Certain names stand out on the global travel map. Serengeti, Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar are undoubtedly among these, and in fact are probably the travel destinations of Africa that tend most to define the continent. These also happen to be the major tourist attractions of Tanzania, a country that enjoys an array of superb natural gifts, and is one of the most sought after and recommended of all the wildlife, coastal and safari destinations in Africa.
Background & Facts about Tanzania
Tanzania follows an enlightened policy of wildlife conversation and is the only country in the world where almost one quarter of the land has been set aside as national parks, game sanctuaries and game reserves. As a result, today the country supports a population in excess of four million.
It was in the Olduvai Gorge that Dr. Leakey discovered fossil material dating back at least two million years or longer, that set the record on the origins of man in East Africa. Here one may well ponder on the history and splendour of this magnificent country where the highest mountain in Africa, Mt. Kilimanjaro (6447 metres), reigns in majestic grandeur over a colorful nation. All the superlatives may be applied to Tanzania’s fantastic geographical features. Mount Kilimanjaro if Africa’s highest mountain; Lake Tanganyika is its deepest and longest fresh water lake; and Ngorongoro is its second largest crater while Selous is the world’s most extinct game reserve.
In the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean, caressed by the cool trade breezes, lies the spice island of Zanzibar, once the centre of the hated slave trade, and a historical doorway in the exploration of nineteenth century Africa. Famous personalities like Livingstone, Stanley, Burton, Speke-to name but a few used Zanzibar as the jumping off point for their African trips. The Serengeti plains and the famous Caldera of Ngorongoro crater have captured the imagination of the world where the unique glamour of Hollywood has catapulted these landmarks to the forefront making them household names internationally. Where else can one find a veritable Noah’s Ark roaming free within the confines of a 67 metre intact but extict volcanic crater wall/ where else can one witness such a unique annual spectacular event as millions of wildebeest and zebra concentrated into one huge mass of animals prepares to migrate across the Serengeti plains in search of new grass.
There is no single reason to make the journey to this most African of African nations, but probably most appealing to a prospective visitor to Tanzania are the country’s many national parks. Contained within one central and easily accessible region are the three main destinations of Kilimanjaro National Park, Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area. However within this area there is also the Arusha National Park, the Tarangire National Park, Lake Manyara National Park and many other sites of interest to the nature and wildlife enthusiast.
One of the largest national parks in the world, and the largest in Tanzania, is the Selous National Park in the south of the country, named after the legendary British hunter, guide, philosopher and writer Frederick Courtney Selous. Most of the Big Five are found in this park in larger numbers than anywhere else in the country, while walking safaris are permitted here where they are not in most other wildlife areas.
Of equal interest and importance are the coasts and islands of Tanzania. Perhaps the most obvious of these is Zanzibar Island, which is perhaps one of the most visited destinations in sub-Saharan Africa, and for excellent reasons. The island is the quintessential spice island, with the aroma of cloves mingling with fish and a bounty of other unidentifiable smells. It is also an area of unique cultural and architectural interest, not to mention its situation on one of the most intrinsically beautiful islands in the world.
Although Zanzibar is also a sought after dive and marine sports location, further south is the smaller Mafia Island, the southern half of which has recently been declared a marine park. The whole island is host to a variety of unique ecologies, but in particular the surrounding waters are home to a patchwork mosaic of coral reefs, sea grass beds, mangrove forests and inter-tidal flats. From the point for view of a dive or a general nature or birding enthusiast this is one of the principal destinations along the east coast of Africa.
There are three separate zones in Tanzania, the bushveld, the mountains and the coast. Inland the climate is tolerable most of the year round, although it is worth planning around the two annual wet seasons which occur between March and May, and November and January. During the summer months between late November and March temperatures can rise to above 30°C. Winter temperatures, between June and August, average a more modest 20°C to 27°C.
If you are climbing Kilimanjaro then a good idea is to fit your trip in between the main wet seasons. It is a fact that when it rains in the tropical highlands of Africa it truly rains. The optimum months for a trip to Kilimanjaro lie between January and mid-March, and from June to October. However rain can still occur during these times. It is worth remembering that sometimes the local national parks authority will suspend trips on the mountain during December thanks to heavy rains – although it is also a fact that Christmas and New Year are very popular dates for Kilimanjaro ascents.
