Choosing your destination
Remember, you can always combine the different circuits
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THIS IS THE SOUTH
The southern part of Tanzania is probably one of the best safari gems in Africa. Not marketed in the same way as the famous north, it experiences less tourists which will give you a more authentic and non-touristy safari. The different parks in the southern areas are extremely varied which is optimal for a diverse roundtrip with new and different experiences each day.
Special features /experiences
Rufiji River in Selous Game Reserve, is an ideal location for boat safari. (In 2019 Selous Game Reserve was split in two, creating a new national park with the name Nyerere National Park). The sunsets over the Mkata Plains and savannahs of Mikumi are stunning, and the tropical rainforest of Udzungwa Mountains off ers a spectacular hike to the tallest freestanding waterfall in Tanzania, Sanje Falls. The true hidden safari gem is Ruaha National Park, particularly if you want to see predators. Close to 10 % of all lions in Africa can be found here, and here is your best shot to see the very shy leopard.
This area suits everyone and is probably the best option for family and generation trips with small/ younger children. For those who only have a few days available for safari or want a true African safari road trip without sharing the nature with thousands of other tourists -we always recommend the south!
When to go
June-October is great for game watching, but November-February can also be very nice, especially if you like the green scenery. In late March to May, Mikumi National Park is the
most accessible park in the south, due to heavy rains.
THIS IS THE NORTH
The northern parts of Tanzania is where the whole safari industry kick-started, and this is still the most famous safari area in the world. It is not without reason Arusha, the starting point for safaris in this area, is called the “The Safari Capital of the World”. If you have a safari bucket list, we bet this area is on it with all its fame. The north will definitively not let you down!
Special features /experiences
The legendary Serengeti National Park with endless savannahs, the famous wildebeest migration and the mystical Ngorongoro Crater are must-sees when you are here. There are also less famous safari destinations in this area like Tarangire that inhabits large concentrations of elephants and Lake Manyara with a chance to see treeclimbing lions. And of course, the tallest freestanding mountain in the world, Mount Kilimanjaro and its 5895 masl is a hike on many people’s wish-list.
Those who want to visit the most famous safari destinations and the wildebeest migration, and don´t mind sharing it with a lot of tourists. Also for those who like the physical challenge of Mt. Meru and Mt. Kilimanjaro.
When to go
The north is good all year around. However, if you do want to avoid the tourist hordes, you should stay away from the peak seasons (July & December). The north is the area least exposed to the heavy rain season, so late May and early June can be amazing with fewer tourists and great deals!
THIS IS THE WEST
Hands down, the most secluded and wild safari destinations in Tanzania and probably all of Africa. Few travel here and since many things have not changed for centuries out in the bush,
coming here can feel like time traveling. The west off ers a unique combination of true wilderness and chimpanzee trekking.
Special features /experiences
The remote Katavi National Park with enormous concentration of hippos, has the least number of visitors of any game-drive destination. Gombe Stream and especially Mahale National Park off er spectacular chimpanzee trekking, combined with beach-time and snorkeling in Lake Tanganyika. The lake is said to be the second oldest and second deepest in the world. Kigoma is the closest city, and the ancient village of Ujiji is where Stanley found “the lost” Dr. Livingstone.
True explorers who seek the most wild and remote experiences, and anyone who has ever dreamt of visiting our close cousins, the chimpanzees, in the wild. If you want to be alone with few or no other tourists around, this is where you come. Due to the remoteness of the destination, expect a higher cost for your adventures here.
When to go
Katavi can only be visited during the dry season from June to October. August - October being the best months. The same goes for Mahale National Park, since the chimpanzees are closer to Lake Tanganyika this time of year and easier to locate.
THIS IS THE EAST
Except from the coastal beach areas of the east, this regions is home to many amazing places, not that know - and for that reason not visited by many tourists. If you want a hint of wildlife and game, but it´s not your main priority, and would prefer trekking in non-touristy destinations- this might be your preferred destination. And if you thoroughly enjoy a good roadtrip with the combination of wildlife and beach in one location; look no futher!
In the north east, you will find Mkomazi National Park, which is part of the Tsavo ecosystem in Kenya, that it boaders. A park with very few tourists. Although the wildlife is skittish, it could provide an amazing drive if you like scenery, most likely all by yourself. The Usambara Mountains is a truly hidden hiking gem, unknow to most. And in the very south of this mountainchain you will find Amani Forest. If you love reptiles, and especially chameleons -this is your mekka! Further south you will find Saadani National Park. The only destination in Tanzania where you can combine safari and beach in one location by the Indian Ocean. Best part of the safari experience here, you will find on the Wami River which can provide an amazing experience with river safari.
