A Guide to Luxury and Budget Safari in Tanzania
Tanzania is literally the heart of safari in Africa, and arguably one of the best places in the world. I mean, c’mon, you just have to listen to Africa by Toto. There’s just something special about the endless plains of the Serengeti, with Kilimanjaro towering in the background.
Driving into the heart of Ngorongoro Crater and watching the sunrise. The opportunity to see the big 5 up close and personal. The feeling of going all out luxury and staying in amazing lodges, to the epic adventure of budget safari in Tanzania, and camping in the Serengeti (hint, it’s epic!)
Not to mention that Tanzania also boasts Kilimanjaro, the highest free standing mountain in the world and one of the seven summits, as well as the white sandy beaches of Zanzibar. So, all round, it’s kind of the perfect place for your African getaway.
It’s also one of those places that you can do on a budget, or you can go all out on luxury if you want! So, this blog is going to give you both the luxury and budget safari in Tanzania options, as well as everything you need to know about going on Safari in Tanzania. Where to go? When to see the migration? Anything you want to know, this blog has got you covered! After your safari adventure, why not climb Kilimanjaro, or relax in luxury with an all-inclusive package in Zanzibar?
Ready to spot the big 5?
The Best Places to Go on Safari in Tanzania
1. The Serengeti
The Serengeti is probably your selling point for safari in Tanzania, and it’s not hard to see why. Covering a huge 30,0002km, the Serengeti stretches through Northern Tanzania and in to Kenya. It takes centre stage for wildlife viewing, and is arguably the best place for safari in the world. With vast open plains, gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, and more wildlife than you can imagine, the Serengeti is a wildlife lover’s dream come true. Even better, if you are a lion king fan, take a drive to see the real-life pride rock while spotting wildlife on the way.
Fun fact: the name the Serengeti is derived from the local Massai language endless plains.
It’s recommend to spent a couple of days at the Serengeti to venture out in all directions and experience as much of the wildlife as possible.
Common: Lion, elephant, giraffe, zebra, leopard, cheetah, hyena, hippo, buffalo, wildebeest, crocodiles, over 500 species of bird.
There are some rhinos in the Serengeti, but they are extremely hard to find. You have a better chance of seeing rhinos at Ngorongoro Crater.
Rare: Wild dogs
When and where to see the great migration in the Serengeti
Like the Serengeti even needs another selling point, but the great migration draws even more visitors to the famous wildlife destination. The annual migration occurs as wildebeest and other grazers set out to find more grass and water.
- July – October: around the Northern Serengeti plains and the Mara river, the best time to see the migration.
- December – March: the southern area of the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Conservation area.
- Rest of the year: The wildebeest and grazers are more dispersed during the remaining months of the year.
How to get to the Serengeti
From Arusha, the Serengeti is around a 7-hour drive, however, often the route will take you first to Lake Manyara or Ngorongoro Crater, splitting up the driving all up. For example, your first safari stop might be Lake Manyara, which is around 2.5 hours, then head to the Serengeti, a further 4.5 hours.
On the way back, you could stop at Ngorongoro Crater, which is about 3 hours from the Serengeti, before heading back to Arusha. This is the most cost effective option for budget safari in Tanzania, and the landscape is pretty impressive, so time flies!
Your other option is to fly from Arusha to one of the landing strips in the Serengeti, with several flights departing daily that can be organised by your tour company. I would only recommend this option if you are only going the visit the Serengeti and skip all of the other safari spots.
Where to stay in the Serengeti: Luxury options
- Serena Lodge: Stay in impressive stone built domes at Serena Lodge, with all rooms coming with a balcony looking over the plains of the Serengeti. This is a more reasonably priced option compared to some of the more luxurious places, however still very nice.
- Melia Serengeti Lodge: This 5-star lodge boasts a pool and spa, free Wi-Fi and delicious meals included, all with amazing views of the Serengeti. A little more expensive, but worth it if you are looking for a luxurious stay in the Serengeti.
- Serengeti Bushtops:Another great option for nicer accomodation in the Serengeti, why not stay at Serengeti Bushtops?
Where to stay in the Serengeti: budget options
- Campsites: The most budget friendly option when on safari, there are several campsites located in the Serengeti itself. With on-site bathrooms and outdoor dining areas, camping will give you an authentic experience. Most of the sites aren’t actually enclosed, so don’t leave any food in your tent, otherwise you might get a visit from hyenas!
2. Ngorongoro Crater
Formed over 2 and a half million years ago, the crater was the result of a huge volcano collapsing in on itself, leaving one of the most impressive sights you will ever see. Looking down to the crater from the outer rim, you will be in awe. The crater itself covers 2642 kilometers, while the wider Ngorongoro Conservation area covers over 80002 kilometers. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, Ngorongoro Crater is one of the most impressive places to safari in Africa, and an absolute must visit!
