When we want to go on safari, we always wonder where it is best, Kenya or Tanzania. There are several countries in Africa suitable for this, and in this particular post we are going to make a comparison between two of the best ones: Tanzania and Kenya, which safari is better?

We had this same doubt before we went on our first safari in Kenya. Would the safari in Kenya be better rather than our 5-day safari we did in Tanzania a year earlier?

In this post we explain the differences between the two safaris: Kenya and Tanzania.

Which national parks and conservancy areas do we compare?

This safari comparison is based on our experience in the following conservancy areas and national parks:

  • In Kenya: Masai Mara area, specifically in the Lemek Conservancy Area (outside the Mara National Park).
  • In Tanzania: In the national parks of Serengeti, Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Sinya Wildlife Conservancy.

We believe it is important to point out that in Kenya we did not do the safari inside the Mara National Park, but we did it inside the Masai Mara area. Masai still live in this area and share their territory with the animals in the wild. In natural parks they are not allowed to live or settle, in conservation areas they are. If you would like to have more information about a safari in a conservancy area within the masai mara, please read this article: Having a safari experience in Kenya

In which national park or conservation area will we see the most animals?

This is the million dollar question and a difficult one to answer. Animals are constantly on the move in search of food. If it does not rain in one area they move to another and therefore the presence of animals also depends on external factors. It depends on the time of the year, and it is also important to take into account climate change, which is modifying the seasons.

It also depends on the extension of the park, the type of vegetation it has (where there are trees, for example, it is more common to find giraffes or elephants, where there is no water it will be difficult to find hippos, or where there is more green, it is where we will find zebras, wildebeests, or antelopes). In addition, all animals are related to each other; if one is missing, another one will be missing as well. For example, where there are giraffes, apes can be found, as they rely on them and their ability and field of vision to be at ease. Another example: wildebeests and zebras need each other, eat different parts of the same vegetation, and help each other to migrate.

Tourist overcrowding: another point to be taken into account

Finally, another aspect to take into account that we consider key when assessing where to go is the number of tourists, cars or movement in the area. It is true that the extensions are very large, and despite the fact that it is becoming more and more common to go on safari, there is no sense of crowds. However, there are occasions when we find 10 or 20 cars around a pride of lions. This factor influences, and at least in our experience, we have been able to enjoy more closeness with the animals, and more tranquility (for them and for us) in not so typical places, such as in the Lemek Conservancy Area, or in the Lake Manyara National Park in Tanzania.

1. Sinya Wildlife Conservancy (Tanzania)

When we last visited Sinya Wildlife Conservancy, which borders Kenya, it was June. Because it had not rained for many months (it should have rained in April or May at the earliest), the area was totally dry and there were practically no animals. We found a few elephants seeking shade in some trees and bushes, but little else.

As we said, everything is an interrelated ecosystem. If there is no vegetation to eat, there are no zebras, gazelles or wildebeests. If there are no gazelles or wildebeest, there are no predators such as lion, cheetah or leopard.

The effects of climate change: don’t think the landscapes are unchanging.

Therefore, if there is no food in the area where you are doing the safari because it has not rained, the animals will not stay there and will look for areas where they can find food. It is as simple as that, but it is very important to know it, and not to take things for granted when looking for a safari route, when asking for information about what to do in Kenya or Tanzania, or when evaluating the natural parks to go to in our adventure in Africa.

The landscapes are changeable, and the fauna depends on them. And yes, it is a very clear reminder, one that sticks in your mind: let’s not take for granted nature, biodiversity, the water around us, or the temperature of our rivers or seas. Everything is changing, and in addition to making us value what we have and one day maybe not, it should make us reflect and protect it, and here many of our most basic daily habits come into play. What we do on a daily basis has repercussions on the other side of the planet. And the savannah is no exception, quite the contrary.

2. Lake Manyara Safari (Tanzania)

In the safari we did in Lake Manyara we saw many animals and, above all, up close. This is probably because there is a lot of water in the area (the lake), and because it is very close to the main road that the jeeps constantly follow. Therefore the animals are near and around the water. Although it is a national park, it is less known and we did not see as many tourists. We were able to enjoy the animals with more tranquility, and they also approached us with more confidence, since the absence of noise or hustle and bustle of 4x4s makes them more receptive.

The best surprise at Lake Manyara

In Lake Manyara we encounter many elephants, giraffes, zebras, gazelles and baboons. But not only that. We saw a spectacle that is more difficult to see in the Serengeti. As there was more than enough food, there were also predators, and we were able to be about 5 meters away from two lionesses, who with their cubs, had hunted a wildebeest and devoured and dragged it to take it as food for the rest of the herd. The lionesses saw the car, but understood that it was not a threat, and they had a sufficiently important matter in front of them to pass us by. There were 2 cars, and we were able to watch the show until we said to leave. No rush and no crowds.

