My Perfect 5 Day Tanzania Safari Itinerary

Like many people, a Tanzanian safari had been on my bucket list for as long as I could remember.

I have visited Tanzania a handful of times. I am now lucky enough to live here, right on the doorstep of some of its major national parks. As a result, I have a few safaris under my belt now. YAY for the perks of working for a safari company!

Every day I get asked about what makes an ideal Tanzania safari itinerary. The great thing about northern Tanzania is all of its parks are unique and have something different to offer.

My Perfect 5 Day Tanzania Safari Itinerary
But choosing the right length of time all depends on what your goals are.

Personally, for me, 4 to 5 days is enough time to see plenty of wildlife in the main areas. Especially if you are camping;  by the fifth day you may be desperate for a long, warm shower. Plus your bum might be starting to feel a little sore from all the bumpy African roads!

If seeing the wildebeest migration is your dream, then you may wish to add more days in the Serengeti. (Note – it’s important to plan your safari at the right time of year during the migration. But more on that below!).

However, if you are interested in just seeing the highlights, the following safari itinerary is a good place to start.

My Perfect 5 Day Tanzania Safari Itinerary

My Perfect 5 Day Tanzania Safari Itinerary

Pick your accommodation package: First things first. When planning a safari, there are usually two main accommodation options. You can either choose a basic package and sleep in portable tents at public campsites located within or outside the park. Or if you prefer a little more comfort, you can pick from a wide variety of lodges/luxury tented camps. Below I have included a few of my own recommendations for budget-friendly lodges.

Where should you stay before and after your safari? The ideal place to start your safari is either in Moshi or Arusha, two towns located in northern Tanzania. Arusha is closer so will save more on driving time. However, Moshi is also an ideal base for anyone interested in other cultural/nature activities or climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. So it’s worth factoring this in when you decide which town you would like to start from.

Day 1: Moshi/Arusha to Tarangire National Park

Photo Diary - Tales from The Tarangire

In the morning, you will get picked up from your hotel and driven to the first stop on the safari, Tarangire National Park. Often considered Tanzania’s most underrated park, the Tarangire is one of Africa’s gems, known for its huge Baobab trees and large herds of elephants.

The park owes its name to Tarangire River which flows across the area and attracts high numbers of animals during the dry months. Its sparse vegetation scattered with Acacia trees and mixed woodland makes it a beautiful location.

Here, up to 300 elephants can be found, looking for underground streams in the riverbeds. During the drier months, migratory wildebeest, zebra, and buffalo can also be seen crowding the shrinking lagoons.

Best time to visit: Tarangire is excellent year-round for game viewing. However, during the dry season (August to October) the wildlife is at its most concentrated and wildlife viewing is best. You may find some safari operators will advise skipping this park during the wetter months (April to June). This is because overgrown vegetation will make it more difficult to see some animals.

Most common animals: elephants, giraffes, hippos, buffalo, zebra, wildebeest, lion

Where to stay: Bougainvillea Safari Lodge, or Kudu Lodge 

Day 2 – Tarangire to Serengeti National Park

On the second day, you will drive to one of the most famous game parks in Africa, the Serengeti! Known to host one of the most incredible wildlife spectacles on earth – the great migration of wildebeest and zebra – the Serengeti’s vast plains and grasslands are also home to a haven of other wildlife, including lions, cheetahs, leopards, and many other predators.

Stretching across 14,763 sq km, it is impossible to see it all in just one day. But this itinerary includes two game drives, which is a good amount of time to see the best of the Serengeti.

As for the scenery? It is truly mind-blowing and is definitely the place to be if you want to feel like you are in the heart of the African bush. When the weather is hot and dry, the savannah is a dusty sunburnt red. Then after the rains have visited, the plains transform to lush, green grassland dotted with pretty wildflowers and blooming Fig and Acacia trees.

Best time to visit: A Serengeti safari offers top wildlife viewing all year-round. However, if your goal is to witness the wildebeest migration, you need to time it right. The wildebeest migration takes one full year to complete before the cycle starts again. This means there is a good chance you can witness it throughout the year. But certain highlights only occur in certain months. For instance, dramatic river crossings occur between July and August in the far west. And calving season starts from December to March. Between April and June, you’ll find huge herds migrating to the Grumeti region before making their way back to Kenya. Click here to see an interactive map illustrating the wildebeest migration’s typical movements.

