safari in Tanzania

12 Animals you might see on a safari in Tanzania

What animals might you see on a safari in Tanzania? The 12 animals you might spot on a game drive

A safari in Tanzania offers excellent opportunities to observe Africa’s most sought-after wildlife, and it is no coincidence that it is one of the best on the continent where to go on safari.

Thanks in fact to the national parks considered among the most beautiful, in particular the Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and three different safari circuits (North, South and extreme West ) Tanzania is positioned as the number one African destination for lovers of nature and unconventional travel.

Those who go on safari for the first time are most likely moved by the desire to see the Big 5, but apart from these animals in Tanzania thousands of species of birds are missing, the black rhinoceros and very rare animals such as the pangolin and the wild dog.
So if you are thinking of going on a safari in Tanzania and are wondering what animals you might see, this post is for you!

I have selected some of the animals you might see and in which parks you will have the best chance of spotting them. It being understood that when traveling in nature the chances of sightings are never guaranteed. However, in Tanzania it is difficult to leave a park empty-handed!

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12 animals you might see on a safari in Tanzania

Listing all the animals you might see on a safari in Tanzania is a difficult task, so I have selected those that most likely you will see by having to remember that sightings are never guaranteed. It actually takes luck. But I know for sure that Tanzania will definitely be able to give you incredible moments in any park you decide to visit.

Tanzania is in fact home to approximately 20% of the species of large mammals in Africa which are found in the 17 National Parks, the numerous reserves, conservation areas and marine parks distributed over an area of ​​more than 42,000 square kilometers, or 38% of the entire territory of the country . These numbers highlight that Tanzania’s wildlife resources are described and regarded as “unparalleled in Africa” and Tanzania is the best destination for safari.

The Big5 – What they are and why they are called that

The BiIG5 are the lion, the leopard, the buffalo, the elephant and the rhinoceros. These animals only live in 11 countries in the world and these countries are all in Africa.
But why are these animals called the BIG5 (the big five)?

These animals have been called the “Big 5” because not only are they among the animals most sought after by poachers but also because they are the most difficult and dangerous to hunt on foot. These five largeAfrican mammal species have always been known to be the most difficult and dangerous to hunt (when hunting safaris were done exclusively on foot) .
Since then the nickname of Big5 has remained when referring to these animals and which today are among the animals that anyone on safari hopes to see.

Lioness Ngorongoro

Wildebeest and the spectacle of the great migration

Tanzania is particularly famous for two species of animals: wildebeests and elephants. The wildebeests above all are the great attraction during safaris in Tanzania, between July and September and between January and March, months in which the great migration is at its peak.

If your intention is to see the wildebeests then the park to include in your safari itinerary is definitely the Serengeti National Park. Every year, these animals migrate massively to the Serengeti to cross the river, Maasai River, and then enter Kenya to return shortly after.

This is certainly one of the grandest and most spectacular events in the animal world. Wildebeests can be seen more or less all year round but the best time to spot these animals is during the months between July and September in when the wildebeests settle in a particular area in the south of Serengeti and Ngorongoro (Ndutu) conservation area for the calving season.January and February and in the months of North of the Serengeti

To find out the best months to go on a safari in Tanzania, read the post – When to go to Tanzania

Something interesting about wildebeests

  • The wildebeest is known for its unique appearance, with a curvy, muscular body, large head and long, thin legs. It is also known for its loud grunts and moos, especially during the mating season.
  • During the annual wildebeest migration, the herds can cover a distance of more than 1,000 km, moving across grasslands and rivers in search of food and water. The migration is considered the largest animal migration in the world and is one of Tanzania’s most spectacular natural events.
  • The wildebeest is known for its coexistence with other species, particularly with zebras, in a symbiotic relationship. Zebras’ excellent vision and hearing help spot potential threats to the herd, while the wildebeest’s strong sense of smell can detect predators from a distance.
  • The wildebeest is an essential part of Tanzania’s grass plains ecosystem. Their grazing activity helps maintain healthy vegetation and control the spread of fires in the area.
Group of wildebeests in the Serengeti


Elephants are animals rather common in all national parks of Tanzania and are included in the Big5 list. Each Tanzanian natural park or reserve has an abundant population of elephants that usually walk in small groups or are contained in a particular area. However, if you want to see the animals in action you have to wait for the migration season.

