Tanzania is one of the best places in Africa to do a safari where you’ll get the chance to see all of the animals you’ve ever dreamed of as a kid. Recently we did a 6-day safari and this is the ultimate guide to planning the best Tanzania Safari!
If you want to feel transported to the set of the Lion King, then Tanzania is where you should do your first African safari! You’ll see all of the animals, landscapes and even Pride Rock!
I’ve always wanted to do an African Safari in Tanzania, but I never really thought that it would be possible. I was under the impression that a safari in Tanzania would cost a minimum of $5000, and the thought of spending that much for just a few days made my stomach hurt.
However, I found really affordable safaris in Tanzania, ranging from $800 USD for 6 -day camping trip up to over $5000 for the same itinerary in a luxury lodge.
That said, the best way to go on a Tanzania safari is with local safari owners! We paid less than $200/night in LODGES! I highly recommend booking with local safari owners instead of Western Owned operators because you will give back to the community and it’ll be cheaper too! We had an amazing experience and it was more than worth it.
There are a variety of price ranges to choose from and you’ll have an amazing time no matter what your budget is.
If you’ve ever wondered how to plan an African Safari or what animals you can see on a Safari in Tanzania this post is for you!
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why go to Tanzania?
Tanzania is a beautiful country off the East Coast of Africa. It has many National Parks where you can see hundreds of wild animals (including the big 5), it’s home to the famous Mount Kilimanjaro (the highest mountain in Africa) and also has the beautiful island of Zanzibar where you can relax on pristine beaches and enjoy crystal clear blue waters.
TIps for What to do before your tanzania safari:
Before starting your African Safari adventure, there are a few REALLY important things that you should do.
get Travel Insurance
While we all believe that nothing bad will ever happen to us while we’re traveling, there are no guarantees in life.
I always use and highly recommend World Nomads for Travel insurance because they protect you for much more than just health related stuff.
Depending on the package you choose, you will get coverage for: medical needs, lost or stolen items (this is a huge relief especially when traveling with a lot of expensive electronics!), damaged items, luggage delay and they cover you for MANY sports and adventure activities as well.
Seriously, never travel without insurance! Check out the best package for you here!
Getting your Visa
You will need a visa to enter Tanzania and it costs $50 USD.
You can get it on arrival or ahead of time but we opted to get ours on arrival because the paper work to do it ahead of time seemed like more trouble than it was worth and it was a pretty painless process getting it on arrival.
Getting our visa on Arrival:
When we arrived at the airport, we filled out an arrival card and then made our way to the border control guys. They looked at our passports, took our fingerprints and then sent us to another line a few booths away.
In the next booth, they looked at our passports again and took our photos. Then they sent us to another place to give our passports and pay the visa fee.
After submitting our passports and paying the feed, we didn’t receive a receipt but went to the waiting area where a bunch of other people were waiting for their passports.
There were about 5-10 people ahead of us and we waited about 20 minutes or so before hearing our names being called.
It was pretty straight forward, we got our passports and left the airport 🙂
Vaccinations & Yellow Fever card
Before any trip you should always make sure that your vaccinations are up to date!
Tanzania doesn’t have many health risks, but if you are departing from a country which has a risk of Yellow Fever you MUST have a yellow fever card to show that you are vaccinated or you will NOT be allowed to enter the country.
If you just have a layover in a at risk of yellow-fever country (like Kenya), you do not need a yellow fever card.
You should be vaccinated for:
- Hepatitis A & B
- Dukurol – or something for Travelers Diarrhea (you don’t want to poop in the plains!)
- You’ll need anti-malaria pills as there is malaria in Tanzania, especially in the safari areas
Is it okay to bring kids on a safari in Tanzania?
I wouldn’t recommend bringing young kids on a safari because the roads are very bumpy and even as an adult, you will get easily fatigued.
Between the bumpy roads, dusty air, long hours driving and the sun – I was exhausted at the end of each day and I can only imagine a kid would be very miserable and want to leave ASAP.
