Differences Between Northern and Southern Tanzania Safaris

19th December 2023

Differences Between Northern and Southern Tanzania Safaris

Tanzania is, rightly so, many safari-goers’ favorite country. It simply has everything you could ever want from a trip to the African wilderness. Oh, and it also has the pristine Indian Ocean beaches of Zanzibar right on its doorstep. 

Northern Tanzania

Head to the northern part of Tanzania, and you will find two main parks: the Serengeti National Park, and the Ngorongoro Crater. Smaller parks include Lake Manyara and Tarangire – the former is great for a day trip, but not worth staying at for nights at a time, whereas Tangire is well worth it if you have the time. Kilimanjaro, the roof of Africa, is also here, but is best viewed (unless you plan to climb it) from across the border, in Amboseli, Kenya.

Northern Tanzania is home to the Great Migration, where 2 million wildebeest travel  around the Serengeti National Park, jumping into the jaws of the mighty Mara River as they go. Finding yourself in the middle of a mega-herd is the ultimate safari sight, and it’s all possible in brilliant Tanzania – if you know when and where exactly to go. 

wildebeest in serengeti

The Serengeti is home to the wildebeest migration. © Asilia, Ubuntu Camp

Just south of the Serengeti lies the Ngorongoro Crater, and the surrounding rolling hills of the Ngorongoro Highlands. The crater is a 20 km-wide volcanic caldera, brimming with life. You could see the big five within an hour of trundling into this ethereal bowl. It is quite the day tripper destination, so be warned of the common spotted-vehicle here. But it is still a must-see. If Noah’s Ark capsized, the Ngorongoro Crater would be the result.  

Southern Tanzania

Southern Tanzania comprises the majestic and wild Ruaha National Park, and the watery and beautiful Nyerere National Park, formerly called the Selous Game Reserve. 

Ruaha is one of our favorite parks in Africa. With only a handful of lodges, it feels – and really is – incredibly wild. The wildlife is second to none, and the scenery, with its burnt red earth and winding baobab-heavy landscapes, is magnificent. Head to Nyerere National Park for enchanting boat rides, relaxing game drives, and not another safari vehicle in sight. 


One huge difference between northern and southern Tanzania is price. Staying in the north will cost you a lot more. This is because the Serengeti in particular is a very famed park, with expensive camps as a result. Generally, you can still have an exceptional safari experience with all the animals (apart from the Great Migration), more luxury, but for a fraction of the cost, in southern Tanzania. 

boating in the Selous

A stay in the Selous is a wonderful way to experience many different activities. © Nomad Tanzania, Sand Rivers

Both northern and southern Tanzania have a variety of accommodation types, from permanent tented camps to lodges with pools. But unless you are willing to pay a premium, you can forget about a pool in the north. If luxury is what you’re after, then the south does it best. 


Northern Tanzania is a desired destination for a reason: it is choc-a-bloc with the big five, and is a real predator hub with vulnerable calves in the Great Migration a readily available, tempting meal, for prowling carnivores.  

In southern Tanzania, you won’t find the Great Migration. It’s also harder to see cheetahs here, as they like the vast open plains of the north. But the Selous is one of the best places in Africa to see the extremely rare wild dog (aka painted wolf) and Ruaha has a huge amount of lions, elephants, and buffalo. It is truly an authentic experience, too, as you might have an incredible sighting all to yourself; something that can be tricky to come by in the Serengeti.


While the Serengeti offers some of the continent’s best game drives, its popularity comes with stringent rules. You can’t enjoy any other activities here, and no night drives, or off-roading unless you’re in a private concession. Nor can you do anything else other than game drives in the Ngorongoro Crater. 

walking in ruaha

Walking in Ruaha is an unforgettable experience. © Kichaka Camp

Southern Tanzania in contrast offers an array of wonderful safari experiences outside of the traditional 4×4 adventure. You can enjoy sunset boat trips in the Selous, and even fly-camping, where you sleep under the stars with only a mosquito net for a tent. Ruaha also offers some seriously intrepid walking safaris that aren’t to be missed for the more adventurous traveller.