Thanks to the presence of some of Africa's biggest and best national parks, a Tanzania safari is a tour de force. It’s also a dauntingly large country, though, so a trip here requires some advance decision-making. Here's everything you need to plan a safari in Tanzania. For more inspiration, read our run-down of the best things to do in Tanzania.
This article is inspired by our Rough Guides guidebooks — your essential guides for travelling the world.
Which region should I choose?
This is the big decision. Tanzania has three main safari areas: the Northern and Southern Circuits, and Western Tanzania. Travelling between each is a challenge, so most visitors tend to stick with just one.
Containing the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania’s Northern Circuit is decidedly the headline act. This is where you’ll find both the most prolific wildlife (aka "game") and serial crowds. Travel to whichever Serengeti corner the spectacular Great Migration currently occupies, and 4x4 vehicles will generally be bumper-to-bumper.
If you’ll happily swap a few animal sightings for extra tranquility and authenticity, head south. The massive main parks here, Selous and Ruaha, are untamed, multi-dimensional expanses where tree-clogged waterways give way to parched plains. You have to work harder to see wildlife, but spying other humans is also rare.
The still-wilder west offers equally good game (including the Mahale Mountains’ chimpanzees) blended with serious remoteness. Parks like Katavi are the preserve of long-term Tanzania safari junkies seeking a new fix.
Inspired by Tanzania safari? Explore more safari options in Africa.
When is the best time for a safari in Tanzania?
For wildlife sightings in the west and south, June to October is the best time to plan your Tanzania safari. This is dry season, which means vegetation is lower, improving visibility. There are fewer mosquitos to contend with too. It also means animals tend to congregate around known watering holes.
To see the Great Migration in the Serengeti, June and July are the best months. In April and May several parks in the south and west close to visitors, while the parks in the north can be visited all year round. The northern parks also tend to be more crowded.
- Africa Safari Maasai Boma Camping
- Serengeti Mawe Camp
- Mbalageti Serengeti
- Africa Safari Serengeti Ikoma
Where to stay in Serengeti:
Set in Serengeti, Africa Safari Maasai Boma Camping offers free WiFi, and guests can enjoy a restaurant, a bar and a garden. Guests at the camping can enjoy a buffet or a halal breakfast.
Keekorok is 43 km from the accommodation, while Keekorok Airport is 45 km away. The nearest airport is Keekorok, 45 km from Africa Safari Maasai Boma Camping, and the property offers a paid airport shuttle service.
With river views, Serengeti Mawe Camp is located in Serengeti and has a restaurant, room service, bar, garden and terrace. Both WiFi and private parking are available at the lodge free of charge. There is a fully equipped private bathroom with shower and free toiletries. A continental breakfast is available daily at Serengeti Mawe Camp. There is a shared lounge at this property and guests can go hiking nearby.
Boasting an outdoor swimming pool and free WiFi access, Mbalageti Serengeti is located inside the Serengeti National Park. Guests can have a drink at the onsite bar and relax on the terrace. The units in the lodge are fitted with a fan, safety deposit box and bed linen. While some of the units feature a minibar, fridge and sofa, all the units are fitted with a wardrobe and mosquito net.
A continental breakfast is served daily at the property. Guests can have a meal at the onsite restaurant that specializes in African and international cuisines.
With garden views, Africa Safari Serengeti Ikoma is set in Serengeti and has a restaurant, a 24-hour front desk, bar, garden and terrace. Both WiFi and private parking are available at the lodge free of charge. There is a private bathroom with shower and a hairdryer in each unit, along with free toiletries. A continental breakfast is available every morning at Africa Safari Serengeti Ikoma.
Do any parks specialise in particular animals or activities?
Ruaha National Park has the largest elephant and giraffe population of any African reserve. That's why it's sometimes known as "Giraffe Park". It's also home to 10% of the world’s lion population. Selous is Tanzania’s best national park for seeing rare wild dogs and – together with the Ngorongoro Crater – the best place to see rhinos.
Lovers of the endangered cheetah are directed to the Serengeti’s Ndutu Safari Lodge or Namiri Plains, ideally during January’s calving season. Walking safaris are available in most parks, but try Beho Beho camp in the Selous to enjoy them in league with some of Tanzania’s finest guides.
Looking forward to enjoy the beauty of Tanzania's parks to the full? Check out our 7-days tailor-made park tour.
What about the Great Migration?
