To the wildlife enthusiast, Tanzania is the Africa of everybody’s imagination. Boasting over 95,000 square miles of reserves, Tanzania is arguably the best game-viewing destination in the world. From Mount Kilimanjaro- the highest mountain in Africa to Lake Victoria- the largest fresh lake in Africa & second largest in the world; visitors will find this haven of a country with vast and breathtaking vistas.
Protecting some of Africa’s best wildlife destinations & home to the Serengeti- arguably the world’s most famous safari destination where the wildebeest migration happens, Tanzania blends classic safari itineraries with remote reserves barely on the map as well as fantastic beaches & Indian Ocean islands.
In Tanzania, you can rediscover the wild, romantic Africa of your dreams, by reliving the enchantment of an ageless continent while still enjoying all the comforts and luxuries of modern life.
History & Economy
In many ways, Tanzanian history is the history of humankind. Fossils found at Olduvai Gorge – one of the world’s premier archaeological sites, suggest that Tanzania has been settled by hominids for over two million years. Iron Age migrations from West Africa were followed by European and Arabian merchants, missionaries, and slavers, and by the mid-1800s Zanzibar had become the center of the East African slave trade. Colonized first by the Germans and then the British, independence came peacefully to mainland Tanganyika in 1961; the addition of Zanzibar in 1964 created the modern state of Tanzania.
Rich in mineral wealth and natural gas, Tanzania’s economy is nevertheless dominated by agriculture which employs 75% of the workforce and produces half the struggling. Tanzania’s main exports include gold, coffee, tea, and cotton but it is tourism, increasing in importance year after year, is the country’s biggest foreign exchange earner.
People & Culture
Tanzania’s 46 million inhabitants are overwhelmingly young and non-urban: half the population is under 15 and more than 80% live in rural areas. Some 120 ethnic groups make up the African population and there are significant numbers of Asians, Arabs, and Europeans but Tanzania has long promoted a harmonious national culture, one that is based on a subtle but strong social code of courtesy and respect.
English and Swahili are the official languages.
Landscape & Wildlife
Lying between the two arms of the Rift Valley, Tanzania’s huge central plateau is bounded to the west by Africa’s great lakes, to the north by mountains (including Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak), and to the east by the Indian Ocean coast. Most of the country is covered in grassland, open woodland, and savannah but significant pockets of rainforest exist in remote mountain ranges.
Home to 20% of Africa’s large mammals, Tanzania is the continent’s premier game-viewing destination. More than 25% of the country is given over to conservation and several Tanzania animal reserves rank among the biggest in the world. Most visitors head for northern Tanzania where the most famous and accessible animal reserves are but huge, virtually unvisited savannah and rainforest reserves lie in south and central Tanzania, delivering genuine off-the-beaten-track safaris.
Tanzania wildlife highlights include the wildebeest migration which moves through the Serengeti from November to July; abundant predators; East Africa’s easiest Big 5 game viewing at the Ngorongoro Crater; chimpanzee trekking in Gombe Stream and the Mahale Mountains; plus – with a bird list of 1100 – some of the world’s best bird watching.
Imagine a land of endless rolling wide Savannah plains and magnificent wildlife, of idyllic palm-fringed islands set in turquoise seas, explorers’ tales, sultan palaces, and warm hospitable people.
Few destinations in Africa can rival Tanzania’s diversity of wildlife, cultures, and landscapes. From the classic savannah destinations of the Serengeti, Tarangire, and Ngorongoro Crater to the beaches and coral reefs of Zanzibar and the tropical coast, a Tanzania safari holiday delivers one massive experience after another.
And that’s before you discover the off-the-beaten-track experiences such as chimpanzee trekking in the magisterial rainforests of Mahale and Gombe or game viewing in the super-remote Selous Game Reserve.
Even fewer destinations however can offer an experience to match the Serengeti Migration. Forming the centerpiece of most Tanzania safaris, the migration is regarded as Nature at her most extravagant and involves hundreds of thousands of wildebeest, zebra, and antelope running the gauntlet of predators as they migrate around the Masai Mara/Serengeti ecosystem.
You’ll need to choose your location and timing well to have your expectations of the migration met: the herds move according to the rhythm of the seasons and private conservancies offer the most exclusive ringside seats, but there’s so much more to a safari in Tanzania than the migration.
Fast becoming a favorite East African holiday destination, Tanzania offers a wide range of safaris for both first-timers and seasoned campaigners. The ease with which a child-friendly safari can be combined with a beach holiday makes Tanzania a shoo-in for families while the country’s most exclusive and luxurious safari lodges and beach retreats make for an unforgettable Tanzania honeymoon. And for a full East Africa safari experience, our experts have selected a range of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania safari combinations.
Browse our range of Tanzania safari itineraries and accommodations for ideas and inspiration or simply contact one of our African Safari Experts for assistance with planning a tailor-made tour.
Our top places to visit in Tanzania:
- Serengeti National Park – wildebeest migration & year-round game viewing
- Ngorongoro Crater – East Africa’s easiest Big 5 game viewing
- Lake Manyara – Tree-climbing lions & all Africa’s Big 5.
