A Guide to Northern Tanzania and Zanzibar
By Frederik Jacobsen | Bikudo Travel
Tanzania is one of the best wildlife destinations in the world. It has some of the finest beaches on the African continent and is home to friendly locals and captivating cultures.
Moreover it is home to Africas largest mountain and the worlds highest free-standing volcano as Mount Kilimanjaro stands iconic near the border to Kenya.
Tanzania is an adventure suited for everyone and a destination not to be missed.
This is our guide to Northern Tanzania & Zanzibar.
You may also like our introductory video to safari in Northern Tanzania
Table of contents:
- Best time to travel
- Tips to know before you go
- Arriving at Zanzibar
- Zanzibar's beaches
- Stone Town
- Safari in Tanzania
- Northern Tanzania
- Tarangire National Park
- Lake Manyara
- Ngorongoro Conservation Area
- Serengeti National Park
- Lake Eyasi
- Lake Natron
- Mt. Kilimanjaro
Best time to travel:
There really isn’t no “best” time to visit Tanzania. You can come here all year round (almost) as different periods bring different experiences.
The exception being the long rains of the green season lasting from March to the middle of May. This is the main rainy season.
Safari isn’t great and many camps close during this period. If you don't mind the daily downpour this season does however provide good opportunities to strike a bargain for accommodation and excursions, although your options to go off road are limited.
The second rainy season brings sporadic short rains and lasts from mid-October through December. Safari and game driving is possible and good during this period.
Coastal areas are usually hot and humid while the northwestern plains and highlands are more temperate and cooler.
January – February
This is deemed the short dry season and begins in mid-January and lasts for a couple of months.
This is a good time to visit if you are into birds. The scenery is typically more green and lush but will slowly dry out as we approach March. Lush, green and plenty of waterholes typically means wildlife is more difficult to spot and more scattered.
The exception being the Southern Serengeti as this time of the year is calving season - one of the Wildebeest Migrations highlights. If you are planning a trip to Tanzania during this time of year, this should not to be missed.
Have a look at our suggested itinerary for experiencing the wildebeest migration calving season.
March – May:
The main rainy season throughout Tanzania begins in March and lasts until around the middle of May. Here you can expect daily and long tropical showers.
Some safari camps close during this time of year while others continue to operate year-round. Prices are cheap but expect your safari or beach day to be cut short during the day as rain comes in.
Most secondary roads in Tanzania are dirt roads and will be difficult to drive this time of year. Especially in the national parks making some areas inaccessible. The same goes for remote destinations such as Lake Natron.
June – September:
From the middle of May the heavy rains starts to wear off and the weather becomes cooler and drier.
From June until September is considered to be the high season throughout Tanzania. Animal spotting is at its best as vegetation is sparse, and animals gather around the diminishing water sources.
This is also the time where, if lucky, you can time your Serengeti safari with the wildebeest migration crossing either the Grumeti- or Mara River. You can read more about the wildebeest migration further down this guide.
Expect hotels to be more expensive as they see an increase in travellers during these months.
October - December
The weather is getting warmer and the mvuli (the short rains) starts in the end of October. It means that you should expect daily or bidaily rainfalls lasting a few hours.
It is absolutely fine as you’ll experience the short rains is a welcoming refreshment. It clears the air and if you are going on a safari or heading to either Lake Eyasi or Lake Natron, a bit of rain is perfect.
When is the best time to climb Mount Kilimanjaro
It is possible to summit Kilimanjaro all year round, but the weather can be difficult to predict, especially in the rainy seasons.
You will get the best chances of beautiful weather and calm conditions if you go in late June to October and again from late December to February.
It’s possible also in November and December, during the short rains, but it tends to get cloudy and the trails can be slippery.
Unless it’s your only option, we wouldn’t recommend going during the long rains in March to May. It’s less crowded for sure, but chances are you will encounter heavy rain/snow and clouds.
When is the best time to enjoy Zanzibar
As with the rest of Tanzania, Zanzibar is a year round destination, although most travelers avoid the rainy season.
High season tends to be from December to February and again from July to August. Less rain is expected during these months and tourists flock here at this time of year. It means busy beaches and higher prices.
September to November sees lesser tourists than in the high season with reasonably good weather. Expect to see some rain in late October and November.
When is the best time to go on a safari
When to go on a safari in Tanzania depends very much on your interests and budget constraints.
Dry season of June to October: Wildlife is easier to spot as there is less vegetation and fewer water sources meaning higher concentration of wildlife around the few rivers and waterholes.
It is also the high season meaning camps are full, prices are at a premium and there are more jeeps on the dusty dirt roads. To spot predators this is considered the best time to go on a safari.
This is also when the wildebeest's are crossing the Grumeti and Mara river during the wildebeest migration in the Serengeti (see more below under the wildebeest migration).
Short rainy seasons from November to December: If you are here to spot the many different and beautiful species of birds, then this time of year can be extra rewarding. This is also when everything is lush and green making it the most beautiful time to really enjoy the beautiful landscapes.
October and November is a great alternative to the peak season of June – October as there are less tourists, prices are more reasonable and the weather is nice to cool (especially in the evenings in the northern highlands).
Second dry season from January to March: It's lesser crowded than the dry season of June to October, although it's still a busy game viewing period. It's still green from the short rains, but everything slowly dries making wildlife spotting easier around the remaining waterholes.
