Kenya or Tanzania – Where Should You Go on Safari

Kenya or Tanzania. Like choosing between mountains and the beach, sunrise and sunset, ice cream and cake. Not easy. The good news then? Both are winners! 

Stunning scenery, breathtaking wildlife and life-long memories await in whichever you choose. But taking the plunge is a whole new step, so we’ve put a few details together to make that decision quite a bit simpler. 

With reputations to uphold as two of the most famous destinations for safaris in the world, both guarantee to surpass all your expectations and leave you with unrivalled memories for life.

Antelope on the Kenyan Plains

Location

Kenya and Tanzania are both East African countries with a coastline on the Indian Ocean. With Kenya sitting to the north of Tanzania, the countries share a border and share a special connection as the setting of the world’s largest wildlife migration (more on that later!).

Climate

The Masai Mara in Kenya and the Serengeti in Tanzania play a pivotal role in the survival of Africa’s ecosystem during different dry seasons. 

Kenya experiences its main wet season from April through to June, while Tanzania’s rainy season runs from early March to late May, with a second, shorter season in November and December. 

Temperatures that you can expect in Kenya can vary significantly depending on where you are and the altitude, so you should be prepared for cooler temperatures as well as the high, with the heat peaking from December through to March. 

Tanzania’s temperatures reach their maximum during the short rainy season starting in November through to February, with highs of up to 40 degrees celsius.

 

When to Visit

If Kenya is taking your fancy, the dry season of July to October is most popular. Although crowds can be expected during these peak times, the weather is hot and dry and the opportunities for game viewing are plentiful. It is also the time to see the herds of Wildebeest on their migration. 

Should you wish for a quieter experience, it is best to avoid these months, although April and May should probably be avoided too as these are the months of heaviest rainfall when roads and airstrips can become unusable and parks may close for restorative works. 

As well as the best-known game reserve the Masai Mara, Samburu National Reserve is well worth a visit for its mixed terrain and rich wildlife.

Conversely, if Tanzania is now leading the way for you, June to October is prime game viewing season and you will also catch the wildebeest in the beginnings of their migration. 

If seeing predators in action ignites your curiosity, then January and February, calving time, is perfect for your visit. While the Serengeti can be a busy and popular place during June and July, Tanzania will mostly offer a quieter experience in terms of crowds than Kenya for those who seek a more peaceful experience.

 

Elephant and Calf Africa

Where to Go

Countless astounding sights and sounds make these countries what they are, and you could be forgiven for not knowing where to start.

 Kenya’s world-renowned Masai Mara is a must with a reputation for excellent predator sightings and varied wildlife, while the Amboseli National Reserve and Tsavo National Park both offer incredible opportunities to view large herds of elephants.

 Further north in the more remote parts of the country, you can find Samburu National Reserve where you will find the Sarara Singing Wells and can catch Samburu warriors singing traditional songs while they go about their daily jobs. 

 Lake Nakuru National Park is famous for having great numbers of pink flamingos while offering the potential for a sighting of a white rhino.

 Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania needs little introduction. A dormant volcano, it is the highest mountain in Africa and the highest single free-standing volcano in the world.

 The Serengeti, too, fights its own corner with its staggering beauty and vast open lands making it perfect for wildlife sightings. 

 The Ngorongoro Crater, with its own permanent supply of water, is the spot to find animals with no need to migrate as thousands can be seen. It is also the location of the Olduvai Gorge, where it is thought some of the oldest human remains in the world have been found.

 Lake Manyara features the largest concentration of baboons in the world while having large populations of elephants, hippos and tree-climbing lions too.

Samburu Warriors

Costs

There is little to separate the price of flights to Kenya and Tanzania from London. The cost of living in Kenya is around 40% cheaper than the UK, while Tanzania is even lower at around 45% cheaper. 

A typical mid-range,  three-course meal in Tanzania is significantly cheaper than a Kenyan equivalent, while a basic lunch with a drink would also cost you around half that of its Kenyan counterpart. 

Pound Sterling, US Dollars and Euros are widely accepted and can be changed at local banks in both countries, although it is certainly worth taking some Kenyan Shillings or Tanzanian Shillings for your visit.