In my opinion, if kids are coming on the safari they should be 8 years or older and be okay with bumping around in a car for 8 hours /day without throwing a fit and wanting to cut your safari short.
It ain’t cheap, so if you have young kids it may be better to wait until they’re older to do your dream safari.
What currency do they use in Tanzania?
They use both USD and Tanzanian shillings.
You can’t get TZ shillings before you enter Tanzania, but once you land you can get money from ATMs in big cities like Dar Es Salaam, Arusha or Stonetown in Zanzibar.
You can also exchange USDs for shillings at the banks or Foreign Exchange Bureaus. Recently, they closed a lot of Forex Bureaus so I highly recommend exchanging enough money from the bank when you are in the city.
You can easily find banks in Arusha and Dar Es Salaam and you’ll also get the best exchange rate at banks.
Since we pretty much landed and went to Arusha for the safari the next day, we exchanged USDs for shillings the morning of our first day of the safari.
We simply asked our driver if we could go to the bank to exchange some shillings and he took us there. You must have your passport with you to exchange money, so don’t forget it!
It was such a relief knowing we had local currency and wouldn’t have to use our USDs or pay more because we didn’t have shillings.
how much money do you need during the safari?
Your safari should cover the major costs like food, accommodation, guide and all park fees but you may need some money during the safari as well.
One of the best tips for your safari in Tanzania is ensuring you have extra money for things like beer, snacks, laundry (it’s dusty AF) and souvenirs you may like.
I recommend budgeting around $30 USD per day just to be safe, but you’ll likely spend much less.
We only spent money on beer and the average cost was $3 per beer. Bottles of wine ranged between $25-$35 and they didn’t sell by the glass. Souvenirs start at around $3 and prices go up from there. Don’t forget to bargain!
You should also budget for tipping your guide roughly $20/per day as a group.
Which national Parks to visit on your tanzania safari?
The two National Parks which you MUST visit during your Tanzania safari are: The Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater. We were able to see the big five in these National Parks and it was incredible!
Since the Serengeti is so large, you’ll need at least 2 days to drive in far enough to see the animals. The Serengeti, which literally means land of endless plains, makes it easy to spot animals.
Animals you’ll see in the Serengeti:
We saw countless gazelles, lots of lions, zebras, ostriches, giraffes, baboons, cape buffalo, hippos, elephants, several cheetahs (with cubs!) and even the rare and elusive leopard with a cub! It was incredible.
The Ngorongoro Crater:
The Ngorongoro crater is like being in another world. After driving through a dense, misty rainforest you’ll go down into the crater where it’s sunny and dry.
It’s one of the most densely packed wildlife areas and is home to over 30,000 animals spread out throughout the crater. It’s really one of the most unique and interesting places in the world!
Animals you’ll see in the Ngorongroro Crater:
Hundreds of zebras, wildebeest, cape buffalo, thousands of flamingos, lions, the bustard bird, ostriches, crowned cranes, rhinos – but no giraffes and we didn’t see any elephants either.
If you can only do 1 day for a safari, Ngorongoro crater is the place to go!
Tarangire National Park
If you have more time (and more budget) I would also highly recommend Tarangire National Park which has the largest population of elephants and was one of my favorite parks.
Animals you’ll see in Tarangire National Park:
Hundreds of elephants, giraffes, ostriches, warthogs, wildebeests, birds, baboons and more.
Manyara lake National Park:
You can also add Manyara Lake National Park to your itinerary if you have time. It’s most known for the amazing species of migratory birds and flocks of flamingos that live here.
We went here on our last day of the 6-day safari and it was a little bit cold and we were also a bit tired by this point.
Our guide said that because of the cold weather many of the animals were hiding, but even the landscape wasn’t too impressive.
If you’re short on time or have a small budget, then you can definitely skip Manyara Lake in my opinion.
