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Elephant bulls in the Ngorongoro Crater.
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  More about Tanzania
Size: 945,000 km2/364,865 sq mi.
Population: Approx. 37 million.
Capital: Dodoma, although much larger Dar es Salaam is the de facto financial capital.
Highest peak: 5,895 m/19,340 ft (Kilimanjaro).
Neighbouring countries: Kenya, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique
Languages: (official:) Swahili, English, (others spoken:) tribal languages.
Tanzania map
Tanzania map.
  More web sites
Tanzania Tourist Board
Yellow pages Tanzania
  Glossary
Safari glossary
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Introduction:
Tanzania
Tanzania is, together with its East African neighbour Kenya, the classic African safari destination, home to the vast savannas and their abundant wildlife. Here you can find all the typical African mammals, including lions, elephants, zebras, giraffes, crocodiles and hippopotamus.

Besides the prime national parks and conservation areas (among these Serengeti and Ngorongoro), where most of Tanzania's big game is found and where most safari tours are heading, many areas offer further outdoor activities, such as birding and trekking, as well as cultural tourism. Today, 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
 
Lush riverside vegetation in Tarangire National Park.

Visiting Tanzania
Visiting Tanzania is not complicated. The tourist industry is fairly well developed, and as tourism is a major source of income to the country, you will find yourself a welcome guest.

The infrastructure and tourist industry is most developed in the main cities and in those areas which receive most visitors. These include the northern safari circuit (where you find for example Serengeti, Ngorongoro and Kilimanjaro), the southern safari circuit (Selous and Mikumi) and the most popular coastal areas (Zanzibar, Pemba and Mafia).

Roads in these areas are dependable, and scheduled domestic flights and coaches make travelling between them fairly uncomplicated. Technical development during the last few years has brought mobile phones, internet cafés and ATM's to the major cities. Things may work slower and less dependable than you are used to from home, though.

Off the beaten track
Tanzania is a poor developing country, which you will notice if travelling off the beaten track. The infrastructure in less visited or less populated parts of Tanzania can be very poor. Roads can be just passable, or non-passable during heavy rains. Fuel stations marked on your map may not have any fuel. Staff at remote and sparsely visited parks and tourist attractions may speak nothing but Swahili. Few areas are impossible to visit, but off the beaten track you'll need more own initiatives, patience and time.

Safari destinations
Safaris are the backbone of the Tanzanian tourist industry, and an important source of income to the country. Some of the best and most well-known safari areas are Serengeti, the Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara and Tarangire, all situated in northern Tanzania, not too far from the Kenyan border. The wildlife found here is superb. Not far away rises Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, which may be climbed by amateurs.

Most safaris in this area, which is sometimes referred to as the northern circuit, start in the city of Arusha, a 45-minute drive from Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO/HTKJ). You may also reach Arusha or the parks by air from Dar es Salaam or Zanzibar.

The southern circuit further south 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, although not very frequent, from Arusha.

Even fewer safari-goers visit the western circuit in western Tanzania, bordering Lake Tanganyika and the Congo. 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.

More about parks in Tanzania

Beach holidays
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 Nairobi (in Kenya).

Packaged tours to Tanzania
Packaged tours to Tanzania are often focused on safaris. Most such tours sold by established travel companies are well arranged, and offer a good safari experience. You don't need special skills or an adventurous mind to join such a tour. The local guides mainly speak English, as does most of the tourist industry, but tours guided in other language may also be available.

Looking around, you may find not only safari tours, but also tours to Zanzibar, climbing tours to Kilimanjaro, or even tours focusing on other activities.

Tailored tours to Tanzania
If you prefer not to join a group, or if you can't find the itinerary you want among the packaged tours on offer, you can have an itinerary tailored for you. Travel companies specialized in doing this are found in most countries, and many can also be found on the web.

A tailored safari doesn't necessarily cost more than a packaged tour. If you, on the other hand, want to spend more, tailoring may be the best way to ensure that you get the level of comfort, service and quality you desire.

Zebras in Serengeti National Park.

The country Tanzania
The United Republic of Tanzania is a union between the mainland state Tanganyika and the island state Zanzibar, comprising Unguja (which we in daily speaking call Zanzibar Island) and Pemba Islands.

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 are situated along Tanzania's border: Africa's largest freshwater lake, Lake Victoria (north), Lake Tanganyika (west) and Lake Nyasa/Malawi (south-west).

The Great Rift Valley, cutting straight through the country from north to south, is a result from the same rifts and tectonic activity that have created Kilimanjaro, Mount Meru and many other volcanoes (including the whole Ngorongoro Highlands), as well as a number of soda lakes and the short grass plains of Serengeti. One volcano is still active – Oldoynio Lengai, north of Ngorongoro.

Much of Tanzania is elevated by an inland plateau, and many safari-goers are surprised to find that the savannas of for example Serengeti are as high as 1,600 m/5,250 ft above sea level. A narrow strip of lowland follows the coast, and scattered mountains and mountain ranges can be found in areas. Open savanna, farmland, shrubs and woodland are common, and forests, soda lakes and freshwater lakes also found.

