Tanzania is a wonderfully diverse country and an excellent place to explore Africa’s natural and cultural highlights. It is synonymous with the giant Mt Kilimanjaro – Africa’s highest mountain and definitely a sought after ‘check’ on many a traveller’s bucket list. The geographic wonders do not stop here however, with the Ngorongoro Crater, the Great Rift Valley running through and two of Africa’s great lakes, Lake Victoria and Tanganyika.
Tanzania is also famous for its wildlife reserves – in fact the Serengeti National Park is probably one of East Africa’s best-known reserves. And for good reasons – it plays hosts the largest terrestrial mammal migration each year. Besides the reserves, Tanzania has a pristine coastline and the idyllic Zanzibar Islands. And not only is there plenty of Nature and Wildlife exploration opportunities, culturally, the diversity extends to over 120 ethnic groups.
Tanzania can therefore relate to a range of subjects, offering amazing ways of applying theory to real life scenarios.
The Roof of Africa, Kilimanjaro, is definitely a number one highlight in Tanzania. It is a dormant volcanic mountain and is Africa’s highest peak. It is also the highest stand-alone mountain in the world, towering to a massive 5895 meters.
Its striking snowy peak – Kibo or Uhuru Peak- is known as the summit of Africa. And to conquer this peak is an exceptional challenge, but a feat attempted and succeeded by many.
This active volcano is located 70 kilometers to the west of Kilimanjaro. It reaches up to 4565 meters and is listed as Africa’s 9th highest mountain. Mount Meru forms the heart of Arusha National Park, with the forest on its slopes forming a home to a diverse wildlife. In fact the forest hosts up to 400 species of birds, as well as wildlife like buffalo, colobus monkeys and leopards.
The Northern Circuit of Tanzania showcases East Africa’s best – here you will find the prominent geographic features that include the Meru Mountains, Lake Victoria, Kilimanjaro, The Great Rift Valley. Throughout the Valley are world famous wildlife reserves and national parks. In fact, the Ngorongoro Crater is top-rated and in the Ngorongoro Conservation area, and even rated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Crater is about 180km west of Arusha, and is the world’s largest inactive (as well as unfilled and intact) caldera. The floor of the crater is filed with life, representing the wildlife of East Africa, as well as a large lion population.
Serengeti National Park is another highlight in the Northern Circuit. Wide stretches of savannah, plentiful wildlife and the world’s largest terrestrial mammal migration – these are the features that the Serengeti National Park are known for. Besides the main attractions, this is also one of the best places to view prides of lions in their natural habitat.
At the foot of the Great Rift Valley lies Lake Manyara National Park. Here flocks of flamingoes gather to create a magnificent scene, with their pink feathers and graceful poses. The park covers 330 square kilometers and is home to over 400 species of bird, alongside East Africa’s major mammal species.
Then there is the Tarangire National Park, a park that is known for its high elephant population and baobab trees.
Tanzania’s landscape gives way to three of Africa’s seven great lakes, namely Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika and Lake Malawi. Lake Victoria is the largest lake in Africa if you consider its surface area, and the second largest freshwater lake in the world – second to Lake Superior, quite fittingly. Lake Tanganyika is believed to be the world’s second largest lake in terms of volume. It is also on Lake Tanganyika’s eastern shore where you would be able to ‘meet’ the chimpanzee population that live here (within Mahle Mountain National Park). Lastly, but definitely not the least, is Lake Natron. This soda lake is located at the base of OJ Donyo Lengai – an active volcano. And it is here where about 2.5 million lesser flamingoes come to bread. This is an extremely important breeding site for this endangered species of flamingo.
This tropical island is a paradise, with white sands, long stretches of beaches that are lined with palm trees. The waters are a beautiful turquoise and clear enough to see the amazing underwater marine life in the reef. There are many water activities, and marine conservation opportunities in Zanzibar.
Tanzania’s range of wildlife reserves in the Northern Circuit, along with its amazing geographical features and changing landscapes offer many opportunities for real life learning scenarios.
In Tanzania, similar to Kenya, you would use Tanzania Shillings as a currency.
In comparison to the US dollar, the rate would be between 1500 to 1600 Shillings per US Dollar. Most nationalities would need to organise visitors’ visas in order to enter Tanzania, but this can easily be arranged at the airport on arrival, or when you are crossing borders from another country.
In many cases you can use US Dollars if they were printed in the year 2000 or later.
Tipping is not an obligation in Tanzania, but of course it is expected in many cases. It is always good to keep aside a 10% contribution for a tip, and make sure to offer it if you feel a person has earned it.
With regards to vaccinations, yellow fever is compulsory, and the shot has to be administered at least 10 days before you travel. Also make sure to take note of the higher malaria risk areas in Tanzania and prepare accordingly. It is important to note that many areas in Tanzania are still quite conservative and it would be more acceptable to dress conservatively in these areas – so pack accordingly.
Tanzania has two rainy seasons, a long one that lasts from March to May, and a shorter one that lasts from November to December. These are often called “long rains” and “short rains” respectively. Of course these rains could impede on your plans to access the parks, but this is also a good time for safaris in terms of rates.
If you were keen to summit the great Kilimanjaro, January, February or September would be the best times to do so.
And if your group wanted to witness the spectacular yearly migration of Wildebeest and Zebras, it would be best to plan your trip between the months of February to March. But of course it is not easy to know the exact dates in advance, and a group might find it difficult to travel this time of year. The good news is that June to November is viewed as the best time to go on safari in Tanzania. These months are the dry months, and animals gather around the water holes and riverbanks.
The best time to visit Zanzibar is between July and October, as you are likely to have less rain.