From now until the end of March is the ideal time to climb Africa’s highest summit – it’s the dry season, with the best chance of clear skies at high altitudes, but tourist numbers remain relatively low.
Calving season in the Serengeti
The southeastern plains of the Serengeti–Ngorongoro border area host one of Africa’s great wildlife spectacles, with tens of thousands of wildebeest giving birth, and hundreds of hungry lions, cheetahs, hyenas and other predators in attendance.
Test your high altitude-lungs on the Kilimanjaro Marathon
East Africa’s most scenic marathon takes place on the lower slopes of the continent’s highest mountain. If that sounds too daunting, try the half-marathon or 5km fun run.
Negotiate a good safari price on the Northern Circuit
April and May form the core of the rainy season, and also of the low season, so a lot of lodges in the northern reserves offer huge discounts and safari operators are hungry for business. Yet game viewing is excellent, with the wildebeest still amassed on the southern Serengeti plains post-calving, and the landscapes are photogenically green.
Catch Ngorongoro at its greenest
It’s still low season in the northern safari circuit – truly the best time to descend into Ngorongoro Crater, not just because there are so few other 4x4s around, but also because the vegetation is so wonderfully green!
Chill out on an Indian Ocean island
June marks the start of the coolest and driest season along the coast, and what is the best time to be in Zanzibar or Mafia – or for that matter any mainland beach resort. Coastal weather remains equally agreeable at least into early October.
Bring good luck to the colourful Mwaka Kogwa Festival
The last week of July is when Held Makunduchi and half a dozen other Zanzibari villages ring in the Shirazi New Year in an ancient festival involving mock fights with banana leaves, dancing and chanting women, and the setting on fire of a house of spirits to cleanse away the miseries of the previous year. Visitors are traditionally seen as harbingers of good fortune.
Visit the southern safari circuit
This is a great time of year to be in Selous and Ruaha – the rains will have dried up in June, and the really hot and dry period starting in October hasn’t kicked in yet.
Track chimps in Mahale or Gombe
The best time to track chimps in these two forested parks on the shore of Lake Tanganyika is the late dry season, starting in September and running into early November. Conditions are dry underfoot and the chimps tend to forage at lower altitudes close to camp.
Visit the mass hippo wallows of Katavi National Park
This little visited western park offers superb dry-season game viewing, especially towards the end of the season, in late September and October, when the rivers usually dry up altogether, a few thousand hippos are forced to relocate to a series of muddy pools fed by natural groundwater springs, where they lie cheek to jowl not only with each other, but also with some massive adult crocodiles, a foe they would normally avoid.
Birding season begins
Pack your binoculars! Tanzania hosts more than a thousand bird species, with residents being supplemented by all manner of palaearctic and intra-African migrants over November to March, often boosted further by passage migrants in the first and last months of the season.
Head off the beaten track for the Christmas period
Yes, the main resorts and safari circuits tend to push up rates and attract high tourist volumes over the festive season, but Tanzania is rich in off-the-beaten-track diversions ideal for flexible budget travellers seeking to escape the masses. Try the compelling Kilwa Ruins on the south coast, or settle into an untouristy lakeshore port such as Kigoma or Mwanza, or spend a few days hiking in the Usambara or Udzungwa Mountains.