Most common animals: elephants, giraffes, hippos, buffalo, zebra, wildebeest, lion, cheetah, hyena, ostrich.

Where to stay: Serengeti Tortilis Camp or Serengeti Kati Kati Tented Camp 

Day 3: Serengeti to Ngorongoro Highlands

After spending a night in the heart of the African bush, you will rise early and hopefully catch a glimpse of lions and other predators on their morning hunt during your first game drive.

After brunch, you’ll then leave the park and go for the final game drive in the Serengeti while on your way to Ngorongoro Crater. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is often labeled one of the most beautiful and unique places in Africa.

The Ngorongoro Crater was once a huge supervolcano that stood higher than Mount Kilimanjaro. However, over three million years ago the volcano erupted. This caused it to implode, covering the Serengeti in ash while the crater floor sank into the mountain. It is now the world’s largest complete volcanic caldera, with a rim of just over 600 meters.

Today you won’t be venturing into the crater itself. You will head straight to your lodge or campsite where you can enjoy epic views from the crater rim.

Where to stay: Ngorongoro Rhino Lodge or Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge

Day 4: Ngorongoro Crater

Adventures in Tanzania - Safari Blues (part 2)

Today you’ll rise early in the morning to descend to the floor of the crater and get up close with one of Africa’s seven natural wonders! When you enter the crater floor, you will really feel like you have never seen anything quite like it. There is so much life in one single space. For the Maasai, who arrived there two thousand years ago, they call it “el-Nkoronkoro”, which means “gift of life”

Amidst the haven of African wildlife, you might also be lucky enough to witness the endangered black rhino. It is not unusual to see the Big Five in one day at Ngorongoro – and all this in the most amazing setting with a backdrop of the 600m high crater wall.

You will also get the chance to enjoy a picnic lunch down by the hippo pool before leaving the crater and making your way to the outskirts of Lake Manyara.

Best time to visit: You can spot wildlife down on the crater floor at any time of year. But the viewing is better during the dry season (June to October) when the undergrowth has receded and animals tend to gather around waterholes and riverbeds. However, if you do travel in the wetter months, there are fewer tourists and you might be able to find some good rates on accommodation.

Most common animals: elephants, black rhino, hippos, buffalo, zebra, wildebeest, lion, cheetah, hyena, lesser flamingo

Where to stay: Kudu Lodge or Tloma Lodge.

Day 5: Ngorongoro Crater to Lake Manyara to Moshi/Arusha

My Perfect 5 Day Tanzania Safari Itinerary

In the morning, you will drive to Lake Manyara National Park, which is located within the Great Rift Valley.

Lake Manyara boasts a spectacular scenery – its lush groundwater forest, makes it a nice change of scenery from the more savannah-dominated parks. Lake Manyara is also famous for its alkaline lake, which covers a large area of the park. Time the season right and you’ll be rewarded by sights of thousands of flamingos and over 500 other bird species.

Like the Tarangire, the park has a large elephant population. However, the park is most well-known for its tree-climbing lions, although spotting them can be difficult.

In the afternoon, you will then drive back to Moshi or Arusha where your safari ends.

Best time to visit: Seeing wildlife in Lake Manyara National Park is good all year, but at its best during the dry season, from late June to October. However, personally, I think this park really springs to life during the wetter months (April to early June) when the vegetation is lush and waterfalls cascade down the escarpment.

Most common animals: monkeys, giraffes, zebras, wildebeests, buffaloes, elephants, lesser flamingoes, lions

Have you ever been on a safari adventure in Tanzania? What were your favourite national parks? Let us know your suggestions below! 

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31 Comments

  • Reply
    Majbritt
    February 20, 2019 at 7:08 pm

    Thanks for your post!
    I am glad to see that I am not crazying since I only consider 5 days.
    After reading on a lot of forums full of safari-lovers you fell a bit crazy if you don´t take minimum 7 days.
    Do you have any tour company you prefer?

