With an extremely rich wildlife and game viewing widely regarded as the best in Africa, with more land devoted to national parks and game reserves than any other wildlife destination in the world, Tanzania can truly claim to be the home of the safari – the Swahili word for journey.
Tanzania is the place to see endless herds of wildebeest and zebra trekking across the plains on their annual migration- followed by the predatory lion, leopard, cheetah and hyena as well as some of the largest populations of elephants in the world.
It’s also home to chimpanzee, now so rarely seen in the wild.
The Serengeti National Park, the largest in the country and is probably the most renowned in the east Africa region, with its awe inspiring wildebeest migration.
This is undoubtedly one of the most dramatic wildlife spectacles in the world, where millions of animals circulate through the ecosystem annually, moving onto the 5,000 sq km of grassland in the wet season and retreating to the woodland areas in the dry.
In addition to all of this, Tanzania also boasts beautiful beaches – hundreds of miles of palm-fringed sands on the coastline of the mainland as well as on its islands, of which the most well-known is, without a doubt, the world famous exotic island of Zanzibar.
The white sands and coralline barrier of Zanzibar, blend with a rich history and culture in order to make the island a premium destination in the Indian Ocean.
Tanzania has also huge lakes, such as Victoria and Tanganyika, and its mountains are both massive and mysterious and include Mount Meru as well as several others not including, of course, the world-renowned Mount Kilimanjaro.
At the same time, its cities, which are the starting point for the discovery of this amazing country, are relaxed and friendly.
Although today’s visitors are able to visit the country with none of the hardships and all of the adventures that were experienced by the early pioneers, tourists also now have an opportunity to discover extremely wild and completely virgin places within the country, mainly in the so-called southern circuit, which represents an unrefined gem for the truly adventurous tourist.
However, sun-filled and beautiful days are not all that Tanzania has to offer.
On the contrary, within the country’s borders exists a vast number of people and tribes whose varied cultures and traditions make up the rich tapestry that is Tanzanian culture.
To this day, this marvelous country remains untouched by the holiday-making hordes of mass tourism thanks to a well balanced tourism development policy.
According to Mr. Peter Mwenguo, the Managing Director of The Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB), the organisation in charge of catalyzing the development of Tanzania tourism products and promoting them both internally and abroad: “Tanzania has been looking at attracting low volume of tourists so that we protect nature and we make our product remain premium for long time.”
Covering an area of 937,062 sq km, including both the mainland and the Zanzibar Archipelago, Tanzania is the largest country in East Africa.
Just south of the equator, Tanzania shares a border with Kenya and Uganda in the north; the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi in the west; and Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique in the south.
Map of Tanzania Tourism
Consequently, it represents an amazing destination by itself as well as a splendid centre from which to explore eastern, central and southern Africa.
A land of geographical extremes, Tanzania has its highest peak with Mount Kilimanjaro, at 5,890 metres, and its lowest point with the lakebed of Lake Tanganyika, at a depth of 1,433 metres.
A large central plateau (between 900m and 1800m) makes up most of the mainland, with a huge expanse of savannah and sparse woodland in addition to the mountain ranges of the Eastern Arc and the Southern and Northern Highlands, which cut across the country to form part of the Great Rift Valley, part of the earth’s crust that stretches from Lebanon to Mozambique.
The interior of the country is largely arid, while the coastline is lush and palm-fringed.
In addition there are, of course, the sandy islands of Zanzibar, Pemba and Mafia, which represent the most renowned of the beaches in the country.
Because of its ideal location, below the equator, perched on the edge of the African continent, and facing the Indian Ocean, Tanzania’s weather and climate leave nothing to be desired.
The coolest months occur during the northern hemisphere’s summer.
However, the weather remains pleasant and comfortable year-round throughout the country, with temperatures that are always welcoming and gentle boasting warm and sunny days followed by cool and balmy nights.
Between June and October, temperatures range from around 10°C in the northern highlands to about 23°C on the coast.
On the plains and the lower-altitude game reserves, the temperatures between these months are warm and mild.
On the coast, these months are some of the most pleasant times during which to plan a visit, with balmy, sunny weather for much of the day and cooling ocean breezes at night.
From December to March, the days are hot and sunny, often without a cloud in the sky.
Temperatures range from the mid-twenties to the low thirties throughout the country.
On the shores of the Swahili Coast, the Indian Ocean reaches its highest temperatures and is ideal for swimming at any time of day or night.
Tanzania’s equatorial climate brings two seasons of rain each year: the Masika, or long rains, that fall from mid-March to the end of May, and the Mvuli, or short rains, that come intermittently throughout November and parts of December and sometimes stretch into early January.
During the long rains, heavy showers fall in the early mornings, but usually clear up by mid-day, with the weather often remaining clear and sunny until late afternoon.
By evening, impressive cloud formations build, breaking sometime after dark and the rain often continues throughout the night.
During the short rains, light showers in the mornings and late afternoons are punctuated by stretches of clear weather and beautiful rays of sunlight.
Tanzania is home to some of the most incredible tribal diversity in Africa.
In total, there are approximately 120 tribal groups including the Masaai, who inhabit the northern regions of the country and are perhaps most well-known for fiercely guarding their culture and traditions.
The country is composed of an amazingly varied population with all of the major ethnic and linguistic groups on the continent.
The Maasai are, without a doubt, the most famous tribe in Tanzania and among the most well-known African ethnic groups internationally
This produces a vibrant mix of Arabs, Indians and Bantus, who historically base their livelihoods around Indian Ocean trade.
Surprisingly, Tanzanians enjoy a climate of freedom and peace that is rare and extremely praised in this part of the world.
Religion is considered to be an important expression of the communities and cultures.
Tanzanians practice Christianity and Islam, mainly on the Swahili Coast, as the region is called, as well as traditional African religions.
Incredibly, there is a general feeling of tolerance and understanding.
Thanks to such a multicultural heritage, over the past few years cultural tourism has increasingly become an attraction for visitors from around the world and visits to tribal villages are often a highlight of safari itineraries.
Tanzania is called the “cradle of mankind” because it was here that, in 1959, that Dr. Louis Leakey discovered the fossilised remains of Homo habilis in the area that is known today as Olduvai Gorge – a historic discovery as it provides evidence of hominoid habitation in the region going back at least 3 million years.
It is thought that early hunter-gatherer communities inhabited the northern highlands as far back as 10,000 years ago and remained largely isolated until the arrival of Cushitic-speaking tribes from the north, who brought basic agricultural technologies to the area between 3,000 and 5,000 years ago.
More recent migrations of Bantu-speaking tribes from western Africa began around 1000 BC and with their assimilation came advances in iron and steel production.
Arab merchants visited the coast some 2,000 years ago and settled in Zanzibar around the 8th century AD, later establishing trade routes into the interior.
The inter-marriage of Arabs and locals created a new people with their own language – Kiswahili (Swahili).
Arab merchants visited the coast some 2,000 years ago and settled in Zanzibar around the 8th century AD
Ancestors of the Masaai arrived more recently from Kenya, beginning their migration around the 15th century and continuing to arrive from the area around southern Sudan for another three hundred years.
Portuguese traders dominated the East African coast from 1525 until the early 18th century, when Omani Arabs gained control of the infamous slave trade.
Because of the scramble for African territory by the European powers at the end of the 19th century, the German East African Company gained control over large portions of the Tanzanian mainland, although the British held a sphere of influence over the Omani sultans ruling the Zanzibar Archipelago.
After World War I, Germany was forced to surrender its territory to the British.
A fledgling national movement in opposition to colonial occupation was founded in the 1930’s and, by the early 1950’s, the movement came into its own.
