If you're planning a vacation to Africa, there are some up-front decisions to make. Do you go for a classic big game safari or a tropical beach holiday? How do you include a cultural element to your visit and what if you want to mix iconic landmarks with off-radar destinations?
Happily, there's an answer: go on a Tanzania safari. Set at the heart of East Africa, Tanzania is where the Rift Valley savannahs merge into mountainous rainforests, a place of red-robed Maasai tribesmen, dazzling coral reefs and white-sand Indian Ocean beaches. And equally happily, these diverse destinations can be blended into a single, multi-experience itinerary such as a safari and beach holiday or big game and big ape safari.
Tanzania is a vast country – twice the size of California. Although its infrastructure is geared to tourism, complex itineraries are best planned and executed with professional help. Aside from managing 3 World logistics, an African safari expert ensures a good fit between you and the many accommodation optionson offer. After all, it’s no fun arriving at a large, family-friendly resort while on a romantic, just-the-two-of-us adventure
Here are Tanzania's highlights...
GAME TIME: THE NORTHERN SAFARI CIRCUIT
Ask a dozen people to close their eyes and describe Africa. Chances are that they'll talk of golden-grass savannahs, flat-top acacias and acres of animals. Well, that sums up northern Tanzania pretty nicely, and that's where to go for your classic safari experience.
Head for the heavyweight destinations of the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater for some of the best game viewing in Africa, not least between November and July when the annual wildebeest migration rolls into the Serengeti. Easy add-ons Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Parks complete this well-trodden circuit. Moreover, many lodges offer authentic interactions with the local Maasai community, an experience that for many outweighs the wildlife dramas of the savannah.
ICONIC: MOUNT KILIMANJARO & ZANZIBAR
Only in Tanzania can you climb (or gaze at) Africa's highest peak and explore the continent's most famous Indian Ocean island. Postcard-perfect Mount Kilimanjaro reaches nearly six kilometres into thin air and can be climbed over four or five days as part of a guided group while cultural melting pot Zanzibar blends the old cobbled streets of World Heritage Site Stone Town with powder-soft beaches and gin-clear waters. Activities on the island range from diving and snorkelling to swimming with dolphins and sunset dhow cruises - a perfect post-safari wind down.
SAFARI TOP SECRETS: SELOUS, RUAHA & KATAVI
The reserves of Northern Tanzania may be the most well-known but hidden away in central and southern Tanzania are three huge, virtually unvisited national parks - Selous, Ruaha and Katavi. Packed with wildlife and well-off the beaten path, these wild savannah parks are best visited in the dry season when they boast plenty of heart-in-the-mouth game viewing and a kinder climate. With their great accommodation, these reserves are perfect for travellers who want all the drama of a big game safari but without the crowds. In fact, the only crowds you will see will be those of animals.
SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT: THE MAHALE MOUNTAINS
Tired of lions? Seen enough elephants? Had it with buffalo? Try the rainforests of the Mahale Mountains for a totally different take on a Tanzania safari. Accessible only by air and boat, Mahale is home to wildlife you won't see anywhere else in the country. Chimpanzees are main stars but you'll be ticking off other primates and forest mammals not to mention fabulous birds with names such as Peter's twinspot and trumpeter hornbill.
There's not much accommodation but what there is will leave you speechless: Greystoke Mahale is one of the most extraordinary lodges on the continent.
SUN, SEA, SAND: TANZANIA BEACHES
After a safari punctuated by early morning starts and bumpy road trips, lolling around in luxury on a tropical beach for a few days is the perfect way to finish off a Tanzania safari. But you don't have to book a flight to the Seychelles; Tanzania has the full range of Indian Ocean experiences from busy-as-a-bee family resorts to super-exclusive private islands and honeymoon hideaways.
For most travellers, a Tanzania beach holiday is all about Zanzibar but there are several mainland destinations near Dar es Salaam as well as a handful of small islands off Zanzibar offering superb diving and deserted beaches - Mafia and Pemba are especially good.
Safari and beach combinations are easy to arrange and regular flights between travel hubs Arusha and Dar es Salaam mean that you can spot wildebeest on the Serengeti savannah in the morning and order an ocean-side cocktail that evening - reason enough to book your Tanzania safari right now!