Tanzania is the biggest of the five East African countries and shares a border with all of them. Uganda in the North, Kenya in the North East, Burundi and Rwanda in the North West. Tanzania also shares borders with the Democratic Republic of Congo in the West and Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique in the South. It borders the Indian Ocean to the East. At 947,300 sq. km, it is the world’s 31st largest country by area. It is also the 25th largest by population with a population of 49,639,138. Tanzania is covered in plains and grasslands, which are a hub for many diverse animals, and highlands in the North and South. It has three great lakes of Africa i.e. Lake Malawi, Lake Tanganyika, and Lake Victoria.
Tanzania has two capital cities, Dar-es-Salam, which is the economic capital and is on the coast with the Indian Ocean, and Dodoma in the central region, which is the legislative capital. After Independence, Tanganyika joined with the islands of Zanzibar archipelago in the Indian Ocean to form the Republic of Tanzania. Zanzibar is a collection of beautiful white sand beaches which is also called the gateway of Africa. It was a very important island in pre-colonial trade and reaped huge dividends from spice trade. Today Pemba Island of the Zanzibar archipelago is still the highest producer of cloves. Its history with Arab rulers, Portuguese traders, European colonizers and Indian workers has left it with a fabulous blend of cultures, music and cuisines. Zanzibar in Persian means “coast of the blacks”. Tanzania is also uniquely known for being one of the only three countries that share a national anthem. Their national anthem, “Mungu Ibariki Africa” is shared by Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Tanzania safari tours are popular for its exotic wildlife and ancient tribes each with their own unique cultures. It comprises of 130 tribes each with their own tribal masks, crafts, fashion, cuisine, music and poetry.
About its wildlife, Tanzania has 30% of its area covered by national parks and has the largest concentration of wild animals per square kilometer in the world with more than 4 million wild animals. These animals are gazetted in 12parks, 13 nature reserves and 38 protected areas. It also has the largest population of wild elephants in East Africa in the Ruaha National Park. Tanzania is also famous for the Great Migration of the wildebeest in Serengeti National Park which is one of the most spectacular spectacles of the natural world. It has even been named among the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Tanzania is also the home of the world’s only tree climbing lions. Movie scenes and TV shows that depict tree climbing lions were probably shot in Tanzania’s national parks.
Tanzania is also well known for its physical wonders like Mountain Kilimanjaro which draws thousands of tourists to the country every year. Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa and the highest free standing mountain in the world. It stands at 19,341ft above sea level and with its majestic snowcapped peaks, it gives thrills and chills to people all around the world who come to scale its summit. It has even been a backdrop for many Guineas Book of Records feats like the first man to reach its highest peak, the first man to reach the peak on a wheel chair, the first limbless man to crawl to peak and even the furthest pizza delivery on earth! The Kilimanjaro also has 5 climatic zones from farmland at the foot through to alpine meadow to barren lunar landscape with snow at its highest peaks. The United States of America has seven climatic zones in comparison.
Tanzania is also the country where you will find the biggest volcanic crater. The Ngorongoro crater measures 19 kilometers in width and 600 meters in depth. It’s a sanctuary for many resident and migratory animals including some of the most beautiful herd of flamingos. Legend has it that the Ngorongoro was one of the tallest mountains on the planet until it exploded and left the huge crater.
One of archeology’s most important sites and finds can also be found in Tanzania. The Olduvai Gorge is where the earliest skulls of man were unearthed by renowned archeologist Louis Leaky. The skulls were found out to be more than two million years old together with some tools found to be more then 1.5million years old. These finds have helped in the understanding of the history of man. The Olduvai Gorge is found in the Great Rift Valley between the Ngorongoro crater and the Serengeti National Park. Tanzania is also known for an intriguing lake called Lake Natron that is so salty it has been known to turn birds into salt statues.
Tanzania is also home to the world’s most expensive hardwood tree called the East African Blackwood Tree. The locals call it the “mpingo tree” and it is part of the rosewood family. It is called Blackwood because it has a black heart at its center and its wood dates back as far as trade in the ancient Egyptian kingdom and the Nubian kingdom. The Blackwood tree is also sometimes called Ebony though this is sometimes confused with some of its more brittle counterparts just so as to help them sell. The East African black wood also managed to dislodge many Asian hardwoods as a wood of choice in trade due to its marvelous qualities.
