Tanzania, a premium safari destination, welcomes visitors from all over the world. Over the past years, it has seen a rise in status in the tourism sector: according to the 2019 Travel and Tourism Competitive Index, Tanzania ranks 10th in tourism growth among all African states. The primary attractions in Tanzania are the numerous renowned national parks and the remarkable animals and birds that live in them.
Some of Tanzania’s renowned national parks are Serengeti National Park, Lake Manyara National Park, Tarangire National Park, Kilimanjaro National Park, Arusha National Park, Mahale National Park, Selous Game Reserve and Ruaha National Park. Tanzania is also home to Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, and Mount Meru, as well as six UNESCO World Heritage sites (some of which are national parks.)
The climate in Tanzania varies based on climatic zones and landscapes. For example, the plains of Selous and Serengeti experience a hot and humid climate, the highlands are cool and temperate while at the highest altitude in Africa there is the snow on the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Based on these climate zones and weather, the best time to visit Tanzania may vary from place-to-place. We have simplified this for you by listing down the things you can do during each season: summer, monsoon and winter.
Reasons to visit Tanzania in Summer (Dec-Mar)
The summers are hot with short rains in December, but rarely any rain in January and February. The short afternoon showers aren’t bad enough to spoil any plans and can take the edge off the hot temperatures as well as turn the dry savannah into a green wilderness.
- Affordable rates & less crowds: Summer is considered to be the shoulder (or green) season. It allows visitors to enjoy the parks without the bustling crowds of the peak season. In addition, the lodging and safari rates are also more affordable at this time of the year (apart from mid-Dec to mid-Jan when it’s more pricey).
- Lush scenery: Thanks to the short rains preceding the summer season, the dry vegetation becomes lush and beautiful, ideal for visitors to capture photographs of nature’s abundant bounty. Hence why this season is often referred to as the green season.
- Calving season: The months of January and February are the calving season in southern Serengeti as the migrating herds return to Tanzania from Kenya’s Masai Mara. Visitors on game drives might be able to see these birthings as well as the predators which lie in wait. During this month, approximately 500,000 wildebeest calves are born, with some of them falling prey to the lurking predators. If you visit Tanzania in the summer, it’s well worth planning a trip to southern Serengeti National Park.
- Wildlife viewing: The dry season during the winter months of July to October is ultimately the best time to spot animals in Tanzania’s national parks when the foliage is sparse and animals congregate at water sources. However, there are still ample game viewing opportunities during the summer season, which you can enjoy in quieter surroundings. Listed below are some national parks where visitors are likely to spot abundant wildlife at this time of year:-
– Ngorongoro Crater
– Serengeti National Park
– Arusha National Park
– Tarangire National Park
– Lake Manyara National Park
- Birding destination: The months of November to April bring migratory bird species to the national parks providing bird enthusiasts with an opportunity to see diverse birds including some rare species. It is also the nesting time for resident bird species, which makes Tanzania a birdwatcher’s paradise.
- Mount Kilimanjaro: The highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro stands 5,895 meters tall, and trekking to the top, Uhuru Peak, is an incredible experience. There are seven available routes to reach the summit, which vary in length and difficulty. The northern circuit route has excellent scenery, but the climb can be challenging as it takes at least nine days to reach the top. Both Marangu and Umbwe routes take around 5-7 days to reach the top. Lemosho, Rongai, Machame, and Shira routes take up to 6-7 days. Of all the routes, Rongai and Marangu are the easiest to climb. Summer is the ideal time to visit Mount Kilimanjaro as the weather conditions are favorable: warm and dry with clear skies and lack of rain, making the climb safer.
- Mount Meru: Climb the 4,562 meters high Mount Meru located in Arusha National Park. After Mount Kilimanjaro, it is Tanzania’s second-highest mountain. The Mount Meru climb is a 3-4 days trek with only one official and safe route – the Momella route to reach the summit. This route is easy to follow as it is marked with huts, offering the climbers time to rest in comfortable beds.
- National Museum of Tanzania: Located in Dar-es-Salaam, the former capital of Tanzania, you can spend an afternoon away from the heat secluded inside the museum. While there are several cultural and historical sites throughout Tanzania, it’s the National Museum that tells the story of the bygone colonial-British era.
Reasons to visit Tanzania in Monsoon (Mar-May, Nov-Dec)
Tanzania has two rainy seasons: the long rains starting in March and lasting until May and short rains in November and December. The long rains bring about the wettest months in Tanzania with heavy rainfall every day, making it less than desirable conditions for visitors and not an ideal time to visit the national parks. However, there is still much visitors can see and do in Tanzania during the long-rain months.
