Our safari holidays in Tanzania visit a vibrant and beautiful country with world-class parks. Safaris have been a way of life in Tanzania for decades; the country is blessed with the winning combination of both superb big game and stunning tropical beaches. You can fly from a Tanzania safari camp in the morning to an Indian Ocean beach for an afternoon swim.
Because the country is vast, it helps to think of Tanzania holidays falling into four broad areas: the famous ‘northern circuit’ safaris; the wild parks of southern Tanzania; the remote safaris of western Tanzania; and the beaches of the coast & islands. Tanzania’s three safari areas are very different; but all combine well with trips to the beach! Looking at each in more detail:
A Northern Tanzania Safari
Tanzania’s first safari areas were in the north, and this ‘northern circuit’ remains its most famous safari area. The Ngorongoro Crater and the Rift Valley’s Lake Manyara are names to conjure with – whilst the Serengeti’s great migration is one of the world’s great wildlife spectacles; no wonder it attracts hundreds of thousands of human visitors every year!
Sadly, sometimes the mini-buses out-number the animals here; you can find the side of mass tourism to Africa that we don’t like. Hence we’ve strived to find ways of visiting these areas, whilst avoiding the human hotspots. The main parks here are:
Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Tanzania’s greatest wildlife showpiece, the Ngorongoro Crater has breath-taking views, phenomenal game and a lot of visitors. Look out for elephants, buffalo and black rhino on the crater floor; the large lion population is far from camera shy.
The Serengeti’s vast ecosystem covers several different reserves, and includes overwhelming amounts of game. Many areas are also very busy, and we’re very aware that this will detract from many Tanzania safaris here. Other safari areas may be harder to reach, but are usually worth the effort for their exclusivity. It is still possible to safari here with the migration to yourself – but getting the timing right is a science in itself!
Lake Manyara National Park
This small, yet spectacular safari park sits between the Great Rift Valley’s steep Western escarpment and the Lake Manyara, a shallow alkaline lake. It is easily visited from Arusha by 4WD, and often on the way to Ngorongoro Crater and/or the Serengeti.
Tarangire National Park
At its best when it’s dry, Tarangire is an excellent park: with abundant game and very varied bird-life. The bulk of it is also relatively quiet, with few people reaching the southern regions where safaris can still find a sense of ‘wilderness.’
A Southern Tanzania Safari
The parks in southern Tanzania cover huge areas and offer great game-viewing in remote areas, based at small lodges where local safari guides (often real experts) drive you around in open 4WDs. It’s an excellent experience, similar to the best safaris in southern Africa – and these trips probably include our most popular Tanzania safaris. There is no ‘migration’ here – but the game is excellent, and you will relish the real feeling of wilderness here and complete lack of crowds! The main options are:
Selous Game Reserve
Arguably Africa’s largest game reserve, the Selous offers some of best big game safaris in Tanzania with excellent guiding, and it’s a relatively short flight from Dar es Salaam, the coast and islands. Selous is perfect for a week’s safari!
Ruaha National Park
In the heart of Tanzania, Ruaha makes a great extension to a Selous safari. It’s hotter, drier and higher here, so the environments, and several of the game species, are different. Being that bit more remote, there are even fewer camps here.
Mikumi and Udzungwa national parks
These two parks and are best for the well-travelled enthusiast. Mikumi is one of Tanzania’s smaller parks, best visited with a 4WD and driver/guide. The environment is similar to that in Selous, and you can base yourself here for trips into the Udzungwa Mountains – a small, densely-forested park where keen wildlife enthusiasts come in search of endemic species.
A Western Tanzania Safari
Safaris in western Tanzania are in a league of their own with superb and contrasting wildlife experiences – but see a map to realize that they are seriously remote! Because of this, Tanzania safaris here usually expensive and so receive very few visitors – but of course having few other visitors sharing your experience is a real attraction in itself. The two main parks here are:
Katavi National Park
One of Africa’s most remote safari parks, Katavi has excellent game, including prolific buffalo and lion, and an unbeatable feeling of wilderness. It’s very remote even by Tanzania safari standards, but a big draw for old Africa hands who have travelled extensively.
Mahale Mountains National Park
Totally different from Tanzania’s safari parks, Mahale is a thickly-forested and mountainous. On one side is the vast Lake Tanganyika, and the odd superb beach; but come because it’s Africa’s best to watch wild chimpanzees at close quarters. It’s a superb experience, in a park that’s very remote and so costly to reach.
Adding to a Tanzania safari: The coast & islands
Tanzania’s beaches, especially those on its islands, are spectacular, accessible, and often relatively inexpensive to visit. There’s a real choice of small beach lodges and hotels; consider the options:
The spicy, exotic island of Zanzibar conjures up an amazing image. What’s more, it can live up to it – with a cosmopolitan mix of cultures, enchanting palm-fringed beaches and some good diving and snorkeling in the ocean around it.
South of Zanzibar, Mafia Archipelago is laid-back, sparsely-populated and delightful. A huge marine park protects one side of this, where there is first-class diving and snorkeling and a few small beach lodges. Mafia is great value and a firm favorite with its visitors.
Pemba doesn’t have Zanzibar’s reputation or its choice of beach lodges. It’s a little less easy to reach, and the population are a little more conservative, and so it has fewer visitors. It has one good beach lodge, which isn’t cheap but is popular with a young British honeymoon crowd.
Ras Kutani area
On the mainland, Ras Kutani is only about an hour’s drive south of Dar es Salaam. It can make a good stop for two nights at the start or end of your trip – and here there are two very good, if contrasting, lodges beside a lovely long beach.
Dar es Salaam
The urban sprawl of Dar es Salaam is Tanzania’s largest and most important city, and a major gateway for international flights – although it’s not the country’s capital city! ‘Dar’, as it’s often known, is fine for a night’s stay, but most visitors pass straight through. Most Tanzania safaris in Southern Tanzania will pass thought Dar – whereas most safaris to Northern or Western Tanzania will use Arusha as their hub.
A Tanzania safari: how to travel around
Camps in the remote areas of southern and western Tanzania are usually visited on fly-in safaris, which use light aircraft to fly between the parks and camp. Flying allows quick access to even remote camps, and scheduled aircraft run frequently. Once at the camps, their own guides will use 4WDs and boats to get you around the parks.
In the northern circuit, the choice is more complex. The main parks here are relatively close together, and so private-guided safaris work very well – and are the obvious choice when small groups or families are travelling together. These have the advantage that you’ll drive through the towns and rural areas, and be able to stop there – giving you insights into local life, and showing you what Tanzania is like outside its safari areas. However, travelling by road is a lot slower, and journeys can be bumpy, dusty and long. You’ll normally travel in closed-cab 4WDs, and use the same vehicle for game drives; whilst these have a pop-top roof for game-viewing, they’re not generally as good as open-topped game-viewing vehicles.