Tanzania Safari Planning Guidelines | Kitulo National Parks | Selous Game reserve | Ruaha National Park | Mikumi National Park |Climb to Mount Kilimanjaro and Meru | The best of Tanzania Safari | Tanzania Safari Planning Guidelines
Tanzania Safari Planning Guidelines: Are you Interested in taking a safari, possibly in Tanzania? First of all, you are going to have one great trip – a safari is an awesome idea! A good travel guide doesn’t replace the advice and assistance from one of Safari Experts, but it does equip you to be an active and informed decision-maker in planning your Tanzania safari. In this guide, we focus on the tips and insights that will help you make the most of your time and money!
Table of Contents
Why Safari in Tanzania?
1. Excellent Year-round Game Viewing:
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 mountain).
It also offers bucket-list experiences that like chimpanzee trekking in the rain forests of Mahale and Gombe, and game viewing in the far-flung wildernesses of Katavi, Ruaha and Selous.
2. The Wildebeest Migration:
Without a doubt, Tanzania’s greatest wildlife attraction is the annual Wildebeest Migration, which sees almost two million wildebeest and zebra follow seasonal rains across the Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem each year. Tanzania hosts the lion’s share of the Migration – two main events take place in the Serengeti:
- 1. The mass calving season when almost a quarter of a million babies are born in the southern Serengeti.
- 2. The dramatic Grumeti River crossings.
3. Bush and Beach Holidays:
Tanzania offers superb safari-and-beach combinations, thanks to its long tropical coastline and coral-fringed islands. You can easily fly from a safari camp after breakfast and be on a powder-soft beach in time for sunset cocktails.
Tanzania’s top tropical islands are:
- 2. Zanzibar – one of the world’s most romantic honeymoon destinations.
- 3. Mnemba Island – a private island holiday paradise.
- 4. Pemba Island – among the world’s best diving sites.
- 5. Mafia Island – swim with migrating whale sharks (about October to April).
4. Mount Kilimanjaro and Meru
The Best Time to Go to Tanzania
Deciding when to visit Tanzania depends entirely on what it is that you want to experience.
Peak game viewing in Tanzania is in the dry winter season (about June to October). This is the ideal time to explore the Serengeti, Ngorogoro Crater and Lake Manyara because game is concentrated around water sources. The Wildebeest Migration river crossings also take place between July and October. If you’d prefer to avoid high season crowds, we recommend combining Ruaha and 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.
For keen photographers, this quiet period 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 get that winning shot.
The best time to summit Kilimanjaro is 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.
Combine your big game safari with Tanzania’s islands between August and October. We don’t recommend the coast or islands during the long rains from March to May when it’s very wet and humid.
Safari Cost Tanzania
The factors that make up for the total cost of a Tanzanian safari:
- #1. Rent of safari vehicle & private guide – Priate of Group Safari?
- #2. Entrance fees for the national parks – Park fee? and how long are you going to Say?
- #3. Accommodation – Are you going to Stay in Hotel? Public Tents or Luxury Tented Camps?
The first two factors are fixed prices, unless you choose to share the safari vehicle with more people. The entrance fees for the national parks are expensive, for example the costs of driving with a safari jeep in the Ngorongoro Crater are $300 per day excl. $78,50 per person. This makes a safari a costly journey. It is possible to save money on accommodation, depending the level of luxury/exclusiveness you choose.
If you can afford, go for Private Safari. True, private safaris are more expensive, but you will be flexible with the driving, could go whenever we wished, could stay as long as we wanted in one spot, there was no need to fight with others for a perfect picture spot and so on. If you have a chance, or, even better, if you are traveling as a group already, I would suggest taking a private safari.
Sample Tanzania Safari Costs
Below are sample average safari prices (for simplicity, a 5-day safari is being compared):
1) Luxury Safari – a luxury accommodation with a private pool and splurge for a hot air balloon ride. The price REALLY depends on the tour and what is included. A very average estimate would be about US $4000 per person if you are two people traveling, and US $3200 per person for a group of 4.
2) Middle price range – You will stay in good tented lodges, partly luxury, partly mid-priced, nicely decorated, clean and spacious. The price is about US $2000 USD per person with a private driver and about US $1500 per person if you join a group.