Animals you’ll see in Manyara National Park:
Several unique species of African birds, white pelicans, storks, elephants, flamingos.
What is a good safari itinerary?
There are several safari options available ranging from 1 day up to more than 10 days.
I think that a 4-5 day itinerary is enough to see everything that you want to.
This was the 6 day itinerary we did:
Day 1 – Tarangire National Park (3-4 hr drive to arrive there)
Day 2 -4 – The Serengeti (3-4 hour drive to arrive there)
It takes a few hours to reach the Serengeti so Day 1 is a half day game drive.
Day 3 is a full day game drive and we stayed in a tented lodge in the Serengeti!
Day 4 is another half day game drive because then we have the 3-4 hours drive back out of the park and to our lodge near the Ngorongroro crater.
Day 5 – Ngorongoro Crater (1-2 hours to arrive there)
Day 6 – Manyara National Park (1-2 hours to arrive there)
If you can do only do 5 days, then skip Manyara National Park.
If you can only do 4 days, then skip Manyara National Park and Tarangire National Park and head straight to the Serengeti!
It was an awesome experience and extremely well priced! The food was good and we stayed in beautiful lodges (not tents)!
When is the Best time to visit Tanzania for a safari?
The best time to do a Tanzania safari depends on what your goals are. It’s the circle of life so the different seasons will affect the landscapes and wildlife that you’ll see.
As always, during peak season the price will be higher than during the low or shoulder season, so your budget will also affect the best time to do a safari in Tanzania as well.
The Dry Season is from June to October is typically known as the best time to do a Tanzania Safari but the rainy season has some good points as well!
Dry Season – June to October
- June and July are the best months to see the wildebeest migration
- It’s easier to spot animals since the grass is low and animals can easily be found near waterholes
- It’s great weather, no rain and less mozzies. Even though it’s sunny, the jeep feels cool because the opened windows and breeze will keep you cool!
- Even though there are more crowds during the dry season, you the parks are so big that you won’t feel crowded.
- Rates are a little higher due to peak season
November to May –Wet Season
- The best time to see new born wildebeest calves is from January to February in the southern Serengeti. It’s also the best time to catch a glimpse of a lion catching prey if you’re lucky!
- The rains give new life to the landscapes and everything is lush and green
- Rainy season means less crowds and lower costs during the low season
- There are many more animal species to see during the wet season because resources are plentiful.
- Bird watching paradise as many migratory birds are here during this season
- The rain is usually short afternoon showers except in March, April and May which is the peak of the wet season.
How much should a safari cost?
The cost of your safari depends on a few factors.
- Is it a local or “Western” owned company? Typically, Western owned companies charge a lot more than locally owned companies do. This is because Western companies pay a lot for websites, marketing and advertising which in turn gives them more customers and enough profit to keep charging more. You’ll always get a better rate by booking with a locally owned company.
- The type of accommodation you’ll have (camping, budget lodges, luxury etc.)
- Number of days and which National parks you’ll visit
- Shared or Private tour
- Quality of food
Types of Safari Accommodations:
There are 4 tiers of Safari Accommodations:
- $ Camping ($100-$200/night in a group tour)
- $$ Tented Lodge ($200-250/night in a group tour)
- $$$ Budget Lodges ($200-350/ night in a group tour)
- $$$$ Luxury Lodges ($500+)
I considered camping because it was SO cheap, but after thinking about using the washroom at night, I quickly changed my mind and opted for lodges!
When booking your safari, always ask what the accommodation is and look it up online before agreeing to book it!
Should you do a shared group safari or a private safari?
Honestly, if you can afford the extra cost of doing a private safari then I one hundred percent recommend doing a private safari!
We booked a shared safari, but the night before lucked out and were able to get a private safari due to a change in the schedule.
Each safari jeep is spacious and can comfortably seat 6 people – if you opt for a shared safari, you will most likely be a full jeep.