In 1954, an internal constitution was drawn up and resistance was unified under the Tanganyika African National Union with Julius Nyerere, the “father of Tanzanians,” elected as its president.
Tanganyika, as the mainland was then known, achieved independence in 1961.
In 1962 it became a republic within the Commonwealth of Nations, and Julius Nyerere was made its president.
Meanwhile, in 1963, the archipelago also gained its independence from British influence.
One year later, leaders Nyerere and Karume, the first president of Zanzibar, signed an act of union that include the Republic of Tanganyika and the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar, thus creating the United Republic of Tanzania.
In 1967, Nyerere issued the famous Arusha Declaration, a major policy statement that called for egalitarianism, socialism, and self-reliance, which actually marked the start of the socialist era in this country.
This period lasted until 1985, when President Ali Mwingi was elected.
President Mwingi began the first movements toward a free market economy, which were then carried over and properly implemented by the following President, Benjamin Mkapa, in the decade between 1995-2005.
The recently elected President Jakaya Kikwete, who was previously Minister of Foreign Affairs under the Mkapa administration, is expected to follow the path set by his predecessors in order to reach the goals that are included in the country’s 2025 development vision.
Tanzania Tourist Circuits
With so many parks and itineraries to choose from, safaris to Tanzania are often divided into regional circuits, or groups of game parks, whose geographical proximity and topographical features make up a varied and diverse group.
Some of the circuits are, of course, more traveled than others.
As such, Tanzania can be divided into the northern and the southern circuit, which also includes 800 km coastline; the western circuit, which is comprised of some locations in the south as well as in the north; and the famous Zanzibar Island in the Indian Ocean.
Tanzania’s northern circuit alone easily attracts the majority of tourists.
However, the northern circuit’s fame and popularity means that other equally stunning, though less well-known locations, are not often frequented by tourists.
Map of Tanzania Tourism Circuits
The southern circuit contains the Selous Game Reserve and, as such, it is an area that is open to professional hunters for six months of the year.
This area is Africa’s largest game reserve.
In addition, the western circuit also includes the shores of Lake Victoria, which is, by far, the largest lake in Africa.
However, none of these circuits are a complete itinerary by themselves.
Rather, they are regional suggestions for travelers wishing to explore a certain part of the country, or for return visitors who wish to travel to new remote places.
Most tourism operators will suggest selecting several regions and areas belonging to different circuits in order to make a truly unique holiday experience with an unforgettable blend of wildlife, culture, history and beaches.
Tanzania Northern Circuit
The parks and the game reserves that make up Tanzania’s northern circuit are easily the best developed, the most popular and the most easily accessible of Tanzania’s tourism routes.
As explained by Mr. Peter Mwenguo, Managing Director of The Tanzania Tourist Board: “The backbone of tourism in Tanzania is represented by the wildlife that constitutes about 60 to 70 percent of our product.
The Tanzania Northern Circuits includes Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest free-standing mountain rise in the world, and the highest peak in Africa at 5,895 metres
This is mainly concentrated in the north because of the infrastructures present there.”
In fact, all of the major names in the mainstream Tanzanian safaris are located in the Northern Circuit, such as the Serengeti, Arusha, Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Parks as well as the Olduvai Gorge archaeological site and Mount Kilimanjaro.
The Northern Circuit is also home to the most visited attraction, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
This area includes the Ngorongoro Crater, the largest unbroken caldera in the world, full of diverse wildlife and where the “big five” (elephant, rhino, hippo, cheetah, buffalo) can easily be spotted in one tour.
Next to these big names of Tanzanian tourism are other interesting spots for curious first-time travelers or for second time visitors to the country, such as Mount Meru, Crater Highlands and the Momela Lakes.
Most of the safaris for this northern region of the country depart from the nearby town of Arusha, which is also called the capital of safaris and is located in the northern highlands of Tanzania, beneath the twin peaks of Mount Meru and Mount Kilimanjaro.
Arusha’s ideal location near the major national parks in addition its highland setting make it a peaceful idyll of relaxation before the beginning of an exciting journey.
Built by the Germans as a centre of colonial administration in the early 20th century, Arusha was a sleepy town with only a few shops around a grassy roundabout.
However, thanks to the development of tourism in Tanzania, which began as an extension of tourism from neighboring Kenya into this northern area, today Arusha is one of the country’s most prosperous towns.
In fact, Arusha is currently the headquarters for the United Nations Criminal Tribunal on the Rwandan genocide and the Tripartite commission for East African Co-operation is also situated here.
For this reason, Arusha is a major centre for Tanzanian diplomacy and international relations.
Arusha has a vast number of safari companies, curio shops brimming with handicrafts, carvings and gemstones as well as luxurious hotels – the most renowned of which is the Arusha Hotel.
Formerly known as the New Arusha Hotel and having recently undergone an extensive renovation and refurbishment program, it is now the only 5 star hotel in town.
Set in beautifully landscaped gardens with many birds and exotic plants and with 65 elegantly furnished rooms and suites, it includes an impressive heated pool and an in-house casino.
It is thought to be the best location to relax or to have fun before a new day of breath-taking excursions.
Getting there: a short drive from Arusha or Kilimanjaro International Airports.
Arusha National Park
Just next to the city of Arusha is the Arusha National Park, a gem of varied ecosystems.
This National Park is home to Mount Meru, the Momela Lakes, the Ngurdoto Conservation Area and Crater, and the lush highland forests that blanket its lower slopes.
Arusha National Park is a multi-faceted jewel, often overlooked by safarigoers
The park is also famous for its 400 species of birds, both migrant and resident, and the colobus monkey which has beautiful and distinct black fur that strongly contrasts with the long white mantle.
Other magnificent forest animals frequently seen in the park are baboons, elephants, buffalos, giraffes, hippos, leopards, hyenas, zebras and a wide range of antelope species.
New tourist attractions include canoe safaris on the Momela lakes and walking safaris around the rim of the Ngurdoto Crater.
The Ngurdoto crater is a 20 km in diameter and 100 m deep crater that has also been called the mini-Ngorongoro because of its proximity to the world famous huge crater.
Also called the mini Ngorongoro, Ngurdoto is a 20 km in diameter and 100 m deep crater
It is home to elephants, buffalos, baboons, reedbucks, colobus monkeys and leopards.
Mosses, ferns, lichens and orchids also thrive in the damp atmosphere of the crater, giving way to huge mahogany, olive and date palm trees on the drier crater walls.
In the past, it has only been possible to drive up to the rim, but now, as the spot is becoming less obscure, it is also possible to explore the crater rim on foot.
However, descent into the crater itself is not allowed.
Climbing Mount Meru is usually overlooked in favour of its larger neighbour, Mount Kilimanjaro to the west, but the sheer beauty and challenge of this three-day climb makes it a must-do for keen climbers.
Located 70 kilometres west of Mount Kilimanjaro Mount Meru is an active volcano
The early parts of the trail pass through lush rainforests of fig trees and colubus monkeys high in the canopy.
As you climb higher, the cloud forest clears in the late afternoon to reveal striking vistas of Kilimanjaro and the volcano chain on the edge of the Tanzanian section of the Rift Valley.
The last distance, before the summit passes over the crater ridge, is an exhilarating and adventurous experience, definitely not for the faint-of-heart.
The seven Momela alkaline lakes are largely fed from under-ground streams and are not very deep.
For this reason, they contain very few fish and many micro-organisms.
Their different mineral contents mean that each lake supports a different type of algae growth and this gives each a different colour.
Because of the different mineral contents, each Momela lake supports a different type of algae growth and this gives each a different color
Accordingly, with over 380 species of birds, bird life also varies from one stretch of water to another, even where only a strip of land separates the lakes.
