Kenya vs Tanzania: Which Safari is Better and Why?

Most vacations to East Africa are incomplete without a peak into the wilderness of Kenya and Tanzania.

The sceneries and variety of wildlife in both countries will leave even the most frequent safari-goers in awe. Yet, factors like accessibility, infrastructure, beaches, and many more can suit several travel preferences.

Let’s look into the wildlife situation in both countries and some tips to remember when planning your safari tour.

Here’s a table to summarize our take on Kenya vs Tanzania safaris:

FactorsTanzaniaKenya
Location & LandscapeRemote and LargeLess Remote and Smaller
AccessibilityCan be time-consumingEasier and quicker
InfrastructureIntermediateAdvanced
WildlifeDiverse and Greater QuantityDiverse but Less Quantity Comparatively
Safari ActivitiesGame Drives and SafarisBeyond Mainstream Safaris
Stay and CommuteLimited OptionsNumerous Options
BeachesLess Populated and EquippedStocked and Popular
SafetyHigherLower
CostHigherLower
Best Time to VisitJune to October & December to MarchFebruary to March

Brief About Tanzania

Tanzanian life thrives in a land of contrasts and natural wonders deeply rooted in conservation and cultural richness. 

Besides the popular, highly-rated safari experiences in Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, the country hides lesser-known treasures that promise adventure and solitude in one wholesome package.

The larger and wider Selous Game Reserve invites the undaunted traveler to appreciate Africa’s wilderness. The West of the country houses the chimpanzees (our near identical relatives) of Gombe Stream and Mahale Mountains. 

You’ll be amazed at how the country’s commitment to conservation is visible to the naked eye. Human footprints are few, and wildlife roams free.

Don’t forget to book a safari for the Great Migration. Rest assured, Tanzania offers an exciting catalog of cultural experiences and less frequented safari regions.

Brief About Kenya

Kenyan lands are where the concept of wildlife tourism first took root. While the famed Masai Mara and Amboseli National Parks attract wildlife enthusiasts from worldwide, the quantity of unexplored landscapes challenges the status quo.

The northern frontier is home to Samburu, Shaba, and Meru National Parks. These protected territories are residences for unique species like the Grevy’s zebra and Somali ostrich.

Kenya’s coast is such that the savannah and the sea meet to present an unforgettable sight. The Arabuko Sokoke Forest holds a level of biodiversity that transports you to ancient jungle settings. Likewise, Watamu and Malindi provide well-preserved sanctuaries for marine life.

Your safari tour in Kenya will beautifully display how the nation’s conservation mindset integrates communities. Conservancies like Lewa and Laikipia prove how community development and wildlife conservation walk hand in hand.

Which Safari to Pick Between Kenya vs Tanzania?

Choosing between Kenya and Tanzania safaris can be confusing because of the differences in wildlife, weather, locales, costs, and more. Remember, though both safari destinations offer incredible experiences, you want to double-check which of the below parameters fits your travel style in the wild:

Location and Landscape

Kenya’s landscape is pretty diverse, featuring everything from the dramatic Great Rift Valley to the snow-capped peak of Mount Kenya. The Masai Mara, an extension of the Serengeti, presents luscious views of rolling grasslands and vast savannahs teeming with wildlife. Its coast holds a blend of beaches and marine parks, and the north houses arid deserts and mountain ranges. Thus, you’re presented with a wide range of ecosystems within relatively short distances.

Tanzania’s 1.5x larger landscape, on the other hand, is dominated by vast wilderness areas, including the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This volcanic crater is a natural habitat for a high density of wildlife. You can also hike up to Africa’s highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro, or stroll around the deep, freshwater expanse of Lake Tanganyika.

Accessibility

Kenya surpasses Tanzania in terms of accessibility because of well-planned transport channels. The frequency and simpler connectivity of flights to Kenya come with the added benefit of cheaper travel. Overall, many wildlife and safari experts claim that it’s easier to access national parks and reserves in Kenya owing to better roads and English being the preferred language.

Nonetheless, Kenyan safari tourists from international destinations can fly into Jomo Kenyatta Airport in Nairobi. From thereon, there are well-paved roads to safari destinations that are a short drive or flight away from the capital.

