Wildlife, beaches, friendly people, Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Mt Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar Archipelago – Tanzania has all these and more wrapped up in one adventurous, welcoming package.
More than almost any other destination, Tanzania is the land of safaris. Wildebeest stampede across the plains. Hippos jostle for space in muddy waterways. Elephants wander along seasonal migration routes and chimpanzees swing through the treetops. Throughout the country there are unparalleled opportunities to experience this natural wealth: take a boat safari down the Rufiji River past snoozing crocodiles in Selous Game Reserve; watch giraffes silhouetted against ancient baobab trees in Ruaha National Park; sit motionless as waterbirds peck in the shallows around Rubondo Island; and hold your breath while lions pad around your vehicle in Ngorongoro Crater.
Tanzania’s Indian Ocean coastline is magical, with tranquil islands and sleepy coastal villages steeped in centuries of Swahili culture – this East African coast was the seat of sultans and a linchpin in a far-flung trading network extending to Persia, India and beyond. Relax on powdery beaches backed by palm trees and massive baobabs; take in magnificent, pastel-hued sunrises; immerse yourself in languid coastal rhythms; and sit beneath the billowing sails of a wooden dhow, listening to the creaking of its rigging and the gentle slap of the sea against its prow.
Sending its shadow across Tanzania's northern plains, Mt Kilimanjaro beckons visitors with its graceful, forested flanks and stately snow-capped summit. It is Africa's highest peak and the world's highest free-standing volcano. It is also home to the Chagga people, and to a wealth of birds and wildlife. Climbers by the thousands venture here to challenge themselves on its muddy slopes, rocky trails and slippery scree. The rewards: the thrill of standing at the top of Africa; magnificent views of Kilimanjaro's ice fields; and witnessing sunrise illuminating the plains far below.
Wherever you go in Tanzania, opportunities abound for getting to know the country's people and cultures. Meet red-cloaked Maasai warriors. Spend time with the semi-nomadic Barabaig people near Mt Hanang. Experience the hospitality of a local meal and the rhythms of traditional dance. Chat and barter at local markets. More than anything else, it is the Tanzanian people that make visiting the country so memorable. Chances are you'll want to come back soon, to which most Tanzanians will say "karibu tena" (welcome again).
Serengeti's Great Migration: the world's ultimate wildlife spectacle
14 min read — Published Nov 1, 2021
Behold the ultimate wildlife spectacle: The Great Migration of wildebeest and zebra through the Serengeti.
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At 19km wide and with a surface of 264 sq km, Ngorongoro is one of the largest unbroken calderas in the world that isn’t a lake. Its steep walls soar 400m to 610m and provide the setting for an incredible natural drama, as prey and predators graze and stalk their way around the open grasslands, swamps and acacia woodland on the crater floor. It's such an impressive sight that, other vehicles aside, you'll wonder whether you've descended into a wildlife paradise.
Katavi National Park, 35km southwest of Mpanda, is Tanzania’s third-largest national park (together with two contiguous game reserves the conservation area encompasses 12,500 sq km) and one of its most unspoiled wilderness areas. Though it’s an isolated alternative to more popular destinations elsewhere in Tanzania, the lodges are just as luxurious as anywhere else, and for backpackers it’s one of the cheapest and easiest parks to visit, if you’re willing to take the time and effort to get there.
Few people forget their first encounter with the Serengeti. Perhaps it's the view from the summit of Naabi Hill at the park's entrance, from where the Serengeti's grasslands stretch out like a vision of eternity. Or maybe it's a coalition of male lions stalking across open plains. Or it could be the epic migration of animals in their millions, following the ancient rhythm of Africa's seasons. Whatever it is, welcome to one of the greatest wildlife-watching destinations on earth.
Welcome to one of Africa's most underrated parks. Thanks to its proximity to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro, Tarangire is usually assigned only a day visit as part of a larger northern-circuit itinerary. But it deserves a whole lot more, at least in the dry season. This is a place where elephants dot the plains like cattle, and where lion roars and zebra barks fill the night, all set against a backdrop of constantly changing scenery.
Since its official opening in 1977, Mt Kilimanjaro National Park has become one of Tanzania’s most visited parks. Unlike the other northern parks, this isn’t a place to come for the wildlife, although it’s there. Rather, you come here to gaze in awe at a snowcapped mountain on the equator, and to climb to the top of Africa. At the heart of the park is the 5896m Mt Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain and one of the continent’s most magnificent sights.
It’s difficult to imagine a more idyllic combination: clear, blue waters and white-sand beaches backed by lushly forested mountains soaring straight out of Lake Tanganyika, and some of the continent’s most intriguing wildlife watching. Mahale Mountains park (1613 sq km) is most notable as a chimpanzee sanctuary – there are about 700 of our primate relatives split into 14 groups residing in and around the park – with leopards, blue duikers, red-tailed monkeys and red colobus monkeys keeping them company.
At approximately 22,000 sq km, Ruaha National Park is Tanzania’s largest. It forms the core of a wild and extended ecosystem covering about 40,000 sq km and providing a home to Tanzania’s largest elephant population. In addition to the elephants, which are estimated to number about 12,000, the park hosts large herds of buffaloes, as well as greater and lesser kudus, Grant’s gazelles, wild dogs, ostriches, cheetahs, roan and sable antelope, and more than 400 different types of birds.
With an area of only 56 sq km, this is Tanzania’s smallest national park, but its famous primate inhabitants and its connection to Jane Goodall have given it worldwide renown. Many of Gombe’s 100-plus chimps are well habituated, and though it can be difficult, sweaty work traversing steep hills and valleys, if you head out early in the morning, sightings are nearly guaranteed.
The Selous is Africa's largest wildlife reserve, and Tanzania’s most extensive protected area. It’s home to large herds of elephants, plus buffaloes, crocodiles, hippos, wild dogs, many bird species and some of Tanzania’s last remaining black rhinos. The Rufiji River is a major feature, and offers the chance for boat safaris, which are a Selous highlight. Visit soon, however, before the Rufiji is dammed as part of the massive Stiegler's Gorge hydroelectric project.
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