Accommodation

Whether world-class luxury makes you feel at home, or you’re a thrill-seeker chasing the total African experience, Kenya treats you well. 

Budget accommodation in a double room can cost as little as £20, with a mid-range hotel at around £47 and all-out luxury at a totally affordable £95 a night.

Camps, cottages, lodges, budget and five-star spa hotels are all possibilities in Tanzania. 

Whatever your taste, Tanzania’s got it covered! From around £22 a night for a double room in a budget hotel, to approximately £200 a night in a luxury setting, all tastes are accommodated for. Want something down the middle? No problem! You can expect to pay around £64 night for a mid-range hotel.

Tanzania Lodge

Food

Ugali is a staple part of the diet in both Kenya and Tanzania, meaning you can experience a small taste of a local’s life in either destination. A type of maize flour porridge, it is often served alongside meat and vegetable stews.  Grilled meats are also common, as is fish close to the coast. 

In Kenya, beef and goat meat are most common, while sweet potatoes are regularly used.

On the whole, Tanzania has a similar diet, though you can also find banana stews and the food tends to incorporate more spices than may commonly be found in Kenya.

Culture

Kenya is a country of diverse cultures and trends with no single prominent culture. This means your visit can be quite unique, and you are guaranteed to meet Kenyans who each have their own story and way of life to teach you something new.

In Tanzania, over 130 languages are spoken with Swahili and English as the prominent two. Through the second half of the 20th Century, President Julius Nyerere worked tirelessly to create a national identity for the people of Tanzania, meaning that today, ethnic divisions are rare in the country despite it being one of the most diverse African countries.

Security

It is vital to be vigilant in either destination. 

Muggings and bag snatchings have occurred in both countries, and advice suggests holding bags loosely or over one shoulder rather than across your chest. This is to prioritise your safety over possessions.

Around 190,000 UK residents travel to Kenya each year with most trips being trouble-free. Roughly 75,000 people travel to Tanzania and also encounter few problems.

Using reputable campsites and companies for your safari is a good way of reducing any risk even further.

It’s always best to seek the most recent travel advice from the government, but travel within 60km of the Somalian border is advised against.

Crowds

Kenya is busiest in and around its dry season between July and October. The latter half of August on, in particular, is the most popular time for people to travel as they try and catch a glimpse of the Great Migration. Safaris at this time will be at their most expensive.

Tanzania, alternatively, is rarely crowded, except for the Serengeti in June and July. Again, this is as people flock to see the wildebeest herds.

Ngorongoro Crater

Travel and Infrastructure

Once you’ve arrived in either country, public transport is a very affordable method of getting around. Taxis, too, can be inexpensive and in Kenya, it is possible to hire a car with a driver. 

Kenya’s safari industry is supported by its infrastructure, and therefore will be a more pleasant experience travelling around than Tanzania at this time. 

Tanzania is, however, in the process of improving this with promises to develop its railways to support industry in the country. 

In either place, delays may be expected and public transport travel can be slow. What a great invitation to settle in, absorb the culture and experience while marvelling at the sublime scenery!

Exclusivity

After the total African experience without the crowds, hassle and distractions? No problem! Bespoke, exclusive safari packages and meticulously planned trips are available. Be as involved in the design of your dream safari as you wish with the assistance and reliability of an expert to take care of all the necessary details. In terms of Kenya or Tanzania? There is little to separate the two here, with both countries widely represented for exclusive travel and safaris. Some companies also offer extensions to your visit, such as the Kenyan coast, or beach accommodation in Zanzibar. 

Scenery

Mountains? Coastline? Valleys? Forests? National Parks? Check, check, check, check and check!

Vast, expansive lands filled with wildlife are only the beginnings of Kenya’s greatness. Mount Kenya and the Rift Valley not only give you a different perspective on the breathtaking wildlife, but panoramic views of some of the most beautiful locations on earth. 

On top of this, Kenya is the host of white sandy beaches along its coast, Hell’s Gate National Park and Lamu, a car-free coastal town.

Tanzania fights back with the Serengeti (which means ‘endless plains’ in the local language), Mount Kilimanjaro and the stunning settings of Lake Manyara and Lake Victoria, the idyllic bird-spotting locations.

