Are you planning an East African safari to Tanzania or Kenya where your time will be spent in nature, game viewing some of the best wildlife Africa has to offer, enjoying the radiant sunshine, and building everlasting relationships with your traveling friend to Africa? If you’re like us, you spend a lot of your time dreaming about a safari. What better thrill is there than seeing iconic species like lions and elephants in their natural habitat, surrounded by vast wildernesses? And when it comes to African safari destinations, Kenya safari vs Tanzania safari is a question that we get a lot. Now our advice is usually to visit both, but of course, this is not always possible given the time and budget needed to explore two countries. So, if you only have a week or so in which to head out on safari and are trying to work out the difference between Kenya safari vs Tanzania safari, then you’ve come to the right place.
Kenya safari vs Tanzania safari National Parks
If you’re heading to East Africa for a safari, then the quality of national parks and the abundance of wildlife are probably the most important factor to consider. The good news is that both Kenya and Tanzania are premier wildlife destinations. They both house the Serengeti ecosystem, which is Africa’s largest intact wild space. It’s home to millions of native animals including all of the Big Five (lion, elephant, rhino, leopard, buffalo). The Serengeti is also home to the annual Great Migration. Herds of wildebeest, zebra, and antelope millions strong follow the rains and the good grazing across hundreds of kilometers, stalked every step of the way by the predators they support. This important ecosystem is protected in the form of two protected areas. In Kenya, it’s the Masai Mara. And in Tanzania, it’s the Serengeti National Park.
Masai Mara National Reserve VS the Serengeti National Park
So, your next question is Masai Mara VS Serengeti. Well, the two are part of the same ecosystem, the name just changes as you hop the border between the countries. What may affect your decision is the time of year you are traveling. If you want to see the Great Wildebeests Migration, then you should visit the Serengeti National Park for the most part of the event is in the Serengeti National Park.
When comparing the Masai Mara VS Serengeti national parks, there are other considerations to bear in mind. The Serengeti National Park is nearly ten times bigger than the Mara and is home to more diverse habitats. But it means that wildlife densities in the Masai Mara are better. So if you only have a few days for safari then you will probably see more Masai Mara. In the Serengeti, the wildlife is more spread out. So you will need a number of days to get more of Serengeti National Park.
Other Kenya vs Tanzania safari National Parks
Aside from the Serengeti National Park and the Masai Mara, both Kenya, and Tanzania are home to plenty of other great game reserves and national parks, but Tanzania has a number of safari circuits with more parks. Kenya has Amboseli, Tsavo, Lake Nakuru, and Lake Naivasha. And Tanzania has Arusha, Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Ruaha, Mikumi National Park, Selous Game Reserve, Gombe, and many more. The country is also home to the Ngorongoro Crater, a UNESCO-listed reserve in which some of Africa’s highest densities of wildlife live within a volcanic crater. It adjoins the Serengeti National Park and also sees the Great Migration take place. It is reason enough to visit Tanzania on its own, being one of the best places in the world for a safari.
Kenya and Tanzania are the two best destinations in Africa for a wildlife safari, so you can’t go wrong. Tanzania has a slight edge due to the size of the Serengeti National Park and the impressive Ngorongoro Crater. But Kenya is better for those in a hurry, or for those visiting the Masai Mara between August and November. It is also slightly cheaper and better for culture. Overall, Tanzania is the best place to visit.
Cost and Infrastructure
Kenya’s travel infrastructure is better and more reliable. They have more hotels and guesthouses, it is easier to exchange foreign money for shillings as all major banks can do so, and public transportation is ample. You can easily find taxis, matatus, trains, and even domestic flights that could take you to almost anywhere in the country. However, despite having an advancing infrastructure, many roads in Kenya remain unmarked. This doesn’t make it any less interesting, though. In fact, it adds to the feeling of being in the wild.
In Tanzania, roads are not well-marked either. Options for public transportation are readily available but since the country is huge, many parts may still be hard to access. Travelers who love taking off-the-beaten paths are still likely to take the challenge. For accommodation options, Tanzania also has plenty although limited in certain parks. This promises an experience with exclusivity and lesser crowds even during peak seasons.
When it comes to the costs, international air travel fares and safaris in Kenya are relatively cheaper simply because of the wider availability of options. In Tanzania, since competition is not that tight compared with Kenya, fees can be higher. But, if you stay in their major cities, let’s say Nairobi in Kenya or Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, hotels in Kenya are generally more expensive.
Landscape and Climate
There are a lot of similarities between Kenya and Tanzania, as both countries share a border and sit along the Indian Ocean. Kenya’s landscape is a mixture of sandy beaches on the coast, highlands in the center, and fertile plains in the west. The country’s seasons are split between wet and dry, with the main wet season running from April through June and the dry season running from December through March. There’s also a mini-wet season for a few weeks in November and December, and a mini-dry season from July through October. The average temperature in Kenya is between 20°C and 28°C, with the coast being both hotter and more humid than inland.
Tanzania is similar to Kenya, but also around one and a half times larger. You’ll find coastline in the east, plains, and plateau running west across the country, and highlands in the north and south. The seasons in Tanzania are very similar to those in Kenya. The average temperature in summer is 28°C while the country gets coldest in July when it sits around 24°C. Like Kenya, the coastal region is tropical, however, the inland is not arid in Tanzania, instead being more temperate. The main wet season runs from March through May, while the main dry season runs from June through October. Like in Kenya, the shorter wet season comes in November and December, while January and February constitute the short dry season.
There’s no great temperature or geographic advantage between Kenya and Tanzania since both countries are so close to each other and share so many physical similarities. Just note the slight variations between temperature, geography, and the seasons, so you know what you’re going to get when you visit one or the other.
Things in Common Kenya vs Tanzania for Safari
It’s easy to understand from seeing the above map why Kenya and Tanzania have so much in common. Both countries have similar climates, seasons, temperatures, wildlife, and vegetation. Obviously, we’re not suggesting these things are the same of course not! Just that the differences aren’t very great, relatively speaking. And for that reason, we don’t recommend referencing them when trying to decide which country would provide you with the better African safari.
There’s also significant overlap in terms of the languages, histories, and cultures of Tanzania and Kenya. For starters, Swahili is an official language in both nations, as is English. Then there’s the shared legacy of maritime trade with India and the Middle East in the coastal regions. The architecture and spicy cuisine of Zanzibar in Tanzania are potent examples of this influence.
And finally, the Maasai people live in both Kenya and Northern Tanzania. So a Maasai cultural experience is possible in either country which is very much worthwhile! The Maasai are arguably the most famous of Africa’s countless tribes, and we find many clients really enjoy including a cultural visit to a Maasai community in their African safari trip.