Safaris in Tanzania, at a glance

The sun is barely over the horizon, but we're already miles from camp.

Conditions are perfect today, the morning sun painting the sky in reds, oranges, and blues. To the left you can see a couple of hot air balloons, and to the right a herd of zebra, taking no notice of us. 

By noon, we've seen more game than I could count, and at least half a dozen elephants. 

From our picnic spot, there's nothing but savannah for miles around, encompassed by mountains that line the horizon. In the middle of nowhere, watching everything play out in front of us. 

A couple of beers later, and we're back on the road. It's not long before we spot a pride of lions, basking in the afternoon sun. 

Safaris in Tanzania

Why we love safaris in Tanzania

  • Safaris in Tanzania can be considerably cheaper, and more secluded, than in neighbouring Kenya.
  • There are 16 national parks and countless private game reserves to discover. Whether you're coming for the views, the wildlife, the culture, the activities, or the accommodation, you'll find it and so much more in Tanzania
  • It's easy to combine a safari in Tanzania with a beach holiday, a hop-over to Zanzibar, or a hiking adventure
  • Each national park has its own highlights and advantages. Safaris are split between the Northern and Southern Safari Circuits, and Tanzania's domestic flight network makes it easy to combine a few national parks along a single itinerary.
Buffaloes in Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania

The Northern Safari Circuit

The Northern Circuit is the most popular route, and it includes the famous Serengeti National Park, Tarangire National Park, Lake Manyara, and the beautiful Ngorongoro Crater.

Tanzania's domestic flight network makes it easy enough to connect to dots along the route. The roads are generally in good condition (although there are plenty of bumpy patches), so the road trips aren't too strenuous.

The circuit is very popular, which means that the demand for lodges and flights is high during the peak season. If you're looking to travel to Tanzania's northern circuit, you'll need to book well in advance. 

Safaris in Tanzania

Serengeti National Park

Possibly the most famous national park in Africa, the Serengeti is an incredible safari destination and the site of the annual Great Migration.

It is a vast area with huge amounts of wildlife and a wonderful selection of luxury lodges. 

There's so much on offer in the Serengeti, and you should carve out 3-4 days to do it justice. It's the northernmost national park in Tanzania, and it is accessible via a domestic flight and a c. 2-hour road trip.

Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area

The Ngorongoro Crater is a stunning, 102-square-mile crater, and the result of the explosion of an ancient volcano.

It is home to a broad variety of wildlife, and many of these animals stay at the crater year-round, rather than migrating to and from as with many other national parks in Tanzania.

The crater covers a relatively small area, so you can explore it in a day or two. It also connects well with the Serengeti National Park and the other parks on the Northern Circuit.

Tarangire National Park

Tarangire National Park is most famous for its high population of elephants. Too often overlooked in favour of the Serengeti, the park is quieter and less expensive to visit than its bigger sister, but it is no less beautiful.

For a real secluded safari experience, head to the south of the park, a region seldom visited but truly stunning. 

The north of the park is home to the Tarangire River that gives the park its name. The river attracts plenty of wildlife in the dry season, making Tarangire a year-round destination.

You'll want at least 2 days to explore the park, 3 or 4 days if you're heading to the south. 

Lake Manyara National Park

This park’s centrepiece is the beautiful Lake Manyara that attracts flamingos, pelicans and many other birds year-round. 

The park is also home to a number of tree-climbing lions, a rare behaviour with a number of possible explanations, but nothing universally accepted.

Despite the park’s small area, the ecosystem is incredibly diverse, and the landscapes beautiful. There's enough here to keep you occupied for 1-2 days along a northern circuit. 

Safaris in Tanzania

The Southern Safari Circuit

The Southern Safari Circuit is much less visited than the northern circuit, and is often described as Tanzania's best kept secret.

It has just as impressive wildlife and often cheaper accommodation, although there are a fewer luxury lodges available here. It's the seclusion of these parks that make them so special. You often feel like you have the parks all to yourself, and it's easy to go days without seeing another safari vehicle.

The two major parks on the southern circuit are Ruaha National Park and Selous Game Reserve, but some would also count the Mikumi National Park and the areas in the far west to this circuit.

Giraffes in lake at Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania

Selous Game Reserve

Originally a hunting reserve, this massive game reserve once had the crown as the biggest game reserve in Africa, before a part of it was cut off to create a new national park.

The size of the park means it has enormous wildlife numbers, including 35,000 zebras, 40,000 hippos and 120,000-150,000 buffalo, among many others.

It is also known for being home to the wild African dog, a rare animal in Tanzanian national parks. The Rufiji River Delta brings yet more wildlife, and makes for great boat safaris. 

Sunset behind elephants at Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania

Ruaha National Park

Ruaha receives fewer visitors than Selous, although it is the biggest national park in Tanzania and has some of the most interesting wildlife.

The park is known for its rolling hills and vast plains. The leopard, normally hard to spot, can often be seen running across these grasslands.

It is particularly good for photographic safaris as the remote scenery here is extraordinary. 

It combines Eastern and Southern African ecosystems, leading to impressive wildlife numbers. 

Safaris in Tanzania

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