Experience the Ultimate Tanzania Safari
Tanzania is the untamed half of east Africa, the raw safari experience that first drew explorers from around the world, home to endless savannah, volcanic mountains, the Great Migration and the towering walls of the Ngorongoro Crater.
A few hours away is mighty Mount Kilimanjaro itself, where adventure seekers can hike through a series of wildly different landscapes in a bid to reach the pinnacle of Africa, accompanied by a full complement of hardy porters and experienced guides. Although the mountain can be summited without having to do any serious climbing, it is still to be respected. Though the summit of Kilimanjaro lies among the clouds, those wanting to stand upon the mountain need not climb to the very top, as special excursions cater for short hikes and picnic lunches on its slopes.
Creating yet another rugged and scenic landscape nearby, the Rift Valley plunges down to the shores of tranquil Lake Manyara in a series of steep cliffs. Shallow and fed by the runoff from the high escarpment along its side, Manyara is home to great multitudes of pink-feathered flamingo throughout the year. The verdant national park that lies along its shores is famed for high concentrations of wildlife, including its unusual tree-climbing lion.
Uniquely scenic Tarangire does not have a lake, but it does boast extensive marshlands that turn swathes of it a brilliant green. Abundant game gathers to feel and play among these reeds and long grasses that grow near the cooling water, while patient lion lounge around its shores, eyes alert for the injured or the unwary.
Far away to the west, Lake Tanganyika forms the western boundary of Tanzania, remote and wild as can be. This region is so distant and isolated that planes only head out twice a week and the wildlife regard the camps as part of the bush, wandering in and out as they please. Here those guests in search of truly remote safaris in Tanzania can immerse themselves completely in the solitude and wonder of the African bush.
Katavi is a wilderness that has remained unsullied by time and progress, while the Mahale Mountains National Park stretches alongside the extensive lakeshore, offering refuge to chimpanzee in its deep forests.
While the northern game reserves areas are the better known, the south is the rough-cut gem of safaris in Tanzania. These are some of the largest wilderness areas in the world. The Selous Game Reserve alone covers an area the size of Switzerland. Nearby Ruaha is not as massive, but offers a rich, untainted game experience. The remote location and lower profile of the southern parks ensure these areas are seldom crowded and visitors to these untouched reserves may often find themselves roaming the African bush for days without seeing another soul.
The east coast of Tanzania is blessed with the dazzling white beaches and warm waters of the Indian Ocean, home to world-class scuba diving and thrilling deep sea fishing. Colourful and exotic, Zanzibar fires the imagination with its beautiful scenery and fascinating history as a spice port. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the island’s ancient capital of Stone Town hides its singular character and distinct charm within a labyrinth of winding alleyways and ornate doorways.
The most famous of all Tanzania’s safari areas and often acting the link between the exceptional experiences that the country can offer is the fabled Serengeti National Park, its endless plains home to abundant game and site of the annual Great Migration of over a million wildebeest and zebra. Dubbed the Greatest Show on Earth, this fascinating spectacle moves continually through the Serengeti, across the borders to Kenya’s Masai Mara and back down again. Its endless cycle of life and death enthrals first time visitors and lifelong safari fanatics alike.
What to expect on safari in Tanzania
The essence of Tanzania safaris lies in the country’s magnificent landscapes, from skies that stretch as far as the imagination to rolling expanses of golden savannah. While tourism is well developed in the country and the facilities provided are excellent, Tanzania manages to retain much of its innocence and untouched character.
Whether you are travelling by road or by light aircraft, the sheer size of the country is staggering. Each part of the country is vastly different and strikingly unique. Tanzania is unbeaten for sheer variety of landscape, offering majestic craters, lush forests, sweeping plains and baobab-studded bushveld, crowned by the deep blue of the ocean and its pure white shores.
Tanzania safari holidays have developed a great deal and Tanzania safari companies have broadened their offering to appeal to a wide range of tastes and budgets. Light aircraft travel allows guests to combine far-flung destinations into shorter journeys. Accommodation ranges from simpler, cheaper options to Tanzania luxury safari. Most of the country’s national parks boast excellent big game and several are home to the Big Five, although rhino are scarce in Tanzania. Overland journeys remain popular and popular Tanzania safari packages link the gateway towns of Arusha and Kilimanjaro to the Serengeti and beyond via the craggy rim of the Ngorongoro Crater and its verdant highlands.
A safari in Tanzania can take many forms. Some safaris are designed to cater for those who desire all the comforts and convenience of home, including luxuries like air conditioning and satellite television, while other create an authentic bush experience for travellers seeking to disconnect from the modern world and get closer to nature.
