Tanzania is a land of contrasts and majesty, there is the snow-capped summit of Mount Kilimanjaro and the sun-kissed beaches of Zanzibar, the vast herds of game grazing on the Serengeti plains and the slow volcanic eruption of Ol Donyo Lengai. With so much natural wealth, it’s no wonder that Tanzania has something for everyone. Lying just south of the equator, Tanzania is East Africa’s largest country, and an immensely rewarding place to visit. Yet there’s a whole lot more to Tanzania than these obvious highlights.
Almost everywhere you go you’ll find interesting wildlife and inspiring landscapes (over forty percent of the country is protected in some form or other) ranging from forest-covered volcanic peaks to dusty savanna populated by elephants, antelopes, lions, leopards and cheetahs. Tanzania is one of the four most naturally diverse nations on earth: it contains Africa’s second-largest number of bird species (around 1500), the continent’s biggest mammal population and three-quarters of East Africa’s plant species (over ten thousand). Add to this the country’s rich ethnic diversity, some superb hiking and other activities like snorkeling and diving, and you have the makings of a holiday of a lifetime.
For all its natural diversity, Tanzania’s best asset is its people: friendly, welcoming, unassumingly proud and yet reserved – you’ll be treated with uncommon warmth and courtesy wherever you go, and genuine friendships are easily made. The best known tribe air the Maasai, a pastoralist cattle heading, people who inhabit the region around the safari parks in the north, yet there are at least 127 other tribes in Tanzania, perhaps not as visually colorful as the red-robed, spear-carrying Maasai warriors, but with equally rich traditions, histories, customs, beliefs and music, much of which survive despite the ravages of colonialism, modernity arid Christianity.
The coast of Tanzania is perhaps most famous for the Zanzibar Archipelago, a cluster of islands that saw the growth and survival of Swahili civilization and trade until the mid-twentieth century. Zanzibar enchants and beguiles with its oriental mystique and forgotten exoticism — the very name evokes the Spice Islands and the dhow trade, sultans and palaces built of limestone and coral against the palm trees and the crashing surf. But there’s more to the islands of Tanzania than just Zanzibar.
Throughout the archipelago, deserted islands and sandbar beckon and abound. Some have slave caves and colonial graves, other the ruins of sultan’s palaces and stately plantations. In Pemba, villages steeped in culture and tradition preserve the Swahili way of life, almost oblivious to the world around them. On the islands of Mafia, old trading towns line the walkway to abandoned ports and the gentle sea. Throughout the Swahili Coast, diving, swimming, and snorkeling offers superb vistas of thriving coral and marine life. Whether you’re content to stay on the mainland coast, or want to venture off into the atolls and islands of the Indian Ocean, the Tanzanian coast is a place of untouched beauty and enchantment.
Because Tanzania lies below the equator, the coolest months occur during the northern hemisphere’s summer, and all-year round the weather remains pleasant and comfortable. Between June to October, temperatures range from around 10°C in the northern highlands to about 23°C on the coast. On the plains and the lower-altitude game reserves, the temperatures from June to October are warm and mild. On the coast, these months are some of the most pleasant to visit, with balmy, sunny weather much of the day and cooling ocean breezes at night. From December to March, the days are hot and sunny with often not a cloud in the sky. Temperatures range from the mid-twenties to the low thirties throughout the country. On the shores of the Swahili Coast, the Indian Ocean reaches its highest temperatures and is ideal for swimming at any time of day or night.