Hippopotamuses are often seen in Small Momela Lake and the blue green algae in Lake Rishateni supports a flamingo population.
Nestled at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, Moshi is the coffee-producing centre of the country.
Surrounding the town are the vast coffee plantations that blanket the area.
Apart from being a busy little town, Moshi is home to the Chaga and Maasai tribes
Sugar plantations are also of central importance to the region’s economy and can be seen outside of town.
Moshi is a quiet haven of tranquil peace whose streets offer a warm welcome in a beautiful setting.
Walks around the town and day-trips to tribes, villages and coffee farms are activities of interest to passing visitors.
However, the main reason visitors come to Moshi is to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.
Also know as the ‘Roof of Africa,’ Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest free-standing mountain and the highest walkable summit in the world, reaching 5,895m above the sea level.
Kilimanjaro is located near the town of Moshi and is a protected area, carefully regulated for climbers to enjoy without leaving a trace of their presence.
Kilimanjaro is a dormant, though not extinct, volcano with an incredible diameter at its base of 65 Km.
Although they are just three degrees south of the Equator, the peaks of both Kibo and Mawenzi have permanent caps of snow and ice, with climbers passing from a tropical to an arctic environment in just a few days.
The mountain’s ecosystems are as strikingly beautiful as they are varied and diverse.
On the lowland slopes, much of the mountain is farmland, with coffee, banana, cassava, and maize crops grown for subsistence and cash sale.
Once inside the park, a thick lowland forest covers the lower altitudes and breaks into alpine meadows once the air begins to thin.
Near the peak, the landscape is harsh and barren, with rocks and ice being the predominant features above a breathtaking African view.
Kilimanjaro is the tallest free-standing mountain rise in the world and the highest peak in Africa at 5,895 metres
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro
Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, with the safe help of porters and a guide, is the highlight of most visitors’ experiences in Tanzania.
Few mountains can claim the grandeur, the breathtaking views of Amboseli National Park in Kenya, the Rift Valley, and the Masaai Steppe, all of which belong to Kilimanjaro.
Hiking on the ‘Rooftop of Africa’ is the adventure of a lifetime.
Fortunately, if paced well, everyone from seasoned trekkers to first-time enthusiasts can scale the snowy peak without specialised mountaineering equipment.
There are, in fact, several different routes including Marangu, the easiest climb and therefore the most popular, Machame, Shira, Umbwe and Rongai.
The total climb normally takes five to six days and involves four or five overnight stays in comfortable mountain huts.
Kilimanjaro can be climbed at any time of the year, but the best time is typically thought to be between August and October or between January and March.
Getting there: a two hours drive from Arusha.
The Serengeti region encompasses the Serengeti National Park itself, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the Maswa Game Reserve, and the Game Controlled Areas of Loliondo, Grumeti and Ikorongo as well as the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.
Over 90,000 tourists visit the park each year.
Getting there: a six hours drive, or one hour flight, from Arusha.
Serengeti National Park
The Serengeti is, without a doubt, Tanzania’s most famous national park, and it is also the largest, with 14,763 square kilometres of protected area that border Kenya’s Maasai Mara Game Park.
Its far-reaching plains of endless grass, tinged with the twisted shadows of acacia trees, have made it the quintessential image of a wild and untarnished Africa.
Its large stone kopjes are home to rich ecosystems and the sheer magnitude and scale of life that the plains support is staggering.
Large prides of lions laze in the long grasses, families of elephants feed on acacia bark and trump to each other across the plains.
In addition, giraffes, gazelles, monkeys, elands, and the whole range of African wildlife also exist here in awe-inspiring numbers.
The Serengeti National Park, Tanzania’s main attraction, has more than 2 million herbivores and thousands of predators
The annual wildebeest migration through the Serengeti and the Masai Mara attract visitors from around the world, who flock to the open plains in order to witness the largest mass movement of land mammals on the planet.
More than a million animals make the seasonal journey to fresh pasture in the north and then return again to the south, after the biannual rains.
The sound of their thundering hooves raising massive clouds of thick red dust has become one of the legends of the Serengeti plains.
Indeed, in the wake of the wildebeest migration, many of the less attention-grabbing features of the Serengeti are often overlooked.
Aside from traditional vehicle bound safaris, hot-air ballooning over the Serengeti plains has become a safari rite-of-passage for travel enthusiasts.
The flights depart at dawn over the plains and take passengers close over the awakening herds of wildebeest, zebras, gazelles and giraffes.
However, it is not only the Serengeti that is is used as a migratory pathway by wild beasts.
The adjacent reserve of Maswa, Ikorongo Loliondo, and Grumeti Game Controlled Area as well as the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, all also allow the animals and the birds of the area a free range of movement to follow their seasonal migrations.
Maswa Game Reserve
Maswa Game Reserve is located south of the Serengeti.
|The southern portion of the Maswa Game Reserve offers a remote part of the park that is rewarding in its game-viewing and its privacy|
The Maswa borders the southwestern part of Serengeti National Park and is an extension of the Serengeti ecosystem.
The reserve consists of river valley thickets, acacia parkland and open plains, making it an ideal walking area. The southern portion of the Maswa Game Reserve offers a remote part of the park that is rewarding in its game-viewing and it privacy.
Loliondo, Grumeti and Ikorongo Game Controlled Areas
Loliondo, Grumeti and Ikorongo Game Reserves form an important part of the semi-annual migratory route of millions of wildebeests
These Game Controlled Areas are places of outstanding natural beauty with a landscape of differing habitats, including grassy plains, rolling wooded hills, acacia-lined watercourses and dramatic granite kopjes.
These areas form an important part of the semi-annual migratory route of millions of wildebeests and other ungulate mammals northward into the Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya between April and June as well as their return southward later in the year.
The Grumeti River in the Western Corridor of Serengeti is the location for the dramatic river crossing, when herbivores cross the river and risk the attack of crocodiles.
Hippo and black-and-white Colobus monkeys are also found in these areas.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area
The Ngorongoro Crater and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area are, without a doubt, some of the most beautiful parts of Tanzania.
This is why the crater, the largest unbroken caldera in the world, is also called ‘Africa’s Eden’ and the ‘8th Natural Wonder of the World.’
The Crater lies within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a protected area of approximately 8,300 sq km where only indigenous tribes, such as the Masaai, are allowed to live.
A population of about 25,000 large animals, largely ungulates along with the highest density of mammalian predators in Africa, lives in the Ngorongoro crater
The Ngorongoro is a ‘must do’ for tourists coming to Tanzania.
After a beautiful descent down the crater rim, past a lush rain forest and thick vegetation, the flora opens to reveal grassy plains throughout the crater floor.
The game viewing here is truly incredible, with all of the ‘big five’ being easy to spot along with the unique spectacle of the Masaai tribes living side by side with them, in mutual respect.
Large herds of zebras and wildebeest graze while, nearby, sleeping lions laze in the sun.
Large families of hippo protect themselves from the sun by bathing in one of the numerous pools.
At dawn, the endangered black rhinos return to the thick cover of the crater forests, after having grazed on dew-laden grass in the morning mist.
Astonishing accommodations are located on the ridges of the crater, from which a breathtaking view can be enjoyed at any time, becoming truly dramatic at dawn and at sunset.
While the Ngorongoro Crater is the single most visited site, the rest of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area also offers many rewards for those visitors who are prepared to explore further afield.
Located within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is the Olduvai Gorge, yet another of Tanzania’s eight World Heritage sites.
The gorge is a very steep-sided ravine, roughly 50 km long and 90 m deep.
