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Tanzania Safari – Complete Travel Guide

This East African country is by far the most visited in the region for its infinite lands unspoilt by civilisation. The prairies of the Serengeti National Park have some of the best safaris in Tanzania with its Big Five – lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and African buffalo. Zanzibar islands have the silkiest beaches and offer diving adventures among coral reefs and whale sharks. And of course, don’t forget the Roof of Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro, climbed by over 30,000 people per year.


  • Best Time To Go

    June – October December – February

  • Average Safari Cost

    From $200 to $600 pp/day

  • Highlights

    Serengeti, Great Migration, Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar beaches

Pros And Cons

If you are after a classic safari experience, a short break by the silky beach or a hike to the tallest mountain in Africa, you’ve come to the right place.

On these pages we will show you what’s possible, at what time during the year and for how much – you will just need to choose, which Tanzanian adventure is for you!

Pros
  • Unrivalled wildlife experiences, like the annual wildebeest migration in the Serengeti
  • Joining chimpanzee safaris in Gombe Mountains
  • Enjoying less touristy safaris in Selous Game Reserve and Ruaha National Park
  • Potential for a great beach holiday on Zanzibar Islands and diving with whale sharks
  • Climbing Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa
  • Visiting indigenous tribes
Cons
  • High malaria risk throughout the year across the country (under 1,800m)
  • Many other biting insects
  • Don’t go at the wrong time of year as you might not see many animals or birds
  • Variety of choice makes it harder to select the best safari

Best Time To Visit

Book your trip between June and October, if you wish to see the Great Migration. Because these events don’t happen on a ‘schedule’ and you can’t book a holiday during the predicted time of the migration (check with your operator prior to booking), you could still benefit from seeing the wildlife in Tanzania, as it is flourishing during these months. And best of all – expect less mosquitos!

For the Wildebeest Calving in Serengeti and to see multiple predators it attracts, the best time to visit is January to February.

Tanzania's short dry season falls on these two months.

During this time, wildebeest and zebra herds stay in Serengeti, in particular south and east of Seronera, around Ndutu and north of the Ngorongoro areas, throughout January and February.

February is particularly interesting as it is called calving, when wildebeest calves are born they attract a lot of predators. So it’s a good time for animal watching.

Which parks to visit?

Serengeti National Park (for Great Wildebeest Migration)

Ngorongoro Crater (for rare sightings of Black Rhino, and Jackals)

Lake Manyara (for Baboons and Blue Monkeys)

Rainy season. Time of the Great Migration north.

During March, April and May it is better signify the long rains or the main rainy season. It rains almost every afternoon and humidity is high during this time as the temperatures average 86-95F (30-35C).

However, March could be interesting as it fallows the wildebeest calving in February, when wildebeest calves are born and attract a lot of predators. So it’s a good time for animal watching.

Slowly wildebeest spread west across Serengeti savannah. But around April-May they start their Great Migration north in search of new grassy plains. To spot thousands of wilderbeest, zebra and various types of gazelles head west of Seronera or the area around Moru Kopjes in powerful unstoppable columns.

Which parks to visit?

Ngorongoro Crater (for rare sightings of Black Rhino, and Jackals)

Dry season. The best time to visit Tanzania.

Around June the wildebeest migration is usually paused on the south banks of the Grumeti River. You will see them in huge numbers as they wait to cross the river.

The wildebeest herds continue their marching north in July. But they usually spread across large territories, so your safari guides would need to advise you which route is best depending on the year: Grumeti Reserve, Ikorongo or the middle of the Serengeti National Park.

Which parks to visit?

  • Serengeti National Park (for Great Wildebeest Migration)
  • Ngorongoro Crater (for rare sightings of Black Rhino, and Jackals)
  • Selous Game Reserve (for less common types of antelope, occasional Black Rhino and Wild Dogs)
  • Ruaha National Park (for the packs of Wild Dogs)
  • Tarangire National Park (for some of the rare types of antelope and occasional pythons)
  • Lake Manyara (for Baboons and Blue Monkeys)
  • Gombe National Park (for Baboons, Red Colobus Monkeys and Red-Tailed Monkeys)
  • Katavi National Park (for Hippos and lots of Buffalo)
  • Dry season. The best time to visit Tanzania.

    In September you will most likely see the wildebeest herds in the northern Serengeti, where the wild and powerful waters of the Mara River make it hard for them to safely cross. There is always a lot of action, so if you are after a spectacular view – this is the time and place to watch the Great Wildebeest Migration.

    By October the wildebeest herds are moving south, through western Loliondo and the Serengeti National Park.

    Which parks to visit?

    • Serengeti National Park (for Great Wildebeest Migration)
    • Ngorongoro Crater (for rare sightings of Black Rhino, and Jackals)
    • Selous Game Reserve (for less common types of antelope, occasional Black Rhino and Wild Dogs)
    • Ruaha National Park (for the packs of Wild Dogs)
    • Tarangire National Park (for some of the rare types of antelope and occasional pythons)
    • Lake Manyara (for Baboons and Blue Monkeys)
    • Gombe National Park (for Baboons, Red Colobus Monkeys and Red-Tailed Monkeys)
    • Katavi National Park (for Hippos and lots of Buffalo)

    A so-called second rainy season with the short rains, which are not as heavy as the main rains and less reliable.

