Why Visit Tanzania? It is a country of natural splendour, astounding wildlife, seductive beaches, charming ancient towns, archaeological sites and geological wonders.
Africa’s highest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro, rises from lush, grassy plains and towers over the land. Its snow-capped peak is a sight to behold. Climbing Kilimanjaro is surprisingly easy and standing on the roof of Africa is a life-changing experience. The ideal bush and beach destination, visitors can witness the mighty herds of the Great Migration thundering across the Serengeti plains and end their unforgettable safari with a serene beach holiday on Zanzibar, the intoxicatingly beautiful and exotic Spice Island.
If the call of Africa is pulling you towards this fascinating country, here is a list of five things you will need to know before traveling to Tanzania and start a unique and unforgettable adventure.
When to travel to Tanzania
You can choose to travel to Tanzania at any time of the year, but depending on the reasons for your visit you may need to choose specific times. If you wish to go on safaris or to lay on the beaches of Zanzibar undisturbed by the rainfalls that come in March, April and May, the best time to visit Tanzania is between June and October. For the lovers of wildebeest, zebra, and gazelle herds typically migrate in the Serengeti in May till July, and the wildebeest welcome their new calves into the world between January and February.
For the more active travelers who are traveling to Tanzania to climb and conquer Mt. Kilimanjaro, the best times to aim for this are between January and March and between June and October when it is cooler. While the Northern Circuit Parks may get crowded between July and March, you can always find fewer crowds in the Southern and Western Circuit Parks any time of the year.
Visa to Tanzania
You may require a tourist visa when traveling to Tanzania, and the process of getting it is fairly simple. However, you should send in your visa application at least two weeks before your scheduled trip to avoid issues. A tourist visa is valid for 90 days, and those who hold it are only permitted to come into the country for a single visit.
In order to put in an application, you will need a valid international passport that will not expire for at least six months after your application, as well as passport photographs and the required visa fee. UK citizen holders can apply online for a Tanzania e-visa here. If you from another nationality you can find more information on the visa application process on the Tanzanian Immigration Website.
Where to go in Tanzania
Tanzania is a country that earns quite a lot from tourism and has loads of things to do and places to see. Sun and surf seekers will find themselves called off to enjoy the beaches of Zanzibar and Pemba Islands. They can also go deep water diving and snorkeling in the waters of Mafia Island and marvel at the diverse aqua life and corals of the Mafia Island Marine Park.
Those who wish to face nature’s more challenging side can head to Mount Kilimanjaro to try and conquer its summit.
If you are interested in seeing wildlife in their preserved beauty, you can visit the Ngorongoro Conservation Area where thousands of animals, including lions, hippos, flamingoes and more, live. You can also head to Lake Manyara National Park where even more birds and the largest amount of baboons in the world reside.
It is common knowledge that the oldest living human beings came out of Africa, and for those interested in archeology, the Olduvai Gorge in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area holds some of the oldest archeological pieces of evidence of human occupation that go as far back as two million years ago!
Money and Language in Tanzania
If you are traveling to Tanzania for a holiday, you can expect to incur expenses to live up the good life. The official currency spent in Tanzania is the Tanzanian Shilling, and you can withdraw this from any of the ATMs that can be found easily. Alternatively, you can convert your local currency to American dollars at the airport. American dollars are widely accepted all over the country.
For best practices, keep shillings or dollars on hand when visiting markets or small shops, but take your debit or credit cards into larger stores as they accept card payments. As for communicating with the locals, you may need to find a translator to help you as only a small percentage of the population speak English and there are more than 120 languages spoken all over the country. Of course that in hotels and tour operator staff speak English, so you don’t need to worry when arriving at a hotel or going on a tour/safari.
What To Do In Tanzania
- Go on a safari … or three
Tanzania is home to two of the most iconic safari destinations in Africa – the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. The vast plains of the Serengeti are home to the Great Migration, an annual event that sees massive herds of ungulate follow the rains to greenier and tastier pastures. The Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest inactive and unfilled volcanic caldera, is home to a huge variety of wildlife. Whatever kind of safari you’re after, you’ll find it here.
While most safari-goers flock to Tanzania’s northern parks, don’t forget the country’s south. It’s home to one of the largest reserves in the world – Selous Game Reserve, nearly four times the size of Serengeti National Park –and it’s even wilder.
Then there’s newly-minted Wami-Mbiki Wildlife Management Area – a great place to get close to elephants, giraffes, hartebeest and zebra. In Tanzania, you’re spoilt for choice.