This is also the calving season, which unfolds in the Southern Serengeti and is one of the highlights of the wildebeest migration. It also marks the beginning of the migration as the herd starts to move north in March/April as the rainy season begins.
The long rains of March to May: Dirt roads inside the national parks are less accessible and can limit your range of game driving options inside the parks.
Some camps close down for a month or two. On the plus side it's green and lush and prices are down. It's a good time if you are here to watch birds.
If you are looking to plan your safari around specific events, such as the wildebeest migration, bird watching or the best time to spot the big cats, feel free to ask us any time for more information and help to plan your perfect safari.
When can you see the Wildebeest Migration
It’s important to note that the wildebeest migration is not an event set to go off on a specific date. It's part of the wild and untamed wildlife at display in and around the Serengeti National Park and Masai Mara in Kenya.
Therefore, your chance of experiencing the migration lies with the instinctive movement of millions of wildebeest, their behaviour and some planning on your part (or ours).
The herds usually follow a cyclical pattern in which they follow the rain in search for food and grassland.
Some highlights occur in:
December to early March: This is loosely considered as being the "beginning" of the migration. During December the migration moves towards the southern plains of the Serengeti. By late January to early March the wildebeest calving season takes place.
This is one of the greatest spectacles of the Serengeti and the migration cycle as up to an estimated 8.000 calves are born each day, however some 40% of the newborns doesn't make it beyond 4 months. This event is also easier to plan around and if you are considering going you should take a look at our suggested itinerary for the wildebeest migration calving season.
Late May to Early June: By this time the herd moves northwest where they must cross the Grumeti River, which is a feast for the crocodiles and a very dramatic spectacle. Mind you that the exact time varies from year to year and lasts between 1-2 weeks before all the wildebeest's have crossed.
July and August: They head into Kenya and the Masai Mara National Park. Another incredible crossing of the Mara River takes place right at the border between Kenya and Tanzania. This too lasts for about 1-2 weeks and is also difficult to predict exactly when it will happen.
From the Masai Mara the herd comes back to Serengeti by the end of year and so the cycle repeats itself.
Nice tips to know before you go:
Tanzania is relatively easy to travel for first timers, but even so, travelling to a new country for the first time, there are plenty of questions with regards to the practical side of things.
Money & Currency
The local currency is Tanzanian Shilling TZS but USD is widely used as well. We preferred to use shilling over USD however.
Most of the time they have daily exchange rates so it is really up to you if you want to bring a lot of USD to spend or simply just withdraw shilling at an ATM.
ATMs are easily accessible, and we never had any problems withdrawing any money, so we found it easier to use shilling and then have USD as backup currency.
For most hotels, tour operators, safari lodges etc. it’s also possible to use your credit card. We did however experience at times that credit card machines were unable to connect to the internet and we had to pay with cash.
My advice: bring USD as a backup currency and use shilling while traveling around and don't rely on credit card machines to work at the hotels.
At the time of writing 100 USD was approximately 230.000 TZS.
Tanzania uses the same kind of power plugs as they do in the UK. There are two main types of plugs – type G and D.
Type D comes with three round pins in a triangular shape while Type G has two flat parallel pins with a flat grounding pin. I found the Type G the most common so make sure to bring an adapter for your personal electrical appliances.
Tanzania operates with 230V supply voltage and 50Hz.
Power plug type G
Power plug type D
Wi-Fi is usually available at most hotels/resorts but don’t expect it to run effortless throughout the hotel 24/7.
If you are staying at a budget accommodation, there’s no guarantee that they have Wi-Fi or that it is working. Most will claim to have good Wi-Fi, but don’t take their word for it.
If you want to stay connected, I can recommend acquiring a sim card. On Zanzibar I had Zantel, which I believe has the best connectivity there.
However, for the rest of Tanzania, especially if you go to the northern national parks like Tarangire or Serengeti, Vodacom has the best connectivity.
Don’t expect it to work everywhere though as there are large rural areas where there’s simply no connection to the outside world.
Our safari guides/drivers usually bring a portable wifi modem which runs on a Vodacom sim card which you may use freely.
What to bring:
Here is a list of essential things to bring with you to Tanzania. As with every destination though, if you plan to do something out of the ordinary (as climb Mt. Kilimanjaro) you should search specifically for that.
- USD: It is always a good idea to bring USD as a backup currency. USD is accepted throughout Tanzania.
- Travel adapters: Bring a travel adapter for your personal electrical appliances. See plug types just above this section.
- Travel towel (fast drying)
- Light and loose clothes.
- Mosquito repellent
- Warm clothes for the cool evenings
- Rain gear (not too necessary during dry seasons)
- Camera. If you have a drone be aware that's it's illegal to fly it in most areas and is subject to a large fine. Always ask your guide or hotel staff if it's okay. It is strictly prohibited in national parks.
- If you use contact lenses take plenty. The dust in your eyes can get irritating
- A daypack/small backpack
- Comfortable clothes: Don’t wear black or blue/dark blue colours. It attracts Tsetse flies which will drive you nuts.
- Camera equipment: The bigger the better. If you have lenses that can really zoom, bring it. If you are an Iphone camera person like me, I found that it’s possible to take pictures through the binoculars (although the quality obviously isn’t that great but it works)
- Binoculars: If you have a good pair it might be worth bringing. Our safari jeeps offer at least one pair of binoculars though
- A hat
NB: Do not pack any belongings in plastic bags as you enter Tanzania. It is prohibited to bring plastic bags and you may be penalised for it.
