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Breathtaking ruins, the seductive Mount Kilimanjaro, a fascinating culture and some of the best beaches in Africa, this is what travelers expect while heading for a trip to Tanzania. The country is famous for its captivating culture and excellent hospitality. In fact, the warm attitude of the locals is often one of the best experiences for most travelers visiting the country. And those enchanting beaches along the Indian Ocean coastline aren’t any pushover either. Dotted with ancient Swahili culture and historic villages, each beach has its own story to tell.
But that’s not why you go to Tanzania, or Africa for that matter. That’s not African adventures are all about! No sir. No way. You want beaches, go to the Caribbean, or better yet, explore Bora Bora. But when you visit Africa, you do what millions others before you have done and millions after you will do – you fall in love with its safaris.
Tanzania is home to the best safaris in Africa, and spending time with those hippos in its muddy waterways or the wildebeests in its plains, leaves you mesmerized with the true beauty of nature. Lazy crocodiles lay hungry eyes on you and the majestic lion tries to get a whiff of its newest prey. Chimpanzees accompany you along your journey to keep you company and the odd elephant wanders around its seasonal migration route without a care in the world. Yes sir, that’s what life is all about. That’s the reason why African tourism flourished. After all, the experience that these safaris have to offer, simply cannot be put down in words.
Tourism has continuously been on the rise since the early 2000s. The year 2011 saw as many as 843,000 tourists visiting to Tanzania, and this increased to 1,063,000 by the year 2013. Early 2015 saw a major slump in Tanzanian tourism because of the Ebola scare, but things are again starting to pick up for the country. Much of the tourism in Tanzania is claimed by its rich national parks and incredible safaris with more than 50% of the travelers entering the country choosing the Serengeti or the Ngorongoro Conservation Area over everything else.
To help you on your way, Bookmundi prepped this Wildlife Safari Guide, a guide that focuses on Tanzania and helps you understand what to expect and how to move forward.
The concept of safaris was born in East Africa, and no country comes close to offering the perfect safari experience of Kenya and Tanzania. Watching herds of wildebeests, giraffes and elephant against the backdrop of the Mount Kilimanjaro is perhaps the best view that Mother Nature has to offer. To top it off, you get to meet and interact with traditional Masai warriors guarding their villages and livestock and live in tents which overlook the glittery Savannah. Where else on the planet could you expect such wonders to come to life! The following are a select few reasons why Tanzania is the best destination for your wildlife safari adventures.
- Best Concentration of Wildlife: And that’s just one aspect of looking at Tanzania. They say that if you love wine as much as you love the concept of a safari, head over to South Africa, for it gives you access to both. However, if nothing comes close to the thought of these incredible African safaris, you need to visit Tanzania, for it has the highest concentration of wildlife in the entire continent. More than one-thirds of the country’s land has declared as a protected area, and what’s better is that it has been protected for a number of decades. This means that you get access to areas that are literally untouched by man, places where nature has been allowed to run free. This also means that the country has great numbers for most major species found in a safari and its animal population is roughly 7.5 times higher than South Africa.
- Spotting the Big 5: Tanzania boasts of great populations of the lion, black rhino, African buffalo, elephant and leopard. This means that you always have a better chance of meeting the big 5 here. Moreover, it is perhaps the only country that lets you see all of them on the same day. Where? The Ngorongoro Crater of course!
- The Great Migration: The Great Migration phenomenon is exclusive to East Africa. Considered to be the ultimate safari experience, the sight of thousands of grazing animals crossing the plains and rivers, giving birth and completing their annual migration is both enriching and moving. And guess which country offers the most authentic views. Tanzania!
- Temperate Climate: Perhaps even more important is that Tanzania witnesses small seasonal variations. This means that you can always expect the weather to be warm and pleasant throughout the year, except for the rainy months of April and November. The temperature hovers within the 70s – 80s range, and this always promises an easier and better safari experience.
The presence of dozens of national parks in the country means that irrespective of your choice or your preference, irrespective of what you’re interested in seeing and irrespective of where you wish to stay during your safari, you have the best chance of tracking everything down in Tanzania.
It’s impossible to cover the entire country in a single trip. It’s just not done. With so many national parks to choose from and so much to cover, the only way is to choose a particular area and stick to it. To make things easier for its visitors, Tanzania has divided its wildlife experience into four safari circuits. These circuits were established due to the travel times and costs, and the easiest way to move from one circuit to the other is through scheduled or charter flights.
- Northern Circuit: Tanzania’s Northern Circuit is its most popular circuit for the simple reason that it is the closest to the Big 3, the Ngorongoro Crater, Mount Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti. It takes a couple of hours to travel between destinations via a car, and almost all attractions in the area are within easy reach of each other.
- Southern Circuit: The Northern Circuit is more popular with tourists, and hence, more commercialized, but it is the Southern Circuit that always offers the most authentic safari experience. Its parks and protected areas have the highest concentrations of animals and the diversity of wildlife is simply breathtaking. What makes these journeys so spectacular is its intimate tent grounds, places where a maximum of 30 tents can be put up. This means that you have far fewer tourists to deal with, and you can enjoy the best of what African safaris have to offer. The national parks covered in Southern Circuit itineraries include Ruaha, Udzungwa, Mikumi and the Selous Game Reserve.
- Western Circuit: The Western Circuit, also called the Great Lakes Circuit, primarily covers the Lake Tanganyika, the inland lakes and Lake Victoria. The biggest charm of this circuit is that it is the only safe option of seeing chimpanzees in the wild in today’s world. Moreover, the area’s habitat is a mix between East and West Africa, and this means that the culture and the flora found here is entirely unique. That said, the circuit is so remote that you need to travel via a boat and a flight to explore its wonders. The national parks covered in the Western Circuit include Rubondo, Katavi, Gombe, Mahale Mountains and Saanane.