Those who like trekking, amazing roadtrip areas, or just want one location for beach & safari and not move around!
When to go
Avoid April and May in this area completely. The mountains can´t even be accessed. March and November can vary.
BEACH & ISLANDS
Tanzania is blessed with a beautiful coastline and exotic islands in the Indian Ocean. Although some people travel to Tanzania just for visiting the famous Zanzibar (which real name is Unguja), there are other great islands less know, which offer a completely different experience. And there are so many hidden pearl a long the vast coastaline on the mainland as well, for those who are not into island-hopping.
The well known island of Zanzibar offers amazing beaches as well as many cultural excursions and activities. Fewer people know about Pemba Island and Mafia Island which are ideal locations for a relaxing beach holiday with excellent snorkeling and diving. For those who stay in Dar es Salaam, there are two small fantastic islands right outside the city, ideal for days trips -Bongoyo and Mbudja. North of Dar es Salaam you will find a fantastic lagoon close to the ancient village of Bagamoyo and pearls all across the coast up to the city of Tanga. A few hours south of Dar es Salaam you will find the coastal historical area of Kilwa. Amazing beaches, rich history and almost no tourists.
Anyone who would like sand between their toes and enjoy the
exotic islands of the Indian Ocean, or any beach area along the coastal areas of Tanzania
When to go
The islands can be visited all year around. However, if you want to be guaranteed a sunny vacation with very little or no rain, you should avoid April and May. March and November can vary.
The nitty gritty about the different National Parks & Game Reserves
SELOUS GAME RESERVE /NYERERE NATIONAL PARK
At the heart of Southern Tanzania is Africa's largest wildlife protected area uninhabited by man, where Tanzania's greatest population of elephants wanders in an area much larger than Switzerland! Selous is the largest wildlife reserve in Africa, measuring over 50 000 km2. The Selous (pronounced “Seloo”) is a World Heritage listed Site, in which the lucky few can experience a safari in absolutely wild and unspoiled terrain.
From the moment you arrive, the Selous wealth of wildlife and its stunning Rufiji River scenery rarely fail to impress. Because it is a Game Reserve, our private safari cars are allowed to drive off the beaten track, which allows for an exciting safari experience where you never know what to expect around the next corner! As one of the few destinations in Tanzania, you can experience both river safaris, walking safari and game drive in one day!
Although you can’t expect to see shy animals like leopards around every corner, there are plenty of other action! In the northern area of Selous, maintained as purely a game-viewing area, there are good chances of seeing lions, giraffes, elephants, the greater kudu and eland antelope, hyena, zebra and possibly the main attraction for many -the endangered and endemic wild dog.
A morning or afternoon boatride on the Rufiji River is a must while staying here. The main wildlife to be spotted on a boat safari are hippos, crocodiles and birds. There is nothing quite as astounding as seeing one of the worlds prettiest sunsets, accompagnied by the grunts of hippos and chrips of some of 440 registered species of birds in the Selous.
The park has a variety of vegetation zones, ranging from dense thickets to open wooded grasslands. Safaris are mainly driven in the denser parts, but this is also what makes the safari so special – you never know what lies around the next corner. And yes, there are several other parks in Africa with denser grasslands, but they normally have a 2 lane ”highway” going through them, not the Selous. There is a dirt road to let you know the general direction that you are going – but we prefer to take you off-road and into the natural habitats of the wildlife (they don’t even care!).
The Selous is the largest conserved area in the world, the entire Selous ecosystem spans over 90.000 km2 and includes several national parks and stretches into Mozambique. Over half of this is defined as the Selous Game Reserve. The Selous never fails to impress us, and is highly recommended for any kinds of travellers!
In 2019 Selous Game Reserve was split in two, creating a new national park with the name of Nyerere National Park. This new national park will be in the area were game-drives have taken place in the "old" Selous Game Reserve. The new park will take over as Tanzania´s and Africa´s largest national park with just over 30 893 km2, leaving Selous Game Reserve with just over 22 000 km2.
MIKUMI NATIONAL PARK
Often referred to as a "Serengeti in miniature", this national park offers the classical and long stretched savannah, only interrupted by a lonesome Acacia tree every now and then. In other words; The image that most people see in their heads when you mention safari and Africa in the same sentence.
