| The country Tanzania
The United Republic of Tanzania is a union between the mainland state Tanganyika and
the island state Zanzibar, comprising Unguja (which in daily speaking is called Zanzibar
Island) and Pemba Islands.
|The Great Rift Valley escarpment in northern Tanzania.
Tanzania is situated in eastern Africa, just south of the equator. The eastern border
faces the Indian Ocean, with Zanzibar, Pemba and Mafia Islands. The neighbouring countries
are Kenya (in the north), Uganda (north-east), Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic
of Congo (west), Zambia and Malawi (south-west) and Mozambique (south).
Three of Africa's great lakes line Tanzania's borders: Africa's largest freshwater lake,
Lake Victoria (north),
(west) and Lake Nyasa/Malawi (south-west).
Much of Tanzania is elevated by an inland plateau, broken by scattered mountains and
mountain ranges, while a narrow strip of lowland follows the coast. Open savannas, farmland,
shrubs and woodlands are common, mixing with forests, soda lakes and freshwater lakes.
The Great Rift Valley cuts through the country from north to south. The rift is a result
from the same tectonic activity that has created Kilimanjaro, Mount Meru, the Ngorongoro
Highlands and other volcanoes, as well as a number of soda lakes and the short grass
plains of Serengeti. Oldoynio Lengai, a volcano north of Ngorongoro, is still active.
The climate of northern Tanzania is tropical, having two rainy seasons and two dry seasons
every year. The rainy season during April and May is called 'the long rains', and receives
the most rainfall. The second rainy season in November, 'the short rains', has less
Southern Tanzania has one long rainy season from November to May, with a spell of drier
weather in January and February. The rest of the year is dry.
There may also be local climate patterns due to the geography, for example around mountains
and large lakes.
Rain cannot be ruled out completely during dry seasons, as there is good and bad weather
in East Africa, too, but these seasons are generally dry.
The temperatures in the inland safari regions peak during OctoberMarch, and often
exceed 30ºC/85ºF. During the rest of the year, they are usually some 5º/10º
less. The coastal temperatures vary less, and are normally around 30ºC/85ºF.
More about when to go
|Grant's gazelles in Serengeti National Park.
The population of some 40 million is a mix of 120 different tribes, which vary in size
from a few hundred up to some million members. The ten largest tribes make up 90 %
of the country's population. Tribal antagonism is rare. Most people see themselves as
Tanzanians, but in remote areas, and especially where education is poor or non-existing,
you may find many who consider themselves tribe members rather than citizens of a state.
Most tribes have their own tribal language, but close to all Tanzanians also speak Swahili,
a language originating from Bantu and Arabic, and today the lingua franca of Tanzania,
Kenya and Uganda. Many urban Tanzanians, and virtually the whole tourist industry, also
In comparison to Europe, America and other developed parts of the world, Tanzania is
very poor. A majority of the population is self-supporting farmers.
| The largest tribes of Tanzania:
| · Sukuma
|| Between the Great Rift Valley and Lake Victoria. Formerly a war-faring
| · Swahili
|| Along the coast.
||Around Kilimanjaro. Known as good businessmen.
||South of Lake Victoria.
||Southern Tanzania. Known as good wood carvers.
Upon arrival in Tanzania, most safari-goers have already heard of the Maasai
tribe, as it is mentioned in most travel brochures and safari itineraries. The Maasai
live in the popular safari regions of northern Tanzania and southern Kenya, where the
vast areas of grasslands and savannas are favoured by both the Maasai cattle and the
herds of grazing wildlife. Formerly, the Maasai were known and feared for being fierce
Many safari-goers meet Maasai staff in camps and lodges, or when visiting Maasai villages
in the Ngorongoro/Serengeti region.
|Dancing in Maasai village.
Tanzania has belonged to both Britain and Germany in the past, but is an independent
republic since the early 1960's. The TanganyikaZanzibar union was originally strictly
socialist, but has gradually opened up for commercialism since the 1980's, when the
economy had broken down. Privatisation of businesses owned by the state is still going
on. A multi-party system was introduced in the 1990's, and a number of free elections
have been held by now.
