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The Best Times to Visit Tanzania: A Year-round Adventure with Tent with a View


Welcome to Tanzania, a land of awe-inspiring landscapes, diverse wildlife, and rich cultural heritage. As the proud representative of Tent with a View, we want to guide you through the best times to visit our beautiful country. Whether you are an avid wildlife enthusiast, a birdwatcher, or simply seeking breathtaking vistas, Tanzania has something special to offer each month of the year. So, pack your bags and get ready for an unforgettable journey!


January

The new year kicks off with pleasant weather across most of Tanzania. Coastal areas, like Zanzibar, are perfect for escaping the winter blues, with temperatures ranging from 25°C to 30°C. It's an ideal time for beach lovers and snorkeling enthusiasts.Wildlife enthusiasts will be thrilled to know that the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater are in the midst of the Great Migration. Witness millions of wildebeest and zebras traverse the plains in search of greener pastures. Predators such as lions, cheetahs, and hyenas follow closely, providing heart-stopping wildlife encounters.

Birdwatchers can spot various migratory birds, including European rollers and barn swallows, adding a splash of color to the landscape.


 


Pro Tip from an Expert Guide:

After the Vuli rains which come anytime between late October and Christmas, the parks across Tanzania begin to burst into life again. Most will have been drying out since July and many areas will have been burned as a policy decision by park rangers to encourage new growth and prevent dangerous fires later on. Parks can often look pretty ugly by September and life is usually tough for the animals searching for water and the remaining graze.

January should see the green season already in full flow. This is a stunning time of year, when the parks are green and lush but the grass is still short and nutritious. Most parks have seen the delivery of their annual young (the migrating wildebeest of the Serengeti being the one major exception) and the general abundance of life feels like Spring in the northern hemisphere.

Sitting at 4000-5000 feet above seas level, Lake Victoria and the northern parks remain cold in the early mornings, hot in the middle of the day and cool in the evening. The quieter parks such as Nyerere and Saadani, near the coast, become hotter and with some humidity at this time of year.



STAR OF THE MONTH: NYERERE NATIONAL PARK (SELOUS GAME RESERVE)

The arrival of the carmine bee-eaters in Selous Nyerere can, at times, be a truly emotional experience. There are several spots in the park where they usually congregate and, once the first dazzling bird decides to follow the vehicle in pursuit of disturbed insects, hundreds may follow. They swoop and glide in huge numbers, passing just a metre or so from the open Land Rover filled with lit up faces.

By mid-January, the Nyasaland wildebeest have all dropped their young and this focuses the park’s wild dogs on the herds. The early part of the year is the best time for seeing the painted wolves which can conserve energy with easier hunting opportunities. They are famed for covering vast distances in search of prey and even chasing their quarry and mean running at speed for several kilometres. Once the wildebeest drop their young in December and January, wild dogs can afford to operate in a smaller area, following the herds with vulnerable calves.

Finally, our Sable Mountain Lodge, received its name because it touches one of the few areas where the magnificent and extremely rare Roosevelt sable antelope can be seen. The mature males are a stunning velvety black, with white markings on the face and rear, whilst the females are brown very like roan antelope. There are only three sites in the world known to harbour Roosevelt’s sable antelope; a small population of 100 or so in Shimba Hills, near the Mombasa coast of Kenya, a similar number in the unique national Park of Saadani on the Tanzania coast and perhaps 1000 in Selous – Nyerere. Throughout the dry season, they feed among the miombo trees which dominate the inaccessible hills of western Selous Nyerere, but towards the end of the year several breeding herds move to the area between Sable Mountain and the Matambwe ranger post and can usually be seen for several days at a time during December, January and February.



As you can see, January has its magic and is a great time to come on safari. It’s now up to you to decide whether you believe it really is the best time of year to visit Tanzania.

Wildlife Highlight: Witness the thrilling spectacle of baby animals during the Great Migration in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. Catch adorable newborn wildebeest, zebras, and other herbivores taking their first steps in the wild.


February

February continues to be a great time for wildlife enthusiasts, as the Great Migration spectacle continues in the Serengeti. The calving season begins, attracting large numbers of predators looking for vulnerable prey.