- Conquer Kilimanjaro
Many people make the mistake of thinking that Mount Kilimanjaro is an easy climb. And compared to Everest, it is. But the climb up Kibo – the snow-topped crater that is the highest point of Kilimanjaro – is steep and bitterly cold. It’s worth it. The view from the top is spectacular and the sense of achievement you’ll feel is unparalleled. But make not mistake, you are testing yourself against all that nature can throw at you.
Careful planning is essential. Pick the right route for you. Choose the right guide. And get yourself into shape. The risk of altitude sickness can be lessened by taking an extra day to do the climb, but lack of fitness is not so easily overcome.
While there are plenty of hardships to endure – and even some danger to avoid – there’s also an enormous amount of pleasure to derive from climbing Africa’s highest mountain. Concentrating on the positives will not only make the trek more enjoyable, it will also help to spur you on to the summit.
- Discover magical Zanzibar
Languishing just off mainland Tanzania in the turquoise-blue Indian Ocean, the island of Zanzibarconjures images of perfect, palm-swayed beaches, white sand, billowing sailing boats and smiling locals.
Even the narrow streets of Stone Town, twisting and turning through ancient Arabic buildings, look like an exotic film set. Whether you want to laze on a sugar white beach or becoming actively involved in island life, Zanzibar has something for everyone.
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Divers will love Zanzibar too. The Swahili Coast has some exceptional dive sites, and both scuba novices and hard-core enthusiasts will find plenty of entertainment. Visibility is usually good (ten to 30-plus metres) year round, and water temperatures of 25-30ºC ensure longer dives are perfectly comfortable.
- Go On Safari In Seregenti
The Serengeti is Africa’s number 1 wildlife destination. And with good reason!
Every year over a million wildebeest migrate over its great plains along side thousands of the other herbivores of Africa like the gazelle and zebra.
Don’t limit yourself to migration season only though. Visiting the Serengeti offers amazing wildlife viewing year round as you spy lions, cheetahs, elephants and leopards living in their natural habitats on the vast African plains.
- Oldupai Gorge (Olduvai)
Oldepai Gorge is known as the cradle of civilization.
In the 1970’s Mary and Louise Leakey discovered the existence of the first human species dating back 3 million years. This significant find established the fact that humans evolved in Africa.
Visit A Masai Village
You cannot visit East Africa without visiting a Masai Tribe.
The original nomads and Masai warriors will welcome you into their villages showing you how they make fire while putting on performances and jumping high in the air.
- Laka Manyara
For birds and beauty, Lake Manyara is the place to be.
This alkaline lake is famous for its pink flamingo population. But aside from the thousands of migrating flamingoes, you also see storks, kingfishers and eagles.
It’s not just for the birds though, we were mesmerized by the baboon colony walking en masse like Planet of the Apes to the forest and the statue-like giraffes reflections in the water.
- Mafia Island
Mafia Island draws divers and snorkelers from around the world to the undersea world protected by the Mafia Island Marine Park. The best months for diving are October to March but the best weather on Mafia Island is May to October. March and April are months of heavy rain.
Mafia Island Marine Park has coral gardens, an abundant variety of fish, and a relaxed diving atmosphere. Countless birds and over 400 species of fish can be seen in the area. Mafia Island is also a traditional breeding site for the green turtle, which are unfortunately endangered.
Mafia is also a desirable location for deep-sea fishing, especially tuna, marlin, sailfish and other big-game fish.
This island paradise first saw settlers in the 8th or 9th C, but Mafia became a more important settlement during the 12th to 14th C when it held a key position in the East African trading routes.
- Stone Town
Stone Town is the cultural heart of Zanzibar and little has changed in the last 200 years. The grand old Arabian homes lining the narrow streets and winding alleys give the city its own unique charm. The majority of homes in Stone Town were built in the 19th C when Zanzibar was one of the most important Swahili trading towns in the Indian Ocean. Visitors will notice the bras-studded, intricately carved wooden doors on many of the houses.
As the world’s oldest functioning Swahili city, many of the landmarks in Stone Town have been restored to their original glory. Some of the historic buildings are now museums and tourist attractions. The town also has a couple of interesting old churches of historical significance.
A walk along Creek Road takes visitors to the original Stone Town area and the location of the Darajani Market, Beit el-Amani, City Hall, and the Anglican Cathedral. Some of the other key highlights include the Forodhani Gardens, the Old Dispensary with its carved wooden balconies, the former home of the sultans known as Beit el-Sahel or the People’s Palace, the Hamamni Persian Baths built in 1888, and the oldest structure in Stone Town, the Old Fort.