Mikumi is the fourth largest park in Tanzania and offers abundant wildlife. With a size over 3200 sq. km. this park can be enjoyed all day long, and offers fantastic sunsets.
A part from the cheetah and the rhino´s, you will find most animals here. If you only have time for a quick safari (day-trip), this is probably your best shot in the southern part of Tanzania. And since you are likely to encounter a lot of animals in a relative short amount of time, we believe it´s an ideal start or ending for a safari roundtrip. It is also usual to combine this park with either Ruaha or Selous and Udzungwa for what is probably Africa's most diverse safari, both in form of activities, topography and wildlife.
The best months to visit Mikumi really depends on what you prefer, June - October is the dry season, the vegetation is low and the animals are easier to spot. November - May is the "green" season, and you might get a little dribble and the humidity rises a bit, but everything is lush and green (an you can still spot tons of wildlife!). April & May are not the best months here.
Although the busiest park in the south due to it´s central location, Mikumi has not yet received the fame and recognition (from the masses of tourists), luckily – we say. Most people stick to the central loop in this park, but if you have more than a half day safari our advice is to also check out the southern Mikumi.
UDZUNGWA MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK
Many underestimate the beauty and richness of the Udzungwa Mountains, true – there are no predatory mammals that lurks in the woods and no lonesome Acacia trees on vast savannahs. What Udzungwa has to offer is very different; Closed-canopy forest-covered mountains that reach over 2000 meters in height, Africa's tallest free falling waterfall (Sanje Waterfalls, 170 meter drop), a mesmerizing view from all plateaus, over 400 species of birds (of which four are endemic) and it's even home to the Iringa Red Colubus and Sanje Crested Mangabey. The two latter are primates that are also endemic to Udzungwa.
It is also well known for its hiking routes, offering several trails that takes all from 5-6 hours and up to 5-6 days to complete! We normally recommend the Sanje Trail, a short and quite intense route that takes you up to the Sanje Waterfalls. On the private hike you have your own guide who tells you about all the medicinal plants, herbs and trees that are on the trail that are being used by the locals even today! He is also adept at spotting the primates and birds that live in the forest. Although Udzungwa has over 400 species of birds, on our recommended trip you will see fairly few of them. The trees are around 30 meters tall which makes spotting small birds quite a hard task! Closer to ground you still have the occasional bird, but you will see many variations of butterflies.
On your way up (or down) you can take a swim in one of the many natural pools that the waterfalls create, so don't forget to bring appropriate clothing and a towel. At the top of the Sanje Waterfall you enjoy a packed lunch and can enjoy the magnificent view. If you only have 2-3 days on safari we would probably advice to skip this, but if you really want to visit this place even with few days on safari, we will gladly set it up for you!
RUAHA NATIONAL PARK
Ruaha is the second largest National Park in Tanzania with its 20,226 square kilometers (7,809 sq mi).
The name from the park is derived from the Great Ruaha River stretching 475 km (300 mi). The park is situated in the southern highlands, in the very heart of the country. If you drive straight from Dar es Salaam it would take close to one day. This is not however recommended, and customers who travel to Ruaha by car, is advised to stop for a one day safari in Mikumi, a cultural visit in Morogoro or a hiking trip in Udzungwa on their way to Ruaha. If you have a fly-in safari, you can either fly direct from Dar (about 2,5 h) or it can be combined with a fly-in safari to Selous.
Ruaha is a truly spectacular park, with great overviews. The landscape is diverse and consists of large plains, hilltops, bush and the most important and at heart of it all, The Great Ruaha River! In the wet season (Jan-Apr) it is an flowers and birds (more than 450 species). In the dry season it is probably one of the best places in the world to spot large mammals and predators. If the most important thing for you is to see predators like lions, leopard and even cheetahs, this is definitely your park.
Actually 10% of all the 25 000 lions left in Africa live in Ruaha! Although it can be hard to spot, cheetah is not a rear site, and leopard spotting is actually quite common. Ruaha is also famous for it´s large population of elephants (estimated to around 25 000). But apart from this there is a great diversity and a possibility to see all big (and small) mammals except from the rhino.
Due to the secluded area the park is situated in, it costs a little bit more than the rest of the Southern areas and also compared to some parks up north. This being said –it is worth every penny! Tanzania Explorer rank Ruaha as the nr. 1 park in Tanzania and one of the absolute best safari places in the whole of Africa. All camps, lodges and accommodation in Ruaha are top-notch in our eyes. You will not find any “budget” or low mid-range lodges here, which makes the experience even better.