Elephants move through the Serengeti in large herds during the migration season, but if you are a lover of these giants the best park is definitely Tarangire wich boasts the largest elephant population in Tanzania, so much so that it is also known as the Giant’s Park.

Something interesting about elephants

Elephants in Tanzania have fascinating habits and behaviors, especially when it comes to births. Here are some curiosities:

  • When a female elephant is about to give birth, the other females in the herd gather to support and protect her during the process. They form a protective circle around the expectant mother, using their bodies and trunks to protect her from any potential danger. This behavior demonstrates the strong social bonds within the elephant herd and their caring nature towards each other.
  • Once born, a baby elephant becomes the center of attention of the entire herd. Female elephants, known as “aunts”, take an active role in caring for and protecting their young. They help teach them important skills, such as nutrition, social interactions and survival strategies, and provide them with a welcoming environment.
  • The gestation period of an elephant is one of the longest among mammals and lasts about 22 months. This prolonged period allows for the optimal development of the baby elephant. Due to the long gestation period, elephants have a low reproductive rate and the birth of a new elephant is a significant event for the herd.
  • Elephants have strong family bonds and have complex social structures. A typical elephant herd in Tanzania is led by a matriarch, usually the oldest and most experienced female in the group. The matriarch is responsible for making important decisions for the well-being of the herd, such as finding waterholes and safe areas to feed. baby elephants remain with their mothers and the herd until maturity, generally around the age of 13, after which the young males can leave the herd and join groups of bachelors or live a solitary life.
tarangire game drive


Sighting lions during a safari in Tanzania is quite common. Throughout the year lions roam the parks in search of prey or shade to rest, so usually chances of sightings are high even on the same day.

The best time to spot these predators is during the dry season when they can be found near waterholes or rivers. In addition to lions, leopards and cheetahs can also be spotted in national parks, although they are much rarer and less easy to see.

The recommended park to see lions in Tanzania is certainly the Serengeti National Park. The Seronera region in the central Serengeti is famous for sightings of these animals , especially during the high season, from July to October.
Another very interesting park to include in the safari itinerary is the Lake Manyara National Park where elephants they have got into the habit of climbing trees. So, unlike what you might imagine, in this park you have to keep your eyes looking towards the sky.

Something interesting about lions

  • Lions are often called “kings of the jungle”, but in reality they rarely live in dense forests or jungles. Their natural habitats are usually open grasslands or savannas.
  • During the mating season, a pair of lions usually mates every 20-30 minutes, with up to 50 copulations in a 24 hour period. Due to this high mating frequency, it is estimated that a female lion can mate with the male more than 20 times per day. This prolonged copulation serves multiple purposes. It not only stimulates ovulation in the female, but also helps the male secure paternity by excluding other males.
  • Male lions can weigh up to 30 kilos, or about 190 kg, while females weigh on average about 126 kg.
  • When lions are born, they have spots on their fur. These spots gradually fade with age.
  • Lions have exceptional night vision. They can see in the dark up to six times better than humans. Their eyes have a reflective coating and a white patch of fur underneath that helps capture and reflect light.
  • The mane of male lions can provide clues to their age. The darker and thicker the mane, the older the lion is generally considered,
Leoncini Serengeti


Thehippo in Tanzania is another animal species that falls into the group of the “Big Five”. Tanzania is home to a significant population of hippos, particularly in areas such as the Serengeti National Park and the Selous Game Reserve .

There is no particular season in which the chances of sightings increase. However, the best time to spot hippos is during the rainy season. In fact, in these months the rivers fill up more and more, creating the ideal situation for these animals. In some parks it is possible to go on canoe safaris (possible at Lake Manyara National Park and Arusha National Park) to see them up close. Along with hippos, many flamingos can also be seen during this season.