    Wildebeest herds arrive in the Serengeti savannah, in particular south and east of Seronera, around Ndutu and north of the Ngorongoro areas. During this time you can see the herds of zebra and wildebeest feeding everywhere.

    Which parks to visit?

  • Serengeti National Park (for Great Wildebeest Migration)
  • Ngorongoro Crater (for rare sightings of Black Rhino, and Jackals)
  • Selous Game Reserve (for less common types of antelope, occasional Black Rhino and Wild Dogs)
  • Ruaha National Park (for the packs of Wild Dogs)
  • Tarangire National Park (for some of the rare types of antelope and occasional pythons)
  • Lake Manyara (for Baboons and Blue Monkeys)
  • Gombe National Park (for Baboons, Red Colobus Monkeys and Red-Tailed Monkeys)
  • Tanzania can thank its tropical climate for its magical wilderness. This means that the year is punctuated by two rainy seasons: October – December and March – June. The most recommended time for your safari holiday is from June to October called Dry Season, when the temperatures are between 68F (20C) and 86F (30C).

    If you are planning a holiday in Zanzibar, please note that hot and humid coast of Tanzania is prompt to malaria infections.

    Thankfully, the North East of Tanzania is temperate, while the central plateau is dry throughout the year.

    Mount Kilimanjaro has the climate of its own, so if you are planning to climb it please read a bit more about altitude temperatures.

    Start your Tanzania Adventure

    Wildlife And Birds

    Hardly any safari goer would miss the main African animals, like lion, elephant, giraffe and buffalo on their tour in Tanzania. But African leopard and rhino would require a bit more tracking. Serengeti is your best bet to see leopards and cheetahs, but Ngorongoro is where you could hope to spot a rhino.

    If you are interested in other animals, African wild dogs, chimpanzees and millions of wildebeest and other four-legged lion’s pray migrate through Serengeti in June-July.

    List Of Animals
    • Lion
    • Elephant
    • Cheetah
    • Leopard
    • Hippo
    • Buffalo
    • Hyena
    • Giraffe

    Rare Animals:

    • Black Rihno (Ngorongoro Crater)
    • Hawksbill
    • Leatherback
    • Olive ridley and green turtles
    • Red colobus monkeys (in Zanzibar’s Jozani Forest)
    • Wild dogs (Selous Game Reserve, Ruaha National Park)
    • A kind of bat called Pemba flying foxes (Pemba’s Ngezi Forest)

    Infrequently Seen Animals:

    • Leopard
    • Cheetah

    Frequently Seen Animals:

    • Elephant
    • Lion
    • Giraffe
    • Hippo
    • Buffalo
    • Wildebeest
    • Zebra
    • Hyena

    The Great Wildebeest Migration

    The Serengeti wildebeest migration is one of Africa's greatest wildlife spectacles. The millions of the wildebeest, zebra and different types of gazelle, eland and impala regularly migrate in search of fresh grazing and water. Although the most action usually happens between June and July or January and February, it depends on rainfalls, so you need to plan carefully with your operator for the precise timing.

    Another great time to visit Tanzania is during the wildebeest calving season. This is the time when predators congregate around their pray in greater numbers, unveiling the life cycle of the African plains in front of your eyes.

    Best Wildlife In Tanzania

    Although gravely endangered by senseless poaching, you can still see some of the most eminent mammals in Africa native to Tanzania including giraffe, elephant, rhino, lion, leopard, wildebeest, zebra and more.

    Given the size and popularity of the Serengeti National Park, it’s hardly surprising that it’s a great place to see lions, leopards and cheetahs in action.

    Other Animals

    Head out to the cost to see giant (and ancient) turtles, or explore Grumeti River in Serengeti National Park to see crocodiles and hippos.

    Expect to see giraffes, gazelles, antelopes, elands, kudus, dik-diks and more.

    Tanzania has over 1,100 different species of birds, with Fischer’s Loveverbird, Harlaub’s Turaco and Ashy Startling being near endemic or endemic.

    Best Time To See More Animals

    • June-July – Great Migration
    • January-February – Wildebeest Calving (attracts predators)

    Birdwatching

    With over 1,000 bird species, Tanzania is one of the best countries for bird watching in Africa. Although 80% of the species are local inhabitants, you can see even more species between November to April during bird migration.