For Tanzanian safari tourists, your international gateway is the Julius Nyerere Airport in Dar es Salaam. Like most safari-goers, you may fly into Kilimanjaro International Airport if the northern circuit is your primary destination. Remember that remote regions like the southern and western Tanzanian circuits may call for longer flights. Of course, this adds to the adventure but may multiply your costs and travel time.

Tanzanians are inclined to converse in Kiswahili, which may make your accessibility to wildlife information a little harder.

Wildlife

The Kenya vs Tanzania wildlife debate must account for the quantity and diversity of animals in both these countries.

While Kenya is renowned for the Masai Mara’s annual wildebeest migration, the safaris in this country are a spectacle since you get ample chances to see lions, leopards, rhinoceroses, elephants, and Cape buffalos, famously called the Big Five. Despite this, wildlife activity in Tanzania takes the crown home.

Visit the following national parks when in Kenya:

  1. Masai Mara
  2. Tsavo National Park
  3. Aberdare National Park
  4. Lake Nakuru National Park
  5. Hell’s Gate National Park
  6. Samburu National Reserve
  7. Shimba Hills National Reserve

Tanzania arguably offers a more extensive safari experience in terms of sheer numbers and variety, partly due to the vastness of the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. It’s also home to the globe’s largest lion population. Not to forget, the remote southern and western parks reveal wild dogs, breeds of chimpanzees, and other primates in low-footfall settings.

Visit the following national parks when in Tanzania:

  1. Serengeti National Park
  2. Ngorongoro Conservation Center
  3. Tarangire National Park
  4. Lake Manyara
  5. Ruaha National Park
  6. Gombe Stream National Park
  7. Mikumi National Park

Infrastructure

As Kenya is financially wealthier than Tanzania, its infrastructure is superior as well.

Kenya’s infrastructure is far more developed, with more guesthouses, public transportation, matatus (decorated minibuses), budget campsites, and unmarked yet comfortably motorable roads. Even the roads between major parks are in top condition.

Speaking of infrastructure, Tanzania’s condition varies by region. The southern and western areas offer much fewer luxury accommodations and typically require more time and effort to access. However, if you’re seeking thrill in different forms like off-roading, experiential travel, or deep cultural lessons, the sacrifice of infrastructure is worth it.

Safari Activities

Firstly, understand that safaris and game drives offer different wildlife exploration experiences. Game drives are more focused on viewing wildlife, whereas safaris present a chance for exclusive wildlife outings that are topped with entertaining activities.

Kenya’s wildlife ecosystem breaks through the norm and presents a long list of guided nature walks, night drives, access to conservancies, hot-air ballooning, fly-camping, and off-road adventures. Though Tanzania has denser wildlife, your liberty to tweak these experiences is limited.

Consider visiting Laikipia, Motorogi, and Lewa Conservancies in Kenya and Lake Victoria in Tanzania.

Two game drives a day generally comprise a day-long safari experience. But if you’re looking to beat past the crowds of game drives and indulge in adrenaline-gushing activities, Kenyan safaris should do the job.

Stay and Commute

Tanzania has an exciting list of high-end and boutique accommodations you won’t find in Kenya.

At the same time, Kenya’s presence across multiple hospitality segments in tourism has enabled the country to create a broad range of accommodation options. Right from hotels that won’t burn a hole in your pocket to semi-luxury and luxury lodges, Kenya is stocked with options for all preferences.

Note that Kenya also offers treehouse hotels and personalized tented camps to immerse travelers in the wilderness.

Also, Tanzania focuses more on eco-lodges within wildlife settlements for a closer connection to nature. Its northern circuit simplifies commute channels for all, but it’s the southern and western areas demanding complex logistics. Their remoteness may put you in a position to book chartered flights.

Food

Your dietary palette is in for an outright treat in Africa. When deciding between Kenya and Tanzania safaris, you must be aware of how Ugali, a dough extracted through cornmeal, is a staple for both nations. Similarly, coconut is a common ingredient you’ll come across.

Otherwise, Kenyan cuisine takes inspiration from African, Indian, and colonial influences. Some dishes include nyama choma (grilled meat) and ugali (maize porridge). Their dishes significantly differ from the likes of Tanzania’s spice-oriented culinary culture. No wonder Zanzibar is called the Spice Island!

