Explore AFRICA, Visit TANZANIA
With the world slowly opening up to travel again, more and more people are hoping to grab their passports and hop on a plane to discover the unknown. It is no secret, that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused a great deal of damage to the tourism industry and I am certain that all travellers alike will have a renewed appreciation for travel as the world starts opening up again.
Travellers and everyone with a taste for adventure can finally start planning their next voyage. This raises the question of where to travel to? After some thought, I decided to add Tanzania to my bucketlist. I have always wanted to view the breath taking landscapes of Tanzania and after some research I discovered the many amazing places this country has to offer.
Here are my top five must see places for Tanzania:
The United Republic of Tanzania is situated in the Eastern parts of the great African continent, nestled within the African Great Lakes region.
- Arusha National Park
If you like the idea of rich and diverse landscapes, wildlife, lakes, waterfalls and volcanoes, the Arusha National Park is the perfect place to visit. Situated less than an hour from Arusha, this “melting pot” of wildlife offers keen bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts alike, the opportunity of a lifetime to view a variety of birds and animals, such as the black-and-white Colobus monkeys, in their natural environment along rivers or degraded forests.
The second highest mountain in Tanzania, Mount Meru, is also located in the Arusha National Park. This dormant volcano offers the prefect climb for those seeking adventure. Climbers who reach the summit are rewarded with a most spectacular view of the highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro. Visitors can also experience the beautiful surroundings by means of guided canoe excursions and hiking safaris.
One of the oldest and most popular sanctuaries in Eastern Africa, Lake Manyara National Park, is situated approximately 120 kilometres from Arusha town. Like most places in Tanzania, visitors can expect breath-taking scenery, a wide variety of fauna and flora and off course the magnificent lake of Manyara. A trip to Manyara makes for the perfect African experience and offers visitors the opportunity to see the Big Five and a variety of other wildlife that one would expect to see on a typical trip to Eastern Africa.
- Lake Manyara National Park
Established specifically to protect the elephant herds that have made the area renowned, the park provides an amazing wildlife experience. An astounding variety of habitats and incredible biodiversity wait for you in Lake Manyara National Park.
This wonderfully scenic park, located on the road from Arusha to Ngorongoro, is set between the Great Rift Valley and the sodiforous lake, so hence is often visited en route to the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti National Park. Although the concentration of wildlife is less impressive than some of Tanzania’s other parks, it is known for its famous tree-climbing lions, habituated baboons and large elephant populations.
- Tarangire National Park
The Tarangire National Park is situated approximately 120km south of Arusha and along The Great Northern Road highway. It is a very popular tourist attraction and offers day trips to and from the local town. The Tarangire National Park covers 2, 850sq. kilometres and is the perfect place for any wildlife enthusiast to visit. The river attracts large herds of elephants and the area boasts diverse natural vegetation such as baobab trees, acacia bush, natural swamps on the plains and the renowned rocky and hilly outcrops.
Tarangire is a highly under-rated park because it does not quite fit comfortably into planning a week of safaris around the area, simply due to the location of the park, which is just off the northern circuit. It is however, still an attraction that deserves to be added to any traveller’s list of must see places.
Huge herds of wildlife gather in the Tarangire National Park and visitors are offered the opportunity to observe large herds of the Cape buffalo, Grant and Thompson’s gazelle, Burchell’s zebra, elephants and giraffe, as well as warthog, in their natural habitat. Most of the above mentioned are hunted by predators such as lions, cheetahs, leopards, hyena, jackal and the African wild dog, which also offer the chance of seeing a kill in the wild. The park is also home to a variety of predator birds and a popular place to view them in their natural surroundings.
- The Ngorongoro Conservation Area
The astonishing Ngorongoro Conservation Area, is an absolute must see, when touring Tanzania. Not only does this area cover an estimate of 8,292 square kilometres of vast and untouched natural landscapes, it is also home to world famous attractions such as the Empakai crater, the Olduvai gorge, Ndutu lake as well as the Oldonvo Lengai Mountain.
The above mentioned however, is not all the Ngorongoro Conservation Area has to offer visitors. It is also home to the indigenous Maasai tribe and their livestock who coexist with the wildlife that surrounds them. The area, tribe and wildlife are protected by law, which makes it a unique and interesting setting to visit.
The Ngorongoro and Empakai craters, are strictly and exclusively reserved for wildlife, and can therefore not be visited, but the Conservation Area is roamed by wildlife, the indigenous tribe and their livestock.