    There are now 24 bird species endemic to Tanzania and 43 near endemic:

    • Ashy starling
    • Banded sunbird
    • Fischer's lovebird
    • Grey-breasted spurfowl
    • Iringa akalat
    • Kilombero weaver
    • Loveridge's sunbird
    • Moreau's sunbird
    • Mrs. Moreau's warbler
    • Pemba green pigeon
    • Pemba scops owl
    • Pemba sunbird
    • Pemba white-eye
    • Rubeho Forest-partridge
    • Rubeho Akalat
    • Rufous-tailed weaver
    • Rufous-winged sunbird
    • Kipengere seedeater
    • Tanzanian red-billed hornbill
    • Udzungwa forest partridge – endangered
    • Uluguru bush shrike – critically endangered
    • Usambara akalat – endangered
    • Usambara eagle owl
    • Usambara weaver

    Endangered Birds in Tanzania

    Critically Endangered Birds:

    • Long-billed Tailorbird
    • Madagascar Pond Heron
    • Uluguru Bush-Shrike

    Endangered Birds:

    • Amani Sunbird
    • Basra Reed Warbler
    • Cape Gannet
    • Sokoke Scops Owl
    • Sokoke Pipit
    • Spotted Ground-Thrush
    • Udzungwa Forest Partridge
    • Usambara Akalat
    • Usambara Hyliota
    • Usambara Weaver

    Under Threat Birds:

    • Abbott's Starling
    • Banded Sunbird
    • Blue Swallow
    • Dappled Mountain-Robin
    • East Coast Akalat
    • Eastern Imperial Eagle
    • Greater Spotted Eagle
    • Iringa Akalat
    • Karamoja Apalis
    • Kilombero Weaver
    • Lappet-faced Vulture
    • Lesser Kestrel
    • Madagascar Pratincole
    • Mrs Moreau’s Warbler
    • Papyrus Yellow Warbler
    • Pemba Green Pigeon
    • Pemba Scops Owl
    • Rufous-winged Sunbird
    • Shoebill
    • Swynnerton’s Robin
    • Usambara Eagle Owl
    • Wattled Crane
    • White-winged Apalis

    See full list of near endemic species on the African Bird Club, which are found in three or less countries in Africa.

    Getting There And Safety

    Here we have compiled a list of the practicalities we suggest you consider before booking your safari or adventure travel in Tanzania.
    Flights

    For the Northern Circuit – for Serengeti, Great Migration, Wildebeest Calving, Kilimanjaro – fly to Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO)

    For the parks located in the south of Tanzania – for Selous Game Reserve, Mikumi, Ruaha and the Udzungwa Mountains National Parks – fly to Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR). These parks are considered as some of the best kept secrets of all safaris in Africa.

    After getting to Tanzania, usually you can expect that your tour operator would pick you up from the airport and transfer you to the location of the safari, if included in your package.

    If you are based in the UK and Europe, check out these flights to Tanzania

    If you are based in the USA and Canada, check out these flights to Tanzania

    Visas

    Most countries require a visa to enter Tanzania, but it can be obtained on arrival. Check the Tanzanian Ministry of Home Affairs' website for more information. The list of Tanzanian diplomatic missions is on Wikipedia.

    Some safaris will require permits, so check with your operator that the price includes any additional prices. This is especially important for Kilimanjaro.

    Weather

    Tanzania can thank its tropical climate for its magical wilderness. This means that the year is punctuated by two rainy seasons: October – December and March – June. The most recommended time for your safari holiday is from June to October called Dry Season, when the temperatures are between 68F (20C) and 86F (30C).

    If you are planning a holiday in Zanzibar, please note that hot and humid coast of Tanzania is prompt to malaria infections.

    Thankfully, the North East of Tanzania is temperate, while the central plateau is dry throughout the year.

    Mount Kilimanjaro has the climate of its own, so if you are planning to climb it please read a bit more about altitude temperatures.

    For a more detailed outline of the weather and which parks to visit, see our Best Time To Visit section above.

    Vaccinations

    Most vaccinations are listed on your local healthcare site. See the list below.

    Check if you have been vaccinated against Hepatitis A and Typhoid. Some areas would require you to have the following vaccinations against: Cholera, Hepatitis B, Rabies and Yellow Fever.

    Please note that malaria risk is high around the year in all areas below 1,800m. To protect yourself you should avoid mosquito bites by wearing long sleeve tops and long trousers especially in the evenings, using insect repellents and, when required, sleeping under a mosquito net.

    And take the following medications: Proguanil/Atovaquone or Doxycycline or Mefloquine.

    Check your local travel health authority for more information:

    Drinking Water
    Tap water is not considered safe in Tanzania, so it would be advisable to always use bottled water or bring water sanitation tablets with you. These will come in handy for using water to brush your teeth.
    Travel Insurance

    Going on a safari in Africa comes with obvious risks. We recommend you get travel insurance for all safaris in Tanzania. Make sure your insurance has full medical coverage, emergency air evacuation, repatriation and the standard travel insurance for cancellations, delays and luggage cover.

    Check the World Nomads’ travel insurance calculator to see the cost of the safari trip cover.

    What To Pack

    You should pack clothes suitable for both hot and cold weather as days can be very hot followed by very cold nights. Your clothes should be in neutral tones, not bright colours. Other items to pack include: insect repellent, camera, torch, binoculars, sunglasses and sun block.

    For more details on what to pack see our Safari Packing List.