The Olduvai Gorge, or Oldupai Gorge, is commonly referred to as “The Cradle of Mankind”
It was here that Dr. Louis Leakey first discovered the hominoid remains of the 1.8 million year old skeleton of Australopithecus boisei.
This discovery is one of the links to the human evolutionary chain which shows that the area is one of the oldest sites of hominoid habitation in the world.
Guides operate lecture tours of the sites.
Rising up from the floors of the Rift Valley, the Crater Highlands form a lush chain of mountains and volcanoes that include the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the surrounding Masaai tribal lands.
Hiking safaris offer visitors a chance to see some of the most spectacular and stunning scenery in Tanzania.
Located on the way to Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti, on the edge of the Rift Valley, Lake Manyara National Park offers varied ecosystems, incredible bird life, and breathtaking views in a small area.
The alkaline soda of the lake is also home to yellow-billed storks, heron and pink flamingo, who stop and graze by the thousands.
Lake Manyara is a scenic gem, with a setting that was extolled by Ernest Hemingway as “the loveliest I had seen in Africa”
Lake Manyara’s most famous spectacle is still the tree-climbing lions, the only kind of their species in the world, who spend most of the day spread out along the branches of Acacia trees and tree-climbing pythons.
In addition, this national park is also home to the largest concentration of baboons and blue monkeys anywhere in the world.
The park is also particularly noted for its huge herds of buffalos and elephants, giraffes, impalas, and hippos as well as a wide variety of smaller animals.
Getting there: a two hours drive, or half hour flight, from Arusha.
Mkomazi Game Reserve
Located just south of the border with Kenya is the Mkomazi Game Reserve.
This game reserve contains 90 percent of all of the botanic species found in Tanzania, one-third of which are classified as unique in the world, and is the focus of an intensive breeding program to save the endangered black rhinos from South Africa.
Mkomazi Game Reserve is the focus of an intensive breeding program to save the endangered black rhinos
Mkomazi’s tourist attractions are exceedingly sparse and limited, and travel to the area is often neglected in favour of the more accessible national parks and reserves.
However, the reserve has its own unique appeal as wild dogs have recently been introduced to the region and there is a wide variety of indigenous snakes.
Getting there: approximately 200 km drive from Arusha.
Tarangire National Park
Tarangire National Park is probably one of the least visited of the northern Tanzanian game parks, and retains a real air of undiscovered Africa
Located approximately 100km from Arusha, Tarangire National Park is a popular stop for safaris travelling through the northern circuit on their way to Ngorongoro and the Serengeti.
Tarangire has some of the highest population density of elephants anywhere in Tanzania, 550 varieties of bird and sparse vegetation, and is strewn with baobab and acacia trees, making it a beautiful and special location.
The park extends into two game controlled areas and the wildlife includes gazelles, wildebeests, zebras, and giraffes who are allowed to move freely throughout.
Breathtaking views of the Masaai Steppe and the mountains to the south make a stop at Tarangire a memorable experience.
Getting there: one and a half hour drive, or half hour flight from Arusha.
Tanzania Southern Circuit
Although much less known and visited than the northern circuit, the sheer vastness of southern Tanzania creates some spectacular game viewing and superb African vistas.
This allows visitors to gain in-depth knowledge about complex ecosystems and diverse living creatures that are usually skimmed over in more crowded areas.
An additional benefit of a visit to the Southern Circuit is the remoteness of the location, which means that most visitors rarely see another car during their long game drives.
In this sense, the southern circuit is a trip into an unexplored and wild Africa and represents an opportunity to be a pioneer in the exploration of an upcoming circuit in Tanzania.
An additional benefit of a visit to the southern circuit is the remoteness of the location, which means that most visitors rarely see another car during their long game drives
According to Mr. Richard Brugimbana, the Executive Secretary of Tourism Confederation of Tanzania, the organisation, which represents the private business sector involved in travel and tourism in this country: “The South […] is a new product altogether; very wild and underdeveloped, something new for the tourists”.
The principal areas of the Southern Circuit include the Selous Game Reserve and the National Parks of Mikumi and Ruaha as well as the Udzungwa Mountains National Park.
In addition, there is also the Rungwa Game Reserve and the Kitulo National Parks.
Beach resources include the islands of Mafia and the largely undeveloped southern Swahili Coast, including the cities of Bagamoyo and Dar es Salaam and their respective beaches.
Cultural Resources are also available in Mtwara, Kilwa and in the city of Bagamoyo.
Selous Game Reserve
The Selous Game Reserve is Africa’s largest protected wildlife reserve and covers more than 5 percent of Tanzania’s total area.
Tourists flock to the north of the reserve, while large portions of the south are still reserved for hunting.
It’s rivers, hills, and plains are home to roaming elephant populations, wild dogs, and some of the last black rhino left in the region.
Located in the Tanzania Southern Circuit, the Selous Game Reserve is one of the largest fauna reserves in the world
Due to its remote location and because it is most easily accessible only by small aircraft, the Selous Game Reserve has remained one of Tanzania’s untouched gems and provides visitors with a chance to see a wild and expansive Africa far from paved roads.
The Rufigi River Delta, the largest water locations in the region, is a striking feature of the game reserve.
It connects the Great Ruaha River with the Rufigi River and empties out into the Indian Ocean along the Tanzanian Coast.
The Rufigi River is home to a plethora of varied water and bird life.
Its riverbanks gather hippos, crocodiles and an array of grazing antelope, especially during the dry season between June and October.
Stiggler’s Gorge, where the Great Ruaha River meets the Rufiji River, is a breathtaking example of the diversity and spectacular scenery along the game reserve’s waterways.
Not surprisingly, boating safaris are becoming a popular alternative to vehicle-based trips in Selous and offer visitors a chance to see the diverse life along the Rufigi River, up-close in all of its splendour.
Getting there: between a seven and nine hour drive, only in the dry season, or a one and a half hour flight from Dar es Salaam. A bit less from Bagamoyo.
Tanzania’s second-largest national park after the Serengeti, Ruaha National Park stretches over 40,000 sq km of spectacular wilderness, undisturbed wildlife, and breathtaking scenery.
Most of the national park is located on the top of a 900-metre plateau with ripples of hills, valleys and plains.
Previously inaccessible, it has remained virtually unchanged for centuries, unaffected by the ravages of mankind and, today, it is one of Tanzania’s best-kept wildlife secrets.
This is why, for the intrepid wilderness lover and the avid safari explorer, a trip to Ruaha is rewarding and a perfect piece of Africa.
Although it is the second largest national park in Tanzania, Ruaha National Park remains one of the least visited
The name of the park comes from the Great Ruaha River, the main feature of the park, which flows along its eastern border, creating spectacular gorges.
On its banks, the game viewing, whether done by land or by water, is spectacular, with waterbucks, reedbucks and buffalos, lions, leopards, hyenas, wild dogs, jackals as well as various antelope species and over 400 species of bird.
With herds of more than 10,000 elephants, it is the country’s largest sanctuary for these pachyderms.
The best months for game viewing are during the dry season between May and December, when the animals are concentrated around the shrinking water sources.
The park has an airstrip for light aircraft on the western bank of the river.
Getting there: up to a ten hour drive, or a one and a half hour flight, from Dar es Salaam. A bit less from Bagamoyo.
Adjacent to Ruaha National Park is the Rungwa Game Reserve, another enormous area consisting of woodland, hills and open plains, inhabited only by the most impressive wildlife.
It is said that trophies from this Game Reserve are exceptional.
Located west of Dar es Salaam, the Udzungwa Mountains rise up from the western edge of the Selous Game Reserve.
The Udzungwa Mountains offer visitors the opportunity to view several species of monkeys, small antelopes and birds in a beautiful African rain forest.
