Tanzania is the quintessential, definitive holiday destination for your first safari. Who wouldn’t want to visit a dreamy place where destination names roll off the tongue like an enchantment: Serengeti, Zanzibar, Kilimanjaro, Tanganyika, Manyara, Ngorongoro, and Olduvai Gorge, “the Cradle of Humankind. This travel guide gives you all the information you need to plan your first safari in Tanzania without a hustle.



Tanzania is a land of breathtaking beauty and endless adventure, where the vast great plains, snowcapped mountains, lush rainforests, and massive numbers of wild animals offer a truly unforgettable experience for a first safari trip to Africa.

Despite being one of the world’s poorest economies, Tanzania has set aside over 25% of its land for conservation, making it a wildlife destination like no other. The government’s commitment to preserving its natural wonders ensures that future generations can enjoy the thrill of seeing legions of game, pristine coral reefs, and humongous national parks.

As a traveler planning your first safari in Tanzania, you have two main options: the conventional northern Tanzania safari circuit, which takes you to iconic destinations like Mount Kilimanjaro, Ngorongoro Crater, and the Serengeti, or the lesser-traveled southern Tanzania safari circuit, which offers a more off-the-beaten-path adventure through Selous Game Reserve, Ruaha, Mahale, and Gombe National Parks. Whether you choose to explore the northern or southern circuit, Tanzania offers a sense of discovery and wonder that will inspire your soul.

With boundless plains of golden grass, teeming wildlife, and abundant birdlife, Tanzania is a true paradise for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike. It’s a place where you can witness the great wildebeest migration, spot the Big Five (elephant, rhino, lion, leopard, and buffalo), trek through ancient rainforests, and relax on pristine beaches with sand as soft and white as talcum powder. Tanzania is a place where space and time seem to stand still, and the possibilities for discovery are endless.

What to see, where to go

Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a true natural wonder that will leave you in awe. As you ride down onto the crater floor, passing through the misty primeval forest with wild orchids, swinging vines, and chattering monkeys, you’ll feel like a child seeing their favorite toy for the first time. Standing on the crater floor is like featuring in a National Geographic special, and the experience is nothing short of breathtaking.

If you’re looking to follow in the footsteps of legendary white hunters and explorers, then Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania’s south is the perfect destination. It’s the world’s second-largest conservation area, after Greenland National Park, and it’s home to some of the most incredible animals and birds you’ll ever see. Whether you choose to go on a game drive, boat safari, or foot, the sights and sounds of Selous will stay with you forever.

For those who are fascinated by African primates, the Mahale Mountains and Gombe Stream National Parks, on the edge of Lake Tanganyika, are a must-visit. Though remote and involving much travel (much of it by boat), tracking the chimpanzees is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that few people are lucky enough to have.

But Tanzania offers much more than just wildlife. Zanzibar, Pemba, and Mafia islands are a dream for coastal travelers, with pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters. Meanwhile, hiking enthusiasts will love the challenge of Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru.

And let’s not forget about the three great lakes of Victoria, Tanganyika, and Malawi, each with its own unique beauty and charm. Whether you’re exploring the wildlife, hiking the mountains, or relaxing on the beach, Tanzania guarantees unforgettable safari experiences in Africa that will stay with you for a lifetime.

Serengeti Great Migration

Over two million wildebeat and zebra cross the Mara river sometime between July and August, and they repeat this every year in larger numbers. It’s not just the gnu that would attract you here, but also the healthy number of predators looking for an easy meal. this spectacle is not to be missed, especially if it’s your first safari in Kenya.

Best reasons to visit Tanzania on your first safari

The Great Migration

The annual ‘Great Migration’, a movement of more than two million wildebeests and other animals across the Serengeti, is one of the world’s great natural wonders. The Willoughby’s herds leave the short grass plains of the southern Serengeti as the late May drought imposes a deadly ultimatum to migrate or starve. It’s a marathon race against thirst and hunger. Like living streams and rivers, the wild herds accompanied by zebras and gazelles flow toward the west and north, drawn by the instinctual promise of water and grass. It is an epic journey you wouldn’t want to miss on your first Tanzania safari.

Big Game Safari Adventures

You’ll be amazed at how close up and familiar you get with the Big Five and thousands of other animals. There are three different Tanzania safari circuits, each making the large East African country a great wildlife destination. The black rhino is rarely seen throughout, except in the Ngorongoro Crater. The Serengeti prides itself on its abundance of the big cats. The highly endangered African Wild Dog is relatively easy to find in Nyerere and Ruaha, whose numbers are pretty healthy. Gombe Stream and Mahale are Africa’s best chimpanzee reserves.

Ancient Cultures

From the traditional red-robed, bead-bedecked nomadic Maasai in the north to the heady, exotic mix of Arab and African influences in Zanzibar, Pemba, and Mafia, you’ll encounter unique peoples and cultures just about everywhere you go. The tall and dignified Maasai have held adventurers, explorers, and writers in thrall for generations. Ancient cultural excursions in Maasai villages to view herding men and ornamented women carrying firewood are typical on safari trips in Tanzania.