Health & Safety:
Tanzania is easily one of the most safe countries in Africa to travel, but there are still health and safety concerns you should know about.
Africa is home to a myriad of tropical diseases, but as long as you stay updated on your vaccines and take basic preventive measures, it is unlikely you'll fall victim to any of them. It is more likely you will suffer from diarrhoea or a cold.
The exception being malaria. Almost any local we asked have had malaria at least a few times. The risk of getting it is present throughout most of the country, but in several regions it is becoming more and more unlikely.
However, we strongly recommend you to consult your doctor about which medicine to take and whether it is necessary or not based on your itinerary. On top of that bring or buy some strong mosquito repellent and make sure to cover up in the evening (long sleves and pants)
The same goes for vaccines. You should consult your doctor as soon as possible on which vaccines you should have.
It is a good idea to bring anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen as well as antidiarrhoeal drugs (eg loperamide) and electrolytes. If you forgot to bring (like we did) there are good pharmacies in the major cities. We strongly recommend buying these before going on a longer trip.
In addition, you should follow these general tips for your health and wellbeing:
Avoid mosquitos and reduce your risk of malaria. Cover up with long sleeves and pants at night and use mosquito repellent.
- At budget hotels, check that your water bottle is actually sealed. One time we experienced it wasn't and didn't drink as it might just have been refilled with tap water.
- On safaris and out in the bush we made sure to have our luggage zipped and we always checked our shoes before taking them on in case of scorpions. It's rare, but does happen.
- Use hand sanitiser before eating out. If eating very locally you might also apply this to your utensils.
- If you eat at local kitchens make sure the salad is fresh and not washed in tap water. Also be sure that your meat is well cooked and the food is hot.
Is Tanzania dangerous to visit?
Generally speaking, Tanzania is a safe country to travel as long as you take your precautions and use common sense.
If this is your first time in Africa, safety might be one of your main concerns. It was for us at least, never having been to Africa before.
We quickly found that the locals in Tanzania are extremely friendly though and we never felt unsafe. That is not to say there are no safety concerns and major tourist areas does attract the odd fool with bad intentions.
If you use common sense, avoid confrontations and take note of the below, chances are nothing will happen to you:
- Avoid isolated areas at night, especially around popular tourist destinations and larger cities. If you are walking home late at night see if you can walk together in a group.
Only take taxis from established taxi companies.
- Don't accept drinks or food from someone for free, especially not on public transportation.
- In popular tourists destinations be vary of touts as they can be pushy and annoying. We never felt unsafe with them, but some might. Avoid confrontations and agression.
- Always ask for permission if you want to film or take photos of the locals.
- We were offered drugs and weed on Zanzibar by young Maasai touts. Just don't do it. Smoking weed is somewhat considered okay by locals but never accept it from anyone you don't know.
- Traffic is probably your biggest safety concern. Try to avoid dala-dalas to minimise the risk of road accidents. Be very careful walking in the traffic after dark as street lights does not exist on any smaller roads, yet people drive like crazy. Therefore, avoid traveling at night.
Tanzania Travel Documents
Your passport must be valid at least six months after your date of entry to Tanzania.
If you travel from Tanzania to Zanzibar, the same rule applies as Zanzibar is an autonomous region, meaning your passport must be valid six months after entering to Zanzibar, even though you travel from Tanzania.
Visas are granted on arrival if you haven't applied prior to arrival.
The fee for a visa on arrival is $50 USD and you need to bring two passport sized photos.
You may also apply via Tanzania's official Electronic Visa Application System. Follow the instructions on the website.
Zanzibar is every bit as beautiful as the many pictures suggest and often, pictures don’t do it justice.
Here, you'll find beaches that can rival the best in the world, vibrant culture, diving, snorkeling, surfing and much more.
Beaches such as Kendwa and around Nungwi was breathtaking. The diving at Mnemba Island was beautiful, and Paje was a lively and stunning beachside village with a laid-back atmosphere, kites flying around and good breaks for even the most demanding surfer.
And Stone Town (the old part) is a charming and beautiful place to explore for a couple of days.
However, it does require a bit of planning and research if you want to get the most out of it, as the island and beaches changes a lot depending on where you go. For a detailed and full guide of Zanzibar we can recommend this guide.
If you fly directly to Zanzibar you will arrive at Abeid Amani Karume International Airport (ZNZ) near Stone Town.
When you exit the terminal there are plenty taxi drivers and chauffeurs. If you have pre-booked an arrival transfer, they will be right at the exit.
Taxis will also be available but you should negotiate for a price. Price estimates for popular destinations from the airport are:
- Stone Town: Between $10 – $20 USD
- Nungwi/Kendwa: Between $50 - $60 USD
- Paje/Jambiani: Between $30 - $40 USD
- Michamvi: Between $40 - $50 USD
The above are rough estimates and would need a bit of negotiating. You should ask around a bit if you can’t get the right price.
If this is your first time, I would recommend you book a transfer, especially if Zanzibar is your place of entry to Tanzania.
Talk to us here for more information.
There are so many great beaches here, that we did not have time to visit them all, but those we did visit were exquisite.
One thing that is good to know: Beaches on the east coast change a lot based on high tide and low tide.
At low tide, the sea retracts to the outer reef which is up to 500m out in some places. Even if you were up for a good walk, the seabed further out is dotted by rocks and sea urchins and the breaks at the reef makes it dangerous to swim.
Swimming is not an issue at high tide though. Most resorts have a pool to compensate your swimming needs at low tide.
