Wilder by Far and wild logo

​Kenya vs. Tanzania which is best for safari and beach?

Kenya and Tanzania go head to head - with our founder Ben as umpire. In this highly readable article Ben pulls no punches as he breaks down the 'Why's' and the 'Why not's' from every angle - at the end of it you'll definitely know which is best for you.

Ben

Ben

Africa Specialist
Published on

02 Aug 2021

Updated on

15 Aug 2022

Kenya Vs Tanz
Ben Morison
Ben Morison - Far & Wild Founder and East Africa Specialist

I suspect the Far & Wild team asked me to write this article because they’ve been overexposed to my biased opinions on East Africa for far too long. I have spent much of my life there and Tanzania and Kenya have been the backdrop to some of my most cherished life experiences; my honeymoon, expeditions on the Flipflopi (read more about the Flipflopi Project), and most recently, a stint living in Kenya with my family.

So I’ve seen it from most angles, and I love it.


Many people who first approach me looking for a Kenya safari holiday often end up choosing a Tanzania safari instead. And vice versa. This article sets out to explain the differences, the similarities and hopefully at the end of it, you’ll know which country will suit you.

East Africa is the perfect place for a first-time safari holiday. Much closer to Europe than Southern Africa, diverse wildlife, varied topography – including the wide-open savannah landscapes that people so often have in mind when they first think ‘I would like to go on a safari holiday’ – the quintessential African safari holiday you might say.

So, to answer which is best, I’m going to look at a number of factors… as well as considering the merits of each country for specific types of traveller (such as families, couples, honeymooners, adventurers etc)

Here we go;



International Flight Access

Kenya wins hands down here as it has direct flights from the UK, much of Europe and some parts of the US. This is important… it means no energy sapping connections that drain travellers (especially children) and write off the first day of your holiday as you’re all just too tired. Tanzania has no direct flights from the United States or the UK.



Variety

Kenya offers a smorgasbord of topography… there is quite simply no other country in Africa able to offer the same diversity combined with straightforward transport links. It means you can be on safari in the Masai Mara’s short grass plains one day, photographing flamingos in the Great Rift Valley the next, and end up a day or two after that, sat on one of the world’s best beaches in Mombasa on the Kenya Coast.

Tanzania isn't far behind... the Great Rift Valley continues south through Kenya and into Tanzania - and the result is the unique landscapes of the world famous Ngorongoro Crater, the Serengeti and dramatic escarpment over Lake Manyara National Park. In the far west of Tanzania the crystal clear waters of Lake Tanganyika and forest clad mountains that surround its shores offer something that Kenya does not. Here you can sail, dive, swim and track habituated chimpanzees in the Mahale Mountains national park all in the same day.

Masai Mara Hot Air Ballooning Copy
Hot air balloon over the plains of the Masai Mara
Loldia  House Flamingo Safari
Huge flocks of flamingos in the Great Rift Valley Lakes
Kinondo  Kwetu  Hotel  Traditional  Sailing  Galu  Beach  Diani  Beach  Kenya
The amazing beaches of the Kenya coast

Accessibility

Kenya wins hands down here. Not just because its better connected to international airlines (Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is a regional hub) but the ease of travel within the country. Two long established domestic airlines (Safarilink and Air Kenya) have daily flights between all the safari areas, and a number of newer arrivals operating on a low-cost model such as Jambojet, Governors Aviation, East African – are keeping prices down and adding further to domestic networks.

Tanzania also has a number of well established and reliable domestic airlines. Coastal Aviation, Regional Air, Auric Air, Flightlink, Precision Air, Safari Airlink and Zanair – all combine to provide a web of flight options around the country. But in terms of value, Tanzania has economics and geography against it when compared to Kenya. It is simply a much bigger country and distances between its national parks and game reserves and Indian Ocean coastline are often very large. Add to this various government tax levies and the result is that flights in Tanzania are significantly more expensive.

Safari Link Flight
Safarilink connects much of kenya's hotspots

Wilderness

Unique Memorable Experiences At Siwandu
The wilds of Selous

Many travel to Africa in search of not just wild animals, but wild places. Yes, wilderness… places where people are not… and the sense of freedom these places provide, is top amongst many people’s motivations for visiting Africa on a Safari holiday.

And in this regard, Tanzania has some of the most exciting places on planet earth.

