With its vast and varied landscapes, incredible scope of activities and sheer number of places to visit and things to do, Tanzania is often described as Africa in a nutshell – and we certainly wouldn’t argue with that. It’s a great country to visit for an iconic safari experience (game drives, the Great Migration and G&Ts around the campfire, we’re looking at you) but it’s also an excellent choice if you’re after something a little more unusual. So, without further ado, here are our top things to do in Tanzania – how many can you add to your trip?!
Watch the Great Migration in the Serengeti
First on our list of things to do in Tanzania is a spectacle that the country is most famous for in the safari stakes, and one that we definitely couldn’t ignore! Watching the wildebeest of the Great Migration as they thunder across the Serengeti plains is a bucket-list experience for many and quite rightly so – it’s magical, mesmerising and one of the natural world’s most magnificent displays by far. What many don’t realise is that whatever time of year you travel, it’s possible to see the wildebeest. The river crossings are the most iconic event, and they happen in the northern Serengeti, between roughly July and September. But visit from January to March to see the new babies being born in the south, or head to Grumeti in the west in May or June to catch the rutting season in full swing.
Our accommodation recommendations for the Great Migration depend on what month of the year you’re travelling and what part of the show you’d like to see. This guide explains a little more about the movements of the wildebeest, but if you’d like to know more about where to stay, have a read of this one.
Try a walking safari
If you’re looking for things to do in Tanzania, may we recommend a walking safari? Perfect for thrill seekers (and equally as good if you’re simply looking to do something a little bit different), a walking safari takes you right out of the comfort zone of a 4×4 and heightens all your senses. With no doors to hide behind, it’s just you, the wilderness, and the wildlife – the sensation of walking through the bush on your own two feet is thrilling. Safety is of course paramount, and the guides in Tanzania are some of the best in the business – specially trained, they know the landscapes better than anyone and will take you to all the hidden corners and most secret of spots in pursuit of the wildlife. And if you’re still not convinced, have a read of our article on everything you need to know about walking – you’ll never look back!
Walking isn’t possible everywhere in Tanzania so you’ll need to choose your lodges carefully. A walking safari in Tarangire is a good place to start – the terrain is gentle and the wildlife trusting – whilst the Selous offers something a bit wilder. Try Oliver’s Camp in the former and Roho ya Selous in the latter. And then there’s Ruaha. The park is our top spot for walking in Tanzania, and Kichaka Expeditions our number one go-to.
Go chimp trekking in Mahale (or Rubondo Island)
It might be one of the continent’s most iconic safari destinations, but there are also several alternative things to do in Tanzania in between game drives – you just need to know where to find them. A good place to start is the enchanting Mahale Mountains in the west of the country. The forested slopes are home to the world’s largest known population of wild chimpanzee and to watch them in their natural habitat is a sight to behold. Treks usually take place in the mornings and you’ll scramble through the leafy Nirvana, past shy bushbuck and exotic birds, until you reach the chimps and spend a privileged hour in their company. More recently, the wild chimp population on Rubondo Island has been habituated to human presence and offers an excellent (and slightly easier to reach!) option for chimp trekking.
Greystoke Mahale in the Mahale Mountains has to be one of the most fabulous lodges on the continent. The six cabins overlook the cool waters of Lake Tanganyika and the winged main area is the perfect spot to admire your fairytale surroundings. On Rubondo Island, Rubondo Island Camp is really your only option – but it’s a damn good one at that.
Sleep under the stars in a fly camping experience
Established by hunters and trackers back in the day, fly camping takes its name from the ‘fly’ sheet of canvas that the early explorers would sleep under. Today, things have got a tad more luxurious (think feather-soft duvets, hot showers and bacon and eggs for brekkie in some cases) but it’s still an excellent way to get back to basics and enjoy the bush for what it really is. Traditionally, you’ll start your adventure with a walking safari, just as the sun is beginning to set, and arrive at your fly camp in time for dinner. Then, you’ll retreat to your mosquito net for an incredible night beneath the stars, accompanied only by the murmur of voices around the fire and the finest of lines between you and the great wilderness….
Fly camping can be done both in the Selous (Sand Rivers Camp would be our favourite here) and also from Chada in Katavi in the far west of the country. It’s more unusual in the Serengeti, but there are some camps that offer the experience – check out Serian Lamai who also offer multi-day fly camping expeditions, as well as one night adventures.
Head to the coast
When it comes to things to do in Tanzania, the beach might not immediately spring to mind – but venture to the ocean you should, for the coastline is the stuff dreams are made of. On the mainland, you’ve got Ras Kutani, a slice of paradise on the deserted shores of the Indian Ocean where hammock-lounging is probably the most challenging activity you’ll encounter. Then there are the famous islands; try Zanzibar for a heady blend of culture and luxe beach resorts (and a blissful dhow cruise at sunset), Mafia Island for diving and snorkelling and Pemba if you just want to get away from it all. The gateway to the coast is Dar es Salaam, the capital city that’s a mere hop, skip and a jump from the safari parks of the northern circuit and even better connected with the parks of the south. What better excuse to indulge in some beachside R&R?
Accommodation-wise, there are options to suit everyone in all four locations whether you’re looking for all out glamour, beach butlers and spa treatments included, or something a little more relaxed. A couple of our top spots include Baraza Resort & Spa and the fabulous under-water Manta Resort.
Walk through the Ngorongoro Highlands
A visit to the Ngorongoro Crater should certainly be on any list of things to do in Tanzania, but one of our favourite experiences in the area is to lace up your walking boots and explore on two feet. The Crater Highlands that surround the iconic, animal-filled crater are a magical melee of jungled woodland, tumbling waterfalls and small, Maasai villages and a walk or hike through the forest will reward you with plenty of sightings and some rather lovely views too. Or, take things one step further and hike from Ngorongoro all the way to the shores of centuries-old Lake Natron. The three-day expedition begins at Empakaai, the forgotten crater, and will take you through hauntingly beautiful landscapes, down dusty gorges and up rugged mountains, bringing a whole new meaning to ‘off the beaten track.’
Tented camp Entamanu offers lovely walks along the crater rim, and from The Highlands Camp, you can hike in Empakaai Crater and the even lesser-known (and just as beautiful) Olmoti with a Maasai guide. If you fancy doing the Lake Natron trek, add a few nights at either of the two first to ease yourself into the walking – and enjoy a spot of luxury too.