Interesting places in Tanzania

Country snapshot, interesting facts

Tanzania flag

The United Republic of Tanzania lies on the Indian Ocean bordered by Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique. The capital city and also a major port, Dar es Salaam is the natural starting point for trips in Tanzania. It is near Mount Kilimanjaro, Dodoma, and the nearby island of Zanzibar. Many beautiful beaches are within easy reach of Dar es Salaam, such as those at Kunduchi, Mjimwena, and Mbwa Maji. Kunduchi, 24 km (15 miles) north of the city, is a fishing village with nearby ruins of Persian tombs and mosques.

The beautiful island of Zanzibar is only 20 minutes' flight from Dar es Salaam. Mount Kilimanjaro, at 5895 m (19 341 ft), Africa's highest mountain is a major attraction for mountaineers. The ascent takes about three days. Tanzania's national parks extend over some 33 660 sq km (13 000 sq miles). The Serengeti National Park is a plain-dwellers' stronghold of 14,763 sq km (5678 sq miles), claimed to be the finest in Africa. There are 35 species of plain-dwelling animals, including wildebeests, and zebra, and also an extensive selection of birdlife. The Selous Game Reserve is larger than Switzerland and covers one-sixth of Tanzania's land surface. Generally, the nightlife centers are in the top tourist hotels and restaurants.

Resorts and excursions

The Coast

Dar es Salaam. Once the capital city (this function has now moved to Dodoma) the major port of Dar es Salaam is the natural starting point for trips in Tanzania. It is near the island of Zanzibar (see below). Parts of Dar es Salaam have a tranquil air that belies industrial and commercial growth. Further attractions include the National Museum, housing the skull of Nutcracker Man; Observation Hill, which contains the campus and facilities of the University of Dar es Salaam; and the Village Museum, with exhibits of traditional housing and crafts.

Excursions. The fishing village of Msasani, 8 km (5 miles) from Dar es Salaam, contains tombs dating back to the 17th century. Further south, at Kilwa Klsiwani, there are ruins of Portuguese and Arab architecture.

Many beautiful beaches are within easy reach of Dar es Salaam, such as those at Kunduchi, Mjimwena, and Mbwa Maji. Kunduchi, 24 km (15 miles) north of the city, is a fishing village with nearby ruins of Persian tombs and mosques. Mbudya Island is an uninhabited island forming part of a protective coral reef which is a good place for diving, snorkelling, and fishing. Sinda Island, some 14 km (nine miles) off Dar es Salaam, also offers facilities for snorkelling and shell fishing.

Elsewhere. A 72 km (45-mile) drive north of Dar es Salaam is Bagamoyo, a one-time slave port and terminus for the caravans. This tiny township is the nearest mainland point to Zanzibar and possesses sandy beaches set in a beautiful bay. Livingstone's body rested in the tiny chapel of the convent here on its way back to London. The town mosque and Arab tombs date from the 18th and 19th centuries. Five kilometres (three miles) to the south is the village of Kaole, near which are the ruins of a mosque and pillars believed to be 800 years old. To the north of Bagamoyo, near the Kenyan border, is the country's second port, Tanga. From here the visitor can drive to the beautiful Usambara Mountains and Moshi on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro (see National Parks section).

Zanzibar and Mafia Island

Zanzibar. The island of Zanzibar, once the metropolis of East Africa, variously ruled by Shirazi Persians, the Portuguese, the Omani Arabs, and British colonials, is only 20 minutes' flight from Dar es Salaam (ferries also available). Otherwise known as the "Spice Island", Zanzibar's golden age was under the Omani Arabs in the early 19th century. By the middle of the century, it had become the world's largest producer of cloves and the largest slave-trading post on the African eastern coast. Zanzibar's old Stone Town is a labyrinth of narrow, winding streets lined with exotic shops, bazaars, colonial mansions, mosques, and squares. The visitor can still see the house where Dr Livingstone lived, as well as that used by Burton and Speke. The Anglican Cathedral Church of Christ stands on the site of the Old Slave Market, off Creek Road, while on the seafront are the palace of the former sultan and the towering Beit-el-Ajaib (The House of Wonders). Zanzibar is a fascinating place with palaces, forts, stone aqueducts, and baths; its history as a cosmopolitan center of trade gives it a unique atmosphere. The guided Spice Tours are recommended (see also Sport and Activities section). Within the vicinity lie many offshore islands ringed with coral reefs, the most famous and most visited being Changuu Island (also known as "Prison Island"). There are also many superb beaches, particularly on the east coast, although there are now several package hotels there.

Note. Visitors to Zanzibar should observe Muslim conventions regarding dress when away from the beach. For more information, see the World of Islam appendix.