A Tanzania luxury safari usually consists of daily game drives that bring guests face to face with the majesty of nature viewed from a custom safari vehicle and introduced by an expert guide. Those in search of a little more adventure can set out on foot or horseback, sleeping on the trail in mobile fly camps that are set up for the night and taken down in the morning but are by no means light on comfort and even a little luxury. Travellers keen for an authentic experience but not eager for roughing it might consider luxury accommodation that offers a wide range of adventurous activities, like running with Maasai warriors or tracking giraffe. In the west, the forests of Mahale are perfect for tracking the fascinating families of chimpanzees that call it home. Tanzania also now has efficient flight links to neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda, where visitors can explore some of the best gorilla tracking areas in the world.
To experience the full Tanzania safari tour, it is best to do a comprehensive circuit of the country, spending some time in each unique area. After a night or two in Arusha (perhaps heading up to Meru for canoeing or hiking part of the way up Kilimanjaro), fly out to Lake Manyara and walk or cycle along the lakeshore looking out at the flamingos. From there, travel to the rim of the largest intact caldera in the world and explore the sheltered Eden on the floor of the Ngorongoro Crater. Beyond that the endless Serengeti awaits and travellers can spend long sunny days in the savannah, seeking out herds of game and watching the gripping interactions between predator and prey. This massive reserve can be divided into a northern, central and western section, each of which has its own defining characteristics. Seek out the Migration on a carefully timed safari planned to intercept the slow annual progress of the mega-herd or simply marvel at the abundance of resident game and spectacular scenery. Once your longing for the Serengeti has been sated, a feast of new experiences still awaits. Head west to the remote shores of Tanganyika or the gorilla forests of Rwanda or Uganda, east to the vibrant coast or south to the remote southern parks.
Why choose Tanzania
With the country’s vast, open spaces, Tanzania safaris offer a pure, undiluted wildlife experience. While there is a wide selection of lodges and camps, aside from a few congested areas, the game reserves are generally set quite far apart. Tanzania is a place where safari still means getting away from everything and everyone. The remote nature of its attractions and the comparatively low number of lodges and operators has preserved the soaring sense of space that makes East Africa a lifelong favourite for safari fanatics. Added to that is the unfailing friendliness of the Tanzanian people. One of the tenets of Tanzanian culture is to treat others with kindness and to be welcoming. One hears the word ‘karibu’ (welcome) all the time as smile after smile gradually breaks down barriers and everyone feels like family returning home.
The Serengeti is perhaps best known as the home of the Great Migration. Moving between Kenya and Tanzania, for the bulk of the year the mega-herd finds itself on the Tanzanian side. The wildebeest calve in the lush summer months as the herd loiters in the southern Serengeti. As the land dries out and the days shorten, the herd moves north, ambling along the western corridor and the central Serengeti up to the northern half of the park. During the late winter they cross back and forth over the border, rewarding safari enthusiasts with thrilling river crossings. As the rains begin in November and December the herd gradually makes its way back down to the southern Serengeti as it prepares to give birth to a new generation. The open landscapes of the Serengeti make it easy for superb sightings of the Migration and many camps have adapted to bring their guests as close to the action as possible. Some luxury tented camps move with the herd throughout the year, selecting sites a year in advance and trying to place themselves directly in its path. While these camps are exceptionally stunningly well-appointed, their crowning glory remains the ancient magic of listening to the sound of the bush drifting through canvas walls in the tranquil African night.
Tanzania is also home to the spectacular Ngorongoro Crater. Once a volcano that towered higher than mighty Mount Kilimanjaro, all that remains today is a perfectly preserved caldera sheltered between the high rock walls that once formed the slopes of the volcano. The walls of the crater enfold a 260 square kilometre (110 square mile) wildlife haven. Vehicles descend over 600m (almost 2 000 feet) from the crater’s rim to its floor, where abundant game awaits in surroundings that seem almost too majestic to be real. The best-preserved caldera in the world, the Crater combines exceptionally picturesque scenery with an abundance of East Africa’s wildlife. It is an otherworldly experience to roam among its towering walls, encountering wildebeest, zebra, lion and rhino. Most guests choose to spend entire days exploring the Crater, accompanied by expert guides and sustained by delicious packed lunches. Along with the Serengeti, Stone Town and several others, the Ngorongoro Crater is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
When visiting any country blessed with so many unique attractions the difficulty always lies in deciding what to include and what to leave out. Of all the countries in East Africa, Tanzania offers its guests the simplest choices. The nature and placement of Tanzania’s safari gems lends itself to clear circuit itineraries, making it possible to see many of them in one visit. First time guests could combine the Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Manyara, Ruaha, Selous and Zanzibar in one simple routing. Others who journey to Tanzania seeking specific experiences, like walking and fly camping in the Selous or fishing and chimp tracking in Mahale, are astonished to discover how the search for a particular experience can blossom into a full itinerary simply because there is so much to do and it is so easy to combine it all.