    • Reply
      Nikki Godwin
      April 11, 2019 at 12:04 pm

      Thanks for your comment! Five days for me was definitely enough. But I think if I was tracking the wildebeest migration then I would maybe consider a longer safari (but in lodges!). I know several companies, so do feel free to email directly me if you would like further information,

  • Reply
    Medha Verma
    April 11, 2019 at 11:54 am

    Sounds like a great itinerary and I can quite imagine that you would want a nice warm shower after spending 5 days in the wild. I haven’t been to a wildlife safari in Africa as yet and its on my bucket list for 2020. Tanzania is not very far from where I live (Dubai), we even have a direct flight from here. I will definitely visit Serengeti National Park but also Ngorongoro Crater looks amazing!

    • Reply
      Nikki Godwin
      May 6, 2019 at 7:13 am

      Thanks Medha. Yes yyou’re right, there are direct flights from Dubai and they aren’t too badly priced either. If you ever get the chance to visit then let me know!

  • Reply
    Rachelle
    April 11, 2019 at 3:07 pm

    Wow, I need to get to Tanzania! Something magical happens in my mind whenever I see the word Serengeti…and I’m taking that as a sign that I need to start saving for a safari! I think your itinerary sounds amazing and a great way to plan what time of the year would work best for travelers. I never really thought about the wildebeest migration as being year-long, so that’s pretty cool that they can be seen!

    • Reply
      Nikki Godwin
      May 6, 2019 at 7:15 am

      Hi Rachelle, yes the wildebeest can be seen all year long, with particular highlights happening at certain times. Although there will be a few months where they are in Kenya before migrating back to Tanzania across the Mara River. It’s still a dream of mine to see the dramatic river crossing.

  • Reply
    Martha
    April 11, 2019 at 4:35 pm

    I love that you recommended safari locales outside of national parks. I’m all about national parks, but sometimes you want to explore places that are a little quirkier and seem a little most rustic. I would be most interested to explore the highlands. I think that’s such a drastic and beautiful contrast to the Serengeti.

    • Reply
      Nikki Godwin
      May 6, 2019 at 7:18 am

      Hi Martha, the Ngorongoro Highlands and Crater are certainly a beautiful location and definitely a big contrast to the endless savannah plains of the Serengeti. I think it’s probably one of my favourite safari locations in Tanzania.

  • Reply
    Soumya Gayatri
    April 13, 2019 at 2:03 am

    I did a safari in Tanzania back in 2012 and to say the truth, I absolutely loved it. We were there for 5 days and had a wonderful time seeing so much wildlife. I agree with your suggestion that 4-5 days is good for a safari. More than that – you crave for a lot of things from the comfort of your home. It must be great working for a safari company. No doubt you have such amazing pictures. I love all of them especially the one with floating hippos in the pond. They are so adorable.

    • Reply
      Nikki Godwin
      May 6, 2019 at 7:21 am

      Thanks Soumya, glad you agree with my suggested length of time. Of course it is all down to personal preference and what you want to see. I’d perhaps consider a longer stay if I was doing a safari in lodges. But as outdoorsy as I am, 5 days of camping and sitting in a Jeep seemed like enough time to me.

  • Reply
    Daniel
    April 13, 2019 at 4:15 am

    I was literally searching for something like this! I’ve been planning to go on a safari in Tanzania for quite some time and I think I’ll finally do it this summer. This article sure was a great starting point filled with a lot of useful information. Thank you for sharing

    • Reply
      Nikki Godwin
      May 6, 2019 at 7:22 am

      You’re welcome Daniel, I am glad it is of some help. Do let me know if you need any recommendations for companies when you get around to planning your trip.

  • Reply
    Janek
    April 13, 2019 at 1:48 pm

    These photos are breathtaking. I want to travel there! I feel so inspired…

    • Reply
      Nikki Godwin
      May 6, 2019 at 7:23 am

      Thanks Janek. Karibu (welcome) any time 🙂

  • Reply
    Archana Singh
    April 14, 2019 at 3:42 am

    I have been dying to visit Tanzania. Being a wildlife lover, it is super high on my list. Glad to know that you can visit the Serengeti Park through the year. But I would follow your advice and plan to visit in between July and August when the dramatic river crossings occur in the far west. Thanks for sharing very useful tips and details.

