An incredibly breathtaking and diverse country – the largest in East Africa – Tanzania boasts a constellation of natural ‘draws’. Just some of its evocative names say it all - the mighty Serengeti (which, unsurprisingly, means ‘endless plains’), majestic Kilimanjaro (the highest mountain on the continent), fabled Zanzibar, Lake Victoria (Africa’s largest lake), the inimitable Ngorongoro Crater – and of course, the Great Migration – the world’s most enthralling game viewing spectacle. With such a wealth of nature’s finest, Tanzania unreservedly embodies the African dream.
Bordered by Kenya and Uganda to the north, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west, and Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique to the south, Tanzania encompasses an abundance of varying landscapes, with one of the largest and liveliest animal populations in the world - not to mention the pristine coastline and unspoiled islands to the east, which not only boast superb snorkelling and diving, but are also synonymous with romantic allure.
Tanzania was formed in 1964 when Zanzibar’s population, independent in 1963, overthrew the sultan and their Arab landlords in a bloody massacre. The subsequent union of Tanganyika (the mainland) and Zanzibar, formed today’s Tanzania – the ultimate ‘safari and beach’ unification. It seems only natural that once your safari dust has settled, you should head to the relaxing soft white sands of the romantic Swahili coast or the spice islands of Pemba and Zanzibar, whose very names alone, conjure the whispered promise of something exotic.
Hemingway put Northern Tanzania (then part of Tanganyika) on the map for safari-goers in the 1930’s – and this ‘northern circuit’ has become well-trodden – for obvious good reason. The beguiling ‘Out of Africa’ drawcards – the Serengeti, Mount Kilimanjaro and the vast amphitheatre of the Ngorongoro Crater – need no introduction – whereas the lesser known Tarangire and Lake Manyara Parks provide a contrasting yet complementary safari experience. The small but pretty Lake Manyara National Park, which winds its way around a mainly forested route between the banks of Lake Manyara and the impressive rise of the Rift Valley escarpment, is often used as a gentle safari introduction en-route to Ngorongoro or the Serengeti; whilst the vast red soil plains of the Tarangire are at their best in the dry season (July to October) when the migratory wildlife congregates along the Tarangire River.
Quite conversely, Tanzania’s southern region is newer ground. The contrast between the mountainous North (at several thousand feet above sea level) and the vast floodplains, rivers, lakes and woodland of the South (at only a few hundred feet above sea level) couldn''t be greater. For seasoned safari-goers, the ‘southern circuit’ offers something of the unexpected. Embracing 54,000 square kilometres (bigger than Belgium) of south-western Tanzania is the Selous – the world’s largest game reserve, known for its enormous elephant herds. Selous evokes the romance, mystique and spiritual delight of the wild unspoiled African wilderness. It is one of Africa’s best kept secrets – and is also one of the few places in Africa where you can find utter perfect solitude.
Game viewing is excellent at two significant times of year: from January to March - the hottest months, when the animals are attracted to the waterholes (and the young are being born in the Serengeti) and again, later in the year from June to October when the weather is dry and clear. April to May bring the long rains (referred to as the Green Season), which can make access to some camps and lodges very difficult – although it is a great time for flora and birding. November and December (hotter months again) generally see the short rains although you can still enjoy good game viewing.
A country without fences, Tanzania offers a multitude of opportunities for adventure from walking, horse riding and safaris, to the challenge of climbing Kilimanjaro. Flying time from the UK is 11 hours and the local currency is the Tanzanian Shilling – but US dollars are widely accepted.