While the African continent offers some incredible safari experiences, East Africa offers a very wild and authentic safari. The national parks and reserves and unfenced which means that animals can roam as much as they want, migrating for hundreds of miles in some cases (the wildebeest migration).

There are several safari destinations in East Africa. Uganda and Rwanda are much smaller, and more specialized safari destinations, focusing particularly on primates like the habituated chimpanzees and the mountain gorillas. Ethiopia is not really a core safari destination, but there are some interesting experiences to be had there, like seeing the baboons in the Simeon mountains.

Above all, Kenya and Tanzania are the best destinations to head to for an East Africa safari. They offer a fantastic safari – arguably one of the best in all of Africa. But with two exceptional safari destinations, offering similar experiences, how do you know which destination is best for you? This small guide may help answer just that.

Image: Angama Mara, Kenya

Olivers Camp, Asilia
Rekero Camp, Kenya

Logistics and price

It is no secret that a safari is one of the more expensive trips you can do. While there are ways to keep costs down, East Africa is not a low-budget option (we’d recommend somewhere like South Africa to keep costs very low). The most expensive part to a Kenya or Tanzania trip is going to be the safari element. Although the nightly rate sounds high for a camp or lodge (for example, anywhere from $800 per person per night), this rate includes your accommodation, all food and drink, your guide and vehicle, park and conservancy fees.

From a logistics point of view, itineraries for Kenya and Tanzania both use internal flights (in light Cessna Caravan planes), which is the best use of time and efficiency. For those traveling from the UK, one main draw for Kenya over Tanzania is that there are direct flights from London to Nairobi (Kenya Airways or British Airways). There are no direct flights to Tanzania (one stop via somewhere like Amsterdam, Nairobi or Dubai), so for those traveling with kids, Kenya is usually the preferred.

Prices for a Tanzania and Kenya trip are quite similar, but it really depends on which destinations you combine and which accommodation you stay in. The cost of flying internally around the country is quite similar but accommodation can range across both countries, anywhere from $500 per person per night, up to $1,000+ per person per night.

Images: Olivers Camp in Tarangire, Tanzania (left) and Rekero Camp in the Masai Mara, Kenya (right)

Hemingways Watamu
Baraza - Zanzibar

Beach time

Kenya and Tanzania both boast the Indian Ocean to the east of the mainland. This is often a huge draw to East Africa, compared to other safari destinations like Zambia or Botswana which are landlocked. A twin-center trip (combining both safari and beach) is easily done in East Africa. The recommended beach add-on in Kenya would be the southern coast of Diani and Watamu Beach. Here, white-sand beaches meet azure waters, giving you a real sense of tropical paradise. Internal flights are offered daily from key safari destinations like the Masai Mara and Amboseli National Park into Diani beach which means you can be on safari in the morning, and on the beach by late afternoon. You can also combine beach destinations like Zanzibar or the Seychelles easily with a Kenya safari – with direct flights from Nairobi departing on a regular basis.

For Tanzania, the most iconic beach to combine is Zanzibar Island. Located off the eastern coast of Tanzania’s mainland, Zanzibar is easily accessed by a short 15-minute flight from Dar es Salaam. The island offers something for everyone – with beautiful beaches, vibrant forests, spice farms, watersports, and an array of cultural and historical tours on offer. Zanzibar is part of Tanzania so as long as you have one tourist visa, it’s really easy to combine, and one of our recommendations.

Images: Hemingways Watamnu in Kenya (left) and Baraza Resort in Zanzibar (right)

Angama Mara
Sayari Camp

Safari experience - Masai Mara or Serengeti?

The Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya and the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania share the same ecosystem. In fact, the team from Disney used both locations to research landscapes, behaviors and characters for the Lion King (1994). Because it is such a loved film, both Tanzania and Kenya hold onto this and argue about which country homes the original Pride Rock.

There are similarities to both national parks. Because of they have the same ecosystem, they both boast vast, open plains and a wealth of resident wildlife. Elephant families, lion prides, and large herds of buffalo can be seen on a daily basis in both, as well as an array of bird life, crocodile, hippo and antelope aplenty. Of course, both national parks have specific regions or areas that are famous for a species in particular. For example, the Mara Triangle (inside the Reserve itself), is famous for big cats such as lion prides and cheetah coalitions which have been featured on many nature documentaries (including the Big Cat Diaries).

Both destinations offer a very similar day on safari – with early morning and late afternoon game drives, with a cooked lunch in the middle of the day. Bush breakfasts and sundowners are also offered by your safari camp and guide. For this reason, we don’t really recommend combining both the Masai Mara and the Serengeti in the same itinerary. This is because they offer such a similar experience (both the accommodation and the game viewing itself), that we’d much rather you spend a longer period in one destination, enjoying the maximum time on safari.

Images: Angama Mara in Kenya (left) and Sayari Camp in Tanzania (right)

Sayari Camp
Wildebeest Migration Nomad Lamai

The Great Migration

The wildebeest migration herds migrate across both the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and the Masai Mara National Reserve and Greater Conservancies in Kenya. That said, they spend a lot more time in Tanzania as the Serengeti is much larger. Between the months of July to October, the herds can be seen in the Masai Mara in Kenya. During the other months of the year, the herds are migrating across the eastern, southern (Ndutu plains), western and northern plains of the Serengeti.

Although the movement of the herds differs each year depending on the arrival of the rains, we know roughly where they are each month. If you want to see a particular ‘event’ (such as the calving period or a river crossing), get in touch with our Africa specialists to find out where they’d recommend staying for the best sighting.

Images: Sayari Camp (left) and Nomad Lamai (right)

Looking to Book a Tanzania or Kenya Safari?

Elaine and Gemma our African safari specialists with over 25 years of experience in the safari sector, are happy to design the perfect trip for you. Please feel free to get in touch today on +1 844 879 7388 or +44 208 004 2345. You can also contact us at info@unforgettabletravel.com

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