The Best Safaris in Tanzania : Tanzania is one of the most popular safari destinations in Africa. It is best known for the great wildebeest migration, where a herd of about 2 million wildebeest, zebra, and gazelle make an epic tour every year while being chased by many predators.
But even though the migration gets most of the attention, there is a lot more to the country, both in terms of wildlife and things to do that aren’t safaris. Aside from the Big Five, there is world-class birdwatching, some of the best chimpanzee tracking in Africa, history and beaches on the coast, and amazing hiking at Kilimanjaro.
It can be hard to figure out where to go, when to go, and what to do, so here is our guide to the best tours in Tanzania. Dig in and find out what makes Tanzania so magical, you’re in for a wild ride.
Where to go on safari in Tanzania.
Tanzania has three main safari regions: the North, Southern Tanzania, and Western Tanzania.
The north of Tanzania, which is easy to get to from Kilimanjaro International Airport or the domestic Arusha Airport, is by far the most famous safari area. The famous Serengeti, Tarangire National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, and Lake Manyara are all in this area. Together, they make up the “Northern Circuit,” which is Tanzania’s most popular tour route.
The parks in southern Tanzania are much less visited than those in the north. They are great for people who have already been to the Serengeti or other famous Big Five destinations and want a wilder safari experience. Here, the Selous and the Ruaha are the two most popular places to go.
The least number of people go to Western Tanzania out of the three main safari areas. It’s expensive to get here because it’s not easy to get to. From the major cities of Arusha or Dar es Salaam, it takes about four hours to fly in a small plane. There are two scheduled trips a week, but they are also very expensive. Driving will take a couple of days. But if money isn’t a problem, you’ll get to go on a remote tour where you’ll have most of it to yourself. A lot of people will go west to look for the chimps of Mahale.
Serengeti National Park.
The Serengeti, which is 12,000 square miles and home to the great wildebeest migration and a good number of lions, leopards, and cheetahs, is the most popular park. In July and August, when the famous wildebeest river crossings happen during the summer break in the northern hemisphere, the park can be very busy.
In the Serengeti, there are four key areas: the Western Corridor, the Seronera Valley, the Lobo/Kogatende area in the north, and the Southern Plains.
There are a few private areas in the Serengeti, like the Grumeti Reserve, where you can see wildlife without a lot of other people. However, you’ll have to pay top dollar to stay there.
The Seronera River and the valley around it are in the middle of the Serengeti. This is a good place for big cats and animals to graze all year long. The northern areas of Kogatende and Lamai on the banks of the Mara River are further off the beaten path and are good places to see the famous river crossings in the summer when there are far fewer tourists than in Kenya’s Masai Mara, which is just across the border.
Best safari camps & lodges in Serengeti national park.
There are countless excellent safari camps and lodges that span the full spectrum of budgets. A smattering of the best regarded camps include:
Serengeti Safari Camp: A top-end deluxe mobile safari camp which moves around five times per season to keep up with the constantly changing migration.
Serengeti Serena Safari Lodge: An upmarket safari lodge (fixed location) in the Seronera area with accommodation designs influenced by traditional Tanzanian village with covered rondavels.
Kiota Camp: A solid mid-market mobile camp in the Seronera River Valley area.
Sayari Camp: Arguably one of the top camps in the northern Serengeti, well away from the crowds further south.
Tarangire National Park.
Tarangire, just south of the bird haven Lake Manyara, is the antidote to the crowds of the Serengeti. There are big groups of elephants, big baobab trees, cats, and even wild dogs. During the dry season, there are a lot more species in the park than at other times. From July to October is the best time to see big game. When these months are over, the park is very quiet.
Like the Serengeti, there are some private areas near the national park that offer more privacy, but they usually cost more.
Best safari camps & lodges in Tarangire national park.
Popular safari camps in the Tarangire area include:
Tarangire River Camp: A tented camp with stunning views over the Tarangire River and spacious accommodation.
Kuro Tarangire: A high-end camp conveniently located near Kuro Airstrip and far from the crowds. Great for elephants from July to October, when it’s dry.
Oliver’s Camp: One of the top rated camps in the region, with unparalleled game viewing and a friendly, unstuffy vibe.
Ngorongoro Crater is the other major tourist draw in the Northern Circuit. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is thought to be the world’s largest intact, inactive volcanic caldera that isn’t full of water. Elephants, giraffes, lions, and black rhinos are just some of the big animals that live in the crater.
Wildlife can be seen there all year, though the hole gets crowded in the summer.
Inside the crater, there are no camps, but some are set up on the rim, where they have amazing views. You can also stay in the larger Ngorongoro Conservation Area and take a day trip into the crater. Look for a place to stay close to the road so you can save time.
Best safari camps & lodges to stay.
Recommended safari camps and lodges in the Ngorongoro area include:
Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge: A good value mid-market permanent lodge that is conveniently located near the entrance to the Ngorongoro Crater.
Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge is a simple camp that is a great deal. It was built to help a local tourism project for the community. The Rhotia Valley camp is in a good place to get to the crater and Lake Manyara, which is not far away.
Rhino Lodge is another simple, cheap lodge that is close to the edge of the crater. Pretty simple, but a great deal.
Entamanu Ngorongoro, on the other hand, is a luxury safari camp that is away from the people that come to the Ngorongoro. Good views of the crater at morning.
Lake Manyara National Park.
Lake Manyara National Park is a small, heavily forested strip of land just north of Tarangire National Park. It is in the shadow of a dramatic wall in the Great Rift escarpment.
There are about 350 different kinds of water birds that live around the lake, and the park is known for its tree-climbing lions and one of the most-studied elephant groups in Tanzania. Wildlife drives are available, but you can also go on walking safaris, and there is a treetop walkway that takes you up into the forest sky.
Best safari camps & lodges in Lake Manyara national park.
Some of the best regarded safari camps around Lake Manyara include:
Lake Manyara Tree Lodge: Super high-end with the only location actually inside the park.
Manyara Ranch: A higher-end camp with private access to the vast Manyara Ranch.
Conservancy. It is near Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Parks and only two hours from Ngorongoro Crater.
Lake Manyara Serena Safari Lodge: A solid mid-market permanent lodge, twenty minutes from the park entrance. The rooms are simple and made of thatch, but they are a great deal.
Little Chem Chem Safari Lodge: Top of the top-end tented camp; small, intimate and exclusive. Expect to pay the highest price.
Selous Game Reserve.
At 19,000 square miles, which is bigger than Switzerland, the Selous Game Reserve is one of the biggest protected areas in Africa. Since there are only a few camps, it feels much more remote than the parks in the north.
The Selous is an important place for rare wild dogs as well as lions, leopards, elephants, black rhinos, hippos, and buffalos. Poaching has led to a huge drop in species like elephants, so there are still a lot of animals to see, but not as many as in places like the Serengeti. The area has a few camps for photo safaris, but most of it is for hunting.
Best safari camps & hotels.
Selous Impala Camp: Less expensive than other camps in the Selous, probably the closest to mid-market but still far from cheap. Some places to stay that are good for families.
Lake Manze Tented Camp: A good value camp on the shores of Lake Manze with plenty of resident wildlife close by.
Siwandu Camp: Super high-end camp in the Siwandu, with tents located on a picturesque river bank. Flights from Dar es Salaam are easy to get to.
Ruaha National Park.
The Selous reserve is bigger than Ruaha National Park , but Ruaha is Tanzania’s biggest national park. It has fields, a few baobab trees, and rolling hills.
There are lions, leopards, and wild dogs here, but not as many people as in the Selous. For walking safaris, there are both high-end lodges and simple fly-camping companies.
Best safari camps & lodges.
A scattering of the area’s best regarded safari camps include:
Mdonya Old River Camp: A small, simple, and great value camp not far from the Mdonya Falls.
Ikuka Safari Camp: High end experience at mid-range price. From the Mwagusi Escarpment, there are beautiful views of the camp.
Usangu Expedition Camp: Higher-end mobile camp with excellent access to the special wetland wildlife of nearby Ihefu Swamp.
Mahale Mountains National Park.
On the sandy shores of Lake Tanganyika, there is a park called Mahale. It is known for the chimpanzees that live in the bush and are used to people. There are also vervets and red colobus monkeys, and the best time to walk through the forest is from August to October, when it is the driest.
There are a few camps and lodges where you can arrange to go chimp trekking. Greystoke Mahale is a “barefoot luxury” choice, and the park headquarters has a backpackers run by the government.
Best safari camps & lodges.
Greystoke Mahale Camp: Top-notch, world-renowned chimp tracking camp situated in a stunning spot on the shores of Lake Tanganyika.
The Nkungwe Beach Lodge is (relatively) cheap, has a simple beauty, and is a good deal for the money. Also on the beach of Tanganyika, and just as good for tracking chimps.
Katavi National Park.
The third largest national park in Tanzania, but with a fraction of the visitors, Katavi feels very distant from the likes of the Serengeti. In fact, it is thought that as many people visit Katavi in a year as visit the Serengeti in a day.
During the dry season, there are a lot of big groups of buffalo, lions, elephants, and plains game like topis, zebras, and impalas, which makes it easy to see wildlife.
There are only a few small camps in the park and in the nearby game areas of Rukwa, Luafi, and Lukwati, so you won’t have to deal with many other cars.
Best safari camps & lodges.
Chada Katavi Camp: Remote, quiet and well off the beaten track. There are good game drives, private walking safaris, and even a night safari for those who want to try something new.
Katavi Wildlife Camp is a slightly cheaper choice, but it’s still not cheap, mostly because it’s in a remote area and takes a long time to get there.