With such a perfect Location, perched on the edge of the African continent, and facing the Indian Ocean, Tanzania’s weather and climate leaves nothing to be desired. Warm and sunny days are followed by cool and balmy nights, and whether you’re on safari on the Serengeti plains or enjoying the tropical beaches of Zanzibar, the temperatures are always welcoming and gentle. Consult Weather and Climate to find out when the best times to visit are, and learn more about the monsoon winds and seasonal rains.
But sun-filled and beautiful days are not all that Tanzania has to offer. On the contrary, the country’s borders hold a vast number of people and tribes whose varied cultures and traditions make up the rich tapestry that is Tanzanian culture. Read on to learn more about the Masaai culture and the customs of the Swahili Coast.
Although Tanzania is a country rich in culture and traditions, its history is also one of treasured heritage and pride. From the early days of mankind’s history, man has called the land of Tanzania home – its verdant mountains, its scrub-land plains. Find out more about our country’s rich history, from the arrival of merchants and traders on the Swahili Coast to the peaceful political climate that exists today.
Tanzanians enjoy a climate of freedom and peace in our daily lives, and value community and togetherness very highly. Religion is an expression of community and culture, and one that binds us all as citizens to our country and to the people around us. Tanzanians practice Christianity, Islam, and traditional African religions in tolerance and understanding.
Religion defines our community and our sense of identity, but culturally, we are all Tanzanians. Our culture and our traditions can be seen in everything we surround ourselves with and the handicrafts that are the specialties of our country. Visitors to Tanzania will find the section on Shopping immensely useful in helping them decide what to bring back for their friends and loved ones from our amazing country.
There’s a risk of catching malaria pretty much everywhere you travel in Tanzania. While it’s true that areas of high altitude like the Ngorongoro Conservation Area are relatively malaria-free, you will usually be passing through areas where malaria is prevalent in order to get there. Tanzania is home to the chloroquine-resistant strain of malaria as well as several others. Make sure your doctor or travel clinic knows you are traveling to Tanzania (don’t just say Africa) so s/he can prescribe the right anti-malarial medication. Tips on how to avoid malaria will also help.
The easiest foreign currency to exchange in Tanzania is the US dollar, in either cash or traveler check form. While you get better rates at banks and foreign exchange bureaus for the larger bills, keeping a stack of small bills is handy for tips. Most of the high-end hotels and wildlife parks accept US dollars but it can sometimes be a bit cheaper if you pay fees and accommodation in Tanzanian shillings. ATM’s can be found in all the major cities, but my Lonely Planet Guide warns that some machines enjoy eating cards, so use at your own risk. Major credit cards are only accepted at the more expensive restaurants and hotels.
Getting Around in Tanzania:
To get from northern Tanzania to the capital Dar es Salaam, or to fly to Zanzibar, there are several scheduled flights you can take. Precision Air offers routes between all the major Tanzanian towns, as does the national airline, Air Tanzania. Regional Air Services offers flights to Grumeti (Serengeti), Manyara, Sasakwa, Seronera, Dar es Salaam, Arusha and more. For quick flights to Zanzibar from around Tanzania, check out ZanAir.
Two railway lines have passenger services in Tanzania. Tazara trains run between Dar es Salaam and Mbeya (handy to get to the border of Malawi and Zambia). The Tanzania Railway Corporation (TRC) runs the other railway line and you can travel from Dar es Salaam to Kigoma and Mwanza; and also along the Kaliua-Mpanda and Manyoni-Singida Branch Lines. See TRC’s passenger-train schedules to find out when the trains run. There are several classes to choose from, depending how squashed you like to be on long train rides, choose your class accordingly. For 1st and 2nd class berths, book at least a few days in advance.
There are plenty of options to travel by bus in Tanzania. The biggest express bus operator is Scandinavia Express Services which has routes between major cities and towns throughout the country. Other major express bus companies in Tanzania include Dar Express, Royal and Akamba. For basic schedules, costs and trip time see this handy guide from Encounter Tanzania. Local buses run between smaller towns as well as large towns but they are often slow and very crowded.
