Tanzania Featured, Countries
Tanzania in East Africa is one of the top safari destinations in Africa. Tanzania's vast Serengeti National Park is the scene of the annual Great Migration, a breathtaking wildlife spectacle which every serious safari enthusiast should observe at least once in a lifetime. Equally unique is the famous Ngorongoro crater, home to unparalleled numbers of wild animals. It is easy to combine a safari in northern Tanzania with a tropical beach holiday on Zanzibar island, just off the coast of Tanzania. And for the serious traveller, the wild and remote southern region offers beautiful national parks which are relatively untouched by development and human settlement, with huge game reserves such as Selous Game Reserve and Ruaha National Park.
* Tanzania Highlights
- ∞Safari capital of Africa
- ∞The great wildebeest migration
- ∞Serengeti National Park
- ∞Ngorongoro Conservation area
- ∞Lake Manyara
- ∞Tarangire National Park
- ∞Mount Kilimanjaro
- ∞Zanzibar tropical island paradise
- ∞Selous Game Reserve
- ∞Ruaha National Park
Overview of Tanzania
Broadly speaking, Tanzania as a safari destination can be divided into the more popular "northern circuit", and the less crowded "southern circuit". In addition to this, the remote western part of Tanzania offers something different for the adventurous safari enthusiast, and the coastal region is a popular addition to end off a safari in Tanzania with some beach time.
The Northern Circuit
Tanzania's northern safari circuit is the main destination for most safari visitors to Tanzania. The bustling town of Arusha is the gateway to this region, and most safari operators are based here. The northern circuit includes mainly Tarangire National Park, Lake Manyara National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, and the famous Serengeti National Park.
Tarangire National Park
About two hours from Arusha is the huge Tarangire National Park, famous for its beautiful scenery, ancient baobabs and thriving elephant population. If time allows, Tarangire is a good first stop on your safari, and the park has a number of excellent safari camps and lodges. The dry season (June to October) is the best time to visit Tarangire.
Unless you fly in, you will most likely pass Lake Manyara on your way to Ngorongoro and the Serengeti. The lake itself is huge, but the surrounding national park is relatively small. It lies at the foot of the rift valley escarpment, and probably its most striking feature is the pink sea of thousands of flamingoes that can usually be seen in the shallow water of the vast lake. The floodplain surrounding the lake is a good place to spot buffalo, elephant, giraffe, and the common game like wildebeest and zebra. The vegetation is quite diverse and includes beautiful forests. Lake Manyara is great for birding, but does not score that high from a game viewing point of view. The park has a few nice lodges but most visitors do not overnight in the park; the majority stay on the rim of the escarpment which offers a glorious view over Lake Manyara. Most of these include a day visit or half day visit only.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area
The town of Karatu is the gateway to the Ngorongoro Conservation area, of which the main attraction is the famous Ngorongoro Crater, an ancient, dormant volcano which has left a fertile crater floor 25km in diameter. The rim of the crater is at altitude and often buried in clouds. A number of lodges are perched on the rim of the crater, with beautiful vistas over the crater floor on a clear day. The crater floor is about 300m below the rim and home to thousands of animals, including the "big five" - lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo. In most areas, the grass is short offering excellent visibility. The Ngorongoro Crater is a marvellous sight and well worth a visit. However, one day or at the most two days is enough time to explore all of the crater floor.
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area extends far beyond the crater. One of the unique aspects of this reserve is that the local Masai are allowed to continue their nomadic lifestyle and graze their cattle in the area. To the west of Ngorongoro crater, the reserve extends to the Ndutu area on the southern border of the Serengeti. This is a very popular area during January to March when the migration is in calving season.
Serengeti National Park
It is no secret that the great annual wildebeest migration in Tanzania's Serengeti National Park is among the most spectacular safari experiences out there. The sheer number of animals (over a million wildebeest, not to mention thousands of zebras and large numbers of other animals), the beauty and vastness of the land, the abundance of predators and predator-prey interaction, all combine to make the Serengeti arguably the top safari destination in the world. The migration is a seasonal affair, but there are also areas such as the central Seronera area which are great for game viewing all year round and have plenty of resident wildlife. The Serengeti is Tanzania's flagship national park, and one of the best safari destinations in the world. A minimum of 3 nights is recommended to make the most of the Serengeti, and the ideal would be to stay 6 nights, in two different areas of the park. For a more detailed explanation of the migration and when to go, please visit the Serengeti Migration page.
