Anyone dreaming of an exotic holiday filled with breathtaking landscapes, abundant wildlife, and vibrant cultural diversity, will find all this and more in Tanzania. Located on Africa’s east coast, this enchanting country offers a multitude of unique experiences that will leave a lasting impression long after your visit. From the endless plains of the Serengeti to the lofty slopes of Kilimanjaro, and from the primal rainforests to the pristine beaches, Tanzania has so much to offer the adventurous traveler. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll provide pertinent information that will be relevant to you as a tourist when planning and traveling to this magnificent country.
Location and Area
Tanzania lies just south of the Equator in East Africa. Kenya and Uganda form its northern border, while Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo lie to the west. Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique constitute its southern border. The entire eastern boundary comprises over 1400 kilometers (880 miles) of coastline with the Indian Ocean. In total the country covers 947 300 square kilometers (360 619 sq. mi), making it the 31st largest country in the world.
Geographically, Tanzania is incredibly diverse. This is largely due to the fact that it sits in part in the Great Rift Valley, which is responsible for the formation of many natural features in Tanzania, such as Lake Tanganyika and Mount Kilimanjaro. Across its expanse, you’ll find its iconic savannahs, vast plains, dense forests, towering mountains, and sandy beaches. Significant geographic features include:
- Mount Kilimanjaro: Africa’s highest peak, attracting adventurous trekkers from all over the world.
- Ngorongoro Crater: This extinct volcanic caldera is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, providing a unique ecosystem for wildlife.
- Zanzibar Archipelago: A tropical paradise of sandy beaches, turquoise waters, and historic Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Lake Victoria: the largest lake in Africa and the second-largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area.
Tanzania’s history is rich and diverse, dating back to prehistoric times. The region has been inhabited by various indigenous tribes for millennia, with evidence of early human ancestors, such as the famous hominid fossils found in the Olduvai Gorge. During its history, Tanzania has been influenced by several powerful empires and kingdoms, including the Kilwa Sultanate and the Zanzibar Sultanate.
In the 19th century, European colonial powers began to establish their presence in the region, with the German East Africa Company and later the British taking control. Tanzania gained independence from Britain in 1961, and the union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar formed the United Republic of Tanzania in 1964.
Tanzania’s climate varies widely due to its size and diverse geography. Generally, the coastal areas have a tropical climate with high humidity, while the inland regions experience a more temperate climate. The main seasons are:
- Wet Season: From March to May, with heavy rainfall, especially in April.
- Dry Season: From June to October, with cooler temperatures and clear skies, ideal for wildlife viewing and safaris.
- Short Rains: November to December, with occasional brief showers.
- The rainfall average varies from 550 mm in the central part of the country up to 3690 mm in some parts of the southwestern highlands.
- The average temperatures range from 20°C to 30°C (68°F to 86°F), but temperatures can drop at higher elevations, particularly on Mount Kilimanjaro.
The capital city of Tanzania is Dodoma, situated in the central part of the country. However, the port city of Dar es Salaam is the largest city and serves as the country’s economic hub. In the north of the country at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro lies Arusha, considered the safari and adventure capital due to its close proximity to many of Tanzania’s most popular wildlife destinations, including the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti.
Population and Ethnicities
Tanzania is home to a diverse population comprising over 120 ethnic groups, with a total population of 63.6 million people. This makes it the most populous sub-Saharan country in Africa. The major ethnic groups include:
• Sukuma: The largest ethnic group in Tanzania, primarily residing in the northwestern regions.
• Chagga: Inhabitants of the Kilimanjaro region, known for their agriculture practices.
• Maasai: A semi-nomadic tribe known for their distinctive cultural traditions and close connection with wildlife.
• Swahili: Dominant along the coast and known for their vibrant culture and trade history.
• Other: Tanzania’s cultural tapestry has been shaped by a rich history of interactions with various civilizations, including Arab traders, Indian immigrants, and European colonizers, all leaving their unique imprint on the country’s customs, language, and traditions.
Swahili (Kiswahili) and English are the official languages of Tanzania. English is widely spoken and understood throughout the country, making it easier for tourists to communicate with locals.
Tourism is a vital industry in Tanzania, contributing significantly to the country’s economy and providing employment opportunities for many locals. The country’s awe-inspiring natural wonders, diverse wildlife, and rich cultural heritage make it a prime destination for adventure seekers, wildlife enthusiasts, and cultural explorers alike.
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is a dream for many adventurers. Standing at 5 895 meters (19 341 feet), Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest peak and offers various trekking routes catering to different skill levels.
The official currency of Tanzania is the Tanzanian Shilling (TZS). While some larger hotels and tourist establishments may accept major foreign currencies, it’s advisable to exchange money at local banks or authorized exchange bureaus for the best rates.