The vast Selous Game Reserve (renamed Nyerere National Park in 2020) is the size of Switzerland, whilst names such as Udzungwa, Katavi, Ruaha and Mahale Mountains are enough to have any wilderness lover drooling at the mouth… these are some of the least accessible, remotest and wildest places on our planet. And for those willing to invest the time and money to get to them – a wilderness experience of rare quality awaits.

Katavi Wild Spaces 1
Open plains of Katavi
Mm Mahale Lake View
The raw wilderness of Mahale

National Parks

Great Rift Valley East Africa
The Great Rift Valley - East Africa

A dead heat! The Great Rift Valley that runs north to south through Kenya and Tanzania is the defining feature of both country’s national park network – and has provided a bounty of natural resources around which are built some truly exceptional national parks and game reserves.

Where Kenya has its Masai Mara – so Tanzania can counter with the Serengeti. Kenya replies with Lake Nakuru, Elementaita and Naivasha, Tanzania responds with Lake Manyara, Natron and Eyasi. And so it goes on… Mt Kenya vs. Mt Kilimanjaro, Tsavo vs. the Selous.

Truly we are talking about an abundance of wildlife and wild places… I’d go so far as calling these two countries a global cradle of diversity. I do not think their quality and diversity can be bested anywhere on the planet, let alone the continent.

Climbing Kilimanjaro 1024X685
mount Kilimanjaro - East africa
Lake Natron Flamingos Mountain
lake natron - tanzania

Safari and Beach Honeymoons

Well, well, well… now here is a hard one. Both countries can offer genre defining classics.

In Tanzania - a five day northern Tanzania Safari encompassing the Serengeti, Lake Manyara and the Ngorongoro Crate, followed by a week in glorious Zanzibar is an outrageously special honeymoon – full of adventure, spectacle, luxury and an exotic dreamy buzz of Zanzibar.

TRIP IDEA:

No two safari trips are ever the same but this one really stands out due to the personalised service that you will receive throughout the first week, with your own driver and vehicle this really is the trip of a lifetime.

Kirurumu  Ngorongoro  Pakulala  Camp  View Point
Northern Tanzania Safari and Zanzibar Beach

Northern Tanzania is home to numerous national parks and this trip incorporates four of them, as well as a week on the beach in Zanzibar – what more could you ask for?

Duration: 13 Days
Location: Tanzania, Africa
Price: £4800pp

Enquire-Button.png#asset:116423

In Kenya – four days on the Masai Maras savannah plains, a stop in at Nairobi’s Giraffe Manor and Sheldrick's elephant orphanage and a week at somewhere like Almanara on Diani Beach (which for me is surely the best beach in the world) is every bit as remarkable a package.

TRIP IDEA:

A delightful blend of Kenya's wildlife rich reserves and idyllic white sand beaches. When considering what to do for a Honeymoon, few combinations of experiences offer the sense of adventure, romance and luxury than a trip to see Africa’s unique wildlife followed by time on its idyllic white sand beaches.

Elephant in the Mara
Elephants in the masai mara

Kenya is arguably the best destination to enjoy a safari and beach experience, with abundant wildlife found in varied areas and some of the best beaches Africa has to offer.

Duration: 13 Days
Location: Kenya, Africa
Price: £5225pp

Enquire-Button.png#asset:116423

And of course, this is before we look at some of the more off the beaten track options. If you like it wild and adventurous, then in Kenya look at Saruni lodge in Samburu or lodges in the Laikipia area where you can sleep out in tree houses and track rhino on foot. Alternatively in Tanzania look at Ikuka Safari Camp in Ruaha or Greystoke Camp in the Mahale Mountains.

If forced to pick between the two – with a budget of £5,000 / $7,000 per person I’d recommend making Kenya your start point, and £7,000 / $9,500 per person, try starting with Tanzania.



Affordability

There is no way of avoiding the simple truth that – at present – for a comparative safari experience (duration, standard, what you can expect to see) Kenya is significantly more affordable.

Safari At Ol Lentille
On safari at ol lentile

Most of the drivers for this are mentioned in this article… international flight costs are lower so it is cheaper to get to Kenya in the first place – and - once in country, the distances between national parks are not as great meaning internal travel by either air or road is easier and cheaper.