The Maasai is a unique tribe and the main residents of the Ngorongoro area. They are best known as cattle and sheep farmers but also keep goats and donkeys. They do not stay in a single area for too long and are better known to be nomadic in the area as they move around in search of water and grazing for their livestock.
A fun fact about the Ngorongoro crater is that it is not only the central tourist attraction in this area but it is also the world’s largest caldera (a large depression that forms when a volcano erupts). This crater’s floor alone drops to approximately 610 meters when measured from the crater rim, and has a surface area of 304 square kilometres with a diameter of 19 kilometres.
The Ngorongoro crater is not to be missed when travelling through Tanzania. The late renowned German zoo keeper, Professor Bernhard Grzimek, personally commented on the sight as, “It is impossible to give a fair description of the size and beauty of the crater, for there is nothing which one can compare it to. It is one of the Wonders of the World”
The Ngorongoro crater floor not only serves as a popular tourist attraction, it is also home to thousands of antelope such as wildebeest, zebra, gazelles, elands and predators such as lions, hyena and jackal. All of the above mentioned wildlife can be viewed at close range when visiting the Nogrongoro crater.
- The Serengeti National Park
The third and foremost area one simply must visit when visiting Tanzania, is the Serengeti National Park. The park covers a surface area of approximately 14, 763 square kilometres and holds the title for the second largest National Park in Tanzania with Ruaha, being the largest.
The park is situated on a high plateau between the Ngorongoro highlands and the border between Kenya and Tanzania, which extends almost all the way to Lake Victoria in the west. It is situated roughly 320 kilometres in a north-western direction from Arusha.
The open plains of the Serengeti, or “endless plains”, as referred to by the Maasai, is a true description of the vastness experiences when setting eyes on this natural masterpiece for the very first time.
Not only is the Serengeti the oldest National Park in Tanzania, it is also the most famous protected wildlife sanctuary in the world. Distinguishable features of the Serengeti include the large open grass plains in the south and east, as well as vast and arid Savannah nestling Acacia trees, the rocky and densely wooded areas in the north and the far-reaching woodland in the west of Tanzania.
Game drives in the Serengeti include visits to areas such as the Seronera Valley, the Western Corridor, Lobo or the northern parts of the Serengeti. The beautiful Seronera valley is situated in the centre of the Serengeti and is largely covered with surface water that attracts wildlife throughout the year. The Serengeti is home to a wide variety of wildlife species and visitors are sure to see lions, buffalo, impalas, hippos, waterbuck, elephants, cheetahs and leopards.
The annual rain season starts in December and lasts until May. The most popular attraction to visit after the rain season, is the grass plains in the eastern parts of the Serengeti. The short delectable grass, attracts large herds of migratory antelope.
The island of Zanzibar is best known as Africa’s tropical paradise with its white sandy beaches that stretch for kilometres on end, lined with palm trees and surrounded by the crystal clear water of the Indian Ocean. The island of Zanzibar forms part of the Zanzibar archipelago which consists of a series of islands situated off Eastern Africa and South of the Somalian sea. This series of islands is also known as the Spice Islands due to its rich history in the spice trade and the fast variety of spice plantations. The archipelago consists of two main islands: Unguja, better known today as Zanzibar and Pempa, and other small surrounding islets.
Over the centuries, many different races have settled in Zanzibar which has left an imprint on the people and the architecture on the island. The famous “House of Wonders” and the manmade narrow streets of the Old Stone Town act as a mere reminder of the island’s rich and coloured past.
The Swahili tribe has also put their roots down in Zanzibar and now refers to it as home. Today Swahili is the official language of Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. The Swahili is also well known for their diverse and complex architecture which can still be seen in the balconies, courtyards, hand-carved wooden doors and religious mosques. It was once believed that the historic spice islands of Zanzibar were the epitome of mysticism and magic. The rich history, exotic spices, white sandy beaches and hospitable inhabitants make Zanzibar feel like a dream that one never wants to wake up from.
While in Zanzibar, one can enjoy arranged excursions such as paying a visit to the vast spice plantations in the countryside, where a large variety of seasonal spices, medicinal herbs and tropical fruit trees are grown. On this excursion, one will learn the description of all the seasonal spices, and what they are used for in cooking, making cosmetics and their medicinal properties. Zanzibar is the cheapest location to purchase spices and natural oil extracts from.
Another well-known excursion to go on, is visiting the deserted Zanzibar Stone Town. This small town surely takes one back into the past of the capital of the Omani Sultans.
Other excursions include visits to the old slave caves in Mangapwani, the prison islands as well as the ruins that once formed part of the palace of the Sultan Said, the old slave market and many more.
