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Safari in the Ngorongoro Crater.
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  Holiday regions
Northern Tanzania:
The vast savannas and the best safari wildlife.
Southern Tanzania:
Good safari parks with fewer vistors.
Western Tanzania:
Chimpanzees and remote safari parks.
The mountains:
Trekking and climbing Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru.
Zanzibar and the coast:
White beaches, snorkelling, diving and fishing.
 
 
Destination facts:
Tanzania
Tanzania is a classic African safari destination, home to vast savannas and abundant wildlife. Some of Africa's best national parks and reserves for safari-goers can be found here, including Serengeti, Ngorongoro and Selous.

Many areas offer outdoor activities such as birding and trekking, as well as cultural tourism. Many visitors also come to enjoy the white beaches of Zanzibar Island, or to climb Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa.

Map of Africa Namibia Botswana South Africa Zambia Mozambique Malawi Rwanda Tanzania Kenya Uganda
 
The country Tanzania
The United Republic of Tanzania is a union between the mainland state Tanganyika and the island state Zanzibar, comprising Unguja (which in daily speaking is called Zanzibar Island) and Pemba Islands.
 
The Great Rift Valley escarpment in northern Tanzania.

Geography
Tanzania is situated in eastern Africa, just south of the equator. The eastern border faces the Indian Ocean, with Zanzibar, Pemba and Mafia Islands. The neighbouring countries are Kenya (in the north), Uganda (north-east), Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (west), Zambia and Malawi (south-west) and Mozambique (south).

Three of Africa's great lakes line Tanzania's borders: Africa's largest freshwater lake, Lake Victoria (north), Lake Tanganyika (west) and Lake Nyasa/Malawi (south-west).

Much of Tanzania is elevated by an inland plateau, broken by scattered mountains and mountain ranges, while a narrow strip of lowland follows the coast. Open savannas, farmland, shrubs and woodlands are common, mixing with forests, soda lakes and freshwater lakes.

The Great Rift Valley cuts through the country from north to south. The rift is a result from the same tectonic activity that has created Kilimanjaro, Mount Meru, the Ngorongoro Highlands and other volcanoes, as well as a number of soda lakes and the short grass plains of Serengeti. Oldoynio Lengai, a volcano north of Ngorongoro, is still active.

Climate
The climate of northern Tanzania is tropical, having two rainy seasons and two dry seasons every year. The rainy season during April and May is called 'the long rains', and receives the most rainfall. The second rainy season in November, 'the short rains', has less rainfall.

Southern Tanzania has one long rainy season from November to May, with a spell of drier weather in January and February. The rest of the year is dry.

There may also be local climate patterns due to the geography, for example around mountains and large lakes.

Rain cannot be ruled out completely during dry seasons, as there is good and bad weather in East Africa, too, but these seasons are generally dry.

The temperatures in the inland safari regions peak during October–March, and often exceed 30ºC/85ºF. During the rest of the year, they are usually some 5º/10º less. The coastal temperatures vary less, and are normally around 30ºC/85ºF.

More about when to go

Grant's gazelles in Serengeti National Park.

Population
The population of some 40 million is a mix of 120 different tribes, which vary in size from a few hundred up to some million members. The ten largest tribes make up 90 % of the country's population. Tribal antagonism is rare. Most people see themselves as Tanzanians, but in remote areas, and especially where education is poor or non-existing, you may find many who consider themselves tribe members rather than citizens of a state.

Most tribes have their own tribal language, but close to all Tanzanians also speak Swahili, a language originating from Bantu and Arabic, and today the lingua franca of Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. Many urban Tanzanians, and virtually the whole tourist industry, also speak English.

In comparison to Europe, America and other developed parts of the world, Tanzania is very poor. A majority of the population is self-supporting farmers.

The largest tribes of Tanzania:
· Sukuma Between the Great Rift Valley and Lake Victoria. Formerly a war-faring tribe.
· Swahili Along the coast.
· Nyamwezi Central Tanzania.
· Chagga Around Kilimanjaro. Known as good businessmen.
· Haya South of Lake Victoria.
· Makonde Southern Tanzania. Known as good wood carvers.

The Maasai
Upon arrival in Tanzania, most safari-goers have already heard of the Maasai tribe, as it is mentioned in most travel brochures and safari itineraries. The Maasai live in the popular safari regions of northern Tanzania and southern Kenya, where the vast areas of grasslands and savannas are favoured by both the Maasai cattle and the herds of grazing wildlife. Formerly, the Maasai were known and feared for being fierce warriors.

Many safari-goers meet Maasai staff in camps and lodges, or when visiting Maasai villages in the Ngorongoro/Serengeti region.

Dancing in Maasai village.

