We firmly believe that planning your safari of a lifetime can be just as much fun as going on the trip itself. But we also know it can be confusing and perhaps a little bit frustrating and that’s where we come in with our top Tanzania travel tips!
Below are our top things to think about when planning a Tanzania safari. From the cheapest airlines to the best time to travel and a few nuggets of knowledge in between, we’ve got you covered. If you’re still debating about where and when to go to Tanzania, have a look at our mini-guides here (where) and here (when).
The cheap and cheerful school of flying has finally made it to Africa and what a difference it makes, both in price and in simply getting around the enormous continent. Johannesburg-based Fastjet have several domestic routes around Tanzania, including Dar es Salaam to Kilimanjaro (for Arusha airport and connections to the Serengeti), Dar and Kili to Mwanza (for Rubondo Island) and even from Dar to Zanzibar, making the beach more accessible than ever.
Flying vs Driving
If you’ve been on safari in Southern Africa, you might wonder what we’re talking about. But the Northern Circuit in Tanzania is one of the few places on the continent where driving between parks really is possible. You’ll meet your driver in Arusha and stick with him (and his vehicle) for the rest of the trip. A typical circuit will include Tarangire, Serengeti and Ngorongoro and, as well as often working out cheaper than flying, you’ll get to see some pretty awesome sights as you drive.
The Green Season
One of the top Tanzania travel tips to save some pennies is to look at travelling in the off-peak seasons (November and February to May). Whether it’s called the green, shoulder or low, don’t underestimate the highlights of travelling now. You’ll get the same excellent standard of guiding and the same fabulous camps both for much less and the country looks beautiful – think newborn babies springing around emerald-green plains, dust-free landscapes (excellent photographs!) and full-flowing rivers. In fact, this is one of our favourite seasons to travel even if you don’t want to save any pennies.
To luxury or not to luxury?
One of the biggest myths surrounding safari is that you either have to stay in a lodge that costs an arm and leg, or camp with only a sheet of canvas for comfort. Happily, neither of those is true and Tanzania has an astonishing array of camps for all styles, tastes and budgets. And you don’t have to stick to just one design either – another of our clever Tanzania travel tips is to mix it up with a couple of nights in a traditional tented camp before ending in a luxury retreat, complete with infinity pool and all the creature comforts.
Check your airports!
Don’t assume that the only option is to fly into the capital city of a country (in Tanzania’s case, Dar es Salaam). KLM have just launched a direct flight from Europe to Kilimanjaro, which is 30 minutes outside Arusha and the perfect connection for anyone heading to the Serengeti. Also look at ‘open-jaw’ tickets – for example flying in to Kilimanjaro, but flying out of Dar es Salaam, if you’re looking at spending some time in Zanzibar.
With an exotic array of tropical islands, a stunning coastline and more postcard-perfect beaches than sunbathing time, Tanzania ticks all the boxes for a classic ‘safari-and-beach’ holiday. From Dar es Salaam, drive down the coast to the Ras Kutani area on the Indian Ocean, hop over to Zanzibar for some Swahili culture or indulge in some serious barefoot luxury on Pemba and Mafia Islands. Flight connections are so easy, adding a few days at the beach is almost compulsory…
As you’ve probably realised, internal flights are expensive. Very expensive in fact, and the more you take, the more you spend and the longer they are, the more you spend (again). To get around this, one of our Tanzania travel tips is to consider visiting parks that are close together and that fit well together, for example the Northern Circuit (Serengeti, Ngorongoro and Tarangire) or the South (Ruaha & Selous). Tried and tested routes make for a cheaper and hassle-free trip.
How long should I go for?
The golden question and one that we get asked a lot. Our most common answer? It’s totally up to you. Seven nights for a multi-park or multi-country safari is a good starting point, with two nights minimum in each camp. Less than that and you’re in and out before you can say, ‘There’s a lion in that bush.’ But if you’ve only got four nights then we can make it work – stay in one place with a variety of activities and make the most of your time. And if you want to stay for seven nights in one place and make the most of the swimming pool and the down time then that’s fine too.
Head off the beaten track
We’re not denying that some areas in Tanzania can get a little busy at times, so what better excuse to try something different? Head to Rubondo Island in Lake Victoria for a real Robinson Crusoe adventure, the Mahale Mountains for chimp trekking or hike with the Maasai through the Rift Valley to Lake Natron. If you’ve got your heart set on the Serengeti but aren’t so keen on the crowds, check out the Grumeti concession to the west where tourists and lodges are few but wildlife is plentiful.
Tanzania is a great all-encompassing destination but if wanderlust has got the better of you, it’s easy to combine a safari here with a few days in a different country. The last of our Tanzania travel tips is to have a look at adding some extra days in Kenya, trekking gorillas in Rwanda or spoil yourself with a spot of downtime in Mauritius or Mozambique. Flight connections are usually quite easy, journey times are short and you get to maximise your trip of a lifetime. A win-win situation.