Udzungwa Mountains National Park is one of Tanzania’s most outstanding, pristine, paradises
The botanical diversity, which is the major attraction of the park, is exceptional with many rare plants, from African violets to very tall trees that are not found anywhere else in the world.
Views from the peaks of the mountains, towards the Selous Game Reserve and the distant Indian Ocean coast, are incredible.
Five distinct trails cover the forests and mountain peaks within the park and offer varying levels of difficulty for everyone from novices to experienced trekkers.
In addition to these offerings, there are no roads through the Undzungwa Mountains National Park, so hikers have the area all to themselves.
Getting there: a five hour drive from Dar es Salaam.
Kitulo, which has recently become a fully protected National Park, is situated on the Kitulo Plateau, which forms part of Tanzania’s Southern Highlands.
Kitulo – a botanist and hiker’s paradise – is also highly alluring to birdwatchers
Known as ‘God’s Garden’ or ‘the Serengeti of Flowers,’ the Kitulo Plateau hosts one of the greatest floral spectacles in the world with over 350 species of plants, including a wide variety of wildflowers such as balsams, bellflowers, honey-peas, irises, lilies and 45 species of orchids, many found nowhere else in the world.
The plateau is also home to some important bird species, again many endemic to Tanzania, including the blue swallow, Denham’s bustard, lesser kestrel, Pallid harrier, njombe cisticola and Kipengere seedeater while some of the world’s rarest butterflies also inhabit the area.
Getting there: by road from Dar es Salaam to Mbeya , only accessible via 4×4.
Eastern Part of the South and Mainland Coastline
The benefit of the Eastern sub-Circuit, which is composed of the eastern parks and coastline of the southern circuit, is that it offers visitors who are based in the main city of Dar es Salaam a chance to see the wildlife, scenery and beaches that the country has to offer without the expense and time involved in traveling for a longer safari.
Insufficient attention is often paid to the vast array of natural resources such as parks like Saadani and Mikumi, which grow in popularity every year, as well as the Mafia Island Marine Park, which is quickly becoming a hot destination in the Indian Ocean.
Saadani National Park
Saadani National Park, Tanzania’s first coastal wildlife sanctuary, is the perfect union of beach and bush.
Located directly west off Zanzibar, just 70 km north of Bagamoyo and immediately accessible by paved road from Dar es Salaam, Saadani has recently become a fully protected national park and is a popular day-trip from beach resorts scattered along Tanzania’s northern coast.
Saadani is the only wildlife sanctuary in East Africa to boast an Indian Ocean beachfront
The Wami River, which passes through Saadani National Park and empties into the Indian Ocean, hosts a large population of hippos, crocodiles, flamingos, and many large bird species.
Lions, leopards, hyenas, giraffes and zebras can also been seen in the park.
It’s elephant population frolics in the sands and sometimes ventures into the crashing surf, making Saadani one of the more special parks to visit in Tanzania.
Saadani is easily visited on a day trip or a short weekend safari for visitors based in Dar es Salaam or in Bagamoyo.
Getting there: a few hours drive from Dar es Salaam or Bagamoyo.
Thanks to the new paved road connecting the park gate with Dar es Salaam, Mikumi National Park is soon to become a hotspot for tourism in Tanzania.
Mikumi is perhaps the most accessible and popular of Tanzania’s national parks
Located between the Uluguru Mountains and the Lumango range, Mikumi is the fourth largest park in Tanzania.
The park has a wide variety of wildlife, well acclimatised to game viewing and, therefore, spotting the ‘Big Five’ is easy.
Also, bird-watching along the waterways is particularly rewarding.
Getting there: few hours drive from Dar es Salaam or Bagamoyo.
Located on the mainland coastline on the Indian Ocean, just opposite of the southern tip of Zanzibar, approximately 70 km north of Dar es Salaam and an equal distance from the Saadani Game Reserve, the town of Bagamoyo is a fast growing tourist destination.
Thank to its rich past, characterised by ancient architecture, people and culture, Bagamoyo is one of the most fascinating towns in East Africa and one of Tanzania’s eight UNESCO World Heritage sites.
However, it would be misleading to say that Bagamoyo is purely a historian’s destination.
Its beautiful palm-fringed, white sandy beaches that over-look the warm, sparkling water are extremely welcoming and part of Tanzania’s 800 km coastline, which offers fishing, scuba-diving, snorkeling and other varieties of water sports.
As Mr. Mahad Abdulahi Nur, a pioneer in developing the potential of this destination, explains, “Bagamoyo is a new destination, unlike other parts of the country that are well known and well marketed globally. Bagamoyo […] has a lot to offer because there are no other places in the country where you can find beaches and wildlife, history and culture all at once.”
Today, Mr. Abdulahi is the Managing Director of one of the finest resorts in Bagamoyo, the Paradise Holiday Resort.
Located on the unspoiled sandy beaches of Bagamoyo, Paradise Holiday Resort is an intimate holiday complex characterized by friendly Tanzanian hospitality
Located on the unspoiled sandy beaches of Bagamoyo, it is an intimate holiday complex defined as barefoot elegance, and characterized by friendly Tanzanian hospitality.
Daily entertainment programs and indoor games are offered within the hotel premises, which includes a swimming pool, beach volleyball and tennis courts and fitness workout areas.
The Paradise Holiday Resort also enjoys the finest Indian Ocean beaches, terraces and lounges.
Finally the beach bar, which over looks the sea, is a dream setting at any time of the day.
Another beautiful resort worth visiting for its splendid location is the Millennium Sea Breeze Resort.
Millennium Sea Breeze Resort is located on Bagamoyo’s beach adjacent to the world-famous Bagamoyo School of Art
As its name suggests, the resort, which is located on Bagamoyo’s beach adjacent to the world-famous Bagamoyo School of Art, enjoys a gentle sea breeze.
The Millennium Resort represents an ideal starting point for discovering the mainland Parks and Game Reserves or for visiting the nearby island of Zanzibar.
With all modern facilities at a human dimension, here tourists will find the necessary peace of mind that favours both body and soul.
Fishermen were the first to settle in this coastal area opposite from Zanzibar.
The town was the former capital of German East Africa and one of the most important trading ports on the East African coast.
Towards the end of the 18th century, it was the penultimate stop for the slave and ivory caravans travelling on foot from Lake Tanganyika on their way to Zanzibar, where they were then dispatched all over the world.
Missionaries active in abolishing the slave trade made Bagamoyo, whose name means ‘bury my heart’ in KiSwahili, a centre of their activities.
The city was also the starting point for the first European explorers on their way to search for the source of the Nile River.
There is a lot to see in Bagamoyo as it offers its visitors several museums, monuments and cemeteries.
The Catholic Mission was built in 1868 as a Christian Freedom Village for ransomed slaves.
Many of the missionaries are buried in the cemetery behind the main Mission complex.
The Mission includes a museum that contains further information on the slave trade in Bagamoyo.
It is also here that the body of Dr. Livingstone, the famous British explorer and missionary, was brought in 1874, after a journey of 1,500kms from Ujiji.
The Kaole ruins are located 5 km south of Bagamoyo, on the coastal side of the present day village of Kaole.
These ruins consist of the remains of two mosques and a series of about 30 tombs, set among palm trees; some of the tombs have stone pillars of up to 5m in height.
These were built in the 3rd and 4th centuries and it is thought to be the mark one of the earliest contacts of Islam with Africa.
Old fort is an old provision house and is the oldest surviving building in Bagamoyo.
Built in 1860 as a private house by Abdallah Selimani Marhabi, it was used by the Arabs to house slaves awaiting shipment to Zanzibar.
It was later used by the Germans until 1870 as a military camp.