- Coastal Circuit: Among the top attractions of Tanzania are its breathtaking palm-fringed white sand beaches, ancient towns such as Kilwa and Dar es Salaam and exotic islands of great historical importance such as Mafia and Zanzibar. Moreover, the area is also flowing with the ancient Swahili culture. Although wildlife tends to take a backseat while visiting the Coastal Circuit, it doesn’t mean that you don’t get the traditional Tanzanian experience here.
The type of wildlife adventures that this east African country has on offer cannot be fathomed anywhere else. The variety of animals found here in the open can only be seen in the top zoos around the world, and enjoying a safari in Tanzania feels like watching one of those Nat Geo documentaries on TV. Sure, you’ve heard of the Great Serengeti and its mysterious adventures, but Tanzania is about a lot more than simply visiting the Serengeti. Here are some of the top national parks to think about while visiting the country:
Without a doubt, the Great Migration dominates much of Tanzania’s wildlife safari adventures. While the migration takes an entire year to complete its course, its biggest highlights are restricted to specific seasons. This means that if you’re interested in watching the birthing of thousands of calves, you need to make your trip between the months of January to March. And if you wish to see those exotic river crossings, you need to visit the country between the months of July to August. While the northern circuits offer year-round adventures, those visiting the southern circuits would find better wildlife viewing opportunities during the dry season, i.e., the months of June to October.
Some countries are famous for their stringent visa requirements, which often leaves a bad aftertaste for travelers around the world. However, there are other destinations where getting a visa is a mere formality that needs to be completed. While Tanzania’s visa processes might not be a mere formality, they aren’t too difficult either. A visa can be obtained at any Consulate Mission or Diplomatic Mission of the United Republic of Tanzania and it usually takes one working day to get the visa. Tourists from select countries can also get single entry visas directly at the airport, subject to certain health and immigration requirements. There are two types of visas for tourists visiting Tanzania – the ordinary visa and the referred visa. A referred visa requires special clearance from the Principal Immigration Officer in Zanzibar or the Director of Immigration Officer in Dar es Salaam. However, this visa is required by tourists from selected countries such as Pakistan, Lebanon and Bangladesh and stateless people or refugees. All other visitors can apply for the ordinary tourist visa.
You need the following documents to apply for your Tanzania visa.
- Original passport
- Proof of travel (flight itinerary)
- Two passport-size photographs
- A copy of your travel itinerary
- Application fee
Remember to check with your mission whether they can process a visa for Tanzania. If not, they can always advise you on where to apply.
It is essential to get the right vaccinations before visiting the African continent. As long as you take basic preventive measures and ensure that you have these recommended vaccinations, you should be free from those exotic tropical diseases that Africa is famous for. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that you should be up-to-date with your typhoid, hepatitis A and rabies vaccinations in addition to the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended measles, hepatitis B, polio, tetanus, mumps, diphtheria and rubella vaccines.
Tanzania is well connected to most parts of the world and a number of airlines connect to the Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam. The Kilimanjaro International Airport is the best option for travelers covering Arusha and northern circuit safaris. The following section of this guide presents the best ways of getting to Tanzania’s best national parks.
- Serengeti National Park: Most Serengeti safaris start in Arusha. The ideal way to get to this African city is to fly into the Kilimanjaro International Airport, located at a distance of 46 kms from the city. From Arusha, you have two options – an 8-hour drive across beautiful dirt roads, or a charter plane ride into the park.
- Ngorongoro Conservation Area: The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is usually clubbed with Serengeti itineraries. The conservation area lies at a 3-hour drive from Arusha, so your best bet is to fly into the Kilimanjaro International Airport.
- Ruaha National Park: Ruaha safaris start in Dar es Salaam. Fly into the Julius Nyerere International Airport and leave the rest to your tour operator. There are two options to choose from in order to get to the park – a 10-hour drive or a connecting flight to the park’s airstrip.
- Lake Manyara National Park: The Lake Manyara National Park is usually included as a part of a larger itinerary which includes the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the Serengeti National Park or both. The best way of traveling to the park is to fly into the Kilimanjaro International Airport and take a car or a chartered flight from Arusha.
- Tarangerine National Park: The easiest way to get into the Tangerine National Park is to book a car from Arusha. The park is usually a part of most Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti itineraries.
Selous Game Reserve: The best option to get to the Selous Game Reserve is to fly into Dar es Salaam. The Julius Nyerere International Airport is the main point of entry into Tanzania and is located right outside the city.
- Arusha National Park: As the name suggests, the Arusha National Park is located close to the town of Arusha. The easiest way to get there is to fly into the Kilimanjaro International Airport and use ground transportation from there.
- Saadani National Park: Fly into the Julius Nyerere International Airport to get to the Saadani National Park. Chartered and scheduled flights connect the airstrip near Saadani Village to Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam.
You might also want to check out the Top 10 Best Things to Do in Tanzania for the heart-pumping adrenaline rushes and jaw-dropping sights followed by The Best Safari Destinations in Africa for the most exotic wildlife experiences that the continent offers to its guests.
As an ending note, here are the Top Travel Destinations in Africa to help you choose from wild untamed landscapes and bustling modern day cities, unimaginable beaches and exciting mountain treks, delicious cuisines and incredible adventures, and everything else you can possibly think of.
Travelling to Tanzania? Chat with a local travel specialist in Tanzania who can help organize your trip.
Thea Gillingham Travel Expert in Kenya & Tanzania
Leonie Taylor Travel Expert in Kenya & Tanzania
Godbless Swai Travel Expert in Tanzania