Also, the east coast is usually quite windy, making it ideal for surfing and kitesurfing.
Kendwa town is not much to write home about, but the beach. Oh my…
It’s a beautiful white sand beach stretching far and wide with nice and calm turquoise water. It is located at the far north, just a 10-15 minutes drive from the northernmost and most popular beach destination, Nungwi. Both towns enjoy exquisite sunsets!
Kendwa beach is total relaxation as not much is happening here except on the Saturday nearest full moon, where Kendwa Rocks (one of the mid-range resorts) hosts a proper full moon party.
Enjoy your happy hour drinks at one of the resorts bars/restaurants with your feet tugged into the fine powdered sand while you enjoy the beautiful sunset as the locals turn the beach into a football field.
Kendwa Rocks also arrange day tours and diving excursions if you are looking for some activities to do during the day.
Of the beaches we visited, Kendwa takes top spot as its simply one of the best beaches we've ever been to. It's more laid back than Nungwi and yet close to Nungwi if you are looking for a proper night out.
Just a 15-minute ride or so from Kendwa, you’ll find Nungwi, the northern most part of Zanzibar.
The most visited beach destination in Zanzibar and the second largest city on the island, Nungwi is the place to stay if you want excellent beaches and plenty of activities and nightlife to choose from.
Nungwi offers some beautiful beaches, stunning sunset views and a vibrant and lively nightlife. At high tide, Nungwi is characterised by many smaller beaches separated by beautiful rock formations, meaning you might walk knee-deep in the water if walking from one beach to the other.
The many tourists also means a lot of touts and sellers and it can be difficult to take a stroll up and down the beach without having someone chasing you with a "good" offer. That is unfortunately the price you pay for staying at such a beautiful beach destination.
That said, we didn't find these beach boys too pushy. Luckily they live by the moto "hakuna matata", roughly translated to "all is good brother", meaning if you give a firm "no" they usually respect that and leave you alone.
If you are into diving, there are loads of dive shops here attached to the many resorts. Other popular activities include a trip to the Mnarani Marine Turtle Conservation Pond, which is a large sanctuary for turtles in natural tidal pools. Also, there are no shortage of day trips to spice farms, snorkeling trips and much more.
If you walk through the village, be respectful of the local people and don’t take pictures before asking.
Once a sleepy fishing village, Paje is now a vibrant beach destination, thanks to its stunning stretch of white sand beach.
Being located on the east side of Zanzibar, Paje also experience stable winds during the day, transforming the beach into a popular kitesurfing destination.
As with many beach destinations on the east coast of Zanzibar, there is a big difference between high tide and low tide and Paje is no exception.
During low tide it is not possible to go for a swim in the ocean.
Paje enjoys a great atmosphere, dominated by a younger audience and more surf vibes than most other places on Zanzibar.
Just down the coast of Paje, Jambiani features many of the same exquisite features of a tropical beach destination, if not a slight upgrade, but without the surf atmosphere.
The beach and turquoise waters are absolutely stunning here, even for Zanzibar standards.
The atmosphere is a bit more relaxed than that of Paje and is ideal for anyone looking to unwind in the sun and enjoy a swim every now and then to cool off.
Stone Town, or Zanzibar Town, is the largest city in Zanzibar with roughly 400.000 people living here. However, it is the old part of Zanzibar Town that is referred to as Stone Town, which is what you are here to experience.
Stone Town is a beautiful old city and is like a maze of small narrow streets where you easily can lose yourself in centuries of history.
Inspired by old Indian merchants, British colonists and Arabic rulers, the architecture of Stone Town is unique and diverse, with its most popular feature being the large carved wooden doors.
Spending two days in Stone Town is a nice way of capping off a holiday in Zanzibar. We can highly recommend taking a city walk with a local guide, which typically lasts a few hours.
Prison Island is another highlight here, as you will take a 30 minute boat ride to the small island, which used to be a prison for slaves. Now it’s a museum and a turtle sanctuary for the endangered giant Aldabra Tortoise.
Spice tours are also organised from Stone Town, but we recommend doing it on your way to Stone Town as you will pass by most of the spice farms before reaching the city. They are a great experience if you are the least interested to know how your kitchen spices are processed and what they look like before hitting the super market.
Be aware that Stone Town sees a lot of tourists and therefore also many local guides and street sellers approaching you. Same as with Nungwi, we found them not to be too pushy, but you do get annoyed at one point.
Would you like to know more about Zanzibar?
Welcome to one of the best wildlife destinations in the world with some of the finest national parks Africa has to offer.
Safari in Tanzania
Tanzania is arguably one of the best wildlife destinations in the world and safari is at the top of most travellers "must do" list. Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater are the most sought after national parks, but Tanzania is home to numerous national parks and there are many more than those two worth a visit.
The northern circuit is home to Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Tarangire National Parks, Lake Manyara, Arusha National Park and more. Arusha is the main hub for all safari excursions in Northern Tanzania.
South and Central Tanzania also offer large and popular national parks like Selous Game Reserve and Ruaha National Park. Most operators for these parks are based in Dar Es Salaam.
What to expect?
Africa is where to go if you want to see wild animals. If you haven't been on a safari before we'll try and answer some of your questions here.
What is it like to spend a full day in a safari jeep, how many days do you really need, how crowded are the parks, is it really as great as so many people say it is and more.
Is it really that incredible?
Short answer is yes, it really is an incredible experience.