- Zanzibar – cultural melting pot & world-renowned diving
- South Central Tanzania – Africa’s big safari secrets
- Mt Kilimanjaro – Trek to the roof of Africa’s highest mountain Range
- Dar es Salaam – a Balmy modern city with a picturesque harbor.
- Tanzania Beaches – barefoot luxury at its finest
- Tengeru – Make yourself at home in this typical farming village.
- Olduvai Gorge – The cradle of mankind – the place we all began!
- Karatu – Roam the highlands surrounded by coffee plantations,
- Usambara Mountains – Grab a guide; get hiking endless trails of lush green.
Comprising the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, and Tarangire National Parks, Tanzania’s famous northern safari region is where to go for classic game viewing and the wildebeest migration. But the country’s long tropical coastline is home to fabulous beaches as well as the can’t-miss Zanzibar and other tropical islands – and that’s before you discover wild savannah and rainforest destinations, located in barely visited central and southern Tanzania.
Serengeti National Park: wildebeest migration & year-round game viewing:
The Serengeti is where to go in Tanzania for game viewing at its most dramatic. Host to the wildebeest migration between November and July, the Serengeti’s accessibility, sheer size, and year-round abundance of wildlife also means that amazing game viewing in a wilderness setting is always on offer.
Ngorongoro Crater: East Africa’s easiest Big 5 game viewing:
Take 30 000 animals – including the Big 5 – and place them inside the crater of an extinct volcano close to the Serengeti. Add wetlands, forest and grasslands, and some out-of-this-world cliff-top accommodation and the result is the Ngorongoro Crater, a safari destination that offers excellent game viewing in the most unique of settings. Note that the nearby town of Karatu is well-positioned for excursions to both the Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Manyara. Surrounded by beautiful countryside, there is a wide range of accommodations in Karatu with many activities on offer such as guided walks and horse rides.
Arusha: center of the Northern Safari Circuit:
The undisputed safari capital of Tanzania, the ever-busy town of Arusha is on the itinerary of virtually anyone visiting the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, and Lake Manyara: indeed, logistics often dictates an overnight layover in or around the town. Set in the shadow of the 4556m Mount Meru, Arusha has its own international airport (Kilimanjaro International Airport) but safari-goers will head for the smaller Arusha Airport for charter flights to their final destinations.
If you do have some time in Arusha, there are many opportunities to buy souvenirs and take in cultural activities and visit local places of interest. A visit to nearby Arusha National Park is worthwhile, if only as an introduction to the wildlife that is to come in the region’s more extensive parks.
Tarangire National Park: wildlife gem on the Northern Safari Circuit:
Close to Lake Manyara and the Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire is worth more than the usual day visit. During the June to October dry season, animal concentrations along the Tarangire River are among the highest in the country. Especially good for elephants in the late dry season, Tarangire’s bird count of 500 species will keep bird watchers happy while its full range of large predators completes the appeal.
Lake Manyara: easy game viewing in a beautiful setting:
Part of Tanzania’s Northern Safari Circuit, modestly sized Lake Manyara shouldn’t be compared to the Serengeti or Ngorongoro Crater but it is nevertheless home to a good range of heavyweight species including hippo, giraffe, elephant, leopard, and its famous tree-climbing lions. The good mix of habitats means Lake Manyara is an amazing bird-watching destination and there’s the chance to do canoe safaris and boat trips.
Mount Kilimanjaro: Africa’s iconic mountain:
Whether you’re content to stand in its shadow or climb to its icy summit, Mount Kilimanjaro won’t fail to move you. At 5896m it’s Africa’s highest mountain but its glacier-capped peaks are far more accessible than you may think. Climb Kilimanjaro in the July to October or January to March dry seasons – no technical climbing is required but organizing and executing a 5-day mountain hike is not easy: a guide, food, and porters are needed. Talk to us about a Kili hike and it’ll all be arranged before you go.
Dar es Salaam: international gateway to Zanzibar & safari destinations:
Most visitors to Dar es Salaam are on their way to Zanzibar or the Indian Ocean coast but this thriving city provides easy access to Tanzania’s lesser-known reserves such as the Selous as well as the world-famous Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. High-quality accommodation is available if you need to overnight.
Zanzibar & Tanzania Islands: cultural melting pot & barefoot luxury:
Complete your East African experience with a stay on Tanzania’s Spice Island: Zanzibar. Perfect for both families and honeymooners, it’s where to go in Tanzania for dhows, minarets, and back-street markets on the one hand, and glorious beaches, coral reefs, and private Indian Ocean islands on the other.
And Tanzania’s other Indian Ocean islands won’t disappoint either. Pemba, Mafia, and Chole islands are superlative luxury beach holiday destinations with superb diving, exclusive boutique accommodation, and all the indulgent pampering you could want for.
