Tour operators have recognized Tanzania as Africa’s up-and-coming destination for 2015. The country is perceived as a safe destination by most U.S. travelers, which makes it an attractive holiday choice.
Tanzania has always been best known for the Mount Kilimanjaro summit and the tropical beaches of Zanzibar. Also, the Serengeti Plains with its prolific wildlife and the natural wonder of Ngorongoro are major draws for travelers from around the globe.
Although these attractions offer unforgettable experiences, they are all situated in the north of Tanzania, a part of the country that tends to get quite crowded. It is unlikely you’ll be able to view the Ngorongoro Crater, one of the great natural wonders of the world, or witness the popular annual migration without many other travelers to keep you company. As a result of the overwhelming interest for these sites, prices can be quite steep.
For travelers who would rather explore the authentic African wilderness of Tanzania away from the crowds, the rest of the country offers some unforgettable, off-the-beaten-track experiences. The south of Tanzania includes the Selous Game Reserve and Ruaha National Park, both offering outstanding game-viewing and a fabulous safari experience. Fewer visitors also mean lower prices, better value for money and plenty of isolated wildernesses.
About twice the size of the Serengeti National Park, the Selous Game Reserve covers about 17,000 square miles of wilderness and attracts only a few thousand visitors every year. It is not uncommon to spend a whole day on a game drive without seeing another vehicle, as less than 1% of Tanzania’s visitors visit this region. The area offers a wealth of options for the more adventurous visitor. Boat safaris and game walks are particular hits with travelers, as these activities enable visitors to truly become one with nature.
Selous Game Reserve only features a select few low-key, ecofriendly game lodges. Beho Beho was the first camp to be sited in the Selous and owes its name (meaning cooling breezes) to its location at the very center of wildlife activity and diversity in the cooler highlands near the river.
The west of Tanzania offers some incredible wildlife experiences, as well. The Mahale Mountains are remote and difficult to access, but this area is definitely worth the effort. This beautiful part of Tanzania is home to the country’s densest population of primates: yellow baboons, red colobuses and blue, red-tailed and vervet monkeys. Mahala is also home to Africa’s last remaining wild chimpanzees.
The legendary Greystoke Mahale is probably the best site from which to venture into the Mahale Mountains to view the chimps. The hike to reach the Mahale chimpanzees can vary from a leisurely wander of 20 minutes to a more strenuous hike lasting up to three hours. It’s most certainly worth the effort, though: watching chimpanzees getting on with their daily lives in the forest is an unforgettable animal encounter.
For those travelers who would like to learn more about the country’s people and culture, the Longido Cultural Programme will give a glimpse into the way of life of the Maasai warriors. The Longido area, situated 50 miles north of Arusha, is known for its heavy concentration of Maasai people still living a very traditional way of life. A visit to Longido will give visitors the opportunity to sip tea with the Maasai in a Maasai boma and hear about their way of life.
Need to know
Getting there: Dar es Salaam is the main hub and is served by a number of airlines, such as KLM, Swiss, Emirates, Qatar and South African Airways.
Visas: A valid passport and a visa are required to enter Tanzania. A visa can be obtained either before arriving in Tanzania or at any port of entry staffed by immigration officials. The U.S. Embassy highly recommends that U.S. citizens obtain their visas before arriving in Tanzania to avoid potentially long delays at entry points.
Language: The native language is Kiswahili, but English is widely spoken.
Currency: The Tanzania Shilling is the national currency. Credit cards are accepted only at major lodges, hotels, and travel agents. A surcharge may be added for this service. ATMs and 24-hour cash machines are available in branches of major banks. Travelers’ cheques in U.S. dollars are recommended, though it may be difficult to exchange them outside the main cities.
Climate: Tanzania’s climate is predominately tropical. Coastal areas are usually hot and humid, but on the beaches a sea breeze cools the air considerably.
Tanzania has two rainy seasons: the long rains from late March to June and the short rains from November to January. The long rains fall in heavy downpours, often accompanied by violent storms, but the short rains tend to be much less severe.
The hottest time of the year is from December to March, before the long rains begin. The coolest months are June, July and August, when the weather is often overcast.
In high-altitude areas such as Kilimanjaro and the Ngorongoro Highlands, temperatures can fall below freezing.
Health: Malaria and dengue fever are common to Tanzania. There have also been recent cases of sleeping sickness occurring after bites from tsetse flies in the north, including the Serengeti. Other diseases, such as cholera and rift valley fever, occur mostly in rural areas where access to sanitation is limited.
Impala and chimpanzee images courtesy of Shutterstock.com.