Located in East Africa, Tanzania (officially the United Republic of Tanzania), is a top safari destination. The country has three safari circuits with the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater offering the best classical safaris in Africa more so when timed with the wildebeest migration.
The wildlife viewing is exceptional with the big cats being quite easy to spot. All the Big Fives are found in various parks and reserves in Tanzania. Close to 40% of the country is protected and set aside for conservation. This is what makes it easy to go for a safari in Tanzania for weeks in a row.
Being a big country, the main safari destinations can be split into three; the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater in the north, the Selous Game Reserve and Ruaha National Park in the south and the Katavi National Park and Muhale Mountains National Park in the west. Let’s take a look at all three broad areas.
Top Northern Tanzania Safari Locations
The northern circuit safaris remain to be the most famous safari areas in Tanzania. They range from the Serengeti to the Ngorongoro Crater and more. It is up to you to pick where you want to go and if time and money allows you can visit all four safaris destinations in the north. Needless to say, northern Tanzania safaris are expensive when compare to the south. The best thing, however, is that they offer the best wildlife viewing experience, complete with magnificent scenery.
The Serengeti borders the Masai Mara in Kenya. It is one of the biggest national parks in Africa spanning 12,000 square miles (30,000 square kilometers). The name Serengeti is derived from the Maasai language. It means ‘endless plains’. The park was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1981.
The Serengeti also encompasses a number of protected game reserves and conservation areas that are maintained by the governments of Kenya and Tanzania. In addition to being the largest concentration of predators in the world, the region has the largest mammal migration in the world.
While on safari here, there are countless things to do.
- Go on a nature walk
- Enjoy bush dinners
- Camp under the stars
- Take night game drives
- See the Moru Kopjes
- Relax by a hippo pool
- Take sunrise game drives
- Stay in luxury tented camps
- Take hot air balloon safaris
- Witness the wildebeest migration
There is no shortage of things to do at the Serengeti. It is recommended to spend a minimum of three nights here.
The Ngorongoro Crater
The Ngorongoro Crater is part of the Serengeti ecosystem. It is a protected area and a World Heritage Site located 110 miles (180 kilometers) west of Arusha. The area is named after the Ngorongoro Crater which is a large volcanic caldera.
The volcanic crater remains the jewel of Ngorongoro. It is 600 meters deep, 20 kilometers across and 300 square kilometers in area. If you are searching for breath-taking views and impressive game on a Tanzania safari, the Ngorongoro is the place to be. It is also one of the best places to see the big five.
The best thing about a Ngorongoro safari is the unique micro-climate of the area which can be enjoyed all year round. A single big game drive into the crater is enough as you head to the Serengeti. You can, however, extend your safari by touring the top attractions in the area.
Tarangire National Park
This is another option that offers fantastic views and a huge number of elephants. The park has abundant game and varied bird-life. It is, nevertheless, an add-on park to the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro crater. You can visit the national park for a couple of nights as you proceed to the Ngorongoro crater.
Lake Manyara National Park
This is a smaller safari park nestled between Lake Manyara and the Great Rift Valley’s steep western escarpment. If you love the land-birdlife, this is a beautiful safari spot. The park has a colossal number of flamingos. Since it is small, you can visit the area on an afternoon. Most tourists drive to the Ngorongoro crater via Lake Manyara.
Top Safari Lodges & Camps in Northern Tanzania
Safari dreams are made of savannas dotted with acacia trees and incredible wildlife. But where should you spend the night, have lunch and regroup? Here are the best safari lodges and camps in Northern Tanzania.
Four Seasons Safari Lodge.
Its located in central Serengeti and is close to the Seronera airstrip. The lodge has 77 spacious rooms with modern amenities like Wi-Fi, minibars, spa, wine cellar and flat screen TVs.
This is a safari oasis in Northern Serengeti and closest to the Kogatende airstrip. The location is wildlife-filled. The facility offers front row seats to the Great Wildebeest Migration.
Sayari Tented Camp
This is located in Northern Serengeti. It offers an exclusive safari retreat as well as amazing panoramic views of the plains and wildlife. There are 15 tented suites with world-class amenities like a yoga deck, Wi-Fi, and en suite baths.
One Nature Nyarusingwa
This is located in central Serengeti. The safari camp is ultra-luxurious and offers amazing views of the plains and wildlife. The camp features astral observation decks, Jacuzzi, plunge pool and guest lounge and bar.
Mwimba Safari Lodge
This is located in southern Serengeti and close to the Ndutu airstrip. The lodge borders the Ngorongoro Crater region. This is the place to be if you desire a luxurious wilderness experience. The lodge has 8 suites and highlights 51,000 acres of the wildlife reserve.
Ngorongoro Crater Lodge
This is located on the edge of the Ngorongoro Crater. The lodge has en suite bathrooms and offers a 180-degree view of the Crater rim.
Other notable lodges and camps include:
- Chem Chem Safari Lodge
- Gibbs Farm Ngorongoro
- Singita Faru Faru
- Singita Sasakwa
While there are so many facilities to pick from, your choice will depend on your preferred location, style, and budget.
When is Best for a Safari in Northern Tanzania
The best time to visit Northern Tanzania is during the dry season. This runs from June to October. The dry season is when wildlife viewing is at its best. The wildebeest migration takes place in June and July. If you want to see wildebeest calving, the best time is from late January to February.
