Tanzania is among the few countries in the world endowed with such a vast range of tourist attractions. Tanzania has 13 national parks, 29 game reserves, 40 controlled conservation areas and marine parks that are located in the Northern and Southern parts of the country. More than 25% of Tanzania’s land area of about one million square kilometers is covered with magnificent game reserves and national parks. Tanzania is also a home to Mt. Kilimanjaro, commonly referred to as the Roof of Africa. Kilimanjaro rises 5963 metres (about 19563 feet) above sea level. It is the tallest mountain in Africa and the tallest free-standing mountain in the world. The breathtaking natural beauty of Mt. Kilimanjaro inspired the legendary author Ernest Hemingway to camp at its slopes and wrote one of his famous novels “Snows of Mt. Kilimanjaro.” The miles long silver sand beaches and the rich historical site of the spicy islands of Zanzibar are yet another attraction that Tanzania is blessed with.
The evocative mix of people and cultures in Tanzania creates a tapestry of memories for the visitor. Since the dawn of mankind, when the savannahs of east and southern Africa saw the birth of humanity, Tanzania has been home to countless peoples of many different origins. Tanzania’s history has been influenced by a procession of peoples, from the original Bantu settlers from south and west Africa to the Arabs from Shiraz in Persia and the Oman; from the Portuguese to the Germans and the British. Tanzanians took control of their own destiny with independence in 1961. It has a population of over 26 million with 120 African ethnic groups, none of which represent more than 10 per cent of the population. The Sukuma, the largest group, live in the north-western part of the country, south of Lake Victoria. They are fairly commercial oriented and have prospered with a mix of cotton farming and cattle herding. The Hadzapi of northern Tanzania have built a society based on hunting and gathering food, while the Iraqw live in the central highlands of Mbulu and are known for their statuesque, immobile posture and sharply delineated features. They grow their own food and tend cattle. The Masaai, who are perhaps the most well known of East Africa’s ethnic groups, are pastoralists whose livelihood and culture is based on the rearing of cattle, which are used to determine social status and wealth. They dominate northern Tanzania but only occupy a fraction of their former grazing grounds in the north, much of which they now share with national parks and other protected areas. They are easily recognised by their single red or blue garments and their ochre covered bodies. North of the Masaai steppe, on the slopes of Kilimanjaro, live the Chagga, who farm the mountain side. Through cooperative farming they have achieved a fair standard of living. The Gogo live near Dodoma and have developed slowly due to lack of water. The formerly warlike Hehe live in Iringa District’s highland grasses. The Makonde are internationally famous for their intricate wood (ebony) carvings (sold over much of East Africa). They live along the coast on the Makonde plateau and their relative isolation has resulted in a high degree of ethnic self-awareness. The Nyamwezi, whose name translates into “People of the Moon”, were probably so called because of their location in the west. The Nyamwezi, now cultivators, were once great traders. The 19th century European explorers regarded them the most powerful group in the interior. The Haya, located along the shores of Lake Victoria, to the north-west of the Nyamwezi, grew and traded coffee long before the arrival of the Europeans and today have established tea and coffee processing plants. Haya women produce excellent handicrafts. In an area of forest and bush live the Ha who retain a deep belief in the mystical. They live in relative solitude with their long-horned cattle and wearing hides or fibres of bark. They are well known for their artistic expression, especially their dances and celebrations. Tanzanians will tell you that the reason for the relative harmony between the various ethnic groups is that virtually everyone speaks Swahili in addition to their native tongue.
THE NORTHERN CIRCUIT
The Ngorongoro among the national parks is the world’s largest crater. Ngorongoro crater is also a renowned world heritage site and a natural wonder that earned the title of the Eighth Wonder of the World. Ngorongoro crater is 2,286 meters above sea level, surrounded by steep walls rising 610 meters from the crater floor sprawls over 250 square kilometers. The crater is home to thousands of animals. The Ngorongoro crater has some of the world famous attractions that include Olduvai and Laetoli Gorges. These are archeological and pale ontological sites famous for the discovery made by Dr. Louis Leakey of the remains of Homohabilis or “handyman” and trails of footprints left by the three hominids 3.8 million years ago. Other discoveries include those of prehistoric elephants, giant horned sheep and enormous ostriches.
SERENGETI NATIONAL PARK is the best-known wildlife sanctuary in the world. It is also famously known for its great migration of animals, thus making it the only place on the earth where there is a spectacle of 1.5 to 2 million animals on the march. Toward the end of May or early June, huge herds of wildebeest, gazelle and zebra begin their spectacular migration. Following the migration closely are the predators, the ions, cheetahs, wild dogs, hyenas and vultures circling overhead. Serengeti is also home to 35 species of plains animals including the “big give” – elephant, rhino, lion, leopard and buffalo.
