From the Wildebeest Migration to the Big 5 and Tropical Beaches
Safari happens almost everywhere you look in Tanzania. It’s been a way of life in East Africa’s second-largest country for decades. Few destinations in Africa can rival Tanzania's diversity of wildlife and landscapes. From the classic savannah destinations of the Serengeti, Tarangire and Ngorongoro Crater to the beaches and coral reefs of Zanzibar, a Tanzania safari delivers one massive experience after another. And that's before you discover the off-the-beaten-path gems like chimpanzee trekking in the untouched rainforests of Mahale and Rubondo, or crowd-free game viewing among the beautifully wild and unique landscapes of Selous and Ruaha. From incredible year-round game viewing to the Wildebeest Migration and tropical beach finales, here are some of our best reasons to go on a Tanzania safari:
Hardly any other destination on Earth can offer a wildlife encounter to match the annual Wildebeest Migration. Forming the centrepiece of most inaugural Tanzania safari itineraries, the Migration is a mind-blowing display of nature at her most extraordinary. About 2 million wildebeest, zebra and antelope run the gauntlet of predators as they migrate around the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem in search of fresh grazing. This awe-inspiring event is one of the last mass terrestrial animal movements left on the planet – the herds are so big they can be observed from space!
The Serengeti National Park – Tanzania’s flagship conservation area – hosts the bulk of the Migration. Mobile camps move regularly to stay as close to the herds as possible. Some accommodations offer easy access to river crossing points. Note: availability of well-located safari camps between June and October (river crossing season) is limited. If you want front-row seats to the dramatic river crossings, you should book your Tanzania safari at least a year in advance.Or opt to go when the herds give birth and graze their way across the plains, which is just as impressive to see but easier to guarantee – plus the tourist crowds are fewer. Chat with one of our Africa Safari Experts to plan your trip to coincide with the movements of the herds.
The Ngorongoro Crater was formed around 2.5 million years ago when a giant volcano exploded and collapsed on itself. Now an enclosed ecosystem and World Heritage Site, the Crater is the best place in East Africa to see the Big 5. Measuring in at around 600 metres (1 970 feet) deep, the Crater’s floor covers about 260 square kilometres (100 square miles). Its surprisingly diverse habitats support around 30 000 animals.!
Tanzania’s little-visited parks and reserves are ideal for intrepid safari-goers and those who have already experienced the more familiar destinations in Northern Tanzania. From savannahs and swamps to rainforests and lakes, Tanzania’s undiscovered safari spots offer incredible wildlife encounters far away from the crowds. Plus you can enjoy activities like fishing, walking and boating safaris, and off-roading and night drives – activities not permitted in national parks like the Serengeti.!
Many Tanzania safaris end with a relaxing stay on a palm-fringed beach lapped by the Indian Ocean’s warm azure waters. Days on safari can be long and dusty, and a sun-kissed tropical island is the ideal place to reflect on your incredible experience before heading back to everyday life. You can easily fly from a Tanzania safari camp after breakfast and be on a powder-soft beach in time for sunset cocktails.!
Mount Kilimanjaro is not only the tallest mountain in Africa, it’s also the highest free-standing mountain on Earth. Rising almost 6 kilometres (4 miles) above Tanzania’s plains, climbing to the ‘Roof of Africa’ can take five or more days to complete. There are many routes to the top with varying levels of difficulty, climbing time, crowdedness and natural beauty. Chat with one of our Experts about planning a Kilimanjaro hike, based on your wishes and abilities. We can also easily combine your Kili experience with a Tanzania safari in nearby parks and reserves.!
