Tanzania vs Kenya: Which One?

When it comes to an African safari there are many options to choose from–South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania–each with their strengths and weaknesses. In this post we are focusing on our neighbor to the north, Kenya, and how a safari there relates to one in Tanzania.

Kenya and Tanzania are quite similar to each other, as both are key players in East Africa, both were formerly governed by the British, and both share the same language (although Kiswahili is more of a lingua franca in Tanzania). Relations between the two countries are quite cordial, and both do a good bit of trading with the other. The drive from the capital of Kenya–Nairobi–to the safari capital of Tanzania–Arusha–can be completed in a matter of hours.

Of course one may think we’re a bit biased, being a Tanzania-based safari company and all, but nevertheless we’ve done our best to provide a fair review of both country’s strengths and weaknesses below (based on the knowledge and experience of the owners, the guides, and prior guests).

Kenya’s Strengths

  • Home to Nairobi International Airport, which is a major East African hub for many carriers, thus reducing your flight time a bit (the connecting flight to Kilimanjaro International Airport [JRO]–the usual hub for safari tourism in northern Tanzania–is another 45 minutes away).
  • Prices are cheaper because there is much more competition in Kenya (as the parks are smaller and more spread out, tourism numbers are higher, and there are many more hotels and lodges available).
  • Many of the park roads are paved, which leads to a less bumpy ride while on safari

Kenya’s Weaknesses

  • The competition is fierce, meaning more shady business tactics than
  • More incidents of petty crime stemming from high unemployment (especially in Nairobi and Mombasa)
  • Maasai Mara National Reserve is only a sliver of the size of Serengeti National Park (1,510 km² vs. 25,000 km²), and the wildebeest migration is around that area only a short period of the year (typically July and August, although you can also see it from the Tanzanian side at this time of year as well)
  • Less wildlife in general versus Tanzania–Tanzania is a bigger country, with bigger parks, and a larger population of animals within those parks
  • Maasai Mara is too crowded–its fame has gotten the better of it (many guests complain about this)
  • Parks tend to more spread out versus Tanzania’s Northern Circuit (see map below), which leads to more driving time and less safari time (if visiting more than just Maasai Mara)
  • Higher threat of unrest and terrorism incidents, such as the al-Shabab attack of Westgate shopping mall (2013)
  • Our prior guests have mentioned more than once that they thought the overall friendliness of the guides wasn’t there (as opposed to many of the guides in Tanzania–“it felt like more of just a business transaction”)
  • Because of the competition the number of service-industry staff and guides pressuring for tips is higher
  • Much of the roads through the parks are paved, which leads to more traffic and a less authentic “safari experience”, with many minivans and passenger vehicles dotting the landscape during peak months
Tanzanian Parks vs Kenyan Parks
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