Travellers to Tanzania are in for a treat as the country offers diverse and vast wilderness landscapes, abundant wildlife, unspoilt beaches and to top it off the people are friendly and warm-hearted. It is known as the ‘Land of Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar and The Serengeti’, but of course there is so much more to see and experience.

For the adventurous types, there is Mount Kilimanjaro to climb – the tallest single free-standing mountain in the world, with its highest point, Uhuru Peak, at 5 895 metres. For nature lovers there is plenty to delight in, with particular focus on the Serengeti migration which is the largest terrestrial mammal migration in the world. In fact, Mount Kilimanjaro, together with the Serengeti migration and the Ngorongoro Crater (the biggest inactive and intact unfilled volcanic caldera in the world) make up three of the seven natural wonders of Africa. Furthermore, visitors can fall in love with Tanzania’s magical Indian Ocean coastline with its tranquil islands and sleepy coastal villages. There are also the beautiful beaches of Zanzibar which beckon you to take time out to soak up the sun. And then off Pemba and the Mafia islands, there’s the chance to snorkel and dive in the crystal clear waters with its multi-coloured fish around the coral gardens.

For culture vultures, take the opportunity to get to know the fascinating tribal culture of the local Maasai. A visit to Olduvai Gorge, dubbed as the cradle of mankind, should also be on your “to-do list” where some of the earliest known remains of human ancestry have been uncovered and which date back 1.75 million years.

Tanzania's Climate

Tanzania lies just south of the equator with much of the country covered by a plateau. The country has a tropical climate which is warm but not too hot because of the altitude. On the contrary, the thin coastal stretch is hot and humid throughout the year, especially from November to April. In the high mountains (like Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru), temperatures can get below freezing, especially at night.

Tanzania has two rainy seasons, ‘Masika’ when generally the heaviest rains fall from mid-March to May (in the form of afternoon tropical downpours, leaving the morning sky clear – even during the rainy periods) and ‘Mvuli’, a shorter period of rain from November to mid-January, when rainfall is light and less predictable. The dry season, which lasts from June to October is when rainfall is unusual, even on the islands. Temperatures vary hugely with altitude and location, but it’s usually a fine, clear sky and sunny weather and a great time to visit Tanzania.

Zanzibar’s weather pattern follows that of Tanzania very closely – although always tending to be a little more humid. April and mid-May = Long rains (Green Season), June – September = Cool season, November – December = Short Rains, October – March = Hottest season.

  • The land of Safaris A quarter of Tanzania is devoted to game reserves, controlled areas, and national parks affording prime game viewing.
  • Africa’s highest peak Take up the challenge and climb Mount Kilimanjaro, at 5 895 meters (19 341 feet) - Africa’s highest peak.
  • The Great Migration Experience the thunder of hooves on dirt as more than a million wildebeest and several hundred thousand zebra make their annual migration.
  • Zanzibar for beach time Honeymooners and water sport enthusiasts love Zanzibar's archipelago for its sparkling white beaches and crystal clear water.
  • Capital: Dodoma is the official capital while Dar-es-Salaam serves as the administrative capital of the country.
  • Electricity: The electricity supply in Tanzania is 240 volts at 50 - 60 Hz. Plugs are 3 point square (UK Type) and adapters are available at major airports.
  • Currency: The unit of currency is the Tanzanian Shilling, which is divided into 100 Cents. Notes are issued in denominations of Tsh500, Tsh1 000, Tsh2 000, Tsh5 000, and Tsh10 000. Coins are issued in denominations of 50, 100 and 200 Shillings.
  • Language: Kiswahili or Swahili (official), English (official, primary language of commerce, administration and higher education), Arabic (widely spoken in Zanzibar) and 130 indigenous languages.
  • What to wear: As it never gets really cold in Tanzania, pack lightweight clothing, preferably made of cotton or linen. But as evenings can be chilly, pack long sleeved shirts, trousers and a sweater. These will also prevent you from being bitten by insects. Out on safari, we recommend that you wear neutral coloured clothes, like whites, beiges, khakis and browns, and avoid brightly coloured clothing. Pack comfortable walking shoes and socks, and don’t forget sunscreen. A good hat and sunglasses are essential. The sun may sometimes not feel hot, but it can still easily burn, especially if it is cloudy and overcast. Clothes are casual and informal, and coastal areas will require a swimsuit. Ladies can pack cotton skirts, blouses, dresses and sandals, as it is invariably warm. Please note that as over a third of the population in Tanzania is Muslim, it is not etiquette for ladies to walk around in public displaying their legs and shoulders. The locals are generally too polite to comment, but you will cause offence if you are underdressed, wearing short shorts, miniskirts, vests and tank tops.
  • Airports: Tanzania has three international airports, including one outside the commercial capital Dar es Salaam, the Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR) and the other near Arusha (and Mount Kilimanjaro) called Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO). Charter flights and some international operators fly directly to Zanzibar Island (ZNZ). There are direct and one-stop flights from overseas to Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro (near Arusha) and Zanzibar Island. For those going on the northern safari circuit (eg. Ngorongoro Conservation Area, The Serengeti, Lake Manyara National Park, Tarangire National Park), fly to Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) which is situated 46 km / 29 mi east of Arusha – the starting point. For those going on the southern safari circuit (eg. Selous Game Reserve, Ruaha National Park, Mikumi and Udzungwa national parks), it is recommended to fly into Dar es Salaam, through Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR) located 13 km / 8 mi southwest of the city.
  • When to go: The thing to remember about the Great Annual Migration is that it is a year-round event, and millions of zebra and wildebeest move from Tanzania's Ngorongoro Reserve in January, up through the Serengeti around June and hit Kenya's Masai Mara around September, before journeying south again. The most dramatic river crossings across the Serengeti usually happen from July to end of September), but they are not predictable. High season falls between June and September when animal spotting is easiest because the foliage is sparse and animals congregate around dwindling water sources. Many enjoy going between February and March when the animals have their young and predators are at their highest numbers. Game parks become more difficult to reach during the wet season from April to May in the North, and from November to May in the South and West. Wildlife viewing is more difficult as animals tend to spread out across the vast areas. As the weather is cooler and dry between June and September, and again between February and March, this is the best time to go.