Tanzania is also the birthplace of English band, Queen’s star front man, Farrokh Bulsara, also known as Freddie Mercury. Freddie Mercury was born in the island of Zanzibar in the city of Stone town before he moved to India and later to England and would soon be known as England’s first Arab rock star.
Tanzania is also one of the three countries in Africa that mines and exports gold, together with South Africa
The Coconut crab, the world’s largest crab can also be found in Tanzania, on the island of Zanzibar. It said to also be the most delicious.
THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN TANZANIA
Mount Kilimanjaro together with the Mount Kilimanjaro National Park is one of Tanzania’s most frequented, most fascinating places to visit and draws countless tourists from all corners of the world to try and scale it’s majestic snowcapped peaks or just to stand at its foot and gawk and enjoy it’s wonderful scenery. The Kilimanjaro is the highest peak in Africa and the highest free standing mountain in the world standing at 19,341ft above sea level. It has five types of climate starting with farmlands at its foot, then equatorial rain forest full of a diverse range of plant and animal species, then to alpine meadow with a stupefying diversity of bird species and at this level is a sanctuary for bird watchers. It then moves on to barren lunar landscape high up at the peaks and above the clouds. Mount Kilimanjaro is a volcanic mountain and some claim it could erupt any time but the last eruption happened 360,000 years ago. Mount Kilimanjaro had a hand in some inspirational personal stories like Hans Meyer and his mountaineer counterpart Ludwig who were the first to reach its summit, and homegrown Tanzanian Simon Muty who has made the fastest ascend-descent all in 9hrs 21min 47sec. Try your luck with the Kilimanjaro, you never know, you could break a few records yourself.
Serengeti National Park.
Serengeti is a treeless plain with thousands of animals searching endlessly for pasture. Serengeti is Tanzania’s largest national park and attracts thousands of tourists every year. The most fascinating attraction that continues to pull tourists both foreign and local is the Great Wildebeest Migration that happens all year round as the wildebeest move between Serengeti and Masai Mara in Kenya as they follow the rains and the fresh pasture that comes with it. The wildebeest migration is one of the most impressive natural events and has even been named as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. The wildebeest are as though conditioned and wired to follow a certain specific pattern as though being led by a power. Studies have called this type of group thinking “herd intelligence ” and this is what the wildebeest use to cross dangerous places like the Mara River crossing at Mara River which is the most popular and spellbinding spot in the whole migration circuit. Serengeti has other attractions including 500 species of birds, hyenas, bat eared fox, jackals, cheetah, and leopards.
Zanzibar beaches are some of the most beautiful and ideal for romantic getaways. The beaches are made of beautiful soft white sands and clear shallow waters which are also ideal for scuba divers. Apart from basking in the birthplace of superstar Freddie Mercury, in Stone Town, at the center of Zanzibar, the islands are warm all year hence every day is a perfect day to hit the beach. The cool breeze of the Indian Ocean also counters the heat making for a utopia-like atmosphere for relaxing and lounging. The Zanzibar Islands are also known for the production and exportation of spices and have come to be known as the “spice islands”. The islands also have a marvelous mix of cultures owing to their history with Arabs, Portuguese, Indians, and European colonialists. It has condensed into unique cultures of dance, cuisine and language. Very ideal for culture tourists. The islands are also the only place with the Red Columbus monkeys which now remain only 3000 individuals. Zanzibar is also reportedly the first place in Tanzania were the colour TV was introduced before it entered the mainland where the people reluctantly welcomed.
Ngorongoro Volcanic Crater.
The Ngorongoro Volcanic Crater is situated in the East African Rift Valley between Serengeti National Park and Lake Manyara. The volcanic crater is one of Tanzania’s most popular wildlife viewing areas. It has a permanent supply of water all year round which makes it ideal for animals who make homes there and never need to migrate. Some of the most popular animals are the red flamingos which flock the crater in thousands and make for a fascinating view. This makes the crater a hub for bird watching enthusiasts. In addition, the crater has the Kenyan Rufus Sparrow which is endemic to Tanzania and Kenya, the Black Kite, Black Winged Lapwing, Hildebrandt’s Spur fowl and many more. Also other animals like lions, elephants, rhinos, Thomson’s gazelle, wildebeest and zebras. The Ngorongoro crater also houses the Olduvai Gorge which is the largest intact ancient caldera in the world numbering 3million years old.
