Destinations

Kenya vs Tanzania

Safari pros and cons

The richness of safari opportunities in Kenya and Tanzania make these two East African nations popular with both the first-time safari-goer and the veteran traveller seeking something a little different. The safari tradition dates back further here than in most other countries, and it shows. These two safari powerhouses are neighbours and thus share a lot in common, including similar wildlife, landscapes and weather patterns. As a result, the choice between Kenya and Tanzania is a more subtle one than, say, between Botswana and Namibia.

As the more affluent nation, Kenya boasts a better tourist infrastructure, as well as a broader catalogue of camps and lodges. More choice translates to a better chance of finding a place that suits you, all the way from budget-conscious families to solo travellers who are looking to spare no expense. Kenya has better roads, making car transfers easier, as well as a higher number of airstrips for those looking to pay a little more for scenic light aircraft transfers.

Kenya is also more amenable to international flights – Nairobi is a major air traffic hub and sits around 125 miles from the Masai Mara. Contrast this to Tanzania’s largest city, Dar es Salaam, which takes in fewer flights from abroad and is around 350 miles from the Serengeti, on the coast. Many travellers whose final destination is Tanzania choose to transit through Nairobi before taking a short flight across the border.

Masai Mara vs Serengeti

Arguably the two most iconic locations that spring to mind when thinking of safaris, these conjoining areas of wildlife-rich savannah have been the setting for a number of nature documentaries over the years, not to mention countless safari outings. Both are home to Africa’s famed “Big Five” game animals – the lion, leopard, elephant, black rhino and Cape buffalo – as well as a veritable menagerie of other wildlife, including hippos, giraffes, cheetahs and a whole host of antelope species.

The Great Migration, the world’s largest terrestrial mammal migration, takes place annually here with over a million wildebeest, zebra, gazelle and other herbivores making their way between the Masai Mara and Serengeti, crossing between Kenya and Tanzania as they do so. This natural spectacle can be witnessed in either country of course, but bear in mind that your destination will be dictated by the time of year. The migration will be in the Masai Mara between July and October, before moving to the Serengeti between November and June.

Serengeti National Park is the larger of the two areas, at 5,700 square miles. The sheer scale of the Serengeti makes it the preferred choice for travellers seeking a more rugged and remote sojourn, further away from the crowds. The Masai Mara National Reserve is only a tenth the size of the Serengeti, at 580 square miles. But directly around the reserve are a number of private ranches and conservancies that offer safari-goers the chance of a far more exclusive safari experience.

Other Sights

It has to be said that Tanzania offers more variety than Kenya. The latter is devoid of great apes, for example, whereas in Tanzania you can track chimpanzees through the Mahale Mountains or Gombe Stream National Park. A visit to the spectacular Ngorongoro Crater is sure to impress as you gaze down into its unique ecosystem. Nearby is Olduvai Gorge, one of the most important archaeological sites in the world, where fossils of extinct hominids have shed a fascinating light on the story of human evolution.

There’s also Mount Kilimanjaro of course, the highest peak in Africa – if you’re after a truly exhilarating experience, you can reach its 19,308 ft peak for yourself. In addition to the Serengeti, other protected areas like Selous Game Reserve and Ruaha National Park (to name just two) each offer something different to the traveller. And if you haven’t had your fill of water-based activities on the coast, Tanzania also borders three of Africa’s Great Lakes: Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika and Lake Malawi.

Kenya also has its fair share of natural wonders, however. The national parks of Tsavo and Amboseli are home to some of the last “big tusker” elephants left on the planet, so called because their tusks reach all the way to the ground. Fans of the classic film Born Free can walk the lands formerly home to the famous lioness Elsa in Meru National Park, while the vast Laikipia Plateau contains some of Kenya’s most wildlife-rich conservancies, including Lewa, famous for its rhino population.

It is in Laikpia that you’ll find the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, home to the last two remaining northern white rhinos in the world, guarded 24/7 by dedicated guards. Unlike Dar es Salaam, Nairobi is a destination in itself, where one can visit the home of Karen Blixen (author of Out of Africa), spend time with orphaned elephants at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, and share breakfast with giraffes at the highly sought-after Giraffe Manor.

Beaches

Both countries boast a sizable section of coastline on the Indian Ocean, great for post-safari relaxation. Although Kenya has the edge over Tanzania in terms of quality land-based accommodation, the famed “Spice Island” of Zanzibar, as well as the picturesque Pemba Island to the north and Mafia Island to the south, are undoubtedly three of Tanzania’s biggest tourist trump cards.

Kenya does offer some attractive alternatives – Diani Beach is popular with sun-worshippers, as are the islands of the Lamu Archipelago – but Pemba, Mafia and Zanzibar remain some of the most frequent inclusions in so-called “beach and bush” itineraries. There are even private islands available for those seeking supreme luxury, such as Tanzania’s Thanda Island, whose villas and beach chalets are located within a private marine reserve.

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