Tanzania, the largest country in East Africa, includes the spice islands of Zanzibar, Pemba, and Mafia and contains Africa’s highest point—Kilimanjaro, at 5,895 meters (19,340 feet). Kilimanjaro, a dormant volcano, is snowcapped even though it is near the Equator. The African population consists of more than 120 ethnic groups.
The mainreasons for visiting Tanzania are the following:
- Over one quarter of it’s land mass is dedicated to National Parks, Game Reserves and Game Controlled Areas, which gives Tanzania more land dedicated to National Parks than any other country in the world and ensures:
- The finest game viewing potential anywhere.
- From the largest Game Reserve in Africa (The Selous, 19,293 square miles), declared a World Heritage Site in 1982, to one of the smallest (Gombe Stream, with it’s chimpanzee population) and from one of the best known (the Serengeti) to the least (Mahale Mountains).
- The highest mountain in Africa, Kilimanjaro, 19,340 feet (and the eighth highest, Meru (14,979 feet)
- The Serengeti ecosystem (just the Park itself covers 5,700 square miles, which gives some scale to the Selous!) and it’s attendant migration.
- The collapsed caldera, wildlife miracle and World Heritage Site of the Ngorongoro Crater, often said to be the Eighth Wonder of the World!
- Olduvai Gorge – the “birthplace of Man”.
- Very varied habitats and vegetational zones.
- A wonderful 497 mile coastline on the Indian Ocean, and three main tropical islands: Zanzibar, Pemba and Mafia.
- Zanzibar is a draw in itself.
- An excellent climate.
- The second deepest lake in the world (Lake Tanganyika, 4,725 feet) and the largest lake in Africa (Lake Victoria).
- The Great Rufiji river.
- A substantial portion of the Rift Valley, see “Geography” below. (Kirurumu Tented Lodge is on the lip of the Rift).
- Political stability – see Politics & Religion, below.
- Exceptionally friendly peoples.
- English (and KiSwahili) as the main languages.
- Relatively low levels of tourism.
In the northeast of Tanzania is a mountainous region that includes Mt. Meru (14,979 ft/4,566 m) and Mount Kilimanjaro (19,340 ft./5,895 m), the latter of which is the highest point in Africa and possibly the most breathtaking mountain imaginable.
To the west of these peaks is Serengeti National Park, which has the greatest concentration of migratory game animals in the world (200,000 zebra, for example). Within the Serengeti is Olduvai Gorge, the site of the famous discoveries by the Leakeys of fossil fragments of the very earliest ancestors of Homo sapiens. The Serengeti also contains the marvelous Eden of Ngorongoro, a 20-mile-wide volcanic crater that is home to an extraordinary concentration and diversity of wildlife.
Moving west from the Serengeti, one reaches the shores of Lake Victoria, the largest lake on the continent and one of the primary headwater reservoirs of the Nile. Southwest of Lake Victoria, and forming Tanzania’s border with Zaire, is Lake Tanganyika, the longest and (after Lake Baikal) deepest freshwater lake in the world. It was at Ujiji, a village on the Tanzanian shore of Lake Tanganyika, that H.M. Stanley presumably encountered David Livingstone in 1871. Livingstone had fallen ill while searching for the source of the Nile, and despite his illness he refused to leave. Instead, he persuaded Stanley to accompany him on a journey to the north end of Lake Tanganyika. The region that they passed through has since become famous as Gombe National Park, the site of Jane Goodall’s chimpanzee research station.
Southeast of Lake Tanganyika is a mountainous region that includes Lake Malawi (previously Lake Nyala), the third largest lake on the continent. East of Lake Malawi is the enormous expanse of the Selous Game Reserve, the largest in Africa with over 21,000 sq. mi. (55,000 sq. km.) and perhaps more than 50,000 elephants.
Moving northeast from Selous brings one to Tanzania’s low, lush coastal strip, the location of its largest city, Dar es Salaam. Dar Es Salaam is the embarkation point for Zanzibar, the fabled emerald isle that lies off the Tanzanian coast.