Lake Tanganyika: gateway to rainforests & chimp trekking:
With 19 000km³ of clear freshwater hemmed in by the mountains of the Great Rift Valley, Lake Tanganyika is the world’s second deepest, and by volume, the second largest lake in the world.
It’s also one of the planet’s most biologically rich habitats, not least due to the lakeside presence of the Mahale Mountains and Gombe Stream National Parks. These two remote and hard-to-reach destinations are worth the effort however as both deliver Tanzania’s unique safari experiences – tropical forest wildlife and superb chimpanzee trekking.
South & Central Tanzania: Africa’s big safari secrets:
Suitable for intrepid safari-goers and those who have already experienced the more familiar destinations in East Africa, Tanzania’s animal reserves set in the little-visited south and central regions of the country offer many places of interest ranging from savannahs and swamps to rainforests and lakes.
Head for the raw and rugged Katavi or Ruaha National Parks for classic savannah game viewing, or the vast Selous Game Reserve – Africa’s biggest and wildest conservation area and home to Africa’s greatest numbers of elephants, lions, buffalo, and hippos.
A huge country with much regional variation in geography and climate plus two distinct rainy seasons, the question of when to go to Tanzania depends on what it is that you want to experience.
The best time to go to Tanzania for the Serengeti Migration is between November and August but you’ll need to be in the right place at the right time to catch all the action: contact us in order to find out more about the best time to see the wildebeest migration.
General game viewing in the Serengeti and Tanzania’s other parks is at its peak during the June to October dry season. Mount Kilimanjaro is best climbed either between July and October or January to March, while the best time to visit Tanzania’s coast, its islands, and Zanzibar is between August and October – avoid the coast during the long rains of March to May.
There’s nothing like up-to-date, relevant travel information direct from the experts – get Sun Africa Expedition’s essential Tanzania travel advice before you go.
Money & Spending
Tanzania’s unit of currency is the Tanzanian Shilling but our advice is to use US Dollars only – and in cash: credit cards and traveler’s cheques (although accepted in most establishments) incur hefty transaction fees. ATMs are found throughout the major towns in Tanzania but in case they are out of service you should always have a supply of backup cash.
Due to the number of fake notes in circulation, US Dollar bills printed more than ten years ago will not be accepted in Tanzania.
Tipping lodge staff and drivers/guides is customary for good service on a Tanzania safari but check first to see whether a service charge has been added to your bill. Tipping is always in addition to the price quoted by your operator and the amount varies depending on the size of your group, the level of luxury of the safari, and whether you thought an exceptionally good job was done.
When traveling in the major Tanzania cities, a 10% tip is customary in restaurants and bars when a service charge is not included.
For in-depth tipping guidelines, enquire with one of our Africa Safari Experts – they’d be happy to share their knowledge with you.
Average summer temperatures: 18°C to 29°C
Average winter temperatures: 15°C to 26°C
Rainy season: mid-March to May (“long rains”) and November to December (“short rains”).
Refer to “best time to visit Tanzania” for climate charts, details on the best wildlife-viewing times, and when to witness the Serengeti migration.
What to Pack
When packing for your Tanzania safari, light casual clothing in practical, neutral colors and a warm jacket for evening game drives are a safe bet throughout the year. For more on what to pack for a safari, refer to our Africa Safari Guide travel advice section.
When visiting Zanzibar it is important for women to dress modestly out of respect for Muslim cultural beliefs. T-shirts that cover the shoulders, long skirts, and capri pants are generally better options than tank tops and shorts.
Religious belief is strong in Tanzania with Christianity and Islam dominating. Most Muslims live on the coast and in Zanzibar; visitors should be aware of the conservative nature of these destinations and dress and behave accordingly. Tanzanians are renowned for being friendly and harmonious people; however, it is courteous to ask permission before photographing people.
Flights & Getting Around
Dar-es-Salaam International Airport: Tanzania’s main airport is the gateway to the Indian Ocean coast and Zanzibar as well as Selous Game Reserve.
Kilimanjaro International Airport: Tanzania’s second international airport serves the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire, and Lake Manyara. However, you need to transfer to nearby Arusha Airport for charter flights to these destinations, and, as international flights often arrive at Kilimanjaro Airport late in the day, a night in Arusha is usually necessary.
Arusha Airport: located 30km from Kilimanjaro Airport, this is the gateway to northern Tanzania’s fly-in safari airstrips.
Given the size of Tanzania and the condition of its roads, charter flights are considered the best way to get around the country.
Road transfers and game drives in Tanzania are conducted in open-sided 4X4 vehicles though visitors to Gombe and Mahale will enjoy a boat transfer across Lake Tanganyika.
Visa & Passport Requirements
Almost all visitors to Tanzania require a visa, which costs between US$20 and US$50 for a single-entry visa valid for three months. You should try to obtain a visa for Tanzania before departing your home country (especially if you require multiple entries); however, visas can also be purchased at Dar es Salaam and Kilimanjaro airports as long as you are able to pay cash in US dollars.
Visitors to Tanzania must possess a passport that is valid for six months after the initial date of travel.