Where to safari: Kenya or Tanzania

East Africa is where the concept of safari was born, and no countries epitomise it more than Kenya and Tanzania. Their imagery still resonates with travellers across the world: elephants set against the backdrop of snow-capped Kilimanjaro; herds of wildebeest plunging across crocodile-infested rivers; red-robed Maasai warriors watching their livestock; and tented camps overlooking the rolling, golden savannah.

Both countries are home to iconic safari destinations and can easily be combined on a Kenya and Tanzania safari tour but when it comes to choosing between the two, well, that can be a little trickier. There is much in common between the two but many differences as well. Here's how it works.

Where to Safari - Tortilis Camp in Amboseli offers amazing views of Kilimanjaro and fantastic game viewing
Visit Amboseli in Tanzania for a big-game safari set against the backdrop of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Where to Safari - Engaging with the Maasai is memorable for many East Africa visitors
Enjoy an authentic safari with low vehicle density in Kenya's private reserves.


Both Kenya's and Tanzania’s reserves are famous for their abundant wildlife and each county has a classic 'safari circuit' that more or less guarantees great game viewing.

In Kenya, you generally start your safari in Amboseli for postcard-perfect views of Mount Kilimanjaro. Then it’s off to the famous Masai Mara, usually rounded off with a few days at Lake Nakuru where thousands of pink flamingos add a unique twist to game viewing.

Tanzania’s northern safari circuit combines game viewing in the Serengeti with the nearby Ngorongoro Crater, the easiest place in East Africa to see the Big 5. The circuit tends to end with Tarangire National Park and Lake Manyara, which is famous for its tree-climbing lions.

How do I do it? 
Our 7-day Kenya Wilderness Experience takes in Kenya's safari highlights at three exclusive eco-friendly camps, and there are also several tailor-made Tanzania tours that take in the northern circuit ranging from the affordable 8-day Scenic Tanzania Sky Safari to the more luxurious Romantic Gems of Tanzania 9-day fly-in safari.

Where to Safari - The great Wildebeest Migration can be witnessed in the Sereneti & Masai Mara
Get your timing right & be surrounded by huge herds of migrating wildebeest on the Serengeti.


Moving around the Masai Mara and Serengeti, the annual migration of hundreds of thousands of wildebeest and zebra forms the centrepiece of many East Africa safaris, so your choice between Kenya and Tanzania may come down to a simple question of timing.

Two of the greatest events in this epic drama are worth planning ahead for: the river crossings that can be seen in Kenya’s Masai Mara and the northern Serengeti in July and August, and the birthing of thousands of wildebeest calves with opportunistic predators hot on their hooves, which occurrs in Tanzania’s southern Serengeti from November to March.

Watch our short animation below to get the timing of your Great Migration safari just right!



How do I do it?
For a Masai Mara Migration safari I’d recommend the 4-day Majestic Mara Balloon Safari while in the Serengeti the 9-day Superior Tanzania Highlights Safari is a popular choice. Bear in mind that the movement of the herds are dependent on that year’s rains but even if you don’t catch the Migration, you can still look forward to excellent year-round game viewing in both the Masai Mara and Serengeti.

Where to Safari - the Selous in Tanzania offers incredible wilderness scenery & a remote location
The vast, remote Selous Game Reserve.
Where to Safari - Gombe Stream & Mahale in Tanzania offers chimp trekking
Go chimp trekking in Mahale.
Where to Safari: Kenya or Tanzania Selous
Situated in Selous, Siwandu is off the beaten path, improving your chances for amazing sightings like this lion playing with a pangolin.


The Serengeti-Mara ecosystem gets predictably busy in the peak Migration months but you can still escape to quieter safari areas. The Masai Mara has several community-run conservancies where not only can you experience great game viewing and very low vehicle density but also activities not allowed in the Masai Mara National Reserve such as night drives and guided walking safaris. On the Serengeti side, the privately owned Singita Grumeti Reserve is a truly exclusive experience where your game drives will be rounded off by the clink of fine china, award-winning wines and even a spa treatment or two.

More adventurous safari-goers can also visit lesser-known reserves in each country. The northern Kenya parks of Samburu and Shaba are known for their dramatic scenery and diverse wildlife while the southern parks of Tanzania - the Selous, Katavi and Ruaha - are also far off the beaten track. In Tanzania, I'd also highly recommend combining classic savannah game viewing with chimpanzee trekking in the little-visited Mahale Mountains on the shores of Lake Tanganyika.

How do I do it? 
The 11-day Adamson’s Footsteps Kenya Explorer provides fantastic game viewing in diverse Kenyan destinations ranging from the Masai Mara to Shaba. In Tanzania, I’d recommend the 5-day Spectacular Selous & Ruaha Respite or a remote safari and beach holiday: the 10-day Southern Tanzania Safari is a favourite among our safari experts.

Where to Safari: Kenya or Tanzania Beach
Ras Kutani is a tranquil hideaway on Tanzania's pristine deserted beaches.
Where to Safari - drifting across the Indian Ocean in a dhow is part of the Zanzibar experience
A classic dhow cruise off Zanzibar.
Where to Safari - authentic experiences with the Maasai can be had in the Kenya
Meet Maasai villagers in Kenya.


Both Kenya and Tanzania have dazzling tropical beaches and you can easily safari in Kenya and then visit Zanzibar, or end off your Tanzania safari on one of Kenya’s beaches. But for the sake of easy logistics, let’s look at each country independently.

Kenya’s coastline is best known for the Mombasa region, which has a lively atmosphere and a number of larger resorts. However, most of my recommendations are centred on Diani Beach, set just south of the Mombasa and world-famous for its flawless white sands and safe, shallow water. For an even safer and quieter beach experience in Kenya, head to the smaller boutique hotels on the far southern coast.

Tanzania’s Zanzibar Island has powder-soft beaches as well as historic Stone Town with its labyrinthine alleyways and intricately carved doors; those looking for a more exclusive break can set their sights on smaller Pemba or Mafia Island – both renowned for superb diving and as an exclusive beach break far with few fellow visitors.

How do I do it? 
The 13-day Honeymoon Kenya's Samburu, Mara and South Coast tour features some of the best properties in Kenya's best safari and coastal regions, and there are number of Tanzania safari and beach holidays to whet your appetite, ranging from the 11-day Fantastic Mara & Zanzibar Adventure to the 13-day Extravagant Tanzania & Zanzibar Escape.


Written by Sandra Mallinson. Connect with her on Google+.

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