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.
Tanzania is part, albeit at times reluctantly, of the African family of nations that make up the vast East/Central African bloc. Swahili is the lingua franca that binds it to its neighbors of Kenya and Uganda, with which it also shares the main features of the Rift Valley highlands and lakes complex. The three nations also enjoy a shared ecological heritage that is showcased by the absolute cream of Africa’s parks, preserves and conservancies, and arguably the best of these lie in Tanzania.
Yet another part of Tanzania’s appeal is the long Indian Ocean coastline that is steeped in the Arabic/Swahili influence that Tanzania again shares with its northern neighbor. This heritage, still tinged with ancient traces of Portuguese colonial architecture, was born out of equally ancient trade routes established between the East African coast and Arabia, India and the Far East. The principal commercial port of Tanzania is Dar es Salaam, or House of Peace, which is the site of an ancient Arabic trading site, and is now the commercial capital of Tanzania. Offshore lies the island of Zanzibar, the traditional seat of the Sultans of Oman, and further north the smaller and similarly exotic island of Pemba.
Travel To & Within Tanzania
Why Travel To Tanzania
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 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.
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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.
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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
When To Visit Tanzania
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
On the coast it can get extremely hot in summer with stifling humidity, and unless you particularly enjoy this, these months are worth avoiding. Winter temperatures and humidity are lower, although the atmosphere is still warm, and beach weather can be expected enjoyed all year round.
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.
One of the best reasons to visit Tanzania is that it is one of the safest destinations in Africa. Most government travel advisories will point out that, thanks to the prevalence of Islam in Tanzania, a latent terrorism threat exists. This is not total paranoia since Tanzania did indeed suffer a catastrophic attack on the US embassy in 1998, but there has been no incident since then.
There is a degree of unrest along the border with Burundi, so gaining local advice before you travel would be a good thing.
Street crime in Tanzania is limited, but it does occur. Armed robberies and muggings have been reported. The highest risk is for petty theft, bag snatching and robbery in the main cities. Be wary of any street deals be it for currency or drugs. Tanzanians are superbly adept at clever tricks, and you could very easily exchange your foreign currency for an envelope full of newspaper clippings.
The bottom line is that Tanzania has a high poverty rate coupled with a thriving tourist industry which is bound to translate into some occasional unpleasantness, and this is indeed the case. The usual rules of common sense need apply at all times, which require that you do not put yourself at any unnecessary risk.
Malaria and other tropical diseases are common in Tanzania. HIV/AIDS prevalence is high, and caution in all matters of sexual contact needs to be applied.