Something interesting about hippos

Hippos in Tanzania are fascinating creatures found in various habitats, including rivers, lakes and wetlands. Here are some curiosities about hippos in Tanzania:

  • Hippos are semiaquatic mammals and spend a significant amount of time in water to keep their bodies cool and hydrated.
  • Despite their stocky appearance, hippos are actually excellent swimmers and can move gracefully through the water.
  • Hippos communicate with each other through various vocalizations, such as grunts, roars and honks, which can be heard both in and out of water.
  • Male hippos, known as bulls, are territorial and fiercely defend their stretch of river or lake from intruding males. Female hippos, known as cows, form stable social groups called pods, which can be composed of multiple adult females and their offspring.
  • Hippopotamuses have powerful jaws and teeth and their bite is one of the strongest in the animal kingdom.
  • Despite their herbivorous diet, hippos can be aggressive if they feel threatened, especially towards humans who come too close to their territory.
  • Hippos are considered some of the most dangerous animals in Africa due to their territorial nature and size.
  • Their presence in Tanzania’s ecosystems is crucial, as hippos play a vital role in maintaining the balance of aquatic ecosystems and nutrient cycling.
hippos lake Ngorongoro


A safari in Tanzania is incomplete without spotting a few giraffes. Which is pretty easy because Tanzania has one of the largest giraffe populations in the world. The giraffe is a very friendly, elegant and peaceful animal. The parks of Tanzania are full of them, so any park you visit you will definitely have the chance to see some.

Unfortunately, even though Tanzania is the country with the most giraffes in the world, their number is decreasing and there are fears that they may soon be considered endangered animals that need to be protected 

Something interesting about giraffes

  • Tanzania is home to the Masai giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchi), one of nine subspecies of giraffe. The Masai giraffe is the largest subspecies and can reach a height of 5.9 meters, making it the tallest land mammal on Earth.
  • These giraffes have distinct spots, irregularly shaped, which extend along the legs to the hooves[1].
  • Giraffes have incredibly long necks, but they have the same number of neck vertebrae (seven) as most other mammals, including humans.
  • Giraffes are herbivorous and have a unique feeding behavior, known as “browsing”. They use their long neck to reach the foliage of tall trees and feed on leaves, shoots and buds.
  • Giraffes play a vital role in savannah ecosystems, dispersing seeds and acting as large feeders, helping to shape the structure of vegetation.
  • Male giraffes have a behavior known as “necking”, in which they use their long necks to swing their heads and deliver powerful blows with their ossicones (horns) in dominance battles with other males. This behavior helps establish dominance for mating opportunities.
giraffe spotted in Serengeti Park
Giraffe in Serengeti National Park


Theblack and white striped animal has always been a favorite of most travelers in Africa.

Tanzania is home to a large number of zebras, which with their striking black and white stripes represent a highlight for many visitors to safari. There arethree species of zebra: the plains zebra, the Grevy’s zebra and the mountain zebra; the most common species in Tanzania is the plains zebra.
The zebra in Tanzania is common and very easy to see. They are generally spotted in herds or near river banks. They are usually accompanied by wildebeests and run along the migration route as they are necessary for each other.

Why do wildebeests and zebras run together?

During the great migration the wildebeests are not the only protagonists. In fact, herds of zebras also run with them. Why are these two animals who apparently have nothing in common always seen together?
Both the wildebeest and the zebra are herbivores, however the large front teeth of the zebra are suitable for eating long grass while the wildebeest loves to eat short grass given their mouth made to take juice from grass.

Both the zebra and wildebeest have their own unique eating pattern, they eat the same grass but in different parts.
One of the interesting facts about the great wildebeest migration is that wildebeests and zebras depend on each other to find food and water. It’s not all. There are also other reasons why these species run together.

Wildebeests have a good sense of hearing and smell, senses that help both protect themselves from predators and search for food. The zebra has great eyesight to see any threat. Wildebeests have group intelligence that allows them to act and solve problems as a single entity.
The zebra, on the other hand, is good at protecting and has an excellent memory (necessary during travel), while wildebeests have the ability to find water.
The good hearing and group intelligence of wildebeests combined with the excellent eyesight and memory of zebras makes the group more compact during the dangerous migration.