Dependent on the caprice of rainfall, this never-ending procession of hundreds of thousands of wildebeest – plus vast zebra and gazelle herds – can usually be accurately pinpointed to certain Serengeti areas at certain times of year.
September and October see the skittish omnivores attempt risky crossings of the Mara River – optimum time for lion, leopard, cheetah, crocodile and hyena to strike. This spectacle happens in the Serengeti’s further-flung north.Go to the Lamai Wedge to watch it unfold with some semblance of exclusivity.
How do I get around on safari in Tanzania?
Light Cessna planes – dinky, 2-18-seat affairs in which you can sit beside the pilot – are the standard transport mode between Tanzania’s camps. In fact, for visitors to the remote south and west regions, they’re the only means of getting from A to B. If you're a nervous fliers be prepared; otherwise, the experience tends to be magical.
It’s possible to do the Northern Circuit by road, but – despite plentiful concrete – this is a long-winded process thanks to Tanzania’s size. Then again, you do earn the opportunity to stop in non-tourist towns and villages, and sample local life.
Inspired to experience safari? Check our 10-days tailor-made luxurious tour to Tanzania.
Do I need a guide?
Having a guide for your trip is definitely advised. In fact, in many parks – the Serengeti included – you must travel with one by law. Having a guide also means you needn’t worry about park entry fees. Even more important is the fact that guides are trained to spot wildlife and and have superior local knowledge, so you're more likely to see the animals.
Most guides are charming, too, making their constant company a pleasure rather than a chore. Rough Guides works with local experts to provide qualified guides.
Family safari in Tanzania
With diverse wildlife and white sandy island beaches, Tanzania is perfect for a family holiday. Safari is a great experience for children, but children under five will be along for the ride only. The type of safari that'll suit you best depends on the age of your youngest child. The older your child is, the more options there are. Whichever type of safari you choose, a good guide is the key to making sure you and the kids get the most from it.
You can also easily combine a safari with a beach holiday in Tanzania. There are plenty of family-friendly beach options along the Tanzanian coast, such as beaches on the Mafia island or Zanzibar.
South Africa is a very popular destination, so check the best routs of South Africa to find some inspiration for the future holidays.
Can I go to the beach afterwards?
Most visitors do. The main draw is Zanzibar, an Indian Ocean island whose beautiful name is adequately matched by a glut of white-sand beaches and teeming coral reefs. Hotels here range from billionaire boltholes to very affordable, charming guesthouses.
Just south of Zanzibar is the quieter and similarly idyllic Mafia Archipelago, especially good for diving. Other options include Pemba, a more remote isle, and the mainland, where a top-notch villa and beach lodge scene has more recently sprung up.
- Antonio Garden Hotel
Where to stay in Zanzibar:
Featuring a bar and a garden, Antonio Garden Hotel is located in Zanzibar City, 400 m from Stone Town Beach and 700 m from Peace Memorial Museum. Among the facilities of this property are a restaurant, a 24-hour front desk and room service, along with free WiFi throughout the property. The hotel features family rooms.
- Sunny Palms Beach Bungalows
Sunny Palms Beach Bungalows features a restaurant, fitness centre, a bar and shared lounge in Zanzibar City. Each accommodation at the 4-star hotel has pool views, and guests can enjoy access to a garden and to a private beach area. The accommodation offers a 24-hour front desk, room service and currency exchange for guests.
- Zanzibar Palace Hotel
Zanzibar Palace Hotel is located in Stone Town on Zanzibar Island. It offers individually decorated suites with free Wi-Fi. The beach is within 1 km from the hotel where guests can enjoy water activities.
All suites feature Zanzibari, Arabic and English décor and are fitted with tiled floors. Each one includes a seating area with a flat-screen TV and telephone. Some suites offer a balcony and a sun deck with a hot tub.
How long do I need for a Tanzania safari?
On the Northern Circuit, spending 2-3 nights at each park will give you time to enjoy every experience – daily game drives, often plus Maasai village visits and walking safaris – without risking cabin fever. Slightly longer per camp is advised in the South, however, to enable true immersion.
There are lots of fantastic safari destinations in Africa. Check out the best safari lodges in Kenya for inspiration.
Tanzania safari is a trully unforgetable expirience. For more inspirational travel tips check our inspirational guidebook, The Rough Guide to the 100 Best Places on Earth 2022.
We may earn commission when you click on links in this article, but this doesn’t influence our editorial standards. We only recommend services that we genuinely believe will enhance your travel experiences.
Top image © Vaclav Sebek/Shutterstock