EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
In the eastern region of Africa on the Indian Ocean, you will find the mesmerizing country of Tanzania. The country of Hakuna Matata, it is the largest country in East Africa and is full of incredible and magical experiences. Here is everything you need to know about Tanzania.
Where to Go
From the vast plains of the Serengeti to the snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro and azure waters of Zanzibar, Tanzania truly has one of the best wildlife ecosystems on the planet. With rare sightings of endangered species like the black rhino, wild dogs, flying foxes (fruit bats) and leatherback turtles, many visitors come back for more. As it has so many protected areas, reserves and parks and such a high concentration of animals, Tanzania is undoubtedly a top family-friendly safari destination.
Here are a few of the most popular and worthwhile spots to visit:
The Serengeti National Park is known for its massive annual migration of wildebeest and zebra, but that is not the only reason visitors flock to this site every year. It has the highest concentration of large mammals in the world, including approximately 2,500 lions. The park also boasts more than 500 species of bird, making it an ideal birding safari spot.
- Family-friendly safaris.
- Witnessing the great migration.
- Those in search of the Big Five.
- Fans of the Lion King looking for the next big thing to the live action film.
Tarangire National Park
The largest elephant population in northern Tanzania can be found in Tarangire National Park with herds of up to 300 elephant. Despite being one of the lesser-known national parks, it offers an incredible safari experience. The beautiful grassy savannahs, dotted with Baobab trees, flow into flourishing swamps making for spectacular scenery. It is also home to more unusual species, such as the gerenuk and oryx, as well as over 550 species of bird.
- Those in search of a less ‘touristy’ destination.
- Fans of unusual and unique wildlife species.
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area
This conservation area lies in northern Tanzania and is a UNESCO world heritage site. Most famous for the Ngorongoro Crater – a 600m deep and 300sq metre crater formed by the explosion of a giant volcano 3 million years ago. It is a breath-taking site to behold. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is also a wildlife and bird paradise with over 25 000 large animals and over 500 species of bird. With sightings of zebra, lions, the endangered black rhino, flamingos, spotted hyenas, rare wild dogs, cheetahs and other felines. The annual wildebeest migration also passes through here. It truly is a must-visit destination.
- Witnessing the great migration.
- Those in search of unusual and spectacular scenery.
- Those looking to see wildlife in large numbers.
Lake Manyara National Park
Lake Manyara is the seventh largest lake in Tanzania and is worth a stop in its own right. The lake is home to an astounding array of birdlife (over 400 species of bird in total!), most famously the thousands of pink flamingos which make for a beautiful contrast against the grey lake shore. Away from the water, you can spot huge herds of elephant and buffalo as well as tree-climbing lions, giraffe, hippo, zebra and wildebeest. For Rafiki fans, it holds the largest concentration of baboons anywhere in the world.
- Birders looking for water bird species.
- Unusual wildlife sightings.
Just off the coast of Tanzania, lies the archipelago of Zanzibar. Sugar white sand beaches fringed with coral reefs and lapped by warm, blue waters make it the dream beach destination. Known as the Spice Islands, the air is infused with the aromas of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and black pepper. It also has an interesting historical element with the Stone Town – a labyrinth of alleyways and ancient Arab architecture.
- Those wanting to have a beach and bush holiday.
- Beach-lovers wanting to get away from the crowd.
- Snorkelers and divers.
Gombe Stream National Park
Gombe Stream National Park may be one of the smallest parks in Tanzania but it is home to the chimpanzee reserve founded by Jane Goodall. Here you will not only find chimpanzees, but other primates, which include the endangered red colobus beachcomber olive baboons, vervet monkeys, red-tailed monkeys and blue monkeys. It’s a wonderful opportunity to go off the beaten track and experience a different side to safari.
- Incredible and unusual wildlife sightings.
- Adventurous spirits.
- Those wanting to get away from the tourist hotspots.
When to Go
Tanzania offers a fantastic safari experience year-round depending on what you’re after.
The dry season is from June to October, June and July being the best months to see the Great Migration, and August and September the best time to see the wildebeest river crossings. It is cool and dry with less dust, which means fewer mosquitoes.
