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What is the difference between a tour and a safari?

A tour and a safari are both trips to experience and discover new places, but they have some key differences. A tour is a structured group trip with set departure dates and organized sightseeing activities. A safari is a wildlife-focused trip, usually to national parks or game reserves in Africa, with some degree of customization and focus on spotting animals in their natural habitats.

What is the difference between a tour and a safari?

Tour trips are often to popular tourist destinations like cities in Europe and tend to have an established itinerary of included sightseeing activities to hit the highlights. They usually travel in groups of 10-50 people by motorcoach and have pre-set departure dates.

Safari trips focus on African game parks and wildlife spotting. Guests can help customize plans to see target species. Key safari activities are game drives and walks led by expert wildlife guides rather than city sightseeing. Most safaris accommodate less than 20 guests at a time.

Group Size and Setting

  • Tours: Trips are designed for larger groups, usually between 10-50 travelers. Accommodations are often in hotels within cities. Tour bus groups explore urban highlights and attractions.
  • Safaris: Caters to smaller groups, often fewer than 20 guests. Stays are within national parks and wilderness lodges. Days are spent spotting wildlife rather than sightseeing.

Destination and Customization

  • Tours: Main destinations are popular cities and historical sites around the world. Schedule has a pre-set itinerary, though some optional add-ons may be available. General sightseeing activities are already included.
  • Safaris: Destinations focus on national parks and wilderness areas in Africa. Travelers can help customize plans and influence wildlife viewing opportunities based on safari goals and target species. Game drive routes are tailored rather than pre-set.

Transportation and Accommodations

  • Tours: Make use of full-sized tour buses and vans. Lodging is generally in comfortable hotels. Moving from place to place with many tours is on a fairly regular schedule.
  • Safaris: Transport by customized 4×4 safari vehicles on backroads. Lodging options range from luxury camps to simple field camps depending on the safari style. Allow for longer stays in one area throughout the safari for unhurried wildlife viewing.

Typical Activities

  • Tours: Activity focus is on remarkable buildings, landmarks, museums, and attractions within an urban destination. Schedule includes many stops for sightseeing and main attractions. Activities are general rather than wildlife-specific.
  • Safaris: Primary emphasis is viewing wildlife and spending time enjoying African landscapes and nature. Days center around sunrise/sunset game drives and walks led by guides focused on animal behaviors, habitats, and species interactions. Closer wildlife encounters are more easily achieved.

Pacing and Schedule

  • Tours: Usually a set itinerary moving from one overnight location to the next fairly frequently throughout the trip. Keeps a brisk pace with many stops and activities packed into tour days. Departure dates are fixed.
  • Safaris: More relaxed pace allowing wildlife viewing to unfold naturally based on animal movements. Around 2 or more nights generally spent in each park or conservancy. Travel days tend to be less rigorous. Some safari elements are arranged after arrival.

Travel Style

  • Tours: Themed around experiencing a region’s cultural heritage, architecture, landmarks, and urban attractions. Travel style is usually group-oriented touring focused on sightseeing.
  • Safaris: Spotlight interactions with Africa’s landscapes, ecosystems, and diverse wildlife. Style leans toward more active elements centered on extended wildlife viewing opportunities in natural habitats.

Key Differences at a Glance

Factor Tour Safari
Group Size 10-50 travelers Under 20 travelers
Setting & Lodging Hotels within cities National parks & wilderness lodges
Destinations Cultural sites & cities worldwide African game reserves & parks
Customization Pre-set itinerary Help tailor wildlife plans
Transportation Large tour buses Custom safari 4×4 vehicles
Activities Sightseeing stops & city touring Game drives & wildlife walks
Pacing & Schedule Changes locations frequently 2+ nights per location
Dates Set departure schedules Some elements arranged on-site
Travel Style Group-oriented sightseeing Active wildlife viewing in nature

Key Takeaway

While tours and safaris do share aspects of group travel to experience new places, a core difference lies in safari trips having an intense focus on wildlife and nature rather than merely sightseeing. Tours offer efficiently-paced urban highlights, where safaris revolve around meaningful windows to observe African habitats and animals undisturbed. Safaris present opportunities not only to see wildlife but gain first-hand exposure to ecosystems and conservation efforts.


