The great misconception about going on safari in Africa is that you need at least a couple of weeks. In reality, even in just five days, you can enjoy the safari experience of a lifetime. This itinerary includes game drives in three different national parks in Tanzania—one of the continent's most popular and famous safari destinations—Lake Manyara National Park, Serengeti National Park, and Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

Highlights

  • Witness flocks of flamingoes and grazing giraffes at Lake Manyara
  • Go on game drives in the Serengeti to search for lions and cheetahs
  • Drive across the crater of Ngorongoro and spot rhinos

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Arusha, Transfer to Lake Manyara Karatu
Day 2 Lake Manyara to Serengeti National Park Serengeti National Park
Day 3 Serengeti Game Drives Serengeti National Park
Day 4 Serengeti to Ngorongoro Conservation Area Ngorongoro
Day 5 Ngorongoro to Kilimanjaro & Hot Spring, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Arusha, Transfer to Lake Manyara

First up is a safari at Lake Manyara

Welcome to Tanzania! This country is a wildlife lover's paradise, home to some of Africa's most famous safari destinations. Located in the Great Lakes region of East Africa, Tanzania is known for its vast national parks. It's home to the Serengeti, where millions of plains animals migrate around its fertile savannas. Also here is the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the only place you can see all Big Five animals—lions, elephants, leopards, buffaloes, and black rhinos—on a single game drive.

Upon arrival in the northern city of Arusha, a driver will be waiting at the airport to transfer you to the Karatu region, in the heart of the Tanzania safari circuit. After checking in to your lodge, located on a 500-acre plantation, you'll head to nearby Lake Manyara National Park. This region is famous for the wildlife around its namesake body of water. Manyara is an alkaline lake home to vast populations of bright-pink flamingos that form a colorful blanket on the water's surface.

You'll get your first taste of safari fun on an afternoon game drive through the park. During this 4x4 excursion, you'll see these colorful birds wading in the water as giraffes graze near the shore. The area is also home to Tanzania's largest elephant population, plus East Africa's famous tree-climbing lions. In the evening, return to your lodge for dinner. 

Day 2: Lake Manyara to Serengeti National Park

Elephants in the Serengeti

After Lake Manyara, you'll drive north into Serengeti National Park. This legendary wildlife reserve is the archetypal safari destination. In the Maasai language, the name Serengeti means "endless plains." This protected area's 5,700 sq miles (14,763 sq km) deliver on that promise. The park is both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Biosphere Reserve that supports the world's largest concentration of plains game. This includes the famous Big Five animals.

With any luck, you'll arrive in the Serengeti in time to witness the Great Migration, which typically occurs from June to November. This "greatest wildlife show on earth" sees more than a million wildebeest, plus hundreds of thousands of zebras and gazelles, undertaking the long trek to new grazing grounds. On the way to the tented lodge where you'll overnight, you'll enjoy a game drive and see Big Five animals in their natural habitat. Afterward, you'll arrive at the lodge, strategically located in the park to ensure proximity to the best wildlife areas. 

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Day 3: Serengeti Game Drives

Go wildlife-spotting in a 4x4

Nothing compares with a safari across the great Serengeti plains. And today you'll enjoy not one but two excursions. First up is a morning game drive, as the animals are at their most active during this time. You'll likely witness grazing giraffes, zebras, and maybe even lions on this outing as they hunt wildebeest and gazelles. Other animals you're likely to spot are elephants and buffalo, with leopards and rhinos being a less common sight. You can choose to have lunch on the road or back at camp, after which you'll embark on another game drive in the afternoon.

Day 4: Serengeti to Ngorongoro Conservation Area

The Ngorongoro Crater

After breakfast, you'll transfer south from the Serengeti to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. It's named after the Ngorongoro Crater, the world's largest volcanic caldera. The crater is nearly 2,000 feet (609 m) deep and 100 sq miles (259 sq km) wide and was formed when a giant volcano collapsed on itself some three million years ago. 

Upon arrival, you'll have the whole day to enjoy a 4x4 tour around Ngorongoro. This area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, is home to over 20,000 large animals. Here you can spot buffaloes, elephants, lions, cheetahs, leopards, hippos, hyenas, jackals, ostriches, warthogs, and vast herds of gazelles. Also, thanks to anti-poaching patrols, the crater is one of the few places in East Africa where visitors are sure to see black rhinos.

The Ngorongoro Crater is also unique in that over 40,000 Masaai tribespeople live here. Most impressive is that their livestock graze right alongside the abundant wildlife. To see these tribal people is to glean rare insight into a way of living in harmony with nature that has hardly changed since ancient times.

After the game drive, you'll head to the lodge, where you'll overnight. It's located just north of Ngorongoro in the nearby community of Mto wa Mbu. Situated at the foot of the Great Rift Valley and near Lake Manyara National Park, this is a unique town in that it's one of the only places where all of Tanzania's some 120 tribes live side by side.

Day 5: Ngorongoro to Kilimanjaro & Hot Spring, Depart

Take a dip in the hot springs at Kikuletwa

After breakfast, you'll drive east to the Kilimanjaro region of northern Tanzania. Of course, this is where you'll find mighty Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's tallest mountain at 19,341 feet (5,895 m). While you will enjoy great views of this giant and its snow-capped table, your destination is the Kikuletwa Hot Springs

Located outside the town of Moshi, this little oasis is famous for its clear and turquoise waters. The name is a bit of a misnomer because these aren't "hot springs" but rather refreshing lagoons fed by water directly from Kilimanjaro. Once here, you can go for a dip as exotic blue monkeys play in the surrounding fig and palm trees. Afterward, you'll transfer to the airport in Arusha, where you'll catch your flight home. Safe travels!

More Great Tanzania Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your Tanzania trip? Check out these other Tanzania itineraries, with outdoor adventures, beach vacations, and best-of tours to hit the highlights. 

Map

Map of Tanzania Safari Adventure - 5 Days
Map of Tanzania Safari Adventure - 5 Days