Tanzania and Kenya are neighbouring countries in East Africa. They both have vast savannahs teeming with wildlife and Indian Ocean coastlines with beautiful stretches of beach – which make for a perfect honeymoon in Africa. They are similar in many respects. Wondrous safari experiences where you can see lakes and mountains. An abundance of species including the Big 5 and the Great Migration. The dazzling white sand and turquoise waters of destinations like Diani Beach in Kenya and Zanzibar in Tanzania. You may be wondering, exactly what’s the difference between Tanzania and Kenya? If you’re torn between planning a honeymoon in Kenya and a honeymoon in Tanzania, both will be breathtaking. Let us break these two African delights…
*A few terms to know:
The Big 5 – refers to the lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and African buffalo
National Park vs Reserve vs Conservation Area – refers to the different areas you can safari in. A national park is a large publicly owned and protected area. A reserve is a privately owned and operated area. A conservancy is an area usually operated by local people to conserve their surroundings. All 3 are important parts of protecting wildlife and the ecosystem. In a reserve, you will usually do more activities, such as night safaris and guided walks. Whereas, in the other two, you will stay in your vehicle.
Tented Camp or Lodge – A lodge is usually a concrete structure / building made of stone or wood. A tented camp will involve safari tents. Both accommodation types range from basic to ultra luxury and there are many more options in between.
Climate & Weather
The best time to visit Tanzania and Kenya is from late June to October when the weather it’s at its driest. It’s the optimum time for game viewing. The best time to visit also coincides with the Great Migration too. This is when 2.5 million animals – wildebeests, zebra and gazelle are on the move through the vast savannah, creating one of the most spectacular and unique wildlife viewing experiences on the planet.
From January to February there is a shorter hot, dry period sometimes called the Green Season. This is a really interesting time to visit as it’s calving season so you’ve a chance to see younger animals.
While November and December can bring some showers, the only time we’d recommend avoiding Tanzania and Kenya is in March, April, May and even early June. This is when the ‘long rains’ arrive and the wildlife viewing is not at its best because of the long grasses. It’s also wetter in the beach areas.
Kenya’s capital city Nairobi is a little more connected by air than Tanzania’s largest city, Dar Es Salaam, although the latter is catching up.
You can fly to both from the Middle East hubs like Dubai with Emirates and Istanbul with Turkish Airlines. You can also fly directly from major European capitals such as London or Amsterdam. International flights to Dar Es Salaam will sometimes stopover at Arusha (gateway to most popular safari areas of Tanzania) or the island of Zanzibar. You can also fly from South Africa.
Most couples will opt for a safari tour that takes in a number of stops, over a number of nights. We recommend at the very least 4 nights, but ideally 7 or even longer if you’re a true safari enthusiast. If you’re working with a smaller budget, a group safari tour can be fantastic value. As you move from lodge to lodge and park to park, you’ll cross the savannah taking game drives. You can also opt for a private guided tour with just the two of you and a driver/ranger.
Another option is a ‘fly-in’ safari with some of the most luxurious lodges and tented camps in Africa, ideal for those short on time with a bigger budget where you can fly to the lodge / camp and spend a few days taking game drives from your accommodation without moving hotels. Another option is an air safari where you can fly across the great wilderness from camp to camp.
In Kenya, you can start and end your tour in Nairobi as Masai Mara is around 5-6 hours drive by road, meaning you can avoid further flights if not going off the beaten track. In Tanzania, there will usually be at least one or two domestic flights on light aircraft involved as the distances are bigger.
Doing a self-drives is unusual unless you have experience driving in the wilderness in Africa (South Africa doesn’t count!). But why wouldn’t you want the expert of a guide! Not only are you getting their expert knowledge built up over years, but you are also supporting local jobs which in turn, protects wildlife from poaching and destruction.
