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What wild animals can you see on a Tanzania Safari

Tanzania stands out as a prime destination for safari adventures, making it an ideal choice for families considering a trip to Africa.

As the largest country in the East African region, it boasts of beautiful landscapes with breathtaking scenery and a great range of wildlife in their natural habitat making it the perfect place for a family safari. 

For optimal wildlife viewing on a Tanzania safari, aim for the dry season, spanning from January to February and June to October.

Wild Animals that can be seen on a Tanzania safari

The Big Cats

Tanzania offers a haven for the big cats which include lions, leopards, and cheetahs. These can be found in Tanzania’s most renowned national park, the Serengeti, as well as the Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara, and the Selous Game Reserve. These parks offer breathtaking scenery and the perfect game-viewing experience. 

The best time for game viewing is at sunrise and sunset. The type of safari experience you and your family desire will determine the options available. Choices include intimate safaris, like hot air balloons, which offer aerial views of the parks and reserves, or afternoon expeditions.

These parks boast a flourishing population of unique lions known for their tree-climbing abilities. Due to their nocturnal nature, they spend most of their day resting in the fig trees, descending at sunset when the temperature is cool.

Leopards are elusive creatures and are often found deep within the parks and reserves, camouflaged in lush vegetation or perched on tree branches. They blend into their surroundings with their spotted coats.

Cheetahs are more commonly spotted in the Eastern Serengeti, where cat research was previously conducted, resulting in a higher presence of breeding females in the area. They can be seen throughout the year but the peak season runs from mid-January to mid-April.

The Great Migration

The Great Migration, an annual phenomenon, involves the movement of vast numbers of Serengeti wildebeest, zebras, gazelles, and impalas. Its timing depends largely on rainfall patterns. Thus it differs from year to year and it occurs as the animals move in search of fresh water and pastures. You wouldn’t want to miss the migration, as it offers a firsthand experience of this survival-of-the-fittest journey, with crocodiles in the river awaiting the herds.

Wildlife migration also happens in Tarangire National Park during the dry season from June to November though not as significant as the Serengeti migration. Another remarkable season you can enjoy during your Tanzania family safari is the calving season which occurs between January and March. It’s a period in which lots of wildebeest calves are birthed. This will give you front-row seats to the miracle of birth and create lasting memories.

Birds of Tanzania

The central part of Serengeti has rare bird species which are called the “Serengeti Specials”. These include the gray-throated spurfowl, red-throated tit, gray-crested helmet shrike, and the rufous-tailed weaver among others.

The Ngorongoro Crater has a lake on its floor known as Lake Magadi where water birds like flamingos can be found.

Lake Manyara also provides the perfect birding experience as it has large flocks of pink flamingos and pelicans. Other species of birds like storks and herons are found along the edges of the water. Other birds include guinea fowls, silvery-cheeked hornbills, and crowned eagles which have a home in the woodlands and the ever-green forests surrounding the lake.

Other bird species can be found in Arusha National Park and these include waterfowls such as little grebes, eagles, pochards, geese, herons, and gray parrots.

For birdwatching enthusiasts, consider walking safaris as you get to connect with nature while observing a variety of bird species.


Tanzania’s primate diversity stands at around 20 species and among them are chimpanzees, baboons, colobuses, guenons, and bush babies. Most primates are better adapted to forested habitats and the best time to see them is during the rainy season. During this time, fruits have grown and it is easy for them to find food. They can however be easily seen all year round.

Key sites for viewing these animals include Mahale, Arusha, and Gombe National Parks.  

Other animals

These include elephants, antelopes, jackals, wildebeests, and the rare black rhinos which can be seen in Ngorongoro.  

Tarangire National Park has a river that acts as the main source of water since most of this part of the country is dry. The river therefore attracts large numbers of animals including elephants, wildebeests, gazelles, zebras, and buffaloes.

Some of Tanzania’s most significant wildlife populations are found in the Ruaha-Katavi landscape which includes Africa’s largest remaining set of elephant population, adult African wild dogs, and puku antelopes.

Giraffes are found widely distributed throughout Northern and Central Tanzania in both protected and unprotected areas including the Serengeti, Arusha, Manyara, and Tarangire. Only one of the four species of giraffe is found in Tanzania: the Maasai giraffe. It is the country’s national animal.

An interesting fact: Tanzania chose the giraffe as its national animal for its grace and its long neck, symbolizing visionary qualities.

Below is a table listing the animals you can see, the ideal time to see them, and their respective locations.

Animals Ideal Time Location
The big 5

Dry season ( June to October)

The Serengeti, Ngorongoro crater, Lake Manyara, and the Selous game reserve.
Wildebeests Serengeti, Tarangire National Park
Birds Ngorongoro crater, Serengeti , Lake Manyara
Elephants Ruaha-Katavi
Giraffes Serengeti, Arusha
Primates Mahale, Gombe 

Final Thoughts 

The Tanzania family safari isn’t just a vacation; it’s an unforgettable experience that will last a lifetime. Every moment spent on a Tanzania safari presents an opportunity to explore the country’s diverse wildlife. Each day ends with anticipation for the adventures of the next.

Frequently asked questions 

What makes Tanzania unique for family safaris?

Tanzania boasts unique and iconic national parks and game reserves with diverse wildlife accompanied by breathtaking scenery, providing an opportunity to create lasting memories.

What should we pack for a family safari in Tanzania?

Lightweight and breathable clothing with neutral colors, closed shoes, sunscreen, binoculars, hats, sunglasses, necessary medication, insect repellants, and a camera.

How long do game drives typically last, and what is the best time of the day for game viewing?

They usually last between 2 to 4 hours depending on the destination. Sunrises and sunsets are the best times for game viewing when animals are most active.

What safety precautions should we take on a family safari?

Experienced guides will accompany you and your family during the game drives. It’s important to follow their instructions and remain in the car throughout the drive. Remind children that they need to be quiet to avoid disturbing the animals.

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