June to October are the main European academic holidays, so this is the most busy time in Tanzania.
There are three main climatic areas in Tanzania; the coastal area and immediate hinterland, where conditions are tropical with temperatures averaging 26.6°C (80°), rainfall varying from, 40 to 76 inches and high in humidity; the central plateau, which is hot and dry (rainfall 20 to 30 inches), although with considerable daily and seasonal temperature variations and the third region is the semi-temperate highland areas, where the climate is healthy and cool. There is seasonal variation in the Lake Victoria area. The eastern sections average only 30 to 40 inches of rain, while the western parts receive up to 90 inches. A small area north of Lake Malawi receive 100 inches of rain. There are two rainy seasons; from November to December and from April to mid-June.
Security. Like all big cities those in Tanzania have their share of crime. It is therefore necessary, in the interests of safety to be aware of the following common sense precautions:
You Should Avoid • Carrying valuables or large amounts of money • Walking in streets after dark • Leaving valuables in your hotel room or vehicle • Wearing chains, bracelets or earrings that can be snatched
You Should Always • Beware of conmen who are on the look out for ways of separating the unwary tourist from their valuables • Demand identification of anyone who poses as an official. • Ask the receptionist at your hotel to call a taxi, as setting off in the streets on your own may be risky.
Photography. Although film is available at most game lodges, it is recommended that you bring sufficient film for your safari with you, always over estimate requirements. A telephoto lens of 210mm-300mm is recommended as well as UV filters and a dust cover for your camera. Bring spare batteries.
Food. In Tanzania food is of a very high standard with a wide selection of tropical fruits, fresh vegetables, meat and fish. Avoid drinking tap water during your stay, most lodges and hotels provide drinking water in flasks. Bottled water can also be bought at the lodge.
Luggage. We strongly recommend that you keep luggage to a minimum on safari. Soft-sided flexible bags are more convenient and some of the Arusha hotels have luggage storage facilities for things not required. Most lodges have fast and reasonable priced laundry services. When traveling in light aircraft baggage is limited to 15 kilos per person including hand luggage. Surcharges may apply for excess baggage.
Departure Tax. Visitors departing Tanzania by air will be required to pay a departure tax in either Tanzania Shillings or hard currency, currently USD $20. This must be in cash. Traveler’s cheques and credit cards are not acceptable. For all domestic flights a local departure tax is levied, payable in Tanzania Shilling currently equivalent to USD $4.00.
Dressing Code. Safari attire is casual and comfortable. In the game lodges, safari camps and Zanzibar coast hotels, the emphasis is on informality and comfort; however in some lodges and safari camps gentlemen are required to wear long trousers with their evening meals. Topless sunbathing is not permitted and ladies should wear appropriate clothing in public places. Pack a sweater as mornings and evenings can be cool, especially at Ngorongoro. Light cotton clothing is best on safari and remember to bring swimwear as some safari lodges and camps have a swimming pool. A hat is also useful for protection from the sun as well as sunscreens and sunglasses. Footwear should be low heeled and comfortable although there is not much walking to be done. Please contact Encounter Africa Safaris for recommended clothing and equipment list for Mount Kilimanjaro.
Health Matters. A Yellow Fever certificate is required for visitors to Tanzania and Zanzibar if arriving from another yellow fever affected region. You are also advised to consult your doctor for Information and advice on the recommended inoculations. Malarial prophylaxis is essential when traveling within East Africa and should be continued after your return. Long sleeve clothing and insect repellent should be worn in the evening.
Visa. Visas are required for some citizen arriving in Tanzania. To avoid delays on arrival it is best to check with the Tanzania High commission in your own country before traveling.
Currency. The currency is the Tanzania shilling. You should ensure that travelers’ cheques and currency are only changed at authorised dealers. Most major credit cards are accepted in Tanzania but this can be limited so visitors should bring US dollars cash or traveler