3) Budget style safari – you will sleep in tents and have food prepared for you by a cook who will travel together with you in the jeep. You will share the jeep with other tourists. The approximate price for a budget safari for 5 days is about US $1000 per person.
NOTE 1: It might be about 20% cheaper if you book it at their location. Usually these kinds of companies are not even on the internet and you can only find them by stopping by their office.
NOTE 2: Booking a safari on site is a good option only for travelers without a tight schedule. If you organize the safari by yourself (without the use of a tour operator), it will be about US $2000 for 2 people for 3 days. Please read #7 to see why I don’t think this is the best option when it comes to Tanzania.
Here are a couple of ways to help you cut down on the final safari cost:
- #1. Try to go during the off season
- #2. Go in a group – usually the jeep can fit 6-7 people. This way you only pay one driver and able to share accommodations.
- #3. Choose the correct length for your safari – longer is not always better.
- #4. Try to plan your trip at least 4 months in advance – the accommodations and flights will be cheaper than for last minute.
How to Choose a Safari Operator
Tanzania safaris are famous for their stunning natural beauty — from the stunning landscapes of the Serengeti in Tanzania, Mount Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar, it is an adventure of a lifetime. However, to see the best of an African safari, you need an operator or guide, and picking the right one can make all the difference to the quality of your trip. That’s why it is critical to know what to look for when choosing your safari operator from among the thousands available today. Refer to this checklist to help you thin out the herd and make an informed choice:
What are previous visitors saying about their services?
Third-party review sites like TripAdvisor, Google Reviews, Trust Pilot, Safari Booking, and similar Travel Forums can help you get a good feel of the service quality offered by an operator. These are supposed-to-be reviews from actual customers as opposed to reviews from their website that they can manipulate.
Have they been in business for at least three years?
A safari operator with at least three years of experience offers the benefit of accumulated lessons and insights, which they will bring to bear during your trip. Of course, this is not to say the newer operators are to be avoided completely, as they could offer an innovative and enthusiastic edge.
How knowledgeable are the guides? (accreditation, tour experience, proper licenses, etc)
If you are going for a specific event, for instance, the great migration, then you’ll need an operator who knows their way around the area. Check on the guide’s qualifications as you want your trip to be an educational one as well.
Who runs the operation?
A company that runs its operations can customize your itinerary for a more personalized and intimate experience from start to finish. You also enjoy the benefit of direct bookings which eliminate the miscommunication and delays that may arise when dealing with middlemen. Direct bookings are often cheaper also because you can avoid the commissions paid to agents.
How responsive are they?
Do you get a timely response with your inquiries or do you need to almost beg before getting the information you need? This will already give you an impression of their standards when it comes to customer service.
A good safari operator will take you to the best places, including those less traveled so you can have a more unique experience. Finding one that meets all the criteria listed above will help ensure that you have the best time on your trip, while also feeling good about the impact they are making. In truth, it does take a significant amount of time and effort to fully vet your options and make a choice, but rest assured it will all pay off in the end when you are finally ticking African safari adventure off your bucket list.
What activities do they offer?
Are you looking for a rugged, intimate bonding experience with Mother Nature or do you fancy a more luxurious adventure, taking in the sights and sounds from the comfort of your lodge or airplane? See what activities they offer and ask for a breakdown of your quotation so you know the price components of your safari package
Do they have their own vehicles?
Be sure to confirm what kinds of vehicles they use for all their activities — transfers, long-distance travel and game viewing drives. You want to ensure that they own the vehicles so they are more in control of the maintenance. Ask for their insurance coverage too.
What are the accommodation options that they offer?
You want a comfortable place to relax after a long day, so be sure that you are satisfied with the options that are offered. What about the toilets and bathrooms? Make sure those are up to par as well. Safari companies work with accommodation property owners so they often have top recommendations but this doesn’t mean you can’t choose your own.
Do they have a clear payment cancellation and refund policy?
Make sure to check the payment terms and conditions as well as the cancellation policy before making any payments. Most direct bookings require up to 50% downpayment and the rest is paid upon arrival. Use your best judgment when booking. For example, if the company name doesn’t match the bank account name, that should be enough to raise some suspicions.
