Tanzania Safari Circuits: Explore Northern, Southern, Western & Coastal Gems!

Lioness Serengeti

Tanzania, a sprawling country teeming with diverse landscapes, rich culture, and abundant wildlife, offers a haven for safari enthusiasts. To simplify your exploration, Tanzania's offerings are neatly organised into four distinct circuits: Northern, Southern, Western, and Coastal.

In this guide, we'll delve into each circuit, exploring the parks, wildlife, islands, beaches, and the mesmerising sights awaiting you. From iconic safaris in the Northern and Southern Circuits to the untamed beauty of the Western Circuit and the coastal wonders of the East, Tanzania unfolds a diverse tapestry for every explorer, whether you seek the thrill of safaris or the tranquility of beaches.

The Northern Circuit

Tanzania's Northern Circuit is a haven for safari enthusiasts. This circuit houses iconic national parks like Serengeti, Ngorongoro, and Tarangire, and the towering Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru. This circuit promises an unparalleled safari experience with a diverse range of activities and accommodation options catering to every budget. Whether you're an adventure enthusiast seeking thrills, or a nature lover eager to explore the abundant wildlife, the Northern Circuit has something for everyone.

Elephants, Serengeti National Park

Parks: Serengeti , with its sprawling seas of grass, stands as the big cat capital, promising a rich diversity of flora and fauna, making it a must-visit for any safari enthusiast. Ngorongoro, a blend of wildlife, culture, and history, unveils stunning landscapes, rich wildlife, Olduvai's evolutionary history, and encounters with the Maasai community.

Tarangire, adorned with striking Baobabs, hosts a high concentration of elephants in herds, creating a captivating spectacle. Lake Manyara, though small in size, offers diverse ecosystems to explore, providing a condensed yet varied safari experience.

Lake Eyasi’s shallow saltwaters attract a plethora of birds, and it's home to the Hadzabe, a fascinating hunter-gatherer tribe. Lake Natron’s peculiar transformation, turning routinely red, adds a touch of mystery to the circuit.

Arusha National Park , though small and lacking major predators, invites exploration with its abundance of primates, antelopes, verdant greenery, and the opportunity to trek and climb Mount Meru.

The parks in this circuit cater to a diverse range of interests.

Activities: Engage in a myriad of activities across Tanzania's Northern Circuit, immersing yourself in the diverse offerings of this enchanting region. Embark on exhilarating game drives, providing you with the best views of the captivating wildlife and nature that these parks showcase. Take your adventure to new heights with hot air balloon rides, offering breathtaking vistas of the expansive landscapes.

For a more intimate connection with nature, explore the parks through walking safaris, where every step brings you closer to the rich biodiversity around you. Experience the African wilderness at night with Night Game Drives, unveiling a whole new world after sunset.

Hot air balloon over migration in Serengeti

Serengeti invites you to partake in rhino tracking, a unique opportunity to encounter these majestic creatures. The craters in the region offer hiking opportunities, allowing you to explore the stunning landscapes. Immerse yourself in the Maasai culture, spending time with these communities or join a hunting session with the Hadzabe tribe for a unique cultural experience.

Bird enthusiasts can revel in the diverse avian population, and adventurers can conquer the challenges posed by climbing Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru. Lake Manyara offers elevated walks in the treetops and exploration of hot springs, providing a perfect blend of adventure and relaxation.

In addition, you can stay in Karatu for visits to coffee plantations, meet the Iraqw tribe, and enjoy a village tour. Similarly, around Arusha, explore coffee plantations and meet the Chagga tribe for a unique cultural experience.

The Northern Circuit ensures a variety of activities catering to every explorer's desires.

Accommodations: There’s a spectrum of accommodations across Tanzania's Northern Circuit, ensuring a comfortable stay for every traveller, regardless of budgetary preferences.

You may choose to go with the high-end luxury options, offering lavish rooms, exceptional service, breathtaking views, and a wealth of amenities for an unparalleled experience.

Mid-range lodges and camps present an excellent balance, providing a comfortable stay with essential services, accommodating various dietary requirements, and delivering reliable services for a well-rounded experience.


For the adventurous souls and budget-conscious travellers, budget camping is a viable option. Set up your tent in designated camping sites, equipped with basic amenities, offering a cost-effective yet authentic safari experience.

Please note that accommodations are available both inside and outside the parks. While parks like Serengeti require staying inside the park, others like Tarangire and Lake Manyara offer options both inside and outside. Accommodations outside the parks often feature slightly lower rates, but regardless of choice, accommodations within the parks cater to various budget needs too.

Access: To explore the Northern Circuit, your adventure begins in Arusha city, which is known as the safari capital of Tanzania. From Arusha, a 4x4 vehicle will pick you up and take you to your first destination. Or, you can opt for flights that land directly inside the parks for a quicker journey.

