A safari adventure. Everyone has some idea of what it might involve — plush tented camp set in a remote wilderness, vast rolling grasslands, lush valleys, towering mountain peaks, sprawling lakes, and of course, an assortment of wild animals roaming diverse terrains.
The experience is not something one can easily put in words, so the best advice is to just go for it and see for yourself. The only question now is where?
East Africa is where the notion of “Safari” was born, with Kenya and Tanzania being at the forefront of a quintessential African wildlife safari since the ’80s. Making a choice between a Kenya and Tanzania safari can be daunting, even if you’ve experienced one before. Both countries offer the classic wilderness safari circuits as well as the option to venture off the beaten path. As with all travel, deciding on the ideal safari destination is a “choose your own adventure” experience, so here’s a breakdown of their strengths and weaknesses to help you make an informed choice:
International and Local Travel
Kenya and Tanzania are both well connected to the rest of the world with their respective airports being frequented by several airlines from different countries. That being said, flights to Kenya tend to be cheaper since it usually has more available flights than Tanzania. Nevertheless, if your heart is set on Tanzania, then you could consider flying into Nairobi, Kenya and then catch a connecting flight to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania — you might find this to be cheaper than flying direct. Alternatively, you can fly to Kenya and take a bus to Tanzania. This is the cheapest option. For local travel, Kenya’s infrastructure is typically more reliable than Tanzania’s when it comes to taxis, public transport, and domestic flights.
Wildlife and Birdlife Viewing
The spectacular sight of wildlife roaming in their habitat is the biggest reason people go on a safari, and there’s definitely great wildlife viewing in both Kenya and Tanzania. In this case, your choice of destination will come down to what kind of wildlife you want to see. In terms of wildlife density and diversity, Tanzania takes the cake, boasting the larger concentration of animals per square kilometre. Some of the popular animals you’ll see here are cheetahs, elephants, and chimpanzees. Kenya, on the other hand, is an excellent place to see big cats (lions, leopards, Serval cats, caracals) as well as some endangered species like rhinos. Whichever you choose, you’ll still be able to see other animals like giraffes, zebras, elands, wildebeests, warthogs, hippos, and many more, as well as hundreds of bird species.
Accommodation options in Kenya and Tanzania are varied and will typically depend on your budget and taste. From basic tents and camps to lodges and luxurious hotels and private reserves, you have a wealth of options at your disposal. Keep in mind, however, that during peak season, these accommodation options tend to fill up pretty fast, especially when you’re planning to visit popular destinations like the Serengeti in Tanzania or the Masai Mara Reserve in Kenya. So for instance, if you’re looking forward to a Serengeti camping experience mid-year, then you’ll want to start planning at least nine months in advance.
The Great Migration
This annual event sees the largest migration of wildlife in the world between Tanzania’s Serengeti and Kenya’s Masai Mara. If you’re hoping to witness the Great Migration, then the time of year will pretty much decide where you should go. From December through June, the herds are in Tanzania; come July and August, they start crossing into Kenya where they’ll stay until late November.
Kenya has taken great strides in marketing itself internationally as the safari destination of Africa. This translates to more visitors, especially around the time of the Great Migration. Tanzania does receive its fair share of crowds during peak season, but being a larger country, it also has some pretty good off-the-beaten-path destinations that you can explore instead if large crowds aren’t your thing.
Kenya and Tanzania are basically an extension of each other, and the fact is you can’t really go wrong with either.
For a more enriching experience, it only makes sense to go to the country that is more suited to your interests. If you’re looking for a more accessible country, with better tourism infrastructure and a good balance between modern cities and natural attractions, then Kenya is the way to go.
However, if you’re looking for a more adventurous experience, with lots of open roads and an authentic African bush appeal, then choose Tanzania.
Still undecided? Why not just combine both countries in your itinerary so you can enjoy the best of both worlds.