My only real safari before this was a half day open jeep safari in Sri Lanka, which is also touted as being a great safari destination and one of the better outside of Africa. And it was a great experience, but after 3 hours we were okay with moving on.
So I was a bit curious to know what it would be like to have several full days of game drives.
What is a full day of game drive like?
A full day in a safari jeep may sound like a lot. It did for us at least before we went. However, we soon experienced that it wasn't. You get more a feeling that it's necessary.
Although at times it might be bit boring, it's mostly pure excitement and anticipation, as you have the sense of spotting something exciting anytime and out of nowhere.
You are always on the lookout for leopards, lions and other large animals. Looking in the trees, searching through the high grass etc.
There are stretches when it drags out and you've seen too many elephants or zebras to really get excited. And sure if you are having an "off day" in terms of spotting something exciting before returning to your camp, a full day may feel like a long day.
But it's worth it and necessary to increase your chances of spotting that pack of lions, a leopard in a tree or cheetah in the high grass. Sometimes it just takes a little longer to find your luck.
Other than that you are driving on dirt roads, sometimes bumpy and, if it haven't rained for a while, very dusty.
Also, it should be said that toilet breaks are rare as it's not allowed to step out of the jeep during game drives. Picnic and campsites are the only places you are allowed to get out so make sure to tell your driver sooner rather than later about your toilet needs.
In all safari jeeps the roof pops open so it's easy to move around and stand up so that you don't sit down the entire day.
how many days do you need?
Combined we had 4 half day game drives and 2 full days. This is what we learned:
Firstly, it should be said several factors account for the overall experience such as weather, wildlife activity, road conditions and luck.
Secondly, it depends on the national park you are visiting and the size of it. As an example, we felt a day and a half was enough for Tarangire National Park, while we could spend an entire week at Serengeti.
That doesn't mean Tarangire is bad in any way. Serengeti is just so much bigger with a higher concentration of wildlife and predators (actually Tarangire comes second for wildlife concentration).
All national parks offer something different. Doing game drives in both Tarangire, Ngorongoro and Serengeti for example are 3 completely different experiences.
This is our recommendations:
- If you have the time and budget go for all 3 (Tarangire, Ngorongoro and Serengeti). This could easily be a combined 3-4 full days of game drives and upwards.
- If you are short on time but want to experience the best wildlife go for Ngorongoro and Serengeti. The combination of these two parks is arguably the greatest safari experience on earth and 2-4 days of game drives or more is recommended.
- If you are low on budget but still want to experience an incredible safari, then Tarangire is the perfect option. Here 1,5-2 days would be enough to get a great safari experience and (fingers crossed) spot some lions or leopards.
If you are traveling through Northern Tanzania and you'd like a taste of a safari, then we'd also recommend Tarangire over some of the smaller and cheaper parks. Lake Manyara is just not the same, nor is Arusha National Park.
How crowded are the parks?
Make no mistake, the parks can be crowded, especially in high season. However, it also depends on you and your safari guide. Let me explain:
All safari jeeps are equipped with a radio, which many guides use to communicate the location of a great sighting, such as lions or leopards. This means it often gets crowded. Sometimes that is just the way it is, but not always.
Our safari operator normally never uses the radio to provide a more authentic experience. Sure you risk miss out on something, but you also might get the chance to see something incredible all for your self. That happened to us a few times, first with a cheetah looking for prey and later a lioness with her two cubs.
Both times we were alone and we later saw the same area with 20 or so cars.
During our game drives we didn't necessarily go in the same directions as everyone else. Of course we didn't want to miss out on something incredible if we stumbled upon a bunch of cars witnessing a leopard or something.
How much is a safari?
On average you should expect a daily budget of around:
- Budget: From $150 USD a day
- Mid-range: From $350 USD a day
- Luxury: From $750 USD a day
However, this depends very much on season and national park. If you go to a top end park like Serengeti, you should expect higher daily costs while Lake Manyara is much cheaper.
The defining factor is by far your type of accommodation and then the safari operator. There are costs you can't get around. Transport cost, park fees, guide and accommodation all adds up.
Accommodation is the defining factor for how much a safari should cost. But, you might also find safari operators being cheaper than others with seemingly the same product and accommodation. Often this is because they hide cost you later then have to pay - such as entrance fees.
To drive down costs, choosing a public campsite is your best option. If you don't mind sleeping in tents and have basic toilet/bath facilities they are a great choice to save money.
You may also opt for accommodation outside the national parks as it's naturally cheaper than staying inside - although it is not quite the same experience to be fair.
All safaris include so called full board, meaning you don't have to think about additional costs like food while on your safari.
Tipping on a safari:
Tipping is important to account for when planning your safari trip. Safari guides/drivers and cooks' livelihood depends largely on the gratitude of tourists. Expect roughly USD $10-15 per day per group for the driver/guide and USD $10 for the cooks.
Just remember it is gratitude, so if you've experienced an extraordinary service you may of course tip more. Likewise if you are not satisfied you may pay less than that.
Lastly: A "good to know" tip.
In most national parks you may encounter the so called Tsetse flies. These flies are usually scattered in clusters all over the park and can be a real pain. Think of these as large mosquitoes that bite. Except their bite doesn't itch but hurts. It's like a small needle but you only feel it for a second.
These clusters of Tsetse flies are usually marked with black and dark blue coloured flags as they are attracted to these colours, making it easy to identify when to be aware of them. Also, make sure not to wear black/dark colours during your game drive as you are much more likely to be bitten then.
