Tanzania: The best Safari Country in Africa

A two-year research project carried out by SafariBookings.com, which analysed 3,061 reviews written by safari tourists and expert travel writers, has ranked Tanzania as the top African safari destination.

Researchers collected 2,305 reviews on safari experiences from 1,000 people representing 53 different nationalities. In addition to these user reviews, researchers also gathered a further 756 expert reviews from a panel of top-drawer guidebook authors.

Tanzania was ranked first out of the eight major safari countries in the opinion of both users and experts, gaining a top-scoring average of 4.8 out of a possible 5 stars from each group.

The headline reasons for Tanzania’s enduring popularity were, of course, its global reputation for spectacular wildlife – for instance, the great annual migration of wildebeest and zebra; and the stunning scale and beauty of its quintessential African wilderness. Extensions such as beach holidays, trekking and climbing on Mount Kilimanjaro, and chimp-tracking, were popular too. Tanzania’s political stability and reputation as a safe tourist destination undoubtedly weighed heavily in its favour, as did the easy access afforded by direct flights, and the broad spectrum of safari options to suit all budgets.

Alongside Tanzania’s top-tier ranking, the other seven countries offering safari destinations all secured at least a four-star rating, which reflects positively on their own facilities. As expected, expert reviewers adopted a more critical perspective than tourists. Of the latter group, 42 per cent of user reviews were attributed to first-time safari tourists, on whom the experience would be most likely to have had the greatest impact.

The survey findings show Tanzania is a popular year-round destination for safari tourists. There are no significantly lower ratings for the March-April and November-December wet seasons, which might have been expected, and month-by-month scores are strong and consistent. Nevertheless, many consider the June-October dry season the most opportune time to visit. This takes in, for example, the Serengeti wildebeest migration (June and July), but not the wildebeest calving (January and February).

According to the survey of all ten of Tanzania’s top-rated parks, the Serengeti National Park was the clear winner; its big cats, great migration, and ‘Big Five’ fully justifying its World Heritage status. Second, in the top five, was the Selous Game Reserve with its variety of safari options, healthy Big Five presence, and wild dog population. Ruaha National Park, where the attractions include cheetah, wild dogs and four of the Big Five (no rhino), was rated third. Next, at four in the list, was the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania’s other World Heritage site, with its beautiful volcanic crater teeming with a diversity of wildlife species. The excellent chimp-tracking, and the presence of other safari animals, earned the Mahale Mountains National Park a fifth-place in the top-ten ratings.

Whilst there was an overall consistency of opinion between safari tourists and panel experts, the ‘professionals’, as would be expected, were able to offer verdicts based on a broader range of experience.

Mary Fitzpatrick, a Lonely Planet author, highlighted the warm welcome Tanzanians offer their visitors, the good road access and regular flights, and three unique safari ‘circuits’, amongst her reasons for recommending Tanzanian safaris for both novice and experienced safari tourists.

Philip Briggs, Bradt guidebook author, also spoke of the ‘world-class’ safari options, citing the relatively under-publicised Selous Game Reserve, and the ‘underrated’ Katavi National Park. He too praised the Tanzanian people, sharing a common language of Swahili and united by their ‘national ethos promoting tolerance and peace’.

Lizzie Williams, Footprint guide author, commented upon the advantages of the less-visited southern circuit, where the safari experience is more akin to former times when ‘game roamed the plains of East Africa undisturbed’.

Lonely Planet author, Tim Brewer, acknowledged the ‘sublime beauty’ of the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti, whilst underlining the merits of ‘well-kept secrets’ such as the huge dry-season herds of Tarangire and Lake Manyara’s flamingos and tree-climbing lions.

Visit http://www.safaribookings.com/blog/2 for the full report.

Bas van Bockel