Tanzania Climate

Wondering whether Tanzania’s climate is all semi-arid desert and savanna? There’s actually comparatively little desert in Tanzania, but there’s a large amount of tropical and subtropical savanna. It’s also a big country with a long coastline, huge plateaus, mountainous regions, and inland geography that’s more suitable for agriculture. Like a lot of equatorial locations, the average temperature isn’t based so much on moving north or south—Tanzania is located just south of the Earth’s equator—but rather moving up or down in elevation and moving toward or away from the coastline.

 

Near the coast, it stays hot and humid pretty much year-round, with the months of December through March being the most oppressive. The plateaus greatly moderate temperatures into a generally comfortable zone, but this also means you’ll need to be prepared for both the warm and the cold. Get far enough into the mountains, and you’ll see snowfall and glacier formations. Tanzania is the home of Mount Kilimanjaro, after all.

 

Much of the country sees average precipitation in a moderate 40-50” range, but there are definitely drier and wetter spots. That said, this rainfall occurs disproportionately during two different rainy seasons. A major feature of the annual climate in Tanzania is the Intertropical Convergence Zone—an area where different equatorial trade winds converge. This zone sweeps south through the country from October to December, stays at the southern border of the country and then returns north from March to May. This first period in which the ICZ heads south at the end of the year is known as Mvuli or “short rains” and the second period from March to May is known as Masika or “long rains.” For this reason, there’s also something of a tourist pop during June and July—school’s out for the summer—and January and February as people look to avoid their winter back home in the Northern Hemisphere.

 

If you want to do an even deeper dive into the averages, records, and other details, you can check out this online resource.

 

 

 

 

 

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Average Cost of Tanzania Safaris

We’ve heard about safari experiences that cost as little as $100/day, but these typically involve large groups, few extras, and primitive camping for lodging on some or most nights. Which isn’t to say these can’t be great experiences and reasonably safe, but $800-$1000+/day is more the standard for luxury-style safari experiences. Certainly, you can find even higher-end, truly extravagant vacation packages. In fact, in recent years, there’s been a concerted effort to expand the market for Tanzania safaris by adding more budget-friendly vacation packages, especially for no-frills adventurous types.

 

Like other online sources for Tanzania safari costs, we consciously listed the prices per day, rather than total trip costs. Some of the Tanzania safari companies and vendors advertise their prices this way, but regardless, there’s no such thing as an average total cost of a Tanzania safari vacation. 5 Days. 7 Days. 9 Days. 14 Days. We’re not saying you can find a safari package for every number between 3-30 days, but the reality isn’t too far off. In our personal experience and through a little bit of online research, we know that airfare to Tanzania costs about $500-$1,000+ depending on the city, time of year, and flight upgrades. We saw on this online forum that a one-week Tanzania safari that is “semi-luxurious” runs about $3,000-$3,500—not counting your basic travel expenses to get to Tanzania.

 

Still, taken as a whole and looking at all the various choices, you can begin to understand where some sources suggest that Tanzania and other African safaris might cost anywhere between $2,500 and $25,000.

 

Finding the Right Fit for You and Your Group

If this wasn’t vaguely complicated enough, things can get even trickier when you have members of your party with various financial means, personal standards, and tolerance level for roughing it. It may make a lot of sense to shop together as a group, but in our experience, some people are just too busy and so one person usually takes the lead. One of the ways in which you can narrow down your search is to look for themed Tanzania safaris that feature the Great Migration, gorillas, or the Masai Mara Extension.

 

Even so, it’s important to research and clearly communicate the options to the rest of your party members. Some compromises may be necessary along the way, but it’s often impossible to know what those compromises are—or if they’re necessary at all—until you see what the choices. A lot of people have nothing but the slightest inconveniences, or else nothing at all, to say against their Tanzania safari experience. But time and time again, when we do hear people talk about the frustrations with their trip—it tends to focus on the planning and failing to find the right safari package for their group. Lock this stuff down, and then start packing because you’ll be well on your way.

 

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How to Pack for Tanzania Travel and Safaris

Going on a Tanzania safari is going to take your best organization and packing skills. If you haven’t already checked it out, our write-up on the Tanzania climate helps explain some of the challenges that come with traveling long distances over such diverse terrain and elevation specifically. You’re traveling a long way and usually for more than just a couple days. You’re going to need more than just an overnight bag. At the same time, you’re going to be travel-weary and if you haven’t made a bellhop-type service arrangement, you’re going to have to lug everything around. You need to pack everything you need to have with you and nothing more.

