Tanzania has three safari circuits, and each one of them, in its own right, would make Tanzania a top wildlife destination. The popular Northern circuit with the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater offers one of the best classical safaris in Africa, especially if timed with the annual wildebeest migration.
$273 to $892 pp/day
Best Time to Go
Jun to Oct (Migration from Jun-Jul & Jan-Feb)
July to March (Northern circuit parks get crowded)
947,303km² / 365,756mi²
- Superb wildlife viewing, including the annual wildebeest migration in the Serengeti
- Off-the-beaten-track safaris in Selous and Ruaha parks
- Several wildlife viewing circuits for repeat visits
- Best chimp trekking in Africa in Gombe and Mahale Mountains
- Beach holiday extensions in Zanzibar
- Traditional indigenous cultures
You’ll have few problems spotting the more-prominent African animals in Tanzania, including lion, elephant, giraffe and buffalo. For big cats, you’ll want to head to the Serengeti, while Ngorongoro Crater is where you want to be for a chance of seeing black rhino. Other wildlife highlights include chimpanzee trekking, checking out African wild dogs, and being awestruck by the several million wildebeest, gazelle and zebra on their annual migration.
Tanzania offers excellent wildlife viewing. There are three different safari circuits, and each one of them alone would make Tanzania a great wildlife destination. The Big Five and most other sought-after safari animals are easily seen. The black rhino is very rare throughout, with the exception of the Ngorongoro Crater.
The wildebeest migration is one of Africa’s greatest wildlife spectacles. At least two million ungulates – mainly wildebeest, but also zebra and gazelle – move around the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem. The wildebeest calving season is also a very special time to visit. The large concentrations of wildebeest and their calves attract many opportunistic predators, and this is a good time to see some action.
The Serengeti is famous for its abundance of big cats and the highly endangered African Wild Dog is relatively easy to find in Selous and Ruaha where their numbers are quite healthy. Gombe Stream and Mahale are Africa’s best chimpanzee reserves.
Best Time for Wildlife Viewing
The Dry season (late June to October) is the best time for wildlife viewing. The Wet season (November-May) is often more beautiful and tourist numbers are lower. The best chance for seeing the wildebeest migration is during June and July. The parks in the Southern and Western circuit are less accessible in the long rains (March to May) and some lodges close in that period.
WEATHER & CLIMATE
The Dry season (June to October) sees the temperature vary between 20°C/68°F and 30°C/86°F. It’s useful to remember, the higher the altitude, the cooler it will be. The Wet season (November to May) kicks off with showers (the ‘short rains’), followed by a drier interlude and then heavy downfalls (the ‘long rains’) from March.
Tanzania has a pleasant, tropical climate but has large regional climatic variations influenced by several factors, including altitude. The hottest and most humid part of the country is the coast. Other low-lying areas, such as the western and southern parks, are also hot but less humid. The rest of the interior is much milder and cools down significantly at night. Tanzania has a distinct Dry and Wet season.
Arusha’s climate compared to Tanzania’s parks
Arusha is the town closest to the most popular northern parks and has a comparably mild climate. The peak amount of rainfall in April is considerably less in most parks than in Arusha. The Ngorongoro Crater rim receives quite a lot of rain and is very cold during evenings and mornings due to its high altitude (about 2,300m/7,545ft). Lower lying parks, such as Manyara, Selous, Mikumi, Ruaha, Gombe, Mahale Mountains and Katavi, are slightly warmer than Arusha.
Dry season –June to October
There is very little rainfall during this period and humidity is very low. It cools off at night; be sure to pack warm clothing because morning game drives in open vehicles will be cold, especially in the northern parks.
June, July, August, September & October – Afternoon temperatures are usually between 20°C/68°F and 30°C/86°F and vary greatly according to altitude and location. Most days have a fine, clear sky and sunny weather.
Wet season –November to May
During most of the Wet season, afternoon temperatures are consistently hot (a bit above or below 30°C/86°F) but it is colder above 1,300m/4,265ft. Mornings are cold in most northern parks due to the high altitude.
- November & December – ‘Short rains’ – A period of about a month of short rains which occurs sometime between November and December. Its timing is unpredictable and, in Northern Tanzania, it can even happen in October. The rains will rarely interfere with your safari.
- January & February – The northern parks and coastal areas tend to have a break in the rainy season. The other parks don’t really experience a dry spell.
- March, April & May – ‘Long rains’ – These are the wettest months. It tends to rain heavily almost every day, although not often for the whole day. Humidity tends to be high, especially in the hotter southern and western parks.
WHEN TO GO
To see the incredible spectacle of the great migration, you need to visit during the Dry season (June to October). Wildlife watching across the country is also at a premium at this time. That said, the northern-circuit parks still have productive game drives in the Wet season (November to May). And January and February is the time when wildebeest calving in the Serengeti attracts lots of predators.
Wildlife viewing is generally best during the Dry season from late June to October. The wildebeest migration in the Serengeti is usually during June and July and the time to see the wildebeest calving is late January to February. The southern and western circuit parks are best visited during the Dry season (June to October), unlike the more popular northern circuit parks that can be visited year-round.
June to October (All parks), June-July and January-February (Serengeti for the wildebeest migration and calving)
July to March (northern circuit parks; they get crowded), July to October (southern and western circuit parks; they don’t really get crowded any time of the year)
April and May (northern circuit parks still get quite a few visitors unlike the southern and western circuit parks, where many lodges close down)
June to October (Little to no rainfall)
March and April (Peak of Wet season)
June to October –Dry Season
- June and July are the best months to see the wildebeest migration
- August to September is the best time to see the wildebeest river crossings in northern Serengeti
- Animals are easier to spot since they concentrate around waterholes and rivers
- There are fewer mosquitoes because there is little to no rain
- Skies are clear and most days are sunny
- Mornings and nights get cold; it’s recommended to bring warm clothing
November to May –Wet Season
- January-February is the time to see the calving in the southern Serengeti, and an excellent time to see predator action
- The scenery is green and beautiful; it’s low season, meaning lower rates and less crowded parks
- Although wildlife is easier to spot in the Dry season, you’ll still see plenty, especially in the northern circuit parks
- Migratory birds are present, and bird watching is at its best
- Except for March, April and May, rains are mostly short afternoon showers and seldom interfere on your trip
- March to May is the peak of the Wet season
- Wildlife viewing in Tarangire, Katavi, Selous and Ruaha is better during the Dry season
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