For couples who are adventurous and/or on a smaller budget, you’ll find permanent camp sites with basic facilities. On the other end of the scale, you’ll also find the most luxurious tented camps and lodges in Africa. There are so many options depending on time and budget.
For basic adventure group tours, take a look at this one in Tanzania and this one in Kenya from tour specialist G Adventures – ideal for those on a budget and seeking an adventure. Consider upgrading to one of their wonderful National Geographic Tours in Kenya or Tanzania. If you are looking for the ultimate in luxury, consider fly-in safaris to Little Governor’s Camp in Kenya or the Four Seasons Serengeti in Tanzania, for example.
We also can’t get enough of the unique Tent With A View safaris where you can stay in a Land Rover that drives through the Serengeti and converts into a hotel room suite.
Generally, food is included on a full board basis (breakfast, lunch and dinner). Drinks may cost extra depending on the standard of camp or lodge.
Most couples who fly into Tanzania’s largest city, the port town of Dar Es Salaam, use it as a gateway to their safari or beach destination. Although there are white sand beaches nearby, and you can experience the sights and sounds of an African city, there isn’t a huge amount in the way of tourist sites.
Kenya‘s capital, Nairobi, is landlocked and has much more tourist experiences within the city. Nairobi National Park is on the edge of the city. You can stay at the famous Giraffe Manor (which usually has at least a one-year waiting list, but you can visit the nearby sanctuary, Giraffe Centre). Check out the Karen Blixen Museum and get a unique insight into Nairobi life on a tour with former street children.
Wildlife and Wilderness
The wonderful thing about choosing a safari honeymoon in either Kenya or Tanzania is that two of their most iconic areas, the Serengeti in Tanzania and the Maasai Mara in Kenya, are actually the same land. Thankfully, the magnificent African wildlife does not recognise borders drawn by European colonists, and both countries protect the ecosystem.
Tanzania has many incredible national parks, conservation areas and lakes. The Serengeti National Park is the most famous and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The nearby Ngorongoro Crater, formed from an extinct volcano, is one of the best places to see the Big 5 in Africa. Explore Lake Manyara with its abundance of birdlife.
You can get a little more off the beaten track in southern Tanzania in Nyerere National Park (formerly Selous Game Reserve), Ruaha National Park and Udzungwa Mountain Range where you can hike to the Sanje Waterfalls. Explore Saadani National Park where a safari experience meets the Indian Ocean with wild beaches and palm trees and elephants roaming – a true Tanzania highlight.
Kenya has so much diversity from tea plantations in the highlands of Kericho to the flamboyance of flamingos at Lake Nakuru in the Rift Valley. Witness the herds of Elephant in Amboseli National Park with the great Mt. Kilimanjaro as a backdrop. The Maasai Mara National Reserve is certainly one of the most popular area for a Kenya safari honeymoon.
The Maasai Mara (sometimes misspelled Masai) along with the Serengeti, is home to the famous nomadic Maasai tribe, get a glimpse into their unique culture and way of life.
Get off the beaten track in Tsavo East National Park & Tsavo West National Park, the oldest in Kenya or Chyulu National Park with incredible views of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Fly to Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy and visit Reteti Elephant Sanctuary and learn about the Samburu people. Choose Ol Pejeta Conservancy or Lewa Conservancy, respective homes of the endangered white and black rhino.
Who can you meet on safari?
Lions, giraffe, leopards, cheetah, rhinos, buffalo, zebra, wildebeests, gazelle and, of course, elephants. You’ll even see crocodiles and camels – these are just some of the famous residents of East Africa. Abundant bird life and underwater life are other highlights. One thing to remember is that Tanzania & Kenya are wild, so there is never a guarantee of seeing every animal species that inhabits the region – you have to take what you get! Animal species will vary from park to park.
Generally speaking, you will have two game drives per day, morning and afternoon. These can be either shared with other travellers or private with just the two of you and your driver/guide/ranger. You will be with an experienced ranger, seeking out the wildlife in a safari vehicle. You’ll have opportunities to ask questions and get a unique insight into the delicate circle of life.