It still has an underground passage through which the slaves were herded to dhows, traditional vessels in the Indian Ocean, waiting on the shore.
During and after the time of the British colonization, it was used as a police post.
Founded at the end of the 18th century Bagamoyo was the original capital of German East Africa
This building was the German Government colonial administration headquarters, as well as the governor’s residence.
It is an impressive two-story building that was constructed in a U-shape.
The building also served as a German administrative centre beginning in 1897.
In front of the Boma is the Uhuru Monument, which recognizes and celebrates Tanzania’s independence in 1961.
German Colonial Cemetery
Here, there are 20 graves dating back to 1889, mostly of Germans who were killed by the uprising of Arabs and locals.
A German deed of freedom for a slave is also reproduced on a tree.
German Block House
Constructed in 1889, the slave track to the interior of Tanzania departed from this point for a 1,500 km trail and terminated at Ujiji on Lake Tanganyika.
These ruins are what is left of the new customs house that was built by the Germans in 1895 to replace the original customs house, which collapsed very recently.
Only the foundation is left.
Next to the Customs House stands the Usugara House, built in 1889 by the German Usagara Company and used as a residence by the representative of the German East African Society.
The house soon became the meeting place for Germans.
The building, originally built in wood, was later dismantled and it is now only possible to see the pillars.
Bagamoyo College of Art
Bagamoyo College of Art is an internationally famous arts college in Tanzania, teaching traditional Tanzanian music, drama, dance and painting.
It enrolls locals and students from different parts of the world.
. Bagamoyo holds the Arts Festival during the last week of September.
Many old traditional sailing boats are docked here.
Today, Bagamoyo remains a centre for dhow sailboat building, which are still used for the same activity.
Getting there: forty-five minutes to one hour drive from Dar es Salaam.
Dar es Salaam
Dar es Salaam, which means ‘Heaven of Peace’ in Swahili, is the largest city and the political and economic capital of Tanzania.
Its international Airport is used by many tourists and businessmen.
Located in a quiet bay off the Indian Ocean coast, the city has grown in economic importance to become a prosperous centre of the entire East African region.
It’s bustling harbour is the main port in Tanzania and its industrial area manufactures products for export and use throughout the country.
Government offices all have their main base here, although the parliament remains in the capital, Dodoma.
Diplomatic missions and non-governmental organisations in the country also have a presence in Dar es Salaam.
The city displays the many influences of its history.
There is an Asian district, with speciality shops, tea rooms, restaurants and Hindu temples.
Remnants of colonial presence in the early 20th century, both German and British, can still be seen in the landmarks and architecture around the city.
For example, in the city there is the Bavarian-style railway station, the Roman Catholic St. Joseph’s Cathedral and the Lutheran Azania Front Church.
The National Museum, the Village Museum, and many colourful markets, such as the Kariakoo Market where fish, fruit, vegetables, traditional medicines, herbs and livestock are traded, are also well worth a visit.
At the Nyerere Cultural Centre, a self-supporting handicraft scheme, many young artists can be seen at work producing various works including paintings, carvings, batiks, pottery and weavings.
Shops, busy office buildings and government buildings are all common features of the Dar es Salaam urban centre.
With an estimated population of 2,500,000, Dar es Salaam is Tanzania’s largest and richest city
Next to the city is the serene and green area of Msasani Peninsula, where there are some of the finest residences of ambassadors as well as hotels, such as the Golden Tulip.
With its architecture that was inspired by the Arabic influences of the Swahili Coast, the Golden Tulip Hotel Dar Es Salaam provides a luxurious and comfortable atmosphere for rest both for business people and for tourists.
The city also has some popular beaches, such as Coco Beach, which is next to the Golden Tulip hotel, and Oyster Bay.
Finally, Dar es Salaam is not only a busy commercial city during the day, but it is also a hive of activity at night: there are a multitude of bars as well as local and international restaurants.
Dar es Salaam Surroundings
North of Dar es Salaam:
Seven kilometres north of the city, the Bongoyo Island Marine Reserve offers good snorkelling and diving sites for those who want to explore the water.
The reserve boasts beautiful beaches, secluded islands, and many varieties of marine species.
Further north towards Bagamoyo, approximately a 30 minutes drive from Dar es Salaam, are Kunduchi and Jangwani beaches, with hotels and resorts that offer fishing, scuba-diving, snorkeling and other varieties of water sports, together with excellent restaurants and bars.
South of Dar es Salaam:
The beaches of southern Tanzania have much that has yet tobe discovered and offer the chance for adventure and exploration to the willing visitor
Some of the nearby southern, coastal, unspoilt beaches can be reached by taking the Kivukoni ferry next to the fish market.
These beaches include Mikadi, Barcuda, Kipepeo, South Beach and Kim Beach.
Heading further south towards Mafia Island, several sites can be easily visited with just a short drive.
The first one of which is Kaole, with ruins of a once prosperous Arab town that was forced into decline by the Portuguese in the 15th century.
Mafia Island is a popular destination for visitors to relax after their safari as the island’s secluded beaches offer privacy and comfort for discerning travellers.
For centuries, the island was a trading stop for Shirazi merchants traveling up towards Persia and, under the rule of the Omani sultanate in Zanzibar, vast coconut and cashew plantations flourished.
Mafia island is a good retreat for adventure scuba divers, game fishermen, and for those merely seeking relaxation
Today, all that remains of the island’s prestigious past are the coral ruins on Chole Mjini, the small island just off shore from Mafia, where the Arab landowners lived a superb life, far removed from their plantations and their slaves.
Mafia’s incredible and unspoilt dive sites have remained a well-kept secret of divers, receiving only the most selective visitors.
Now, things are changing and the island is fast becoming a preferred destination.
Getting there: 40 minute flight south of Dar es Salaam.
Kilwa Kisiwani, the oldest city in east Africa, linked the Arabian Gulf, the Far East and mainland Africa
Further south of Dar es Salaam, along the coast, are the ancient ruins of Kilwa, once the very epicentre of Swahili culture and civilisation.
Formed from three former settlements, Kilwa Kivinje and Kilwa Masoko on the mainland and the offshore island of Kilwa Kisiwani, Kilwa was originally established as a centre for the gold trade.
All that remains today are the old building blocks of the town, with the coral and limestone walls of the old mosque, sultans’ palaces, and merchants’ houses.
The small town of Mtwara is located on the coast of south-eastern Tanzania, towards the country’s border with Mozambique.
Elevated slightly along the Makonde Plateau, the area is one of the more remote locations in Tanzania.
Mtwara’s proximity to the Mnazi Bay-Ruvuma Estuary Marine Park means that visitors can experience some of the most isolated dive sites on the coast.
It is also a good base for exploring nearby Mikindani.
The town has one site of particular interest, St. Paul’s Church, which houses some remarkable murals of Biblical scenes painted by German priests.
Travelling to Mikindani is an adventure in itself.
With rugged road access and a small airstrip, the area is very much off the beaten path.
Mikindani is a fascinating old town with a blend of African, Arabic and European architecture
The marine park’s beaches and underwater reefs are largely unexplored and boat trips to the bay and estuary means venturing off the beaten track on a truly private Indian Ocean adventure.
In town, a visit to the old German boma and the slave market is an interesting day excursion.
Tanzania Western Circuit
Although off the beaten track, the western circuit offers visitors an incredible glimpse of Tanzania at its best.
Chimpanzee trekking is the wildlife experience of a lifetime, and few who return from their safari fail to marvel at the up-close experience.
Tanzania western circuit offers visitors an incredible glimpse of Tanzania at its best
Katavi National Park is the remote bastion of wild Africa, the rugged terrain that is certain to bring adventure and breathtaking experiences.