In essence, tours provide an introductory taste of historically and culturally important destinations around the globe through sightseeing a region’s main landmarks. In contrast, safaris offer an immersive escape into African wilderness with creature comforts to witness wildlife up close and enjoy nature at a more leisurely pace guided by experts. Determining just how structured, group-oriented, and activity-packed your adventure should be can help clarify tour versus safari considerations. Focus your trip where your interests most come alive whether by strolling famous city squares or having front row seats to a dazzling wildlife spectacle.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What types of destinations do tours go to?
    Tours commonly spend time in major metropolitan areas, historical sites, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and famous natural wonders around the world from Europe to Asia to the Americas.
  2. Do tours allow you to choose what you will see and do?
    Tours have a pre-planned itinerary of included sightseeing activities that the group will follow together as a whole. There is generally little ability to influence scheduled tour contents or destinations.
  3. What parts of Africa do most safaris go to?
    The majority of safaris land within Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Uganda, Rwanda, Namibia, and South Africa thanks to their excellent national parks, conservancies, and private game reserves teeming with diverse wildlife.
  4. On a safari, can I choose when we go on a game drive?
    Yes, guests on a safari typically have strong influence over game viewing activities and can collaborate with guides to shape hours and duration of drives as well as target sightings of desired species.
  5. Why are tours usually less expensive per day than safaris?
    With fixed costs split among larger groups on tours, overheads like accommodations, transportation, most meals, and guide services are lower per tourist, while personalized safaris carrying under 20 guests have higher per person price tags for experiential luxury.
  6. Which type of trip would have better opportunities to interact with locals?
    Tours visiting busy metropolitan hubs allow for simple friendly exchanges with residents amid urban exploring. For meaningful cultural interactions with tribes like Maasai on native land, immersive safaris provide richer connections.
  7. Are walking safaris only done by very fit people?
    From short strolls observing tracks to multi-day treks between camping sites, walking safaris now cater to all ages and fitness levels. Pacing, distance, and terrain challenges can be aligned to each participant’s ability.
  8. Can a safari itinerary change if a group wants more wildlife viewing time?
    Safari schedules remain flexible by nature compared to structured tours, readily allowing to extend morning game drives into afternoon hours for premium animal sightings or spending an unplanned extra game-filled day in a stunning conservancy.
  9. Do tours and safaris provide guides?
    Yes, both tours and safaris supply local knowledgeable guides for activities and transport. Tour guides are versed in urban details and history. Safari guides hold expertise in flora, fauna, ecosystems, animal behavior, and conservation.
  10. What types of vehicles do tours use?
    Large tour buses, minibuses, vans, and coaches typically transport larger tour groups between overnight stops according to an efficient schedule covering necessary ground.
  11. What types of vehicles do safaris use?
    Custom-made 4×4 Land Rovers and Toyota Land Cruisers with pop-up roofs for game viewing are standard safari vehicles carrying under 20 passengers maximum for flexibility.
  12. Can tours access remote wilderness areas like safaris?
    Very few tours will traverse remote wilderness regions accessible only by rugged backroads. Tour companies stick to viable infrastructure able to accommodate larger groups and streamlined logistics.
  13. Do tours and safaris both have age requirements or restrictions?
    While tours rarely impose age limits, certain safaris have minimum age requirements due to safety precautions and health standards needed for remote wilderness excursions and adventurous activities involved.
  14. What types of meals are included on tours versus safaris?
    Tours usually include a breakfast each day while safaris feature all-inclusive dining with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and often refreshments during drives catering to any dietary needs.
  15. Which trip offers opportunities to have up-close encounters with wildlife?
    Safari travelers routinely get extraordinarily close to elephants, big cats, hippos, giraffes, and more in their habitats, while tours may visit captive animal attractions still separated from direct animal contact.
  16. Can I see predators like lions hunt prey on a game drive?
    Yes, witnessing epic hunts unfold right before vehicle on safari drives is entirely possible depending on movements across the grasslands, while well-fed zoo populations reduce such viewings for tours.
  17. Between tours and safaris, which delivers more cultural learning experiences?
    Immersive safaris allow for authentic cultural interactions with preserved Maasai, Samburu or Pygmy tribes and locals on native lands, whereas tours provide light introductions to modern metropolitan hubs’ melting pot.
  18. How strenuous is participation on an average tour versus safari?
    As extensive walking is often integral to wildlife viewing, safaris tend to have moderately strenuous physical activity outpacing tours that rely on bus and vehicle transportation between sites.
  19. Which type of trip features fine dining experiences?
    Multi-course tasting menus paired with fine regional wines at luxurious safari lodges surpass standard restaurant meals enjoyed briefly on busy coach tours.
  20. Can a safari be combined with a beach escape to Zanzibar?
    Many safari packages now blend wildlife adventures with idyllic tropical getaways to Zanzibar’s white sand beaches and resort relaxation for the ultimate Tanzania experience unattainable on tours.

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