What is a safari with Bikudo Travel like?
We work with a very experienced, small safari operator in Northern Tanzania. It is important to us not to work with larger companies as there is not much room for spontaneity. If your daily milage limit is up, they will take you back to the camp or prioritise being in one location instead of driving around.
We value flexibility and spontaneity as nature is unpredictable.
Many operators drive around with a radio as safari guides inform one another on any sights of interest, which we try to avoid as much as possible.
At that point you can quickly get the feeling of doing game drives inside a large zoo - "okay i'll take you to see the lions now". The unpredictability is what makes it exciting which is what a safari should be.
Therefore, we like our safari guides to master the art of avoiding the crowds during the safari.
Are you interested in hearing more about our safaris?
Arusha is the safari capital of Northern Tanzania and the main gateway to this part of Tanzania and its many national parks.
It’s a large sprawling city which offers many great dining and sleeping options and is fairly open and green for a city of its size. The city itself doesn’t offer much for you to stick around for days as the real adventure is out on the roads.
However, Arusha sits amid beautiful surroundings with the impressive Mt. Meru as its backdrop and offer a nice landing both when you arrive in Tanzania but also after days on the African roads.
Downtown Arusha tend to get noisy and busy. Being the safari capital of this area, you will likely encounter many touts trying to sell safari excursions and plenty of souvenirs.
If you haven’t booked a safari yet, make sure to carefully select one as there are many (as in many) who aren’t up to the standards and trust me, it’s important.
Arriving in Arusha:
If Arusha is your first point of entry to Tanzania you will most likely arrive at Kilimanjaro International Airport and not Arusha airport.
Kilimanjaro International Airport is located approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes drive from Arusha and 45 minutes to an hour from Moshi.
If you are going to Arusha then a taxi is approximately 50 USD and 40 to Moshi. However, if you’d like to have someone to pick you up and drive you to your destination you may check out our Arusha Arrival Package.
You may take the bus to Arusha also. Most likely you will take it from Dar Es Salaam, which is a 10 to 12-hour journey depending on the driver, road conditions and traffic.
You can ask to be dropped anywhere along the main road in Arusha if that’s closer to your accommodation. Otherwise, the bus stops at the bus terminal in the city centre.
Tarangire National Park:
Due to its proximity to Arusha, Tarangire National Park is a perfect destination if you are low on time and budget.
Do not mistake this national park to be any less impressive though. Tarangire National Park has the second highest concentration of wildlife of any Tanzanian national parks and is estimated to have the highest concentration of elephants in the world.
While the wildlife here is impressive, the scenery and beauty at display is equally mesmerising. Driving through the landscape of Tarangire is a captivating experience.
Here, you’ll find all the usual suspects of an African safari, except only a few, like the crocodiles, rhinos and hippos. All the big cats are here too, with the lions being the most common.
Although, with an estimated 700+ lions in the 2.850 sq km national park, you still need a bit of luck.
The impressive Baobab trees are characteristic of Tarangire and adds to its scenic beauty. Together with the high concentration of the majestic and giant African elephant, this place is typically referred to as the “Land of Giants”.
Tarangire National Park was our first encounter with African safari, and it did not disappoint!
Visit this park on a greater northern circuit tour or if you don’t have the time and budget for Serengeti and Ngorongoro, it is perfect for a safari and Zanzibar experience. As far as national parks goes in Tanzania, this one is up there with the best and is absolutely worth a visit.
Lake Manyara is one of Tanzania’s smaller national parks and stands out from the rest of the northern national parks in more ways than one.
From a game drive point of view, Lake Manyara cannot be compared to its neighbouring Tarangire National Park as it is more dense jungle than it is open plains, making animal sightings rarer.
It is nonetheless still incredible to experience a family of the mighty African elephant walking through the dense jungle. You will also spot zebras, giraffes, plenty of monkeys and with a bit of luck hippos and crocodiles.
The biggest drawcard to Lake Manyara is the tree climbing lions which is a rather unique behaviour found here. It is reported though that sightings are becoming rarer unfortunately.
The scenery of the park is beautiful and you have the chance to do walking safari and canoe safari which I would recommend over a regular game drive, although we unfortunately didn’t have the chance to do so.
Lake Manyara is beautiful and different from most other national parks, but if you are in Tanzania for safari and wildlife experiences I wouldn’t consider Lake Manyara.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area:
Not only a highlight in Tanzania, but a highlight of Africa, Ngorongoro is a truly special place.
The highlight being a nearly perfect shaved volcanic crater teeming with life down the crater floor and stunning views from top of the crater rim, Ngorongoro Crater is one of the most spectacular places in Tanzania and should not be missed while here.
Ngorongoro Crater is part of the 8292 sq km large Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which offers some of the most exquisite scenery of Tanzania.
If you are just passing by on your way to Serengeti you will enjoy stunning viewpoints from atop the crater rim, looking down the vast crater floor.
Driving through the highland and coming down to the large plains before reaching Serengeti is equally beautiful and arguably one of the most beautiful stretches of road trip in all of Tanzania.
However, the real magic of Ngorongoro happens down the crater floor:
Measuring 19 km across the floor with a total of 264 sq km surface and steep crater walls towering some 400m – 600m towards the sky, the Ngorongoro Crater floor is an epic setting to the wildlife spectacle on display here.
With large numbers of prey and predators living in a relatively confined space, there is plenty of natural drama unfolding around the open grasslands, swamps and forest areas.