Fishing on Lake Victoria

Landmarks

Both Kenya and Tanzania are brimming with natural and man-made landmarks to amaze. 

Kenya’s Masai Mara and Mount Kenya are among its natural highlights, as are the Mau-Mau caves, Lake Victoria and the Menengai Crater, the site of a 19th Century battle. 

Man-made creations are plentiful. The 16th century Fort Jesus was built by the Portuguese overlooking the Old Port at Mombasa as a point to trade from and in response to Turkish raids. The State House, built in the early 20th Century, serves as the official residence of the President of Kenya and the Jomo Kenyatta Mausoleum, the resting place of the Republic of Kenya’s first President, are worth visiting for anyone interested in the country’s political background.

Tanzania is home to many of Africa’s most famous sights in Mount Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti, but don’t miss out on many other stunning locations.

The Ngorongoro Crater is part of a conservation area and has a fascinating mix of wildlife. Kalambo Falls on the border with Zambia are worth a visit, and for those wanting mountains without the crowds that come with Kilimanjaro, there is Mount Meru, or Ol Doinyo Lengai, which has the added boast of an active volcano.

Equally as impressive are Tanzania’s man-made landmarks. Take a moment to reflect at the Askari monument, a bronze World War 1 soldier erected in 1927 commemorating the role played by African troops. Alternatively, take a visit to the Old State House, which also holds links to the First World War in which it suffered considerable damage. Restored soon after, it is now the home of the President of Tanzania. For something totally different, there are the Kondoa Irangi Rock Paintings depicting human figures, animals and rivers. It is thought that they are thousands of years old.  

Things to Do in Kenya

With so much to do, picking out your favourites will be a real challenge of a visit to Kenya or Tanzania.

If Kenya is your choice, visit Lamu, a UNESCO World Heritage site that combines architecture with influences from around the world, while donkeys are still the main mode of transport. Delve deeper into the culture and history with a visit to the Lamu Museum, or relax on white-sand beaches and take in the local experience at a café.

If history takes your fancy, visit Nairobi, the capital of Kenya and former capital of British East Africa. The Nairobi National Museum will give an insight into all aspects of Kenya’s life and history. 

If not Nairobi, Mombasa is the second-largest city and Kenya’s biggest port, where worldly influences are clear in the architecture. The history lover can take in Fort Jesus and the Old Town, while the more sporty among you can take advantage of snorkelling and diving opportunities. Then, find some middle ground and come back together for a dolphin watching trip.

Mount Kenya, also a UNESCO World Heritage site, offers a unique chance to see snow ever so close to the equator. Not many people can brag about that! The country’s highest mountain also offers unique safari opportunities.

Popular with climbers and hikers, accessible on foot or bike, is Hell’s Gate. A protector of a wide variety of wildlife, this is one of only a few Kenyan parks to allow camping and features geothermal hot springs.

For that close up wildlife encounter, look no further than Ol Pejeta Conservancy, where you can combine your visit with overnight accommodation and choose between self-drive or guided tours. The Big Five, as well as the white and the black rhino, are all here, meaning you can capture that photo of all your favourites in one place.

Safari in the Masai Mara Zebras

Things to Do in Tanzania

For that once-in-a-lifetime visit, Tanzania is a great choice with exceptional, dream-worthy opportunities.

For the active visitor, Mount Kilimanjaro is a project well worth training for. If that’s not you, the splendour of Africa’s tallest mountain and its snow-capped peaks still make it unmissable. 

For any snorkelling, diving, or general ocean wildlife enthusiast, Mafia Island Marine Park and its protected undersea world is the place to head. 

Alternatively, soft, white-sand beaches and stunningly clear water are guaranteed on the island of Zanzibar. Surfing can also be an option here. 

Stone Town in Zanzibar, with few changes in the past 200 hundred years, provides a stunning cultural experience. With museums and many tourist attractions being created, this Swahili city is well worth the time to visit.

Boat trips, hiking excursions, fishing trips and bird watching are all very good reasons to visit Lake Victoria. The largest freshwater lake in Africa, the Tanzanian areas are largely untapped by tourists, giving you a great chance of an authentic experience visiting a life source of wildlife and human income.

