Northern Tanzania Climate
The majority of the famous wildlife parks of Northern Tanzania (situated just south of the equator) rest upon an elevated plateau creating a wonderfully temperate climate. Average highs are in the low 80s and average lows are in the 50s and 60s. The temperatures are very comfortable and there is little humidity due to the high elevation. The moderate climate creates a comfortable environment for wildlife viewing throughout the entire day. Even during mid-day it is rarely too hot for game viewing and many animals remain active. Wildlife viewing is a year round event due to the equatorial climate and there really is no preferred season in terms of weather though some individuals prefer the green season as it’s not as dry or dusty. Full rainy days are rare and even during the green season (November to May), there is a greater proportion of sunshine and only brief and refreshing showers are the norm.
The Serengeti National Park ranges in altitude from about 5,000 - 6,000 feet while Tarangire and Lake Manyara (situated in the rift valley) are lower in elevation (approximately 3,500 feet) and a little warmer. On the other hand, the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater is situated at 7,500 – 8,000 feet and is significantly colder especially in the early morning. During the slightly warmer months from October to March, the average high is 84 degrees while the average low is 60 degrees in the Serengeti. During the slightly cooler months from April to September, expect an average high of 81 degrees and an average low of 55 degrees in the Serengeti. However, the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater can get significantly colder due to the high elevation and one needs a heavy sweater here year round. June, July and August are the coldest months and lows can sometimes drop into the 30s and 40s at the Ngorongoro Crater though daily high temperatures are unaffected. Make sure to bring a heavy sweater, gloves and warm hat during June, July and August for those early morning game drives in the Ngorongoro Crater.
There are two pronounced seasons in Tanzania including a green season from late November to early May and a dry season from mid May to mid November. In most regions of East Africa, rainfall is usually higher in November and December (the short rains) than in January and February (the short dry season) and then rain falls again in March, April and May (the long rains). However, this is not the case in Northern Tanzania and especially in the Serengeti National Park! The so-called ‘short rains’ and ‘long rains’ in Northern Tanzania are significantly less pronounced and rain tends to fall sporadically from mid November to late April or early May. It has been completely unpredictable during the last ten years as to which green season month or months receive the most rain. In any event, the sporadic rain showers do not hamper your ability to game drive and, in fact, only enhance wildlife viewing. There is an old adage in the Serengeti that ‘rain means game’ and this definitely rings true during the green season when the herds are on the vibrant green plains especially in March and April.
Please keep in mind that most guidebooks are not destination specific and their data is not representative of Northern Tanzania but rather East Africa as a whole, which can be very misleading due to the unique climatic and geographic features of Northern Tanzania (Ngorongoro Highlands, Lake Victoria, etc.).
Rainfall gauges in Northern Tanzania (specifically in the Serengeti where most people spend the majority of their safari), indicate that the rains typically start in mid to late November and continue to fall sporadically or irregularly until early May. Toward late April or the beginning of May, a northeasterly wind springs up, signaling the start of the long dry season. Please keep in mind that rain showers do not hinder your ability to game drive and few years are typical and the onset and severity of seasons vary widely.