Most safari areas in Tanzania enjoy warm days and cool evenings year-round. While temperatures drop to below freezing on Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru, the country’s Indian Ocean coast and lakeside regions are hot and humid. Tanzania has two distinct rainy seasons: April to May (the ‘long rains’) November to December (the ‘short rains’) Generally, the country’s main rainy season (the long rains) produces tropical downpours in the afternoons and many safari camps close. The short rains season sees the occasional brief shower, but safari camps stay open and game viewing is good. Go to the ‘Climate’ section on our Travel Advice page for more information about Tanzania’s seasons.
|High or Peak Season||Low or Green Season|
|About June to October (long dry season)||About January to March and November to December|
|Highest rates||Lowest rates|
|Need to book well in advance||No need to book too far in advance|
|Cool and dry weather||Hot and occasionally wet weather|
|Not many baby animals around||Lots of baby animals around|
|Not many migrant birds to see||Fantastic time for bird-watching|
|Most crowded||Least crowded|
|Good photography conditions||Greenest, most scenic landscapes with the best light of the year for photography|
|Calving or Birthing Season||January to March|
|Intense Big Cat Action||January to March|
|Rutting (a period of sexual excitement, reproductive activity and mating battles between males)||January to March|
|Grumeti River Crossings||May to July|
|Mara River Crossings||July to September|
the above are approximate dates only. The Wildebeest Migration is a year-round, circular journey and the river crossings cannot be predicted, although they generally occur between May and September. Sometimes the herds stay put for two weeks, other times they could cross four times in one day!
Tanzania is a vibrant and beautiful country with exceptional parks and reserves. It’s blessed with the winning combination of unparalleled game viewing and dazzling tropical beaches. Because Tanzania is so vast (almost 1.5 times the size of Texas), it helps to divide the country’s major holiday destinations into four areas:
Synonymous with safari, the Serengeti is where to go in Tanzania for game viewing at its most dramatic. Hosting the lion’s share of the Wildebeest Migration (about January to September), the Serengeti's sheer size, accessibility, top-quality lodges and camps, and year-round abundance of wildlife make it one of the best safari destinations in Africa.!
Take about 30 000 animals and place them inside the crater of an extinct volcano. Add wetlands, forest, grasslands and some out-of-this-world cliff-top accommodation, and the result is the Ngorongoro Crater. This superb Tanzania safari destination offers excellent game viewing in an unbelievably unique setting. It’s renowned for delivering the easiest and most reliable Big 5 sightings in East Africa.!
Close to Lake Manyara and the Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire is worth much more than the usual day visit. During the June to October dry season, animal – especially elephant – concentrations along the Tarangire River are among the highest in the country. The park’s bird count of more than 500 species will keep twitchers happy, while its full range of large predators complete the appeal. Tarangire is a beautifully diverse wilderness featuring riverine forest, huge swamps and open woodlands that include Africa’s iconic baobab trees.!
Part of Tanzania's famed Northern Safari Circuit, Lake Manyara offers easy game viewing in a beautiful setting. The park is home to a good range of heavyweight species, including buffalo, hippo, giraffe, elephant, leopard, and its famous tree-climbing lions. Lake Manyara is an exceptional bird-watching destination. You’ll often see flocks of pelicans and flamingos in the middle of the lake, and the floodplains, woodlands and evergreen forests are equally vibrant.!
Crown your East Africa safari experience with a stay on Tanzania's Spice Island: Zanzibar. Perfect for both families and honeymooners, it's where to go in Tanzania for glorious beaches and coral reefs, dhow (traditional boat) trips at sunset, and exploring fragrant back-street markets. Tanzania's other Indian Ocean islands won't disappoint either. Pemba, Mafia and Chole are superlative beach holiday destinations with superb diving, exclusive boutique accommodation and all the indulgent pampering you could wish for.!
Ruaha’s wild and unbridled character is what sets it apart from other safari destinations. This hidden gem is Tanzania’s biggest national park and there are only a handful of safari camps despite its size. You won’t see other tourists around – only a plethora of animals like buffalo, giraffe, kudu, sable, roan, lion, cheetah and leopard. It’s home to Tanzania’s biggest elephant population and a stronghold for rare African wild dogs.!
