Luxury Tanzania Safaris
Tanzania is a beautiful country of diverse landscapes ranging from imposing volcanic peaks to endless stretches of open plains to white sand beaches. From top to bottom and east to west, Tanzania offers an authentic East African safari experience: Big Five sightings, luxurious tented safari camps, and rich cultural encounters. Home to famously large herds of migratory and resident wildlife, it’s also the setting for one of the world’s greatest natural spectacles: the Great Migration, a sight that attracts safari enthusiasts for its affirmation of life and timelessness. In the north, beguiling icons like Mount Kilimanjaro, Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park headline the ‘Northern Circuit.’ Nearby, the Rift Valley, and Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Parks reward with equally memorable landscapes and adventures. At the country’s western border, in two forested pockets along Lake Tanganyika’s shore, you’ll find chimpanzees—the only place in all of Tanzania where you can trek to them. Meanwhile, the country’s lesser-visited south is home to some truly wild tracts of remote wilderness. Step aboard a boat safari to ply the banks of the Rufiji River in Nyerere National Park (formerly Selous Game Reserve) or join a research-integrated safari in reclusive Ruaha National Park. Close out a safari on the coast by digging your toes into the powdery beaches of the Zanzibar Archipelago—’spice islands’ that boast long, storied trading histories.
What to Expect on a Luxury Safari in Tanzania
For the most part, luxury safaris in Tanzania focus on game drives as the primary mode of wildlife viewing. Days are typically scheduled around an early morning and an afternoon drive. Sunset is observed with sundowners in-hand—a gin and tonic is the tradition—served in a scenic spot. Depending on your camp or lodge, a gourmet, multi-course dinner can be taken convivially with other guests, privately in your room or al fresco in the bush. After dark, you might gather round an outdoor fire, stargaze, enjoy a night game drive (depending where you are), lay out on a star bed or simply retreat to your room to rest for the next sumptuous day on safari. Activities like hot air ballooning (in the Serengeti), guided bush walks, community visits, research participation (and so much more) add diversity to the day. Wonderfully, Tanzania also offers a host of adventurous options for safari-goers who want to explore on foot. Walking safaris, where you’ll sleep in minimalist but well-equipped fly camps, weave through untouched pockets of the Serengeti or Ngorongoro Highlands.
Hiking Mount Kilimanjaro is not difficult in its technicality. Supported by guides, you won’t carry more than a day pack and a supply of drinking water. The challenge of summiting the world’s tallest, freestanding volcano are the rigors of altitude. Your fitness level, time spent acclimating and choice of route will directly affect your odds of summiting. However, it’s impossible to know how your body will react to altitude until you’ve got (hiking) boots on the ground.
Yes! Abundant wildlife and the Big Five will enthrall your children, bringing the story books and movies they know and love to life. That said, Tanzania safaris often involve being out on extended game drives and camps don’t always have swimming pools or a ton of other activities, which is why we tend to recommend the country for kids ages six and older. If you want to go on safari with your littles under five (it’s totally possible!), connect with an Extraordinary Journeys family specialist who has taken their toddler out on safari for first-hand account.
Yes, malaria is present in Tanzania. When traveling to areas lower than 5,905 feet (1,800 meters) above sea level, the CDC recommends taking anti-malarial medication.
In Arusha, Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) is the main gateway to Tanzania’s popular Northern Circuit safari destinations, including Mount Kilimanjaro, Serengeti National Park, and the Ngorongoro Crater. At the coast, you’ll find Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR) serving Dar es Salaam—Tanzania’s busiest international airport. Abeid Amani Karume International Airport (ZNZ) is located in Zanzibar, connecting the archipelago both domestically and internationally.
Kenya and Tanzania are equally wonderful places to experience a classic, East African safari. In brief, Kenya scores points for accessibility, thanks to better infrastructure and a longer history of tourism. Its Maasai and Samburu cultural connections are also a visitor highlight. Tanzania can be more expensive, and its destinations can be quite remote (not necessarily a bad thing!), meaning getting around can take a bit longer. For many, the appeal of the Northern Circuit is the clincher; Tanzania is home to icons like Mount Kilimanjaro, Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater.
