Last year, over 18 million tourists visited Africa. Over 70% of these travelers spent time in only seven countries. Tanzania and Kenya were among these popular destinations.
There’s no doubt that an African safari should be right at the top of your bucket list, the only question is where to go.
By far the biggest attraction for those who choose to vacation on the Dark Continent is the wildlife. Africa is home to a range of creatures that you will not encounter anywhere else in the world. The best-known of these is the Big Five.
East and southern Africa are the best places to see these creatures in the wild. If you are looking for a rustic African adventure, you should cast your eyes to East Africa. That leaves Tanzania and Kenya locked in a battle for your affections.
This is what you need to think about when choosing between a Tanzania safari vs Kenya.
Why Not Visit Tanzania and Kenya?
In a perfect world, you could get to enjoy both Tanzania and Kenya in your itinerary. This is not possible unless you have a large budget and a lot of time.
While these 2 African countries may share a border, they remain separate entities. Tourists may not cross over between these countries within the main wilderness areas. This means you will have to go around.
Due to this, the trip can take up to 8 hours – by plane. That’s to get from one side of the Sand River in the Masai Mara to one on the opposite river bank in the Serengeti. From your accommodation in Serengeti National Park, you have to transfer to Arusha. From there you catch a flight to Nairobi and onward to your destination in the Mara.
If you choose to go overland via the border post at Isebania, you are in for a long and bumpy ride. It takes half a day to drive from the Serengeti to the border, and another 6 hours to Mara on the other side. This means you will have to overnight somewhere between the two national parks
All this back and forth costs money and takes time.
You have to choose one or the other. These are the things to consider.
Exclusivity and Experience
Safaris in Kenya and Tanzania will suit experienced safari-goers as well as first-timers. As such, they attract travelers from around the world during peak game-viewing times.
Kenya has a robust tourist infrastructure with more lodges to choose from. Active marketing of Kenyan safaris attracts large numbers of tourists to this country.
If you want a more exclusive experience with fewer crowds, Tanzania is the place for you. Here you will find fewer lodges and smaller crowds.
Tanzania is also the larger of the two countries. This means vast spaces to roam and less company while you do it.
To get a personalized experience in Kenya, you will have to travel to remote camps via charter plane. When you do hit the road, you’ll find many tar roads in Kenya’s national parks.
Nairobi International Airport is the hub of East African tourism. Most international carriers offer flights to Nairobi. You may need to catch a connecting flight from here to visit Tanzania.
Kenya has a better infrastructure than it’s poorer relative Tanzania. Nairobi Airport is far superior to Tanzania’s Dar-es-Salaam and Kilimanjaro airports. Some may argue that ‘roughing it’ is part of the adventure when traveling to Africa.
That said, once you arrive in Tanzania, you won’t need to spend as much time airborne between safari camps. The roads are a little more rustic than in Kenya though – perfect for off-road enthusiasts.
When Can You Travel?
East African countries have two seasons – wet and dry. During the Green season (November to May) wildlife is harder to spot. The bush is dense, and the animals disperse far apart due to abundant water sources.
In the dry months (June to October), species gather close to permanent water sources. This makes it a lot easier to find them. This is the most popular time for safaris to both Kenya and Tanzania. Accommodation is at a premium and often fully-booked during these months.
The Great Migration also dictates peak times in these two countries. This massive movement of plains animals is ongoing through Masai Mara and Serengeti.
The peak Migration months aren’t always the best time to visit Tanzania. The great herds are on the move year-round, spending over eight months in Tanzania. You can catch also visit Tanzania during the calving season (December to March). This time of year sees the birth of 1000’s of wildebeest calves, watched by predators of every kind.
Tanzania is one of the world’s best places to see African wildlife. The National Parks brim with species, making it easier to see sought-after animals.
The Serengeti is synonymous with Tanzania, but that’s not all this country has to offer. These are some more highlights of a trip to Tanzania:
- Climbing Kilimanjaro, the highest peak on the continent
- Ngorongoro crater with its abundant water and wildlife
- Archaeological sites at Olduvai Gorge
- The rhinos of Lake Manyara National Park
- Snorkelling and diving at Mafia Island Marine Park
- Tarangire National Park with its massive herds of plains game
- Birding in Selous Game Reserve
- Visiting the chimps in Gombe Stream National Park
The list goes on… offering a vast range of habitats to explore in Tanzania.
When planning a Kenya safari, Masai Mara is most likely top of your list. There are other aspects of this country to explore. Ask your travel agent about:
- Lake Nakuru which is famous for flamingos and rhinos
- Samburu with its Somali ostrich, Beisa oryx, and giraffe-like gerenuk
- Amboseli where you can see the big game against a backdrop of Mount Kilimanjaro
- Lamu’s island appeal
- Mt Kenya, Africa’s second largest mountain
- Tsavo with its diverse landscapes and abundant elephants
Skip the crowds and plan the ultimate Tanzania safari or Kenya adventure. An experienced travel operator can help you plan.
If you want to combine some city experiences with your safari, Kenya should be your first choice. Nairobi is a hub of entertainment, cultural sites, and things to do. This city is so vast that it has a National Park within its limits. You can find 4 of the Big 5 in this conservation area.
The Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage and The Giraffe Center are top Nairobi attractions. Here you can get involved in the conservation of endangered species first-hand.
Tanzanian cities have fewer attractions for tourists. There are a few hidden gems though. Stone Town, the birthplace of Freddie Mercury is one of them. Arusha is a charming town with a real African feel.
For a beach and bush combination safari, Tanzania should be your first choice. The immaculate beaches of Zanzibar and Pemba need no introduction. Their underwater scuba attractions are legendary too.
Costs of a Tanzania Safari vs Kenya
When compared with Kenya, Tanzania wildlife safaris are a little more expensive. Package deals are a cost-effective way to make the most of a visit to Tanzania.
With travel, you get what you pay for. It is possible to arrange a no-frills safari to either country at discount prices.
A word of warning. Kenya is rife with scams and unscrupulous operators trying to make a quick buck off tourists. Fierce competition and high unemployment rates are at the root of the problem.
Always make your arrangements with a reputable travel professional.
Both countries offer a range of accommodation from budget to all-frills luxury lodges. Again, Kenya offers a larger selection due to its bustling tourist trade. That said, you only need one perfect place for your safari.
No trip to Africa is complete without spending a few nights in a tented camp. These often feature a traditional design and charming extras. An outdoor bath or shower is a plush feature of many of them. Your hosts will have everything planned so that you don’t go without little luxuries.
Those who are a little nervous about sleeping under canvas can book exclusive lodges. These often provide amenities that you wouldn’t expect while on safari. Swimming pools and wellness spas are common. One in the Grumeti Reserve even has a tennis court.
The islands of Tanzania have some incredible accommodation options. The Manta Resort off the coast of Pemba has a glass-walled underwater bedroom.
When planning your safari, discuss your needs and preferences with your tour operator. They will surprise you with what they can come up with.
Plan Your African Safari
We hope we’ve made the choice between a Tanzania safari vs. Kenya a little easier. In our experience, Tanzania has more to offer clients on an African safari.
We invite you to get in touch if you need any advice about your travels to Africa.