Popular Routes – Tanzania

Philip Briggs
Expert
By Philip Briggs

Philip is a renowned Africa expert and author of many Bradt guidebooks to African destinations, including the guide to Tanzania.

Philip is a renowned Africa expert and author of the Bradt guidebook to Tanzania.

Philip is the author of the Bradt guidebook to Tanzania.

Popular Routes in Tanzania

Northern Circuit (1 to 2 weeks)

The northern circuit is the most popular circuit in Tanzania. In most cases, you will fly to Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) or Arusha Airport (ARK) and travel onward to Arusha, the town from where the northern circuit is explored.

Destinations:

  • Arusha National Park (0.5 to 2 days) could be visited upon an early arrival in Arusha town. The scenery is beautiful with Mount Meru as a backdrop and views of Mt Kilimanjaro on clear days. It doesn’t have the Big Five, but giraffe, buffalo and several antelope species are easily seen. This makes the park an excellent place to start your safari.
  • Lake Manyara National Park or Tarangire National Park (1 to 2 days each) will most likely be visited at the start of your safari. Both parks offer excellent wildlife viewing with a chance of seeing lion. Tarangire is a seasonal park and best visited from June to November. Outside of these months you will probably only visit Lake Manyara. If you visit both parks it is also common to visit one at the start of your safari and the other at the end.
  • Ngorongoro Conservation Area (1 to 2 days) offers superb wildlife viewing in an amazing setting. There are few places that have wildlife densities and variety on this level and it is not unusual to see the Big Five in one day.
  • Serengeti National Park (3 to 5 days) is one of the most famous parks in Africa. It is Tanzania’s oldest park and a Unesco World Heritage site. The wide-open plains offer the classic African environment for top-class wildlife viewing throughout the year and the spectacular wildebeest migration is the cherry on top. If you stay for more than three days, consider staying in two places and exploring different sections of the park. From the Serengeti you can either drive or fly back to Arusha.


Popular add-ons:

  • Zanzibar Island for some relaxing on gorgeous beaches or going scuba diving (less popular but still good alternatives are Mafia Island, Pemba Island and Pangani)
  • Gombe National Park or Mahale Mountains National Park or Mahale Mountains NP for chimpanzee tracking
  • Kilimanjaro National Park to climb the mountain – some do it as a five-day hike, but it is recommended to take at least six or seven days as it is a tough hike with great altitude challenges

Southern Circuit (1 to 2 weeks)

In terms of wildlife densities and ease of viewing, the southern safari circuit isn’t quite on a par with the northern circuit. However, its ‘off-the-beaten-track’ character makes for a more holistic wilderness experience. Tourist numbers are lower, and camps tend to be more exclusive, catering to a more upmarket clientele. The southern circuit is often the choice for a second safari on which marking off the Big Five is less of a concern. The circuit is also popular as an add-on to a beach holiday in Zanzibar or around Dar-es-Salaam. In most cases, you will fly into Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar-es-Salaam and fly on by small airplane to Ruaha or Selous.

Destinations:

  • Mikumi National Park (1 to 2 days) is very accessible via a sealed road from Dar-es-Salaam and is an easy weekend getaway or can be visited en route to Selous Game Reserve. As there is lack of water in the park, the waterholes attract loads of animals, especially at the end of the Dry season.
  • Selous Game Reserve (3 to 5 days), one of Africa’s largest parks, is the most popular of Tanzania’s southern parks because of its proximity to Dar-es-Salaam. Selous lies on the Rufiji River and aside from the usual game drives, boat trips and walking safaris are offered.
  • Ruaha National Park (3 to 5 days) is one of Africa’s best-kept secrets with excellent wildlife viewing, including many animals that aren’t easily seen in the north, such as wild dog and several unusual antelope species.


Popular add-ons:

  • Zanzibar Island for some relaxing on gorgeous beaches or going scuba diving (less popular but still good alternatives are Mafia Island, Pemba Island and Pangani)

Western Circuit (1 week)

Destinations:

  • Mahale Mountains National Park or Gombe National Park (2 to 5 days) are chimp reserves on the shore of Lake Tanganyika. The chimpanzee tracking experience is arguably the best on offer in Africa, but getting here is time-consuming and expensive. You will most likely need a combination of small aircraft and boat transport. Mahale is usually combined with a safari in Katavi.
  • Katavi National Park (2 to 5 days) is the savannah reserve in the western circuit and one of Tanzania’s least-visited parks – not for a lack of wildlife, though. This park offers excellent wildlife viewing in the Dry season with superb wilderness appeal.


Popular add-ons:

  • Zanzibar Island for some relaxing on gorgeous beaches or going scuba diving (less popular but still good alternatives are Mafia Island, Pemba Island and Pangani)

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