For those who have the time, Tanzania and Kenya are easily combined on a single itinerary via direct flights connecting the Serengeti with the Maasai Mara.
The Great Migration is often presented as a map emblazoned with a clockwise circuit where wildlife cycles between Tanzania’s Serengeti in the south and Kenya’s Maasai Mara in the north, taking place between May and December. (If only!) In this oversimplified illustration of a complex phenomenon, wildlife is in the Serengeti from December to April. As with anything that moves with the rhythms of nature, the Great Migration should be interpreted as a pattern rather than gospel. Still, there are some general guidelines for when and where to visit. We explain it all in our Complete Guide to The Great Migration in Africa—have a read!
Mobile camps are lightweight, temporary safari camps that change locations (pre-selected) one or more times each year to “follow” the Great Migration. Since herd movements are unpredictable and weather-dependent, mobile camps aim to place guests closer to the front row of the action. Mobile camps are designed to be nimble, so you won’t always find amenities like swimming pools, star beds, dedicated spa facilities or bathtubs, and running water. However, this is not to say you’ll be roughing it. Expect swoon-worthy tents outfitted with comfortable beds, ensuite bathrooms with hot showers and flush toilets, and gourmet meals served in dining or lounge areas—all snug in a wilderness setting.
When is the Best Time to go on Safari in Tanzania?
Tanzania’s high season runs from July to October and December to February, coinciding with the dry seasons when game is easier to spot. To avoid the crowds, consider traveling in January-early March, May, November and early December. You might experience light rain during the night, but the grass is the most beautiful shade of green. If you are traveling to western or southern Tanzania, June through October is best, as it can be very hot and humid the rest of the year.
Mid-March through April endure long rains in Tanzania, so be prepared for un-drivable roads and muddy, buggy conditions. During this time, camps in western and southern Tanzania close.
If you’re focused on the Great Migration, plan to visit the Serengeti from January to early March (hello babies and predator action set against a verdant green landscape—a stark contrast to the parched, water-starved dry season), in June/July or from late October to mid-December. (We will advise you on the best camp location based on the month of travel.) Bear in mind that weather patterns are changing across the world. Since the Migration is driven by the pursuit of plentiful grazing grounds and reliable water, it can affect the movement of wildlife.
Mount Kilimanjaro can be climbed year-round, but we recommend avoiding the wettest months: November, April and May.
What’s the average cost of a safari in Tanzania?
Budget itineraries can start as low as $300 per person, per night—but this is the bottom of the range for mass-market tourism. (We don’t recommend or sell these trips.) Upmarket, luxury itineraries range from $1,000 – $1,500 per person, per night during peak season, with the most exclusive properties reaching $4,200 per person, per night. This rate is inclusive of accommodation, internal flights and transportation, expert guides, game viewing drives (shared and/or private), gourmet meals, bar, laundry, park fees and meet/greets at all airports and airstrips. You’ll need to budget for international flights, visas, gratuities and incidentals.
For the best experience, we do not advocate going below $1,000 per person, per night for a Tanzania safari. EJ safari specialists can help you determine where to splurge and where to save or explain how to stretch your dollar by traveling during the shoulder season. We can also recommend regions or travel styles that offer better value.
Is it safe to go on safari in Tanzania?
Yes, Tanzania is a safe, popular place to enjoy a safari, especially when your visit is organized by a reputable travel operator—like Extraordinary Journeys.
Traveling with EJ means every last detail of your bespoke trip is taken care of. You won’t have to worry about things like getting to and from the airport or navigating public transit. Hosts and transportation partners will be anticipating your arrival, and our in-destination concierge will be checking in along the way. Our clients report feeling supported and taken care of.