While this seems okay, the problem is when you’re out on safari and trying to see the animals.
We were constantly switching seats, moving from the left side to the right side for a better view, standing on each others seats and moving around like we were playing musical chairs!
If you have a full jeep shared with people you just met, it’s simply not possible to do that because you’ll be in someone else’s way.
Another benefit of a private safari is that you can stay as long or as short as you want in certain areas, you don’t have to worry about wasting other people’s time and vice versa.
You also have total control of where and when you go! There were times we wanted to leave really early and other times we were okay with leaving a bit later and we didn’t have to compromise with anyone else.
Additionally there were no new personalities or conflicts. You just never know who you’ll get in the people lottery when sharing a group tour.
If you’re paying thousands of dollars to go on this safari, it’s worth it to spend a little more to be more comfortable and have the safari you want without having to settle.
All that said, you can save a few hundred for each person by opting for a shared safari and it can be good too however after my experience, I strongly feel like the private safari would be worth the extra expense (and I’m cheap AF!).
How to find the best safari for you?
To find a safari, I used Google, TripAdvisor and Facebook groups to ask for recommendations.
Next, I emailed each company for a quotes based on:
- Length of time (4-6 days)
- Accommodations (camping and lodges)
- National Parks (I wanted a minimum of 3 days in the Serengeti and 1 Day in the Ngorongoro Crater)
After receiving the quotes, you can narrow your list of choices down based on quotes in your price range and look up the reviews up on TripAdvisor.
Remember to always take these reviews with a grain of salt because sometimes people be crazy and the ratings don’t always reflect the quality of the service.
Ask a lot of questions and make sure that you feel comfortable with the itinerary before confirming with the company.
Once you’ve chosen the company you want to book with, they’ll ask you to send a 10% deposit to hold your spot.
I know this can seem scary and maybe even scammy, but it’s a normal business practice.
I recommend paying with a credit card because your credit card will protect you from fraud if it turns out to be a scam – (which it won’t be) but at least you know you’re protected.
Once it’s booked, start preparing! You’re going on a safari baby!
What is the best camera and lens to bring for your Tanzania Safari?
To capture really great photos, you’ll need a zoom lens. I recommend a minimum or 18-135mm but anything higher is even better!
For beautiful wide angle shots of the landscapes and animals, this wide angle lens is perfect.
I used my Sony A6500 mirrorless camera with a 18-135 lens which was perfect for most of the photos since we were often quite close to the animals. This camera is small and lightweight, I love using it on all of my trips!
When we were further out, I used a 70 -300mm lens and was able to get some really phenomenal photos.
If you don’t really want to switch lenses, or don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on a DSLR camera then this is the perfect camera for you to bring on safari.
It’s relatively affordable, has a 60x zoom and will give you stunning photos.
What to wear on safari?
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to wear olive green, beige and neutral colors on safari. You can just wear normal clothes!
You should avoid black and blue colors as tse tse flies are attracted to these colors.
I definitely recommend packing long sleeves shirts and pants to wear at night and to protect against bug bites.
PRO TIP: You should wear clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty because EVERYTHING will get dirty from the dust during the game drives.
What to pack for your Tanzania Safari
Packing is always the most intimidating part of any trip but don’t worry because this is the ultimate packing list for your Tanzania Safari.
If you’re doing a shared group safari, then you’ll have limited trunk space to fit all of the luggage. You’ll have to bring just a few items for the safari and the rest of your things will be stored at the companies’ office.
Here is a list of the essentials you need to pack for your Tanzania Safari:
- A collapsible backpack
- A flashlight
- Earplugs – those animals are noisy at night!
- Binoculars – seriously, these come in SO HANDY for observing the animals when you’re far away
- Camera, phone, chargers, powerbank
- Sports bra – those bumpy rides are intense!
