How to plan a safari holiday in Tanzania & Zanzibar

Tanzania lies on the east coast of Africa, and it offers the finest safari holiday trip, easily combined with a wide range of Indian Ocean beaches. In our opinion, it really is the best country in Africa to combine a big five safari with the glorious beach holidays.

Guide To Planning A Safari Holiday in Tanzania & Zanzibar

Tanzania lies on the east coast of Africa, and it offers the finest safari holiday trip, easily combined with a wide range of Indian Ocean beaches. In our opinion, it really is the best vacation destination in Africa to combine a big five safari with the glorious beach holidays. Additionally, getting around the country is extremely easy, with loads of light aircraft flights hopping between the various areas. 

In summary, a Tanzania safari holiday trip has three main bits; the north, the south, and its various beaches and islands.

Northern Tanzania safari circuit includes the world-famous Serengeti, home to the great wildebeest migration, the Ngorongoro crater, Mount Kilimanjaro, and the smaller parts of Lake Manyara and Tarangire.

The south safari circuit is home to the much less visited parks of Ruaha and Selous, and in the southwest, the even more remote parks of Mohali and Katavi.

For beaches, most people head to the spice island of Zanzibar. Still, there are many other options, such as the mainland coast and other nearby islands.

The incredible great wildebeest migration in northern Tanzania in the Serengeti, which you can watch all year round.
Most outstanding in the north is Serengeti’s great wildebeest migration, which you can watch all year round.

A Safari Holiday Trip in Northern Tanzania

Most people spend their first night in Arusha after arriving at Kilimanjaro International Airport. The next day is a short drive through the culture-rich Ngorongoro highlands to the Ngorongoro Crater. Impressive as a crater is, with significant concentrations of the big five, it attracts large herds of tourists. So we don’t recommend more than a full day’s game drive here with an overnight on either side before flying to the Serengeti National Reserve.

The Serengeti is arguably Tanzania’s biggest safari drawcard with unbelievable wildlife viewing. It’s the place to see the big five and the big cats. Game viewing is effortless due to the Reserve’s vast short grass plains. The Serengeti is made famous by countless films such as The Lion King and Out of Africa. Most outstanding is the great wildebeest migration, which you can watch all year round. However, the river crossings are specific to the north of the Serengeti and occur only in the summer.

We recommend spending the bulk of your safari time in the Serengeti. Suppose you have more than a week on your safari holiday trip in Tanzania. In that case, you can also visit Tarangire and Lake Manyara for a gentle warm-up en route to the crater. An afternoon is enough to see Lake Manyara. Still, Tarangire needs a couple of nights to make the safari trip worthwhile, and it is best in the summer months when the elephants make their way through the park.

For some, Mount Kilimanjaro is a big part of their safari holiday trip to Tanzania. The mountain takes seven to eight days to climb, depending on the route chosen. However, if you’re not planning on climbing it, then the best views of the mountain are from far away.

The Cost

Cost-wise, safaris in the northern parks range from about $600 per person per night for somewhere like Chaka Camp, one of our best value favorites, to $1,400 per night for, somewhere like, Nomad Lamai. And up to $2,700 per person per night for one of Africa’s most expensive camps; Sasakwa.

Off the beaten path safari holiday experience at Jongomero Camp in Tanzania's Ruaha National Park
Off the beaten path safari holiday experience at Jongomero Camp in Ruaha National Park | ©Jongomero

Planning a Safari Holiday in Southern Tanzania

Here you can arrive at Dar-es-salaam and be on safari the very same day. The Selous is a vast park where you can boat, walk, and sleep out under the stars and Ruaha offers walking and night drives, all in addition to standard game drives.

With as few as eight camps in each Park, Southern Tanzania is ideal for adventurers who want the off-the-beaten-track experience with calming privacy. We cannot express how wild and authentic safaris in the south are. We love the combination of Selous and Ruaha. Southern Tanzania destinations make Kenya’s Masai Mara feel like a zoo in comparison. Seeing another vehicle is rare, and the game viewing is fantastic. However, there is no Great Wildebeest Migration in the south.

The Price

Price-wise, the south represents excellent value for money, with lodges ranging from $400 per person per night for the Selous Serena to Jongomero at $700 per night, to the top-end somewhere like Beho Beho at $1,100 per person per night.