The coastal areas, including Zanzibar and Pemba Islands, have throughout history traded
much with seafarers from the Arabian Peninsula, and were long ruled by local sultans.
African ivory, slaves and spices were traded for fabrics, iron goods and weapons. Today's
coastal population is mainly Muslim, and both the Swahili language and the coastal architecture
are evident results from these times.
Inland Tanzania has throughout history been inhabited mainly by Bantu speaking tribes
originating from central and southern Africa. The Maasai tribe, arriving from the north
as late as 200 years ago, is an exception. European explorers such Burton, Speke and
Grant traversed the country from the 1850's, searching for the source of the Nile River.
The meeting between David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley, when the now famous
phrase 'Dr Livingstone, I presume' was spoken, took place in Ujiji Village close to
|Large herd of zebras in northern Tanzania.
Safari destinations in Tanzania
Safaris are the backbone of the Tanzanian tourist industry, and an important source
of income to the country.
Some of the best and most well-known safari areas are Serengeti,
the Ngorongoro Crater, Lake
Manyara and Tarangire, all situated
in northern Tanzania. The wildlife found here is superb. Most safaris start form the
city of Arusha. Not far away rises Kilimanjaro,
the highest mountain in Africa, which may be climbed by amateurs.
The southern circuit in central/southern Tanzania has Selous,
Mikumi and Ruaha
for main attractions, all of them nice parks where fewer visitors go. Safaris start
in Dar es Salaam or Zanzibar. There are also flight connections from Arusha.
The western circuit includes the far west, where Tanzania borders Lake Tanganyika
and the Congo. Here, Gombe and Mahale
Mountains are good chimpanzee and monkey parks (Gombe was the site for Jane Goodall's
research on chimpanzees), and Katavi offers
traditional savanna wildlife. The west has fewer visitors than northern and southern
More about parks in Tanzania
Coastal destinations in Tanzania
Zanzibar, Pemba and Mafia Islands are situated
in the Indian Ocean off the Tanzanian mainland, offering beaches, resorts, diving, snorkelling
and deep-sea fishing. Zanzibar, the most popular destination out of these three, has
many flight connections from Arusha, Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam and abroad.
|Busy road in Arusha.
Cities and towns
The city of Arusha in northern Tanzania has a population of a few hundred thousand,
and at least twice as much if you include the outskirts and surroundings. It's situated
at the foot of Mount Meru (4,566 m/14,980 ft), and is the heart of the Tanzanian safari
industry, as well as the starting point for most safaris on the northern circuit.
Arusha has a domestic airport (ARK/HTAR), and Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO/HTKJ)
is a 45-minute drive to the east. The UN Rwanda war crimes tribunal is based in Arusha.
Moshi Town lies a 30-minute drive east of Kilimanjaro International Airport, and is
the starting point for most Kilimanjaro climbs.
Dar es Salaam
Dar es Salaam is a fairly young city on the Tanzanian coast, sprung up around a sultan
palace built during the second half of the 1900th century. The city was once the capital
of Tanzania, but has been succeeded by inland Dodoma. Yet, Dar es Salaam has remained
the country's financial capital. It has an important deep-water harbour
Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR/HTDA) in Dar es Salaam is operated by international
and domestic flights, as well as safari flights.
Tanzania's capital Dodoma is situated in the inland, roughly in the middle of the country.
Few safari-goers or tourists end up here.
Mwanza is Tanzania's second largest city, situated on the shore of southern Lake Victoria.
Mwanza is no tourist destination in itself, but some visit the city in connection with
flights to or from the domestic airport (MWZ/HTMW).
Namanga is a small town on the border between Tanzania and Kenya, on the main road from
Arusha to Nairobi. Apart from the international airports (Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam
and Zanzibar), Namanga is the only point of entry into Tanzania where you can obtain
More about visa and passport
Zanzibar Town is the main town on Zanzibar Island. The oldest part of the town is called
Zanzibar International Airport (ZNZ/HTZA), or Kisauni Airport, is mainly operated by
domestic airlines (for example from Arusha, Kilimanjaro and Dar es Salaam) and international
For more information about Tanzania, we suggest that you get one of the many extensive
guidebooks that have been written about the country.
More about guidebooks
|Serengeti National Park.