From the snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro to lush rainforests and white, sandy beaches. From bounding through the wild Serengeti savannah, searching for lions to soaking up some rays on the paradise island of Zanzibar. Witness the intensity of the wildebeest migration, visit the salt pans at the impressive Ngorongoro Crater, and immerse yourself in one of the most vibrant cultures in the world. Wander through ancient streets, visit Prison Island or climb one of the highest mountains in the world. A tour to Tanzania is nothing short of an adventure.
Tanzania has much to offer adventure seekers, adrenaline junkies and of course, wildlife lovers. Home to some of the world's most esteemed game reserves, wildlife sanctuaries and national parks, you'll never run out of places to explore in Tanzania. Add that to the serene lakes, relaxing, paradise islands and snow-capped mountains, and it can be difficult to know where to begin.
The capital city of Tanzania is Dodoma, located on the edge of the Southern Highlands. Even though Dodoma is still much less developed than Dar es Salaam, Dodoma is Tanzania’s political centre. Dar es Salaam was the first capital city of Tanzania and still remains as the most prominent city in the country. Although, Dodoma does have lots of attractions to explore such as the Dodoma Cathedral and the House of Parliament. The population of the city is around 400,000.
Best places to visit in Tanzania.
Zanzibar is a highlight of any tour to Tanzania and a welcoming resting spot after those wild safari excursions. A speck in the Indian Ocean, Zanzibar is famous for it’s paradise beaches and exotic spices. Surrounded by some of the clearest, warmest water you’ll ever see, Zanzibar is the perfect destination for swimmers and snorkeling
Stone Town, the capital of Zanzibar is a World Heritage Site boasting stunning ancient houses, beautiful mosques, a Sultan’s palace and a labyrinth of narrow, winding streets. The melting pot of Swahili, Arab and Persian cultures makes Zanzibar a truly unique destination in Tanzania.
Tarangire National Park.
Tarangire National Park is a fantastic destination for a safari. The park has one of the highest concentrations of wildlife in Tanzania. Numerous dry riverbeds, wiry acacia boughs and forests of baobab trees, make Tarangire a unique place to visit. As well as using the standard 4WD safari vehicles, Tarangire National Park is an excellent place for a walking safari. See elephants, zebra, giraffe, bucks, impala and wildebeest traipse across this vast, African landscape. Choose from staying in lodges, campsites or luxury tents. Or Tarangire can be easily reached on a day trip from Arusha.
The world-famous Serengeti National Park is a highlight of any tour to Tanzania. This enormous conservation area is well-known as being one of the best places in the world to go on a safari. Home to the wildebeest migration where over a million wildebeest, gazelles and zebra thunder over to the Serengeti from the Masai Mara in Kenya.
Aside from the great migration, Serengeti National Park houses a huge selection of wildlife. This classic African safari setting is a vast expanse of grasslands making it one of the best places for spotting one of their 2,500 lions. Take the classic jeep or for an even bigger adventure, take a hot-air balloon ride at dawn to see the animal kingdom waking up.
Looming above the vast savannah below, is the highest freestanding mountain in the world. Standing at 19,340 feet tall, Mount Kilimanjaro is the perfect destination in Tanzania for adrenaline junkies. Find fields, dense forests, plateaus, rainforest and snow, with a few small peaks along the way. Choose one of the seven trails to reach the summit in 6 days, or if you’re not quite up for the challenge, there are multiple hikes around the base which result in spectacular views over the park.
Ruaha National Park.
This remote landscape lying in the centre of Tanzania is the country's largest National Park. Ruaha National Park is home to an astonishing amount of giraffes. The park also houses elephants, cheetahs, leopards, kudu and lions. Being the largest park, it means that there are much fewer crowds than in the more famous ones such as the Serengeti, making your safari experience much more authentic. The Great Ruaha River makes game viewing particularly special during the dry season.
Mafia Island is one of the best places to visit in Tanzania if you’re looking for unspoiled, beautiful coastlines. The pearly-white beaches and turquoise clear water make Mafia Island one of the most beautiful places in Tanzania. This undiscovered gem is the perfect location to explore lagoons, search coral reefs (keeping an eye out for whale sharks and sea turtles,) tan on sun-soaked beaches and take a well-deserved, heavenly rest.
The Ngorongoro Crater is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest volcanic caldera in the world. Over 2000 feet deep and covering 160 miles, it’s big. With the crater holding the highest density of game in Africa, it’s one of the best places to spot the big 5. This huge bowl of savannah, forests, dramatic cliffs and rolling hills is home to black rhino, leopard, zebra, elephants, hyena and cheetahs.
Lake Manyara National Park.
Lake Manyara is well-known as being a wildlife hotspot of Tanzania, especially if you’re eager to see flamingos. During the wet season, around 300 migratory birds come to the lake, but when it’s drier you’ll see hippos, elephants and giraffes. Bordered by the dramatic Rift Valley and encapsulating 11 different ecosystems, this small park is one of the biggest underrated safari destinations in Tanzania.
