One of the top questions travelers ask is ‘When is the best time for a safari in Tanzania?’
The best time to visit Tanzania for a safari is during the dry season from late June to October. Tanzania has two distinct rainy seasons: April to May (the ‘long rains’) and November to December (the ‘short rains’). Generally, the country’s ‘long rains’ produce tropical downpours in the afternoons and some safari camps may close. The ‘short rains’ bring about the occasional brief shower.
Most safari areas in Tanzania enjoy warm days and cool evenings year-round. While temperatures drop to below freezing on Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru, the country’s Indian Ocean coast and lakeside regions are hot and humid.
The best time for a Tanzania safari will depend on where you want to go and what you want to see. For first-time safari goers, the best time to go to Tanzania is usually during the dry season, as wildlife is easier to track and spot. Whether you’re visiting Tanzania for the first time, understanding the difference between the safari high season vs low season is a great place to start.
Other destinations may have traditional summer, winter, fall, and spring seasons, but Tanzania is situated near the equator and the Indian Ocean, meaning that its weather patterns are equatorial and tropical. There are two distinct seasons in Tanzania: wet and dry. The wet season is the rainy season, while the dry season is sunny and sometimes hot. Each season has its pros and cons, which are discussed further below.
These early months of the year are typically the hottest time of year in Tanzania (peaking in February). This season is generally dry, and is one of the most popular times for safaris. Parks may feel a bit crowded, especially around the New Year.
Animals may be seen crowding around rivers and lakes for water, as other sources dry up.
Tarangire National Park is especially popular during this time, as zebras and gazelles come to the Tarangire River for water, and are soon followed by predators, such as lions and leopards, making this a major destination to spot all kinds of wildlife.
Mid-March through May is the “long rainy season”, marked by nights and mornings of rain. Typically, the sun makes an appearance in the afternoon and evenings are serene and peaceful. The rains make everything lush, green and the animals are lively and active in the parks, with adequate sources of water everywhere.
However, some rough roads in the parks may be impassible, due to flooding or deep mud. Main roads in the parks are typically fine, and several parks, and Ngorongoro Conservation Area, have many sections of road which are paved and will not have any issues with driving.
This season sees significantly fewer tourists, and nearly all of the accommodations offer discounts for the low season. Guests who don’t mind rainy mornings have shared that their safari during the rainy season felt like an intimate, secluded adventure because they felt like they had the whole park to themselves to watch the incredibly active animals in the damp, green forests.
This period is considered the “cold” season in Tanzania. While for locals, the weather is cold (and you will see people wearing winter coats and hats), those visiting from other climates find the weather pleasant and fresh. Bring a jacket for chilly mornings, but afternoons are nice and generally sunny, and the weather is dry during this time.
This is another popular travel season in Tanzania, with many visitors in the national parks.
If you’re not a fan of hot weather, this is the ideal time to visit during Tanzania’s dry season. This is also a common time for viewing the Great Migration in Serengeti National Park.
The short rains generally fall sometime between October and December, and the weather gets warmer as the end of the year approaches. October is also the time when the jacaranda trees across East Africa bloom – a truly beautiful spectacle of trees crowned with purple flowers. In December the Flame Trees blossom, turning a vibrant red just before Christmas.
Christmas is a popular time for tourists to visit Tanzania and often the short rains have stopped by mid-December as well. Many visitors plan something special to mark the holiday season, such as summiting Mount Kilimanjaro to commemorate the day. Hotels and lodges may serve a special holiday meal for guests.
The weather in December is usually considered ideal, however, parks and accommodations may feel more congested than other times of the year.
Whether the appeal of a safari revolves around the wildlife, such as watching the Great Migration or spotting the Big Five, or you want to mark a special occasion, we can create an itinerary to match your tastes. We’ll suggest ways to tailor it depending on your interests, such as added time on the beach or experiences geared around your family.