It is common for first-time safari travellers to visit both Kenya and Tanzania, and there are two ways of doing so, a single-circuit or double-circuit East Africa Safari option. With the countless number of tour operators offering a large amount of choice in safaris, knowing the difference can matter a considerable amount to the enjoyment of your safari.

Most tour operators will offer a classic double-circuit East Africa Safari, often of a 15-day duration. Single-circuit East Africa Safaris by contrast are generally a 14-day or less duration such as this trip. Clients who are not aware of the difference will often make the understandable mistake of assuming a longer trip means better value for money since they are often priced similarly. A closer look reveals a different story.

A double-circuit East Africa safari is classically defined as a trip that runs seven days in Kenya with a loop from Nairobi to Nairobi, moving northwest and concluding coming southeast. Clients are then asked to spend a night in Nairobi before being transferred the next day (often by public shuttle) to Arusha in Tanzania. They again undertake a seven-day circuit, moving west and returning east to Arusha.

A single-circuit East Africa safari is one in which clients travel westwards through Kenya, southwards through the Serengeti ecosystem and eastwards towards Arusha before concluding northwards via the Amboseli to Nairobi, forming one contiguous loop.

 So why is a single-circuit East Africa safari better than a double-circuit one? The problem with the double-circuit option is it is not in your best interest, instead aimed at saving the tour company money and maximizing client numbers. This is done for two reasons:

  1. (a) Avoiding the use of empty vehicles. Generally the same vehicles are not used in Kenya and Tanzania, so if you want to cross from Kenya to Tanzania directly, you need to send an extra vehicle up from Arusha with a driver alone to receive the clients on the other side of the border. Taking clients back to Nairobi avoids having to do this.
  1. (b) Taking advantage of modular safaris. The use of two circuits means that the tour company can essentially sell three safaris out of one double-circuit: a seven-day Kenya safari circuit, a seven-day Tanzania safari circuit and a double-circuit Kenya and Tanzania safari. The tour operator can take advantage of selling more clients on more options, at your enjoyment cost.

The total extra distance driven on a typical double-circuit East Africa safari is around 900 kms and adds over thirteen hours to your itinerary, not to mention an extra night in Nairobi you didn’t really want in the middle of your trip. All this on roads that are often less than comfortable.

It is a cost to tour operators to invest in promoting single-circuit East Africa safaris since they are required to carry empty vehicles and sacrifice selling what could be three different trips out of one, but this small investment can mean a significant amount to the enjoyment of the safari. When considering your East Africa Safari be aware of this important, but oft-overlooked detail. It’s just one thing that your back may thank you for!

Happy safari seeking!