Women of the Datoga tribe in northern Tanzania.

Population
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 population 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.

More about languages in Tanzania

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 featured or at least mentioned in most travel brochures and safari itineraries. The Maasai are not dominating the population in Tanzania, though, but make up only a 1 % minority. They 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.

The Maasai, formerly known as a war-faring tribe, originally came from areas along the Nile River north of Kenya, and settled in the Serengeti and other parts of northern Tanzania some 200 years ago.

Many safari-goers meet the Maasai when staying in tented camps and lodges, or when visiting Maasai villages in the Ngorongoro/Serengeti region in Tanzania. Such visits are usually done to villages used to receiving foreign tourists, and the arrangements and presentations may be quite touristy, but they do give you some understanding of Maasai life. Visiting a village is also the best opportunity you will get to take pictures of the Maasai.

Still today, many regard the Maasai culture as proud and dignified, and the Maasai themselves as awe-inspiring and good-looking, adorned and handsomely dressed, mainly in reds. It is a men's culture, though, and much of its ideals are remains from the past, when wars were fought and lions could be killed freely. Today's Maasai live as pastoralists in dry and often over-grazed areas, lagging behind in education and development, and harassed by diseases, including HIV/AIDS. The tribe is still practicing polygamy and female circumcision, and girls are married in their early teens, or even earlier. Maasai women lead hard lives with few or no options, much work and a life expectancy of around 45 years.

The Hadza hunters and collectors
The Hadza tribe lives in the bush around the northern parts of Lake Eyasi in northern Tanzania. (The shortest way getting to the area is from Karatu Town on the main road between Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro.) It is a tribe of hunters and collectors, which formerly inhabited the Serengeti, but was forced away by stronger and more aggressive tribes.

The Hadza (also known as the Watindiga) live in traditional ways, hunting game such as dikdiks and collecting honey. Their huts are simple, built in a few hours and as easily abandoned. Like another people of hunters and collectors, the San tribe of the Kalahari in southern Africa, the Hadza speak a click language.

Hadza men resting at the foot of a baobab tree.

Climate
The climate in northern Tanzania is mainly 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. This may be a time for safari-goers to avoid, as wet roads and rain may make game viewing difficult and road accessibility poor.

The second rainy season in November, 'the short rains', has less effect on safari conditions. Rain cannot be ruled out completely during the intervening dry seasons, as there is good and bad weather in East Africa, too, but these seasons are generally dry. There may also be local climate patterns due to the geography, for example around mountains and large lakes.

In southern Tanzania, there is rather 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, and September and October are considered a good time for safaris, because of animals congregating around rivers and waterholes that have not yet gone dry.

The temperatures in the inland safari regions peak during October–March, and may 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 safari seasons

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 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.

Mount Meru rises 4,566 m/14,980 ft high outside the city of Arusha in northern Tanzania.

Cities and towns
The Tanzanian cities don't have much aesthetic quality or history, and are not known as tourist destinations in themselves. Bagamoyo, north of Dar es Salaam, is an exception, but few visitors to the country go there, as it's off the normal safari routes. More visitors come to see the old Stonetown in Zanzibar Town.

You're likely to drive through Arusha or Dar es Salaam on your way from or to airports, and will get a brief look at the busy urban atmosphere of these cities. You may also pass through towns or villages when travelling to and between parks on a safari.

Accommodation, ranging from hostels to luxury hotels, can be found in cities and larger towns, and lodges may be found in more natural environments around these. For information on accommodation, see Lodges in Tanzania.

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 (Serengeti, Lake Manyara, the Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire and Arusha National Park). Arusha has a domestic airport (ARK/HTAR), and Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO/HTKJ) is a 45-minute drive to the east.

There are few sights in Arusha, and none you shouldn't miss, but if you have time to spare while in town you may spend it watching what goes on in the lively city centre, visit one of the coffee plantations just outside town, or go for a day tour to Arusha National Park not far from Arusha. The park features mainly herbivores, monkeys and birds, and has a varied landscape and nice scenery. Mount Meru, situated within the park, can be climbed in a few days.

The UN Rwanda war crimes tribunal is based in Arusha. To visit it, you need to bring your passport.

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 lacks equivalents to the old buildings and the old architecture found in for example Stonetown in Zanzibar Town. Dar es Salaam was once the capital of Tanzania, but has been succeeded by inland Dodoma.

If you come to Tanzania for a safari or a beach holiday, you will probably see little of Dar, or maybe nothing at all. Most visitors come to stay overnight in connection with flights or safaris, for example to the southern circuit parks Selous, Mikumi and Ruaha further inland.

The sights in Dar es Salaam are few, but there are some nice beaches and lush colonial-style housing areas outside of the city centre. Both the Germans and the British have ruled the city, which has a deep-water harbour.

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. Apart from that, Namanga offers nothing of interest to most tourists.

Dawn in northern Serengeti.

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

This page in Swedish
Go to www.savannen.com for this page in Swedish.

 
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Page updated 27 April 2013