We only work with reputable companies and operators, so we know you’re in good hands. What’s more, we lean into client feedback which means we’re constantly evaluating to ensure guest expectations were met, especially as they relate to safety and comfort. Ie: guides showed professionalism, drivers were reliable, vehicles and equipment were well-maintained, etc.
Personal safety in urban centers
Unlike a somewhat prescribed and insular safari experience (where most people you’ll encounter are guides, staff or other guests), if your trip passes through an urban center (Arusha and Zanzibar, for example), you may enjoy some self-guided leisure time. No place can be immunized against petty crime or crimes of opportunity, so exercise an awareness of your surroundings and use common sense. Take precautions to protect your belongings, especially valuables. Avoid walking alone at night, avoid demonstrations and travel with authorized taxis. If you’re ever unsure, connect with your in-destination Extraordinary Journeys concierge. We’re ready to support you, 24/7.
On safari, nature is unscripted. It’s vitally important that you listen to your guides and follow their instructions—on game drives and while on-property. You are, after all, on the home turf of some pretty impressive big game—predators included. Safari game drives are generally very safe and inherently, vehicles offer a level of comfort and security. Walking safaris, fly camping and chimp trekking require some extra precautions, but when enjoyed in the company of experts, is also quite safe. It’s also important to keep in mind that guides must abide by various park rules. Some reserves limit visitor hours, some maintain you must remain in your vehicle (no walking). Such rules exist to keep you and the animals safe. Most guided wilderness excursions are accompanied by armed rangers. It goes without saying, never approach or attempt to touch wildlife.
On property, many safari camps are unfenced. This results in magical moments like elephants drinking from the swimming pool. It may also mean you need to be escorted to your suite after dark by a Maasai warrior. Note: as boundary-free concept is not always appropriate for young children. Your guide and lodging will offer safety briefings and orientations.
Health & Safety
A safari will bring you through remote wilderness where medical facilities and supplies are limited. Camps and lodges can offer trained first aid assistance and help with common ailments, but serious emergency medical attention may require an evacuation. Included in every Extraordinary Journeys trip is AMREF Flying Doctors coverage, should you require access to more involved medical care. Regardless of the destination, we recommend that all clients purchase travel insurance. This should include a policy which would pay for evacuation to the United States, if needed. If you regularly take prescription medication (or may potentially require it), prepare to bring a sufficient supply with you. If you have a medical condition or chronic disease, you should visit your doctor to discuss any concerns.
Much of Tanzania’s land area falls under a malaria risk. The blanket advice is to take an antimalarial when traveling below 5,900 feet (1,800 meters) in elevation. (Here’s a helpful interactive map.) Choosing which preventative prophylactic is best for you should be done in consultation with a physician. Note: Tanzania has shown a drug resistance to Chloroquine.
Otherwise, the CDC encourages travelers to be up to date on all routine vaccines.
Are there travel restrictions or requirements for Tanzania?
U.S. citizens require a visa to enter Tanzania. The cost is $100, and we recommend obtaining it either in advance or upon arrival. (Bring cash.) You can also obtain an e-visa in advance. Simply present a printed copy of the approved “grant notice” to the immigration officer upon arrival. Your passport should be valid for a minimum of six months beyond the visa issuance date (or date of entry.) You’ll need at least one blank visa page. The visa is valid for 90 days.
If you are arriving from a yellow fever endemic country (Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Congo or Ethiopia), you’ll need to show a vaccination certificate or waiver by your doctor.
What wildlife will I see on safari in Tanzania?
Lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and African buffalo all call Tanzania home.
The East African nation is a lion stronghold, with sightings in many national parks, but especially in the Serengeti, the Ngorongoro Crater and Ruaha National Park. Cheetah and leopard can be spotted in the Serengeti, the latter favoring Nyerere National Park, too. Tanzania is also home to large herds of elephants, with productive viewing in Tarangire, Ruaha and the Serengeti.