Thus, the Lake Manyara safari is a recommended route and a must if you do a 3-day safari (or even less). There are fewer tourists and because there is water there are always animals near the lake. It is also very close to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Tarangire National Park.

Elephant, one of the Big Five of the African Shroud
Encounter with elephants at Lake Manyara. Trip to Help.

3. Safari in the Serengeti National Park (Tanzania)

During our safari in the Serengeti National Park, we saw a greater number of animals. Because of its enormous extension, and because we spent 2 days there, we had time to see all the Big Five except the rhinoceros. We saw huge herds of elephants walking in line (the typical image we have when we think of the savannah), which in other parks is difficult (in other places it is common to see them up close, but often there are 2 or 3 males, a mother with her calf, but not the whole herd).

It was the only park in Tanzania where we saw the leopard, at quite a distance, and with the need for binoculars. We also saw several groups of elephants, a family of lions, several cheetahs and hippos and many other animals such as buffaloes, wildebeests, gazelles, zebras, giraffes, ostriches….

The experience of sleeping inside the Serengeti National Park

We really enjoyed sleeping inside the national park, we believe it is one of the must-do experiences. Mainly for the sensation (and not only sensation, it is a reality) of being very close to the animals and for the sunset we saw while drinking a beer.

At the lodge, when night falls, they make bonfires, and as romantic and idyllic as it may seem to you to be with your beer, your book, and the fire in front of you, in reality the reason is to warn the animals that you can’t go there. Of course, you won’t be able to take your eyes off the sky. The spectacle of stars, along with the silence with the occasional animal noise that you will not know what it is, is part of the experience, and you will find it hard to forget.

So, if you have enough days and your budget allows it, the Serengeti National Park is a must if you want to do a safari in Tanzania.

4. The safari in the Ngorongoro Crater

Ngorongoro Crater is one of the few places in the world where you can see the Big Five. In practice, we only saw the rhinoceros and only from a distance. We saw neither lions nor elephants, nor the leopard…. Of course, we enjoyed this place like children. The richness and diversity of this place is incredible, and it really is the place to see that everything is related and that the animals live in complete harmony. It is the place where you can become absorbed in analyzing the behavior of each one of them depending on the other animals around. We assure you that the commotion generated by two hyenas running back and forth in the middle of the crater will never be forgotten in our lifetime, and neither will the way the rest of the people reacted!

Ngorongoro Crater: an ecosystem in itself

Ngorongoro is a unique crater in the world where an entire ecosystem lives inside. Going down the walls of the volcano and doing the crater safari is really something very different from the rest of the parks and highly recommended for its beauty. In addition, the road there is spectacular. We cross some rather jungle or tropical roads, something very unusual for the area.

Although we did not see elephants or lions, we saw a variety of animals, such as hyenas, wildebeest, jackals, pumas, ostriches, flamingos and many other birds.

The safari in the Ngorongoro Crater is highly recommended, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the main reasons to do a safari in Tanzania instead of Kenya.

Safari in Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania.
Wildebeest in the Ngorongoro Crater. Trip to Help

5. Safari in the Tarangire National Park

Tarangire National Park is one of the most visited parks in Tanzania due to its proximity to Arusha and the significant number of animals that can be seen, from elephants and zebras to lions.

Generally, if you do a 5-day safari, Tarangire is the first stop on your safari. It is a good place for a safari and we liked it. It is a good place to acclimatize and really believe that we are on safari, and also to say goodbye if we have it at the end of the route. Being close to Arusha is a cheaper safari than the Serengeti or Ngorongoro, and is highly recommended for the diversity of animals in distances not as huge as in the Serengeti, for example.

an elephant in tarangire national park
Elephant in Tarangire National Park. Trip to Help.

6. Safari in Masai Mara (Kenya)

Our safari in Kenya was in the Lemek Conservancy Area. We loved it because, with our Maasai guide, we could do and go to some places that are not possible in a National Park. You can go off-trail, cross literally the entire steppe, get close to any animal if your guide sees fit, and there are no schedules. You can go whenever you want: we were caught at night on two occasions, and it’s quite an adventure. In addition, you can get out of the car and walk around the surrounding area. You are stepping on the same ground that zebras or giraffes have walked on, and the feeling of connection with the place rises quite high. It is a more adventurous safari than in Tanzania or other Kenyan national parks, you feel total freedom, and there are no crowds. In fact, we could tell you that there are hardly any tourists.

Enjoying these amazing sunset during our safari in Kenya

Positive points of our safari in Kenya:

  • Far fewer tourists than in the National Parks.
  • The possibility of getting close to the animals, leaving the tracks marked by the cars.
  • Possibility to see two white rhinos in a sanctuary where they are protected from poaching by several Rangers.
  • Proximity to the accommodation where we stayed and you can do it too (it belongs to a social project and your stay contributes directly to the elementary school located right next door, which you can visit). Its location allowed us to do half-day safaris without having to travel long distances and without schedules.
  • Local life has not disappeared. It is a Maasai area, your guides are Maasai, and you really see how they understand animal life, how they respect it and know it like no one else. In addition, being in an area where the Maasai community has not been forced to leave, has not been expelled, is always a plus.

