The ultimate Tanzania itinerary (enjoy 10 days in majestic gay Tanzania)

Birthplace of Queen frontman and all manner of animal kingdom royalty, it’s clear from the get-go that Tanzania has star potential. To the north, the dusty red carpet of the Serengeti rolls out ceremoniously for thirsty giraffes, lions and herds of wildebeests undertaking the Great Migration, and meanwhile on Zanzibar Island, spice-scented scenes unfold in the buzzing heritage centre of Stone Town. As well as enjoying a few days on a paradise island, be sure to catch the mainland’s unparalleled natural world, with a choice of 30 wildlife parks and reserves to rival all of Africa. If you’re spending any length of time in on the continent, read up on the best gay African safari tours for photography enthusiasts.

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Zanzibar | Photo: Klimentgrozdanoski

LGBTQ situation in Tanzania

As one of Africa’s most popular safari destinations, Tanzania benefits from more liberal attitudes towards LGBT travellers, comparative to the rest of the continent, that is. Despite this relative tolerance, homosexuality remains outlawed in Tanzania and the Zanzibar archipelago, with recent prosecutions among the gay community a sad reality. Marked high on the Forbes ‘LGBTQ+ Danger Index’, a trip to Tanzania shouldn’t be taken without understanding the local situation. Government crackdowns on LGBT activity tend to affect locals above tourists, but with a potential 30-year life sentence on the cards, awareness and sense are key qualities for gays in Tanzania. To stay safe while travelling, avoid public displays of affection (regardless of orientation) and remember that homosexuality is considered a cultural taboo.

Why visit Tanzania?

Despite the realities for gay travellers, Tanzania regains favour with us thanks to its array of natural attractions and incredible wildlife throughout. Thirty percent of the country comes covered with a total of 16 national parks and 14 wildlife reserves, meaning that almost anywhere you venture on your travels, you’re likely to encounter some of the 14 million animals that call Tanzania home. The nation has all five of the ‘Big Five’ – lions, leopards, rhinoceros, elephants, buffalos – but, more than that, you’ll also find huge numbers of giraffes, wildebeests, zebras, cheetahs, hippos, warthog and baboons, enclosed within pristine natural habitats bordered by white-sand coast and capped by the world’s tallest free-standing mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro.

Photo: Maurits Bausenhart

Photo: David Mark

Best time to visit Tanzania

Tanzania’s rains dictate a variety of migration and breeding patterns for native wildlife, meaning that best time to visit Tanzania depends on what you’d like to see. The Great Serengeti Migration– one of the nation’s main lures – actually occurs year-round across the Serengeti, but most people come in the dry season between July and September to best witness wildebeest and zebra crossings through prime predator territory. To avoid this busy time, another option is to visit between November and March when the Serengeti National Park and its surroundings come much quieter, though with a slightly higher chance of showers. As well as encountering baby animals, an added bonus of visiting at this time is the phenomenal birdlife, the time when migratory birds fly overhead in their masses. Though having good safari opportunities throughout the year, the months of April and May are not recommended for the likelihood of heavy rains.

10 days in Tanzania

With more available parks than vacation days, choosing where to pass through on your 10-day Tanzania safari itinerary is a difficult task. Besides the famous sights like the Great Migration, Tanzania can certainly keep visitors busy discovering unknown wonders, throughout its northern parks (Tarangire and Ngorongoro) before taking on cultural tours and beach breaks on Zanzibar Island. Take a look at the breakdown of our dream itinerary below…

Photo: Hu Chen

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Stretching 2,850 square kilometres across grassy savannah, swamps and forest, Tarangire National Park is an epic undertaking, cut in half by the Tarangire River

Tarangire National Park (2 days)

Flying into Tanzania is easy thanks to a choice of two international airports; Julius Nyerere International Airport (Dar Es Salam) and Kilimanjaro Airport. The latter will get you closest to the northern parks, but Julius Nyerere also offers domestic onward flights to Kilimanjaro, (though the planes are on the small side!). Most parks close around 6 pm or 7 pm each day, meaning that it’s likely you’ll want to spend a night in Arusha or Dar Es Salam to get adjusted before waking early and making the journey to Tarangire National Park, our first stop, a wildly underrated reserve often overlooked in favour of Serengeti and Ngorongoro.

