Tanzania has a tropical climate that varies by region. There is some seasonal change in the coastal, inland and island territories. The central, western and northern regions can have uncomfortably hot days, around 35 C, which are occasionally refreshed by downpours.
When to fly to Tanzania
Tanzania is a year-round destination. Game viewing is excellent all year-round, but to witness the annual wildebeest migration during which millions of animals move from the Masai Mara in Kenya to the Serengeti in Tanzania, visit between December and April. It is one of the wonders of the natural world. Not all animals migrate however. For birdwatchers, Tanzania is an excellent location all year round, but to really see the country at its best, book a flight to Tanzania during the UK’s winter months. This is when more than 150 species of birds migrate south.
Visit after the rainy seasons (June, February for example) to really see Tanzania’s flora at its most lush and glorious.
Getting around Tanzania
Air Tanzania flies domestically to Dar Es Salaam, Mtwara, Mwanza, Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar, Precision Air also offers domestic links, and there are smaller charter airlines linking local airports and more out-of-the-way parts of the country.
There are two railway systems – the Tanzania Railway Corporation operates two lines, the central line from Dar es Salaam to Tabora and one to Tabora to Mwanza port on Lake Victoria. The Tanzania to Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA) links Dar Es Salaam with various destinations.
Bus services are plentiful. Scandinavian and other lines provide good service throughout the country. Buses don’t move until they are full however so don’t take the timetables as gospel.
The quality of the roads varies greatly. If renting a car, a four-wheel drive is best, albeit expensive.
To get to the islands off the coast of Tanzania including Zanzibar and Pemba, there are boat (including ferry, catamaran, hydrofoils, or dhow) and air services. Azam Marine, for example, offers passage from Dar Es Salaam/Zanzibar or Pemba/Zanzibar.
Tanzania insider information
- Bagamoyo is Tanzania’s oldest town, dating from the late-1700s. It was the capital of German East Africa and an important trading post – a slave-trading post. The name is poignant, in KiSwahili, it means “bury my heart” and refers to slavery. It was from here that slaves were shipped to Zanzibar – just an hour away – and then off around the world. There is much to see here including the beautiful beach; Kaole Ruins – two mosques and tombs, all built with coral stones – that remain from the 13th century; the Roman Catholic Mission, built in the 1800s; and more grimly the German Hanging Place.
- In Dar Es Salaam, the National Museum contains fossils from Olduvai Gorge, one of the most important prehistoric sites, considered the “cradle of mankind”. The outdoor National Village Museum houses 16 furnished traditional houses from every region in Tanzania. Artists sell their wares here and you can also catch a traditional performance at weekends and on public holidays.
- The Serengeti is a vast national park covering almost 30,000 sq km. It is from here, more specifically the Grumeti River in the Western Corridor that you can see the river crossing during the wildebeest migration. The most popular part of the park is Seronera, a small settlement, home to leopards and lions. Hot-air balloon safaris are popular here. And the huge Ngorongoro crater, a World Heritage Site, known as Africa’s Garden of Eden, is a must-see.
- Safari … The northern circuit boasts the biggies: Arusha National Park (boasts Mount Meru – good for hiking – and Momella Lakes, while Mount Kilimanjaro, is just 50km (30 miles) in the distance); Serengeti; Lake Manyara National Park and Tarangire National Park (has some of the highest population density of elephants anywhere in the country). The eastern circuit – easily accessible from Dar Es Salaam - includes Saadani National Park and Mikumi National Park (has the Big Five: cheetah, lion, elephant, buffalo, and rhino).
- In the west, on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, Gombe Stream National Park, is synonymous with Jane Goodall, the primatologist who spent years studying the behaviour of the chimpanzees. Guided walks are available.