Plenty of zebras, giraffes, buffalos, wildebeest, elephants, gazelles and hippos occupy the crater floor together with an estimated 600 spotted hyenas approximately 70 lions and jackals. Flamingos occupy the shallow lakes during and after the rainy season.
Another huge pull is chance to witness the endangered black rhino of which an estimated 30 inhabit these grasslands.
The Ngorongoro Crater is a natural wonder and unsurprisingly listed as a Unesco Heritage Site. The undeniable lure of this place also attracts lots of visitors and confined in a small area you need to accept that places like these doesn’t exist without the presence of others.
That said Ngorongoro should not be missed and is a perfect “stop-over” on your way to the mighty Serengeti. You can also overnight at the crater rim in either public campsites or the more expensive mid- to luxury campsites.
Whichever way you choose to experience you are in for a real adventure as a visit here is certain to live forever in your memory. It is simply incredible.
Serengeti National Park:
Where to even begin with describing Serengeti National Park? Let me try by giving our honest experience, from anticipation to realisation.
Spoiler alert: Lonely Planet calls it one of the greatest wildlife-watching destinations on earth – while we haven’t seen enough of this world to substantiate that claim, from what we did experience, I will not argue against it.
We had heard of Serengeti National Park before planning our trip to Tanzania. Our only worry was if it was already being built up too much. Could it really live up to the hype?
While traveling in Tanzania we first went to Tarangire National Park, and we were blown away by the beauty, the wildlife and almost everything about it. We even saw two lions!
Quietly, our local partner and safari guide told us – just wait till we arrive at Serengeti. We were getting even more hyped. Surely it couldn’t live up to it, could it?
When you arrive at Serengeti’s main gate, coming from Ngorongoro Crater, you drive roughly 45 minutes through what can best be described as a semi-desert. The main gate is a small hill, which you can climb for great views of the national park. It looked like more desert with distant hills.
Where exactly is this national park that is supposedly teeming with life?
Okay, we knew it was big, so patience – it will come.
As we drove on, we realised that it is not for no reason Serengeti is referred to as the endless plains. It was flat with high grass as far as the eye could see with a few characteristic “savannah (acacia) trees” here and there.
After an hour of game drives through the plains on small dirt roads we slowly started to wonder if our expectations were set too high. Fair enough, it’s only an hour in, but the scenery at this point just couldn’t compare to that of Tarangire or Ngorongoro Crater.
We haven't really seen much wildlife either. In Tarangire, after one hour we had been spoiled with countless animal encounters.
Not quite what we expected so far and not the wildlife el dorado everyone said it would be. That would soon change though.
As we continued, we saw a small group of cars all parked next the road. It was a leopard sitting in a tree. This was after maybe an hour and a half.
After admiring the leopard for about 20 minutes we drove on.
5-10 minutes later I shouted STOP to our guide. I didn’t know what I saw, but it looked interesting. We backed up a little and he started to get very excited.
It turned out it was a cheetah sitting in the high grass looking around as a warthog (Pumbaa) was minding its own business, not caring one bit about the cheetah.
We had our lunch while waiting to see if the cheetah was up to anything – sadly it wasn’t (but good for pumbaa) so we drove on.
10 minutes later we found a sleepy male lion after a good meal (we could see a zebra lying seemingly dead just 50 meters from the lion).
This was out in the open plains. Afterwards we drove through forest territory where it was teeming with more giraffes, zebras, elephants, and hippos than one could count.
Within less than half a day of game drives we had spotted a leopard, a cheetah and a lion, not to mention everything else. The Serengeti had officially exceeded our expectations and then some!
During the night we could hear all the sounds of the forest as well as the lions roar from the savannah.
It was magical.
The next morning, we drove off around sunrise at 6 am as we were suppose to go see the hot air balloons take off. Instead, we went to a waterhole where we spotted a sleepy lion. Seconds later a lioness appeared from the bush followed by her two tiny cubs.
Behind us we had the most stunning sunrise and right in front of us two lion cubs playing around with their mother – just 5 meters from our jeep.
We were in awe. And despite the lure of the Serengeti and the many daily visitors we had this lioness and her two cubs all by ourselves. For 30-45 minutes. It was surreal.
The Serengeti is huge and the landscape ever changing. The beauty of this place is only rivaled by the drive through Ngorongoro Crater to get here. The wildlife is arguable unrivaled anywhere else in the world.
We spent a day and a half, and we saw less than 10% of the Serengeti. After what we saw here, we could have spent a week doing game drives.
It is safe to say that Serengeti exceeded our otherwise high expectations. And then some.
A stunningly beautiful detour towards Ngorongoro Crater, this place is truly special.
Lake Eyasi offer a remote and different experience to your typical Northern Tanzania journey. The lake itself varies considerably in size depending on the season.
June to November enjoys a huge population of flamingos and pelicans as it is breeding season.
Apart from its natural beauty, a visit to Lake Eyasi is typically a cultural one, as this area is home to what is estimated as being one of the last hunter-gatherers in East Africa.
The Hadzabe people have lived here for an estimated 10.000 years, and their traditions and way of life haven’t changed much.
There are an estimated 20-22 tribes with up to about 30 people in each tribe. They live a life in the bush, completely isolated from society and only less than a handful of these tribes are willing to welcome visitors.
Visiting the Hadzabe people is a unique experience and a glimpse into life as it was thousands of years ago.