The wet season is from November to May, January and February being the best months to see the wildebeest calving, and March and April giving the most rainfall. Because it is low season, you will see fewer people and lower prices.
The best months for bird watching in Tanzania are October through to April as migratory birds arrive from Europe and North Africa’s winter. Most commonly seen birds include the Yellow Necked Spurfowl, the Northern White Crowned Shrike, the Black necked weaver, the Red Billed Hornbill and many more.
Kilimanjaro Treks happen during the climbing season, which is from June to October, and December to March.
What You Need to Know
- Tanzania is not malaria-free, so it is recommended you take antimalarial tablets. (Don’t worry, here are a few malaria-free safari destinations just in case).
- Don’t dress provocatively, cover thighs and shoulders – Tanzania is a conservative country.
- Don’t purchase any ivory, skins or shells as this encourages the ivory trade. Pack insect repellant to deter mosquitoes and other insects.
- Swahili time is a bit different, with a 12-hour day starting at sunrise and a 12-hour night starting at sunset.
- Don’t remove any wildlife products, such as ivory, shells or coral from Tanzania
- Ask permission first before photographing people, some may take offense and others might charge a “tip”.
- Avoid bringing in any plastic bags as Tanzania’s government banned plastic bags to clean up the environment. An on-the-spot fine is dealt if you’re found carrying a bag.
- Stick to drinking bottled water over tap water.
Learning the Lingo
The official language of Tanzania is Swahili, although English is widely spoken. You will hear names like Nala (gift), Rafiki (friend) and Simba (strength) when visiting the area. Sound familiar? Yes, the Lion King was greatly inspired by this beautiful country.
Greeting each other is important in Tanzania so it’s worth learning a few basic Swahili phrases. Here is some basic Swahili to get you started:
Jambo (Hujambo) – Hello
Asante – Thank you (very much)
Karibu – (you are) Welcome
Ndiyo and Hapana – Yes and No
Kwaheri – Goodbye
What to Eat
Foodies fear not, Tanzania is full of delicious and exotic dishes and flavours. From street stalls to night markets and tea rooms, there is something to tickle all taste buds. A few traditional Tanzanian dishes worth trying include:
A staple East African dish, cornmeal is added to boiling water and cooked until a paste is formed. It is dense with a grainy dough-like consistency. It is the perfect accompaniment to the saucy stews and vegetables.
Tanzanian pilau or pilaf is an adaptation of the Indian dish. Rice is seasoned with cinnamon, cumin, cloves, cardamom and pepper to make a simple yet wonderful flavourful dish.
Supa Ya Nzizi
Supa ya nzizi is a soup made from a paste of crushed, unripened plantains cooked in chicken stock. It is usually served alongside chipatti as a breakfast food.
Another staple breakfast food, vitumbua are small, deep-fried balls. They are almost like a pancake except heavier in texture with a coconut flavour. They are a common street food, deliciously sweet and melt-in-your mouth.
Maandazi is a fried bread similar to a doughnut. It is commonly served with tea and can be enjoyed a s side dish, snack or even dipping bread. They are fluffy in texture and found throughout Tanzania.
A Few More Interesting Facts
- Tanzania boasts more than four million wild animals across 17 national parks, which covers about 15% of the land area. It has two marine parks and many other protected and conservation areas. Tanzania also has around a thousand species of bird and 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
- South of Tanzania you will find the largest species of Baobab tree in the world. Baobabs can store up to 100 000 litres of water and can grow to be 1000 years old!
- Tanzania is also home to the most expensive hardwood tree in the world, the Mpingo Tree (known as Blackwood), which is used to make instruments such as flutes and clarinets.
- In various areas of Tanzania, you will find tree-climbing lions. It seems strange, but the little ones will have the time of their lives witnessing this unusual behaviour.
- The one of a kind Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano has black lava! It is the only active volcano in the world with this kind of lava and can move faster than a person. The volcano is open to adrenaline junkies who can climb it and make the most of this awe-inspiring site.
- Tanzania is home to the largest crab in in the world, the Coconut crab, and many have reported that it is the tastiest as well.
- The lead singer of the band “Queen”, Freddie Mercury, was born in in Stone Town, Zanzibar.