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Driving vs Fly-In Safaris Tanzania

When planning a safari to Tanzania, should you drive or do fly-in?



Marketing Manager
Published on

17 Feb 2022

Updated on

26 Feb 2024

Auric  Air  Tanzania

When planning a Tanzanian safari holiday there are two different types of safari you can take; a driving safari or a flying safari. The type of trip will depend on your overall budget (flying safaris are generally more expensive), the part of the country and route you are taking as well as personal preference of how to travel around.

Generally speaking, the classic “Northern Circuit” is the easiest to enjoy by road, but can also be done by air, whilst the more remote southern and western parts of the country are only accessible by air. Of course, the wildlife and landscapes that you see will be the same whether you go by road or by air, but there are some fundamental differences in the experience that are worth considering.

Driving safari

Your guide will be looking after you for the duration of your time on safari. When visiting northern Tanzania you will fly into Kilimanjaro airport where they will collect you and start the safari from there. They will be acting as your private guide and your driver, but they are very much guides who drive you as opposed to driver-guides who you have in many other places.

Guided driving safaris are conducted in closed 4x4 vehicles, with windows that open, as well as pop-up roofs for game viewing and photography purposes. Generally the vehicles are either 4 or 7 seaters, with guides preferring to keep at least 2 of these seats “spare” for luggage and general comfort purposes – worth bearing in mind if planning a trip for a larger group.

Costs of vehicles: The daily cost of hiring a vehicle varies depending on the operator you use and the size of the vehicle, but you can expect to pay between £150 or $200 and £300 or $400 a day. This includes the vehicle, the guide and their accommodation, but not park fees or your accommodation costs.

Advantages: The big advantage of driving safaris is that you get to know one another meaning they understand how you like your days to be put together, whether early or late starts are your preference, if you prefer to break for lunch or simply spend the whole day in the bush, they will plan things accordingly. The other notable of being with a private guide is that you can spend as much or as little time at specific animal sightings as you wish rather than having this time dictated by the whims of other guests.

Disadvantages: It is worth bearing in mind that doing a road trip does reduce the amount of time you get to spend in lodges on travel days as journeys can be quite long and can only be done during daylight hours. As an example, the drive from the Ngorongoro Crater to the northern Serengeti is the best part of a full day in the vehicle. Naturally, many of these journeys can be “broken” with an overnight stay in certain areas, but it is good to have an idea of how long you are prepared to spend in a vehicle each day. Of course, these drives are through stunning scenery and wildlife-rich National Parks so the monotony of the journey is alleviated somewhat, but still worth bearing in mind. It is also worth bearing in mind that not all roads will be in top condition and that you should expect a bumpy ride at times!

In general when on a driving safari you will be booked into lodges on a full board basis, so with all meals included and activities conducted by your guide. If you wish to enjoy specialist activities such as walking safaris or hot air balloon rides, then these activities will be conducted by third party guides.

Wayo Walking In Serengeti
Walking in the Serengeti

Walk, Moutain Bike and Drive Northern Tanzania

Enjoy unrivalled views of the Serengeti in private camps, bike through rural villages of lake Manyara & enjoy private games drives through Northern Tanzania.

9 days from £4167pp.

View trip

Flying safaris

For those on higher budgets for travelling, as well as those looking to access some of the more remote and unique parts of Tanzania, flying safaris are an enduringly popular option. Offering easy access to some amazing areas of the country, as well as a bird’s eye perspective on the landscapes, they truly are the ultimate way to experience Tanzania.

When going on a flying safari you will be booked into each lodge on their “Game Package” rate which includes all meals, morning and afternoon safari activities, as well as house drinks in the majority of incidences.

Disadvantages: The main disadvantage is that safari activities are shared with other guests in the camp, usually up to a maximum of 6 guests per vehicle, although this does depend on specific camps’ policies and is often lower depending on occupancy rates. Whilst there does tend to be a more “rigid” structure to when these activities depart and how long you are out for, lodges do offer some flexibility on this with the aim of keeping all guests as happy as possible.

Advantages: The key advantage of flying is that it is far more time effective than driving, this does maximise the amount of time you spend in each camp, with flights scheduled at convenient times to enjoy a morning activity before a flight departs and an afternoon activity after they have arrived in each location. It also allows you to reach more remote, off the beaten track areas.

Another advantage is that drives with guides are local to that specific area so are very up to date on animal movements to maximise the wildlife you see and drives from lodges and camps will be in open-sided 4x4 safari vehicles. Open vehicles are only available at the camps – you cannot drive the Northern Circuit in an open vehicle. These do offer the best opportunities for photography, but being open-sided means that early mornings and late afternoons can be very cold, so worth bearing in mind.

One final advantage of a flying safari is a scenic flight over iconic scenery which is a magical experience by itself!

Costs of flights: Prices on flights vary depending on the route and airline, but could should expect to pay from £150 or $200 for a short flight (say Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar) up to £800 or $1080 for flights out to the Mahale Mountains. Most flights cost somewhere in the middle of this. Good operators include Coastal Aviation, Auric Air and Safari Air Link.

Kearsleys Tanzania Safari2
Example of a close safari vehicle
Inyati Safari Open Vechicle
Example of an open safari vechicle

So which is right for you? This will depend entirely on your budget, where you are looking to go and how you want to structure your days. For more help planning your Tanzania safari, give us a ring on 01768 603 715.


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