The Circle of Life in Tanzania
The quintessential safari destination, Tanzania is famous for its incomparable year-round game viewing, including the thrilling spectacle of the Great Wildebeest Migration. While it’s true that witnessing the migration is one of the main drawcards for a Tanzania safari, the diversity of landscapes in this incredible corner of Africa is equally rewarding to experience on wildlife tours, stretching from Arusha in the north, the wide-open savannah plains of the Serengeti and the jewel-green slopes of the Ngorongoro Crater, to the snow-capped peak of Mount Kilimanjaro to the tropical shores of Zanzibar island.
To take in the best of Tanzania, most safari packages will include the Ngorongoro Crater, a 100 square mile enclosed ecosystem and World Heritage Site which supports around 30,000 animals. This ancient caldera, which is considered the best place in East Africa to view the Big 5, is also home to Tarangire, which boasts the largest elephant population in Tanzania. Beyond the showstopper safari destinations in Tanzania, there are hidden gems to be explored: chimpanzee trekking in Mahale Mountains National Park or Rubondo Island and fly camping in the Selous Game Reserve.
Of course, one of the greatest things about a Tanzania safari is that you can end your wildlife tour with an island vacation, soaking up the sun on a palm-fringed beach in Zanzibar, Tanzania’s very own Indian Ocean island.
Best Time to Visit Tanzania:
The best time to visit Tanzania for a safari is typically within the dry season (June through October). It is during this period that the Great Migration reaches the Grumeti River. However, game viewing is generally superb throughout the year, with calving season just after the summer rains between December and February. If you’re interested in a beach trip or diving off the coasts of Zanzibar, then the clearer waters between February and March or between July and August are recommended.
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a wildlife sanctuary, an ancient caldera home to an abundance of animals.
The vast Serengeti stretches for thousands of miles in northern Tanzania, the scene of the Great Migration.
From red colobus monkeys to the scents of cinnamon and clove, Zanzibar brings with it a thousand delights.
Top Destinations in Tanzania Safari
“No one can return from the Serengeti unchanged, for tawny lions will forever prowl our memory and great herds throng our imagination.” – George Schaller. Truly, a Serengeti safari is the ultimate wildlife experience in Africa.
A great grass sea that stretches as far as the eye can see; the Serengeti is Tanzania’s flagship national park and is home to the world’s greatest concentrations of wildlife. Although the Serengeti is most famous for the Great Migration, a safari here is rewarding any time of the year. There is plenty of scope for unique experiences on a Serengeti safari. View the Green Season calving between January and April in the southern part of the reserve. Or witness the thrilling Grumeti River crossings in the western Serengeti. One of the prime spots for safari goers has traditionally been the far north. Here, tens of thousands of desperate wildebeest take the plunge into the crocodile-thronged Mara River as their migration moves into Kenya’s Masai Mara for fresh grazing.
A Serengeti safari lets you see Tanzania in its most natural state. This national park, which extends across thousands of miles, is home to abundant herds of zebra, buffalo elephant and giraffe, supporting big cats and other predators. There are quieter, less dramatic scenes too. A delightful safari breakfast under an acacia tree, accompanied only by your Maasai guide, dressed in his traditional red garments. A guided walk through the woodlands looking for Fischer’s lovebird, a rufous-tailed weaver or a lone, stately Kori bustard. A sunrise balloon safari, or even waking at dawn and peeping out of your canvas tent to watch the mist rise in unhurried tendrils over the dew-drenched grass.
It’s difficult to take it all in. The Serengeti is wild, untamed and transient – the definitive African safari experience.
Best Time to Visit the Serengeti:
The Serengeti’s main attraction is the annual Wildebeest Migration. Notwithstanding the drama and thrills of the Great Migration, game viewing in the Serengeti is exceptional all year round. Typically, the Green Season (December through March) sees newborn calving across the Southern plains. The herds move into the Western Serengeti between May and July and assemble at the Grumeti River to cross over into the northern part of the reserve. If you’re wanting to visit during the dramatic Mara River crossings, then August through October is the best time to go.