Weather-wise, the dry season continues in most regions, making it easier for travelers to explore various national parks and reserves. The temperatures remain pleasantly warm, perfect for game drives and outdoor adventures.



Pro Tip From An Expert Guide:

February is the heart of the green season lying perfectly between the short Vuli rians of November and the main Masika rains of April & May. The parks are usually at their most beautiful and teeming with young animals, born to time with the fresh grass and plentiful water supply.

To many who know best Tanzania and its amazing safari parks, this is the time of year to visit. The sheer volume of wildlife, the abundance of the vegetation and, perhaps best of all, the lack of other visitors makes the Tanzanian green season very attractive. Whether it is the fear that it is sandwiched  by two wet periods, an aversion to increased humidity or simply a propensity to travel less in the Northern hemisphere winter, this time of year is blissfully quiet but infinitely worth a visit.

In Selous/Nyerere a patchwork of open grassland, acacia woodland and palm-fringed lakes makes the national park appear like a 50,000sqkm golf course overrun with zebra, wildebeest, giraffe and impala. Saadani, which can struggle for wildlife when dry is bountiful and may produce elephant herds in the hundreds.



STAR OF THE MONTH: THE SERENGETI CALVINGS

There are many reasons to visit Tanzania in February, but nothing can compare with the spectacle underway in the South-East of the Serengeti eco-system. If truth be known, there is  very little to compare with the calvings in Kusini across the globe and at any time of year.

The magic comes from three points; the sheer density of large mammalian life, the absence of other visitors to share the space and the lack of any kind of infrastructure outside the fabulously isolated Bush Rover Camp. There are no roads beyond our own tyre tracks and, as such, we simply head out through the herds regularly bumping into predators whose numbers have swelled to take advantage of pregnant mothers and so many vulnerable young animals.

Cheetahs are found here in numbers reminiscent of a bygone time. Critically endangered across most of their range, these agile speed machines still thrive around the fringes of the woodland patches in Kusini, looking out, often from old termite mounds, for their regular prey, Thomson’s gazelle. During February, hundreds of thousands of new-born wildebeest provide an almost unimaginable bounty for the cats.

Hundreds, if not thousands of calves, simply lose their mother’s in the chaos of the event and are helpless against the advances of hyenas which appear to  be lurking in every ditch out on the open plains. With so much competition from the hyenas, lion prides are often large and controlled by cohorts of up to five males.

The earth is often soft from the rain which nourishes fresh grasses for the endless lines of grazers. Add a blanket of fresh faeces and conditions are near perfect for the entire floor to move. In every direction, in every tiny patch of landscape in view, chunky beetles roll their dung balls, stopping now and then to mount the sphere and spin 360.  Eventually, they chose a spot to dig into the dirt and leave their larvae encased in a nutritious meal.

There is probably no opportunity left on earth to witness such a remarkable wildlife spectacle as the migrating wildebeest giving birth in such numbers with so few others to witness it.



Wildlife Highlight: February is the prime time for predator action as large numbers of wildebeest give birth in the Serengeti. Watch lions, cheetahs, and hyenas seizing opportunities to hunt down vulnerable prey.


March

March marks the start of the rains, and the landscapes are lush and vibrant. It is a quieter time to visit Tanzania, making it an excellent choice for those seeking a more intimate safari experience.

Tarangire National Park becomes a hotspot as large herds of elephants gather around the Tarangire River to quench their thirst. Birdwatchers will be delighted by the presence of migratory bird species like the yellow-throated longclaw and the northern carmine bee-eater.



Pro Tip From An Expert Guide:

By mid-March the clouds are usually gathering with real intensity. The air is heavy and, away from the elevated lands in the North and West, the humidity is starting to build significantly. The rain eases the oppressive air but floods great swathes of the country. Vast areas may be submerged and many of the roads in the national parks of Tanzania become impassable.

So, could the rainy season really be the best time of year to visit Tanzania? Well, perhaps it could?

