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Written by: Juan Proll on 20 April 2022

How to plan a safari in Tanzania? Your questions our answers

Safari in Tanzania

Without question, Tanzania is one of the most popular countries for African safari lovers. Kilimanjaro and the beautiful beaches of Zanzibar attract visitors from around the world to the home of the Masai. Above all, the unique wildlife in the famous Serengeti and other national parks make it worth a long-distance trip for most. If you’re wondering how to plan a safari in Tanzania, read on as I will answer some common questions today.

Kati Kati Camp Serengeti

If you haven’t travelled around East Africa yet, you might have quite a few questions about planning a safari trip to Tanzania. A long-distance trip to East Africa requires quite a bit of different planning than for a weekend-away. And there are certainly a few things to consider when organising a trip to Tanzania.

Want to learn more about traveling to Tanzania? We are happy to advise.

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Why should I travel to Tanzania?

Tanzania’s national parks and wildlife sanctuaries are the epitome of wilderness. The wildlife is real. Here you can experience what you might only know from a visit to the zoo: elephants, leopards, lions, hippos, crocodiles, zebras, giraffes and so many more. You can observe wildlife in their natural habitat, without a fence or bars in between. This also includes great views of the savannah, bush and mountain landscapes. Among them Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, which offers many great hiking opportunities, and Zanzibar, the pearl of the Indian Ocean with alluring beaches that invite you to relax. Travelling to Tanzania feels like immersing yourself in another world that is so exotically “different” from Central Europe in terms of culture, landscape and climate that you quickly feel like you’re on vacation.

What can I expect from a Tanzania safari?

Expect wildlife, wildlife, wildlife! Expect beautiful lodges to stay at if you’re not going on a camping trip. Expect Land Cruisers that not only guarantee you a window seat, but also a pop-up roof with 360° panoramic views. And expect a great service for all your travel needs.

Should I organize the safari trip myself or use a travel agency?

There are certainly “easier” countries than Tanzania to organise a trip yourself, especially when looking at the country’s infrastructure as well as prices for trips. But there are still travellers who are happy to accept the challenge and plan and book the trip themselves. They do it for a variety of reasons: Because it’s just fun, or they think it’ll be cheaper, or because it promises more adventures.

However, the enormous effort involved in planning a safari to Tanzania is simply too much for most travellers. There is too much research that needs to be done as well as a high level of uncertainty if you don’t have up to date knowledge of the situation on the ground. That’s where we come in, so you spend less time researching, worrying, and comparing, and more time looking forward to your trip. We take care of program suggestions, calculating prices, booking accommodations and transfers, and working out details: including detailed program descriptions, information on driving times and distances, links to accommodations as well as overviews of services that are included or excluded, so you can budget better. Last but not least, we provide an experienced driver-guide and a reliable safari vehicle. It gives you a sense of support and security. And it makes the planning of your safari a relaxing experience without you having to miss out on any adventures.

So the question is: Which group do you belong to?

Safari vehicle Tanzania

Why should I book a trip with Tanzania-Experience?

The choice of travel companies in Tanzania is huge and not easy to navigate. Without recommendations from friends or family, a lot of research on the internet, on Tripadvisor (or comparable sites) and in forums is often necessary. If you’re wondering how to choose the best tour operator for your trip, have a look at this blog where we share some advice.

Tanzania-Experience is an international company with German roots and based in Arusha. A very big advantage for our guests: we are a travel agency as well as a tour operator. This means we not only offer tours for you to book, but we actually put together the itinerary ourselves and run the trip with our own people and our own vehicles. As our guest, you benefit from this one-stop-shop setup as it allows more flexibility and ensures smooth communication ahead, during and after your trip.

And so our team of experts has been accompanying guests from all over the world on their adventures for the past 15 years. Reliability, planning security and excellent local knowledge of all employees, from the people in sales to the guide, characterise Tanzania-Experience. In addition, since 2017 we have annually been awarded the Tripadvisor “Certificate of Excellence Travellers’ Choice”, which is a great acknowledgement of our work.