The Southern Circuit

Explore the Southern Circuit when you crave a more remote and expansive safari experience. The parks in the South are vast, teeming with wildlife, and devoid of bustling crowds. The Southern Circuit is also a haven for witnessing some of the last wild dogs in larger numbers and families of black rhino. The extensive parks in this region mean plenty of travel, exposing you to diverse flora and fauna while enjoying a more intimate safari experience with fewer vehicles, creating a distinct ambiance.

Hippos Selous

Parks: The parks of the Southern Circuit provide a unique blend of landscapes and wildlife. First, venture into the expansive Selous Game Reserve (Nyerere), one of the largest globally, nestled alongside the Udzungwa Mountains. From waterfalls and cliffs to the meandering Rufiji river, Selous is a haven for diverse wildlife, including wild dogs, black rhinos, and herds of majestic elephants. Experience a distinctive twist with boat safaris, allowing you to view game while peacefully navigating the water.

Ruaha National Park too is a mosaic of varied terrain featuring marshes, tropical forests, and iconic baobabs. This diverse landscape is home to waterbucks, impalas, jackals, and the big cats, promising wildlife encounters in every corner.

Lastly, Mikumi National Park, situated along the Selous and bordered by the Udzungwa and Uluguru Mountains, boasts woodlands, swamps, open grass plains, and iconic baobabs and acacias. Encounter a rich variety of animals here, including lions, hippos, wild dogs, wildebeests, and sable antelopes.

Ruaha national park

Please note that park fees in the Southern Circuit are generally higher compared to those in the Northern Circuit. Additionally, while in the North safari vehicles feature pop-up roofs for viewing, in the South, safaris often take place in open-sided vehicles, providing a closer connection to the natural surroundings.

Activities: Delve into a range of activities in the Southern Circuit. Enjoy the walking safaris, allowing you to intimately connect with nature and experience the wilderness on foot. Night game drives on the other hand offer an entirely different perspective. Obtaining permissions for these activities is comparatively easier in the Southern Circuit too.

Walking safari

In Selous, enjoy a distinctive adventure with boat safaris, immersing yourself in the scenic beauty while enjoying game viewing from the water. For those seeking a more immersive experience, indulge in fly camping, adding a touch of adventure to your Southern Circuit exploration. With a plethora of activities catering to different preferences, the Southern Circuit promises a diverse and unforgettable safari adventure.

Accommodations: In the Southern Circuit, accommodations cater to a range of budgets, offering options from luxury to camping. While the choices may be fewer compared to the Northern Circuit, the upside is that the rates are generally lower.

The Southern Circuit's lesser-known status means accommodations are less crowded, providing you with an easier booking experience and the freedom to easily secure the accommodation that aligns with your preferences and budget.

Access: Accessing the Southern Circuit begins from the bustling city of Dar Es Salaam, serving as the main gateway to this region. From Dar Es Salaam, you'll be driven to your first destination. However, it's essential to note that the roads in the Southern Circuit are remote and not as well-developed as those in the Northern Circuit. The vastness of the parks coupled with the challenging terrain can make overland travel between them arduous. As a result, it's often recommended to opt for air travel between parks to streamline the journey and minimise travel time. While flying may increase transportation costs, it offers convenience and efficiency, allowing you to make the most of your time exploring the Southern Circuit.

The Western Circuit

Tanzania's Western Circuit, a region that, while more challenging to access, offers a unique and untouched wilderness experience. With vast expanses of untouched nature, this circuit calls to those those seeking a true escape, away from the crowds, and immersing themselves in its raw wilderness and virgin landscapes. The Western Circuit also provides the opportunity for chimpanzee trekking in the lush forests, providing a glimpse into their natural habitat and conservation efforts.


However, it is advisable to explore the Western Circuit if you've already explored the Northern Circuit and experienced proper safaris.

Parks: Explore the Western Circuit's gems, starting with Mahale Mountains National Park, nestled along the shores of Lake Tanganyika. This park boasts dense forests and rugged terrain, providing a sanctuary for chimpanzees and various primates. Head out for a thrilling chimpanzee trekking adventure here, and keep an eye out for red-tailed monkeys, colobus monkeys, and other species, immersing yourself in the diverse primate habitat.

Continuing along the coast of Lake Tanganyika, Gombe Stream National Park invites you to discover the legacy of Dr. Jane Goodall's groundbreaking research. Participate in guided tours to witness habituated chimpanzees and gain insights into conservation efforts dedicated to protecting these primates. Since the parks are situated on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, you may seize the opportunity to explore the lake through boating and even take a refreshing swim.

Lastly, explore the pristine wilderness of Katavi National Park, the most challenging to access but consequently the most unspoiled. In Katavi’s unspoiled wilderness you will find cape buffaloes, lions, cheetahs, wild dogs, giraffes, and wildebeests, with the possibility of spotting sable antelopes and roan. Katavi offers an expanse of untouched and breathtaking wilderness.