Fewer people head deep into the country’s southwest to Mahali Mountains and Katavi—mainly because of the cost and infrequency of the internal flights. Nonetheless, Mahali is one the best places in Africa for viewing wild chimpanzees, and Katavi has incredible wildlife in the safari summer months. Think getting off the grid into Africa’s remotest safari holiday destination with emerald beaches and forest jungles that you can only access by boat. In high season, seven nights in this place cost about $9,000 per person.

From the parks in the south, you can be lying on an Indian Ocean’s beach within a couple of hours, which leads us neatly to our final area, the beaches and Islands of Tanzania.

Tanzania's Beaches & Island Holidays

Tanzania’s Beaches & Island Holidays

Nothing beats some Indian Ocean Beach time either before or after your Safari Holiday Trip in Tanzania’s countryside or even both. The island of Zanzibar is the most popular destination and boasts fantastic beaches, marvelous diving, and characterful boutique hotels. However, a lot of the coastline is hugely tidal, and many hotels are relatively mediocre.

Having seen them all, we recommend only a few of Zanzibar’s hotels, so it really is worth chatting to a Tanzania safari holiday expert to ensure you’re making the right decision.  

Prices for hotels in Zanzibar range from about $180 per person per night at an excellent beach hotel such as Pongwe to $500 per person per night at one of Xanadu’s private villas. 

Zanzibar’s Stone Town is the place to go for a bit of culture, but it is pretty hectic. So we recommend a maximum of just two nights here. Or, if you don’t want to stay in the chaos, you can visit Stone Town on a day trip from your Beach Hotel. 

Let’s say you want a quieter experience than Zanzibar. In that case, you should look at the mainland coast, largely undeveloped apart from a handful of lodges. One such is Rus Kutani—which we think is the ultimate honeymoon spot and one of our firm favorites at $400 per person per night.

Less visited are the islands of Pemba and Mafia, with great diving and underwater activities. However, the beaches are far worse than those in Zanzibar.

Finally, there are a couple of private island options; Fanjove at $400 per person per night and Mnemba Island at an impressive $1,700 per person per night. Both are idyllic, and in our view, two of the very best islands in the whole of the Indian Ocean.

Watching the mountain gorilla silverback a few meters is one of Africa's most exhilarating safari experiences
Watching the mountain gorilla silverback a few meters is one of Africa’s most exhilarating safari experiences

Serengeti Safari & Mountain Gorillas in Uganda/Rwanda

Imagine combining two of the most iconic Africa safari holiday experiences, gorilla trekking and wildlife safari in the Serengeti; we promised Africa would stay with you for a lifetime. Hiking into the misty rainforest jungles of Uganda, searching for the mountain gorilla, and spending one incredible hour sitting a couple of meters silently away will change your intimate connection with wildlife forever. Adding that to watching millions of wildebeests crossing the Serengeti plains stalked by myriad predators, including big cats, is a top bucket list adventure in Africa.

Fly into Kigali, spend a night, and transfer to Volcanoes National Park, where you’ll spend two nights at an idyllic forest lodge. Take a gorilla trekking excursion early the next day and return to the lodge for a relaxed evening. Treks into the jungle are physically demanding, so prepare your body a couple of months before the trip. 

Connect your flight from Kigali directly to Serengeti National Reserve for another exhilarating safari holiday experience in Tanzania. Alternatively, you can trek Uganda’s rainforest and spend more than four hours with the gorillas (Rwanda allows for only one hour) on a gorilla habituation experience.

gorilla trekking safari company in Uganda
gorilla trekking safari company in Uganda

The Cost

Cost-wise, you’ll spend more on gorilla permits and accommodation in Rwanda than in Uganda. Rwanda prices the gorilla permit at $1500 per person, while Uganda at $700. The gorilla habituation experience in Uganda costs $1,500 per person. 

Accommodations in Rwanda’s Volcanoes are at a high-end cost of about $1,700 per night in luxury lodges like Bisate, Virunga, and Singita Kwitonda. Uganda gorilla lodges cost less at about $300 per person per night in Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge.

Start Planning

So there you have it. We hope this travel guide will help you effortlessly plan a memorable safari holiday trip to Tanzania. For more information and tailor-making a private trip, browse our extensive website guide, or better still, drop us an email/call to discuss your plans. 

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How to plan a safari holiday in Tanzania & Zanzibar
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