Top Southern Tanzania Safari Locations
While the north is the most famous safari location, you will be surprised by the amazing offerings of the lesser-known southern Tanzania. The best part is the south is uncrowded, has huge wildlife areas, has an exciting range of activities and the parks and lodges are much cheaper. The main drawback is there is a lower concentration of wildlife. Here are the best safari locations in the south.
The Selous Game Reserve
This is arguably the largest game reserve in Africa. It covers an area of 19,000 square miles (50,000 square kilometers). In 1982, the area was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its undisturbed nature and wildlife diversity. There is no permanent human habitation in the reserve.
The Selous Game Reserve is ideal for a week’s safari. It is populated by African bush elephants, hippopotamus, black rhinos, lions, Cape buffaloes, East African wild dogs, Plains zebras, Nile crocodiles, and Masai Giraffes.
Ruaha National Park
The Ruaha National Park makes a perfect extension to the Selous safari. The park covers an area of 7,809 square miles (20,226 square kilometers). It is the largest protected area in East Africa. The park is part of the Rungwa-Kizigo-Muhesi ecosystem which includes Rungwa, Muhesi and Kizigo Game reserves. The park gets its name from the Great Ruaha River.
Since the region is higher, hotter and drier, the environment and game species here are different. The main animals are the East African lions and cheetahs, African leopards and spotted hyenas, wild dogs, hippopotamus, giraffes, African buffalo, and the sable antelope. The area is more remote and has fewer camps.
Top Safari Lodges & Camps in Southern Tanzania
The southern Tanzania safaris are so rewarding and remote that they might ruin your future luxury safaris. While the lodges and camps are fewer, they are unparalleled and the prices are amazing. Here are the top lodges and camps in southern Tanzania.
Sand Rivers Selous
The Sand Rivers Selous is set on the Rufiji River and each room offers dramatic views of the river and its many crocodiles, hippos, and birdlife. The rooms are made using natural materials and the verandahs offer an amazing spot for you to chill out. You will find some of the best food, guides, and staff here.
This is a wonderfully luxurious mix of smooth cream surfaces and canvas. The camp is located on the other side of the San Rivers. It offers views of Lake Siwandu where you can enjoy boat safaris as well as sunset cruises.
Located in Ruaha National Park, the camp offers abundant game viewing experiences. If you are searching for an authentic camp experience with world-class comforts, this is the place to be.
This is another remarkable camp in the Ruaha National Park. It is half lodge and half canvas. It is the sister camp to the Siwandu and offers the same relaxed and jovial atmosphere.
When is Best for a Safari in Southern Tanzania
The best time for a safari in Southern Tanzania is during the dry season from June to October. If you are interested in walking and bird watching, the window from January to March will be quite rewarding.
Western Tanzania Safaris
West Tanzania is also a great option when searching for the best safari spot. The region is, however, a bit expensive and not many tourists get to it. While 70% of tourists venture to the Northern Tanzania and 25% head to the south, only 5% head to the west. If you want to be among the 5%, here are some of the best places you can head to.
Katavi National Park
This is arguably one of Africa’s most remote safari parks. It is very remote and covers an area of approximately 1,726 square miles (4,471 square kilometers). It is the third largest national park in Tanzania. The park includes the seasonal Lake Katavi, Katuma River and Lake Chada floodplains. The wildlife includes large animal herds specifically the zebras, Cape buffaloes, giraffes, wildebeests and elephants. The Katuma river has hippos and crocodiles. The predators are cheetahs, hyenas, wild dogs, lions and leopards. The park is a big draw for tourists who have travelled extensively.
Mahale Mountains National Park
This is a thickly forested and mountainous park. It is one of the two protected areas for chimpanzees in Tanzania. The region has the largest population of chimpanzees. It is also one of the few places where lions and chimpanzees coexist. It is also good to note that the park can only be experienced by foot. The only way in and out of the park is on boats across Lake Tanganyika. The park is exclusive and costly to get to.
Best Lodges in Western Tanzania
This is one of the finest places you can stay in western Tanzania. It is located in Katavi National Park and has a total of 6 tents. It is one of the most distinctive lodges in Africa thanks to its location and offerings. From the lodge, you will get to see huge herds of buffalo and elephants and wild lions.
This is another exotic lodge located in Mahale Mountains. It has 6 colorful bandas and offers unparalleled scenic beauty. It is the perfect spot for viewing chimpanzees and the many offerings of Lake Mahale. The lodge offers the perfect combination of wildlife, lakes, rainforests and mountains. It is ideal for viewing chimpanzees.
When is Best for a Safari in Western Tanzania
Just like with the north and south regions, the drier months are the best time for a safari in western Tanzania. This is from June to October. Lodges and camps are usually closed in the wettest months (February to May) because it is challenging to travel over flooded and marshy ground.
Visit Zanzibar After Your Safari
There is no better way to end a safari than by visiting Zanzibar. This is a spicy, exotic island located 16 to 31 miles (25 to 50 kilometers) off the mainland. The island has several small islands with Ugunja being the main one. It is a great place to wind down after a long safari thanks to the cosmopolitan’s mix of cultures, palm-fringed beaches as well as great snorkeling and diving spots in the ocean.
Safaris have always been a way of life in Tanzania for decades. The country is truly blessed with an amazing combination of stunning tropical beaches and outstanding big game. Planning your safari early is the key to enjoying most of what Tanzania has to offer.