Some people visit Tanzania specifically to climb Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa at almost 6000m. This is not an adventure to be undertaken lightly. It takes a certain level of preparation and fitness and will take several days. If climbing Mt Kilimanjaro is what you want to do, speak to us so we can put you in touch with a reliable operator who specialises in expeditions to climb Kilimanjaro.
The Southern Circuit
Tanzania's southern safari circuit is much less popular than the northern circuit. The capital city of Dar es Salaam (usually just called Dar) is the gateway to this region. Typical game reserves include Mikumi National Park, the huge Selous Game Reserve and the beautiful Ruaha National Park.
Mikumi National Park
A small game reserve to the north of Selous Game Reserve, Mikumi is a quiet and scenic reserve with a couple of safari camps. Mikumi is a good first stop for a safari starting from Dar. You can also explore the Udzungwa Mountains National Park from here, as a day trip.
Selous Game Reserve
Selous is Africa's largest game reserve. However, only a small portion in the far north is open to safaris. To the south, there are hunting concessions. Selous gives you the feeling of a truly wild, remote safari destination, with few other vehicles and tourists. For some, this is a real attraction. However, if it is your first African safari and you are keen to see as many animals as possible in as short a time frame as possible, perhaps Selous is not the right destination for you. Since it is not a national park, the reserve offers a bit more flexibility with regard to activities. Depending on the choice of lodge, it is possible to do walking safaris, boat safaris, and regular game drives.
Ruaha National Park
Ruaha is one of Tanzania's best-kept safari secrets. It is remote and expensive to get to (it requires a flight from Dar) but once there, you can enjoy some of the most amazing scenery and game viewing without the crowds that you encounter on the northern safari circuit. The park is huge but most of the wildlife concentrates along the Ruaha River, especially during the dry season (from June to October). The park is home to an incredible variety of wildlife, including healthy populations of lions, leopard, cheetah, wild dogs and hyenas.
The Wild West
Tanzania's far west is best known for the chance to see Chimpanzee's in the Mahale Mountains National Park. In fact is one of the best places in the world to see chimps in the wild. Katavi National Park is also a hidden gem of a park. Very remote, expensive to get to, and consequently completely uncrowded. This is truly the "wild west" of Tanzania, visited by few but among the best memories of those who have been lucky enough to visit.
The Coast and Islands
A popular way to end a safari in Tanzania is by spending a few days on the beach, either along the east coast or, more commonly, on one of the nearby tropical islands like Pemba and Zanzibar. The island of Zanzibar is by far the most popular beach destination in Tanzania. The island has a rich history and an interesting mix of cultures, with Indian, Arabic and African influences the most common. A huge number of beach lodges and resorts are situated all around the coast of Zanzibar, from cheap and cheerful budget lodges to the most luxurious, upmarket resorts.
Climate and weather
Tanzania is situated in the tropics and most of the country is warm or hot during the dry season, and warm and humid during the wet season. The highlands and areas at altitude (such as the Ngorongoro crater rim) can be surprisingly cold though. There are generally two wet seasons - the short rains from late October into December, and the long rains from March to May. April is the wettest month. Many remote lodges are closed during the rainy season, as roads become impassable.
When to go
Tanzania can be visited any time of the year, but the wettest months (especially April) are usually quiet. When to go depends in part on what you want to see. If you are keen on birding, December to March is a great time. This is also a good time to see the calving season of the migration on the southern plains of the Serengeti. Peak season for most safari destinations is the dry season, from June to October. During this time, the far north of the Serengeti is where you are most likely to find the migration.
Before you go to Tanzania Things you should know before you go!
Malaria is a consideration in Tanzania
Learn more about malaria areas and malaria prevention with our resource article.
Malaria Areas & Prevention
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