With over 25,000 animals calling Ngorongoro Crater home, this is one of the most densely populated safari spots in Africa. Get ready to spot the big 5, because there’s a good chance you very might achieve that dream in Ngorongoro Crater.
Common: Zebra, lion, wildebeest, buffalo, hippo, flamingo, elephant, gazelle, hyena, cheetah, ostrich, wild dog, and over 500 species of bird.
There are currently 30 black rhinos calling Ngorongoro Crater home, and this is one of the best places to spot them, so get the camera and binoculars ready!
Rare: Giraffe, leopard.
Fun fact: You won’t see any giraffe in the crater itself, this is because it is too steep for them to walk down. You might spot them on the rim of the crater and throughout the conservation area.
How to get to Ngorongoro Crater
The easiest way to get to Ngorongoro Conservation Area is to drive. Approximately a 3.5-hour drive from Arusha, it’s also only 2.5 hours from the Serengeti, making it an amazing stop on the way to or from the Serengeti.
Where to stay at Ngorongoro Conservation area
You can’t stay in the crater itself, but you can stay on the rim of the crater in either luxury accommodation or campsites, and wake up to brilliant views. Another option is to stay in the nearby town of Karatu.
- Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge: If you are looking for luxury, this is it. This rock built, all-inclusive lodge boasts absolutely incredible views from the rim of the crater, and has a rustic feel through-out.
- Ngorongoro wildlife lodge: If you are still looking for nice accommodation for a more reasonable price tag, this is a great option. With a restaurant, bar and outdoor pool, the rooms here are nice and the views are amazing.
On a budget
- Campsites: Camp on the rim of the crater and be blown away by the incredible views. The best way to stick to a budget, the campsites are basic but have everything you need.
3. Lake Manyara
Lying in the shadows of the Great Rift Valley, Lake Manyara is often overlooked by it’s much bigger safari counterparts. 3252kilometres in size, Lake Manyara is a great stop on your safari itinerary and shouldn’t be missed when in Tanzania. Home to the tree climbing lions, flamingos and baboons, it’s worthwhile including an afternoon safari in this lovely spot.
Common: Elephant, zebra, tree-climbing lion, warthog, baboon, wildebeest, buffalo, giraffe, hippo, flamingo.
Rare: Cheetah, leopard, wild dog. There are no rhinos at Lake Manyara.
How to get to Lake Manyara
Lake Manyara is only a 2.5-hour drive from central Arusha, and on the way to Ngorongoro and the Serengeti. Being a part of the famous Northern circuit, it’s common to drive this way.
Where to stay at Lake Manyara
Staying in the area outside of Lake Manyara opens up a range of options for other activities such as village tours and hiking, as well as close access to the park.
- andBeyond Lake Manyara Tree Lodge: With an outdoor pool, bar and brilliant dining, stay in a treehouse and feel like royalty at andBeyond. If you are looking for a luxurious yet unique stay, this is the place to go.
- Africa Safari Glamping: A glamping experience, this is a great option for mid-range accommodation. Also featuring a pool, this is the perfect option if you are looking for something a little more luxurious than camping!
- Twiga Lodge and Campsite: The best option if you are travelling on a budget, Twiga offers both affordable lodging as well as camping options. If you are camping, the facilities are great, with decent bathrooms, undercover dining areas and power points.
4. Tarangire National Park
Located slightly off the main Northern Safari route (but not far enough to rule it out!), lies Tarangire National Park, another often overlooked safari destination in Tanzania. Although, like Lake Manyara, it pales compared to the big-name competitors (I’m looking at you Ngorongoro and the Serengeti), it’s still worth a visit.
Its differing landscapes make it impressive, and you will often get less crowds, which makes for a much more serene experience. Covering 2,6002kilometres, the vegetation here is much denser, and the Tarangire river flows through the park.
Common: Elephant, zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, gazelle, buffalo, lion, leopard, hyena.
Rare: Wild dog, cheetah. There are still thought to be a couple of black rhino living in the area, although sightings are extremely rare.
How to get to Tarangire National Park
Tarangire National park is only a short, 2-hour drive from Arusha. From there, it’s a further 2 hours to Lake Manyara, or 4 hours to Ngorongoro Crater, which makes it the perfect first stop on your Tanzanian Safari adventure!
Where to stay at Tarangire National Park: Luxury options
- Tarangire Simba Lodge: With an outdoor pool, bar, restaurant and very nice rooms, it’s not un-common for elephants to make a visit here. With beautiful views, its easy to relax here and wait for animals to approach.