The Great Migration
Not every couple opts to witness the migration. However, if an opportunity arises in your plans to see this thrilling display, we cannot recommend it enough. If you want to know more, National Geographic has this wonderful feature that we highly recommend you read before you make any definite plans.
Dazzling white sands and turquoise water, some of Africa’s best beaches are in Tanzania and Kenya.
The most famous and popular is Unguja aka Spice Island aka Zanzibar Island. The centuries-old UNESCO World Heritage Site port capital, Stone Town is one of the most interesting places to visit in Africa. Zanzibar has many honeymoon resorts to choose from, like Bazara Resort & Spa. It’s an ideal destination for diving and snorkelling.
There are flights from Nairobi (meaning, you can combine Kenya with Zanzibar, easily). It’s also accessible from Arusha/Kilimanjaro Airport and Mwanza in addition to Dar Es Salaam. There are also ferries from Dar Es Salaam which take around 2 hours. You could also choose Pemba Island or Mafia Island for something a little more off the beaten track.
In Kenya, Mombassa is the gateway city to some beautiful beaches. Diani Beach is the most popular with powdery sand, coral reefs, water sports and beach bars with some great honeymoon spots. One of our favourites is The Sands at Chale Island. Further along the coast, the Watamu Marine National Park is an essential stop for lovers of the underwater world. You can even spot whales depending on the season. Explore the Lamu archipelago. We love Manda Bay.
Where can you tag on?
Hiking to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro is a bucket list trip for intrepid hikers. It is a pretty challenging physical activity, so we don’t recommend this immediately after your wedding! However, if you’re planning a latermoon (i.e. delaying your honeymoon). Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is certainly a memorable travel and honeymoon experience! There are 4 routes which you can learn more about here.
Nairobi has direct flights to the Seychelles and Mauritius. You can combine these wonderful Indian Ocean islands as a beach add on too. This might be appealing if you want to tick one of these countries off your bucket list. You can learn a little more about the differences between Seychelles and Mauritius here.
Kenya is also a great gateway for gorilla trekking in Uganda or Rwanda. There are direct flights from Nairobi to Kampala and Kigali. We highly recommend the Jane Goodall collection from G Adventures if you’re considering gorilla trekking.
Other things to consider
Assuming neither of you are afraid of heights (or if you are and want to face your fears!) a hot-air balloon ride over the Serengeti / Masai Mara is an essential add-on. After all, this is one of the earth’s best bucket list romantic experiences!
Consider asking your safari tour operator about their conservation support efforts. Choosing an ethical company that supports local conservation efforts is a great way of making your $/€/£ make a difference.
Before you go, read A Grain of Wheat by Ngugi wa Thiong’o | Paradise by Abdulrazak Gurnah | Out of Africa by Karen Blixen | Born Free by Joy Adamson | Green Hills of Africa by Ernest Hemingway | The Bolter by Frances Osborne
As you can see, a Tanzania honeymoon safari and a Kenya honeymoon safari are not a million miles apart and are ideal for a safari and beach combination. You may find Kenya offers slightly more variation on the other destinations you can travel to and from. Depending on what’s important to you, Kenya can be a little easier on your bank balance. In Tanzania, you may need some domestic air travel. Zanzibar is a bit more expensive than the Kenyan beach areas, too, but it has a lot more choice of luxury resorts. However, it’s always worth checking both options if it comes down to price. It may be marginal depending on your dates and requirements. Kenya also doesn’t allow big game hunting. Tanzania arguably has fewer crowds in its more popular areas, although Kenya has off the beaten track options, too.
If you’re still undecided, why not do both? Many honeymoon safari tours incorporate both countries. You can plan an epic safari journey in that takes you across borders!
As always, we’d recommend speaking to a travel agent / advisor or tour operator with experience booking Africa honeymoons who can explore both countries for you.