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January

Weather

Occasional showers can be expected in January. The rains from early November to late March are usually sporadic and typically do not last for more then a few hours. There is a chance of heavier rain during this period but during most years the heavier rains fall in April. These expected sporadic showers do not usually pose much of an inconvenience while game driving. If it does rain, it will usually clear in 1-2 hours and more then likely the rain will be localized. It is rare that rain clouds will settle over a large area for an extended period of time.

Rain falls in different amounts over various locations throughout Northern Tanzania. The Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire and Lake Manyara receive higher rainfall then many parts of the Serengeti. There is a steep rainfall gradient in the Serengeti from the dry southeast to the wet northwest. The winds that bring rain blow from the east. The Ngorongoro Highlands block much of the rain from reaching the eastern and southern plains of the Serengeti. However, the western and northern parts of the Serengeti receive a much greater amount (2-3 times more) of participation as compared to the southern and eastern Serengeti. The wetter western and northern Serengeti areas are affected by Lake Victoria. This means that in the southern Serengeti where you should ideally focus your January safari, the rains should not be an issue and it will rain substantially less then the other areas of the Serengeti and Tanzania.

Temperatures are pleasant with an average high of 83 degrees and an average low of 60 degrees. However, the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater can get quite cold at night and in the early morning. Visitor numbers will be moderately high in mid January and very high in the beginning of January with the New Year's crowd. The good news is that the vast majority of people are on package tours staying at the main lodges and zipping around the main roads in only a few popular areas. With careful planning we can customize your safari so you will encounter more lions than people in even the beginning of January.



Seasonal Wildlife Highlights


Serengeti National Park

Northern Serengeti (Woodlands)
Not recommended during January.

Western Serengeti (Woodlands)
Not recommended during January.

Central Serengeti (Plains/Woodlands Border)
January Recommended Duration of Game Drives: 1 - 2 Days
January Wildlife Highlights: Leopard, Lion, Giraffe, Impala, Buffalo, Hippo

The Central Serengeti offers superb game viewing year round due to the abundance of resident animals. Specifically, the Seronera River Valley in the Central Serengeti is a ‘must see’ on every safari regardless of the specific month of travel. Game viewing is better during the dry season (June - October) but during the wet season including January there is still plenty of resident animal action. Resident herbivores include impala, buffalo, hippo, warthog, topi, hartebeest and giraffe. Resident carnivores include lion and leopard.

There are 12 documented resident lion prides just within a one-hour game drive radius from Seronera. All these prides do shift east and south in their territories during the wet season but they are still reachable though not in the same numbers found during the dry season. The Seronera Valley in the Central Serengeti is also one of the best areas in Africa to spot the elusive leopard. You will likely encounter this majestic cat in the branches of the sausage trees that dot the banks of the Seronera River.


Eastern Serengeti (Plains)
January Recommended Duration of Game Drives: 1 - 2 Days
January Wildlife Highlights: Cheetah, Hyena, Eland Migration,
Thomson’s Gazelle Migration

The Eastern Plains of the Serengeti are extremely seasonal. During the dry season, you will likely encounter only a few hearty Grant’s gazelle. However, the eastern plains come to life in the wet season including January and offer incredible game viewing for certain species of animals. A day trip at the minimum should be included in every green season itinerary.

The GOL Kopjes, located on the Eastern Plains, boasts the highest concentrations of cheetahs in Africa during the wet season. The majority of the cheetahs in the Serengeti are migratory in that many of them follow the Thomson’s Gazelle migration to the eastern short grass plains during the wet season and then back to the Central Serengeti (plains/woodland border) during the dry season.

The Eastern Plains are also the main wet season range of the giant eland migration. Additionally, you will likely find large clans of hyenas numbering up to 30 individuals in a single group. Hyenas are semi-nomadic and ‘commute’ to the Eastern Plains during the wet season from their den sites located in the Central Serengeti.

East of the Serengeti way out beyond the GOL Kopjes are the Eastern Plains of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Hundreds of thousands of migratory wildebeest range both the southern and eastern plains. You will likely encounter thousands of wildebeest from the GOL Kopjes, east through Angata Kiti and into the Salei Plains by the active volcano Mount Lengai. This is an extremely beautiful and remote area of the Eastern Plains and if you are adventurous enough to visit you will be rewarded with superb off the beaten track game viewing.