How to Choose the best Safari Itenery
Congrats, you have already done the hardest part! Now that you have decided on the company and more or less estimated the costs, it’s time to choose your perfect safari itinerary! Usually companies offer many suggested itineraries that are well planned, so you can choose from them or you might want to build your own route, too!
Spending half a day each day to drive from one National Park to the other is no fun, so planning a good itinerary is crucial to your success.
NOTE: I would add an hour to the driving estimation your tour operator gives you because sometimes it might take longer due to muddy roads or check-in/check-out delays. National parks are not very close to each other so it might take half a day on the road to get there.
Remember the best route is the one where you feel rested, you are there at the best time to spot the animals and the transportation time is minimal.
I have read that some people recommend skipping Serengeti because it is too crowded, but I don’t agree with that – this is where we saw the most animals, and seriously, I would not even say it was that crowded!
If you are asking yourself where to go for a safari, let me simplify your choices:
- #1. Serengeti National Park
- N#2. gorongoro Conservation Area
Other interesting places to visit:
- #1. Tarangire National Park
- #2. Lake Manyara National Park
- #3. Lake Eyasi
The above 5 are more than enough for a 5-7 day safari (average length), but if you are considering staying longer, here are even more recommendations:
- #1. Arusha National Park
- #2. Lake Natron
- #3. Empaakai Crater
Self drive Safari in Tanzania
Some of the national parks in Africa don’t require a certified driver so you can rent a car and visit the park by yourself. Indeed, many people do that in South Africa and Namibia.
Here is why I don’t think that is a great option when it comes to Tanzania:
- #1. It might cost you more or less the same as having a tour operator organize it or even be more expensive in some cases to organize it by yourself (safari companies actually get better deals for lodges than independent travelers)
- #2. There is A LOT of paperwork you will need to do at the entrance to the park
- #3. You might not see much, with an almost 100% likelihood you won’t see as much as with a driver
- #4. If you are doing an independent safari, you might easily get lost in a national park because they are huuuge! There are no proper roads that are shown on a GPS. You will be given a paper map, but it is not easy to navigate or understand what is where. #5. Did I mention the area is quite huge?
- The roads are really a bad quality and you will need to cross rivers and go off-road. Many cars get stuck there, even the experienced drivers, and I saw it happen to a couple of cars myself. That tourist spent half a day in the car (they are not allowed to get out and it was also raining). If you don’t know the area, this can easily happen to you and you won’t even know how to get help.
- Last but not least, all safari drivers are also very knowledgeable guides- they know their animals! They all need to pass an extensive test before they are allowed to drive tourists. So you will not see the animals or learn why they behave the way they do, why they are here now, etc if you drive yourself. To me this was priceless information that I would not find in Wikipedia and, let’s be honest, I would not search for it either!
So how do you find a safari-guide if you want to organize the tour with an individual guide? You can search on forums or on Tanzania Travel Guide or email us for our connections. It will be a bit cheaper.
Prices for a self-organized safari
Here is a sample calculation:
US $72 per person per day to enter Serengeti plus the vehicle fee is from US $150 to US $300 per day (depending on the jeep’s weight). Accommodation is from US $20 per person (hostel). Food is cheap – about US $5 for a meal. A Land Cruiser (a simple RAV4 is not recommended for Serengeti) can be rented in Arusha from US $150 per day, though I could not find a good site on the internet that would clearly state the prices; it’s likely you would have to book it right there on the spot. Update: I have found one decent looking company here.
You do the math – let’s say it is 2 of you and you want to visit for 3 days – a bit more than US $1000 for both + US $600 for the car + gasoline – it is about US $2000 for 2 people for 3 days. Also consider you will have to do the whole job by yourself and will be staying in very simple places.
This is just a sample calculation. You should do your own calculation for the amount of days you choose and the number of people going, compare it with group tour and private tour prices and make a decision based on that.
All in all, it is your decision and you can absolutely do it yourself if you want to, but I decided it should be my vacation and I didn’t want to deal with any problems during my safari, so I relied on the professionalism of my guide and did not regret it one bit!
NOTE: If you decide to do a self-drive safari, don’t forget to take some cash with you because some of the parks don’t accept credit cards.
NOTE 2: When renting your car from private individuals or hiring a private tour guide, make sure you have a 4×4 car because some of them actually use minivans to drive tourists around (NOT recommended at all).