Zanzibar truly is a piece of heaven on earth and is a must see when visiting Tanzania.
- Mount Kilimanjaro
One cannot return from Tanzania without seeing Africa’s highest and tallest free standing mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro. Being one of Tanzania’s leading tourist attractions, Mount Kilimanjaro annually attracts thousands of enthusiastic mountain climbers from all over the world. The experience of climbing this enormous mountain can be described as walking from the tropical to the arctic in a single week. The real challenge when climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, is the altitude and the steepness of the mountain itself. The climb is tough but extremely rewarding when accomplished.
Kilimanjaro was listed as a World Heritage Site in 1987 because of its serene and natural beauty. Mount Kilimanjaro is set in a wide variety of vegetation and breath-taking landscapes. The vegetation changes from tropical rainforest with wildlife such as various species of primates and bird species, to the barren “Roof of Africa”, which is the highest point of Kilimanjaro with its snow covered summit and icy glaciers.
Climbing Kilimanjaro is reserved for the fittest of climber who wish to experience the challenge and thrill it has to offer. Although it is quite a hard and challenging climb, passing through a single zone of natural vegetation per day is quite rewarding and a unique experience.
Nothing beats the thrill and sense of accomplishment of reaching the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro after days of walking through steep and challenging terrain. The view of the African Savannah and Rift Valley that lies at the very feet of Kilimanjaro is breath taking to say the least. Climbing Kilimanjaro is a once in a lifetime experience and surely one that should not be missed.
Visitors have four routes to choose from when climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
The Marangu Route is known as the main and most popular route to take in order to reach the summit. The fact that the ascent on this route is gradual and that professional equipment is not needed, makes this the perfect route for any experienced or inexperienced hiker. This is also the only route that offers accommodation to travellers in the form of mountain huts with all the basic necessities included. Mandara hut (2700m) can sleep 60 hikers at a time. Kibo hut (4700m) can accommodate 120 people and Horombu hut (3720m), the largest of the huts, is usually used for the descent along the mountain.
Overnighting in one of these huts each climber is provided with a mattress and a pillow but sleeping bags are not supplied and it is expected of climbers to bring their own. The communal dining halls, washrooms and ablution are to be shared by the climbers.
This route takes approximately five days and four nights up and down the mountain. The trek can also be adapted to take six days and five nights to give climbers time to acclimatise at Horombo hut. The supplementary cost for adding an extra day to one’s trip, is indicated and regarded as a separate option and will therefore cost more than the other options.
This is by far the most scenic route when climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. There is no luxury accommodation available on this climb and climbers will be camping every night. Mobile tents are allowed on this route and one has to carry everything needed all the way to the top and back. This is without a doubt a very strenuous route and would better be suited to more adventurous and experienced hikers. The Machame route is on average completed in a time frame of six days and five nights. It is often said that this route makes man return to his roots to become one with nature.
The only route that can be followed to reach the north eastern side of the mountain, is the Rongai Route. This route consists of a five day climb up the mountain. This is one of the least travelled and known routes and might not be as scenic and rewarding to the eye as the western routes, but it still is beautiful in its own way. This route takes one through areas of unspoilt wilderness and offers a different feel of and perspective on Mount Kilimanjaro when approaching it from a northern direction. It is known to be the easiest and least strenuous of all the routes to explore the mountain. This is by far the best and relaxed route for anyone who is seeking quality experience and might not be too confident about their personal fitness levels.
Lemosho (Shira) Glades Route
The Lemosho Glades Route is also quite challenging when climbing Kilimanjaro. This is partly because of its remote location as well as the arduous road leading to the trailhead. This road is only accessible by 4-wheel drive vehicles and one would be unable to pass any other vehicles on this route, especially during the rainy season. The trailhead is situated in an area that is fairly highly elevated and therefore visitors are advised to start the climb slow and easy. Herds of buffalo and elephants can be seen on the first day of hiking along the overgrown trail.
This route is by far the longest trail to hike up Kilimanjaro and therefore fitness does play a crucial part in the enjoyment and success when deciding to take on this route. The route lasts for an average of seven days of climbing and six nights spent in tents, as no accommodation is available on this route. The overall distance and intensity if this route make this the perfect choice for any experienced hiker who wishes to put their skills to the test. The multiple transitions of scenery on this route across the Shira Plateau, make this the absolute perfect hiking experience.
So, if you are a nature enthusiast and enjoy travelling and discovering the treasures and beauty that this world has to offer, I strongly suggest that you pin Tanzania down on your list of places that yet need to be explored.
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Bon Voyage from us, till next time.
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