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Zebras and wildebeest of the migration.
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  More about seasons
Dry season means ...
... less water. The longer into the dry season, the more difficult for the animals to find water – they congregate around permanent rivers and water holes. Little quality grazing is available. The grass is short and dry, and re-growth is poor. Deciduous trees drop their leaves. The less dense vegetation makes game viewing easier.
Weather bringing local rainfall is welcome during dry seasons. Animal congregations then disperse, as water becomes available throughout the bush. Some animals, such as wildebeest, may move far for fresh grass brought by the rain. For safari-goers, some bad weather is not too bad. Overcast or rainy days are cooler, meaning more activity among both animals and safari-goers.
Rainy season means ...
... a green and blossoming landscape. Vegetation is denser than during dry seasons, as the grass is growing high and the trees are leaved. Surface water is generally available, so the animals don't have to stay where permanent water is available. Quality grazing is also generally available. Animal congregations disperse.
Spells of heavy rain (mainly during the long rains) disimprove conditions for safaris. Small roads and bush tracks may become impassable, and even unpaved main roads can be affected when rain conditions are extreme. As a result, you may be prevented from visiting certain areas within the parks, or to access the parks at all. Rainfall also disimproves the conditions for game viewing, as sunroofs and windows in safari jeeps may have to be kept closed, and as the rain itself means less visibility.
Some lodges and tented camps close during the rainy seasons.
  More web sites
Tanzania Meteorological Agency
Kenya Meteorological Department
 
 
Planning your safari:
Safari seasons
Most of the year is fine for safaris in Kenya and Tanzania. You probably want to avoid the rainy seasons, though, when the conditions for safaris are not as good as during dry seasons.
 
Season summary
Seasons for
good safaris:
All year, except for rainy April and May, and rainy November and early December.
Hottest season:

October to March.

Rainy seasons: April–May, 'the long rains'.
November, 'the short rains'.
Best wildlife seasons: Varies from park to park, for example:
· Serengeti: December to March
· Masai Mara: August to October
· Tarangire: September to October
· Selous & Ruaha: September to October
· Ngorongoro: All year round
Most popular seasons:

February
July and August
October
Christmas and New Year

Tourist seasons
The following applies to the most popular safari regions, i.e. northern Tanzania (Serengeti, Ngorongoro etc) and central/southern Kenya (Masai Mara, Lake Nakuru etc).

Go for dry seasons
December–March and June–October are dry seasons, when conditions for safaris are generally the best. That's when to go, to fully enjoy a safari.

Avoid rainy seasons
We suggest that you avoid going during a rainy season. Safari-goers may encounter problems travelling in the bush, due to damaged roads, flooded bridges and mud. Game viewing is less rewarding when windows and roof hatches on safari vehicles have to be closed to keep the rain out.

April to May are the wettest months (called 'the long rains'). Some days may be nice and sunny, as it doesn't rain continuously for the whole season, but overall you can expect rain.

Another rainy season ('the short rains') in November, sometimes continuing into December, brings less rain. Much of it falls in the afternoons and evenings, and there may be clear days, too. It may still be wet enough to cause accessibility problems on poor roads, and to make good game driving difficult.

Tours during rainy seasons
Some travel companies sell tours even during the rainy season in April and May, and as this is a low season, these tours cost less. But conditions for safaris, coastal holidays, mountain climbing and other activities may not be very good during these months, due to rainfall.

Temperatures
The temperatures in the main safari areas, most of them situated inland, are 25–30+ºC/77–85+ºF during October–March, and 5º/10º less during the rest of the year. Rainfall brings cooler temperatures.

The air in the inland safari regions is mainly dry.

Altitude
Most good parks are situated inland, and many of them at altitudes between 800 m/2,600 ft and 1,800 m/5,900 ft. This is not because they are mountainous, but because much of inland East Africa lies on a plateau. Due to the altitude, nights are cool and pleasant, even after very hot days. Also mornings are cool, so you may want a wind-proof jacket or sweater during early morning game drives.

