What we'll cover in this article
East Africa is where the concept of safari travel was born in the 1850s, and the region's flagship destinations are still Kenya and Tanzania. In these countries you'll find those classic safari images that resonate with travellers around the world today: 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 attractions and can easily be combined on a Kenya and Tanzania safari tour but if you have to choose between the two, it can be a little tricky. The two countries have much in common so focusing on the different tour options makes deciding where to go much easier.
CLASSIC EAST AFRICA SAFARI CIRCUITS
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 all of the Big 5. The circuit tends to end with Tarangire National Park and Lake Manyara, which is famous for its tree-climbing lions.
WILDEBEEST MIGRATION: GETTING YOUR TIMING RIGHT
This seasonal journey takes place over the course of each year as wildebeest, zebra and gazelle migrate in a circular route through the Masai Mara and Serengeti. Witnessing a million animals on the move forms the central attraction in many East Africa tours, so choosing between Kenya and Tanzania depends more on when you want to travel, or which phase of the migration you want to see.
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 between July and August, and the birthing of thousands of wildebeest calves that attract magnificent predators, which occurs in Tanzania’s southern Serengeti from November to March.
Watch our short video below to understand what happens when during the Wildebeest Migration.
How do I do it?
For a Masai Mara Migration safari I’d recommend the 12 Day Masai Mara, Vic Falls & Cape Town tour 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 seasonal rains but even if you don’t catch the main migration, you can still expect excellent year-round game viewing in both the Masai Mara and Serengeti.
GREAT GAME VIEWING WITH LOW VEHICLE DENSITY
The Serengeti-Mara ecosystem gets predictably busy in the peak Migration months but you can still escape to quieter safari areas. Kenya's Masai Mara has several community-run conservancies where you can experience great game viewing and very low visitor numbers as well as activities that are not allowed in the National Reserve. These include night drives and guided nature walks. Tanzania's Serengeti features privately owned Singita Grumeti Reserve - 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!
It's well worth adding some of the less-famous reserves to your tour, whichever country you choose. 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 wild, rugged and teeming with game. In Tanzania, I highly recommend combining classic game viewing with chimpanzee trekking in the glorious far flung Mahale Mountains on the shores of Lake Tanganyika.
How do I do it?
In Tanzania, I’d recommend the 11 Day Tanzania Fly-in Selous, Ruaha & Mahale Chimps tour or a remote safari and beach holiday: the 10-day Southern Tanzania Safari is a favourite among our safari experts.
SAFARI AND BEACH HOLIDAYS
Both Kenya and Tanzania have dazzling tropical beaches and you can easily safari in Kenya and then visit Tanzania's Zanzibar, or end off your Tanzania safari on one of Kenya’s beaches. Since we are comparing the two countries, I've outlined the different beach attractions each one offers.
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 low numbers of 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.