Northern vs Southern Safari Circuit

Tanzania is an incredible safari destination. Whether it is your first time on safari or you are a seasoned safari traveler. The country is home to numerous national parks and game reserves that are bursting full of scenic landscapes, world heritage sites and, of course, an abundance of wildlife. There is so much to see that it can prove difficult to choose where to go.

Tanzania’s safari circuit is split into two; the Northern Circuit and the Southern Circuit.

Northern Circuit

Tanzania’s Northern Circuit stretches from Arusha to the Serengeti including Tarangire National Park, Lake Manyara, the Ngorongoro Crater, Mount Kilimanjaro, and the Great Rift Valley lakes Eyasi and Natron.

The Northern Circuit is home to a number of fantastic safari destinations and experiences. Watch millions of Wildebeest thunder across the Serengeti plains during the Great Migration or take a game drive through Africa’s ‘Garden of Eden’ in the Ngorongoro Crater.

Reasons to Go

The Northern Circuit is arguably the most iconic safari destination in Tanzania. Travel here to witness one of nature’s biggest spectacles during the Great Migration, tick the Big 5 off of your wildlife bucket-list, and encounter huge concentrations of animals and breathtaking landscapes.

The Northern Circuit is largely visited  because of its concentrations of animals and impressive sites; another plus is that the parks are accessible by road making private safari tours extremely popular.

Take Note

Tanzania’s Northern Circuit's attraction as an iconic destination makes it extremely popular with travelers. This means that the parks and reserves along the circuit are far busier when compared to the South. It is not uncommon to have vehicles jostling to view animals during game drives, especially during peak season.

Picture of Elephant on Tanzanian safari

Southern Circuit

The Southern Circuit is located near the southern borderns of the country, closer to the capital city Dar es Salaam. Southern Circuit destinations include Selous Game Reserve, Ruaha National Park, Mahale National Park and Katavi National Park. Travelers have the opportunity to enjoy a truly remote safari experience along the Southern Circuit; enjoy the vast, ecological diversity of the Selous Game Reserve, and get close up looks at the primates in Mahale National Park.

Reasons to Go

The Southern Circuit is far quieter than the Northern Circuit. With fewer visitors, travelers can relax and unwind in Tanzania’s remote wilderness which creates a feeling of exclusivity. In the south, travelers can enjoy a truly wild safari experience, away from the maddening crowds.

On the Southern Circuit, you can enjoy open door game drives through the largely untouched landscapes. There are also more walking safaris available to travelers; both activities give you a chance to get closer to nature. There is a wider variety of safari activities available in areas like Selous where the Rufiji River’s channels and lakes make for great water-based safari activities.  

The Southern Circuit also offers faster access to Dar es Salaam and the Zanzibar islands making it incredibly easy to add some beach relaxation or cultural exploration onto your safari trip.

Take Note

There may be fewer people and fewer lodges along this circuit but there are also fewer high concentrations of wildlife in the South when compared to the parks in the north. While there are many animals to see, they are visible in as great a number when compared to places like the Serengeti. There is also no complete Big 5 in parks along the Southern Circuit. Another point to note is that to get to most destinations in the South you will need to travel by light aircraft as the parks are not accessible by road. This has made fly-in safaris highly popular in the south.


If you are on your first safari, have a safari bucket list or are searching for an iconic safari experience, the North is where to go. Every day is different as you move from place to place but it’s important to note that it will be far busier than the south especially in the high season.

The south offers a far more exclusive and remote safari destination; it feels “off-the-beaten-track” and visitors have a wider range of safari activities available. However, there are fewer concentrations of animals than in the north. It is a great option for travelers looking for a different kind of safari experience.

Don’t forget that the north and south are not mutually exclusive so if you are looking for a wildlife safari experience as well as a more remote, exclusive safari, you could combine both!

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