TARANGIRE NATIONAL PARK also located in the Northern circuit is another park famous for its dense wildlife population, which is most spectacular between June and September. During this period thousands of animals including wildebeest, zebra, eland, elephants, buffalo and Oryx, migrate from the Masai steppe to the Tarangire River in search of water.
LAKE MANYARA PARK is home to millions of flamingos, tree climbing lions and pythons. This is yet another unique attraction, which Tanzania is blessed with.
THE SOUTHERN CIRCUIT
The Southern Circuit boost of National Parks and Africa’s greatest protected game reserve the “Selous.”
SELOUS GAME RESERVE covering an area of 55,000 square kilometers, the Selous has Tanzania’s largest population of elephants, buffalos, hippos and wild dogs. Other commonly seen species are lions, bush boars, impalas, giraffes, greater kudus, zebras and baboons. Selous contains some of the finest virgin bush life in Africa.
RUAHA NATIONAL PARK is Tanzania’s third largest park and the largest elephant sanctuary. The park derives its name from the great Ruaha River, which flows along its entire eastern border creating spectacular gorges and scenery. Flowing in to the Rufiji River, the Great Ruaha is home to hippos, crocodiles, waterbucks, reedbucks and buffalos. Bird life is profolic, over 370 species have been recorded some of which are not found in northern Tanzania. Eurasian migrants flock to Ruaha twice a year, March to November, joining the resident kingfishers, hornbills, sunbirds, egrets and plovers.
GOMBE STREAM NATIONAL PARK is among the few areas in Africa, which harbor some of the rarest species of animals – chimpanzees, such as yellow baboon, sykes monkeys, red tailed, and savannah colobus monkey. Gombe Park is famous for its chimpanzees. The famous British researcher Ms. Jane Goodall and her foundation continue to spend a great deal of time to study Gombe chimpanzees’ communities.
SPICE ISLANDS OF ZANZIBAR A visit to Tanzania cannot be complete without a visit to the Spicy islands of Zanzibar – a paradise where Arabia meets Africa. The islands of Unguja and Pemba that constitute the Spicy islands of Zanzibar have a long history that dates back to the time when Zanzibar was the Eastern gateway to the Middle East and Far East. It was therefore not by accident that explorers Livingstone and Burton established their homes there. Zanzibar was the center of the infamous slave trade. It was also famous for ivory trade. In the 19th century, cloves were introduced to Zanzibar. To date Zanzibar is still the world’s largest clove producer. Its fame and beauty mesmerized and attracted the Sultan of Oman who designated Zanzibar his capital. “Beit-el Ajaib” (House of Wonders), which was the Sultan’s Palace is worth seeing.
One of the most spectacular sites in Zanzibar is the Stone Town, which is its cultural heart. It has not changed in the last 200 years. The Stone Town is a place of winding alleys, bustling bazaars, mosques and grand Arab houses whose extravagance is reflected in their famous brass-studded and carved wooden doors. In addition to its rich history and attractive sites that Zanzibar offers, enthusiasts and relaxation seekers alike can enjoy walking miles of silver sand beaches or participate in water skiing, wind skirting, diving, swimming in warm waters. The Island of Pemba, which is rich in spices and beauty, is an excellent diving destination surrounded by fringing reefs, coral reefs, and coral islets, which support coral down to 64 meters, and has approximately 50% of the coral reefs in Tanzania. Pemba is also famous for its deep see fishing.
THE HISTORIC AND CULTURAL SITES
Besides the natural attractions mentioned above Tanzania has historical and cultural sites. The Coastal towns of Kilwa and Bagamoyo for example have long a long history and rich cultural traditions that date back to the 13th century. Kilwa was the center of gold trade and Bagamoyo was already well-established natural harbor, which bears the reminders of the infamous slaves’ trade and ivory trade. This port was widely used by Arabs, Persians, Chinese and Portuguese traders.
BAGAMOYO In addition to its history, Bagamoyo also offers water sports, big game fishing and scuba diving. Its magnificent resort hotels are fully equipped for those sports activities. About two miles south of Bagamoyo one can find the ruins of a once prosperous Arab town Kaole, which was forced to decline by the Portuguese in the 15th century. The Kaole ruins date back to the 12th century includes two mosques and one well, which never dry. All these buildings were built using carved coral stone blocks. A safari to historical sites will also take you to another coastal world’s heritage town of Kilwa.
KILWA is home to the most spectacular 13th century a ruin on the East African Coast. It was during the 13th century that Kilwa established itself as a center for gold trade. Signs of its prosperity can still be seen through the ruins.
DAR ES SALAAM, which means “Heaven of Peace”, in Arabic, is the commercial city of Tanzania. Dar es Salaam is one of the finest natural harbors in the world. Over the years, it has become a bustling port bust has retained its charm. The city is also a melting pot for both local and international cultures. The city has a rich history seen through its architectural delights that depict Asian, Arabic, British and German-Bavarian influence. The Asian influence is strong.