Something interesting about zebras

  • In Tanzania, zebras live in grassy plains, savannahs and woodlands in several national parks, including Serengeti National Park, theNgorongoro Conservation Area and the< a i=7>Tarangire National Park.
  • Plains zebras in Tanzania display strong social bonds, which help protect the herd from predators. Females lead the pack, while males enlarge their physical appearance to discourage predators.
  • Every year, zebra herds in Tanzania migrate across the Serengeti and Tarangire, depending on the availability of food and water. This great migration is renowned as one of the world’s greatest natural spectacles and attracts tourists from all over the world.
  • Zebras play an essential role in the ecosystem, as they are known for their role as grazers and eaters, which they help keep vegetation regulation under control. On the other hand, they are also a vital prey species for big cats such as lions and cheetahs.
Zebras in the Ngorongoro Crater
Group of zebras in the Ngorongoro crater


The antelopes in Tanzania are known to survive in all types of ecosystems. They are found in fields, arid lands, swamps, savannahs and so on. For this reason it is quite easy to spot an antelope if you visit a national park or forest reserve in Tanzania. Some of the easily identifiable species are impalas, gazelles, Dik Dik, Lesser Kudu and many others.

The antelopes in Tanzania play a role as predator and prey in the ecosystem. They are important herbivores, playing a role in shaping vegetation and providing a food source for carnivores such as lions, leopards and cheetahs. Antelopes are known for their agility and speed, which allows them to evade predators with quick movements and impressive leaps.

Curiosities about the Dik Dik
The Dik Dik is the smallest and probably most graceful antelope species to inhabit the Serengeti ecosystem, it takes its name from its whistle 39;alarm. Dik-dik are monogamous and mate with their partner for life. They are widespread throughout the ecosystem, but are only found where there is dense cover and vegetation.

Black rhinos

Rhinoceros are a species in danger of extinction, these animals are now only seen in very few parks on the continent. Tanzania is home to the very rare black rhinos which, if you are lucky, you can meet during a game drive in the caldera of the Ngorongoro conservation area.

Distinguished from its southern counterparts by its grooved skin and distinctive long, curved horn, this impressive animal was once widespread throughout the region, however poaching has dramatically reduced its numbers. Today the black rhinos are listed as critically endangered and are protected everywhere in Africa also because they reproduce every 3 years making repopulation extremely slow and difficult.

Seeing black rhinos in Tanzania is never guaranteed, but the best place is the Ngorongoro crater and, even more difficult, in some parts of the Serengeti.

Something interesting about the black rhino

  • The black rhinos in Tanzania have a specific routine of daytime and nighttime activities. During the day, they hide and rest in dense forests or thickets to avoid heat and conserve energy. They tend to be more active at night, when they come out to feed on plants and shrubs. Due to their particularly poor eyesight, black rhinos rely heavily on their sense of smell and hearing to detect potential danger.
  • During the mating season, males roam long distances to find receptive females and attempt to mate with them. During these times, males can be very territorial, making it very dangerous for humans to approach them. When threatened, a black rhino can run up to 35 miles per hour and has the ability to charge towards potential predators or intruders with great force.
  • The black rhinos of Tanzania are also known for their particular feeding behavior. They are animals that feed on shoots, branches and leaves of the trees in the areas in which they live. Due to their selective diet and high requirement for proteins and nutrients, black rhinos can travel evenlong distances in search of food. They regularly use the same feeding routes to move through the forests to reach areas where their favorite food is available.


The wild dog, African wild dog, is an animal that is now very rare and very difficult to see. It seems that this species of dog is the largest and most ferocious on earth. Local legends say that if someone has even just 3 wild dogs, not even large predators will come close to the livestock. However, it is very difficult to capture or tame and therefore, fortunately, continues to live in nature.

Over the years wild dogs have become an endangered species, now they can only be spotted in Selous Game Reserve and Ruaha National Park .