Negative points of our safari in Kenya:

  • Until the last day we did not see any elephants (but there are, and quite a few, usually).
  • We did not see any leopards (but there are some). We did see lions and cheetahs. In fact, we were able to enjoy a live show that you will never forget: a lion and a lioness, on their “honeymoon”, just as they were beginning to mate. You can watch the video on our instagram.

Not seeing leopards or even elephants was bad luck, in fact the guide himself was surprised that we had not seen them, and we assure you that they search and search relentlessly. It is for this reason that in Kenya it is also recommended to do a 4-5 day safari instead of 1 or 2 days, especially if you want to see as many animals as possible.

Where is the best chance of seeing the Big Five?

This information may vary according to the season but it is a frequent question when deciding which is the best safari, if we hesitate between Kenya or Tanzania.

In our experience, the Serengeti National Park is the place where you are most likely to see the Big Five, even if you have to spend two full days. It is so big that you can go through different areas and look for the animals you have yet to see.

In the Ngorongoro Crater, it is said that it is possible to see them all, but in our case we saw almost none, only the Rhinoceros and from far away.

If you go to Kenya, you will be able to see the White Rhino up close, visiting the sanctuary where they live protected 24 hours a day. It is important for you to know that Trip to Help does not take any commission for this visit, all the money goes directly to this sanctuary to continue with the protection of these millenary animals threatened by poaching, and some of their species, in almost extinction.

If you like elephants and lions, we saw them mostly in: Tarangire, Serengeti and Manyara.

In the Maasai Mara we were surprised by the large number of lions we saw, and the few elephants, but it was a bit unlucky, the elephants are constantly moving and sometimes it is difficult to find them in such large territories. It is the perfect safari if you want to escape from the large groups of tourists and go a little more adventurous with your guide.

In which safari will we see the animals the closest?

Another common question when deciding where to go on safari is whether to go to Kenya or Tanzania. We will be able to see the animals up close in Kenya, specifically in the Lemek Conservancy Area in the Maasai Mara. This is due to the regulations governing National Parks, which the Lemek Conservation Area does not have. As this is an area where masais still live, they can move freely throughout the area. This means that if you see a lion 200 meters away in the Serengeti and there is no track to bring you closer, you will have to see it with binoculars. On the other hand, in Lemek, if we see a lion 200 meters away, we can approach it by leaving the track where we are driving.

In Tanzania, at Lake Manyara, by chance or not, we saw many elephants and giraffes up close, as well as the lionesses we have explained above. The elephants would come up to the car and eat next to us.

The best safari: Kenya or Tanzania?

This is the question we are asked by our friends and customers and the truth is that it is difficult to answer.

If you are traveling with children we would recommend Kenya because of the proximity between our accommodation and the safari. We understand that not all safaris in Kenya are the same, but the one we talk about here and you can hire with us allows you to do half or full day safaris, giving you a little more freedom.

If you want to see the animals up close, Kenya would also be the ideal destination for your safari.

On the other hand, if you want to go on safari in different lodges of higher category, go on the road and visit different National Parks and you don’t mind the hours in the car, Tanzania would be your choice. In addition, Tanzania has something unique in the world: the Ngorongoro Crater. It is unique and a must to see how so many animals are living together inside one of the largest craters in the world.

Also in Tanzania we saw more animals since each day we were in a different park.

If you want to see the Great Migration, it is important to find out when it crosses Kenya and when it crosses the Serengeti in Tanzania. It is one of the most impressive natural spectacles to see.

Costs Kenya and Tanzania Safaris

To see the costs of the safaris, and also to be able to evaluate this point to know where it is better to do a safari, in Kenya or Tanzania, you can see them here:

Costs Safaris in Tanzania:

Kenya safari costs

If you want more information about the best safari in Kenya or Tanzania and which one suits you best, do not hesitate. Write us a whatsapp or send us an e-mail and we will schedule a call without obligation…

In the following points you have more information about other important aspects: travel insurance and the airplane flight.

Travel insurance for Tanzania and Kenya

Although Kenya and Tanzania are safe countries, it is always advisable to have travel insurance to cover any unforeseen event. As a reader of our blog, and as collaborators of Chakpa and IATI, we offer you a discount on your travel insurance. If you click on the Chapka and IATI banners, you will go to their website to purchase the insurance with a discount already applied thanks to Trip to Help. By contracting the insurance through our links you help us to continue with the blog and to continue writing information of interest. Chapka and IATI reward us financially for each customer who takes out insurance through our banners.

iati insurance 5% discount

Flights to Tanzania or Kenya

Other blog entries

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