The Ngorongoro Crater, a three-million-year-old wonder, forms the central part of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located west of Arusha. It is also one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa. A visit to the Ngorongoro Crater is a must on safari in Tanzania. Once described as the world’s largest ‘zoo,’ this incredible, naturally formed caldera is home to an abundance and diversity of wildlife to rival sanctuaries the world over, and is considered the best place in East Africa to see the Big 5 on safari.
Due to the natural bowl-like landscape, animals thrive here. The Ngorongoro Crater is home to black rhino, buffalo, hippo, and lion, with a large variety of gazelle, antelope, and zebra in the mix. Since no large-scale migration occurs here, game viewing is exceptional all year round; although the prevalence of vehicles on the crater floor does increase in the busy season.
The rim of the Ngorongoro Crater is a place of wonder; its breathtaking views rival the best in the world. Flamingoes dance in the waters of Lake Magadi, gazelle frolic through the grasslands, and buffalo congregate around mud pools. Just beyond the Ngorongoro Crater is Olduvai Gorge, an ancient and protected ravine. It’s considered to be the seat of humanity following early hominid discoveries. Don’t leave your camera at home! After all, on safari in the Ngorongoro Crater, you’re on safari in an ancient volcano, and there’s no more unique wildlife experience than in this evergreen haven.
Best Time to Visit Ngorongoro Crater:
Since animals rarely leave the crater due to its natural bowl-like landscape, game viewing here as part of a Tanzania tour is exceptional all year round. The dry season (May to October) sees an influx of safari vehicles onto the crater floor. Expect some view sites to be busy on a Ngorongoro Crater safari. However, the wet season sees animals like eland and buffalo congregate in larger numbers, birds flock and flourish, and the crowds disperse.
What is the best way to end your safari in Tanzania? With a Zanzibar vacation package that will transport you straight to the tropical shores of ‘the Spice Island.’ Combining cobbled streets, ancient stone houses and white-sand beaches, a Zanzibar holiday is truly unique, and a popular option for couples and honeymooners.
Many travelers start their Zanzibar holidays in Stone Town. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the former, center of both the slave trade and the spice trade in the early 19th Century. Today it is a diverse melting pot of cultures: Swahili, Arab, Indian, Persian and European influences come together in a unique experience for locals and visitors alike. Most Zanzibar vacation packages will include a traditional spice tour through Stone Town; the fragrances of cinnamon, clove and nutmeg linger in the air, bringing with them a sense of an earlier partially forgotten era.
From Stone Town, head to the coast for beach delights that include sunbathing, sunset dhow cruises, snorkeling and diving. Indeed, the reefs off Pemba and Mafia island offer some of the most spectacular diving in the world. Coral reefs shine, almost neon in the azure water, while immense whale sharks make their way along the sandy seabed.
There’s much to experience on Zanzibar beach and safari holidays. Jozani Forest is the only national park home to the endangered red colobus monkeys. And a tour of Prison Island will introduce to you the giant Aldabra tortoises – historic in their own right.
Best Time to Visit Zanzibar:
Like any island destination, Zanzibar also has prime times to visit, particularly when it comes to diving visibility. If you plan on donning your scuba gear, the best time to visit is between July and August and in February and March when the water is at its clearest. It is a warm destination all year round, so the traditional dry season (June to October) which is so popular for a safari in East Africa, sees a lovely cool dry climate on the island. It is particularly hot between December and February.
The vast expanse of Selous Game Reserve in southern Tanzania was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982 due to its diverse wildlife population, undisturbed ecological and biological processes, and spectacular wild beauty. This phenomenal 50,000 km2 reserve covers 5% of Tanzania and is a protected area where the permanent human residence is prohibited. In 2019, most of Selous Game Reserve was upgraded to National Park status, under the name Nyerere National Park, with the remaining 20,000 km2 continuing as Selous Game Reserve.