Visiting a Hadzabe Tribe:
You meet your local guide who will take you to the tribe where you will be around 6 am.
At our visit, we witnessed how they prepared and cooked a porcupine over a fire, one which they killed during their nightly hunt. This was their breakfast.
We were then given a demonstration of their bow and several arrows before going on a 20-30 minute hunt.
They managed to shoot two birds during our hunt. As this wasn’t enough to bring back to the tribe, they lit a small fire out in the bush and prepared the two birds and threw them on the fire.
When we returned to their camp we tried to shoot at a target with their bow and arrow followed by some local music and dance.
This whole experience was a glimpse into their way of life, and it was one of the most surreal experiences we’ve had with local encounters.
These people truly live like wild animals and it’s fascinating to think that in 2022 they still exist and exist so relatively close to society.
Then you might wonder if it felt staged or touristed?
Well, yes and no. There was another family with us where we had hoped to be just us, but when we went hunting they separated us into two groups.
Would they go hunting if we weren’t there? It is their only source of food so yes, they would. We just tagged along.
It just felt like they invited us into their life and we were just bystanders as they made breakfast and went hunting.
The only thing that felt a bit staged was the local dance they performed at the end. It was fun to experience, but that they did for us. The overall experience was very authentic and you really get a feel for how these people live.
We also went to see the Iraqw tribe, which are blacksmiths and live in closer proximity to society than that of the Hadzabe, although still very much practicing traditional ways of life.
The Iraqw people live in tiny huts and make all kinds of things from scrap metals. We saw how they made a large nail into a deadly arrow, similar to those the Hadzabe used for hunting.
All in all, a visit to Lake Eyasi was a fascinating and beautiful experience and a truly unique glimpse into a world we thought only existed in the history books.
What a place this is. Lake Natron should be in any adventurer’s itinerary. Like an oasis in the desert, Lake Natron is a remote, scorching hot and extremely beautiful treasure in the middle of the semi-desert.
Surrounded by volcanic landscapes, the view of the Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano in the backdrop is simply breathtaking.
During June to November some 3 million flamingos migrate here for mating season, which is one of the great wildlife spectacles of East Africa.
A trip to Lake Natron should also include a hike to a beautiful waterfall (the hike is even more stunning), which allows for some refreshing freshwater swimming.
Other activities include a visit to the hot springs, sunrise views near the shores of the lake, recently discovered footprints that are 120.000 years old, a night climb to the top of the volcano and much more.
But if for nothing else, come here for the absolutely stunning views and beautiful landscape!
Down by the shores of the lake you are likely to see giraffes and zebras roam around with the views of the volcano in the background.
It is long and bumpy, yet fascinating drive to get here as you drive on dirt roads passing through remote (really remote) Maasai villages and volcanic roads.
It is the perfect detour coming or going to the Serengeti.
Sitting at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Moshi is for many the gateway to hiking Africa’s highest mountain.
It’s a low-key city with a nice atmosphere and a cool climate. It is also one of Tanzania’s major coffee growing regions.
Almost all visitors come to Moshi to either climb Kilimanjaro or recovering from a climb. If you find yourself here for a few days, stroll around a bit in the city and go on a coffee tour, which is a great activity just outside the city.
Impressive and majestic, Mount Kilimanjaro is one Africa’s highlights whether you climb it or not.
At 5896m it is Africa’s highest mountain, one the highest volcanoes in the world and the world’s highest free-standing mountain. Yes, Kilimanjaro is impressive.
Each year some 25.000 trekkers tries to concur this iconic mountain. In part due to its accessibility and the fact that it doesn’t require any specific equipment or prior climbing experience.
Don’t misjudge that for it being easy though! At almost 6.000m reaching the summit is no easy feat and should not be taken lightly. Altitude sickness a serious obstacle on this mountain as you can ascend it in just 5 days.
If you intend to climb Kilimanjaro we cannot stress enough to take as much time as you possibly can. In our opinion, 5 days is not enough to acclimatise and you should go for minimum 6-7 days. Here's a breakdown of the different routes to the top:
The best route to the top:
There are 7 different routes to the top of Kilimanjaro, each offering something different and some also offer a greater chance of success than others. This is a generally accepted ranking of the different routes:
1. Northern Circuit Route
2. Lemosho Route
3. Shira Route
4. Machame Route (Also referred to as the "Whisky Route")
5. Rongai Route
6. Marangu Route (Also referred to as the "Coca Cola Route")
7. Umbwe Route
We offer trips based on all 7 routes, but we recommend the Lemosho route or the Machame route as a shorter duration alternative. Lemosho offer what is widely considered as being the most scenic route and also see far less visitors than the Machame Route. However, the routes merge as you approach the summit, meaning you will experience more people the closer you get to the top.
Lemosho take 8 days while Machame is 6 days trekking. Lemosho is better for acclimatisation while Machame is more suited if you have a tighter budget and short on time - which is why most people use the Machame route.
Machame starts in Moshi, which is widely considered as the main vantage point for trekkers to Kilimanjaro. Lemosho begins on the western side of Kilimanjaro and ends in Moshi.
These two routes are also widely considered as having the highest success rate for reaching the summit, especially if you add an extra day or two to the Machame route.
When to climb
It is possible to climb Kilimanjaro all year round, however it is best during the dry seasons lasting from June to October and again from late December to February.
During the short rains (November and December) and the long rains (March to May) weather patterns are unpredictable and you should expect rain and slippery trails as well as lots of snow at the top.
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