One of the things you learn quickly when going on Safari is that there is a lot of rivalry between Tanzania and Kenya as to who has the best safari. The reason is that the national parks are spread across the northern border of Tanzania (Serengeti) and the southern border of Kenya (Maasai Mara).
Interestingly, many people from the US and EU believe that it is Kenya that is where most of the animals live, and the same people also believe that the world's highest free-standing mountain, Kilimanjaro, is in Kenya too. This perception has built great frustration with Tanzanians as Kili is firstly on their side of the border, and they claim that the best viewing points are in Tanzania too.
So, after travelling extensively in East Africa, and enjoying a Safari in both Kenya, and Tanzania, I thought that I would answer the question: which is better for Safari? Tanzania Vs Kenya?
A huge shout out to Nkingo Adventures who have made all of my trips to on Safari amazing. I travelled to Tanzania with them and top tip - ask for a beach & safari package. It is so worth it.
To start with, I cannot argue that Kenya is more developed than Tanzania and there is so much more to do in Nairobi compared to Arusha (where the closest airports are). It means that there are more hotels, nicer restaurants and bars, and plenty of recreational spots before and after your Safari.
When it comes to the Kenyan Safari itself, many suggest that it is better simply due to the size of the national parks. Compared to Tanzania, they are closer to Nairobi and they are much smaller. It means that you are likely to see the animals more quickly and without so much travel. The main attractions are the Amboseli, Masai Mara (the Mara River) and Lake Nakuru.
Kenya, like Tanzania, is known for their wide open sky, with endless grasslands and savannahs. It is possible to see all of the big 5 in Kenya quite easily - or at least as easy as they can be seen.
It is also generally well accepted that the accommodation in Kenya (Vs Tanzania) is much cheaper, and offers a much more comfortable 'budget' option, but in my experience, there was little difference in terms of comfort.
When arriving in Kenya, the visa process is similar to Tanzania where you need to pay for entry ($50) and you must have a yellow fever certificate if you are arriving from a country where yellow fever is present.
Reasons why Kenya is Better for Safari
- Smaller National Parks & Better Access To Se Animals
- More To Do In Nairobi & Better Transport Links
- Cheaper Accommodation & Better Budget Options
- Better Facilities at National Parks
I must admit that I thought Arusha would be significantly more developed than it was. In the context of Tanzania Vs Kenya, the first impression of Tanzania may be slightly more overwhelming. This should not put you off at all. When it comes to accommodations, bars, restaurants and activities, Arusha struggles. While there are plenty of places to go, it cannot compare with Nairobi. Many of the activities (including museums, coffee ranches etc..) can be found outside the city, or closer to the national parks.
This is another drawback - the national parks are between 2 and 3 hours' drive from Arusha. Therefore, the days could be taken up by lots, and lots of driving.
Where Tanzania surely surpasses a Kenyan Safari is the quality of animals and landscapes. The simple reason is that Tanzania is much, much larger, and the animals are able to roam over hundreds of miles. More of the Great Migration takes place in Tanzania too, so if you're travelling during the rains, then Tanzania is a far superior place to see the animals.
There is a chance that when on a Tanzanian Safari, compared to Kenya, it will take longer to see the animals. The landmass is so huge that it may take hours of driving before seeing one of the big 5. The exception here is visiting the Ngorongoro Crater which acts as a natural encampment for the animals. Otherwise, an experienced driver will get you where you need to be, exactly when you need it.
Secondly, Tanzania is home to the most iconic safari landscapes, and most famous national parks: including the Serengeti, Rift Valley and Mt Kilimanjaro (and Mount Meru). You may also see the Maasai in Kenya, however, Tanzania is the spiritual home of the tribe.
Where Tanzania really excels is the access to the Indian ocean. While both countries offer a superb beach experience, I think that Tanzania is a much better place to enjoy the beach. There are a few reasons for this: I think the country has nicer beaches and you have access to the amazing island of Zanzibar.
Reasons why Tanzania is Better for Safari
- A More Immersive Safari Experience (for the real adventurer)
- Better Animal Viewing Opportunities (During the Migration)
- Better Variety of Landscape & Natural Activities
- Beaches & Beach Accommodation Better in Tanzania
Tanzania Safari or Kenya?
The two countries offer two very different experiences, and it all depends on what you're looking for on your holiday.
The major reason to go to Kenya for a Safari is Nairobi. The city is more developed than Arusha and there is plenty of opportunity to go and explore. Arusha is really only the gateway city into the national parks.
In all, I think that tanzania is the better location for the animals and for enjoying a more immersive experience. To add to that, the beaches in Tanzania are better.