Search our Blog

Archives

Beginner's Safari Guide to Tanzania

A great travel guide (like this one!) doesn’t replace the advice and assistance of an Africa safari expert but it does equip you to be an active and informed decision-maker in planning your safari. In this guide, we’ve focused on the tips and insights that will help you make the most of your time and money.

Tanzania’s Top Attractions

Tanzania is home to a great diversity of wildlife, fascinating cultures and natural, scenic beauty. It’s a dream destination from the classic, sweeping savannah of the Serengeti to the flamingo-lined shores of Lake Manyara, world wonder Ngorongoro Crater and Mount Kilimanjaro (Africa’s highest peak).

Tanzania offers superb safari-and-beach combinations thanks to its long tropical coastline and coral-ringed islands. It’s also home to bucket-list attractions that we highly recommend, like chimpanzee trekking in the rainforests of Mahale and Gombe, and game viewing in the far flung wildernesses of Katavi, Ruaha and Selous.

Without a doubt, Tanzania’s greatest wildlife attraction is the Great Migration, which sees a million wildebeest and zebra follow seasonal rains across the Serengeti each year. The two main events in the migration that take place in Tanzania are the mass calving when thousands of babies are born in the southern Serengeti, and the dramatic Grumeti river crossings. If witnessing the migration is your goal then when you go is all-important.

Beginner's Safari Guide to Tanzania - river crossings
The spectacular Grumeti River crossings are a highlight of a migration safari.

It’s worth noting that Tanzania combines beautifully with Kenya (home to the Masai Mara) and Uganda (home to exhilirating gorilla trekking).

Here are some quick links to important information:

 

Getting your bearings

We made this video to give you a quick and easy overview of our most recommended accommodations in Tanzania’s top tourist attractions, and where these are located in relation to each other.

Video

 

When to go to Tanzania

Tanzania is located just south of the equator, which gives it a very temperate climate with a dry, mild winter and warm, summer rainfall. There are two distinct rainy seasons but even these periods have their advantages, so deciding when to go to Tanzania really depends on what you’re most interested in seeing.

The best time to go to Tanzania for the Great Migration:

The migration begins in Kenya’s Masai Mara in late October/early November when the herds begin moving into the Serengeti, reaching the southern plains in late November/ December. The herds remain here from January to March for the birth of tens of thousands of calves, fawns and foals. In April and May the herds gather in huge columns and begin heading west, reaching the central and western Serengeti by June. By July and August the herds must begin the dramatic and treacherous river crossings in Grumeti to get back to the Masai Mara by September.

Beginner's Safari Guide to Tanzania - the Great Migration
The Great Migration begins in the Masai Mara in early November, after which the herds move into the southern Serengeti.

The best time to go to Tanzania to for general game viewing:

Peak game viewing in Tanzania is in the dry winter season, between June and October – this is the ideal time to explore the Serengeti, Ngorogoro Crater and Lake Manyara because game is concentrated around water sources and the great migration river crossings take place in July/ August. If you’d prefer to avoid high-season crowds, we recommend combining Ruaha and the Selous with a beach break on the coast, or heading to Lake Victoria to combine chimp trekking in Mahale and Gombe with game viewing in the Katavi.

Game viewing is still excellent after the short rains in November but, for the best value, travel before 15 December to avoid the Christmas crowds (and prices!). During the traditional low season from January to March, there are baby animals everywhere, the days are deliciously hot, the dust is settled by afternoon thundershowers and, best of all, you’ll enjoy the very best value for money and crowd-free game viewing.

For keen photographers, this quiet period – known as the green season – offers very special advantages: expect lush green landscapes rather than the dull browns of winter; dramatic cloudy skies rather than winter’s endless pale blue skies; and much more relaxed game viewing conditions, which means more time to to get that winning shot.

The best time to summit Kilimanjaro & visit the islands:

Trek to the roof of Africa and summit Mount Kilimanjaro between July and October or between January and March, which makes it easy to combine a mountain trek with both game viewing and relaxing on a tropical island. Speaking of postcard perfect beaches and waving palm trees, combine your big game safari with Tanzania’s islands between August and October but we don’t recommend the coast or islands during the long rains from March to May when it’s very wet and humid.

Beginner's Safari Guide to Tanzania - climbing Kilimanjaro
Make sure you know the best time to trek Kilimanjaro if you're planning a combination holiday.