 

Luggage

Here’s your first tip: Most, though certainly not all, safari itineraries call for both a main flight into one of Tanzania’s major cities and then secondary domestic flight to start the safari expedition itself. In this case, you’ll want to make sure you have an appropriate-sized bag for this secondary trip packing. Crucial to this packing strategy is knowing how much stuff you can bring during both the main international flight and the secondary trip. Many domestic safari flights have weight limits as low as 30lbs., though you can usually bring more for an extra cost.

 

Safari Packing Brochures

Now, the safari company will likely provide some of the essential supplies. More than likely, you’ll want to consult the safari brochure and/or contact the company before finalizing your packing plan. Crucially, the same brochure and company-provided packing list may be used for different safari trips and during different times of the year, when the weather can be remarkably different. Put another way, these brochures will tell you to pack light, while listing out everything you might need on any trip, rather than what you personally will likely need on any particular safari trip. If it feels like you’re over-packing and you have questions about specific items, don’t hesitate to contact the safari company.

 

The Tanzania Online Packing List

Indeed, here’s our Tanzanian vacation and safari packing list. This is a great place to start your own packing list, but you’ll undoubtedly want to add and subtract items based on the length of your stay, time of year, local destination spots, and personal preferences.

 

Clothing

 

  • Lots of loose-fitting layers are the foundation of your clothing packing choices, especially if you’re looking to get the full Tanzania experience with some time in the hot and humid beach town resorts as well as the drier savannas and cooler mountain climes.

 

  • Unless you’re attending a destination wedding and even then, there’s little reason to think you’ll need formal wear. Romantic and semi-formal wear for fine dining in one or more resort towns, sure. But you can leave the ballroom gowns and tuxedos at home.

 

  • Neutral, earthy tones—typical safari browns, olives, khaki, etc.—are the best bet for safari days. At the resorts, there’s a more eclectic mix of white, black, and brightly colored apparel.

 

  • The local custom in many areas is to dress conservatively, but it’s not like you have to be covered from head-to-toe, either. Tank tops and shorts/skirts above the knee may generate whispers and side-eye. If you try to enter a place of worship or some other place in which strict decorum is observed—and then you may be asked to leave until more appropriately dressed.

 

  • Shoes are a big space-consumer, and there’s often no good substitute for it. You should probably bring sandals, but these are pretty much just for the beach or indoor use. You’ll also want comfortable hiking shoes/boots and quite possibly waterproof or at least “river shoes” for most Tanzania safari itineraries.

 

Toiletries, Medicines, and Travel Essentials

Most lodging will have soap, shampoo, and conditioner, and most guided tours will have first-aid kits, but it’s not a bad idea to bring your own. In addition to oral care, feminine hygiene, and other personal toiletries, there are a number of other travel essentials to include on your list.

 

  • Get mosquito/insect repellant and sunscreen. We recommend the full strength stuff, but the good news is that the most common and annoying insects have a similar enough physiology the world over that it’s not like you need to buy special African bug spray. Sunscreen is another essential. Use your preferred SPF, but look for something that’s convenient to apply as well. When the sun’s out in full force, you’re going to want to apply sunscreen more than once a day.

 

  • Antihistamines, antacids, and anti-inflammatories, we like to think of these AAA. Who knows what personal allergies may flare up from the Tanzanian flora? Aches and pains are frequently part of traveling. Or maybe the flying is the worst part for you, and a benzo is the only way you can get through it. Whether you like ibuprofen, tylenol, or aspirin, whether Claritin or Benadryl works better for you, don’t forget to bring your prescription and over-the-counter medications.

 

  • You may want to pack some sleep aids and jet lag remedies. From the U.S., you’re going almost halfway around the world. Expect to experience jet lag and take all the best precautions and mitigating steps. More than just jet lag, you want to be able to get as much decent sleep and general rest as you can. A travel pillow, neck-rest, or similar devices can come in handy even after you’ve gotten off the plane. Even a sleep aid medication may not be a bad idea for travel and short-term use.

 

Small-Item Accessories and Big-Item Shipping

 

  • Smart phones, cameras+memory cards, chargers, and portable electronics. All the modern gadgets you can fit in your luggage, really. But there is a catch: The Tanzania electrical grid uses 220-240 volts and 50 hertz and British-style sockets that use three rectangular blade pins. Bring books or magazines for the plane, and binoculars for the sight-seeing. Want to be extra cool? Find and bring a pair of night-vision goggles.
  • Some vacation activities require considerable props and equipment that may need to be shipped ahead of time. Golf is one example. You can choose to rent clubs, but you can also ship your clubs to one of the country’s resort-based golf courses. It’s not cheap. When we tried, popular services like ShipSticks didn’t provide direct service to Tanzania but will instead have you contact them and try to set something up for you.