When is the best time of year for a safari trip to Tanzania?

The best time of the year to visit Tanzania depends on what you are hoping to see, do and experience. When considering how to plan a safari, deciding on travel dates or at least a season is often one of the first things you’ll do. High season in Tanzania is from June to October because of the dry season and the Great Migration, but also in January and February, because it is the time when wildebeest give birth to their calves en masse. At the same time, the prices are also much higher. If that fits your travel budget – great. If not, then it is important to know that apart from the “mass calving” and the Great Migration you can otherwise experience the wildlife of Tanzania all year round.

Giraffes Wildlife Safari Tanzania

You might even end up going on safari in the rainy season. Driving on the dirt roads in the national parks can be very challenging after heavy downpours, adding to the adventurous character of your safari. But even during the rainy season, it usually doesn’t rain all day long. Instead, the rains start and stop at around the same time, e.g. for a few hours in the afternoon or at night. Nevertheless, April and May, sometimes November, are usually reserved for the adventurous safari-goers or real rain lovers.

How many days should you spend on safari?

The answer to this question not only depends on how much wildlife you want to see, but of course also on your budget. Two or three days can work. The experience will get better and more relaxed when you spend at least four days on safari. This leaves room for at least two national parks worth seeing. If you want to enjoy the Serengeti as well, I recommend at least five days. But believe me: even seven days go by far too quickly, whether on a lodge safari or a camping tour. Personally, I love guided camping safaris of seven or more days because I feel even closer to the animal world and at the same time, I can enjoy our chef’s great cooking.

Before going on safari, many climb Kilimanjaro and after the safari even more relax on the white sandy beaches of Zanzibar. This way you can easily fill ten days or two to three weeks of vacation.

Should I drive myself or should I go on a guided tour?

If you want to read more about the advantages and disadvantages of self-drive tours, I recommend my blog on the same topic. Basically, of course, it’s a matter of taste. The self-drive tours are considered more adventurous. On the other hand, many travellers enjoy the guided tours because they don’t have to worry about a thing, they don’t even have to concentrate on left-hand traffic all the time (for all those being used to driving on the right-hand side of the road this is a real issue!). Furthermore, the guide gives you a much deeper understanding of the country and its people as well as the behaviour of the wildlife.

Safari Guide Tanzania

How far in advance should I start planning my safari to Tanzania?

The answer to this question depends very much on the decision whether you want to organize the trip yourself or whether you ask a travel company such as Tanzania-Experience to do the heavy lifting and organise the trip. The questions of whether the safari should run during the high season, shoulder season or low season and how well you already know the country also determine the best time to start planning your safari.

Especially if you want to organize everything yourself and are planning for the high season, you should start at least one year in advance. Usually, the flight schedules of the airlines have then been published and you can consider booking of flights, rental car as well as lodge or campsite in one go. Guided safaris organised by a tour operator can be planned with a much shorter lead time. As tour operator, we not only have great contacts to accommodations, but know the ins and outs of how to plan a safari in Tanzania, meaning we need considerable shorter time for research, planning and organisation.

Many travellers tend to hire travel companies, especially when it comes to spontaneous safaris starting the next week or the next month. We fully understand that. And of course we try our best to fulfill any of your wishes. But in these cases, we as travel company may also have to struggle with some limitations. Especially during the high season, due to limited availability, we live by the motto: the earlier, the better! 1 year = fantastic, 9 months = great, 6 months = many things are still possible, 3 months = challenging but doable, 1 month = we try to make the impossible possible. The shorter the lead time the more flexible you may need to be when choosing your preferred accommodations, especially during the high season.

What do I have to consider when planning my Tanzania safari?

When it comes to the question of how to plan a safari in Tanzania, the first thing to decide is whether you want to organize the trip completely or partially yourself, or work with an experienced tour operator on the ground. Accordingly, it is important to start organizing as early as possible.

