When you think of an authentic African safari, East Africa’s Tanzania and Kenya always stand out. Both countries feature a sensational African scenery, superior game-viewing, and a series of bucket-list activities that defy comparison. Not to mention these are the only places where you can see the iconic Great Wildebeest Migration. However, due to its prestige that echoes throughout the world, many people are left with the question: Which of the two offers the best safari experience, Tanzania or Kenya?
When it comes to terrain as well as the kind of vibe the country projects, Kenya and Tanzania are actually similar in many ways. This is mainly because the two safari countries share a border, sit along the Indian Ocean and basically follow have the same climate which is composed of two seasons: wet and dry.
Kenya’s landscape is composed of mostly highlands in the middle, sandy beaches on the coast, and fertile plains in the west. Tanzania, on the other hand, has similar diversity but also around one and a half times larger. The country is blessed with plains and plateaus running west across the country, highlands in the north and south, and long stretches of white sand beach on the coast.
With Kenya being a richer country than Tanzania, Kenya’s travel infrastructure is better and more reliable. They have more hotels and guesthouses, it is easier to exchange foreign money to shillings as all major banks can do so, and public transportation is ample. You can easily find taxis, matatus, trains and even domestic flights that could take you to almost anywhere in the country. However, despite having an advancing infrastructure, many roads in Kenya remain unmarked. This doesn’t make it any less interesting, though. In fact, it adds to the feeling of being in the wild.
In Tanzania, roads are not well-marked either. Options for public transportation are readily available but since the country is huge, many parts may still be hard to access. Travelers who love taking off-the-beaten paths are still likely to take the challenge (It couldn’t be any wilder than that, could it?). For accommodation options, Tanzania also has plenty although limited in certain parks. This promises an experience with exclusivity and lesser crowds even on peak seasons.
When it comes to the costs, international air travel fares and safaris in Kenya are relatively cheaper simply because of the wider availability of options. In Tanzania, since competition is not that tight compared with Kenya, fees can be higher. But, if you stay in their major cities, let’s say Nairobi in Kenya or Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, hotels in Kenya are generally more expensive. For example, a 3-star hotel in Nairobi can cost you about 75 USD while a 3-star hotel in Dar is only 43 USD on average.
Kenya’s wildlife is in no doubt spectacular especially in its flagship safari park, Masai Mara. Aside from the migration animals that come here in July, Kenya is mainly known as an excellent place to see big cats. It also homes to many endangered black rhinos as well as exotic animals like the Sitatunga.
But if we let it all boil down to one country that’s best in terms of wildlife, Tanzania wins — hands down. The density and diversity of animals in this huge country is phenomenal, almost guaranteeing a life-changing experience. In fact, it is known to have the largest concentration of animals per square kilometer in the world. It is also a prime cheetah country with one of the largest concentration of large predators in the world; a country endowed with unique animals like tree-climbing lions and several highly-endangered ones like the African wild dogs.
For birdlife, both countries offer a world-class birdwatching experience. Tanzania has over 1,000 bird species recorded while Kenya has an impressive 1,135 bird species.
Do you know that the Great Migration, otherwise known as the Wildebeest Migration or Serengeti Migration, is an annual event that draws millions and millions of tourists each year? It is the world’s largest inland animal movement that happens all throughout the year in nowhere else but Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.
Calling it the largest animal movement is not an overstatement. The Great Migration exhibits over two million wildebeests alongside hundreds and thousands of zebras and gazelles that travel together in a search for better grazing. Naturally, many predators remain at large — lions, leopards, hyenas, cheetahs and crocodiles being the top five. So not only will you be able to see a spectacular amount of wild animals in one place, but you will also have lots of opportunities to witness action-packed dramas of predator vs prey and even predator vs predator! No wonder this particular event is deemed the Seventh Natural Wonder of Africa and the “Greatest Show on Earth.”
In Kenya, you can find the herds in the Mara plains around August to October but the mega herds start to cross the Mara River around July. Since the river crossing happens between Serengeti and Mara, visitors in either park can take the front-row seats to this major event.
By the end of October or early November, the herds start to move out from the already barren Masai Mara plains and head back to Serengeti in Tanzania where they spend the rest of the months until July when the herds start to cross the Mara River again.
Both Kenya and Tanzania hold several international flights from many parts of the world. However, Kenya has notably more flights available which mean airfare is also cheaper. Some visitors to Tanzania even opt to fly from their country of departure to Nairobi in Kenya and then just take a connecting flight to Tanzania as this is usually the cheaper option.
If you come from New York, average flight duration to Nairobi is 17 hours. If you come from the UK, a direct flight will take about 8.5 hours and if you come from Australia, it will be 15.5 hours. Of course, flight duration will depend on how many stopovers you have and how long each stop will take.
Going to Tanzania is the same. Stopovers greatly affect the schedule. On average, flights from New York to DAR takes 19 hours and 20 minutes; from UK to DAR, 11 hours; and from Oz to DAR, about 15 hours. You also have the option to fly to Arusha if you’re planning to visit the northern circuit safaris first. Note that this route may be more expensive and not as many flights compared to Dar and Nairobi.
This factor has already been covered but still needs a special space. Since both countries are world-renowned safari destinations, tourist influx should be expected especially during peak months. Since Kenya offers more lodges, camps and hotels plus plane tickets are relatively cheaper, crowds are thicker here. You can even experience being surrounded by many other vehicles while on a safari.
Tanzania, although considerably more expensive, guarantees more exclusivity as a number of lodges, hotels and camps are limited and most parks are huge.
When you think of an authentic African safari, East Africa’s Tanzania and Kenya always stand out. Both countries feature a sensational African scenery, superior game-viewing, and a series of bucket-list activities that defy comparison.
There are safaris beyond the iconic game drives that you can enjoy, too. Since Kenya has a wealth of private conservancies that not only lets you enjoy a more exclusive safari but also other activities including horseback riding, guided nature walks and night game drives. These private conservancies are usually parts of the Masai Mara ecosystem. Laikipia, Motorogi and Lewa Conservancies are some of the top ones in the country.
In Tanzania, wildlife safaris have been a hit which has made a resounding noise internationally. But did you know that primate safari are available in Tanzania, too? In the western region of the country lies national parks that welcome you to a visit to chimpanzees and other unique primates. Not to mention the view that the western circuit provides, covering Africa’s largest lake, Lake Victoria.
Any safari to either Kenya and Tanzania would be an adventure beyond your wildest dreams, whether you’re an avid safari-goer or a first-timer. If you’re keen on having that exclusive feeling and spending a bit more cash is no issue, Tanzania is definitely perfect for you. But if you have a certain budget and still aim for that wonderful safari experience (not to mention Nairobi has perfect day trip spots which include a safari wilderness in the city), you should head to Kenya. Of course, one major factor you need to consider is WHEN you’re going to visit. Ideally, Kenya gets most votes in October since wildebeest herds are gathered in its plains. For November to March, Tanzania has an edge because of the phenomenal calving season in Southern Serengeti. On other months which are April through September, both Kenya and Tanzania are spectacular. Plus, accommodation options in either country are superb — from hotels in the city to hotel-style lodges in parks to luxury tented camps in the wild! So given this point-by-point comparison of the top 2 safari destinations in the world, it’s definitely safe to say that whether you go to Kenya or Tanzania, your safari would be undeniably unforgettable, nonetheless.When you think of an authentic African safari, East Africa’s Tanzania and Kenya always stand out. Both countries feature a sensational African scenery, superior game-viewing, and a series of bucket-list activities that defy comparison.