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Where to safari: Kenya or Tanzania

East Africa is where the concept of a safari was born and no places more so 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 colonial-style tented camps overlooking the rolling, ocean-like 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 for a big game safari set against the backdrop of Kilimanjaro
Where to Safari - Engaging with the Maasai is memorable for many East Africa visitors
Enjoy an authentic safari without the crowds in Kenya's private reserves

CLASSIC EAST AFRICA SAFARI CIRCUITS

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

In Kenya, you'll generally start your safari in Amboseli for postcard-perfect views of Mt 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 - famous for its tree-climbing lions.

How do I do it? 
Our 7-day Kenya Wilderness Experience takes in Kenya's safari highlights at 3 exclusive eco-friendly camps, and we also have several tailor-made Tanzania tours that take in the northern circuit ranging from the affordable 7-day Tanzania Guided Group 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 in the Serengeti

WILDEBEEST MIGRATION: GETTING YOUR TIMING RIGHT

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 which can be seen in Kenya’s Masai Mara and the northern Serengeti around the months of July and August, and the birthing of thousands of wildebeest calves with opportunistic predators hot on their hooves - occurring in Tanzania’s southern Serengeti from November to March.

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

Video

 

How do I do it?
For a Masai Mara migration safari we’d recommend the 4-day Majestic Mara Balloon Safari while in the Serengeti the 7-day Superior Tanzania Highlights Safari is a popular choice. Just 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 Game Reserve, Siwandu is off the beaten path and chances are higher for amazing sighting like this lion playing with a pangolin.

GREAT GAME VIEWING WITHOUT THE CROWDS

The Serengeti-Mara ecosystem gets predictably busy in peak migration months but you can still escape the safari crowds. 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.

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 we’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, we’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 with pristine deserted beaches.
Where to Safari - drifting across the Indian Ocean in a dhow is part of the Zanzibar experience
A dhow cruise off the coast of Zanzibar
Where to Safari - authentic experiences with the Maasai can be had in the Kenya
Meet the local Maasai

SAFARI AND BEACH HOLIDAYS

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 our recommendations are centred on Diani Beach, set 30 kilometres south of the Mombasa and world-famous for its flawless white sands and safe, shallow water.

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 from the crowds.

How do I do it? 
The 10-day Luxury Mara & Diani Beach Break features some of the best properties in Kenya's best safari and coastal regions, and we have a 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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