Sea, Sand, and The Sun

The Indian Ocean’s turquoise blue waters lap Tanzania’s sun-spoiled but abandoned beaches, making for quaint African holiday getaways. Swim, snorkel, scuba dive, sail, fish, or just chill on soft white sands under waving palm trees. It’s typical to plan your first safari to include some beach time on the islands of Zanzibar after your wildlife adventures in the big park. Zanzibar boasts of fantastic beaches, marvellous diving, and calming boutique hotels.


Keep your binoculars close as you explore one of Africa’s finest bird-watching destinations, promising hundreds of species in various habitats. Tanzania has one of the most extended bird species lists featuring over 1,100. Over 800 species are residents, and nearly 200 are regular migrants. There are 22 bird species endemic and unique to Tanzania, and a further 43 near-endemic, restricted to Tanzania and neighbouring countries only. Migrants are present from November to April.

Gorillas Are Near

From Serengeti or Arusha, you can easily connect to your trip to Uganda or Rwanda and join the lucky few travellers that have had a chance to sit with the mighty silverback mountain gorilla in the wild.  A visit to East Africa is incomplete until you walk with the great apes of the rainforest.

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Top places you should visit on your first Tanzania safari

Honestly, you probably can’t visit all of Tanzania’s attractions in one safari trip, especially if it’s your first safari in Africa. So, we’ve broken them down into two. The must-see: Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Lake Manyara National Park, Mount Kilimanjaro, Selous Game Reserve, and Gombe Stream and Mahale Mountains National Parks. If you have time, you can visit the second category, which includes Arusha National Park, Tarangire National Park, and Ruaha National Park. The split will help you better prioritise which one should make it to your bucket list. We suggest you read about them and then make a knowledgeable choice.

Serengeti National Park

The very name Serengeti is guaranteed to stir up some exciting jolts up your spine, even in the most jaded traveller’s spine. It’s up there in that wish list of legendary destinations alongside Angkor Wat, Machu Picchu, Kakadu, Killarney, and the Great Pyramid of Giza. But what distinguishes Serengeti from all other wildlife safari destinations is its sheer natural beauty and wildlife endowment.

Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Ngorongoro Crater ranks there with the big boys, Serengeti, Kruger Park, Masai Mara, Etosha, and the Okavango Delta—Africa’s must-visit national parks. One of the three protected UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Tanzania (together with Selous Game Reserve and the Serengeti), the Crater is often called the Eighth Wonder of the World.

Lake Manyara National Park

In the Great Rift Valley southwest of Arusha and south of the Serengeti lies the Cinderella of Tanzania’s parks—the once overlooked and underrated Lake Manyara National Park. Even Ernest Hemingway was overwhelmed by the 2,000-feet-high rift valley escarpment dominating the park. He praised Manyara as “the loveliest place he had ever seen in Africa.

Mount Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro, a dormant volcano on the roof of Africa, is one of the closest points in the world to the sun (Chimborazo in the Andes is the closest). It’s also the highest peak on the continent and the tallest freestanding mountain in the world. So great is her global attraction that approximately 12,000 people worldwide attempt to reach her mighty summit each year. Kili is also home to various unique species found only along its slopes.

Selous Game Reserve

Selous Game Reserve is the real untamed Africa—not what tourism makes it to be. The reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of the few natural wildernesses found in Tanzania. It covers 50,000 square kilometres (19,305 square miles), 5% of Tanzania and is the largest national park in Africa and the second-largest worldwide.

Gombe Stream & Mahale Mountains

If you plan on tracking the intriguing, beguiling, and oh-so-human chimpanzees on your first safari in Tanzania, you must visit the remotest Gomber and Mahale in the extreme west. It takes a great effort and time to get to one or both of these dramatically beautiful remote parks. Because of their remoteness, there are very few visitors, and very few other people on earth will share your experience.

Other places you can visit when you have the time

If you still have time on your first safari after you’ve explored the Must-See parks in Tanzania, put the following national parks on your bucket list, too: Arusha, Ruaha, and Tarangire.

Arusha National Park

Though it covers only 137 square kilometres (58 square miles), Arusha National Park has more to see than many much larger reserves, and it is your gateway to climbing Mount Meru.

Tarangire National Park

Tarangire is an easy 118-kilometre (71-miles) drive from Arusha and adjacent to Lake Manyara. The park is Tanzania’s well-kept secret featuring the wildebeest migration, large elephant herds, baobab trees, and the big five.

Ruaha National Park

East African safari enthusiasts claim Ruaha to be the Tanzania safari’s best-kept secret. The park has huge concentrations of buffalos, elephants, antelope, and more than 400 bird species.

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Essential information for planning your first safari in Tanzania