The sometimes forgotten shores of Lake Victoria are also a pleasant retreat from the safari circuit and offer boating, fishing, and hiking excursions for visitors who are not content simply admiring the scenery.
Most of the parks on the Western Circuit are inaccessible by road and the best way to access them is by light aircraft, either from Dar es Salaam or from Arusha.
The dark waters of Lake Tanganyika form the largest and second-deepest freshwater lake in the world, after Lake Baikal in Siberia.
It includes one of the richest concentrations of fish in the world with more than 250 different species represented.
Lake Tanganyika is estimated to be the second largest and deepest freshwater lake in the world by volume
The area is a regional centre for building the dhow-fishing boats that sail through its rugged water.
Travel to Lake Tanganyika is mostly centred around visiting Gombe Stream and Mahale Mountains National Parks.
A strip of chimpanzee habitat Gombe is the smallest of Tanzania’s national parks
Located on the western border of Tanzania and the Congo, on the dramatic shores of Lake Tanganyika, Gombe Stream is most famous for Jane Goodall, the resident primatologist, who spent many years in its forests studying the behaviour of the endangered chimpanzees.
Gombe Stream is an untamed place of lush tropical forests and clear lake views.
The main attraction is obviously the primate families of vervet and colobus monkeys as well as the baboons that live protected within the park’s boundaries.
Guided walks take visitors deep into the forest for the incredible experience of observing and sitting with these primates.
Gombe Stream’s forest includes small antelopes and forest pigs as well as a wide variety of tropical bird life.
Hiking and swimming are also popular activities.
Getting there: by air, or road, from either Arusha or Dar es Salaam.
The busy town of Kigoma is located on the eastern shores of Lake Tanganyika and is surrounded by rugged mountains and forests, making it a pleasing and beautiful location.
It is the regional capital of western Tanzania.
The bustling town of Kigoma is the regional capital of western Tanzania and a central port in the area
In the past, the city has been in competition with nearby Ujiji, but over the last several decades Kigoma has gained a strong economic foothold in the region and its port is of central importance to the activities of the area.
The town makes a good overland base for visits and chimpanzee safaris both to Gombe Stream National Park and to Mahale Mountains National Park.
The oldest town in western Tanzania, Ujiji, is a village 10 km south of Kigoma.
It was here, in 1871, that Henry Morton Stanley met the famous missionary Dr. David Livingstone and coined the phrase ‘Dr. Livingstone, I presume.’
The Dr. Livingston memorial monument was built on the site to commemorate the meeting.
The city includes a slave route near the market.
Mahale Mountains National Park is one of the most remote locations in Tanzania, situated next to the Gombe Stream.
The park is also a sanctuary of a large chimpanzee and primate population more numerous than in Gombe Stream, estimated at around 1,000.
Mahale Mountains is home to some of Africa’s last remaining wild chimpanzees
Other animals are also found here such as buffalo, elephants, giraffes, leopards, lions and, of course, various types of antelope.
Still, Mahale remains less famous than Gombe.
Getting there: several hour of boat from Kigoma. Or a two hours flight from Arusha or Dar es Salaam.
Katavi, the country’s third-largest National Park, is located in the western area of Tanzania, about 40 km south-east of the town of Mpanda, and is undoubtedly one of the most untouched areas of the entire country.
It offers spectacular views and unadulterated bush settings with flood plains of thick reeds and dense waterways.
Isolated, untrammelled and seldom visited, Katavi is a true wilderness
The park is also home to unspoilt wildlife, rich with hippo, buffalo, elephants and various birdlife that descend on seasonal lakes to drink.
Katavi also represents the unique opportunity to spot the rare roan and sable antelope species, a must-see for real explorers.
Getting there: by air from Arusha or from Dar es Salaam. A day’s drive from Mbeya or, in the dry season, Kigoma.
Lake Victoria Region
Situated in the northern part of the western circuit, not far from the Serengeti, Lake Victoria is by far the largest lake in Africa.
The lake borders with Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.
The Tanzanian section is one of the least visited parts of the country, with travellers more common on the Kenyan and Ugandan sections.
The fishing industries and the agricultural land with coffee and cotton production around its shores, especially in Mwanza, have made the area an economic centre of Tanzania.
Lake Victoria is Africa’ largest lake, the largest tropical lake in the world, and the second largest fresh water lake in the world in terms of surface area
Trade with neighbouring Uganda to the east and with Kenya to the north makes the ports on Lake Victoria bustle with growth and economic activity.
The lake has some spectacular varieties of freshwater tropical fish, many of which are exported to aquariums all over the world.
Its shores are peaceful and pristine, and offer a quiet alternative to its busy ports.
Bird-watching and fishing trips make popular excursions, together with a visit to Rubondo Island National Park.
Getting there: by air from Arusha or Mwanza. Or by road from Mwanza.
Located on the south-west shores of Lake Victoria, Rubondo Island National Park includes Rubondo Island and several other small islands on Lake Victoria.
A visit to Rubondo Island National Park offers visitors a break from game viewing in the tranquil peace of a lake shore setting.
Rubondo Islands are a true water wonderland
The park boasts a rich and diverse variety of butterflies and bird life as well as the rare sitatunga, an extremely endangered amphibious antelope, which can also be viewed from the lake shores.
Getting there: by air from Arusha or Mwanza. Or by road from Mwanza and then a boat transfer.
The city of Mwanza is the major Tanzanian port on Lake Victoria and a major centre of economic importance in the region.
The exports, which go through the lake to the East African neighbours of Uganda and Kenya, are a foundation of Mwanza’s economy.
Around the city, the land is primarily devoted to tea, cotton, and coffee plantations.
The town’s industrial harbour and busy streets make it a prosperous and busy place to explore.
Because Mwanza is the centre of the Sukuma tribe, the largest tribe in Tanzania, who have inhabited and farmed the region for centuries, tourism programmes to their local villages represent an enriching cultural activity.
The city is also a good base from which to travel to the nearby Rubondo Island National Park and to the western parts of the Serengeti.
Getting there: driving or flying from Arusha.
Undoubtedly one of the world most famous beach destinations in the Indian Ocean, Zanzibar is a small archipelago consisting of Unguja (commonly referred to as Zanzibar Island), Pemba and several small surrounding islands comprising a total of 2,332 square kilometres.
The archupelago is located just off the coast of East Africa.
The name Zanzibar is derived from a combination of two Arabic words, ‘Zinj’, meaning black, and ‘barr’, being the Arabic word for land, resulting in the ancient title ‘Land of the Blacks.’
Off the coast of mainland Tanzania lies the world-renowned Zanzibar archipelago
As Zanzibar absorbed peoples from as far away as The Orient and Iberia, Assyria and India, so the tapestry of Zanzibar cultures became more diverse in its range and more unique in its expression.
For this reason, Zanzibar became the birthplace of Swahili, a lingua franca forged from global dialects, and today it is widely spoken in the entire East African region.
Because of Zanzibar’s historical spices industry, which is accompanied by tourism today, the archipelago is also called the Spice Islands.
With a name that evokes dream and mystery, this well renowned destination is a great location for travelers seeking an enlightening and enjoyable holiday experience with the beaches and the warm water of the Indian Ocean that are protected by the coral reef.
Arab merchants visited the coast some 2,000 years ago and settled in Zanzibar around the 8th century AD.
Arab merchants visited the coast some 2,000 years ago and settled in Zanzibar around the 8th century AD
The island was later a Portuguese possession for a short period, from 1503 to 1698, after which time Zanzibar returned to the control of the Arabs and became part of the overseas holdings of Oman, falling under the control of its Sultan.