Who is it for?
Tanzania offers an exceptional experience for safari lovers of all ages and tastes. Tanzania safari tours are untainted, offering abundant wildlife and spectacular scenery that is easy to reach. While the words ‘perfect safari destination’ should always be used with care, as Africa has a host of destinations that could easily lay claim to such a title, Tanzania is a particularly strong contender simply because it embodies so many of the things that define true safari.
There are the iconic natural features of Ngorongoro and Kilimanjaro, the endless herds of wildlife that make up the Great Migration, the endless savannahs of the Serengeti, proud Maasai tribesmen in the north, the vast wilderness of the Selous, remote forests in the west and the exotic islands of Pemba and Zanzibar off the coast. In short, Tanzania offers everything that a safari could possibly include. Each of these destinations boast a selection of styles and standards, from plush beds in world-class luxury lodges to tented camps situated in the remote bush where guests can sleep with only the African stars for a roof.
Tanzania offers guests embarking on their very first safari an opportunity to take in its full range of experiences on one journey. From colourful Arusha to the cool heights of Kilimanjaro or the Ngorongoro Crater, the golden savannahs or the depths of the forests, riding high in a game drive vehicle or venturing on foot into the villages, Tanzania does not hide its treasures. And, when the dust of the safari needs shaking off, it offers so much more than just pristine beaches – it boasts the mystique and vibrant culture of the Spice Island of Zanzibar.
This is not to imply that a Tanzanian safari experience lacks depth. Each of the country’s main attractions has enough depth to warrant a safari all on its own. Many guests return every year to experience a different side to Tanzania. Some seek more meaningful interactions with the Maasai, perhaps coming to visit a project they took part in on their previous visit. Those that flew may choose to drive and others take to the sky the second time around. Where one safari was spent with a loved one in the Serengeti, the next one could take place in a private villa deep in the Selous, with the entire family in attendance. A guest fearful of the unknown the first time round will return to spend more time with their feet on the African soil, walking where once they were scared to drive. With every visit the experiences get deeper, more vivid and ever richer.
Where to go on safari in Tanzania
Arusha National Park
Sprawled along the slopes of picturesque Mount Meru, this lush and scenic park boasts healthy populations of antelope, along with buffalo, giraffe and over 400 species of birds. Easily accessible, it is the perfect destination to begin or end your safari.
The park is known the Momella Lakes, whose alkaline water sustains year-round populations of flamingo and which are best explored on a scenic canoe safari.
Learn more about the Arusha National Park.
Tarangire National Park
An often-overlooked gem, Tarangire’s characteristic skyline, framed by the stubby branches of fat baobab trees, is the backdrop for superb game viewing, particularly in the winter months of the peak season. Its marshes, which dry out into verdant grassy fields during the dry season, draw great herds of elephant, buffalo, antelope and other plains game.
Lion and other predators are frequently spotted. The park boasts over 500 species of birds, including some species endemic to Tanzania. Away from the busier north, the southern end of the park is home to camps that specialize in walking safaris, allowing their guests to immerse their senses in the experience of exploring the African bush on foot.
Lake Manyara National Park
Stretching along the edge of the soda lake from which it takes its name, Lake Manyara National Park is strikingly diverse for its small size. Aside from its famed tree-climbing lions, this park boasts the largest troops of olive baboon in Africa, along with abundant antelope and zebra, as well as elephant, although these seem to come and go as they please.
The rugged escarpment that forms its other border is almost primordially beautiful, rising high above the plains festooned with lush forest. Guests can ride a bicycle along the lakeshore and visit a local village or while away the days roaming the park on day and night game drives.
Learn more about Lake Manyara National Park.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area
With the famed Ngorongoro Crater as its crown jewel, this conservation area also includes the Olduvai Gorge, home to the historic finds of Richard Leakey and known as the origin of mankind.
The Crater itself is a natural masterpiece of spectacular scenery and rich ecosystem, its high walls enclosing a hidden world teeming with game.
Learn more about Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area.
