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North or South: Which is the best Tanzania Safari?

Tanzania, an East African jewel, is renowned for its diverse wildlife and stunning landscapes. As a prime safari destination, it offers two distinct regions: the North and the South. Each area boasts unique experiences and attractions, making Tanzania a top choice for safari enthusiasts. In this guide, we will explore the differences, highlights, and practical tips for navigating the best Tanzania safari routes.

Geographical Information

Location and Layout

Tanzania is situated in East Africa, bordered by Kenya and Uganda to the north, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west, Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique to the south, and the Indian Ocean to the east. Its varied terrain includes savannahs, mountains, and coastal regions.

Serengeti Great Migration

Climate and Best Times to Visit

Tanzania experiences a tropical climate with two rainy seasons: the long rains from March to May and the short rains in November and December. The best times to visit are during the dry seasons, from June to October and January to February, when wildlife is more easily observed.

Northern Circuit Overview

The Northern Circuit includes iconic destinations like the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara, and Tarangire National Park. This region is famous for the Great Migration, where millions of wildebeest, zebras, and gazelles traverse the plains in search of fresh grazing grounds.

Southern Circuit Overview

The Southern Circuit, less crowded and more remote, features Selous Game Reserve, Ruaha National Park, Mikumi National Park, and Udzungwa Mountains National Park. This area offers a more secluded and intimate safari experience, with vast landscapes and diverse wildlife.

Cultural Insights

Local Customs and Traditions

Tanzania is home to over 120 ethnic groups, each with its unique customs and traditions. The Maasai, known for their distinctive dress and warrior culture, are among the most well-known. Visitors can experience traditional dances, music, and local markets showcasing crafts and produce.

Cuisine

Tanzanian cuisine is a fusion of African, Indian, and Arab influences. Staples include ugali (a maize porridge), rice, beans, and various meats and fish. Popular dishes include nyama choma (grilled meat), samaki (fish), and pilau (spiced rice).

Language

Swahili and English are the official languages of Tanzania. Swahili is widely spoken and serves as a lingua franca among the diverse ethnic groups. Learning basic Swahili phrases can enhance the travel experience and interactions with locals.

Must-Visit Attractions

Serengeti National Park

The Serengeti, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is renowned for its annual migration and diverse wildlife, including the Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and rhino). Key attractions include the Seronera area for its abundant wildlife and the Grumeti River for dramatic crossings during the migration.

Tarangire

 

Ngorongoro Crater

The Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest inactive volcanic caldera, offers stunning scenery and dense wildlife populations. Visitors can expect to see black rhinos, lions, elephants, and a variety of bird species. The crater rim provides panoramic views and luxurious lodges.

Lake Manyara National Park

Famous for its tree-climbing lions and diverse birdlife, Lake Manyara National Park offers a mix of forests, woodlands, and swamps. The alkaline lake attracts thousands of flamingos, creating a striking pink shoreline.

Tarangire National Park

Known for its large elephant herds and ancient baobab trees, Tarangire National Park provides a quieter alternative to the Serengeti. During the dry season, the Tarangire River attracts wildlife from across the region, offering excellent game viewing opportunities.

Selous Game Reserve

The Selous, Africa’s largest game reserve, offers a remote and uncrowded safari experience. Boat safaris on the Rufiji River provide unique perspectives on wildlife, including hippos, crocodiles, and diverse bird species. The reserve is also home to rare African wild dogs.

Ruaha National Park

Ruaha National Park, Tanzania’s largest national park, is known for its rugged beauty and high densities of elephants and predators. The park’s diverse landscapes, including the Great Ruaha River, attract various species and offer excellent game viewing year-round.

Mikumi National Park

Often compared to the Serengeti for its savannah landscape, Mikumi National Park is a convenient and accessible safari destination. The Mkata Floodplain is a prime area for spotting wildlife, including lions, giraffes, and wildebeest.

Udzungwa Mountains National Park

A biodiversity hotspot, Udzungwa Mountains National Park is ideal for hiking and exploring unique flora and fauna. The park’s diverse ecosystems, from rainforest to mountain peaks, support rare primates and endemic plant species.

Activities and Experiences

Game Drives

Game drives are the cornerstone of any safari, offering the chance to observe wildlife in their natural habitat. Both the Northern and Southern Circuits offer exceptional game drives, with options for day and night safaris.

Tanzania Travel Guide

Walking Safaris

Walking safaris, particularly popular in the Southern Circuit, provide an immersive experience. Led by experienced guides, these walks allow visitors to learn about the ecosystem, track animals, and appreciate the smaller details of the bush.