Some good parks are mountainous, for example Mount Kenya National Park in Kenya and the Ngorongoro Crater area in Tanzania. Here, you may be staying at altitudes higher than 2,000 m/6,500 ft, which means night that may be cold. Some lodges even have central heating.

Tour prices
As to safari tour prices in general, it's low season from April to mid-June. It's high season the rest of the year, except for the peak season during Christmas and New Year, when prices are the highest.

The numbers of visitors to Kenya and Tanzania are highest during February, July to August, October, and Christmas and New Year.

June can be a month with relatively few visitors and good game viewing.

General on weather
Note that East Africa, like most places in the world, has weather, ranging from good to bad. There can be rainy days during dry seasons, and sunny days during rainy seasons.

Also note that the rainy seasons aren't fully predictable. They may start and end earlier or later, and don't come at all some years.

Sunrise in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania.

Wildlife seasons
The wildlife conditions (whereabouts, congregations, numbers) in many parks vary during the year, depending on season. The variations depend on local factors, and are not the same for all parks. Therefore, no tour or safari route can be said to be the best, unless you also specify during witch time of year.

Wildlife peaks
Many parks have one or a few peaks every year, when factors such as migrations, temperatures, grazing and water sum up to prime game viewing conditions. Most of these factors are controlled by seasons and weather. The peaks for all parks don't coincide, though. While one park may be as good as it ever gets in February, game viewing in a nearby park may be less than ultimate at that time.

The great migration
The migration in the Serengeti and Masai Mara region is an example of wildlife changing seasonally. The herds of the migration normally spend December to June in Serengeti in Tanzania, and August to October in Masai Mara in Kenya. This means that an area crowded with wildebeest and zebras may be virtually deserted a few months later.

The wildebeest give birth to their calves during a few weeks starting in the middle of February, when the migration is normally in southern Serengeti.

Water and vegetation
To the wildlife, dry seasons mean congregating where there is permanent water, or, if there is no such source of water, moving to a different area that has water, maybe outside of the park.

Wet seasons mean that both water and quality grazing is widely available, and animals may disperse over large areas. Most flowers, butterflies and other insects etc are seen during wet seasons, and mean food for larger animals, reptiles and birds.

Wet seasons and early dry seasons also mean dense vegetation, making game spotting more difficult, while late dry seasons mean vegetation is less dense and game spotting easier.

Seasons park by park
The table below shows the wildlife seasons for the most popular parks in Tanzania and Kenya, under normal weather and climate conditions:

J
F
M
A
M
J
J
A
S
O
N
D
 
M
M
M
M
M
M
M
 
             
             
             
             
M
M
M
 
             
             
              
  Best season 
  Good season 
  Poor season 
  Rain, bad season for safaris 
M
 The migration is in the park 

Tours and wildlife seasons
Close to all tour itineraries (except for tailored tours) are the same all year round. They are not adapted to the wildlife seasons in the parks visited.

This is generally no big problem, as most parks are good enough all year round, and the prime parks are very good. But you may get an even better safari if you consider the wildlife seasons when choosing your safari.

The climate in general
East Africa is a tropical region. Kenya is situated on the equator, Tanzania just south of. The midday sun zeniths twice a year, around the March and September equinoxes. A rainy season follows soon after each equinox. This means that Kenya and Tanzania have two rainy seasons every year, and between these two longer dry seasons.

The climate is also depending on monsoons; hot winds from the north-east and north-west during East Africa's hot season (September to March), and cooler winds from the south and south-east during the cool season (April to August).

Local geography, such as large lakes or mountains, may cause local variations to the seasonal pattern.

The pattern in southern Tanzania reminds of that of southern Africa, with one hot and wet season (November to May) and one cool and dry season (June to October) every year.