If you travel with us, you will find ideas and inspiration for tours on our website. This way you can quickly find out what might interest you. Of course, we also offer tailor-made itineraries if you have very specific ideas or can’t quite find what you’re looking for. That’s what we’re here for! Once you have decided on your travel dates, know the number of fellow travellers (including the undecided ones) and have a rough idea of what you’d like to see and do, like going on a safari in the Serengeti, then you can just get in touch with us. First of all, we provide clarity where you need it, for example when looking at the itinerary or the budget. We will then put together a proposal and calculate the cost for you. Once all looks good to you, we will then get to work booking your accommodations and keep you posted about the outcome. Your personal travel expert will keep you in the loop and consider every request, whether you need 24/7 electricity supply for medical reasons or you follow a very specific diet.

How much does a Tanzania safari cost?

Tanzania is actually not a cheap travel destination and, in many ways, still reminds of times when safaris were an unaffordable luxury for most people. The high prices in the country are now also a means of controlling the flow of visitors. But even that has become difficult in this top safari destination: the range of accommodations and safari providers has grown significantly and the competition among each other creates prices that are more accessible. So more tourists feel attracted to visit the country.

However, it is beyond the scope of my blog to provide detailed price information. But a look at the various safari offers gives you a good idea what to expect.

Basically, the cost of your safari depends on several factors, including:

  • the season
  • the choice of accommodations
  • the fees of the national parks and protected areas
  • the duration of the trip
  • the choice of transport (4WD or light aircraft)
  • guided safari or self-drive tour
  • additional activities, tips, et cetera.

But keep in mind: self-drive tours in Tanzania can easily turn out to be more expensive than guided tours.

Safari planning Tanzania

What is included in the price of a safari?

Our guided safari offers usually include the transfer from/to the airport, accommodation, full board, drinking water, the safari vehicle, diesel, a professional guide and all entrance fees for the national parks and nature reserves agreed in the program.

What is not included in the price?

The price of our guided safari does not include tips, optional activities, drinks in the accommodation or in restaurants or shops along the way, visa fees, domestic (e.g. to Zanzibar) and international exit fees, souvenirs and the like.

Where is the best place to see wildlife?

It is not for nothing that the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater have an excellent reputation for extraordinarily good opportunities for wildlife observation. At the same time, they are very different in terms of landscape: the endless savannas on the one hand, the descent into the crater panorama of the extinct volcano on the other.

In addition, a number of national parks stretch like a string of pearls along the route between Arusha – the safari capital of the north – and the Serengeti, including Arusha, Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Parks. You might not see all of the Big Five (leopard, lion, elephant, buffalo and rhino) in every park. But they are still endowed with great wildlife, which of course includes giraffes, zebras, hippos, crocodiles, cheetahs, hyenas, and numerous antelope species, including wildebeest and Thomson’s gazelle.

The national parks in the southern part of the country, such as the Mikumi, Ruaha and Nyerere National Parks, are home to a great number of wildlife of different species. Even wild dogs can be found here on occasion as well as lions taking a nap high up in a large Acacia tree.

Ruaha National Park Tanzania

If you want to see chimpanzees in the wild, you should visit the Gombe (Stream) National Park. For a long time, it was also the home of world-renowned chimpanzee researcher Jane Goodall. Unfortunately, this park is a bit remote.

Basically, for reasons of time and cost, it makes sense to focus on one region and explore this area in more depth. The country is too big and the possibilities too varied to be able to see and experience everything on one trip.

What happens on a safari?

A typical day on a lodge safari, for example, certainly answers this question well enough: It usually starts around 6 a.m. and usually ends before dark in the evening. You can enjoy a delicious breakfast, after which you can start the game drive. You usually get lunch in the form of a lunch box, which you can eat at a picnic area – the contents of course, not the box itself. Depending on the location and the course of the tour, a hot lunch in your accommodation is also possible. In the afternoon, you embark on more game drives before returning to the lodge or tented camp. Your accommodation may be located either inside or outside the national parks and protected areas. A typical day on safari therefore focuses on wildlife sightings. You can do that all day long. But especially on hot and very sunny days, the best times for this, for humans and animals alike, are usually the early morning and evening hours. Then the temperatures are cooler and the animals more active.

