About Tanzania

What makes Tanzania a travel destination without equal is its amazing natural beauty and variety of landscape, and hence variety of wildlife, the widest in all of Africa.

In Tanzania it is possible to go from lazing on idyllic beaches to climbing mist-covered mountains, trekking through barren landscapes, exploring ancient city ruins or viewing the fantastic wildlife that abounds here, on foot, by boat or by 4x4 safari vehicle.


• History of Tanzania

Tanzania is renowned as the "cradle of mankind", for it was here, in the Olduvai Gorge, that Dr Louis Leakey discovered the fossilised remains of Homo habilis, or "handy man," calculated to be 1.75 million years old and the fore-runner of modern man. More recently Tanzania has been occupied by a variety of African tribes, most recently the Maasai from Kenya, who very much remain in evidence here. Then Arab merchants visited the coast some 2,000 years ago and settled in Zanzibar around the eighth century AD later establishing trade routes into the interior. The inter-marriage of Arabs and local people created a new people with their own language - Kiswahili (Swahili) whose word for a journey - safari - has become the international description of a trip into the wild.

There are now around 120 tribal groups in Tanzania including the Maasai of the Great Rift Valley, and Arab, Indian and Bantu influences on the coast and on Zanzibar.

It was in Tanzania that Stanley uttered those famous words - "Dr Livingstone I presume" - when he tracked down the Scottish missionary and explorer after a long trek into the interior. Tanzania became a magnet for several Victorian explorers who made epic journeys of discovery in search of the source of the Nile.

The Portuguese established temporary settlements in the 16th century, supplanted by the Omanis in the late 17th century who developed the infamous slave trade. The scramble for Africa by the European powers at the end of the 19th century led to occupation of the mainland by Germany, although Zanzibar Island itself became a British protectorate. After World War I, Germany was forced to surrender its territory to the British. Tanganyika, as the mainland was then known, achieved independence on 09/12/61. Zanzibar became independent two years later and shortly afterwards joined with the mainland to become the United Republic of Tanzania on 26/04/64.

• Geography of Tanzania

Tanzania covers 937,062 sq km, making it the largest country in Eastern Africa. Just south of the equator, it borders Kenya and Uganda in the north; the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi in the west; and Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique in the south, making it a splendid centre from which to explore eastern, central and southern Africa.

Through the interior runs the Great Rift Valley, that vast fault-line down the spine of Africa that, in Tanzania, has created many fascinating topographical features such as the Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Tanganyika. The central plateau (1,200m above sea level) is a huge expanse of savannah and sparse woodland. To the north, the 5,895-metre (19,340 ft) Mount Kilimanjaro rises, the highest mountain in Africa.

While Tanzania's interior is largely arid, the 800 kilometre coastline is lush and palm-fringed, as are the islands of Zanzibar, Pemba and Mafia.

• Tanzania's Climate

Tanzania's coastal areas are hot and humid with an average day time temperature of 30°C. Sea breezes make the climate very pleasant from June to September. The central plateau experiences hot days and cool nights. The hilly country between the coast and the northern highlands has a pleasant climate from January to September, with temperatures averaging around 20°C. Temperatures vary around Kilimanjaro according to the season, registering a low 15°C during May to August rising to 22°C during December to March. For the whole country the hottest months are from October to February. The main, long rainy season is from mid-March to late May.

See When to Visit Tanzania

• Tanzania's Economy

Agriculture plays a vital part in the economy of Tanzania and tourists will see evidence of this as they are driven past huge coffee, tea and cotton plantations and witness the processing of cashew nuts, sisal, cloves and other spices. Zanzibar itself is of course known as ‘The Spice Island'. Incidentally, in the AfricaAway offices, our preferred choice of coffee is that grown on the slopes of Kilimanjaro itself (and available in Sainsbury's!)

Tanzania also has large mineral deposits that include gold, diamonds and a wide variety of gemstones. Of particular interest here is tanzanite, a brilliant and rare gemstone found only in Tanzania. It is mined in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro and is one thousand times rarer than diamonds.

• Tourism in Tanzania

The people of Tanzania are tolerant and peaceful and extend warm hospitality to visitors. Tanzania has more land allocated as National Parks or similar than any other African country. It also has the largest variety of wild animals with around 20% of the continents large animals found here. Game viewing is possibly the best in Africa and it is the number one destination for a thrilling wildlife safari.

Compared to other African countries, Tanzania receives far fewer tourists and this is particularly noticeable in the southern National Parks, most tourists heading for the northern parks of Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater and Mount Kilimanjaro. The northern parks circuit is the most popular but the southern and western parks offer a chance to get off the beaten track and to experience the real feeling of African wilderness and wildlife.

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