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Tanzania: The Complete Experience

When you travel to a new location and witness a new culture, you usually get to pick what you’re in the mood for – beach, shopping, wildlife, trekking, people, and culture. This is where Tanzania, in East Africa, wins big – you’ll never have to truly choose and just jump headlong into whichever of the above would quench your thirst for travel.

Famed for its pristine white sand beaches in the spice islands of Zanzibar and its safari parks in the shadow of the awe-inspiring World Heritage Site Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania offers all sorts of exciting opportunities.

Africa’s Tallest Mountain

A complete round of Tanzania would begin with what is called the ‘Northern Circuit’, beginning in Arusha in northern Tanzania, where it’s easy to make your way to Mount Kilimanjaro, which lies 100 kilometres northeast.

The imposing natural structure, the highest free-standing mountain in the world and the tallest mountain in Africa, is an essential trek for those with a passion for adventure. It takes around seven days to reach the summit and witness the glorious sunrise spread across the continent from its snow-capped peak.
Though not exactly among the most difficult treks, it can be a daunting climb, but one that will ultimately be rewarding in unimaginable ways.

Mecca for Wildlife

To the west of Arusha, is the Serengeti National Park where travellers can witness one of the ‘seven wonders of the world’: the mass migration of wildebeest, zebras, elephants, antelopes, cattle, goats, sheep and more. Their journey is fraught with danger – there are the famous Serengeti lions, about 3,000 at last count, and leopards, cheetahs, hungry hyenas and monster crocodiles.

A vast, treeless plain; the best time to visit magical Serengeti is between December and June to view the impressive natural event in all its immensity.

Combining the trip to Serengeti with one to Ngorongoro Crater would be the wisest way to go. As it’s on the way, it would be a massive shame not to see the stunning views it has to offer. Stretching from the Rift Valley to the Serengeti, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area spans 8,300 square kilometres. The crater is the world’s largest inactive and intact volcanic caldera, and is lush with life, the primary reason for which is the abundance of permanent water.

The crater is home to almost every individual species of wildlife in East Africa, and the rare concentration of wildlife practically warrants sightings of zebra, gazelle, and wildebeest herds, as well as the marvellous Big Five. With an estimated 25,000 animals living within the crater, the caldera also boasts around 30 endangered black rhino.

Making the whole experience more majestic is the fact that the crater also has the highest density of predators in all of Africa. This sets the stage for a natural drama to unfold as prey and predators graze and stalk through the open grasslands, woodland and swamps on the crater floor.

Lake Victoria

While in the northern circuit, try and include Lake Victoria in your itinerary. It is the biggest tropical freshwater lake in the world and the largest lake in Africa, shared between Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. It makes for an invigorating break from the wildlife safari circuits and throngs of tourists, offering calm, quietude and relaxation.

Tribal Cultures

People in the country are also incredibly hospitable. Even though that may relate to the fact that tourism is one of the biggest money makers for Tanzania, you also have the opportunity to meet local tribes such as the Masai, the Barabaig and the Hadza. Also, Tanzanians love to greet, so say hello or ‘Hujambo’ at every opportunity.

The Maasai are easy enough to find – most have settled near tourist areas and have given up their hunter-gatherer ways and now rear livestock. The Barabaig, a relatively new tribe in the area that look after animals, are much like the Masai in their ways and culture. While the Hadza are a monogamous people, the Masai and Barabaig may have as many as 10 wives.

Visiting their hamlets is an enlightening experience because you learn that no matter how different each tribe may be, most are facing similar problems. It’s a sad truth but many tribal communities now depend on tourism even though it was tourism and development that is the reason for most of their problems.

Sunny White Sandy Beaches and Zanzibar

Once your heart has had its fill of adventure, it’s time to head to Zanzibar to soak up some sun and relax. With its abundant history and white sandy beaches, it is a cultural haven that will give you more than just a small peak into the colourful past of the area.

Stone Town in Zanzibar City is unmissable, an experience unlike much in the world. Also known as Mji Mkongwe (Swahili for “old town”), its vibrant energy will suck you in as you wander the streets soaking the sights and sounds. As it can easily be explored on foot, Stone Town, which was once a flourishing trading hub, gorgeously represents what a melting pot it was for various cultures – African, Arab, Indian and European.

The architecture itself has a story to tell – from large Arab villas with lattice work and Indian homes with ornate doorways. It’s also a shopping haven, there are boutiques along Gizenga Street and on Kenyatta Road near the old Post Office and many antique shops near Sokomohogo Square. Tharia Street is the home for some jewellery unlike anything you’ll have ever seen before. And don’t forget that Tanzanians love to barter!

From museums and refurbished hotels, to fantastic restaurants and the world’s last open slave market, it’s all there for the soul to feast upon.

Scuba Diving in the Indian Ocean

If you’re still not satiated by all the adventure, head down to the city of Chake-Chake in Pemba, the northernmost island of the Zanzibar archipelago, which is a popular base for scuba divers. Coral reefs, bright fish, underwater caves and small sandy islands make for some gorgeous, unforgettable sights. More so, kayaks are available for exploring the mangroves.

To wrap up the trip of a lifetime, it’s an easy drive to Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda so your African adventure needn’t come to an abrupt end even though you’re bidding farewell to a country of wonderful wildlife, outstanding natural beauty and rich culture!

Note: Some of the pictures in this article (specifically the ones without the ‘Be on the road’ logo) have been borrowed from wikipedia under the Creative Commons License. Each photograph has been linked to its host page on wikipedia.

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