Something interesting about the wild dog

  • Wild dogs are highly social animals and live in packs which can reach up to 30 individuals. Each pack has a strict hierarchy, and each member has a specific role to play in the group, from the alpha pair who lead the group to the subordinate members who care for the sick and elderly.
  • Unlike other predators, wild dogs do not kill their prey by biting the neck. Instead, they use their powerful jaws to disembowel prey, resulting in a quicker kill.
  • Wild dogs have large, rounded ears, which help them hear sounds up to 4 miles away. They also have fur with characteristic patterns, which acts as natural camouflage, and each pattern is unique, just like human fingerprints.
  • Wild dogs have one of the highest hunting success rates among large predators, around 80%. These high success rates are achieved through coordinated hunting strategies and exceptional communication skills through vocalization and body language.
  • In the past wild dogs were threatened with extinction, but now, thanks to conservation efforts, their numbers are slowly increasing. However, they are still considered an endangered species, with only around 5,000 individuals remaining in the wild.

Monkeys, Chimpanzees and Gibbons

The wildlife in Tanzania is also known for a huge variety of monkeys, chimpanzees and others gibbons. Tanzania is home to a wide range of monkey species that can be observed in different regions of the country. During a safari you might spot these monkeys

  • Olive Baboon – Olive baboons are among the largest monkeys in Tanzania and are often seen in large groups. They have olive-colored fur and are found in savannahs, scrublands and forests.
  • Vervet Monkey – Vervet monkeys are easily recognizable by their black faces, hands and feet. They are found in many different habitats, from coastal forests to mountains and savannas, and often live in large groups.
  • Blue Monkey – Blue monkeys are known for their striking blue-gray fur and are mostly found in forests and woodlands. They are shy animals and are often seen jumping silently between the branches.
  • Red Colobus Monkey – Red Colobus Monkeys have a unique appearance, with a patch of white hair around their face and a red-tinged coat. They are mainly found in forests and live in social groups of up to 30 individuals.
  • Patas Monkey – Patas monkeys are found in savannahs and are known for their long legs, which help them run quickly to escape predators. They have reddish-brown fur and live in groups of 30 individuals.

If monkeys can be seen in large quantities in most of Tanzania’s national parks, if you want to see chimpanzees then you have to plan a very long and adventurous journey and reach the Gombe Stream Reserve and the Mahale National Park which are very far away and expensive to visit but for this very reason receive very few visitors every year.

Something interesting about monkeys and chimpanzees

  • Chimpanzees in Mahale Mountains National Park have been observed using sticks to fish termites from termite mounds, while chimpanzees in the National Park of Gombe have been observed using sticks to extract honey from beehives. This tool-using behavior is just one example of the many similarities chimpanzees share with humans.
  • Some monkey species, such as the Vervet monkey, have adapted to living in close proximity to humans and are even known to raids on crops and foraging for food in urban areas. This ability to adapt and thrive in different environments is an impressive feature of many monkey species.
  • Some monkeys have a mischievous sense of humor. In some cases, monkeys have been observed playing pranks or pranks on humans or other animals. For example, there have been reports of monkeys stealing hats, sunglasses, or even food from unsuspecting visitors to parks or tourist areas.
chimpanzees tanzania

Birds and other animals you might see on a safari in Tanzania

In addition to these animals mentioned, Tanzania boasts other animal species such as buffaloes, hyenas, jackals, crocodiles and a variety of reptiles including the feared Black Mamba. The country is also home to various species of birds such as Hornbill, Trogon, Tinkerbird, Secretary Bird, Flamingos, Weaver, Flycatcher, and many more. 

The best period for bird watching is between the months of November and April. Although you can spot local birds all year round. Migratory birds from England and other cold countries fly to Tanzania during the winter season, an excellent time to encounter these beautiful animals. We cannot forget the flamingos that give their best in Lake Natron.

The flamingos minor flamingos throughout East Africa feed on algae found in soda lakes but choose to reproduce almost exclusively at Lake Natron.

About 75% of the world’s lesser flamingos are born right here in northern Tanzania.
The best times to see these incredible birds are at dawn or dusk, when the heat eases. The best months to see flamingos in Lake Natron are from November to February.

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