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11 November 2021

Kenya vs. Tanzania

One of the biggest challenges for many people when planning a safari to East Africa is making the choice between Tanzania and Kenya.

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Tanzania and Kenya are home to two of the most famous parks in the continent; the Serengeti and Maasai Mara. These national parks offer a traditional safari experience with phenomenal game viewing. Both National Geographic and the BBC have focused many of their top natural world documentaries on these areas and the wildlife that reside there.

Here, we discuss Kenya versus Tanzania as the best destination suited to you. Both countries have a range of camps and lodges to suit different budgets, and you also need to take into account the logistics of travel, the weather, and the quality of the guides when planning a trip.

Our experts can help you choose the right destination for you. If you want to discuss planning a safari to Kenya or Tanzania, you can give us a call on +44 (0) 208 547 2305 or send our experts a message here

Serengeti & Maasai Mara

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Ngorongoro camp migration views

The Serengeti and the Maasai Mara are two of the best-known safari destinations in Africa. Deciding between Tanzania and Kenya is much more than just a choice between the Serengeti and the Maasai Mara, as although these are without doubt the big-hitting game-viewing destinations, both countries have so much more to offer.

Having said that, let’s start with the Serengeti vs. Maasai Mara question, and one of the most important things to consider here is the time of year you want to travel.

What is the best time of year to visit the Masaai Mara and Serengeti?

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maasai mara, tanzania v kenya safaris

These two parks are part of the same ecosystem, divided by an unmarked line in the African savannah of which the local and migrating wildlife are totally unaware. From July to October, the great wildebeest migration is in the northern Serengeti and the Maasai Mara. At this time of year, there is little difference between the two parks – it is peak season, so it can get busy. The Mara river meanders its way through both parks and with river crossings happening regularly the game viewing is incredible.

For your accommodation at this time of year, you have a couple of options in each park. In the northern Serengeti, you can stay in a traditional mobile tented camp such as Serengeti Safari Camp, located right at the heart of the action, or in a permanent lodge like Lamai Serengeti, which offers a few more little luxuries. In the Mara, the choice is between a camp in the national reserve close to the Mara river – here Naibor Camp is in a fantastic location! – or a stay in one of the Greater Mara Conservancies, which offer a more private and exclusive experience. With vehicle and guest numbers restricted in the conservancies, many travellers will choose a camp here over one by the river in the national reserve to escape the crowds. The game viewing in the conservancies is still spectacular, but there are no river crossings on your doorstep. However, with more activities on offer, the conservancy camps are a great option. Two of our favourites are Kicheche Bush Camp and Mara Plains.

From January to March, the Great Migration is found on the short grass plains in the southern Serengeti – for that reason, we recommend staying in this area at this time of year. The Mara has good year-round resident game, so it won’t disappoint, but for many travellers seeing the Great Migration herds makes the Serengeti the place to go during these months. Again, the mobile camps are in the best location. Lemala Ndutu is a great choice, or, if you are looking for a little more luxury, Mwiba Lodge is unbeatable.

Exploring Northern Tanzania

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If you’re hoping to extend your safari in Tanzania, two great add-ons to the Serengeti are the Ngorongoro Crater and Tarangire National Park – these parks can easily be linked with the Serengeti by road or air. The Ngorongoro Crater is another famous safari destination offering a great chance to see the Big Five in one day. It’s also the best place to see rhino in Tanzania, but the crater can get busy in peak season. There’s a wonderful array of lodges close to the crater, and one of the most eye-catching options is Crater Lodge. Positioned on the crater rim, this has spectacular views out over the crater. Alternatively, for a home-away-from-home feel, we recommend Gibb’s Farm, which is nestled in the coffee plantations in the foothills.

Tarangire National Park offers a lovely contrast to both the Serengeti and the crater. This park is famous for its elephant migration, and the landscape here is different, with areas of thicker bushland surrounding the Silale Swamp. It’s a wonderful location not only to see large herds of elephant from July to October, but also to enjoy walking safaris in the African wilderness.

Exploring Southern Tanzania

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Tanzania does have an adventurous side! In the south are two less-visited national parks, Ruaha and Nyerere (formerly the northern area of the Selous Game Reserve). With some of the best walking safaris in East Africa available in Ruaha National Park at Kichaka Expedition Camps, and then boating safaris and walking available in the Nyerere, southern Tanzania offers a wonderfully adventurous safari experience. Opt for a combination of properties like Roho Ya Selous and Jabali Ridge, and you’ll find it’s not necessary to compromise on luxury.

Explore Kenya

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If you’re looking for a safari that offers more activities, northern Kenya is hard to beat, which makes it a great destination for families. In Laikipia, you’ll find camps on private conservancies that offer a range of activities, from walking safaris with camels to mountain biking and quad biking to scenic helicopter flights, as well as working with anti-poaching patrols during visits to local villages where you can immerse yourself in the local culture. Four of our favourite properties are Borana Lodge, Sarara Camp, Segera, and Ol Malo Lodge. The Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is also in northern Kenya – for any rhino lovers this is the place to be, and Lewa Wilderness is a great place to stay. Tanzania cannot compete with Kenya when it comes to rhinos!

If you love elephants, you also have the option to explore Amboseli National Park and the Chyulu Hills. Staying somewhere like Ol Donyo Lodge is a great way to end your safari, or you could consider Tsavo National Park. The Samburu National Reserve, with its diversity of wildlife and interesting local culture, offers a great contrast to the Maasai Mara, and Elephant Watch Camp is one of the most interesting camps in the reserve. A trip to Lake Naivasha and Lake Nakuru or Lake Baringo and Lake Bogoria will give you a more laidback few days, and at the right time of year you can see vast flocks of flamingos while staying in properties such as Deloraine House.

Zanzibar Beaches

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Finally, if you are hoping to end your safari with some time on the beach, Zanzibar is easily accessed from both Kenya and Tanzania. Pemba Island off Zanzibar is an excellent option for those keen on diving, while the Kenyan Coast also has a lot to offer for those interested in deep sea fishing and sailing.

Many of the Yellow Zebra team have managed camps or guided in both Kenya and Tanzania and can share their personal experiences with you to help you choose the best option for your safari. They will help you understand the subtle differences between the camps and locations and suggest the best safari for your requirements.

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