For those who love to break the mould, to escape the crowds, to risk a miserable failure of a holiday for the chance of a life-enhancing experience few have ever managed, this could be their moment.

There are very few scheduled air services into the parks, and many camps and lodges may be closed, but then some are prepared to brave the weather, to try and grab some business from the brave/foolhardy folk willing to have a go. They are likely to offer great prices. For the intrepid traveller, happy to take whatever the elements can throw at them but who may just find themselves witnessing the very best mother nature can produce in the kind of splendid isolation usually reserved for only the most privileged, this is a great time to go.



STAR OF THE MONTH:

Inevitably, it is impossible to pick a star park to visit in a time of such unpredictability. At this time of year, it is best to book late having done your homework on conditions across Tanzania.

The main tracks through most of the parks are maintained to remain open in the rains because the rangers need to get through. Even with no side tracks to explore, there are often so few tourist vehicles that these main roads are blissfully quiet. Most of the animals would rather walk on dry land and so, with such little traffic around, many can be found walking the thoroughfares which are likely to provide the animals with their driest passage.



Wildlife Highlight: The Tarangire National Park becomes a paradise for elephant enthusiasts during March. Witness herds of elephants gathering around the Tarangire River, offering fantastic photo opportunities.


April

April is the "green season," where Tanzania comes to life with lush vegetation and blooming flowers. While some areas may experience occasional rain showers, it's an excellent time to enjoy lower rates and fewer crowds.The southern circuit parks, such as Selous Game Reserve and Ruaha National Park, are at their best during this time, offering fantastic game viewing opportunities.



Wildlife Highlight: The Southern Circuit parks, like Selous Game Reserve, come alive with incredible sightings of wild dogs during April. These elusive and endangered creatures are a rare and special treat.


May

As the long rains subside, May is a transitional month with clear skies and rejuvenated landscapes. The Serengeti and the western corridor are still prime locations for observing the wildebeest migration.

For bird enthusiasts, many resident bird species, including the Fischer's lovebird and the lilac-breasted roller, are actively nesting and displaying their vibrant plumage.



Wildlife Highlight: May is an excellent time for birdwatching, with many migratory species arriving in Tanzania. Keep an eye out for the striking Fischer's lovebird and the colorful lilac-breasted roller.


June

June marks the beginning of the dry season, and temperatures gradually drop, creating pleasant conditions for outdoor activities. It is an excellent time to visit the Western Serengeti, as the wildebeest migration is concentrated in the Grumeti River region.

If you're interested in birdwatching, June is an excellent month to spot the endemic grey-breasted spurfowl and rufous-tailed weaver.



Wildlife Highlight: June offers fantastic opportunities to witness large herds of elephants, buffalo and the wildebeest migration in the Western Serengeti.


July

July is the peak of the dry season, making it the most popular time for wildlife enthusiasts to visit Tanzania. The Serengeti's northern plains host the dramatic Mara river crossings of the Great Migration.

Apart from the migration, Tanzania's national parks are teeming with wildlife. Predators like lions, leopards, and cheetahs are highly active, providing thrilling safari experiences.



Wildlife Highlight: This is the peak of the Great Migration's river crossings in the Serengeti and Masai Mara. Witness the dramatic scenes as wildebeest and zebras brave crocodile-infested waters.


August

The Great Migration continues its grand spectacle in the Serengeti, with thousands of wildebeest crossing the Mara River, braving the jaws of crocodiles.August is also a fantastic time for birdwatchers, as many resident and migratory species congregate around the water sources. Keep an eye out for the impressive martial eagle and the colorful violet-backed starling.



Wildlife Highlight: August is the best time for big cat sightings, particularly in the Serengeti. Lions, leopards, and cheetahs are highly active during this period.


September

September is likely to be the height of the dry season. This can be a time of high drama; existence at its most brutal; terrain often burned and ugly, animals sometimes emaciated and desperate. The season is polarising; often harsh and ugly but exhilarating and dramatic.

It is not the case everywhere. The Serengeti migration follows its own micro-climate and usually avoids the worst of any drought but move to the East of the park and over the border into the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and life starts to look very harsh. Maasai move their herds huge distances across grassless plains, looking for water. What little they find; they must share with all the wildlife of the area.