Olduvai is a misspelling of Oldupai which is the Masai name for a wild plant that grows in the region. The Olduvai Gorge is the oldest ancient caldera and is where the earliest human skulls were discovered by Luis Leakey after millions of years of soil erosion helped unearth them. This archeological site is situated a series of fault lines in the rift valley. Footprints of a man, a woman, and a child have also been discovered which shade some light on the 2million year old civilization before us.
Selous Game Reserve
Selous Game Reserve is the largest game reserve in Africa that was established in 1922. The game reserve covers 5% of Tanzania’s total land mass. The Southern part of the game reserve is covered in thick forest and steep cliff and is prohibited for anyone to reach. Humans are only allowed in the North side which is covered by grasslands, woodlands, rivers and hills. The Rufiji river dissects the game park and has the largest catchment of any river in East Africa. The park has 350 species of birds, coupled with antelopes, giraffes, warthogs, leopards, cheetahs.
Visit the exact birthplace of Queen front man Freddie Mercury which is at the centre of the spectacular Zanzibar islands and is their cultural heart and has stayed the same in structure and design for the last 200 years. The town, with narrow streets and winding alleyways built in the 19th century. Doors designed in intricately carved wood and brass studs. Some buildings have been transformed into museums for viewing. Visit the City Hall, Beit-el-Sahel; the home of the Sultans, Anglican Cathedrals, and the Forodhoin Gardens.
Other intriguing places in Tanzania include Pemba Island which is known for producing cloves and allegedly voodoo, Tanganyika National Park, Arusha National Park, Lake Victoria, and Mafia Islands.
WHERE TO STAY IN TANZANIA.
Serengeti Migration Camp.
The Serengeti Migration Camp is regarded as one of the best places to stay in the Serengeti. The camp is made up of 20 large tents with decks that offer a great view over the whole Serengeti. You will have a front row seat to one of the greatest spectacles of the natural world, the Wildebeest migration. The camp offers outdoor pool, restaurant, bar and bathrooms in all the living spaces. Some tents even have a patio or terrace
Ra’s Nungwi is a quiet beach hotel in the North of the Zanzibar Island and has a beautiful beach in front which offers a good atmosphere for relaxation and beaching. Gas Nungwi is also a good place for diving and snorkeling in the clear waters where you will see a beautiful world under the Indian Ocean. The beach is also just one hour from Stone Town which is the cultural capital of the islands and the birthplace of superstar Freddie Mercury. The beach is also near the national airport which makes it very essential and central to tourists. They offer bar, swimming pool, and dining area. The rooms are divided into Garden lodges for budget, Superior Chalet and Superior Deluxe Chalet which face the beach. They also have a water sports center with all kinds of water sports.
Sunshine Hotel is also a budget lodging on the Zanzibar Island and they make up for in value what they don’t offer in luxury. They have the best access to Mnembe beach which is the best place for diving and snorkeling. They offer private rooms with bathrooms, unique benches made out of stone and a balcony to enjoy the view of the beach and the Indian Ocean. They divide the lodgings into three bungalows named Cinnamon, Clove, and Coconut, some of the crops synonymous with the island. They also have, in a different building, the luxury Honeymoon suite.
White Sands Hotel
This is another quiet, private and lonely lodging on the Zanzibar islands. It is set on a 2 kilometer beach on the East Coast. They have gorgeous gardens and one room, two room, and the luxurious five room presidential suite. They even provide hammocks on the beach to give the complete beach experience. Every room is provided with TV, free Wi-Fi and coffee machine coupled with bathroom, flush toilet, mosquito nets and all other important amenities.
Singita Mara River Tented Camp
The Singita Mara River Tented Camp is located within the Serengeti National Park and offers lodgings to visitors of the national park. The park is very committed to conservation of the environment so they try not to use any harmful material and instead use solar energy for electricity and they recycle everything. Their decor is bohemian chic with Masai designs and draping designed by young African artisans which gives the lodging a cool African feel. They offer lodging in tents with single bedroom and the family suite with two bedrooms. They also provide babysitting services for underage children and plunge pool in the main camp with free Wi-Fi.