Renting a Car
All the major car rental agencies and plenty of local ones can provide you with a 4WD (4×4) vehicle in Tanzania. Most rental agencies do not offer unlimited mileage, so you’ll have to be careful when calculating your costs. The roads in Tanzania aren’t very good especially during the rainy season and gas (petrol) is expensive. Driving is on the left side of the road and you’ll most likely need an international driving license as well as a major credit card to rent a car. Driving at night is not advised. If you’re driving in the major cities beware that carjackings are becoming more commonplace. If you’re planning a self-drive safari in Tanzania then the Northern circuit is a lot easier to navigate than the western or southern wildlife parks. The road from Arusha to the Serengeti takes you to Lake Manyara and the Ngorongoro Crater. It’s in reasonable condition, although getting to your campsite may not be as easy once you’re within the park gates.
The dramatic natural arena in which Africa’s greatest display itself out, the horizonless plains of the Serengeti are a spectacular wildlife sanctuary without parallel. Known by the local Masai as “The Great Open Space”, the plateau of the 15 000 km square grassland is covered by the short grasses of the Serengeti National Park, acclaimed as the finest game reserve in Africa. This extraordinary ecosystem– adjoined by the Masai Mara Reserve- is home to enormous populations of mammals. The Serengeti’s annual wildebeest migration begins on the southern plateau during summer rains (December to May) when herds of 100 000 animals begin their 800km trek to the western territories, only to make the grueling return trip to the southern plains between October and November.
Mighty Kilimanjaro with an altitude of 5 895 m, emerged 750 000 years ago as a result of volcanic activity to create the world’s highest freestanding mountain. The precise origin of Kili’s name remains lost in time- the local word kilima means ‘hill’ rather tah ‘mountain’.
Rising from the plains of the Masai, the mountain peak- a dormant volcano– is snow-capped even though only 3 degrees from the equator and make of the different slopes varies radically. From the foot to 1800m the inclines comprise of volcanic soils, while the vegetation up to 2800m is rainforest, which receives over 2000mm of rain. To an altitude of 4000m it is covered by a moorland and heather and giant lobelias.
Also known as Victoria Nyanza, Lake Victoria falls within the boundaries of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Covering 69 485 km square, Victoria is Africa’s largest lake and the world’s second largest. Lying in the populated highlands of Kenya, it averages a depth of only 78m, and its waters are drained by the Victoria Nile. The lake is dotted by little islands such as Ndere ( a reserve harbouring island wildlife).Rubondo Island reserve boasts sitatunga, bushbucks and chimps. The lake shore is lined with reeds, papirys and flamingoes, while its banks are settled mostly by the Luo , farmers and fisherman who ply the lake for Nile perch.
Established in 1870 by Sultan Majid of Zanzibar as his “Haven of Peace”. The spiritual heart of Tanzania is magical Dar es Salaam, the nation’s most important harbor city and largest urban settlement. More acclaimed for its splendid beaches, Oyster Bay and Kunduchi, dynamic Dar remains every inch the contemporary city. It has a wonderful mix of people and cultures (the legacy of German and English colonists) as well as noisy but mesmerizing markets and unparreled upmarket tourist facilities. It also boasts impressive historic sites that are, in the most part, only a few decades old.
The Ngorogoro Crater, the largest intact volcanic caldera in the world, form the heart of the Nogorogoro Conservation Area, the expansive tableland that covers the 265km square of the crater floor. Hedged in by 600km walls that tower high above the open savanna, this is a sweep of untamed wilderness across which herds numbering hundreds of zebra and wildebeest charge, and huge flocks of pink flamingos wade seasonal waters. The plains and montane forests are home of array of Africa’s most recognized wildlife, with no fewer than a quarter million large mammals scattered across the emptiness. The abundance of antelope species means that this is also prime big cat country, with cheetah, leopard and the world’s nesest population of over 100 lions. The rest of the Big Five have also settled here: elephant bulls, 3,000 head of buffalo and roughly 20 black rhinos.