Boat Safaris

Exclusive to the Southern Circuit, boat safaris on rivers and lakes offer a unique way to view wildlife. The Rufiji River in Selous Game Reserve and the Great Ruaha River in Ruaha National Park are prime locations for these excursions.

Hot Air Balloon Safaris

For a breathtaking perspective, hot air balloon safaris over the Serengeti provide stunning aerial views of the plains and wildlife below. This experience is especially magical during the Great Migration.

Cultural Tours

Engaging with local communities through cultural tours enriches the safari experience. Visitors can learn about Maasai traditions, visit local markets, and participate in traditional dances and ceremonies.

Bird Watching

Tanzania is a birdwatcher’s paradise, with over 1,000 species recorded. Key birding locations include Lake Manyara, Tarangire, and the wetlands of Selous Game Reserve. Rare and endemic species add to the allure for bird enthusiasts.

Photography Safaris

Photography safaris cater to both amateur and professional photographers, offering tailored experiences to capture Tanzania’s wildlife and landscapes. Guides provide insights on the best times and locations for optimal shots.

Travel Tips

Accommodation

From luxury lodges to budget-friendly campsites, Tanzania offers a range of accommodation options. In the Northern Circuit, high-end lodges provide comfort and stunning views, while the Southern Circuit offers more rustic and secluded camps.

Transportation

Getting around Tanzania can involve flights, road transfers, and even boat rides. Domestic flights are the most efficient way to travel between the Northern and Southern Circuits, while 4×4 vehicles are essential for game drives and park exploration.

Packing Essentials

Packing for a safari requires thoughtful preparation. Essentials include lightweight clothing in neutral colors, sturdy walking shoes, a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, insect repellent, and a good camera with extra batteries and memory cards.

Health and Safety

Tanzania is generally safe for tourists, but precautions are necessary. Vaccinations for yellow fever, typhoid, and hepatitis are recommended. Malaria prophylaxis is also advised. Travelers should drink bottled water and follow food safety guidelines.

Visa and Entry Requirements

Most visitors to Tanzania require a visa, which can be obtained on arrival or online before travel. A valid passport with at least six months’ validity is necessary. It’s important to check the latest entry requirements before departure.

Safety and Health Precautions

Wildlife Safety

Respecting wildlife is crucial for a safe safari experience. Always follow guide instructions, maintain a safe distance from animals, and never attempt to feed or provoke them.

Health Precautions

In addition to vaccinations and malaria prophylaxis, travelers should carry a basic first aid kit, stay hydrated, and protect themselves from the sun. It’s advisable to have comprehensive travel insurance that covers medical evacuation.

COVID-19 Guidelines

Travelers should stay informed about the latest COVID-19 guidelines, including testing and vaccination requirements. Mask-wearing, hand hygiene, and social distancing are important to prevent the spread of the virus.

Budget Planning

Cost Breakdown

A safari in Tanzania can vary widely in cost, depending on factors like accommodation, duration, and activities. Budget travelers can opt for camping and self-drive options, while luxury safaris offer all-inclusive packages with high-end lodges and guided tours.

Saving Tips

To save on costs, consider traveling during the shoulder seasons (April-May and November) when prices are lower, and crowds are thinner. Booking in advance, traveling in groups, and choosing mid-range lodges can also help reduce expenses.

Currency and Payment

The Tanzanian Shilling (TZS) is the local currency. Credit cards are accepted at major hotels and lodges, but it’s advisable to carry cash for tips and small purchases. ATMs are available in major towns and cities.

Local Cuisine

Must-Try Dishes

Tanzanian cuisine offers a rich array of flavors. Must-try dishes include:

  • Nyama Choma: Grilled meat, typically goat or beef, often served with a side of kachumbari (fresh tomato and onion salad).
  • Ugali: A maize porridge, commonly served with meat or vegetable stews.
  • Pilau: Spiced rice dish, often cooked with meat or vegetables.
  • Samaki: Fresh fish, usually grilled or fried, popular in coastal areas.
  • Mandazi: Sweet fried dough, similar to doughnuts, often enjoyed with tea.

Dining Etiquette

When dining with locals, it’s polite to wash hands before eating, as many meals are eaten with the hands. Offering and accepting food with the right hand is customary. Sharing food and engaging in conversation are important aspects of Tanzanian dining culture.