Selous (pronounced ‘suh-loo’) is Africa’s largest game reserve – bigger than Switzerland. Its lifeblood, the colossal Rufiji River, forms an intricate network of channels, swamps and lakes from which one of East Africa’s most magnificent ecosystems is born. Buffalo, hippo, crocodile and lion thrive here, while the reserve is also one of Africa’s most important sanctuaries for endangered wild dog. Don’t miss a boat safari, guided walk or fly-camping excursion is this breathtaking wilderness.!
The world’s longest freshwater lake is hemmed in by the mountainous walls of the Great Rift Valley. It's one of our planet's most biologically rich habitats, not least due to the lakeside presence of the Mahale Mountains and Gombe Stream National Parks. These two far-flung destinations are worth the effort it takes to get to them, as both deliver some of Tanzania's most unique safari experiences: tropical rainforest wildlife viewing and remarkable chimpanzee trekking.!
Whether you’re content with standing in its mighty shadow or yearn to climb to its icy summit, the iconic Mount Kilimanjaro won't fail to stir your soul. At 5 895 metres (19 340 feet), it's Africa's highest mountain and the tallest free-standing mountain on Earth. But its snow-capped peaks are far more accessible than you may think. If you climb Kili in the dry season between July and October or January and March, no technical climbing is required. But organising and executing a hike to the summit does call for a fair amount of logistical planning. Talk to us about a Kili expedition.!
The undisputed safari capital of Tanzania, the city of Arusha is on the itinerary of virtually anyone visiting the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Manyara, as logistics often dictate an overnight layover in or around the city. Set in the shadow of Mount Meru, Arusha has its own international airport (Kilimanjaro International Airport) as well as the smaller Arusha Airport for charter flights to final destinations. If you spend some time in Arusha, you’ll have many opportunities to buy souvenirs, take in the cultural activities and visit local places of interest.!
Most visitors to Dar es Salaam are on their way to Zanzibar or the Indian Ocean coast, but this thriving city provides easy access to Tanzania's lesser-known reserves such as Selous. High-quality accommodation is available if you need to overnight.!
Sal Salinero Hotel was established in the year 2004 as a small luxury villa, but the increasing demand from clients.
Situated a 15-minute walk from Arusha city centre, Kibo Palace Hotel features a landscaped garden with large outdoor pool.
Boasting a traditional Zanzibar style with makuti palm leaf roofs, this Nungwi hotel offers spectacular sea views.
At Leiden Expedition, we live and breathe providing our clients with unbiased advice and extraordinary safari experiences. Our Africa Safari Experts are permanently based in Africa, are well travelled, and have extensive first-hand knowledge of the destinations they recommend. They regularly inspect new lodges, experiences and activities to ensure these offerings meet our clients’ expectations. There's nothing like up-to-date, relevant travel information direct from someone who’s been there.
Tanzania's unit of currency is the Tanzanian Shilling, but our advice is to use US Dollars only – and in cash: credit cards and traveller's cheques (although accepted in most establishments) incur transaction fees. ATMs are found throughout the major towns and cities in Tanzania, but not in the national parks and game reserves. Note: due to counterfeit notes in circulation, no US Dollar bills printed before 2003 are accepted in Tanzania. Tipping lodge staff and drivers/guides is customary for good service on a Tanzania safari, but check first to see whether a service charge has been added to your bill. Tipping is always in addition to the price quoted by your operator and the amount varies depending on the size of your group, the level of luxury of the safari and whether you thought an exceptionally good job was done. When travelling in the major Tanzania cities, a 10% tip is customary in restaurants and bars when a service charge is not included.
|Long Rains||Short Rains||Long Dry||Short Dry|
|Months||April to May||November to December||June to October||January to March|
When packing for your Tanzania safari, light casual clothing in practical, neutral colours and a warm jacket for evening game drives are a safe bet throughout the year. For more on what to pack for a safari, refer to our Tanzania Parking List When visiting Zanzibar, it’s important for women to dress modestly in main towns out of respect for Muslim cultural beliefs. T-shirts that cover the shoulders, long skirts and capri pants are generally better options than tank tops and shorts. Beach wear and bathing costumes are acceptable on the beaches and in resorts.