If you go on a private and not guided safari you are flexible to structure your day as you wish – you can even sleep in once in a while if you want to. This flexibility is the best option especially for families with children. There are a few things you should keep in mind when planning a Tanzania safari with children which we have listed in this blog.

What additional activities could I do while on safari?

Activities that are booked on top of game drives include hot air balloon rides over the Serengeti, visiting a Masai Boma Village or visiting the hunter-gatherers of the Hadza people, a bush walk in the wildlife habitats, a visit to the Oldovai Gorge Museum or horseback rides into the wilderness for experienced equestrians.

What do I have to consider with regards to my luggage when planning a safari?

It is important to note three things when it comes to luggage:

  1. For the greatest possible flexibility and the best possible use of storage space in the safari vehicle, do not use hard-shell suitcases but rather soft-shell bags or backpacks.
  2. You need to consider the weight of your luggage. Depending on the airline, 20-23 kg of check-in luggage plus hand luggage is the restriction for international flights in economy class. Anyone planning domestic flights during their stay in Tanzania should take into account that smaller private airlines in particular might only allow 15 kg including hand luggage per person.
  3. In addition to your clothes, you should not forget the following things, among others:
  • flashlight or headlamp
  • binoculars
  • day pack
  • sun protection for the lips, sunscreen, sunglasses, sun hat
  • photographic equipment including charger or spare batteries
  • socket adapter
  • vaccination certificate
  • necessary medication

How should I plan for a safari from a health perspective?

In principle, it is advisable for upcoming long-distance trips to seek advice from a general practitioner and tropical medicine doctor in relation to any vaccinations, malaria prophylaxis and so on before departure. Some vaccinations require a longer lead time.

A yellow fever vaccination is mandatory if you are traveling from a yellow fever area where you have not only had a short transit.

The seasonal extent of malaria, dengue fever, sleeping sickness and intestinal diseases must be kept in mind and taken into account with regards to medication.

In addition, an international travel health insurance including medical repatriation is very useful in any case. When booking with Tanzania-Experience, you are for the duration of your safari insured with AMREF-Flying Doctors. In the event of a medical emergency, this insurance covers transport by small aircraft from an airstrip/airport to the nearest hospital, for example in Arusha or Nairobi. But it does not replace international travel health insurance or medical transport back to your home country. You should (as at April 2022) ensure to be up to date with entry requirements relating to Covid-19 immunisation and/or testing.

Which travel documents do I need?

When asked how to plan a safari to Tanzania, it can quickly happen that you forget particularly important little things. The vaccination certificate, which certifies your yellow fever vaccination upon request, is one example, your own passport and its validity is another. The latter must be valid for another 6 months after the planned departure. A tourist visa is also necessary, which you will have to apply for. More and up to date information can be found on the government’s immigration website.

Tanzania is full of highlights. A safari is one of the most impressive travel experiences one could wish for. There are a few things to consider though. And if you’re wondering how to plan a safari in Tanzania, you can just get in touch with us. And we‘ll take care of it!

Author: Juan Proll

Traveling has always been Juan Proll's great passion: three years in Latin America, two years in Southeast Asia and Oceania as well as short trips of up to nine months in Europe, Central America, and North Africa. In 2010, he decided to quit his job in Germany as an adult education teacher and head of department for migration issues and to become a ranger in South Africa. Juan has been traveling across Africa since 2011, traveling to southern and eastern Africa and also climbing Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Beforehand, he completed his nature guide training in South Africa and worked in a Big Five game reserve. With further training and intensive self-study to become a cultural guide, Juan has since expanded his field of activity beyond the natural world to include the countries, cultures, and its people. In mid-2013 he joined Africa-Experience and has been guiding travelers through Africa as a safari guide ever since. Juan is a member of the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa.

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