Relatively new to the tourist scene, the Mahale Mountains remains one of the best untouched gems of Tanzania. Nestled on the crystal clear shoreline of Lake Tanganyika, Mahale Mountains is one of the best places to get a close look at chimpanzees, red colobus and yellow baboons. Forest covered mountains and misty peaks makes Mahale Mountains one of the most unique spots in Tanzania.
As well as being a prime spot for heading out to the famed Serengeti, Arusha is also a fantastic spot to explore. Unlike the majority of national parks in Tanzania, Arusha is not just there to serve as a place for a safari. Arusha is the place for outdoor recreation. Hike the rolling hills, climb the towering mountains or even set off on a canoe and float down the water, gaining a whole new perspective of the national parks in Tanzania.
The Selous Game Reserve.
Africa’s largest reserve is a fantastic place to get a unique experience of a safari. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a great option if you want the experience of the Serengeti without the inevitable hoards of people and jeeps. Spot herds of elephants, cheetahs, African wild dogs, hippos, crocodiles and even a few black rhino. After your jeep safari, explore the other side of the park, the Selous swamps, wetlands and rivers by boat.
Katavi is one of the most remote parks in the whole of Africa, making it a great place to visit if you want to skip the crowds. It’s not easy to get to being only accessible by small aircraft, but if you can make it, you will be rewarded. Vast expanses of unspoiled, wild and beautiful land houses a fantastic selection of wildlife and all the usual suspects of the more popular parks. However, they have a huge density of hippos bathing in the pools.
Food in Tanzania.
Tanzanian food follows a similar pattern to the cuisine of its neighbouring nations, with a focus on starchy sides and roasted meats. The basis of most Tanzanian meals is ugali - a maize-based side that is also popular in Kenya and Uganda. Typically served alongside vegetables and occasionally grilled meat kebabs, or mishkaki. This is the general theme throughout the nation until you reach the coastline and immerse yourself in the abundant seafood options offered by the Indian Ocean. Curries become more readily available as you approach the sea, with classics like mchuzi wa samaki served in most beach side eateries. An aromatic fish curry with a mild level of spice to it, it is a favourite amongst travelers in Tanzania. The food scene changes again as you cross the water to Zanzibar where tasty dishes like urojo, a spicy soup of potatoes, mangoes and coconut, and mchuzi wa pweza, a curry made with octopus meat, start to become more common on restaurant menus. Something different: Zanzibar pizza. More similar to a crepe than a pizza in many ways, this dish starts with a thin sheet of dough that is then filled with onion, egg and cheese along with your sauces of choice and fried on a griddle. The end result is a crispy, chewy handful of deliciousness.
Culture, religion and etiquette:
Tanzania has a rich, eclectic culture with traditions being an important part of everyday life. Tanzanians are well-known for their hospitality and friendliness - you will always be greeted with a smile!
Around 40-45% of the population are Christian with 35-45% Muslim. The rest of the population follow Sikh, Hindu, Buddhism and other traditional African religions. As much of the population of Tanzania are Muslim, public affection is highly frowned upon.
Food is eaten with their hands but only with the right. The right hand is seen as the clean hand, which can be used for shaking hands and eating, the left hand is for ‘private matters’.
The correct way to greet each other in Tanzania is with a handshake (using the right hand) and a smile. As for dressing, generally people wear casual clothes unless at a top-end restaurant or bar. However, due to the large Muslim population in Tanzania, it is best to cover up arms and legs when you are away from the beach out of respect.
Tanzanians remain close with their family throughout life, holding the utmost respect for their elders who are thought of as a beacon of knowledge in life matters. There are still many tribes living in Tanzania, most famously, the Maasai Tribe. The Maasai people maintain their traditions, rituals and way of life. They live off their own land, farming cattle and crops and wear the traditional Maasai Tribal clothing.
History of Tanzania.
Over 120 ethnic groups live in Tanzania (then called Tanganyika), most of which migrated from various places in Africa. Swahilis originate from a mix of Arabic, Persion and Chinese traders who arrived in Africa in the 8th century. Vasco da Gama, a Portuguese explorer discovered Tanganyika in the late part of the 15th century, taking the country under the Portuguese control.
From the late 19th century until the end of world war two, Tanganyika (along with Burundi and Rwanda) became part of the colony of German East Africa. After the German’s defeat in the war, The League of Nations and the United Nations mandates put Britain in control of Tanganyika’s administration.
Tanganyika became independent in 1961, when Julius Nyerere became president. He remained in power until 1985. Later that year, Zanzibar and Tanganyika joined to form Tanzania.
In 1979, Tanzania gave support to anti-apartheid movements in South Africa and helped to overthrow the Amin regime in Uganda. Then in 1985, president Nyerere was replaced by Ali Hassan Mwinyi. He helped build the economy and made positive changes to the constitution.
In 1995, the CCM (Chama Cha Mapinduzi) won the election and appointed Benjamin Mkapa as president. In 1998 Tanzania came under a major terrorist event as the US embassy in Dar es Salaam was bombed. The CCM continued to win subsequent elections, however were accused of cheating the system when their new candidate Jakaua Kikwete won in 2005. The opposing parties eventually negotiated a power-sharing agreement which enabled more peaceful elections to ensue in 2010.