During this period, the Sultan of Oman and Zanzibar also controlled a substantial portion of the east African coast, including Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, as well as trading routes that extended much further into Africa.
From 1887 to 1892, all of these mainland possessions were progressively lost or sold to the colonial powers of Britain and Germany.
During this period, the British gradually took over Zanzibar and the island became a protectorate until 1963.
In the same year, the archipelago gained its independence from British influence and in 1964, Julius Nyerere, president of the mainland Republic of Tanganyika, and Amani Karume, president of Zanzibar, signed an act that unified the two countries in order to create the United Republic of Tanzania.
Although Zanzibar is part of Tanzania, it elects its own president, who acts as the head of government for internal island matters.
In addition, Zanzibar also has its own House of Representatives.
A strong sense of nationalism and local pride remains on the island, as evidenced by the adoption of the island’s own flag in 2005.
There are many historical and cultural places of interest as well as plenty of marine activities to keep yourself occupied.
Stone Town is the old city and the cultural heart of Zanzibar, and, because it is a 10 minute drive from Zanzibar International Airport, it is the point of arrival for any visitors coming via boat or plane.
This town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, grew out of Zanzibar’s historical trades, a fact which is clearly reflected in the historical, cultural, and architecturally important areas of the city.
Visitors can easily take a leisurely walk through the narrow and winding streets of Stone Town.
The streets remain largely unchanged by time with winding alleys, bustling bazaars, spice and antique shops mosques and grand Arab houses, whose extravagance is reflected in their renowned brass-studded, carved wooden doors.
The National Museum is a good starting point to begin discovering more about the history and culture of Zanzibar.
It opened in 1925 and contains relics from the time of the Sultans and the early explorers, as well as traditional carvings and exhibits of local wildlife, including a good collection of birds and reptiles.
Another “must see” is the House of Wonders, with its pillars, fretted balconies and intricately carved doors.
The House of Wonders was built in the 1880s as a ceremonial palace
It was built by Sultan Barghash in 1883 and was occupied by the British in 1911, when the Sultan moved to the less pretentious palace, now called the People’s Palace, on the other side of the street.
Next to the House of Wonders is the Old Fort, built on the site of a Portuguese church when the Arabs took over the island.
At the centre of Stone Town are the Persian-styled Hamamni Baths, built at the command of Sultan Barghash at the end of the 19th century.
The nearby Cathedral Church of Christ, completed in 1879 on the site of an open slave market, is a site of much historical interest and importance.
What is left of the notorious slave and ivory trade that was taking place in the island, can also be found in the Tippu Tip House and in Kelele Square, the site of a former slave pit.
Tours of Zanzibar Island bring visitors on a day-long countryside visit to plantations of cloves, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, and other spices that have made the island famous as well as a number of other places of historical interest.
The tour often includes a visit to some of the palace ruins north of Zanzibar.
Maruhubi and Mtoni, both built during the Arab period, give a taste of the former grandeur of these palaces, however both have burned down.
To the south of the island is the walled city of Kizimkazi, home to the ruins of the Shirazi Mosque, some of which date back to the 12th century, making this one of the earliest Islamic buildings in East Africa.
The city’s waters are home to dolphins and tourists can be taken on a boat trip to view them and sometimes are lucky enough to swim close to them.
Another fascinating option is the Jozani Forest Reserve, 35 kilometres south-east of Stone Town on the road to the beautiful Paje beach on the eastern coast.
This is an area of 10 sq km of thick forest, with trees over 100 years old, and one of the last remaining sanctuaries of the red colobus monkey.
It also includes several species of butterflies, about 40 species of birds and several other animals.
Another popular visit is to Changuu, or Prison Island, still part of Zanzibar, at about 30 minutes by engine boat from Ungujja.
This island was used to contain prisoners and slaves and is where a jail, that was never used, was built in 1893.
Today, the island’s most famous inhabitants are giant tortoises and coral reefs and it is a popular place for swimming or for relaxing on its beautiful beaches.
Zanzibar’s coastline offers some of the best beaches in the world, however the sand and surf vary depending on which side of the island you are visiting.
Just south of Zanzibar Town, on the west coast, are Fuji Beach and Chuini Beach, which both offer facilities for a range of watersports, while to the north, there is Mangapwani where the only noise that is likely to be heard is the sound of the ocean.
On the southern coast of Zanzibar lies the Menai Bay Conservation Area, a sea turtle protection area for the endangered species that come to breed on the island.
The best beaches in Zanzibar, however, are located on the eastern or the northern coast, where waves break over coral reefs and low tide reveals small pools of starfish, small minnows, and anemones.
The best beaches in Zanzibar are the one on the east or north cost
Brilliant white beaches on this side of the island, lapped by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, provide the perfect place to relax, soak up the sun or hide in the shade of coconut palms and take a break from some busy sightseeing.
For these reasons, a night or two spent in the marvelous resorts by the sea is well worth the extra hour it takes to drive there.
On the northern tip of the island is Nungwi, where visitors can watch fishermen’s boats being built in way that has remained unchanged for centuries, or else swim in the coral lagoons.
On Zanzibar’s northeastern coast are the beaches of Matemwe, Mapenzi, Kiwenga and Uroa, which provide wide stretches of uncrowded sands and opportunities to explore the underwater world.
Other well-developed resorts – Pingwe, Bwejuu and Jambiani – can be found on the southeastern coast of the island.
In addition to water sports, there are also opportunities for fishing or for observing the activities of the local fishermen.
Scuba Diving in Zanzibar
This activity is particularly praised in Zanzibar, thanks to the coral reef.
There are plenty of diving sites on both Islands of Zanzibar for diving enthusiasts.
The depth of the water varies depending on the competence of the diver and there are plenty of sea creatures to be seen including octopuses, eels, and morays.
Pemba is the second largest island of the Archipelago, named Al-khudra “The Green Island” by the Arabic mariners.
Traditionally part of the Zanzibar Archipelago, Pemba is fast becoming a unique destination in its own right.
It is the true clove island with 3.5 million clove trees.
Pemba’s tourism is still in its infancy and a trip to its unspoiled shores and pristine waters is the adventure of a lifetime
For centuries, Pemba led in the production of this crop with more than 90 percent of the world’s supply.
Today, with clove production that represents only about 10 percent of the world’s supply, the island is still a major spice producer in the archipelago.
The flying bat, also known as the flying fox, is endemic to the island and is found in the dense Ngezi Equatorial Forest Reserve of Pemba.
Nocturnal and rarely seen by visitors, the bats have a wingspan of 1.7m and are exceptionally large in comparison to most of the other common East African species.
Because tourism is still in its early stages, a trip to Pemba’s unspoiled shores and pristine waters is the underwater adventure of a lifetime.
Pemba’s shores are dotted with desert islands and throngs of coconut palms and, with an ocean floor measuring approximately 800 metres deep, the island represents the best location for diving activities defined by many as the best in the Indian Ocean.
Its waters are rich in large game fish like marlin, barracuda, shark and other species.
The island is also on the migratory route of whales during the end of August / September and of whale sharks from December to April.
Pemba has also some historic remains that are worth a visiting.
Some of these remains include Chake Chake, the oldest town on the island, with ruins of an 18th century fort; Suka Mjini, consisting of mosque ruins dating back to the 15th century; Chwaka, which hosts two historical sites of interest: the 18th century remains of the Mazrui governor’s headquarters, with a mosque and six family tombs, and the site of Harumi, which hosted the Nabahani rulers headquarters in the 15th century.
Finally, Ras Mkumbuu, where some of the 12th century ruins in the area show that there had been human settlements before the arrival of Omani arabs and the Shiraz.