Conclusion

Summary

Tanzania’s Northern and Southern Circuits each offer unique and unforgettable safari experiences. The Northern Circuit is renowned for its iconic parks and the Great Migration, while the Southern Circuit provides a more secluded and intimate adventure. Both regions boast diverse wildlife, stunning landscapes, and rich cultural experiences.

Recommendations

For first-time visitors, the Northern Circuit is ideal for its well-known attractions and accessible infrastructure. Those seeking a more off-the-beaten-path experience will find the Southern Circuit’s remoteness and exclusivity appealing. Regardless of the choice, a Tanzanian safari promises breathtaking moments and lifelong memories.

Call to Action

Plan your Tanzania safari today and embark on an adventure that will connect you with nature, culture, and the spirit of Africa. Whether you choose the bustling Northern Circuit or the tranquil Southern Circuit, Tanzania awaits with open arms and endless discoveries.

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See What Others Are Saying About Us

Dzigbordi A
Dzigbordi A
2024-05-27
Unforgettable trip to Serengeti with African Diurnal Safari It was a fantastic trip especially with my escort driver. He’s very patient and makes sure I see what I want. It interesting see these wild animals in their own habitat. I was able to see big 3 out of the big 3; Elephants, lion and buffalo. I saw cheetah too so that will replace my leopard, unfortunately I couldn’t see Rhino. There were numerous animals at Serengati aside the big 5.
diakiss d
diakiss d
2024-04-06
During our trip, we saw many famous animal, like chiter, elephants, lion, zebra buffalo, giraffe and many others animals The trip were really amazing and took many pictures and videos and we enjoyed a lot it was a great experiences that we are not going to forget.
Alessandro S
Alessandro S
2024-04-03
Absolutely recommended Great experience absolutely recommended! Great driver too 💪🏻 we saw all the animals we wished to see! Everything was planned by African Diurnal so we could enjoy the most without any stress in planning
Deogratias E
Deogratias E
2023-10-11
The fabulous African Safari Tour in Northern Tanzania it was an African safari that included my wife and I and another couple (our friends). We started in Arusha city, went to Seronera, Ngorongoro Crater, Olduvai Gorge, Serengeti, and then ended in Mwanza city. It was a very wonderful experience. My wife and I and our two grown sons did almost a very similar safari tour in June 2019 by the same company and we also experienced the same excellent/superior service. From hotel choices, services in the tour vehicle, meals, etc., it was fabulous
Rachael p
Rachael p
2023-09-12
Remarkable Lifetime Safari Experience! I had an unforgettable safari with Lameck's team. The tailored made itinerary for me as solo woman traveller, quick and easy communication and well controlled within my budget with quality accommodations! My driver Samson was a great guide and he knows everything about wildlife and parks, within five days I was lucky to see all the big five up close. I would definitely recommend African Diurnal Safaris to anyone looking for remarkable lifetime safari experience.
Alexandra T
Alexandra T
2023-05-19
Best experience ever This was an amazing experience! Our guide knew exactly where all the animals are and we were very lucky to see all of them! We will never forget this trip. What a beautiful region. Long way to drive from kilimanjaro airport to seregenti park.
Grace P
Grace P
2023-05-07
Amazing! Wonderful experience! My tour guide taught me so much about the Serengeti and the animals that live inside. We had an amazing picnic lunch under a tree in the Serengeti while watching animals graze in front of us. This was one of the best experiences of my life and I highly recommend!
Cfbaur
Cfbaur
2022-12-16
A great experience. I only had one day to do a safari. This company did a great job in providing a wonderful Serengeti experience. Lameck, the guide was very good at finding most of the big five animals including getting about 6 meters (20 feet) away from three lionesses feeding on a recent kill.
Brendkay
Brendkay
2022-11-16
Amazing 7days luxury Safari with great Safari Company Me and my husband had the best times and best organised safari from the beginning when arranging the trip as well as payments. Everything was great and our guide Lameck was the best ever, he is very skilled and well informed. He showed us the most incredible places and gave us great information about every animal, birds and plant we saw. He knew the roads very well and took very good care of us. When it came to lunch he knew how to set a wonderful table and pampered us well enough. We had a very exciting adventure with Lameck. Wonderful trip that I recommend to all who love to see the fascinating wildlife in Tanzania. Thank you African Diurnal Safaris and thank you so much Lameck for this great wonderful experience. Will definitely recommend this trip to my friends.
David M
David M
2022-11-15
Sensational safari We enjoyed a great 4 day Safari. Our friendly drivers were knowledgeable and helpful. Starting from the western side meant that our first day was extra special as we did not see any other vehicles but very many animals.