But the biggest driver of higher cost in Tanzania is the governments heavy handed approach to park fees and other conservation related charges. Hotel operators in Tanzania are subject to a dizzying array of licenses, levies and taxes (a friend who operates safari lodges in the Serengeti told me at the last count his business was subject to 57 different charges… can you imagine the admin burden!!). This drives up the cost of a nights’ stay in Tanzania compared to Kenya.

Also, the park entry fees for Tanzania are much higher than in Kenya… on average it’s a difference of about $40 per person. That might not seem that much, but over an 8 day safari that is £230 / $320 per person.



Self-drive safaris

Self-drive safaris in Kenya are becoming increasingly popular. A combination of improving road networks and SatNav removing some of the navigational challenges means that most of the country is accessible even to the first time visitor provided they are up for an adventure.

Far Wild Landcruiser
The Far & Wild 4x4 in the Masai Mara

A couple of years ago, Far & Wild bought a safari equipped 4x4 which is now based in Nairobi. We use it for self-drive itineraries around the country. As explained elsewhere in this article, good road networks, cell coverage, the fact that English is widely spoken, mean there are few if any barriers to self-driving.

We usually help create an itinerary that mixes a few nights in hotels and safari lodges, alongside some nights camping.

Tanzania isn’t as well suited to a self-drive safari holiday. Not only is it harder to find suitable rental vehicles, but the distances are that much greater between national parks, and the country’s infrastructure is less forgiving should you encounter unforeseen issues. The exception to this is a self-drive safari in the Serengeti… this most definitely IS an option… one that I would recommend in fact. You can read about my Serengeti self drive honeymoon doing exactly this in the ‘Adventurers’ section further down in this article.



Family safari holidays

Arrrgghhh... Such a tough call… I really want to give Tanzania a chance.

But I can’t.

A family holiday in Kenya is about as good as it gets in my book. Literally THE BEST... most rewarding, most varied, most straightforward, most personalized, most flexible family safari holiday you can get.

Before I elaborate further let me recommend some Tanzania family safari holidays, as there are some excellent options here too...

Ngorongoro Crater
the resplendent Ngorongoro crater

THE CLASSIC TANZANIA FAMILY HOLIDAY.

Is a week-long Serengeti safari, including the Ngorongoro Crater. Completed with a second week spent on the beach on Zanzibar at somewhere like Breezes Beach Club, Zuri Zanzibar or Zanzibar White Sand – and you have a fantastic holiday full of engaging experiences for young and old.

Enquire-Button.png#asset:116423

Tree Climbing Lions
Tree climbing lions in Selous

AND IN SOUTHERN TANZANIA

A simply framed four days in the Selous Game Reserve at either Sand Rivers, Siwandu Camp or Selous Kulinda Camp, followed by a week on Fanjove Island – is the stuff of dreams… a compelling family holiday that would be as exclusive, experiential and exotic as they come.

Enquire-Button.png#asset:116423

BUT back to Kenya!!

Family Safari Kenya
family safari in kenya

First time family safari or returning for your umpteenth visit – Kenya has it all when it comes to family safaris.

Some favourite combinations of mine are Saruni in Samburu, El Karama in Laikipia and beach time at Peponi Hotel in Lamu on the Kenya coast.

Or another option; Loldia House in the Great Rift Valley, Little Governors Camp in the Masai Mara (complete with a family hot air balloon safari) and Almanara Resort in Diani beach south of Mombasa.

Saruni Samburu
Saruni Samburu Lodge - Samburu, Kenya
Photo 26 04 2018 21 47 19
El Karama Lodge - Laikipia, Kenya
Almanara Villas
Almanara Villas - Kenya Coast

Although these are differing family safari suggestions, they share a few things in common:

1/ Diversity. These itineraries provide – in one single trip – the same quality and quantity of experiences it might take 3 different trips in other countries to get. Thanks to the Great Rift Valley Kenya delivers a dizzying array of classic safari landscapes and incredible wildlife viewing experiences to go with it.

2/ Comparatively it is very easy to get to Kenya – direct flights from the UK for example take only 8 hours (compare that to nearly 12 for South Africa).

3/ Internal travel can be done by road in a 4x4 safari vehicle, or by light aircraft – or a combination of the two.

4/ No other country can deliver as much variety in as straightforward a way. I say ‘straightforward’ as of course, with enough money spent on private planes etc you can get a diverse family holiday in many southern African countries, but doing so costs an enormous amount in not only money, but precious time.

5/ Time efficiency. Critically important to a good family safari holiday – and too often overlooked – are the ‘bits in-between’. How easy is it to get between the different places on a multi-centre holiday? And how interesting? In Kenya transfers are usually an interesting part of your experience not just a necessary evil.

Put all of these things together and you end up with a compelling argument for Kenya family holidays being the best on the continent.



Adventurers

Tanzania has some vast protected wilderness areas. Alright, getting to many of them is hard work and expensive – but they do offer a real sense of adventure. On my honeymoon we hired a safari equipped 4x4 from Shaw Safaris in Arusha. Owners Erika and Paul showed us the ropes, and importantly helped us booking the different camp locations within the Serengeti. The result was a completely independent week-long day safari adventure through the Serengeti.

Kitted with a sat phone for emergencies, and all the provisions and camping gear and maps we’d need, we felt secure at all times and therefore able to enjoy the adventure…

Vehicle Giraffes 1
on safari in the serengeti with shaw safaris

...and what an adventure it was… in the northern Serengeti we camped miles from the nearest other humans, and woke up surrounded by wildebeest and zebra as far as the eye could see. You couldn’t have this experience in Kenya.

For more helpful info on Shaw Safaris - Click here

But Kenya does have a ‘adventure’ variation every bit as engaging. Many of the wildlife areas in Kenya are privately run conservation areas or ranches. Unlike government run national parks which tend to have strict rules governing night game drives (not allowed) and walking safaris (heavily regulated and not encouraged) – these privately run areas allow for a much wider range of activities. Wildlife hides, sleepout platforms, rafting down rivers, horse riding safaris, multi-day camel assisted walking safaris and fly camping are all easily arranged in conservancy areas such as Sosian, El Karama, Borana and Lewa to name but a few...

What I like about these options is they can easily be mixed into a more conventional safari experience – say in the Masai Mara viewing the Wildebeest Migration. Again, this is Kenya showing its unique ability to provide a varied holiday experience.

Masai Mara Wildebeest Migration Copy
The Great Wildebeest Migration - East Africa

CONCLUSION

As with most life experiences – what best for one person may not be the best for another – so there is no definitive answer to the question of whether Tanzania or Kenya offers the superior safari experience. In the end it will always come down to...

Which is best for YOU?

And in that short question lies the founding principle of our company. Far & Wild Travel works by finding out what it is that you want to do, and then using our knowledge and experience to guide you to what is best for you… ‘our expertise, your holiday’ is the strapline our marketing team often use.

It means we’re only as good as what we know (and of course our ability to be sufficiently organized to be entrusted with what for many will be the most important and expectation vested two weeks of their annual calendar).

So if you’re thinking about a safari holiday to Kenya or Tanzania - do give me or my colleagues a call and we’ll do our best to help work out what’s best for you.

Ben.

Start planning your ultimate East Africa safari

Speak with an experienced Africa travel expert

  • Ben

    Ben

    Africa Specialist

  • Alistair

    Alistair

    Africa Specialist

Call an expert on

01768 603 715

Far & Wild Customer Reviews

Find out what our customers think of their adventures!

Read all reviews

First class travel company

Kathy & Family travelled to Kenya and Mauritius in July 2018 on a trip organised by Alistair.

On Holiday At  Il  Moran

Perfect trip to the Masai Mara

Ellie travelled to Kenya in November 2019 on a trip organised by Ben.

Our brief was 'Unknown Adventure' and they delivered!

Michael & Teresa travelled to São Tomé and Príncipe in December 2018 on a trip organised by Alistair.

Michael Foster Bom Bom Bridge

Even in the middle of the Serengeti our Travel Co-ordinator was on hand to sort any hiccups.

June & Steven travelled to Tanzania in February 2019 on a trip organised by Alistair.

A real trip of making memories

Heidi & Family travelled to Malawi in July 2018 on a trip organised by Ben.

A Family Selfie In  Majete

Excellent service from start to finish

Sam & Nick travelled to Kenya in February 2019 on a trip organised by Ben.

Sam And Nick On Honeymoon In Kenya

Plan with an Expert Plan with an Expert

Have a look at our original holiday experiences and then contact us with your brief, or call 01768 603 715

A detailed itinerary in 24hrs A detailed itinerary in 24hrs

Our experts will send you a detailed holiday itinerary within 24 hours. It's our service promise to you.

Value Guarantee Value Guarantee

Tailor-made doesn't mean expensive! Ask about our price promise and book with financial security.