From the ponderous herds of African elephant and the wary black rhino to the curious families of Masaai giraffe and the buffalo and zebra thronging the plains; the abundant Nyerere/Selous landscape makes for rewarding game viewing, particularly during the drier months. Towards the north, a section of the park was set aside as a designated photographic zone. Here, many of the park’s superb safari lodges and camps are dotted along the majestic Rufiji River and its network of lake systems.
Selous Game Reserve is not subject to the same restrictions as Tanzania’s national parks. More adventurous visitors can choose to explore on foot, via guided overnight walking and hiking tours, take an open-top game drive or participate in a boating safari for an up-close encounter with the profusion of Nile crocodiles and hippopotamuses that bask along the banks of the watercourses.
Mostly visited as a fly-in safari destination, Nyerere/Selous combines well with stays at the equally untamed Ruaha or Katavi National Parks or the pristine rainforest reserve of Mahale.
Best Time to Visit Selous
For birding enthusiasts, January to April offers incredible sightings, but the optimal time for game viewing is between the dry months of June to October. During the wet seasons between March and May, the roads become virtually impassable, and some lodges may remain closed over this time.View
Comprising a dramatic mix of golden savannah, woodlands, and rocky outcrops sprawled across 20,226 square kilometers; Tanzania’s Ruaha National Park is the largest park in East Africa. Yet, it offers one of the most secluded natural retreats available in the region. Ruaha is one of Tanzania’s most well-kept secrets, offering limited, exclusive accommodation, including tented camps, cottages, and several luxury lodges to those who venture to explore it. Less than 1% of all visitors to Tanzania visit this unspoiled wilderness and the impression of having hectares of idyllic wilderness and wide blue skies completely to yourself is part of Ruaha National Park’s unique appeal.
The blissful solitude of this richly concentrated wildlife area makes for a truly wild safari experience – safari as it is meant to be. Ruaha is known for its numerous predators including lion, leopard, and cheetah, as well as its thriving population of endangered African wild dogs, most easily spotted in the denning season between June and August. Amongst Ruaha’s other draw cards are some of East Africa’s largest elephant herds, the proliferation of crocodiles and hippos in the Great Ruaha River, and over 520 different species of bird.
Ruaha is easily accessible via chartered or scheduled flight from Dar es Salaam to its own private airstrip. Why not combine a visit to Ruaha safari camps with a boating safari in the remote Nyerere National Park (Selous) or an expertly guided chimpanzee trek through the densely forested slopes of the Mahale Mountains near Lake Tanganyika?
Best Time to Visit Ruaha
Ruaha National Park offers excellent year-round wildlife sightings, however game-viewing peaks between May and October when the weather is dry, the vegetation thins out and the wildlife gathers along the shrinking watercourses. April to November is known as the ‘green season when the luxuriant vegetation creates spectacular surroundings and birders enjoy the most rewarding twitcher activity. Peak rainfall is between February and April.
Tarangire National Park in northern Tanzania’s Manyara region is a mecca for wildlife enthusiasts and birdwatchers alike. A scenic 2-hour drive from the nearest domestic airport, Tarangire is an ideal add-on for a safari itinerary including Arusha, Serengeti National Park, or the Ngorongoro Conservation area. Accommodation options range from superb lodges with romantic bush dining experiences and game drives, to rustic tented getaways.
Although lesser-known, Tarangire park closely rivals the world-famous Serengeti National Park with an abundance of wildlife and over 500 species of birds, some of which are endemic to Tanzania.
The park’s 2,850 square kilometers of granitic ridges, river valley, and swamps teems with traditional African animal varieties like zebra, buffalo, wildebeest, giraffe, eland, antelope, warthogs, lions, and hyenas, but you might be fortunate enough to spot some of the region’s more unusual creatures like the rare fringe-eared oryx and curious long-necked gerenuk.