Non-predictable rains
The rainy seasons are not fully predictable. They can begin and end earlier or later than the dates mentioned on this page, vary between regions and some years not come at all. Some years, prolonged rains may come during dry seasons. For example, December to March 2006 were exceptionally dry, as the November rains had failed, while December to March 2007 were exceptionally wet.

However, you cannot predict such variations at the time when you book your safari. Your best shot is expecting weather and seasons to be like they usually are, i.e. as described on this page.

Safari vehicle in rain and mud during the rainy season.

Rainy and dry seasons
April to May, 'the long rains
'
The rainy season in April and May is locally called 'the long rains', and is the season with the most rainfall. Some days may still be nice and sunny, as it doesn't rain continuously for the whole season.

Safari-goers may encounter problems travelling in the bush, due to damaged roads, flooded bridges and mud. Game viewing may be difficult, as roof hatches and windows have to be closed when raining. Some lodges and camps close during this season.

During the long rains, the migration starts moving north/north-west from southern Serengeti in Tanzania, to be found in the Western corridor within the park by the end of the rainy seson.

June to October, dry season
June to October is a long dry season. The first months are cooler, but temperatures start rising in September, reaching 25–30+ºC/77–85+ºF towards the end of the season.

During June, the migration moves north through the Western corridor in Serengeti, and arrives in Masai Mara in Kenya during July.

November, 'the short rains'
The rainy season usually coming in November (and may extend into December) is called 'the short rains'. The rainfall is less heavy compared to the long rains in April and May, and much of the rain falls during afternoons and nights. Conditions may or may not be good enough for safaris, depending on the amount of rain.

The migration starts moving south from Masai Mara in Kenya into Serengeti in Tanzania during these rains. This is a good time to visit the Lobo area in northern Serengeti.

December to March, dry season
This dry season is normally hot, with temperatures around 25–30+ºC/77–85+ºF. The migration moves to and then stays in the southern parts of Serengeti and into western Ngorongoro Conservation Area. This is the calving and foaling season for the wildebeest and zebras.

Southern Tanzania
For southern Tanzania, where Selous Game Reserve, Mikumi National Park and Ruaha National Park are found, some consider November to May to be one single rainy season, with a drier spell in January and February, and the rest of the year one dry season.

Much of Selous is below 200 m/650 ft, which means higher temperatures both days and nights.

Other areas
The local geography, such as mountains and big lakes, may affect the local climate. The Lake Victoria region, for example, has much rain, which is more evenly distributed throughout the year.

The westmost parts of East Africa (where fewer safari-goers venture) have a rainy season from March to November, due to westerly winds from the Atlantic Ocean and the Congo Basin.

Beach holidays
Both Kenya and Tanzania have coasts facing the Indian Ocean. The coastal climate is similar to the inland climate, but the coastal air is more humid and the temperatures rarely rise much higher than 25–30ºC/77–85ºF. The climate allows swimming and bathing all year round.

Mountain climbing
Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and Mount Kenya in Kenya are the two highest mountains in Africa, and both can be climbed. Your chances of reaching the summit may depend on the season when you try it.

On the high altitudes you reach during a climb, temperatures are of course lower than in the foothills or on the savanna. The highest peaks are covered in permanent snow and ice.

The table below shows the seasons for climbing the mountains:

J
F
M
A
M
J
J
A
S
O
N
D
Temperature 
  
 
  
  
  
     
  
Rain 
S 
  S
S
S
S  
    
S
S
S
Clouds 
  
 
  
  
  
    
T
T 
Number of visitors
  
 
  
  
  
     
  
Summary 
  
 
  
  
  
     
  
             
   Normal temp/Little rain/Clear/Few visitors
   Lower temp/Some rain/Some clouds/Normal # of visitors
   Cold/A lot of rain/Cloudy/Many visitors
 
S
 Risk of snow
 
T
 Risk of storms
 
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Page updated 18 February 2009