Kenya and Tanzania Safari
Are you planning an East African safari to Tanzania or Kenya where your time will be spent in nature, game viewing some of the best wildlife Africa has to offer, enjoying the radiant sunshine and building everlasting relationships with your fellow African travelers?
I am often asked to compare Kenya vs Tanzania safaris and tours, to see which would offer the best African experience. This is a great but difficult question as both Kenya and Tanzania are captivating African safari destinations with an abundance of wildlife, where you can have a Big Five Safari Experience.
In a world of tough choices, choosing between a safari in Kenya or Tanzania must be one of the hardest. Both countries offer sensational scenery, fantastic game viewing, different aspects of the Great Wildebeest Migration, and a series of bucket-list activities that defy comparison – did you know you can go chimp trekking in Tanzania, for example?
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1. Location & Landscape
Both countries are in East Africa and have coastlines along the warm Indian Ocean a well as Lake Victoria. As neighbours, they obviously share a common border, a sizable chunk of which consists of Serengeti National Park on the Tanzanian side and the Masai Mara National Reserve on the Kenyan side, together forming the Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem – one of the biggest and most protected ecosystems on Earth. It spans approximately 30 000 square kilometres (12 000 square miles) – about the size of South Carolina.
This means that the Serengeti and Masai Mara form one contiguous ecosystem, artificially ‘divided’ by humankind (there is no physical border, so animals are free to move as they always have, but humans have to go through checkpoints).
Both countries are known for their expansive savannah and golden grasslands – the type of landscape made famous by Out of Africa and The Lion King. This wide-open terrain offers plentiful grazing and, where there are grazers, predators are sure to be found. This is one of the easiest places in the world to spot game as you can have a virtually 360-degree view to the horizon in the Serengeti and Mara. This is the scene for the Great Wildebeest Migration, a continuous movement of two million mostly wildebeest, but also antelope and zebra, in search of water and fresh grazing.
If you’re on a Tight Budget
While both countries offer great off-season deals, a Kenya safari is probably more budget-friendly. It’s a numbers game: Kenya has done much more on the international stage to promote itself, which means more flights, more types of accommodation and more safari lovers (don’t think this means crowded though. Africa is not a place of enormous hotels with thousands of rooms – a 40-room lodge in Kenya is considered unusual and gigantic! The most crowded place on safari will be the Mara River during the Migration crossing; even then, it will be less traffic than the average city intersection).
Your Africa Safari Expert will help you spend your money wisely, choosing suitable accommodation in wildlife areas, perhaps cutting extras like a private pool at your room in favour of an extra day out game viewing.
If You Want to Splurge
A Tanzania safari is generally the pricier of the two, especially if you want to take in very special reserves like the Grumeti, Nyerere (Selous), Ruaha and Mahale. Tanzania is a far bigger country, which means almost all travel outside the Northern Circuit involves transfers by light aircraft (this is also true if you visit northern Kenya but the distances are shorter).
3. Best Places to Stay
Accommodation in both countries can vary from walk-in Meru tents to high-tech ‘space bubbles’ at The Highlands Ngorongoro and extravagant suites built into the rocks at Saruni Samburu. Like your budget, your preferred style of accommodation is highly personal and your Africa Safari Expert will be able to help you decide where to stay.
There are very few large hotels or resorts in either country so lodges and camps fill up very quickly over peak/high safari season. If you want to visit at mid-year, be sure to start planning about a year in advance.
General Tips on Accommodation
- Accommodation like The Giraffe Manor in Nairobi is extremely popular and there is a very long waiting list, so be sure to enquire with ample time in hand (at least a year or more).
- There is a limited number of inter-leading or family suites available, so enquire as soon as you know you want to go in order to secure them.
- If you are travelling with young children, consider a fenced lodge rather than an unfenced one that wild animals can wander through. See our 10 best family safaris in East Africa.
- Let your Africa Safari Expert know in advance if you have dietary requirements (like vegan, kosher or halal) or if you are celebrating a special occasion so they can let your hosts know.
- Most lodges in East Africa do not make use of a tracker like many of those in South Africa – the guide will usually drive and track. Vehicles are also usually ‘closed’ rather than ‘open’ like those in Southern Africa.
6. Best Time to Go
Like budget and accommodation, when to go depends a lot on your personal preferences. It is more affordable to travel in the low or Green Season, and pricier to visit during the peak or high season.
Kenya and Tanzania have two distinct rainy seasons:
- April to May (the ‘long rains’)
- November to December (the ‘short rains’)
Generally, the main rainy season (the long rains) produces tropical downpours in the afternoons and some safari camps close. The short rains season sees the occasional brief shower, but safari camps stay open and game viewing is good.
Remember that seasons are reversed in the southern hemisphere and that rainfall may be ‘late’ or ‘early’ – the presence or absence of rain shapes the entire journey of the migrating wildebeest so use this as a rough guide only: