1. Wonderfully Diverse and Untouristic Country
Tanzania is a wonderfully diverse country which contains more than its fair share of the continent’s natural wonders and yet remains relatively lightly touristed.
Although the big names … Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar … do attract decent numbers of visitors, there is very little of the overt mass market tourism that is so prevalent in parts of Kenya and elsewhere.
A second rank of locations … Selous, Ruaha, Mahale, Tarangire, Pemba, Mafia … although in many ways equally impressive, are much lesser visited and remain places where one can still feel a something of a pioneer.
Beyond that lies a host of other fabulous locations which remain virtually untouched by outsiders, many of which don’t even make it onto this or any other websites as yet.
Game on the plains of the fabulously remote Katavi National Park in Western Tanzania
2. Best Location for Safari and Tropical Beach
The combination of a Tanzania safari and beach holiday really is a classic experience, and by far the most popular type of African trip.
Nowhere does this better than Tanzania, which is able to offer a huge range of absolutely top class safari experiences, all in close proximity to some of the very best tropical beaches. Light aircraft connect the parks directly with the coast, which means that you really can be on safari with lions on the morning and snorkelling with lion fish in the afternoon.
This is in stark contrast with safari countries such as Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, from where tropical coastline often takes the best part of two days to get to, often necessitating an overnight in Johannesburg, seriously detracting from the flow of a trip.
The only other country which can provide this safari and tropical beach combination with similar levels of convenience is Kenya, although the mass market traffic there needs to be avoided and high quality beach options are rare and generally overpriced.
A good number of people enquire to us about Kenya and Seychelles combinations, which are commonly pushed by less specialist travel companies. There are viable and can be good quality, but the two areas also require the best part of two days to get between, including an overnight in Nairobi, all of which can slightly take the wind out of your sails. Tanzania and Seychelles has similar issues, but is a more popular option amongst our guests.
The KwaZulu Natal area of South Africa is also able to offer a decent safari and beach combination in close proximity, but this is a sub-tropical coastline, very different from the palm-fringed lagoons of the East African coast.
Dhow sailing into the landing at Chole Mjini Lodge on the island of Mafia
Up to 25% of all international visitors are motivated to visit Tanzania primarily to climb Kilimanjaro. We are one of the leading providers of treks on the mountain.
Uhuru Summit on Mount Kilimanjaro
4. Northern Parks
In the north of Tanzania a group of parks including Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Manyara and Tarangire combine to form what is arguably the greatest safari area in Africa. More than any other, this area brings together the three very powerful elements of awesome volcanic landscape, prodigious gameviewing and superb tribal interaction with the local Maasai people.
This is by far the most popular Tanzania safari area, attracting around ten times the number of visitors than that of the second most popular Southern Parks (Selous, Ruaha etc.). Whilst there are specialists out there who advise against the Northern Parks on the basis that they are over-touristed, we strongly disagree … this is a spectacular area and one where high quality safaris are still be operated. Everyone needs to see these parks at least once. Some of us have been out on safari here literally dozens of times and still go back for more … and we are hyper-sensitive to traffic issues!
A little visited corner of the Serengeti close to Sanjan Camp
5. Serengeti Migration
The wildebeest and zebra migration of the greater Serengeti safari area is one of the best known wildlife events on the planet and clearly acts as a major inspiration for prospective visitors to the country. Over two thirds of all visitors include Serengeti in their trip, although many of these actually come at the wrong time of year to see the migration at its best. In reality the migration tends to play a surprisingly modest part in a much broader and utterly fabulous safari experience that is to be had in these Northern Parks.
Migration herds in the remote north of the Serengeti
6. Ngorongoro Crater
The second best known element of the Northern Parks is the remarkable Ngorongoro Crater, a huge flat bottomed volcanic caldera which contains within its steep sides virtually all the aspects of a classic East African safari. This is a truly remarkable place, not to be missed.
View across the Ngorongoro Crater from the main southeasterly viewpoint
7. Maasai interaction
Another real highlight of a Tanzania safari into the Northern Parks is the opportunity to interact with the local Maasai people. Many Tanzania camps have Maasai walking guides and some have a much deeper relationship with the local villages. Walking, hiking and trekking in the fabulous volcanic landscapes of Ngorongoro in the company of genuine Maasai warriors is a real privilege, one which substantially broadens and enriches the safari experience.
Maasai guide from Olduvai Camp in Southcentral Serengeti
8. Overland Safari
Most of the higher quality safari areas in Africa are operated by air these days, with guests moving around by light aircraft and camps providing all of the accommodation, food and safari services. This tends to lead to a relatively easy, comfortable and reliable safari experience, but one which some people may find a little narrow and tame.
The Northern Parks of Tanzania is one of the last great refuges of the overland safari. Here our guests travel from camp to camp with a driverguide and a private safari vehicle, deploying their time along the way as they see fit. This tends to provide a much greater sense of adventure and a broader experience, since visitors are exposed to the whole of life between and through the parks, rather than being restricted to the areas immediately around the camps. It is a slightly more arduous experience, but should ultimately prove to be more rewarding for the more adventurous visitor.
Vehicles descending into the Ngorongoro Crater
9. Best Combo with Gorillas in Rwanda
The Northern Parks of Tanzania provide the natural safari for combination with the gorilla tracking lodges of Rwanda, since the two are connected by a light aircraft service between Kigali and Serengeti.
Gorilla in the Ruhengeri Mountains in Rwanda
10. Best Flying Safari in East Africa
Having laid claim to the best overland safari in East Africa above, we now do the same for flying safari. The high quality reserves of Southern Tanzania and the superb remote reserves of Western Tanzania are generally accessed by air, with camps providing all accommodation food and safari services. In this respect this Tanzania safari experience is similar to that in countries such as Botswana, and Zambia.
Selous, Ruaha, Katavi and Mahale are reserves of the very highest order and each one very different from the next. A flying safari through these regions is therefore able to offer a higher degree of diversity and interest than just about anywhere in Africa.
In terms of budget, a short flying safari into Selous can work out quite cost effective and combine well with largely beach oriented trip in Zanzibar and elsewhere. A longer flying safari covering all stops west to Mahale tends to get very expensive and is therefore only suited to the lucky few who can afford it.
Aerial view of Selous Game Reserve
11. Chimpanzees at Mahale
Mahale Mountains National Park is one of the most remarkable places we know. Not only is it a stunningly beautiful location in its own right, but the chimpanzee interaction here is, in our opinion, the finest animal experience in Africa. Hard to put into words, but just amazing. Pricey though.
Chimp interaction at Mahale Mountains national park
12. Motorboat Safari in Selous
Selous game reserve is fabulous for lots of reasons, but perhaps the standout experience is the motorboat safari on the Rufiji river, which is an absolute pleasure. To be honest, close up encounters with elephant are not nearly so common as they are on the Zambezi at either Lower Zambezi or Mana Pools, but the overall experience can be an absolute delight.
Out on the Rufiji river in Selous
13. Tropical Tanzania Beaches
Tanzania contains the best and most accessible tropical beaches in Africa. The majority of visitors head for the island of Zanzibar, which does have some spectacular white-sand lagoons on its eastern side. The other main islands of Pemba and Mafia are much lesser visited, whilst much of the mainland coast remains virtually untouched.
Beach in Zanzibar
14. Swahili culture
The coastline of East Africa has a culture which is very distinct from the hinterland. Although the kiSwahili language has spread to become the langua franca across much of Africa, it is here on this coast that the Swahili culture derives and remains strongest.
Swahili is a blend of Arab and African cultures whose origins lie in the great Indian Ocean trades of centuries gone by. The culture brings an exoticism to the coast, with Sultan’s palaces and mazed towns looking out over oceans dotted with the characteristic lanteen sails of Arab style dhows.
Before visiting Tanzania many people think that the coast is simply about beaches, when in reality it is quite a cultural odyssey in its own right. And some of the more remote Tanzania lodges can be considered to offer more of a marine safari than a beach vacation.
Rooftop restaurant in Zanzibar Stonetown
15. Tanzania Scuba Diving
Tanzania offers some of the very best diving in the Indian Ocean. Zanzibar is the default choice, where casual divers will find plenty to keep them occupied for three, four or more days. More dive focussed visitors should also look to one or both of Mafia and Pemba islands, the former offering a wide range of high quality diving and opportunities to swim with whalesharks, whilst the latter specialises in big pelagic wall and drift dives.
Whaleshark under the bows off the island of Mafia