After picking up your permit from the park entrance, get started on a game drive tour through the northern Lemiyo area, the top place to view the largest population of elephants in the world roaming across grassy plains, alongside zebras, gazelles, wildebeest and predatory big cats too. Primarily though, it is the diverse landscape that wows visitors. Stretching 2,850 square kilometres across grassy savannah, swamps and forest, Tarangire National Park is an epic undertaking, cut in half by the Tarangire River. On your trip, keep a lookout for smaller critters and termite mounds piled like pyramids on the scorching ground or shelter for an iced tea under the shade of iconic baobab trees. Matete picnic area is our favoured spot for lunch, a raised area overlooking the Tarangire River and its thirsty herds. Day two changes the tune and moves us on to Silale Swamp, a blindingly green plateau backgrounded by mountains. Human life tends to congregate around the picnic area here also, the wildlife lapping at the edge of the swamp serving as your chief entertainment.

Tarangire National Park | Photo: Ray Rui

Ngorongoro Conservation Area (2 days)

Full speed ahead in our 4X4, we move 2 hours north to Ngorongoro Conservation Area, site of a 20-kilometre wide volcanic caldera sunken 600 metres into the earth in a perfect circle. The centre of your two-day Ngorongoro experience and a veritable UNESCO World Heritage site, the crater is certainly a whopper, widely appreciated at any of the tactically placed viewpoints around the edge. To see the view without the crowds, take a guided walking safari around the rim for around $20USD per person. Though in winter the landscape and base of Lake Magadi lies dry and encrusted in salt, by rainy season, the area morphs into a green and blue tapestry offering ever finer views from lake to volcano.

The next morning, Ngorongoro has a little treat for those who wake early enough to take a game drive around the crater in relative peace. Sign up for a drive as early as possible, enjoying up-close encounters with all the best wildlife, including more than 50 lions and 40 endangered Black Rhinos. If time allows before the mid-day drive over to Serengeti, consider touring the Lereal Forest for elephant sightings or take to the Ngoitoktok Springs for a picnic beside bathing hippos, made all the more interesting thanks to the thieving kites overhead (protect your lunch!).

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Photo: Avel Chuklanov

Ngorongoro | Photo: Matthew Spiteri

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If driving to the Serengeti from Ngorongoro, brace yourself for a bumpy 2.5-hour-ride over some of the country’s rockiest roads, parking up along the way for stillness and serious views over the endless plains

Serengeti National Park (3 days)

If driving to the Serengeti from Ngorongoro, brace yourself for a bumpy 2.5-hour-ride over some of the country’s rockiest roads, parking up along the way for stillness and serious views over the endless plains. In winter you can’t expect much animal action but in the wet months, your route through the region will be shared by thousands of wildebeest, gazelles and zebras making their way to distant watering holes. Even after entering into Central Serengeti, it’s hard to grasp how vast the park actually is. At 14,763 square kilometres, the park is almost impossible to visualise in its entirety, and instead, we’d recommend trying to see a new angle each day while slowly making your way along the Mara River towards the wetter, northern edge. If time is of the essence, taking a bush flight to Kogatende Airstrip is a possibility, but the ground route to Bologonya gate and onwards along seasonal paths would be painful to pass up.

A 10-hour drive straight, the route from the Central to Northern Serengeti will certainly take longer than signposted. Camp out on safari or in any of the lodges lining the main roads, relying on expert guides to point you in the direction of wildebeest river crossing points, finishing up tired and dusty at the border to Kenya’s Masai Mara border. Rest and recoup for one last evening in the bush before driving or flying back to Arusha, Zanzibar or beyond.

Serengeti | Photo: Rachel Claire

Zanzibar (3 days)

For us, it’s hard to say no to a beach retreat and after the action-packed week we’ve just had, we’re sure to need the time to process all we’ve seen. Thankfully, Tanzania has just the place, located off the east coast in warm Indian Ocean waters. It’s here in Zanzibar that the nation eases up on the wildlife while doubling down on natural beauty. Zanzibar’s beaches are said to be some of the finest in the world, allowing tired-out visitors to lounge on the shores, wallow in the shallows or plunge beneath turquoise waves for coral reef diving among dolphins and schools of tropical fish. Take it slow along the beach before moving into old Zanzibar Town, centred on the historic quarter Stone Town where Arabic, African, Indian and European cultures mingle to intriguing effect. Though partying is an option, we’d recommend to stay slightly outside the developed centre and consider more sustainable retreats that harmonise with the fragile local ecosystem. Besides chartering a traditional dhow on a romantic evening, figure out how else to spend your time on the main island with our gay guide to Zanzibar.

Zanzibar | Photo: Sebastian Kopf

Photo: Max Ravier

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Serengeti | Photo: Hu Chen

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