When is the best time to visit Tanzania? It’s a good question – and like most good questions a tricky one to answer, mainly because different areas in Tanzania have different attractions at different times of the year. There really is no right or wrong time to visit this well-loved country but as a rule of thumb, the dry season (from late June to October) is the most popular time for a Tanzania safari with all the trimmings.
During this dry season, animals congregate near water sources putting predators and prey in close proximity and making for some exciting game viewing. As a by-product of the water shortages the vegetation thins, thus improving visibility of animals. One important thing to bear in mind, however, is the crowding that can occur in certain reserves during these favourable periods. Should you wish to avoid other tourists, consider visiting Tanzania during the green season, usually from March to May, or even the short dry season from the end of December to February.
Below is a brief summary of some of our favourite Tanzanian parks and their seasonal perks. Hopefully this will simplify your planning process, whilst illuminating a few of the lesser-known regions…
The Best Time To Climb Kilimanjaro
Although it's possible to climb Mount Kilimanjaro all year round, timing is a factor in your chances of a successful summit. There are two optimum climbing periods, both of which coincide with the dry season months of June to October and January to February. At other times of the year, seasonal rains can make the routes slippery and challenging to navigate. January and February are generally warmer than the winter months of June to October (although differences in temperature are minimal this close to the equator). Whatever time of year you decide to climb, make sure to bring cold weather gear, because the top of the mountain is perennially crowned with ice.
These rules also apply to Mount Meru, which is located in the same area as Kilimanjaro.
The Best Time to Go on Safari
If you're not too worried about catching the migration, then the best time to go on safari (whether you're headed to the parks in the north or south) is during the long dry season. From June to October, the lack of rain means that animals are forced to congregate at the waterholes, making them much easier to spot. The foliage is less dense, too, which also helps. The weather is generally cooler and less humid (which is a significant plus if you're planning on spending long hours out in the bush), and the roads are less likely to be made impassable by flooding. From a health perspective, the dry season is a better choice because disease-carrying mosquitoes are also less prevalent.
With that being said, Northern Circuit reserves like Ngorongoro, Serengeti, and Lake Manyara usually offer good game-viewing throughout the year (except for Tarangire National Park, which is noticeably better during the long dry season).
The Best Time to Visit the Coast
If you're headed to the coast for a spot of R&R (or to any of Tanzania's idyllic Indian Ocean islands), the best time to travel is during either of the dry seasons. The March to May rains are unusually heavy on the coast, making this time of year unreliable for devoted sun worshippers. The storms also disrupt underwater visibility, which can be disappointing for scuba divers and snorkelers.
Spring Spring brings the "long rains" and is considered the low season throughout the country. Many camps will close during these months, but it's easier to find good deals on lodging, and you won't see as many other tourists.