In Selous/Nyerere the wildlife congregates around the disappearing lakes formed when the Rufiji River floodplain fills from the annual rains. Vegetation is extremely sparse, even here, but the waters of the lakes are vital to keep the animals alive. The massive populations of both crocs and hippos are forced into closer proximity. Relations in the hippo pods become fractious and fights are never far away. Drinking from the water’s edge becomes much more dangerous because there are so many crocodiles lying low in the water.  Some years the treacherous mud which borders the remaining water traps heavy buffalo which must then wait to starve or be picked off by the predators.

In Tarangire National Park, the river of the same name becomes a magnet for incredible congregations of elephants. Hundreds gather together, stripping the large trees with deep roots which line the riverbank and digging through sand along its course in search of the palatable water which still moves below. All manner of wildlife follows the elephants to quench their thirst from the holes in the sand left by the great pachyderms.




Star Turn

Ruaha National Park, has perhaps the starkest seasonal change of all. Water is very hard to find in September and animal concentrations can be incredible. Storks and herons gather in hundreds around drying pools picking off the ever more concentrated fish struggling to stay immersed.

Life is very tough for young buffalo on the fringes of massive herds. Many weak animals will starve or die of thirst, many more will be picked up easily by predators. The experience can be at once breath-taking and heartbreaking and serves as a stark reminder of life at its most fundamental.

One note of warning; beware the tsetse flies! No one is going to be affected by sleeping sickness but they hurt when they bite and covering up against them is a good idea.


October

The Serengeti is buzzing with wildlife during October, as the herds return southwards. Predators are in full force, taking advantage of the abundance of prey.

This is an ideal time for birdwatching, with many species displaying their breeding plumage. Lake Manyara National Park is particularly famous for its flocks of flamingos and tree-climbing lions.



Wildlife Highlight: Experience the wildlife extravaganza along the Rufiji River, with predators and prey congregating around the water sources, including the elusive African wild dogs, offering thrilling game viewing moments.


November & December

Statistically, November is the period of the short rains (the Vuli) and, as such, theoretically a period to avoid. In truth, the rain may come as early as October and often doesn’t appear until the back end of December, just in time for the Christmas rush!

So it is that November and the first half of December can be an amazing time to visit. It is extremely quiet because of the aforementioned Vuli rains and is, of course, traditionally a quiet time for holidaymaking worldwide. This will likely improve your chances of getting an exceptional deal whilst enjoying popular destinations without the usual crowds and having the lesser known areas virtually to yourself. To some this kind of exclusivity is priceless and something you would usually have to break the bank for.



Another wonderful feature of this time of year is that most of the animals which give birth according to a seasonal pattern, do so at this time of year. With the exception of the migrating wildebeest of Serengeti, all other gnus across Tanzania (including a considerable number of non-migrating wildebeest in the Western Corridor of Serengeti) have their young in December. Impala, warthogs, hartebeest and many more animals are already nursing vulnerable offspring by the start of November. You are likely to be cooing ann giggling in equal measure, at the sight of young impala and warthogs and you may just experience the thrill of witnessing a live birth.

As a footnote, the back end of December is unsurprisingly much busier, but a wilderness Christmas can be a wonderful experience. It makes a great alternative to the usual festivities at home and is sometimes a choice for those feeling they a break from the norm.



Star Turn

Other special attractions may include the emergence of the extremely rare Roosevelt sable antelope in Selous/Nyerere NP but, as a star turn, a truly unique safari could be to visit the Gol Mountains in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. From late October, the migrating wildebeest of the Serengeti usually begin to head South and East. By late November/early December the remote Gol Mountains which sit between the towering craters of Ngorongoro and the vast plains of the Serengeti. It is an area where the famous Maasai nomads are still allowed to roam with their livestock. Walking with the Maasai, surrounded  by tens of thousands of wildebeest is an enthralling possibility here and something which is simply not possible anywhere else. It goes without saying that you can expect to meet no other tourists whilst here and can experience something few ever have.