What’s standard in both safari destinations is the seafood, rice, stews, and ugali. But Tanzania’s inclusion of Indian recipes and cooking styles makes curries a permanently trending dish in the region.

Beaches

The primary differentiating factors between beaches in the Kenya vs Tanzania discussion are the number of people and amenities. Simply put, Kenya’s developed coastline summons larger crowds in Mombasa’s coastal resorts and modern hotels. The city also has its own airport!

Tanzania’s beaches don’t hold nearly as many accommodation options as Kenya, forget the thought of luxury, semi-luxury, or boutique properties. The advantage of this is the lower footfall on these pristine beaches. Thus, if commercial and underdeveloped African beaches sound like your jam – Tanzania is happy to welcome you.

Check out Diani Beach and the ruins of Gedi near Malindi when in Kenya. In the case of Tanzania, opt for the Stone Town, Pemba, and Mafia islands for off-the-beaten-path beachy sessions.

Cost

In all honesty, Tanzania expeditions are more expensive than those in Kenya. All thanks to the region’s remoteness, the difficulty of procuring safari and dietary supplies, and long-distance routes – budget travelers usually glide towards Kenya.

To add, Tanzania’s preference for running and promoting high-end lodges with boutique facilities puts it on the higher side. You’ll also see some hefty taxes and fees on your safari tickets, food bills, and rental expenses.

The whole costing topic is put to bed when you look at the economies of scale in these countries. This means that the higher the number of competitors running hotels, safari camps, and hotels, the lower costs are driven to attract more travelers. The one outlier is the season of the Great Migration. Prices are usually above average in this peak travel time.

Safety

Kenya stands behind in the travel safety and security barometer compared to Tanzania. Travelers over the years have reported crimes related to robbery and scams. Though this may steer you away from Kenya, remember that the government has considerably tightened security and prepared its police forces for prompt action and prevention.

Tanzania’s intimate setting keeps away from the world of theft and crime. The communities enjoy minimal exposure to urbanization and modern ways of the world, staying true to their cultural values of respecting elders, following an attitude of modesty, and communal welfare.

Best Time to Visit

You can visit Kenyan wildlife safaris during the dry seasons of June to October and December to March. Wildlife viewing activities are peaking during this season, with breeding and small-scale migratory practices being a common site. If you’re looking for coastal vacations in Kenya, opt for October to March since the weather is warmer.

For Tanzania, the optimal time for wildlife safaris too comes during the dry season. However, consider going for a wildlife tour during the calving season and the start of the Great Migration. This happens from February to March.

Tips to Remember When Planning Your Safari Tour

Here are some tips to account for when planning your Kenya vs Tanzania safari tour:

  • Indulge in Local Experiences: Spare some time to dive into the traditional way of life of African people. Partake in cooking classes at Mombasa and Lamu or go for dhow safaris with locals along the Kenyan coast. When in Tanzania, spend a day with the Hadzabe tribe in Lake Eyasi or stroll along Zanzibar’s farms to discover the origins of cloves, cinnamon, vanilla, and nutmeg.
  • Participate in Cultural Exchanges: Cultural exchanges can enrich your safari experience to another level. Try learning about traditional medicine and livestock in Samburu in exchange for cleaning or management lessons. Also, take a few days to live with a villager’s family from the Luo community along the shores of Lake Victoria.
  • Pack Sustainably: Being an eco-conscious traveler is more rewarding in the long run than being an everyday tourist. Pack biodegradable toiletries like soap, shampoo, and toothpaste to slash your environmental footprint. An abundance of safari campsites use septic systems sensitive to chemicals.
  • Choose a Mix of National Parks: Try to create a safari itinerary that comprises a mix of national parks. Pair the Samburu National Reserve with the Amboseli National Park for views of arid landscapes and more fulfilling sights of Mount Kilimanjaro. 

Key Takeaways

Your African safari adventure will be an experience that reveals dozens of sighting stories and visual memories that’ll stay in your mind for ages to come. Everything from the soothing birdsong of unheard-of bird species, animal roars, and stories by your guides will alter your perspective about wildlife altogether.

We recommend sticking to the pillars of sustainable travel and doing your duty towards conservation efforts for Tanzania’s human and animal ecosystems.

Are you prepared to take off on a safari adventure of a lifetime? Book your safari today!

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