserve, exploring the land and water in Selous.
- Track chimpanzees in the Mahale Mountains or Gombe National Park.
- Experience raw wildlife drama without any other people around, on a Tanzanian safari in Mikumi or Katavi national parks.
- Give yourself a real challenge and make a climb up Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa.
- Mount Kilimanjaro is located in Tanzania. At 19,341 feet above sea level, it is the largest mountain in Africa.
- Moping trees, commonly seen in Tanzania are the most expensive hardwood tree in the world.
- Tanzania is the home of the coconut crab. This crab, the largest crab in the world (and reportedly one of the most delicious), can be found on Chumbe Island of Zanzibar.
- The world’s earliest human skull was found in the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania.
- Tanzania shares its national anthem with South Africa and Zimbabwe. It’s titled “Mungu Ibariki Afrika” (God Bless Africa) and was composed by Enock Sontonga.
- Tanganyika, a British-controlled UN trust territory, gained independence in 1961; and Zanzibar, a British protectorate with an Arab population, became independent in 1963. Tanganyika and Zanzibar united to form Tanzania in 1964.
Recommended Destinations in Tanzania
Probably the most famous of all Africa’s safari destinations, the Serengeti is home to the great wildebeest migration. Animals carpet this epic grassland, mostly wildebeest, zebra and Thomson’s gazelle. Every year the herds travel in search of fresh pastures, providing food for a complete menagerie of predators: the Serengeti is a wonderful place to view lion, leopard, hyena and cheetah. Given the size of the park and the number of animals you need at least 48 hours here, ideally 72. Different parts of the park are better at different months of the year. We will guide you through the options dependent on when you want to travel.
Tarangire and Lake Manyara Tanzania Safari
These two lovely parks are an excellent first place to come on safari in northern Tanzania. They are both on route to Ngorongoro and the Serengeti. Tarangire is filled with large elephant herds, along with unusual animals that are hard to see elsewhere. In Lake Manyara the highlights include massive baboon troops and tree-climbing lions. As with everywhere else in Tanzania, both parks have too many animals to list here. We’d recommend 24 hours in one, or 48 hours so you can visit both. That allows for an afternoon and morning game drive, so you’ll get a good feel for the atmosphere.
Majestic Kilimanjaro is the world’s highest freestanding mountain. It rises 5895 metres above the East African plains, with its volcanic peak covered in snow all year around. Climbing Kilimanjaro is the challenge of a lifetime, one made famous by various celebrities who climbed it for Comic Relief. It’s not easy. Kilimanjaro is a tough mountain and not everyone makes the summit. We can advise you on the different routes, including those that have the highest success rates. Five and six-day routes have poor altitude acclimatisation and less than half make it. For seven and eight-day routes the success rate climbs to over 90%.
This idolised island is located in Tanzania. It’s beach paradise and you can find out more on our detailed Zanzibar page. Traveling between safari destinations and Zanzibar is relatively straightforward and we can advise you on different options.
Mahale and Gombe
These two remote national parks are a challenge to get to, located in the far west of Tanzania. Both have the same highlight: trekking with chimpanzees. If that experience is on your bucket list then we can tell you more. If not then focus on Tanzania’s other destinations instead.
This ancient volcanic caldera is home to 30,000 animals and just about all the famous species. It’s a wildlife Eden. Hippos grunt as a black rhino marches past. Flamingo cover one lake as elephants drink from another. Lions chase zebra as buffalo march across the trails. You only need to spend one day in Ngorongoro. We highly recommend staying as close to the crater rim as possible, definitely somewhere within Ngorongoro Conservation Area. This allows you to be one of the first vehicles on the crater floor when it opens in the morning. After a six-hour game drive you leave the crater and can move on to a neighbouring destination like the Serengeti.
A hidden gem of African travel, Ruaha is roughly the same size of Wales. This is pure wilderness, where buffalo fight with lions and you spot packs of wild dogs in the grass. Fortunately, wildlife is relatively easy to find as it sticks close to the mighty Ruaha River. Game drives can be combined with game walks as you gain a really immersive safari experience. Allow at least three days here and expect to see very few other visitors. Note that Ruaha is in the south of the country and you need a flight to combine it with the Serengeti.
Africa’s largest game reserve is a great place to try all the different safari activities. Cruise along the river, walk in elephant country, then go on game drives during the day and night. Almost all the famous animals are found here and there is quite an abundance. Do note that large parts of Selous are gazetted as private hunting reserves (sad face), so it’s very important to choose a camp as far away from these as possible. Two days would be ideal here, giving you time to experience all the animals and activities.
Mikumi and Katavi
Very few people know about these two large national parks. And we like to keep them a little secretive as well. Their infrastructure for safari has only recently been set up and the parks don’t receive many visitors. This makes both Mikumi and Katavi good places to experience wildlife that’s completely unchanged by human behaviour. Thousand-strong buffalo herds battle with lions in Katavi, while Mikumi feels like a small version of the Serengeti.
Key Tanzania Safari Considerations
Tanzania is a wonderfully easy country to travel in. For such a big country it’s easy to get around, especially if you utilize local safari flights. For the Serengeti and the northern circuit, we recommend flying into Kilimanjaro International. Destinations in southern Tanzania are best accessed via Dar es Salaam.
It’s important to allow enough time for a Tanzania safari. While it is possible to spend just a couple of days in the wilderness, the safari experience will really grow on you. The more time you have the stronger your connection to the landscape and wildlife. Spend five days or more and a safari is very relaxing as well: being surrounded by nothing but animals does wonder for the soul.
The Best Time for a Tanzania Safari
Tanzania safaris are possible most months of the year. January to March is the dry season, with peak game viewing conditions across the whole country. April and May see rain, with many of the roads and camps becoming inaccessible: these months should be avoided if you can. From June onwards it begins to dry up again. By September the landscape waits for rain: there’s nowhere for animals to hide and a safari is very easy. Although October to December brings some rain this shouldn’t be off-putting.
Tips for the Great Wildebeest Migration
One highlight of the great wildebeest migration is that you can experience it every month of the year. We don’t believe there is a bad time to go: 2 million mammals don’t just suddenly vanish. Instead, experiencing this spectacle is all about being in the right place at the right time. Visit from December to March and we recommend the southeastern Serengeti plains, in and around an area called Ndutu. For April to June, a camp in the centre of the park is best, so you can easily react to distinct migratory movements. Stick to the north of the Serengeti and Masai Mara for July to September, then the center and east for the final months of the year.
Many people ask us whether they will see the migration. We make sure everyone can witness the spectacle, using local advice so everyone stays on the wildebeests’ path dependent on the time they visit.
Planning a Tanzania Safari
With so much to choose from it’s easy to be overwhelmed by a Tanzania safari. Where do you start? Where will the migration be? How do you combine Zanzibar and the Serengeti? These are the questions we know very well. For over a decade we’ve been customizing safaris to Tanzania and other places in Africa. Through a personal consultation, we can discuss what is best for your interests and style of travel. There’s so much to experience here and we make sure that you don’t miss out.