Giraffe (Masai giraffe and Rothschild’s), zebra and buffalo can also be found in parks across the country. Tanzania’s waterways are populated with bloats of hippo and crocodiles. And depending on the season, millions of wildebeest can be found touring the country during the Great Migration, alongside zebra and gazelle—and the predators who stalk them.
Who should go on safari in Tanzania?
Kenya is a safari crowd-pleaser for many types of travelers. It’s a fantastic introduction to Africa travel for those new to the continent and for safari first-timers.
Kenya features as a honeymoon destination for many travelers. Be it the glamor of canvas tents swathed in wilderness, gauzy canopied beds or the romance of the ____, couples—whether newly minted or celebrating milestone anniversaries—as drawn to the savannah. We wrote about some of our favorite romantic destinations and our favorite Kenyan lodges here.
Otherwise, Kenya ranks among EJ’s top destinations for a family safari, a place where children aren’t merely tolerated by camp staff, but embraced. We particularly like to recommend parents and littles stay in private conservancies where flexibility is king. Private vehicles and guides mean your day can revolve around snack breaks and naps, without the stress of inconveniencing other (kid-free) guests. Childminding and programming like scavenger hunts and “bush bumbles” cater to the interests of busy littles. We enjoy sending families to Ol Malo Lodge, Ekorian’s Mugie Camp, Sirikoi, Lewa Wilderness and Kicheche Mara Camp where owners and managers are parents themselves, often with families living on-site.
Many of our favorite small camps are well suited for exclusive use for small groups, and we know some lovely, family-owned-and-hosted properties where solo travelers will feel abundantly welcome.
Kenya is also a destination well suited to the active travelers. Mount Kenya offers trekking opportunities, walking safaris invite you into the bush for some fly camping, and horseback safaris offer a unique vantage point from which to observe wildlife. Helicopter safaris, vintage biplanes and mountain biking dial up the thrill.
Where to Go on a Luxury Tanzania Safari
In our opinion, Grumeti Game Reserve (sitting adjacent to Serengeti National Park and playing an integral component of the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem) is the cream of the crop—one of the most unbelievable places in all of Africa. Faru Faru Lodge is a favorite contemporary camp.
If you’re not focused on the Great Migration, then we recommend visiting the northern Serengeti in the off-season (January to mid-March, June and November to mid-December). The scenery is simply spectacular and since most animals don’t migrate like the wildebeest, you’ll get uninterrupted time with resident wildlife like big cats and antelope herds. A few of our favorite camps include Lamai Serengeti, Serengeti Bushtops and Sayari Camp.
Visiting the Ngorongoro Crater can get crowded at certain times of the year, yet it remains a sight to behold. We recommend Entamanu, an eco-camp situated near the rim in Maasai territory. (Pro tip: head out on game drives in the early morning rather than in the afternoon.)
We also love enjoying the slower safari pace at Chem Chem Lodge, secretly tucked between Tarangire and Lake Manyara.
If you have been to the Serengeti, consider a return trip to western or southern Tanzania. For something a bit more remote and off the beaten path, we love both Ruaha in the south (including Ikuka Safari Camp and Kigelia Ruaha), as well as Mahale Mountains in the west, basing yourself at Greystoke Mahale for some of the best chimp trekking in Africa.
It’s easy to add an extension to Zanzibar or Mafia Island for diving, snorkeling, fishing or just plain relaxing after a busy safari. Zanzibar offers an array of beach activities such as diving, snorkeling, dhow trips and fishing. For more culture, you can explore Stone Town, go on a spice tour, or visit Jozani Forest for the colobus monkeys. For some beach time away from the crowds, The Manta Resort on Pemba Island is unmissable for its dose of barefoot beach luxury.
Booking a luxury safari in Tanzania
A Tanzania safari requires diligent planning. We consider weather, timing, animal movements (if the Great Migration is a priority) and the availability of the best safari camps—some book up well in advance. Extraordinary Journeys’ Africa safari specialists will happily help you parse out which regions and parks will align with your unique interests.