Activities: There’s plenty of activities to enjoy in the Western Circuit. Enjoy classic game drives to observe diverse wildlife and venture into the dense forests for a memorable chimpanzee trekking adventure.

Take scenic hikes to connect with nature closely. Explore the depths of Lake Tanganyika through kayaking and snorkeling, revealing the beauty beneath the water's surface. Fishing enthusiasts can partake in sport fishing for a thrilling aquatic experience.

Lake Tanganyika

Birdwatchers will delight in the diverse avian population, and the beachy shores of Lake Tanganyika are great to relax on. You may also learn about the local culture by visiting nearby villages and engaging with the residents there, ensuring a well-rounded and enriching safari experience in the pristine wilderness of the Western Circuit.

Accommodations: Accommodation choices in the Western Circuit are fewer compared to the Northern Circuit, but they do offer a range from safari lodges to tented camps. While luxurious options akin to those in the Northern Circuit may be limited, you'll still find enough choices fitting into mid-range or budget categories. Prices generally tend to be lower compared to the Northern Circuit, ensuring accessible accommodation options for travellers.

Access: Accessing the Western Circuit, given its remote nature, presents challenges. The best way to reach this region includes flying from either Arusha or Dar Es Salaam. Alternatively, you may choose to stay in Kigoma town and take a boat ride to reach the parks. To reach Kigoma, take a bus or a train from Dar or Dodoma. Please note that the roads might not be in the best condition, so it's crucial to pick transportation that fits your preferences and comfort.

The Coastal Circuit

The Coastal Circuit is a captivating ensemble featuring Zanzibar, Pemba, and Mafia islands. This tropical paradise boasts white sandy beaches, inviting blue-green waters, rich historical heritage, and a myriad of water sports activities, promising a perfect blend of relaxation and adventure in this coastal haven.

Nungwi Zanzibar

Islands: Discover the treasures of the Coastal Circuit, beginning with the famous Zanzibar. Known for its UNESCO-listed Stone Town, Zanzibar combines history with relaxation. Whether lounging on the lively beaches of Nungwi, Michamvi, and Kendwa or savouring local dishes, drinks, and vibrant nightlife, there's plenty to enjoy. Dive into exciting activities like kayaking, snorkeling, parasailing, and exploring coral reefs, making Zanzibar a paradise for coastal adventures.

Pemba provides a serene getaway, away from bustling crowds. Experience tranquility through diving and admiring mesmerising coral reefs, creating an ideal setting for relaxation and exploration. Mafia Island provides an even more remote and peaceful experience, offers excellent diving opportunities and chances to explore captivating coral ecosystems. Though lacking some tourist amenities, both Pemba and Mafia deliver tranquil escapes, ensuring a distinctive coastal experience away from the hustle and bustle of Zanzibar.

Activities: There’s a multitude of activities to enjoy across the Coastal Circuit islands. In Zanzibar's Stone Town, meander through historic alleys, savour local cuisine, visit forts, and learn about the island's spice production by visiting plantations. Engage with friendly locals for an authentic experience.

Starfish Zanzibar

For water enthusiasts, the options are endless. Experience the vibrant underwater world through snorkeling and diving. Delight in kitesurfing, parasailing and other exciting water sports. Explore mesmerising coral reefs, encounter diverse fish species, and even visit turtle conservation sites. The Coastal Circuit offers a perfect blend of cultural exploration and thrilling aquatic adventures.

Accommodations: Accommodation options in Zanzibar cater to every budget, offering a diverse range from luxurious stays to mid-range, budget, and hostels. The island provides easily accessible options for various preferences.

In Pemba and Mafia, options are more limited. While accommodations near diving sites are available, choices are constrained. Pemba may offer a slightly higher number of luxurious options compared to mid-range and budget alternatives, providing a more exclusive experience. So, keep in mind the varying availability of accommodations when planning your stay on these serene islands.

Access: To reach Zanzibar, you can take flights from Arusha or Dar Es Salaam, or opt for a ferry from Dar to Stone Town. Similarly, Pemba and Mafia Islands are accessible by both flights and ferries.

However, it's essential to note that ferry travel to Pemba and Mafia Island may not always provide the most comfortable journey. Tides and rough seas can pose challenges, and the condition of the ferries may vary. Travellers should consider these factors when planning their journey to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience to these coastal destinations.


Hence, Tanzania has a huge variety of safari areas to explore. If you're a first-time visitor, start with the Northern Circuit, known for its famous parks like Serengeti and Ngorongoro, offering diverse wildlife experiences. If you have more time, you can add a trip to the Coastal Circuit for beautiful beaches.

Maasai Ngorongoro

However, if you're more interested in beaches than safaris, head straight to the Coastal Circuit. The Southern and Western Circuits are for those who have more time or have already explored the Northern Circuit. They provide unique experiences in more remote areas. Choose based on your preferences and the time you have for your adventure!


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