Tanzania

Tanzania is located on the East Coast of Africa and is bordered by eight other countries.  A former British colony, Tanzania is a result of a merge between the former countries of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, with the country achieving independence in 1964.

The largest city in Tanzania is Dar es Salaam, which is an Arabic word meaning “House of Peace”.  It used to be the Capital, but that has since been moved to Dodoma which is located close to the centre of Tanzania.  Dar es Salaam is a coastal city of over two million people that is located very close to the Equator, so it is constantly hot and humid.

There is fossil evidence to show that Tanzania was one of the earliest places to be populated by hominids, the ancestors to modern man.  The country is slightly smaller than Egypt, and has a population of about 43 million.

Tanzania is home to many national parks, perhaps the best known of which is the Serengeti National 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. Large prides of lions laze easily in the long grasses, plentiful families of elephants feed on acacia bark and trump to each other across the plains, and giraffes, gazelles, monkeys, eland, and the whole range of African wildlife is in awe-inspiring numbers. The Park hosts the largest and longest migration in the world during which over two million herbivores move through the area.  There are over 70 mammals that are common in the Serengeti as well as over 500 other species of birds and land animals.  

Another major area to visit is the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Part of the Conservation Area is a crater which forms part of a volcanic caldera.  It is part of the Serengeti ecosystem and is adjacent to the Serengeti National Park.  Ngorongoro forms part of Africa’s Great Rift Valley, and is an area rich in the earliest human fossils.  Here you can see great herds of zebra and wildebeest, plus Africa’s “big five”: rhinoceros, lion, leopard, elephant and buffalo.

For those wishing to scale Africa’s highest mountain, Tanzania is the place from which to organize your expedition to Mount Kilimanjaro.  Normally climbs begin from the town of Moshi, and a climb last five days, giving you time to acclimatise as you ascend to its 5,893 metres (19,334 ft) height.  Kilimanjaro is the world’s highest free standing mountain, and is a dormant volcano with three distinct cones.  You need to be in peak fitness to ascend the mountain, and although five days is the normal time taken for an ascent, the fastest accredited time is just 5 hours 38 minutes and 40 seconds.

As magnificent as Tanzania’s many national parks, mountains and conservation areas are, the country also offers visitors the opportunity for some great aquatic pursuits as well.  Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania and is an archipelago that is located about 35 kilometres offshore in the Indian Ocean.

Zanzibar has been a trading port for many hundreds of years, and was home to many Arab traders.  Zanzibar is characterized by beautiful beaches and is surrounded by coral reefs, it also has a fascinating old urban area called Stone Town, which is now heritage listed.   Because the island has been isolated from the mainland for many millennia, it has some species that are peculiar to the island.  One of these is the red colobus monkey, one of Africa’s rarest species, and the Zanzibar Leopard, which is now considered to be extinct.

Zanzibar’s coastline offers some of the best beaches in the world, but sand and surf vary depending on what side of the island you’re on. The port city of Stone Town dominates the west coast, and although the beaches of Mangapwani, where slave caves are visible at low tide and nearby Bububu are less than half an hour’s drive away, a night or two spent on the east or north cost is well worth the extra hour it takes to drive there.  Today, many of the winding streets and high townhouses of old Stone Town remain unchanged and visitors can walk between the sultan’s palace, the House of Wonders, the Portuguese fort and gardens, the merchants’ houses, and the Turkish baths of the old city.  Zanzibar is also the birthplace of Farokh Bulsara, who is better known as Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen.

Getting around Tanzania can be difficult at times, particularly during the wet season when many roads become flooded or turn to mud.  There is a limited rail network, and private cars can be hired with or without drivers.  There are a few commercial airports in the country, but many landing strips, so flights my small charter planes are possible.  There are many ferry services on the coast, and also on Lake Victoria, which forms part of Tanzania.

Tanzania is a developing nation, but there is much tourist infrastructure there.  For accommodation you can choose from hotels, lodges, and camps when out in the national parks.  Swahili is the official language, but English is also widely spoken, and is the language used in their legal system.  It has a stable government and is a reasonably safe country in which to travel.

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