- 2 Long sleeve shirts
- 1 long pants (or these convertible pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 3 t-shirts
- Sleeping clothes
- 1 warm sweater or zip up
- 1 waterproof jacket
- Walking shoes
- Flip Flops (for showers)
You should also bring these first aid things just in case:
- Lip balm
- Insect repellent with Deet
- Anti-malarial medication
- Ibuprofen or Paracetomol
- Antihistamines in case of allergic reactions to bug bites
- Advil Cold and flu
- Rubbing alcohol swabs
- Vaseline – your nose will get VERY dry from all the dust!
Check out this post on the ulitmate packing guide for other things you may want to bring!
Where to go after the safari?
Zanzibar! It has the best beaches, blue waters and so much to do on this beautiful island!
Or if you’re looking for more adventure you can climb mount Kilimanjaro!
Where to go to see specific animals in tanzania:
where to see The Big Five
The Big Five are Africa’s most iconic animals – named the Big 5 not for their size, but because of their difficulty to be hunted on foot many, many years ago.
The Big Five crew consists of: The cape buffalo, lions, leopards, elephants and the rare rhino.
You can see the big five during your safari in the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro crater, but Tarangire is home to hundreds of elephants which is amazing too!
Animals by National Park:
- Lions: The Ngorongoro Crater, the Seronera region of the Serengeti, and Lake Manyara
- Leopards: The Seronera region of the Serengeti
- Elephants: Tarangire National Park, Ngorongoro Crater and sometimes Manyara National Park
- Cape Buffalo: They can be seen in any of the parks, but you will definitely see them in the Ngorongoro crater
- Rhino: This endangered species is rare to find anywhere other than the Ngorongoro Crater. We were lucky enough to spot one there!
where to see The Wildebeest Migration
Each year more than 1,000,000 Wildebeest migrate from the Ndutu region of the Serengeti to the Maasai Mara during The Wildebeest Migration.
It’s a phenomenal event to see and makes safaris in Tanzania and Kenya very popular.
You can see this migration moving across the Serengeti in different areas several times during the year.
The most popular time is during June and July as they are in a more accessible part of the Serengeti – Central Serengeti
Other times/places to see the migration are:
- December – March: Ndutu in Southern Serengeti
- April – May: Grumeti in Western Serengeti
- June – July: Seronera in Central Serengeti
- July – September/October: Lobo/Kogatende in Northern Serengeti
Giraffes & Zebras
These guys are everywhere! In the serengeti we saw a gigantic herd of over a thousand zebras and it was insane! You’ll see them everywhere.
Giraffes are also seen in all of the safari areas but the largest population of giraffes live in Arusha National Park.
You can see thousands of flamingos from a distance in the Ngorongoro Crater and seasonally at Lake Manyara.
We were quite far from them, so you definitely need a good zoom lens and binoculars to see them in the Ngorongoro Crater.
You can also spot them at Lake Natron which is one of the most popular places to spot flamingos in Tanzania.
We saw lots of hippos bathing in a lake in the Serengeti, but you can also spot them in the Ngorongoro crater and Lake Manyara as well.
You can see birds in all the parks but the best places to see several species of unique African birds are Lake Manyara and Arusha National Park.
We saw a lot of birds at Lake Manyara, but we also saw many special ones in the Ngorongoro Crater like the beautiful crowned crane, eagles, vultures, and the kori bustard bird which stand over 3 ft tall!
Baboons are everywhere. You’ll see lots of them at the entrance of the Ngorongoro Crater where you sign in and many more in all of the parks.
They are really cool to observe and we even saw them cuddling together in Manyara National Park during our cold safari game drive.
Arusha National Park is known as the best place to see baboons and the black and white colobus monkeys.
the wrap up:
This Tanzania Safari was better than I expected and I loved every minute of it! I hope that this post has given you all the info you need to help you plan your first Safari in Africa !
Tanzania is definitely one of the best countries in Africa where you’ll be able to see the big five, and you’ll make incredible memories!
Leave a comment below and let me know what you think or if you have any other questions!
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