Kenya or Tanzania? Which is the best safari destination?

Choosing between Kenya and Tanzania for your African safari is not as straightforward as it might seem.

Despite both countries being side-by-side; combining Kenya and Tanzania into one trip is not always that easy. Looking at a map of East Africa, it may look like you can travel across the border from Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, and vice versa; however, this is only possible on a private fly-in safari.

If you really want to combine both countries, we recommend a minimum of 2 weeks. Breaking this down, this is 14 days, or 13 nights; which gives you 6 or 7 nights in each country. Two weeks allows you time to visit a couple of safari destinations in Kenya, return to Nairobi and then head south to Arusha for a couple of days on safari in Tanzania.

Similarities between Kenya and Tanzania

  • The annual great migration of wildebeest and zebra can be viewed in both countries, however, at different times of the year, see below.
  • You can see the Maasai people in both countries
  • It is very easy to add on a tropical beach extension; for example Diana Beach in Kenya and Zanzibar in Tanzania
  • In both countries, there are options for road and fly-in safaris

Differences between Kenya and Tanzania

The Great Migration is an annual clockwise circular route between the Serengeti and the Masai Mara.  In Kenya, the herds of wildebeest and zebra are in the Masai Mara from late July through to October.  They spread out across the border into the northern Serengeti (Lamai Triangle area).  The northern Serengeti is an excellent location to see the migration (as less tourist crowds compared to the Masai Mara); however, it is important to note the northern Serengeti is only accessible by light aircraft.

During September and October, the herds spread out between Kenya and Tanzania; with the herds returning to the Serengeti around November. From January to March the herds are in the Ndutu and Southern area of the Serengeti, giving birth.  After calving, they then gradually start heading northward for the infamous river crossings in July and August; completing their annual cycle, which they will repeat again.

Unlike Tanzania, Kenya has private wildlife conservanciesThe difference between a national park/game reserve and a private wildlife conservancy is the latter are areas of land leased from landowners that constitute a greater conservancy for the purpose of wildlife conservation and improved livelihoods. For example, the private wildlife conservancies around the Masai Mara National Reserve is land is leased from the local Maasai for tourism.

Conservancies supplement national parks and game reserves by allowing neighbouring local populations to recognise and take ownership of conservation projects while personally benefiting from wildlife management. With 65% of Kenya’s wildlife living in community and private lands, conservancies provide connected landscapes that complement national parks and reserves while enabling communities to benefit from wildlife management and in turn be at the heart of championing conservation efforts.

Reasons to go on safari in Kenya:

  • In general, Kenya is relatively more affordable than Tanzania, mainly owing to Tanzania’s higher park fees and government taxes.
  • Kenya has a great range of community, group and private wildlife conservancies. In the Maasai Mara, for example, 15 conservancies protect over 450,000 acres of critical habitat for the great Serengeti-Mara wildebeest migration.Β 
  • Nairobi International Airport is the gateway for East Africa, and therefore it is easier to fly in and out of Kenya. Most travellers have to fly via Nairobi and then onto Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania.
  • As a city, Nairobi has more to offer than Arusha.
  • Kenya is a great place to see Southern White Rhino, Northern White Rhino and the Black Rhino.

Reasons to go on safari in Tanzania:

  • Tanzania is home to 7 UNESCO World Heritage sites including Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Area
  • It is easier to do a road-based safari of the Northern Circuit (Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Lake Manyara and Tarangire National Park) than in Kenya, where the wildlife areas are more spread out.
  • Tanzania is home to the highest mountain in Africa – Mount Kilimanjaro.
  • At 14,750 square kilometres, Serengeti National Park can feel much less crowded than the Masai Mara National Reserve which is only 1,500 square kilometres in area.

In conclusion …

Generally speaking, the similarities between Kenya and Tanzania outweigh the differences between these two safari destinations. Therefore when choosing to go on a safari to Kenya or Tanzania it typically comes down to these 3 key points:

Also, good points to keep in mind …

  • If you are keen to keep away from the maddening crowds in peak season, then the private wildlife conservancies in Kenya are a must.
  • Looking for wildlife areas less travelled with amazing game-viewing? Southern Tanzania and West Tanzania are great options.
  • If you would like to do some walking, be it for a morning or afternoon; or a multi-day walk, then Kenya has more options available.