Safari in the Serengeti

Wildlife

Here we are – what you’ve been waiting for! Both countries lie in a part of the world that is rich and abundant in wildlife and some of the world’s most sought after creatures. Combine that with picturesque, 360-degree views and you have destinations featuring near the top of most people’s bucket lists. 

Kenya has built a well-deserved reputation as one of the world’s most recognised safari destinations. It is home to the Masai Mara, as well as the Amboseli, famed for its majestic elephant populations and being overlooked by the imposing Mount Kilimanjaro in neighbouring Tanzania. 

As well as Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania can boast of the Serengeti and the unmissable Ngorongoro Crater, which is home to some 20,000 mammals and features some of the best landscapes Africa has to offer.

Many similarities between the two make the choice a tough, but good dilemma to have: in both countries, you are able to see the Big Five, world-renowned diversity and birdlife that is both varied (over 1,000 species of bird are known to live in each country) and featuring endemic and unique birds to that country. 

If you’re looking for something more specific, such as rhinos, both the Black and the White Rhino can be seen in Kenya, while only the Black Rhino will be seen in Tanzania. On the other hand, if you’re seeking perfect game viewing conditions, Tanzania during the dry season is the place to be. In fact, Tanzania is home to around 20% of Africa’s large mammal population and has over 4 million wild animals including around 430 species and subspecies.

White Rhino Africa

The Great Migration

If the Great Migration, or Wildebeest Migration, the world’s greatest wildlife migration, is what you are longing for, then carefully consider the time of year you travel. Each year, 1.5 million wildebeest make the migration accompanied by hundreds of thousands of other creatures including zebra and gazelle in search of fresh, lush grass and water. 

From December to April, the place to see the wildebeest is the southern Serengeti. During this time, they aren’t migrating, and mothers will give birth to their young. 

As May and June come around, the need for water and the drying Serengeti lead the wildebeest to begin their journey north. If it is your desire is to see the Migration in full flow, June to November is your best bet of catching a herd on their journey. 

July and August will see the majority of the river crossings at the Mara River as the creatures head for the Masai Mara, before returning south to Tanzania and the Serengeti any time from around October.

The Great Wildebeest Migration

Kenya or Tanzania

Your final decision may rest on a single deciding factor or may come down to a gut feeling.

If you are looking for a quieter experience, a luxury Tanzania wildlife holiday is probably the direction to head (although carefully consider the cost of accommodation into any budget planning). 

However, if you are seeking somewhere with infrastructure that is better developed and ready to deal more comprehensively with tourists, Kenya has the edge on its neighbour.

Perhaps you are considering the likelihood of seeing the wildlife you are desperate to lay your eyes on. Both have a high chance for you to experience the Big Five, with the added bonus of the White Rhino in Kenya, though for sheer volume, Tanzania takes the lead. 

If the time of year is to lead your thinking, peak time for both destinations is around June to October, though for the visitor wanting that quieter experience these are the times to avoid.

January and February are also good months to visit both countries, with calving in Tanzania and Kenya experiencing a dry season at this time as well as July to October.

Rest assured in whichever direction you go here; Kenya and Tanzania have world-renowned wildlife, scenery and experiences waiting at your fingertips. Lands overflowing in safaris and national parks to meet any dream and leave each visitor with a unique experience to treasure for life are calling!

Wildlife Africa Giraffes

FAQs

Can I Visit Kenya and Tanzania in one trip?

You can visit both in one trip and though it will be expensive, it will be an incredible experience. The best place to cross the border is the town of Namanga. It can be a busy crossing with both locals and tourists using it, but it generally flows smoothly. You need a separate visa for Kenya and Tanzania.

Which is better?

This really does depend on you and your preferences. Both have a similar peak season when crowds will be at their highest, and both have fascinating creatures endemic to that country. It really comes down to what specifically you are looking for.

Is it safe?

It is always really important for tourists to be vigilant wherever they are in the world. This is certainly true for Kenya and Tanzania, but if you take sensible precautions you should have a trouble-free visit. Follow the most up-to-date security advice at all times. Research and only use reputable safari companies.

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