Let’s face it. An African safari is a big trip for most people. It’s an endeavor which requires a significant investment of time, energy and money. This really is a “once in a lifetime” type of experience for many folks who may never get the opportunity to go back to Africa again, so naturally everyone wants to get it right the first time.
“What time of year is the BEST time of year to go on safari?” seems like a critical question, especially because so many places in Africa (and other parts of the world) can be so seasonal. You just don’t want to miss out on anything important simply because you lacked the necessary information to plan it right.
Well, here’s the good news: As long as you are working with a knowledgeable safari company that understands the wildlife patterns, there really is NO BAD TIME TO GO ON SAFARI in Northern Tanzania, especially with regards to Serengeti National Park. I know that all sounds too good to be true; how could it be so easy? But it is!
Cue *sigh of relief!*
Here’s why: Even though many of the animals in this region of Tanzania are migratory, meaning they move from one area to another throughout the year, they do follow a fairly predictable pattern and most importantly they are always *there*, it is just a matter of knowing where to go to find them. And WE DO. Therefore we strategically design your itinerary to put your where the animals are, setting you up for success no matter what time of year you ultimately go on safari.
PLUS the wonderfully mild climate in Northern Tanzania (semi-arid and sunny with average highs in the 80s) helps to make it a comfortable place to visit all year long.
Some noteworthy events include the great wildebeest calving that occurs during February, and the crossing of the great Mara River that can occur almost anytime during the dry season, usually crossing the river multiple times between late July and early November. But rest assured, there is no shortage of drama to be found in the Serengeti at any time of year, as long as you are focusing your time in the right areas where the greatest number of animals are concentrated according to the season.
Even though each month of the year is special and brimming with unique wildlife viewing opportunities, it may still be worthwhile to understand some of the subtle differences in the various seasons throughout the year, which can be loosely lumped into two primary categories here in Northern Tanzania: the “green season” and the “dry season.”
GREEN SEASON (Dec-May):
The scenery is green and beautiful during this time (great colors for photography) and the animals are generally healthy and active as the green season is a time of plenty for them. Many animals time the birth of their families to coincide with the green season too, so you will be maximizing your chance to see baby animals, especially with regards to the herbivores that rely on the new grass shoots such gazelle fawns, zebra foals and various species of calves. The green season is one of the best times to see cheetahs (my favorite animal) as you will game drive Gol Kopjes in the green season, as well as the NCA, which are favorite hangouts for cheetahs because of the open plains, short grass, and ample supply of Thompson’s gazelle (their favorite prey.)
The Great Migration of wildebeest and zebra will be densely concentrated on the open Southern Serengeti plains, offering a stunning spectacle you won’t soon forget. The wildebeest usually have their babies in February (roughly 80% are born in Feb), making March , April, and May all excellent times to safari. As you can imagine, many of the great predators are never far away from this great moving buffet, so in addition to cheetahs you’ll have lots of opportunities to see lions, leopards, and hyenas too. There is a chance for rain showers during this time of year, especially in late March and April (that’s where the “green” comes from), but because of the semi-arid climate here, seldom does it rain enough to compromise one’s safari experience in any significant way.
DRY SEASON (June-Nov):
With hardly any rainfall during this time of year, the weather and associated driving conditions are fairly predictable, and the grass and foliage are sparse which can make it a bit easier to spot some of the more elusive wildlife such as the big cats. The weather is also at it’s coolest during this time, with average temperature highs peaking in the low-mid 80’s. The Great Migration will be surging through the pristine Northern Serengeti, which is an inherently beautiful area full of trees and other pretty scenery, so it’s rather convenient when the animals are located in such a beautiful area because this is the area where you will want to spend a large amount of time, and you can enjoy both animals and scenery!
Some areas like the Tarangire River will also be a huge draw to thirsty animals like elephants when smaller water sources have disappeared. You can see literally hundreds of elephants gathered around the Tarangire river when it’s dry here. Downsides to the dry season include more dust and small accommodations can book up quicker during the months of July and August since many people in the US and Europe travel during their summer. But still, because of the nice weather, lovely scenery and consistently good wildlife viewing, the dry season is a pleasant and fairly predictable time to plan a safari. As mentioned previously, it hardly rains at all during the dry season.
Check out these reviews and discussions from prior safari guests to get their thoughts on the best time of year for a safari in Tanzania.
Happy planning and enjoy your safari! No matter what time of year you go!
We began our safari on March 20, 2015 at the Central Serengeti Airstrip where I picked up my guests named Al and Susan after they took off from the Arusha Airport. They had just landed into Tanzania the night before after flying all the way from the U.S. (Florida). I was very excited to begin the safari in the Central Serengeti since wildlife viewing had been excellent in this area during my last couple of safaris this year. Luckily, the Central Serengeti did not disappoint us and we were blessed with plenty of wildlife sightings right away including the famous predators of the Serengeti.
We had a superb itinerary that fully explored the great ecosystem of the Serengeti and Ngorongoro and had a diverse mix of luxury lodges and tented camps. We had 9 nights together with 2 nights at the Four Seasons Hotel in the Central Serengeti, 2 nights at Kusini Tented Camp in the Southwest Serengeti, 2 nights on the South Plains at Lake Masek Camp and 3 nights in the Ngorongoro Crater area with the beautiful Crater and Manor Lodges. My guests and I had very nice time on this trip and we were very lucky with fantastic sightings of Elephants, Giraffes, Hippos, Lions, Cheetahs, Leopards, Rhinos and so many others.
I have a few photos that I took from our 9 days together that I would like to share with you. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed taking them.
Leopard near Kusini Camp in the Southwest Serengeti
Elephants heading for water towards the big marsh at Ndutu, South Serengeti. It has been very dry this year.
Giraffe on Makoma Plain of the Seronera Valley-Central Serengeti.
Lions mating near Sametu Kopjes, East Serengeti.
Cheetah with cubs near Kusini Camp (Silcon Springs Area)
Thomson Gazelles fighting in the Ngorongoro Crater
Elephant Bull – Ngorongoro Crater
Greetings again from Tanzania! My name is Russell Temu, a guide with Africa Dream Safaris. I just finished my latest safari (March 26, 2015 to April 4, 2015) with two guests from Seattle, USA named Cynthia and Cary. We started in the central region of the Serengeti National Park on March 26, 2015 with 3 nights at Seronera Sametu Camp. We then headed to the Southern Serengeti Plains for 3 nights at Lake Masek Camp. We concluded our adventure together with 3 nights in the Ngorongoro Crater area split between Crater Lodge and the Ngorongoro Manor located between the coffee farm and the Ngorongoro forest. We had an abundance of spectacular wildlife sightings even though it was unusually dry for this time of year. Thankfully we are receiving a few rain showers as I write this. Please enjoy my pictures I managed to take on the safari.
A lioness with her three little cubs near Maasai Kopjes in the Central Serengeti.
Breakfast time in the Ngorongoro Crater!
A female cheetah in the Ndutu area of the South Serengeti searching for prey.
Wildebeest at a waterhole in the Central Serengeti.
A close view of one of the male lions of the Sametu Pride named the ‘Greek Gods’.
We spotted a spitting cobra along the road in a water pool searching for food.
Cheetah cubs around Utafiti Kopjes.
Mating lions at the Sametu Marsh in the Central Serengeti.
Giraffes around the small marsh area of Ndutu, South Serengeti.
A single line of hippos in Lake Masek, South Serengeti.
Pictured here are three young male lions in the Ndutu area of the South Serengeti. T