Marvel at the majesty of hundreds of elephants crossing the plains against an otherworldly backdrop of ancient towering baobabs, some of which reach an incredible 30 meters in height. Tarangire’s guided walking tours offer an up-close, but safe, immersive experience in this land of giants.
Tarangire park’s lower ratio of visitors offers a more serene and rewarding safari experience, particularly if your visit falls within the dryer months when the animals congregate around the Tarangire river, from which the park gets its name. Here, predator and prey drink side by side, and vast herds of elephants are a mass on the river banks.
Tarangire National Park is also known for its rewarding bird-watching potential with regular sightings of ostrich, hornbill, bustards, and secretary birds alongside more petite visitors like the woodpecker, superb starling, weaver bird, and yellow-collared love bird.
When visiting Tarangire, a 155 trip to see the hundreds of ancient rock paintings at Kolo on the eastern slopes of the Maasai escarpment is a spectacle well worth considering.
Best Time to Visit Tarangire
This area experiences wet seasons from March to May and November to December. While the park is enjoyable all year round, the dry season from late June to October is the best time for viewing wildlife at the Tarangire River. Not only are they congregated animals easier to spot amid the dryer vegetation, but there are also fewer mosquitos and reduced malaria risk.
While many of the animals migrate out of the park during the rains, birdlife is more prolific when the vegetation is lush and green.View
The small, but beautiful Lake Manyara National Park is tucked between Lake Manyara and the Great Rift Valley in Tanzania’s Arusha and Manyara regions – a mere hour-and-a-half drive out of Arusha.
Part of the Lake Manyara Biosphere Reserve, the protected Lake Manyara National Park is a medley of differing habitats, from steep mountain slopes and groundwater forests to dense woodlands and swamp areas with hot springs, grasslands dominated by flat-topped Acacia trees, and the Rift Valley soda lake. An incredible array of over 670 flowering plant and fern species has been documented here, including a few rare or endemic species.
Lake Manyara’s wildlife complement is equally varied and abundant. Thousands of pink flamingos, glossy ibis, pelican, and other migratory waterfowl crowd the lake shores, together with the giraffe, buffalo, cheetah, and impala that venture down the slopes to drink as the afternoon cools.
While a Lake Manyara safari is most famous for sightings of the region’s vast herds of elephant and unusual tree-climbing lions, the area’s rambunctious baboon troops, fleet-footed Egyptian mongoose, and curious Cape clawless otters are equally intriguing.
Combine your visit to Lake Manyara National Park with a stay in the vast wilderness of the Serengeti National Park, a visit to the massive crater at Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and an overnight stopover amongst the ancient baobabs of Tarangire National Park; all of which fall into the northern tourist circuit.
Best Time to Visit Lake Manyara
During the wetter months (November to May), the Arusha/Manyara region is spectacularly picturesque, with waterfalls cascading down verdant mountain slopes and migratory flocks descending in their numbers. However, the sunny months of June to September are the preferred months for a Lake Manyara safari. During this time, the mosquitos are as scarce as the rain clouds, but the game viewing is at its most plentiful.
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Top Experiences in Tanzania Safari
Rustic luxury at its best: stylish canvas tents, hot bucket showers and dinners stoked over the fire. This is a night time experience at its very best!
Sail away into the setting sun on a traditional Zanzibar dhow cruise, one of the highlights of a trip to this exotic Indian Ocean island.
As your vehicle hits the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater, you’ll catch your first glimpse of this ancient caldera: filled with wildlife and offering some of the best game viewing in Tanzania. In you go.
Discover underwater landscapes filled with exceptional coral gardens and tropical reefs; explore an ancient wreck and even swim alongside a manatee!
As one of the most spectacular wildlife wonders on the planet, the annual wildebeest migration enthralls visitors each year. Visit during the calving months to see thousands of newborn babies, or stake a place by the Grumeti River to watch thrilling crossings, while crocodiles lie in wait…