Tanzania travel advice

Our travel advice is as fresh and useful as possible, based on our own regular travels in Tanzania and handy tips our clients share with us.

Money

Tanzania's unit of currency is the Tanzanian Shilling but we recommend that you use US dollars only in cash – although credit cards and traveller's cheques are widely accepted they incur hefty transaction fees. You’ll find ATMs in all the major towns but in case they are out of service always keep back-up cash. 

Due to fraud, no US dollar bills printed before 2003 are accepted in Tanzania. American Express isn’t as widely accepted as MasterCard and Visa.

Tipping

Tipping is customary in Tanzania - it adds up quickly so we recommend that you budget for it. Here are some general guidelines – please note that the fixed amounts are recommended tips per person in your travel group, so if you travel with your partner, together two times the recommended amount:

  • In restaurants and bars, tip 10-15% of your total bill.
  • For road transfers, tip the driver US$5 from each person and the porters US$1 per bag.
  • At lodges, tip the general staff US$15 per day from each person, and your guide and ranger US$20 per day from each person.
  • On Kilimanjaro, tip your mountain guide between US$15-20 per day from each person, and the camp staff (porters and assistant guides) US$10 per day from each person.

 

Beginner's Safari Guide to Tanzania - tipping your guides & porters
Your Kilimanjaro guides & porters ensure your safety up and down the mountain, worth celebrating at the end!

Climate

Tanzania is very temperate with a sunny, comfortable climate most of the year. The average summer temperature ranges from 18-29°C (64-82°F) with a summer rainy season divided into long rains from March to May and short rains from November to December. Winter is cool and dry with the average temperature ranging from 15-26°C (59-79°F).

You’ll find our Tanzania climate chart here.

Culture & Etiquette

Tanzanians are tolerant, gentle and friendly people. The country’s two main faiths, Christianity and Islam, coexist harmoniously. The coast is mostly Muslim-orientated, especially Zanzibar, while the interior is mostly Christian.

We recommend that you be aware of the conservative nature of the people and dress accordingly. For instance, when you leave the beach, dress appropriately – don’t do bare midriffs, hot pants, micro minis or transparent tops.

Tanzanians are famous for their hospitality but please ask permission before photographing people.

Beginner's Safari Guide to Tanzania - photography
Africa safari experts Anja, Ashley & Mary smile for the camera with their local guide.

Getting Around

Your travel investment is always safer when you book air tickets and accommodation together, through one agent. It protects you in the event that something unexpected delays a flight or forces you to change accommodations.

Dar-es-Salaam International Airport is the gateway to the southern wilderness of the Selous, the tropical coastline and the island of Zanzibar.

Kilimanjaro International Airport is the gateway to northern attractions, like the Serengeti and Great Migration. To reach these destinations, you’ll transfer to nearby Arusha Airport (30km away) for a chartered flight. International flights often arrive at Kilimanjaro Airport late in the day, which makes spending a night in Arusha necessary – a great opportunity to recover from your long-haul flight and refreshed and ready to make the most of the wilderness the next day.

Road infrastructure in Tanzania is quite basic and, considering how large the country is, you’ll see and do more if you minimize travel time by catching chartered flights. Most road transfers and all game drives are conducted in open-sided 4X4 safari vehicles. If you go chimp trekking in Gombe and Mahale, you’ll have the advantage of a boat transfer across Lake Tanganyika.

Visa & Passport Requirements

Almost all visitors to Tanzania require a visa, which costs between US$20 and US$50 for a single entry that is valid for three months. Always try to obtain a visa for Tanzania before departing your home country. Visas can be bought on arrival at Dar es Salaam and Kilimanjaro International Airports if you pay cash in US dollars. Your passport must be valid for six months after your arrival date in Tanzania, or you will not be granted entry to the country.

Beginner's Safari Guide to Tanzania - Serengeti
The iconic wide open spaces of Tanzania are what makes the Serengeti a must-visit destination.

Why we love Tanzania

It’s easy to fall in love with Tanzania and its big game attractions and natural beauty.  As safari experts, what we value the most about this designation is the old-school service, the authentic safari style and the luxury you’ll experience there. When you’re ready, let our Tanzania experts help you tailor-make a vacation that will be unforgettable for all the right reasons.

Written by Donyale MacKrill. Connect with her on Google+

Sign up & join our travel community for real reviews, expert insights and helpful tips for planning a successful safari.

comments powered by Disqus