Unforgettable Travel Company

Tanzania's northern parks: Flying vs. Driving circuit

If you’re considering a Tanzania safari, then the northern circuit is certainly one of the best options to consider as a starting point. This safari circuit usually includes the Serengeti National Park, the Ngorongoro Crater, and Lake Manyara National Park and/or Tarangire National Park. With exceptional game viewing in all game reserves, the northern Tanzania circuit is up there with one of the best in all of Africa.

From a logistics point of view, you can combine these national parks by driving, or flying between them. Both options give you a fantastic safari experience but one way of travel may suit you more, depending on what you are looking for, and what time of year you travel. Banner image: Lemala Nanyukie Camp, Eastern Serengeti

Olivers camp2

Driving safari

Compared to the southern parks of Tanzania, the northern parks are relatively close together, which makes it possible to drive between the national parks and reserves. Tarangire National Park is approximately a two hour drive from the Arusha/ Kilimanjaro region. This accessibility does tend to attract day visitors to the park, so the area around the park entry can be quite busy at times. That said, head further into the park to stay in tented camps like Olivers Camp or Kuro Camp and you will have much fewer visitors.

After Tarangire, a drive across to Lake Manyara National Park is often a great way to break the drive up on route to the Ngorongoro Crater. A game drive here takes in the beautiful landscape of the great rift valley, as well as excellent birdlife and sightings of the tree-climbing lions. The Ngorongoro Crater is a few hours drive from Lake Manyara, with stunning viewpoint spots along the way.

Image: Oliver’s Camp, Tarangire National Park

Highlands Camp

The Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti can be combined on a driving itinerary, but we would recommend this between the months of November/December to April. The reason being is that the Great Migration herds are often the highlight of the northern circuit. When the rains come in April, the herds start to migrate up to the northern plains of the Serengeti, heading into Kenya from July-October.

The Serengeti National Park is incredibly large, so driving up to the northern plains takes a whole day, and not something we would recommend. When the herds are in the southern plains, it’s possible to drive between the Ngorongoro Crater and the plains of Ndutu (approximately a 3-4 hour drive with game viewing on route). Image: the Highlands Camp, Ngorongoro Crater

Olivers Camp 1

Flying safari

In comparison, the other way to combine the northern parks of Tanzania is to take small internal flights between the national parks. These are in small Cessna Caravan planes with a maximum of 13 or so people. The benefit of flying between these national parks is that it saves a lot of time traveling. It’s also a novelty in itself and if you have never flown in a light aircraft, it’s a safari experience that is on many people’s bucket list.

When you land on the airstrip in the national park, your safari will be with the camp’s local guides and vehicles. If this is in the Serengeti National Park, these vehicles will most likely be open-sided, compared to closed vehicles that a driving itinerary is done in.

The guides at the safari lodges usually live there throughout the year or season, so they are fully aware of the nearby wildlife sightings – such as where the leopard cubs are, the lion prides, or the exact movement of the migration herds. Image: Olivers Camp, Tarnagire National Park

Lemale Nanyukie2

Safari operators, including ourselves, will often recommend a flying itinerary between the months of June to October for the northern parks of Tanzania. As mentioned, this is because the wildebeest herds are in the northern plains of the Serengeti, so flying between the Ngorongoro Crater (Manyara airstrip) to this area saves a huge amount of time and works nicely in an itinerary.

The number of people you are on a game drive with will depend on if you fly or drive. If you’re doing a driving itinerary, you will have a private safari guide and vehicle throughout your safari. The benefits of this is that you can enjoy the safari at your own pace. For a flying safari, you will use the camp’s local safari guides and vehicles, which accommodate a maximum of 4-6 people per vehicle. The benefits of this is that your safari will most likely be in an open-sided vehicle, and you will get the chance to meet other safari enthusiasts.

In either case, you can choose what type of safari accommodation you stay in. Be it a luxury mobile camp, a safari lodge, or even fly camping, we can work around your needs and wants when it comes to accommodation. We will advise and organize the best logistics for your safari, and recommend other activities like visiting local communities or a walking safari where possible. Image: Lemala Nanyukie Camp

Ready to start planning your Tanzania safari?

To find out more about a northern Tanzania safari, please get in touch with our Africa safari specialists to discuss and organize your incredible safari!

+1 844 879 7388OR

You may be interested in