It boasts some of the best rhino sightings in East Africa, as well as large numbers of lion and hyena, which compete for a share of the abundant zebra, wildebeest and antelope populations, all set against the backdrop of its craggy walls and illuminated by the golden light of the African sun. The Ngorongoro is one of the quintessential experiences for any safari traveller. Entire days can fly by as you roam the wide plains on the crater floor and there is no better place than the Crater rim to sit and contemplate the majestic views as the sun begins to set.
Serengeti National Park
A name synonymous with both Tanzania and safari, the Serengeti is the dream destination for anyone longing to see Africa. It has been immortalized in film and literature and continues to inspire writers, photographers and travellers from all over the world. Its prides of lion, the teeming multitudes of its Great Migration of wildebeest and zebra and the infinite expanses of open grasslands combine to form the most powerful and alluring vision of Africa.
Here keen photographers crouch over telephoto lenses as the sun turns the scene to gold. Here a family stares in hushed excitement at their first encounter with a towering bull elephant. Here the horizon fills with the dust of millions of hooves and the timeless drama of predator and prey takes centre stage.
Learn more about Serengeti National Park.
Mahale Mountain National Park
Stretching along the shores of vast Lake Tanganyika, Mahale is home to Tanzania’s chimpanzees and visitors to the park can track these fascinating primates and observe their complex social structure first-hand.
The lake lends itself to lazy days out on the water, fishing, birding and game viewing from a different perspective.
Selous Game Reserve
Dotted with palm trees and criss-crossed by the channels of the Rufiji River, the Selous is as unique as it is vast. Spanning an area larger than Switzerland, only its northern tip is restricted to photographic safari. Here guests can experience the wonders of the bushveld on foot, by vehicle or on river cruises.
Spend nights out in the wild, sleeping in intimate fly-camps, savouring meals cooked over the coals and sleeping with a canopy of stars for a roof.
Learn more about Selous Game Reserve.
Known as the spice island, Zanzibar is home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Stone Town, a medieval town that has withstood the march of time and retained both its character and vibrancy. Travellers can wander the maze of alleyways, dotted with ornately carved Zanzibari doors or walk in the footsteps of Freddie Mercury and Princess Salme, both famed former residents of the island.
Boasting some of the most dazzling coastline in Africa, Zanzibar is the perfect destination to unwind after a long safari. &Beyond Mnemba Island is a private sanctuary situated just off the coast of the larger island and boasts world-class snorkelling and the ultimate in island leisure.
Learn more about Zanzibar.
How to get there, how long to stay
Tanzania has several airports, although the most common access points are Dar es Salaam on the coast and Kilimanjaro Airport in the north-east of the country. Guests heading out on safari can fly into either destination and link up with scheduled light aircraft flights to airstrips in the wilderness areas. A typical route would be to arrive at Kilimanjaro, where your safari operator would be waiting to drive you to Arusha, where you would spend the night. Early the next morning, you could catch any of a number of flights that depart from Arusha heading out onto the safari circuit. In the south, guests arriving in Dar es Salaam can connect to light aircraft flights to Arusha or into the southern parks of Selous or Ruaha, depending on their arrival time. If you are travelling to the remote western parks, flights depart only twice a week and take up to five hours to reach their destination.
Overland safaris remain popular, the bulk of them departing from Arusha and heading out onto the safari circuit of Manyara, Ngorongoro and the Serengeti.
The country offers a wide variety of accommodation options of differing standards, so that Tanzania safari prices range from the easily affordable to the vastly more indulgent.
Tanzania has so much to offer that the ideal safari should at least a week, with most recommended itineraries taking between nine days and three weeks.
When should I go
Tanzania is an exceptional year-round destination, although peak periods fall over the winter months as the climate is drier, making vegetation less dense and water scarcer. These two factors combine to make game viewing easier, as wildlife will gather around water sources. The movements of the Great Migration determine peak seasons for different areas of the Serengeti, but June to October is generally considered the most popular time to travel. Tanzania enjoys two rainy seasons, which fall in November / early December and April / May. Many camps close during this time, as roads become impassable. However, the parks remain quiet in the low seasons that follow the rains and the so-called “green season” yields unique safari experiences without the crowds of the high season. Visitors during this time can enjoy lush, scenic landscapes, superb birding and all the young animals being born.
Where to stay
You will find a wide range of accommodation in Tanzania, from simple mobile camps to luxury lodges. &Beyond has five lodges in the country’s wildlife areas and one in Zanzibar.
View the abundance of birds at Lake Manyara, search for the prolific game of the endless Serengeti, and stand in awe of the Ngorongoro Crater.
Who to Contact
&Beyond can put together tailormade Kenya safari tours that include internal flights, transport, accommodation and guided tours anywhere in Kenya. Enquire now for more information.