- Mbali Tarangire River Camp: Located right on the river, this authentic lodge will make you feel right at home. With an on-site restaurant and rustic lodges and camping options, you aren’t far from all the action. There’s also a pool and garden to relax after a long day on safari.
Where to stay at Tarangire National Park: budget options
- Campsites: Again, the most budget friendly option is to camp in a basic campsite. There are many options surrounding the Tarangire National Park area, most of which have undercover dining areas and decent bathrooms.
Which safari in Tanzania is best?
Best Budget safari in Tanzania
Your go to for a budget friendly option, a camping safari allows you to see it all without breaking the bank.
- Tanzania Camping Safari – I recommend this G Adventures camping safari, which stops at Lake Manyara, the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, and also includes a village tour.
- Contiki Taste of Tanzania – This camping safari is the perfect 6 day introduction to safari in Tanzania while sticking to a budget.
Mid-range budget safari in Tanzania
- Serengeti Migration Safari – An upgraded tour with a little more than the basic camping accommodation.
Luxury safari in Tanzania
Wanting to feel like royalty on your safari?
- Intrepid Travel Tanzania Safari – Stay in the comfort of permanent tented camps to get the most out of your safari experience.
- National Geographic Tanzania Safari Experience – Experience safari while staying in comfort lodges and hotels, experiencing the finer things in life.
My personal recommendation? I personally did the G Adventures camping safari and adored it. I do like a little luxury sometimes, but opted for camping at the time to stick to my budget.
I recommend allowing atleast 5-6 days for your safari in Tanzania, and along with the Serengeti and Ngorongoro, opt to include Lake Manyara or Tarangire National Park. I’d also recommend a village tour, so that you can really get to know the culture and interact with locals.
What do I need to know before going on safari in Tanzania?
Getting to Tanzania
The main airport in Tanzania is Kilimanjaro International Airport, which is about an hour’s drive from Central Arusha, which is the best place to set as the base for your safari.
International flights from outside of Africa generally require a stopover in a major transport hub, and may also require a short stopover in Kenya, which is a much larger international airport just a short hour’s flight from Tanzania.
Getting to Arusha from Kilimanjaro Airport
Central Arusha is about an hour’s drive from Kilimanjaro International airport. Taxis are readily available at the airport, or you might be able to organise a pick-up with your hotel. Either way, you can expect to pay around $50 US to get to Arusha from the airport.
Where to stay in Arusha
- Outpost Lodge: A boutique style lodge in the heart of Arusha, you can stay in cute lodging with a pool and restaurant. Sit back with a drink at the on-site restaurant and watch the monkeys play on the roof above you.
- Elewana Coffee Lodge: For a more luxurious stay, the Elewana Coffee lodge is a great choice. With fancy rooms, a nice restaurant and large pool, you can relax easy while staying here.
- Kigongoni Lodge: Another boutique style lodge, Kigongoni is situated on a hill, a little drive away from the centre of Arusha. With a pool and restaurant, this lodge has incredible views of the nearby mountains.
Visas are required for most foreigners wishing to travel in Tanzania, and are available at the airport in most cases, which is a fairly simple process, although queues can be long. Check with your local embassy for up to date Visa information.
What to pack
Here’s some of my safari in Tanzania essentials (note that this isn’t a full packing list, just some essentials that I think you shouldn’t go without!)
- Camera, spare memory cards and binoculars (obviously!)
- Layers – it can be warm in the day and cold at night, so it’s important to working with a layering system
- Bug repellent
- Light colored clothes – avoid bright colors and stick to lighter tones to avoid scaring off wildlife
So, I’ve said it enough times already, but you really shouldn’t travel without travel insurance. You never know when you might need it, and it’s even more important when you travel to more remote countries such as Tanzania. I recommend Travelex Travel Insurance, for affordable packages to make sure you stay healthy on your trip.
Recommended travel planning resources
- Skyscanner – My go to for flights! Skyscanner literally scans all the flight search engines on the net to find you the best deals.
- GetyourGuide – looking for day tours and small group tour? Get your guide is your go too! Search by place to find the best activities in destinations.
- TripAdvisor – If you are like me and always looking for reviews, you should bookmark trip advisor. For hotel and restaurant reviews, it’s my go too.
- Trip.com – Book hotels, transport and activities all in one place with trip.com’s easy to use interface!
- TourRadar – Are group tours more your thing? TourRadar finds all the best tours from a huge range of companies at great prices!
Ready to spot the big 5? You won’t regret a safari in Tanzania, its truly a bucket list item that you need to tick off. Even better, its easy to do a budget safari in Tanzania or a luxury one, either is amazing! While you are there, why not climb Kilimanjaro (trust me, you can!), or visit the white sandy beaches of Zanzibar?