Tanzania is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, with landscapes that vary from mountains and African grasslands to humid rainforests and stunning tropical islands. Truly, ANYTIME is the best time to visit Tanzania!
That being said, there is a dry season and a rainy season in Tanzania. If you are properly prepared for the weather, your trip to Tanzania will likely be more comfortable.
Visiting Tanzania, East Africa
Tanzania is the largest country in East Africa, spanning nearly 950,000 square kilometers in area. It would be impractical to discuss the weather of all of vast Tanzania as one collective unit.
Tanzania is made up of many different climates and landscapes; hot urban centers such as Dar es Salaam; cool highlands like Ngorongoro; coffee-growing areas at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro; coastlines that lead to the Indian Ocean; and the vast grasslands of the Serengeti, just to name a few.
Therefore, for the purpose of this article, let’s narrow the area down and hone in on some specific locations. Let’s say, when is the best time to visit Tanzania, specifically for the Northern Circuit, or around Serengeti National Park?
What is the best month to visit Tanzania?
The best way to decide when to go on a safari in Tanzania is by choosing the right season: rainy or dry? Hot or cool? While Tanzania isn’t a cold climate by any means, as one travels to higher elevations, such as those found in Ngorongoro at heights of 3,500 meters up, it definitely feels cooler.
January to March – short dry season
January to March is the first Tanzania dry season, spanning approximately 3 months at the start of the year. It is a lovely time of year to see lots of animals and have a great safari experience in northern Tanzania.
A safari during January to March usually means:
Lots of baby animals
Very little chance of rain
Some dust, due to the dry environment
Note: January and February are some of the hottest months of the year in Tanzania. Most accommodations have swimming pools for a refreshing activity after a dusty game drive.
March to May – long wet season
The end of March marks the first wet season Tanzania usually has. As March can feel very dry, the first rains at the end of the month are usually welcome and the landscape will become very green at a startling rate.
Dry areas will burst into life, trees will sprout green buds and animals will be seen happily nibbling and grazing all around. Thankfully, even during the rainy season, it doesn’t usually rain for the entire day. It may actually only rain heavily at night, with a few light showers mid-afternoon. Otherwise, it will likely be sunny and pleasant during the day.
A safari around March to May usually means:
Green, lush landscapes
Animals grazing happily
Seasonal lakes filling up (such as Lake Magadi in Ngorongoro Crater)
High chance of rain, but plenty of day-time sunshine, too
Some muddy areas, which could mean some remote roads are impassable
It’s advised to pack sturdy shoes and a light rain jacket when visiting Tanzania during the rainy season.
April and May are still quite warm in Tanzania, but the weather is gradually cooling down. If you’re visiting the Ngorongoro Highlands, it is prudent to pack a light sweater for cool nights, that way you can comfortably remain around the outdoor fires and witness the exceptional Tanzanian night skies.
June to October – long dry season
June through October is the second dry season and the longest dry season, and is certainly the best time for Tanzania luxury safari tours. When the rains cease around June, the environment may still feel very wet and everything is usually very green until sometime in July.
In recent years, Serengeti Migration river crossings are best observed in the months of August and September, however, this is constantly changing due to weather changes or infrequent rains, so future years may have different months for river crossings.
A safari from June to October usually means:
Wonderful migration sightings, including a chance to see river crossings
Changing grasslands (lush and green in June/July, becoming dry in September and October)
Animals congregating at water sources and rivers, with an improved chance of spotting predators
June and July, especially, are some of the coolest months in Tanzania. While travelers may expect Africa to be constantly hot, temperatures in Arusha and Moshi can be as low as 13C/57F during the night.
October to December – short wet season
The last months of the year are often the short wet season in Tanzania, however, due to climate change, Tanzania’s short rainy season is becoming more and more unpredictable, some years having no rain at all!
If the rains arrive, expect some mud on your safari drive. If the rains are late, then it might be exceptionally dusty. Either way – it’s a wonderful time to see animals, experience Africa, and is the preferred time for bird enthusiasts to see rare East African species.
A safari from October to December usually means:
Warm weather, even a bit hot in December
Lots of animals – either at rivers, if it’s dry, or in the thick forests if the rains have arrived
A world in transition: dry areas come alive after the rains, and seasonal lakes fill up quickly
An ideal time for birders to see unique species
Beautiful nature, especially with flowering trees
October is a truly beautiful time of year in Tanzania if you can handle the dust. The jacaranda trees are in full bloom, you’ll see paths and roadways in the vibrant purple blooms. As soon as the jacarandas cease flowering, the red Flame Trees (also called Flamboyant trees) will burst alive and give a wonderful pop of color to the landscape, through to the end of December.