The allure of Tanzania lies in its world-renowned safari experiences. The country is home to some of the most iconic national parks and game reserves, including the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire, and Nyerere. The undisputed highlight of the safari menu is the Great Migration, where millions of wildebeest and zebras follow the seasonal rains in search of fresh grazing land between the Serengeti and neighboring Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya..
Tanzania’s economy is primarily driven by agriculture, which employs the majority of the population. Key crops include coffee, tea, tobacco, cashew nuts, and sisal. The country is also rich in natural resources, including minerals such as gold and natural gas, contributing to its economic growth.
Additionally, Tanzania has been making strides in industrial and infrastructure development, contributing to its economic diversification and growth.
Tourism plays a significant role in Tanzania’s economy, attracting travelers from around the globe with its abundant wildlife and stunning landscapes. The tourism industry offers a wide range of opportunities, from safari tours to beach holidays and mountain treks.
Tanzania’s coastline along the Indian Ocean offers idyllic beach destinations, with Zanzibar being the crown jewel. The archipelago boasts stunning white sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters, and a rich cultural heritage to explore in historic Stone Town.
FROM SAFARI TO CAMPS
Visitors to Tanzania enjoy a huge choice of accommodation types, whether spending time in the city, on safari, or at a beach destination. Prospective travelers will be able to find accommodation that matches their needs and budget. Reputable establishments will boast services and facilities on a par with their equivalent elsewhere in the world, enhanced by the innate hospitality of the Tanzanian people.
The larger cities like Dar es Salaam and Arusha offer everything from self-catered rentals to guesthouses, right up to luxurious 5-star hotels of well-known brands. The coffee estates on the outskirts of Arusha are very popular.
Depending on the type of safari chosen, guests are accommodated in everything from a dome tent to an expansive suite in a castle. Most of the camps offer safari tents. These are generally quite spacious, with private verandas, and en-suite bathrooms. At high-end safari camps and lodges, services may include a wellness center, wi-fi, air-conditioning, and a personal butler.
For those heading to the Tanzanian coastline, a similarly diverse array of accommodations awaits. Once again, the selection is large and suits all budgets and tastes. Given the generally relaxed beach experience, particularly in Zanzibar, visitors have a choice of affordable backpacker hostels, mid-range guesthouses, and luxurious beach resorts.
Health Infrastructure for Tourists
Tanzania has made considerable efforts to provide essential healthcare services to tourists. The major cities and tourist hubs have medical facilities with qualified doctors and healthcare professionals. However, it’s essential for travelers to have travel insurance that covers medical emergencies and medical evacuation, if necessary.
International Flights to Tanzania
Tanzania is well-connected to major cities around the world. Several international airlines operate direct flights to Tanzania from various destinations, including the USA, the UK,the European Union, and Asia. Dar es Salaam (DAR) and Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) are the primary gateways for international flights.
Local Transport Options
Getting around Tanzania is relatively easy, although the quality of the roads varies greatly. Road safety is problematic and visitors are advised to exercise caution on the roads. The various transport options available for tourists include:
- Domestic Flights: For long distances or to reach more remote locations, domestic flights are a convenient option.
- Safari Vehicles: Safari tours often use 4×4 vehicles, ideal for navigating through rugged terrain in national parks.
- Public Buses: For budget travelers, public buses connect major cities and towns.
- Taxis: Taxis are available in urban areas and are a suitable mode of transport for short distances.
- Tuk-tuks and Motorcycle Taxis: Commonly used for short trips within towns and cities.
Tanzania is a wildlife enthusiast’s paradise, with an incredibly diverse range of fauna and flora. The country is home to some of Africa’s most iconic and sought-after wildlife, including:
- The Big Five: Lions, elephants, buffalo, leopards, and rhinoceroses.
- The Great Migration: Witness millions of wildebeest and zebras on their annual migration in the Serengeti.
- Unique Species: Tanzania is also home to various endemic species, such as the Grevy’s zebra and the Tanzanian red-billed hornbill.
- Marine Life: Off the coast of Tanzania lies a treasure trove of marine life, including dolphins, turtles, and colorful coral reefs.
Tanzania’s biodiversity extends beyond its wildlife, with over 320 mammal species, 1200 bird species and more than 10 000 plant species in its national parks and conservation areas.
Tanzania is a land of wonder and discovery, offering something for every traveler. Whether seeking thrilling wildlife encounters on a safari, relaxing on pristine beaches, or challenging yourself to climb Africa’s highest peak, Tanzania has it all. With its warm hospitality, rich cultural heritage, and stunning natural landscapes, Tanzania is sure to leave a lasting impression on your heart.