Tanzania Safari Vacations
‘Safari’ Tanzania is well-known. It’s not hard to find a travel agent’s brochure featuring a towering blue Mt. Kilimanjaro framing a silhouetted elephant or two.
There is a lot to shout about: the Serengeti and the Migration, the Ngorongoro Crater, the Spice Islands. But this covers a small fraction of the country.
We love Tanzania for the unsung heroes further south: the Selous for its top class boat-based game viewing, Ruaha and Katavi for their remoteness and excessive concentrations of game, and the Mahale Mountains for the chimps and messing about on Lake Tanganyika.
Top 4 Reasons For A Tanzania Safari Vacation
1. Great Safaris and BeachesOur number one reason for taking the family to Tanzania on vacation are the fabulous safari and beach possibilities.
The islands off the coast of Tanzania are regularly used by savvy marketing execs as a backdrop for chocolate bar adverts. The Indian Ocean is warm, the fish tropical and the sand squeaky white. Tanzania is the place to combine an authentic, wild safari with a Robinson Crusoe beach holiday, and often with a palatable price tag.
2. The Ngorongoro CraterAlthough we don’t recommend staying too long as it gets so busy, the Ngorongoro Crater is certainly one of the most remarkable sights to behold.
The densest concentration of animals in Africa (over 30,000 mammals) which are trapped in the world’s largest (intact) volcanic caldera. This is fascinating for any age, but will definitely win Johnny his geography prize at the end of the year.
3. The MigrationThe Migration in Tanzania, much like Ngorongoro, is another bucket list experience, but definitely talk to us about how to avoid the rabble.
We love Tanzania for the Migration experience because there are so many more opportunities to see it, as the wildebeest remain in the Serengeti for most of the year (heading to Kenya for only around 3 months, July/Aug to Oct/Nov), and it’s also in Tanzania that the wildebeest will calve (around January).
4. AffordableBudget is a good reason to choose Tanzania as a safari holiday location above other countries.
Tanzania has some seriously good lodges at good value prices giving the impression that, unlike some neighbors, Tanzania doesn’t think it’s better than it is – and for this reason, it should.
Why not to visit Tanzania
Tanzania’s north is well connected, but busy. When you head further south, the infrastructure breaks down comparatively. Tanzania’s ‘South’ (i.e. anywhere that isn’t the Serengeti, Ngorongoro or Dar es Salaam) is more of an effort to reach, and things don’t always go to plan (transport, communications).
This can be hard to stomach for travellers not used to the flexibility required for travel in remote Africa. Tanzania may be a world-class safari destination, but it does not always have world-standard services to match (and it would be a shame if it did).
We also don’t recommend taking really young ones, or particularly frail parents to Tanzania because there are no direct flights into Dar.
Also because much of the really fab beach locations are not too easy to get to (Zanzibar and other islands), and they aren’t focused on smaller children.
When to go
on a Tanzania Safari
Tanzania follows the rainy/dry seasons dictated by the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), resulting in a long rain during April and May, and another short rain in November.
Game viewing is usually best during the dry season of June to October, when the waterholes dwindle and the bush is sparse and provides no hiding places.
The second dry season of December to March can also provide excellent game viewing and avoids the busier tourist season of school summer holidays (late July/August).
Beach-wise, year-round the coast of Tanzania is excellent. If you have a choice, avoid the rainy season from March/April to May as you really do want beating sun rays for most beach breaks.
Finally, if you are considering climbing the mighty Mount Kilimanjaro, plan for the dry season June/July until October or Jan/Feb (not for the youngsters).
This is, in our view, the best time to go to the Serengeti on a Migration safari in Tanzania, as this is when the wildebeest will calve, all at the same time.
Imagine the remarkable site as the herd swells and the youngsters are frollicking about, until they get eaten. The sun shines and the flowers are in bloom.
As March wears on, high season drops dramatically to low season (as do the prices) as the rains start, and many camps close.
Wildlife will be there, although less so in the southern parks, but you have less of a chance of seeing it. We’d encourage you to pick another time to plan a luxury Tanzania safari vacation.
Late May heralds the beginning of the dry season, the peak game-viewing period, and your chance of seeing all sorts of big and small game throughout Tanzania’s parks is excellent at this time.
This is the most reliable time to witness the migration, as most of the herd will be massing, starting their journey north to the Mara.
This is in peak dry season, so it is important to get it right when you book during this time to avoid bumping into your neighbours from back home.
The wildlife starts to migrate out of the southern parks such as Tarangire.
In general the southern parks are not as good for big game sightings once the rains start in November, and throughout the period until the longer rains cease in May (Katavi, Selous and Ruaha are better during the dry season).
What to do in Tanzania:
Our Top Experiences
Pristine reef or wreck diving – Pemba IslandTanzania’s reefs lying just offshore are amongst the world’s best, and the wreck-diving are seriously rousing.
Are you brave enough to tackle the merchant ship Paraportiani, half embedded in the sand after running aground during the Arab – Israeli war? We’re actually not, but we loved the boat ride there and the snorkelling on the way back.
Chimp-trekking – Mahale MountainsTake your time to explore through the dense canopy, climbing upwards and plotting an ever-shifting course around streams and waterfalls, towards the pants and grunts the remarkable chimps (teenagers+ only, unfortunately).
Spending an hour with these cousins is worth every hill we ever climbed.
Walk with Warriors – SerengetiA four day hiking safari with Hadzabe warriors will teach you to read tracks, harvest honey, make bows and arrows, and even make fire.
It sounds like hard work, but it’s not. It’s your own-paced adventure, stopping at whatever interests you or your kids along the way (for us it’s always dung beetles rolling along on their balls of poo, and these huge termite mounds which we just can’t get our heads around because you never see the termites!).
4×4, boat and walking safari – SelousIt’s not often you get to hop out of your vehicle and rearrange yourselves on foot for a better view of a herd of elies, or hop out of your vehicle and jump on a boat to drift down a meandering river, nor hop out of your boat and enjoy a sundowner and a fire when the scenery inspires you.
You are really free in the Selous, away from Big Brother and his rules.
Dhow dolphin safari – Menai BayOn a traditional dhow sailing boat, cruise to Menai Bay Conservation Area and swim with dolphins – one of the most remarkable and intelligent mammals on earth.
Then why not try your hand at spearing big game fish while free-diving?