    Getting around: Self-driving is not advisable in a number of parks and reserves due to poor road conditions. Precision Air run regular services, mostly via Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro or Zanzibar, to all main towns and other destinations in East Africa and beyond. All national parks and some of the top-end luxury lodges have airstrips and Coastal Aviation operates between these and the main airports on the mainland and the islands of Zanzibar, Pemba and Mafia. ZanAir has frequent connections between Zanzibar, Pemba and the mainland. Auric Air and Regional Air also have regular scheduled flights and connect Tanzania with Kenya's Masai Mara and Wilson airports.Auric Air connects the Serengeti with Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.
  • Area: The total land area of The United Republic of Tanzania is 885 800 km2 (342 009 square miles), which is about twice the size of the state of California. The country is located in East Africa, and is bordered by Kenya, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia. The Indian Ocean with its stunning coastline of around ,374 kilometres (854 miles), marks the eastern border of Tanzania, and is the site for many popular beaches. Tanzania's climate and topography are varied. The highest point in Africa is at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, and the lowest point is at the floor of Lake Tanganyika.

    Temperatures range from tropical to temperate. Sporadic rainfall makes agricultural and livestock production unpredictable. Tanzania is one of Africa's most populous countries and most of the population is rural. Lying approximately 40 kilometres off Tanzania's coast, is the Zanzibar Archipelago which consists of more than 50 islands, most of which have a long history and a rich cultural mix. The best-known island here is Zanzibar (or "Unguja Island", as it is more properly known). It is a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania, which entered into a political union with the mainland after independence. Unguja is characterised by exquisite white sand beaches fringed by palm trees and lapped by turquoise waters lined with coral reefs brimming with an abundance of exotic marine life.
  • Gombe National Park Gombe National Park, Tanzania’s smallest national park at 52 km2 (20 square miles), is located on the wild shores of Lake Tanganyika, on the country’s western border. It is here in the forests that Jane Goodall, the resident primatologist, spent many years studying the behaviour of the endangered chimpanzees. She also founded a behavioural research programme in 1960, which now stands as the longest-running study of its kind in the world. Visitors can take part in guided walks deep into the forest to observe and sit with the extraordinary primates.

    Many other species of primates and mammals live in the park, including a troop of olive baboons. There are also over 200 bird species which have been recorded in the tropical forest, including barbets, starlings, sunbirds, crowned eagle, kingfishers and the palm-nut vulture.

    Mahale Mountains National Park In the remote western part of Tanzania, on the edge of Lake Tanganyika, esteemed for being the world’s longest, second deepest and least polluted freshwater lake – harbouring an estimated 1 000 fish species, the magical Mahale Mountains National Park is a choice destination for a chimpanzee trekking. Misty forests, rivers and waterfalls, the crystal clear water of the lake and beautiful shores, 8 primate species other than the chimps, mammals and countless species of birds make this park ideal for hiking, game viewing and snorkelling.

    Very little infrastructure and no roads promote the conservation of the park and the adventure of visiting this park starts long before you even reach it, as it's only accessible by water or air.
  • Arusha National Park Arusha National Park includes the slopes, summit, and ash cone of Mount Meru, the Momela Lakes, Ngurdoto Crater, and the lush highland forests that blanket its lower slopes. Visitors come to this park to see wildlife like the black and white colobus monkeys, herds of buffalo, zebra and warthog, as well as a large selection of resident and migrant water birds around Momela Lakes. Although elephants are uncommon in Arusha National Park, and lions are absent altogether; leopards and spotted hyenas may be seen slinking around in the early morning and late afternoon. Another reason people come, is to climb Mount Meru – the fifth highest mountain in Africa at 4 566 metres (14 990 feet). Alternately hikers can enjoy the smaller trails that criss-cross its lower slopes. At dusk and dawn the veil of cloud on the eastern horizon is most likely to clear, revealing the majestic snow-capped peaks of Kilimanjaro, which is only 50 km (30 miles) away. (For birding enthusiasts, Arusha is one of the best places in the world to see Africa's largest eagle, the Crowned Eagle and there are wonderful trogons, sunbirds and touracos.)

    Katavi National Park Katavi National Park is remotely located in the western area of Tanzania, and because of this, offers visitors unspoiled wilderness. A predominant feature in Katavi is the enormous flood plain, split by the Katuma River and several seasonal lakes. The lakes support enormous groups of hippos, crocodiles and over 400 species of birds. One of the spectacles in Katavi is the hippos at the end of the dry season when as many as 200 try to squeeze into a pool of water. Male rivalry tends to heat up and bloody territorial fights occur on a daily basis.

    The dry season brings Katavi National Park to life, when herds of impala, reedbuck, lions, zebras and giraffes can be seen at the remaining pools and streams. An estimated 4 000 elephants and buffalo in their thousands also converge on the park when the flood waters retreat.

Destinations in Tanzania