Mafia. Forty minutes' flight south of Dar es Salaam, the island of Mafia is renowned for big-game fish as well as being a unique marine park. Power boats and tackle are available for hire.

National Parks. Tanzania's national parks extend over some 33 660 sq km (13,000 sq miles). In addition, there is the unique Ngorongoro Conservation Area (see below), in which wildlife is protected and where the Masai tribes people also live and herd their cattle. There are also some 10 game reserves where government-approved hunting safaris operate under licence and about 40 controlled areas where the hunting of game is controlled by a quota system. Further information can be obtained from Tanzania National Parks, PO Box 3134, Arusha (tel: (27) 250 3471 or 250 1930; fax: (27) 254 8216; e-mail: tanapa@yako.habari.co.tz). For more information on safaris, see the Sport and Activities section.

Mount Kilimanjaro. At 5895 m (19 341 ft), Africa's highest mountain is a major attraction for mountaineers. Expeditions must be accompanied by a guide and very warm clothes are required for the last section of the climb. The ascent takes about three days, allowing for rests at the three huts and a day or so at the final hut to acclimatize before tackling the final stage to the summit.

Serengeti National Park. This is a plain-dwellers' stronghold of 14 763 sq km (5678 sq miles) reaching up to the Kenyan border and claimed to be the finest in Africa. Here are 35 species of plain-dwelling animals, including wildebeest, zebra, gazelle, cheetah, and lion, which feature in the spectacular Serengeti migration, and also an extensive selection of birdlife. Probably the best time to see the migrating herds is from November to May.

Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Rising high above the plains of the Serengeti, this vast protected area stretches from Lake Natron in the northeast (the breeding ground for east Africa's flamingos) to Lake Enaysi in the south and Lake Manyara in the east. The area includes the still active volcano Ol Doinyo Lengai (Mountain of God), which last erupted in 1983. The park's centrepiece is the Ngorongoro Crater, a collapsed volcano forming a crater that is 610 m (2000 ft) deep, 20 km (12.5 miles) in diameter, covering an area of 311 sq km (122 sq miles). The crater accounts for just one tenth of the conservation area, which is home to almost every species of African plains mammal (except for the impala, topi, and giraffe) and particularly well-known for the endangered black rhino. It also has the densest population of predators in Africa. The rich birdlife includes flamingoes which are attracted by the soda content in Lake Magadi on the crater floor.

Lake Manyara National Park. Famous for its elephants and tree-climbing lions. The wall of the Great Rift Valley forms a backdrop to the park, before which lies forest, open grassland, swamp, and the soda lake. Wildlife includes lions, herds of buffalo, baboons, elephant, rhino, impala, giraffe, leopard, zebra, bushbuck, reedbuck, waterbuck, and blue and vervet monkeys. Manyara is also noted for its birdlife, particularly the flamingoes.

Arusha National Park. This park lies within the Ngurdoto Crater, a volcano that has probably been extinct for a quarter of a million years. Visitors are able to see buffalo, rhino, elephant, giraffe, and warthog.

Mikumi National Park. This park, 1300 sq km (500 sq miles) in area, offers a chance to see lion, zebra, hippo, leopard, cheetah, giraffe, impala, wildebeest, and warthog. A popular spot for visitors is the Kikaboga Hippo Pool. Although December to March is the ideal time for viewing at Mikumi, there are animals throughout the year.

Tarangire National Park. Only 130km (80 miles) from Arusha and eight km (five miles) off the Great Cape to Cairo road, it is nonetheless an area which compares favorably with the Serengeti in terms of wildlife density.

Ruaha National Park. Tanzania's second-largest and wildest park and the world's largest elephant sanctuary, Ruaha is located 118 km (73 miles) from Iringa in the Southern Highlands along an all-weather road. The park affords views of unparalleled scenery along the Ruaha Gorge, with many sightings of antelope. Iringa is also connected with Dar es Salaam and other centers by air and bus service. The best time to visit is from July to November.

Selous Game Reserve. The Selous Game Reserve in southern Tanzania covers an area larger than Switzerland (about one-sixth of Tanzania's land surface), making it one of the biggest in the world, with a massive elephant population. There is also a high concentration of stalking lions and other game. UNESCO declared the game reserve a World Heritage site in 1982.

Gombe National Park. This park is near Kigoma on the shores of Lake Tanganyika and is the home of about 200 chimpanzees, more easily seen here in their natural habitat than anywhere else in the world. This is the place where Jane Goodall has devoted her life to recording chimpanzee ethology in a 37-year study.

Other national parks. These include Katavi, Mahale Mountains, Rubondo and Udzungura Mountains. There are also marine parks at Kilwa Reserve, Tanga Coral Gardens, Rufigi Delta, and Latham Island Reserve.

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