    • Reply
      Nikki Godwin
      May 6, 2019 at 7:24 am

      You’re welcome, I hope that you get to visit one day. As a wildlife lover, you definitely won’t be dissapointed. It’s still a dream of mine to witness the river crossings. Maybe this year, fingers crossed!

  • Reply
    Yukti
    April 14, 2019 at 6:03 am

    Wow, what a great 5-day safari which covers the exotic wildlife of Africa. I have heard so much about wildlife in Tanzania but always got confused about where to start. Good to know that if we start safari from Moshi, it would be great and also visit underrated Tarangire National Park visit looks beautiful thing to do here. Having picnic lunch near hippo pool looks worth and unique experience here.

    • Reply
      Nikki Godwin
      May 6, 2019 at 7:26 am

      Hi Yukti, yes Tanzania has so much to offer, I can understand it can be a little overwhelming. If ever you decide to plan a trip, feel free to get in touch.

  • Reply
    Aisha Sylvester
    April 15, 2019 at 1:24 am

    This is honestly the dream itinerary for my dream trip which is an African safari. Tanzania is at the top of my list for safari destinations and watching your photos (especially of the Serengeti) and reading your descriptions, it’s convinced me that Tanzania is definitely worth it! Just amazing! Thank you so much for sharing!!!

    • Reply
      Nikki Godwin
      May 6, 2019 at 7:27 am

      It really is a dream location, sometimes I have to pinch myself that I live so close to Tanzania’s abundance of parks. Let me know if you ever make it over this way.

  • Reply
    Manjulika Pramod
    April 15, 2019 at 10:57 am

    My husband was posted in Tanzania for some time but I couldn’t join him there due to my work. Now I know what all I missed. I am a wildlife enthusiast and I love going for safaris but Tanzania still remains a dream. I only knew about Serengeti but I am glad I learned about Tarangire National Park and Ngorongoro Highlands too.

    • Reply
      Nikki Godwin
      May 6, 2019 at 7:29 am

      That’s a shame that you didn’t get to visit, but there is always time. I’m sure your husband has lots of interesting stories too!

  • Reply
    Catherine
    May 9, 2019 at 2:12 am

    Hi NIkki – this post is great! Do you have any safari tour companies you’d recommend? Thanks!

    • Reply
      Nikki Godwin
      May 13, 2019 at 8:41 am

      Hi Catherine! Sure I know of a few…feel free to email me directly so we can discuss your specific preferences and I’ll recommend the ones I think will be the best fit.

  • Reply
    Ana Katrina Lopez
    May 26, 2019 at 10:25 am

    This was a lovely read! I thoroughly enjoyed myself as I followed your day-to-day safari adventure in Tanzania. I may have to copy some of your itinerary for my next African visit. I hear Tanzania is definitely the best place to go for a safari specially because of the number of wildlife found in the area. I would love to see it for myself. I also heard you could visit the local tribes that call this place home. I think that would be fun to try too. Where’s your next travel to? Looking forward to reading more of your posts!

  • Reply
    Poppy
    October 24, 2019 at 1:01 pm

    Hello Nikki,
    I love this post, it sounds like any amazing experience. Do you have any safari tour companies you’d recommend? That could potentially offer something like this. We are hoping to go to Tanzania at the beginning of December, and are hoping we can find something suitable that isn’t booked out! Thank you 🙂

    • Reply
      Nikki Godwin
      October 24, 2019 at 12:39 pm

      Hello Poppy, thanks so much for stopping by the blog. Glad you like the itinerary suggestion. I knoe of a few good safari operators, so do feel free to email me directly for suggestions and I’ll be happy to help 😁

  • Reply
    Ashwini
    October 27, 2019 at 8:52 am

    Hi Nikki,

    My husband and i are planning to visit Tanzania in December. Could you suggest the best Safaris companies we can talk to and how much would a 4-5 day safari work out to? We are there for around 8 days.

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