Climate in Tanzania month by month
Each month presents its own unique appeal for visitors, depending on your interest.
If you’re a bird enthusiast, for example, you may enjoy visiting Tanzania during October and November. Whereas, if you want to see predators like lions and cheetahs, it’s advised to visit during the dry season, in August or September, when animals congregate at rivers and water sources.
Safari Highlights, by month
December and January: Great for warm weather and lots of animals
February through March: Opportunity to see lots of baby zebras, wildebeests, impalas and more
April and May: Rainy season, when everything becomes lush and green and the animals are very content
June and July: Ideal times for mountain treks (like Mount Kilimanjaro) as there is little chance of rain and the weather is cooler.
August and September: Recently, these months are a good chance to see river crossings with the Great Migration in northern Serengeti
October and November: Low tourist season and a chance of being a bit dusty, wonderful for bird-lovers to see many different species of birds and avoid the crowds.
The Great Serengeti Migration
The Great Migration is the largest, annual movement of animals anywhere in the world. An estimated 2 million animals make the regular circuit through the Serengeti and Mara-regions, crossing dangerous rivers in search of fresh grass.
Witnessing the great migration in the Serengeti is a must for travelers to Tanzania. However, there is an ongoing misunderstanding that the Migration is a one-time event that happens when wildebeests cross the Grumeti river (it is an awesome sight! So it’s understandable why this highlight has taken center stage), with some tour operators even promising prospective guests the guaranteed chance of experiencing river crossings during certain months of the year.
In reality, the Great Migration is a continuous movement of herds of wildebeest, zebras and other grazing animals in search of the best, greenest grass. Therefore,
The Great Migration never ends – it only moves
It is impossible to state exactly when river crossings will happen.
The endless Migration
The Great Migration in the Serengeti and the northern corner of Ngorongoro Conservation Area is continuous. Wildebeests and other ungulates continue the same charted course generation after generation, following in the very hoofprints of their ancestors in the incredible Serengeti ecosystem.
This means that you cannot “miss out” on seeing the Great Migration in the Serengeti: every day, every month of the year features some aspect of the amazing migration: mating season, calving, or river crossings.
Large herds of wildebeests, zebras, and more spend the majority of the year in Serengeti (usually 9 months), and will normally cross the border into Kenya for a few months. However, not all of the animals depart from Serengeti during this time. There are resident herds in Seronera, for instance, which allows safari-goers the chance to experience the thrill of a game drive any time of year.
A safari in Serengeti National park means the chance to witness the ancient movement of animals in one of the most incredible places in the world, any time of year. Really, you cannot go wrong with a safari in Serengeti National Park!
River Crossings – unpredictable
The Great Migration is continuous, following the seasonal rains. Thus, as weather patterns become increasingly unpredictable and some years the short rains have not arrived in Northern Tanzania at all, it is impossible to guarantee a river crossing in July or August.
The wildebeests do not have a human calendar and do not move based on a particular date! Any tour operator stating months ahead that they can guarantee your group will witness a river crossing is outright lying.
While recent years may show that the months of July – Sept are when the herds surge over the river and the excitement around Grumeti or Mara rivers ensues, the next year may be completely different – it is all based on the rains and the best grazing land.
Tourists are advised to be wary of any tour operator promising or guaranteeing river crossings during a safari to Serengeti National Park. No tour operator can control the weather and cause it to rain, thus inspiring millions of animals to transition across dangerous rivers: that is bogus!
If a tour operator has promised such, then they are just after your money and not really interested in giving you an amazing safari experience.
Instead, choose a reputable tour operator such as Altezza Travel, which has nearly a decade of experience leading safari tours in Tanzania. They know how to communicate with guides and rangers on-the-ground in Serengeti to advise where the herds are currently.
Altezza Travel’s emphasis is that you will have an amazing safari experience, and will use practical information from their connections around Tanzania to ensure that you have the safari of a lifetime, any time of the year.
Remember, the Great Migration is a continual event, it never really ends. You’re sure to have an amazing safari in Northern Tanzania any month of the year!