Expert Reviews – Tanzania

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3 safari circuits in one country
Overall rating
4/5

Having travelled all over the continent, people often ask me: “What is your favourite country in Africa?” It is a silly question, but it is easier just to give an answer than to start to explain about what makes each country special and unique. My answer is usually Tanzania. Its northern safari circuit is reminiscent of Kenya, but on a bigger scale. The lesser-known southern and western circuits are like different safari destinations in their own right. The combination of grandness and diversity in Tanzania is unrivalled. The Northern safari circuit must be the most classic safari destination in Africa. Leaving Arusha, on a 2 week driving safari, you’ll reach Lake Manyara after a couple of hours – and from this point you’ll be in game reserves almost uninterrupted until you return to Arusha at the end of the trip. The Ngorongoro Crater is on the circuit, and is a must, but the star attraction is Serengeti National Park. I love driving the long stretches between the different sections of the park. That is when you get a real sense of this eco-system’s vastness. Why fly if every drive is in effect a game drive? I prefer to leave the busy Seronera area behind, and head to for the remote, un-touristy Western Corridor, or the far north bordering the Masai Mara. Such an amazing safari circuit would be great in its own right, but Tanzania has two more. The southern circuit, including Selous, Ruaha and Mikumi, is much less visited than the north. Here you get a real chance of seeing wild dogs and some of the less common antelopes like lesser and greater kudu. The southern parks also offer walking and boat safaris, which are exciting additions to your standard driving safari. The third circuit contains the two chimp-tracking parks on the shore of Lake Tanganyika. This is the best place in Africa to get close to these amazing primates. Chimpanzee tracking in Mahale is usually combined with a classic safari in the remote Katavi National Park with its seasonal rivers teeming with hippos and crocodiles.

African Safari Clichés at their Best
Overall rating
4/5

Tanzania is everything you ever thought Africa would be. Perhaps nowhere else on the continent has such huge expanses of animal packed savannah grasslands or areas of wilderness where it’s still possible to imagine how East Africa looked a hundred years ago.

The Tanzanians know they have some of the finest wildlife terrain on the continent and have devoted a huge amount of land to wildlife preservation and developed an impressive array of safari facilities. There are stunning and exclusive lodges, some of the best wildlife guides in the business and an array of ways to enjoy this wilderness be it on foot, by hot air balloon or a customised safari jeep.


Tanzania is big enough (it covers 947,000sq km2, which isn’t that far off double the size of Kenya) that you need never be bothered with a crush of other safari tourists. Even in the Serengeti; the one park that everyone visits, it’s easy to have great swathes of grassland almost completely to yourself while in lesser visited areas you can relish the wilderness vibe. Not just is Tanzania big, but it’s also a very varied country. As well as the classic savannah country there are endless stretches of light woodland, rainforests buzzing with bright birds, mountain meadows criss-crossed with hiking trails and some of the most breathtaking beaches in Africa.

Tanzanian safari tourism can be divided into three neat circuits. Far and away the most popular is the northern circuit which concentrates on the world renowned Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Lake Manyara, Tarangire and Arusha national parks as well as Mt Kilimanjaro, the loftiest peak in Africa. A safari in this area will give you the full portfolio of classic East African safari experiences: massive herds of migrating wildebeest, luxurious lodges, lions on the prowl, huge herds of elephants and red-robed Maasai and their cattle kicking up the sunset dust. The next most popular area is the southern circuit taking in the hot, dry, baobab studded countryside of the south. It’s all a lot wilder down here – and bigger – parks such as the Selous and Ruaha could swallow some countries. There’s some spectacular wildlife as well including huge numbers of elephants (although numbers have recently been dramatically reduced in Selous due to uncontrolled poaching in some parts) and rivers full of hippos and crocs and, for those who like to feel and touch the bush as well as just see it, some of the camps down here run excellent walking safaris. Finally, there’s the little visited west of the country. Katavi National Park is stuffed full of elephants, lions and mud pools bubbling in hippos yet it receives a fraction of the visitors of the Serengeti. For me though, the best thing about a safari out west is chimpanzees. Mahale Mountains and the Gombe Stream national parks are, arguably, the two best places on the planet to see habituated wild chimpanzees and nobody who goes to the (quite considerable) effort and expense of visiting these two parks will likely regret it.


But, good as it all is, there’s a catch. Tanzania is one, if not the, most expensive country in eastern Africa to go on safari in. Yes, by joining an organised budget camping safari in Arusha you can see the wonders of Tanzania for a price that’s affordable to mere mortals but if you want any kind of exclusivity (and to really get the most out of a safari you do need to aim this high) then you’re going to pay considerably more for it than in say Namibia, South Africa, Zambia or even Kenya.

For me though, despite the expense, Tanzania will always remain the best place in Africa for the classic safari experience – and the beaches aren’t bad either!

Big name parks for big game viewing
Overall rating
4/5

With the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro positioned within Tanzania's borders, this is a safari destination par excellence. Big Five encounters are common and vistas are far-reaching, with mountains and gorges adding interest to the flat savannah lands. Don't forget to explore the oceans for animal life too – Zanzibar's paradise-like waters are the perfect place to glimpse turtles and tropical fish on a snorkeling or scuba diving trip. It's well-known that luxury lodges can be found throughout Tanzania, almost always with the big bonus of a knowledgeable guide on hand to teach you your topi from your Thomson's Gazelle, but there are also options for those on a tighter budget. Sleeping with nothing but canvas to separate you from the all-enveloping sounds of the bush is a wondrous experience and there’s nothing quite like crawling out of your tent in the middle of the night to find your torch beam resting on a pair of unidentified eyes...

Average Expert Rating

  • 4.8/5
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  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

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