- Flamingo viewing at Lake Natron: Visit the alkaline Lake Natron in the Rift Valley, which appears red because of the high amount of algae in the water. The ecology of the lake is unique and offers sustenance to the near-threatened lesser flamingo found here. This flamboyant bird species creates a beautiful sight on the lake’s surface.
- Part of the wildebeest migration: The long rains bring about the start of the wildebeest migration as herds of wildlife start on their journey towards Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve. The animals do not cross the Grumeti River until June so visitors have the opportunity of watching the migration from Serengeti National Park before then.
- Mount Kilimanjaro: One might think that the rainfall would put an end to hiking or climbing activities, but that’s not the case with Mt Kilimanjaro. It might be more difficult in the rainy season, but it’s possible with expert guides. Once at the top, the breathtaking views are well worth the adventure at this more challenging time of year.
- Ol Doinyo Lengai: Tanzania is home to a strato volcano, Ol Doinyo Lengai, located in the Gregory Rift, south of Lake Natron. An interesting fact: the lava emitting from Ol Doinyo Lengai comes out in the form of carbonatite. It curiously turns the lava black and grey, unlike the usual red. Visitors are allowed to climb the volcano under the guidance of an experienced guide.
Reasons to visit Tanzania in Winter (Jun-Oct)
- Wildebeest migration viewing: One of the central attractions in Tanzania is the great annual wildebeest migration. It follows the journey of wildebeest from Tanzania’s Serengeti Plains to the Masai Mara region of Kenya. In June, the wildebeest are on their way towards the Grumeti River. The safari lodges and camps have game drives that take visitors to the river crossing, where they may get to witness the herds fending off predators such as crocodiles, hyenas and big cats. That’s the first river crossing and then the survivors have to fight another battle of life at the Mara River crossing, also teeming with hungry crocodiles.
- Wildlife viewing: During the dry season the vegetation becomes sparse meaning its much easier to spot the wildlife. In addition, the drier landscape means that animals gather around the watering holes to drink. Many of these watering holes are mapped out so they can be visited on game drives, increasing the chances of spotting the big five animals as well as other large and small animals together with diverse birdlife.
- Relaxing island visits: In winter, Tanzania’s islands of Zanzibar, Mafia, and Pemba are excellent for adventure enthusiasts, namely scuba divers, snorkelers and fishing enthusiasts, as well as those who like to relax on beautiful beaches and enjoy the ocean. A stay on a serene island is a great way to relax after a safari.
- Stone Town: Stone Town in Zanzibar is a cultural trophy of Tanzania. The town has changed little in the past 200 years with its larger-than-life Arabian homes taking visitors back-in-time when Zanzibar was a trading centre in the Indian Ocean. Moreover, it is considered the world’s oldest Swahili city that hasn’t fallen into disrepair but is still functional and fascinating to walk around.
- Palace of Wonders: One of the fascinating attractions in Stone Town is the Palace of Wonders, also known as the House of Wonders, across the Stone Town waterfront. From the outside, visitors can take in the huge carved doors. Once you step inside, you’ll be greeted by the striking tiers of both balconies and pillars, the National Museum of History and Culture. The museum showcases both Swahili culture as well as the people of the Indian Ocean.
- Kilwa Kisiwani Ruins: The dry season is also the best time to visit Kilwa Kisiwani Ruins, located off the Tanzanian coast on the Kilwa Kisiwani island. They are the remains of what was once one of the greatest empires in eastern Africa.
- Mount Meru climb: Dry seasons in Tanzania are the perfect time for climbing Meru, Tanzania’s second-highest mountain and Africa’s fourth highest mountain. Sometimes Mt. Meru is thought of as a warm up trek for Mt. Kilimanjaro, but it is a challenging and very rewarding trek in its own right. The walk around the crater rim is one of the most breathtaking walks in Africa.
- Retima hippo pool at Serengeti: A visit to the Retima hippo pool in Tanzania during the dry season guarantees a view of a pool bustling with wallowing. While there are quite a few waterholes where you might come across them, the gathering of hippos at the Retima hippo pool remains uncontested.
We have covered just the bare minimum of all the wonders in Tanzania. Even an entire month might not be enough to see all these incredible attractions! Before you make any plans to visit the country, do your research on the climate in Tanzania, consider all the places you want to visit, plan your safari trip accordingly and then enjoy!
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