We give Ruaha top score and is the most recommended park!
SERENGETI NATIONAL PARK
The highly regarded and well renowned Serengeti. It is almost hard to describe this park, it's a huge
park with an enormous diversity and density of animals. The Serengeti is probably most famous for the Great Migration and it's classical never-ending savannah. The Serengeti Ecosystem is roughly 25,000 sq. km (the size of the neighbouring country Rwanda), this includes the Maasai Mara in Kenya (1,500 sq. km.) and the Serengeti N.P. at almost 10x the size (14,700 sq. km.) amongs other smaller areas and buffer zones. The Serengeti National
Park is divided into three main areas:
Serengeti Plains: The mental-image most people have of Africa; Long, almost treeless plains packed with wildlife. The migration passes through from December to May.
Western Corridor: Black clay/swampy savannah close to Grumeti River, housing Nile crocodile amongst others. The migration passes through from May to July.
Northern Serengeti (bordering to Kenya): Open woodlands and hills. The migration passes through from July to November.
Combine Serengeti with the Ngorongoro Crater and you have a combination of the two most renowned safari destinations in the world! But with fame -comes tourists. So especially in the month of July and late December, expect a lot of tourists in this ares. Personally we prefer the southern areas as they have far lesser tourists, but they also have a bit lower density of animals, so for first-timers or travellers trekking up Kilimanjaro these areas are fantastic (NB: the south is also magnificent for first-timers, and far cheaper!).
NGORONGORO CRATER CONSERVATION AREA
Imagine the world's largest inactive, intact, unfilled volcanic caldera and spanning 19 km. across.
Now fill it up with almost every animal Tanzania has to offer. What you're picturing actually exists, and is known as the Ngorongoro Crater. This Conservation Area is one of the most famous in Africa, and with good reason. Few animals ever get in or out of the crater, with exception of the migrating wildebeest and zebras. This has led to inbreeding of the craters population, especially lions (as they don't take too kindly on new males), in despite of this the population is surprisingly healthy and large.
The crater is also home to a few black rhinoceros. Visiting the crater on your safari in the northern Tanzania will maximize your chances of seeing these shy, large mammals. We rarely recommend more than a total of one day in the crater, due to several factors: The total park fees are much higher than any other park (greatly increasing the cost), the crater will seem surprisingly small when driving in a vehicle and let's face it; there will be a lot of tourists.
If it is of interest we can recommend stopping by the Oldupai Gorge. This is one of the most important paleoanthropological (the study of ancient humans) sites in the world. There has been found evidence of ancient human ancestors as far back as 2 million years – about the time when the crater imploded.
On your drive to (or from, depending on route) the crater you will stop to have a breathtaking view of the area from atop the craters rim. Make sure you have charged your camera's batteries, the view is truly one of a kind!
LAKE MANYARA NATIONAL PARK
This national park offers something very unique, although little in size. If you're there at the right time
(just after the rain seasons) the lake is packed with beautiful flamingos. If you are lucky you get to see the tree-climbing lions this park is very famous for, this habit is rarely seen, but can also be seen in southern Serengeti as well. You can also spot different kinds of primates and the park offers great bird-viewing. Giraffes and dik-dik (a small antelope) are also common to see. It's size is only 330 sq. km., of which nearly 200 sq. km. is the lake itself when the water levels are high.
Driving into the park you have to keep your eyes peeled, dense bush and tall trees creates a very good and safe hiding place for animals further down the food chain. This means that you may stop abruptly if your driver spots something in between the vegetation. If you are going, or have been on safari in Serengeti or Ngorongoro Crater, this will surely be a pleasant change of pace, having to actively look for animals together with your guide. This is not a park you stay several days in, we normally recommend a half day, as we think the remaining time is better spent getting to the Ngorongoro Crater (or on the way home from it, depending on route). However, if you would like an entire day and get to drive through the whole park, we will happily arrange it for you!
For shorter safaris with as little driving as possible, a full day in Lake Manyara N.P. combined with a couple days in Tarangire N.P. will give you a great safari experience, with satisfying variation both in topography and animals diversity. You are also likely to encounter elephants here.
We feel the need to emphasize that Lake Manyara can offer both OK and incredible safaris, this is because of large variations in both animal type and density depending on season. As no seasons are the same we hope you take this into consideration and account, especially if you would like an entire day there. Recently activities like treetop walks and zipline adventures have added more excitement to the area which could complete a full day in the Lake Manyara area!