How to Plan your Tanzania Safari
A safari vacation in Africa is probably the most organized vacation you’ll ever take. While it is possible to simply fly to a few places — Arusha, Tanzania, or Zanzibar — and rent a car to take off into the countryside, few people want to risk being alone on unmarked dirt roads patrolled by hyenas, cheetahs and lions. No, you use professionals to help you choose an itinerary and arrange transportation.
Your travel company will have a driver waiting for you, and from the time you land, you’re in the hands of people who will feed and shelter you and take you amazingly close to fearsome beasts. To get the food, shelter and safari experience you want, you need to research your trip. A good travel guide doesn’t replace the advice and assistance from one of Safari Experts, but it does equip you to be an active and informed decision-maker in planning your Tanzania safari. In this guide, we focus on the tips and insights that will help you make the most of your time and money
1. Excellent Year-round Game Viewing:
Tanzania is home to a great diversity of wildlife, fascinating cultures and natural, scenic beauty. It’s a dream destination from the classic, sweeping savannah of the Serengeti to the flamingo-lined shores of Lake Manyara, world wonder Ngorongoro Crater and Mount Kilimanjaro (Africa’s highest mountain).
It also offers bucket-list experiences that like chimpanzee trekking in the rain forests of Mahale and Gombe, and game viewing in the far-flung wildernesses of Katavi, Ruaha and Selous.
Safari Planning Guidelines
There's no denying it, a safari anywhere is an expensive trip – and Tanzania itself is one of the pricier safari destinations. When you're coming this far and spending this much, you'll want everything to be just right.
But with so much to weigh up (and with much dubious advice to be found online), planning and booking a safari can feel a little daunting. Start by deciding where and when you want to go, then you can drill down into the finer details. Camping safari or lodge? Group vs private tour? National park or private reserve? A lot of these questions are a function of your budget, but feat not, we've got you covered – read on.
Choosing a Tour Operator
Choosing where and who you travel with can be a daunting decision that can shape your entire adventure. Thanks to social media, more affordable flights, and new airline routes, places that were once considered remote have become effortless to visit. Now more than ever, responsible travel is essential. Whether you’re traveling solo, with family, or friends, choosing to travel in an organized group with a responsible tour operator is one of the most rewarding ways to explore. Finding an operator who shares your personal values takes the pressure off planning and researching the trip on your own, especially you to make responsible travel decisions.
It’s quite feasible to visit the parks with your own vehicle, without going through a safari operator. However, unless you’re based in Tanzania or are particularly experienced at bush driving and self-sufficient for spares and repairs, the cost savings will be offset by the ease of having someone else handle the logistics. For most parks and reserves, you’ll need a 4WD. There’s a US$47.20 per day vehicle fee for foreign-registered vehicles (Tsh23,600 for locally registered vehicles). Guides are not required, except as noted in the individual park entries. However, taking one can help you find your way, and to locate the best wildlife areas.
2. The Wildebeest Migration:
Without a doubt, Tanzania’s greatest wildlife attraction is the annual Wildebeest Migration, which sees almost two million wildebeest and zebra follow seasonal rains across the Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem each year. Tanzania hosts the lion’s share of the Migration – two main events take place in the Serengeti:
1. The mass calving season when almost a quarter of a million babies are born in the southern Serengeti.
2. The dramatic Grumeti River crossings.
3. Bush and Beach Holidays:
Tanzania offers superb safari-and-beach combinations, thanks to its long tropical coastline and coral-fringed islands. You can easily fly from a safari camp after breakfast and be on a powder-soft beach in time for sunset cocktails.
1. Tanzania’s top tropical islands are:
2. Zanzibar – one of the world’s most romantic honeymoon destinations.
3. Mnemba Island – a private island holiday paradise.
4. Pemba Island – among the world’s best diving sites.
5. Mafia Island – swim with migrating whale sharks (about October to April).
Map of all Tanzania National Parks
The Best Time to Go to Tanzania:
Deciding when to visit Tanzania depends entirely on what it is that you want to experience.
Peak game viewing in Tanzania is in the dry winter season (about June to October). This is the ideal time to explore the Serengeti, Ngorogoro Crater and Lake Manyara because game is concentrated around water sources. The Wildebeest Migration river crossings also take place between July and October. If you’d prefer to avoid high season crowds, we recommend combining Ruaha and Selous with a beach break on the coast or heading to Lake Victoria to combine chimp trekking in Mahale and Gombe with game viewing in the Katavi.
For keen photographers, this quiet period offers very special advantages: expect lush green landscapes rather than the dull browns of winter; dramatic cloudy skies rather than winter’s endless pale blue skies; and much more relaxed game viewing conditions, which means more time to get that winning shot.
The best time to summit Kilimanjaro is between July and October or between January and March – which makes it easy to combine a mountain trek with both game viewing and relaxing on a tropical island.
Combine your big game safari with Tanzania’s islands between August and October. We don’t recommend the coast or islands during the long rains from March to May when it’s very wet and humid.