Religious belief is strong in Tanzania, with Christianity and Islam dominating. Most Muslims live on the coast and in Zanzibar; visitors should be aware of the conservative nature of these destinations – especially Stone Town – and dress and behave accordingly. Tanzanians are renowned for being friendly and harmonious people, however, it is courteous to ask permission before photographing people.
Main International Airports
Kilimanjaro International Airport – Tanzania's second international airport – serves the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire and Lake Manyara. However, you need to transfer to nearby Arusha Airport for charter flights to these safari destinations. International flights often arrive at Kilimanjaro Airport late in the day, so an overnight stay in Arusha is usually necessary.
Dar-es-Salaam International Airport – Tanzania's main airport – is the gateway to the Indian Ocean coast and Zanzibar, as well as Selous Game Reserve and Ruaha National Park.
Regional Airports Arusha Airport – the gateway to northern Tanzania's safari airstrips – is located about 30 kilometres (19 miles) from Kilimanjaro International Airport.
Safari Vehicles Guided road transfers and game drives in Tanzania are conducted in closed 4x4s with big windows and pop-up roofs, although visitors to destinations like Mahale will enjoy a boat transfer across Lake Tanganyika. Most safari destinations in Tanzania have extensive road networks and closed vehicles are therefore the norm when doing long-distance road transfers between airstrips, camps and lodges. A closed 4x4 game drive vehicle generally has three rows of seating and features a pop-up roof hatch that can be raised for game viewing and taking photographs.
Almost all visitors to Tanzania require a visa. You must contact the relevant issuing authorities in good time (ideally, several months in advance) to ascertain the entry requirements to Tanzania, and to arrange the necessary permits and visas. We strongly encourage all clients entering Tanzania via Kilimanjaro International Airport to obtain their visas online at Tanzania Immigration Department before arriving in Tanzania. E-visas can take 2 to 3 weeks to be issued. Visitors to Tanzania must possess a passport that is valid for six months after the initial date of travel.
In many ways, Tanzanian history is the history of humankind. Fossils found at Olduvai Gorge, one of the world's premier archaeological sites, suggest that Tanzania has been settled by hominids for over 2 million years. Iron Age migrations from West Africa were followed by European and Arabian merchants, missionaries and slavers, and by the mid-1800s Zanzibar had become the centre of the East African slave trade. Colonised first by the Germans and then the British, independence came peacefully to mainland Tanganyika in 1961. The addition of Zanzibar in 1964 created the modern state of Tanzania. Rich in mineral wealth and natural gas, Tanzania's economy is nevertheless dominated by agriculture, which employs 75% of the workforce and accounts for half the country's GDP. Tanzania's main exports include gold, coffee, tea and cotton. But it’s tourism, increasing in importance year after year, that is the country's biggest foreign exchange earner.
Some of Tanzania’s 120 ethnic groups make up the African population, with a significant numbers of Asians, Arabs and Europeans too. Even with this mix of identities, Tanzania has long promoted a harmonious national culture, one that is based on a subtle but strong social code of courtesy and respect. English and Swahili are the official languages..
Lying between the two arms of the Great Rift Valley, Tanzania's huge central plateau is bounded on the west by Africa's great lakes, the north by mountains (including Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak) and the Indian Ocean in the east. Most of the country is covered in grassland, open woodland and savannah, but significant pockets of rainforest exist in remote mountain ranges. Home to 20% of Africa's large mammals, Tanzania is one of the continent's premier game viewing destinations. More than 25% of the country is given over to conservation and several Tanzania animal reserves rank among the biggest in the world. Most visitors head for northern Tanzania, where the most famous and accessible animal reserves are. But it’s in south and central Tanzania where you’ll find huge, virtually unvisited savannah and rainforest reserves that deliver genuine off-the-beaten-track safaris.!