 

  • Skiing is another example. Ski rentals are few and far between—if only because there are no actual ski resorts in Tanzania, but we did tell you about the mountains and snow, right? People have been skiing with some regularity in Tanzania since the 1990s. If you’re part of this hardcore group of primitive and international skiing destinations, you may also be a fanatic about having your personal skis shipped to Tanzania.

 

 

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Things to Do and Places to Visit in Tanzania

Wondering what there is to do on a Tanzania vacation? Even if you’re just starting your search, there’s little doubt that you’ve heard some of the names and places on this list. Tanzania is home to some of the most iconic destinations in all of Africa and the world. We couldn’t possibly list all the things to do and see in Tanzania here, but as a beginner’s guide, here are some of the things you should try to get to, here are some of things you can have to whet your appetite for this amazing vacation experience:

 

Safari and Wildlife

 

Serengeti National Park—The Serengeti can refer to both Tanzania’s national park as well as the larger surrounding ecosystem. A big part of what makes this area so famous is the Great Migration in which over 1.5 million wildebeest, as well as plentiful zebra, crocodiles, honey badgers, and other animals. More than just migratory species, you can also find lions, leopards, cheetahs, rhinoceros, buffalo, and elephants in one of the most diverse and remarkable ecosystems in the world.

 

Tarangire National Park—You can find almost all of Africa’s wildlife in this one spot, especially during the dry season. That’s because the Tarangire River serves as a fresh water source for many types of wildlife. From June to November, you can find plenty of zebra, wildebeest, and buffalo, to go along with the elephants that love this spot year-round. The park is also home to more than 550 species of birds.

 

Ruaha National Park—This is the largest national park in Tanzania and all of East Africa. Along with several interior and adjoining game reserves, this park is almost 8,000 square miles. Like the Serengeti, the park is part of the larger Rungwa-Kizigo-Muhesi ecosystem. This park is also home to pretty much all of Africa’s famous safari wildlife. May through December is usually best for seeing large animals and predators. January through April is best for birds and flowers.

 

Selous Game Reserve—This is one of largest fauna reserves in the world. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982, much of the land is set aside for big-game hunting, and it’s a world-class spot if that’s your thing. If it’s not your thing, but you’re in this southern part of Tanzania, there’s a section in the northern part of the reserve that’s just for photography and sightseeing.

 

Mountains and Volcanoes

 

Mount Kilimanjaro—Known as Kili to many of the locals, Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest peak in Africa. More than a mountain, Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcano with three volcanic cones: Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira. There are five commonly used climbing routes that reduce down to two paths to the summit. About half of the climbers who attempt the climb fail to reach the summit, but even if you’re not a hardcore climber, there are amazing views from a distance as well.

 

Mount Meru—You don’t need to be Hindu or Buddhist to appreciate the sacred vibe that’s given off by this mountaintop and its five peaks. Members of many religious faiths have a special meaning and connection to this place, sometimes considered the center of the universe. Maybe you’re a religions buff or maybe you’re intrigued by the natural phenomenon with such immense religious influence.

 

Ngorongoro Crater and Conservation Area—Along with the breath-taking experience that is the largest unbroken caldera in the world, there’s also a beautiful gorge and other natural features in the surrounding landscape. There’s a ton of wildlife in this protected area. This includes lions, rhinoceros, zebra, wildebeest, and hyenas.

 

Ol Doinyo Lengai—Tanzania also has active volcanoes. Ol Doinyo Lengai, The Mountain of God, is undoubtedly the country’s most famous. Part of the East African Rift, this volcano produces a particular kind of natrocarbonatite lava. It’s also important in the history of science. Its 1960 eruption gave scientists the opportunity to confirm that carbonatite rock comes from magma.

 

Lakes

 

Lake Victoria—The greatest of Africa’s Great Lakes, Victoria is the world’s largest tropical lake, the second largest fresh water lake by surface area, and the world’s 9th largest continental lake. Wildlife, the Nalubaale Dam, and lake recreation make this a popular spot. It was once mistaken as the source of the Nile.

 

Lake Manyara National Park—Lake Manyara is a great example of how much the dry and wet seasons affect the Tanzanian landscape. During the wet season, the lake can swell to more than 7 square miles. During the dry season, it shrinks to a size that most people find it hard to believe it’s a lake at all. More than the lake itself, the park is largely defined by the strip of land between the lake and the rock wall that is the Gregory Rift. Along with other safari wildlife, the lake is known for its indigenous flamingos.

 

Lake Tanganyika—Another one of Africa’s Great Lakes, it tends to play the role of understudy to Russia’s Lake Baikal. Lake Tanganyika is the second largest by volume, the second deepest, and the second oldest freshwater lake in the world. The longest lake in the world, it actually borders three other countries (Congo, Burundi, and Zambia). With significance for geological and human history, not to mention a huge amount biological diversity, it’s a great spot for lake-lovers.

 

 

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