History
Tanzania has belonged to both Britain and Germany in the past, but is an independent republic since the early 1960's. The Tanganyika–Zanzibar union was originally strictly socialist, but has gradually opened up for commercialism since the 1980's, when the economy had broken down. Privatisation of businesses owned by the state is still going on. A multi-party system was introduced in the 1990's, and a number of free elections have been held by now.

The coastal areas, including Zanzibar and Pemba Islands, have throughout history traded much with seafarers from the Arabian Peninsula, and were long ruled by local sultans. African ivory, slaves and spices were traded for fabrics, iron goods and weapons. Today's coastal population is mainly Muslim, and both the Swahili language and the coastal architecture are evident results from these times.

Inland Tanzania has throughout history been inhabited mainly by Bantu speaking tribes originating from central and southern Africa. The Maasai tribe, arriving from the north as late as 200 years ago, is an exception. European explorers such Burton, Speke and Grant traversed the country from the 1850's, searching for the source of the Nile River. The meeting between David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley, when the now famous phrase 'Dr Livingstone, I presume' was spoken, took place in Ujiji Village close to Lake Tanganyika.

Large herd of zebras in northern Tanzania.

Safari destinations in Tanzania
Safaris are the backbone of the Tanzanian tourist industry, and an important source of income to the country.

Northern Tanzania
Some of the best and most well-known safari areas are Serengeti, the Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara and Tarangire, all situated in northern Tanzania. The wildlife found here is superb. Most safaris start form the city of Arusha. Not far away rises Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, which may be climbed by amateurs.

Southern Tanzania
The southern circuit in central/southern Tanzania has Selous, Mikumi and Ruaha for main attractions, all of them nice parks where fewer visitors go. Safaris start in Dar es Salaam or Zanzibar. There are also flight connections from Arusha.

Western Tanzania
The western circuit
includes the far west, where Tanzania borders Lake Tanganyika and the Congo. Here, Gombe and Mahale Mountains are good chimpanzee and monkey parks (Gombe was the site for Jane Goodall's research on chimpanzees), and Katavi offers traditional savanna wildlife. The west has fewer visitors than northern and southern Tanzania.

More about parks in Tanzania

Coastal destinations in Tanzania
Zanzibar, Pemba and Mafia Islands are situated in the Indian Ocean off the Tanzanian mainland, offering beaches, resorts, diving, snorkelling and deep-sea fishing. Zanzibar, the most popular destination out of these three, has many flight connections from Arusha, Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam and abroad.

Busy road in Arusha.

Cities and towns
Arusha
The city of Arusha in northern Tanzania has a population of a few hundred thousand, and at least twice as much if you include the outskirts and surroundings. It's situated at the foot of Mount Meru (4,566 m/14,980 ft), and is the heart of the Tanzanian safari industry, as well as the starting point for most safaris on the northern circuit.

Arusha has a domestic airport (ARK/HTAR), and Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO/HTKJ) is a 45-minute drive to the east. The UN Rwanda war crimes tribunal is based in Arusha.

Moshi
Moshi Town lies a 30-minute drive east of Kilimanjaro International Airport, and is the starting point for most Kilimanjaro climbs.

Dar es Salaam
Dar es Salaam is a fairly young city on the Tanzanian coast, sprung up around a sultan palace built during the second half of the 1900th century. The city was once the capital of Tanzania, but has been succeeded by inland Dodoma. Yet, Dar es Salaam has remained the country's financial capital. It has an important deep-water harbour

Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR/HTDA) in Dar es Salaam is operated by international and domestic flights, as well as safari flights.

Dodoma
Tanzania's capital Dodoma is situated in the inland, roughly in the middle of the country. Few safari-goers or tourists end up here.

Mwanza
Mwanza is Tanzania's second largest city, situated on the shore of southern Lake Victoria. Mwanza is no tourist destination in itself, but some visit the city in connection with flights to or from the domestic airport (MWZ/HTMW).

Namanga
Namanga is a small town on the border between Tanzania and Kenya, on the main road from Arusha to Nairobi. Apart from the international airports (Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar), Namanga is the only point of entry into Tanzania where you can obtain a visa.

More about visa and passport

Zanzibar Town
Zanzibar Town is the main town on Zanzibar Island. The oldest part of the town is called Stone Town.

Zanzibar International Airport (ZNZ/HTZA), or Kisauni Airport, is mainly operated by domestic airlines (for example from Arusha, Kilimanjaro and Dar es Salaam) and international charter companies.

Further reading
For more information about Tanzania, we suggest that you get one of the many extensive guidebooks that have been written about the country.

More about guidebooks

Serengeti National Park.
 
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Page updated 8 June 2012