Southern Serengeti (Plains)
January Recommended Duration of Game Drives: 2 - 4 Days
January Wildlife Highlights: Wildebeest Migration and Zebra Migration,
Lion, Cheetah, Elephant

The Southern Serengeti steals the show in the wet season including January. The life giving rains that generally begin in mid November and last through early May trigger the great wildebeest migration into the plains of the South Serengeti and the northern Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

The green season is a wonderful time to be on safari in the southern Serengeti and the northern Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Rain means game in the Serengeti and wildlife should be prolific on the Southern Serengeti Plains. The southern plains encompass a massive area so it’s best to locate yourself in more then one area if time allows. The wildebeest migration will most likely be spread across the now green plains of the northern NCA and the southern Serengeti. The calving season should be beginning towards the end of January. Along with the migration, predators should be abundant. There should be good cheetah sightings though not to the extent seen on the Eastern Plains. Lions should be easily visible, both resident prides and the nomads which have followed the migration from the woodlands. Elephants can also be found in the Southern Serengeti in the patches of woodland that dot the plains including the woodlands around Lake Ndutu and Kusini.

The massive wildebeest herds are usually located just south of the Serengeti border in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. There will undoubtedly be smaller herds actually within the Serengeti proper but the main herds should be located in the extreme south. This makes Olduvai Camp and Ndutu Lodge in a prime position to catch the herds. Kusini Camp is also an excellent choice. More Serengeti National Park Information.


Ngorongoro Crater
January Recommended Duration of Game Drives: 1 - 2 Days
January Wildlife Highlights: Black Rhino, Elephant, Buffalo, Lion, Cheetah

The Ngorongoro Crater, described as one of the wonders of the world, is an amazing natural sanctuary not to be missed. Game viewing here is among the very best Africa has to offer and is excellent at any time of year. The crater is very small at only about 10 miles across. With just one game drive in the Crater, it is possible to circumnavigate the crater several times and see all the main highlights. However, every safari we offer includes two separate game drives in the Crater over a course of two days including one early morning 6AM drive. The goal on the early morning game drive is to be the first person in the Crater that day. Animals are generally more active in the morning, which makes the early morning game drive option an excellent choice.

The crater is not a self-contained ecosystem and some animals do migrate in and out of the surrounding NCA but not in any significant numbers to warrant tailoring your itinerary. The main factors for planning are weather and visitor numbers. In January, the crater should be beginning to turn green which makes it a bit more dramatic but visitor numbers will be relatively high. More Ngorongoro Crater Information.


Tarangire National Park
January Recommended Duration of Game Drives: 0 - 2 Days
January Wildlife Highlights: Elephant, Giraffe, Impala, Raptors

The wildlife rhythms of Tarangire are almost directly opposite to those of the Serengeti. Tarangire comes into its own during the dry season (July - November) when enormous populations of elephants and other animals are drawn to the Tarangire River and other sources of permanent water within the park. During the wet season, many of the animals disperse into the surrounding areas of the greater ecosystem.

By January many of the animals will have dispersed into the greater ecosystem, as the rains will likely have been sporadic since November. Wildlife viewing will be fair to good as there are moderate numbers of resident animals around. Expect to see fairly large concentrations of elephants but just not massive numbers found in the dry season. With a little luck, you might see herds numbering up to 100 individuals as opposed to the 300 or more strong herds commonly found in the drier months. Lions are still resident within the park but they are generally more difficult to find in the wet season. Though game viewing will not be at its best, the landscape will be especially beautiful.

During the wet season the roads in Tarangire can be difficult to traverse due to the presence of black cotton soil. Additionally, insect concentrations will be relatively high and could pose a problem for some individuals.

Due to the above conditions, we generally only recommend Tarangire for the curious adventures or for longer itineraries. Game viewing in the Serengeti will be superb during the wet season and we feel that a visit to Tarangire is usually only warranted on longer safaris. Accordingly, all of our itineraries up to 10 days do not include Tarangire and only itineraries 11 days or longer incorporate a few nights in this seasonal park. However, everything is (as always) completely flexible and we can include even just one night in Tarangire for any wet season itinerary. Feel free to give us a call to discuss whether Tarangire may or may not be a good choice on your green season itinerary. More Tarangire Information.


Lake Manyara National Park
January Recommended Duration of Game Drives: 0 - 1 Day
January Wildlife Highlights: Elephant, Baboons, Giraffe, Impala, Birding

Game viewing is generally fair to good in Lake Manyara at any time of year. However, Lake Manyara does not offer the abundance of wildlife nor quality of wildlife viewing experiences found in the other parks of Northern Tanzania. Similar to Ngorongoro Crater, seasonal wildlife patterns are not significant enough to warrant tailoring your itinerary.

Lake Manyara is a beautiful little park and is famous for its tree-climbing lions, elephants and large troops of baboons. The park is home to an amazing variety of birds and animals considering its small size. A short visit to this serene park will greatly diversify your safari experience as the lush green jungle habitat is of stark contrast to the other parks you will visit during your safari.

We find that a quick day visit to Lake Manyara before either heading back towards Kilimanjaro or on the way from the Crater to Tarangire is sufficient and ideal for most travelers. The park gate is just a few feet from the main road and this combined with the fact that the park is small allows for quick and rewarding forays into the park. A one to four hour visit to Lake Manyara makes a superb addition to any safari itinerary. More Lake Manyara Information.

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