The State House, St. Joseph Cathedral, the Lutheran Azania Front Church, Dar es salaam botanical garden and the City Council office (old Boma) just to mention a few are the legacies of the German era. They are worth seeing. Dar es Salaam has a lot to offer in terms of cultural and art tourism including panoramic tour of the newly built fish market, water sports at its silver beaches, hi-life and so on. Local tour operator can put up the most exciting tour to suit all needs and desires at short notice. Dar es salaam offers a wide choice of hotels accommodation to suit every pocket ranging from five star hotels to Guest hoses in the center of the ”Heaven of Peace.”
Southeast of Dar es Salaam lies a world-class paradise island for of divers, fisherman and water sport lovers. This is no other island than Mafia, an island at the far reaches of the ever-busy world. While on this island, time seems to come to a stop. Its warm waters are incredibly transparent with its rich variety of the coral permitting unimaginable quantity of fishes.
In addition to the fantastic wildlife, glorious beaches and stunning scenery there are plenty of other things to see in Tanzania. These include:
AMBONI CAVES located in Tanga Region are limestone caves formed during the Jurassic Age some 150 million years ago and are the most extensive cave system in East Africa.
ISIMILA STONE AGE SITE is located in south of Iringa where in 1951 the richest finds of Stone Age were discovered together with many fossilized bones believed to be those of mammals related to the modern giraffes, but having much shorter necks and hippopotamus with unusual periscope-like projections.
KONDOA IRANGI ROCK PAINTINGS in central Tanzania are some of the finest examples of rock paintings in the world. These paintings depict the animals and customs of the people at the time.
KALAMBO FALLS are found near the southern tip of Lake Tanganyika Kalambo falls, drops to 215 meters. Making it one of the highest water falls in the world after Tugela Falls in South Africa.
LAKE VICTORIA is the world’s second largest fresh water lake after Lake Superior found in North America. It is here that the first European Burton Speke saw the source of the River Nile. The Lake is also famous for its large population of Tilapia and the Nile Perch. It serves as a bridge for the three East African countries of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The Lake also provides water for domestic, industry and irrigation purposes.
LAKE TANGANYKA is the world’s second deepest fresh water lake. Famous for its large population of sardines and more than 250 different species of fish the lake also links Tanzania with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Zambia.
LAKE NYASA is well known for its unique species of aquarium fish. The Lake also links Tanzania with Malawi.
Several Airlines including British Airways / American Airlines, KLM / Northwest, Swiss International Airline, South African Airlines / Delta, Air India, Emirates, Ethiopian Airline among others operate scheduled flights at competitive pries to all three major airports in Tanzania namely Dar Es Salaam, Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar International Airports.
There are also weekly charter flights from Europe that fly directly to Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar International Airports. For further details on schedule and charter flights, kindly contact the respective airline or your travel agent.
Once in the country, you can travel to all tourist destinations by air, coach, sea ferries or by renting a car. Some of the airlines that operate schedule and charter flights within Tanzania are Air Tanzania, Precision Air, ZanAir, Costal Aviation and TanzanAir. Coaches include Scandinavia Bus Services, Comfort, Dar Express, Royal Coach and many others. Most coaches start departing from 05.30 in the morning. Major car rental companies in Tanzania are Hertz, Avis, Rent-a-Car Tanzania, National, Evergreen, and HIMA to mention a few. Sea ferries to and from Zanzibar are Sea Express, Azam Marine, Sea Star Services and Mega Speed liner that has services between the Spicy Islands and Mombasa.
Affordable accommodation in convenient locations is available in major cities, towns, beaches and in national parks. Visitors have a wide choice of accommodation to choose from. Ranging from renowned five star hotels, serviced apartments to comfortable guesthouses. Some of these hotels are Legacy Royal Palm, Golden Tulips, Holiday Inn, Dar Es Salaam Courtyard, Impala, Serena, The Palms, Protea and many others are known for their hospitality and quality services and mouth watering international and local cuisines. Luxurious Lodges at the National Parks include Sopa, Serena, Tarangire Sanctuary, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara among others offer beautiful panoramic views and relaxing romantic atmosphere. Protea Blue Beach resorts, Beachcomber, Zanzibar beach resort, Mafia Lodge are some of the comfortable beach resorts that one can stay at while in Dar Es Salaam, Zanzibar or Mafia.
Nature lovers and camping enthusiasts can stay at luxurious camp lodges or camp at camping sites located in the vicinity of most of the national parks, beaches, Arusha and Kilimanjaro towns. Local tour operators in Tanzania will be glad to assist with all travel, accommodation, safari or other needs.