Tanzania Travel Guide
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.
Best Time to Go : Jun to Oct (Migration from Jun-Jul & Jan-Feb) High Season : July to March (Northern circuit parks get crowded) Size : 947,303km² / 365,756mi
PROS AND CONS
- Superb wildlife viewing, including the annual wildebeest migration in the Serengeti
- Off-the-beaten-track safaris in Nyerere 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
- Relatively expensive safari destination
- Some popular parks can be crowded
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
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 Nyerere 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.
RECOMMENDED WILDLIFE BOOK
- A Field Guide to the Larger Mammals of Tanzania
- Field Guide to the Larger Mammals of Africa
- Pocket Guide to Mammals of East Africa
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 Tanzania
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, Nyerere, 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 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
- January & February – The northern parks and coastal areas tend to have a break in the rainy 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
NATIONAL PARKS & GAME RESERVE – TANZANIA
Premier Parks & Reserves
- Ngorongoro Crater
- Nyerere National Park
- Ruaha National Park
- Serengeti National Park
- Gombe National Park
- Katavi National Park
- Lake Manyara NP
- Tarangire National Park
BIRDS – TANZANIA
Tanzania is one of Africa’s best birding destinations. It has one of the largest species lists of any African country: over 1,100, of which over 800 species are resident, and nearly 200 are regular migrants. There are 22 species endemic and thus unique to Tanzania, and a further 43 near-endemic, restricted to Tanzania and neighboring countries only. Migrants are present from November to April.
Endemic birds only occur in Tanzania.
- Ashy starling
- Banded green sunbird
- Fischer’s lovebird
- Grey-breasted spurfowl
- Iringa akalat
- Kilombero weaver
- Loveridge’s sunbird
- Moreau’s sunbird
- Mrs Moreau’s warbler
- Pemba green pigeon
- Pemba scops owl
- Pemba sunbird
- Pemba white-eye
- Rufous-tailed weaver
- Rufous-winged sunbird
- Tanzania seedeater
- Tanzanian red-billed hornbill
- Udzungwa forest partridge
- Uluguru bush-shrike
- Usambara akalat
- Usambara eagle owl
- Usambara weaver
OTHER BIRDING SPECIALS
Treats for Avid Birders
- Bar-tailed trogon
- Böhm’s spinetail
- Broad-tailed paradise whydah
- Brown-breasted barbet
- Brown-necked parrot
- Chestnut-fronted helmet-shrike
- Golden-breasted starling
- Green tinkerbird
- Green-headed oriole
- Hartlaub’s turaco
- Lappet-faced vulture
- Livingstone’s flycatcher
- Long-tailed fiscal
- Marsh tchagra
- Pale-billed hornbill
- Pallid honeyguide
- Secretary bird
- White-headed mousebird
BEST TIME FOR BIRD WATCHING
The birdlife in Tanzania is good year-round, but at its best from November to April when the migratory birds from Europe and northern Africa are present. At this time, many resident bird species are nesting and are in breeding plumage. The wettest months are March and April, when parts of the country may experience storms on a daily basis. The Wet season is also the hottest time of the year. This may make it uncomfortably hot on the coast. For wildlife viewing, the dry season,
BEST PARKS FOR BIRDING
Includes Birding Rating
All the well-known safari parks offer good birding opportunities, and specials can be found pretty much everywhere you go. The often-overlooked Arusha National Park has an amazing diversity of habitats that host an incredible list of 400 species in a small area. Lake Manyara offers a good variety of water birds.