Tanzania Pictures Guide, East Africa

Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania

Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a 20km wide volcanic crater near Arusha in Tanzania. Photo by Joachim Huber.

Why holiday in Tanzania?

Safari, hiking, beaches. . . This is one of Africa’s finest massed-wildlife experiences, with world-famous game reserves such as Ngorongoro and Serengeti offering more mammals and birds than any other African country, spectacular landscapes bursting with 10, 000 plant species, excellent hiking and competitive prices. Ascending massive Mt Kilimanjaro, a seriously strenuous trek, has become some kind of right of manhood for many fit Westerners.

Varied tribes are colourful, friendly and have managed to preserve many of their rich traditions in spite of encroaching modernism and Christianity; the Maasai in the north are particularly glamorous and welcoming.

The coast is scattered with excellent beaches while the Zanzibar archipelago a few kilometres offshore plays host to not only a number of dazzling Indian Ocean beaches and excellent scuba diving but also a relaxed and interesting culture, superb cuisine and amiable locals.

Downsides

• Some thievery, though not in well-run safari camps.

• towns are mostly dull and hold little interest for tourists apart from Zanzibar’s Stone Town.

• Kenya may be cheaper.

Tanzania’s Greatest Hits (according to their Tourist Office)

1) Ngorongoro Crater

2) Serengeti NP

3) Zanzibar and Pemba islands

4) Tarangire NP

5) Lake Manyara NP

6) Mt Kilimanjaro

7) Selous Game Reserve

8) Ruaha NP

9) Mafia Island

10) Mt Meru

You’ll note that these destinations offer just three experiences: wildlife safaris, Zanzibar Islands, hiking (mainly up Mt Kilimanjaro).

A pride of lions in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

A pride of lions in Serengeti National Park, but with an absent dad as usual.

Tanzania weather

Best: December-February and June-October. In these months the weather is relatively cool and dry meaning less mosquitoes, wildlife is more concentrated due to limited water supplies, more visible due to shorter grass and you have more light to enable use of your new super-telephoto lens!
However, if you head for the Serengeti while the animals are over the border in Kenya (September – October) you’re going to be a few million animals short, but actually the vacationing creatures are mainly wildebeest, zebra (neither of which are wildly exciting) and some predators so if it’s the right time don’t worry too much, there are still plenty of wild things around.

OK: November to December tho’ there may be some mild rainfall.

Worst: March-May due to long rains on the coast (and July-August for Serengeti safaris because wildlife takes a drought hike into Kenya).
Most Tanzanian roads are of dirt, so the rainy season may make road trips either uncomfortable or impossible, depending on your location.
Generally Tanzania is hot and humid but it’s a huge country so you can also find delightfully cool areas in the highlands. Take anti-mosquito measures.

Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month

Dates depend on full moon in your location so they may differ by one day depending on where you plan to be.

In 2017 Ramadan will start on the 27 May and will continue for 30 days until the 25 of June.
In 2018 Ramadan will start on the 16 May and will continue for 30 days until the 14 of June.
In 2019 Ramadan will start on the 6 May and will continue for 30 days until the 4 of June.

During this time most, if not all, Muslims will neither eat nor drink during the daytime and consequently many cafes, restaurants and even shops may open only after sunset; public eating, drinking and smoking by tourists will be frowned upon.
The last day of Ramadan, known as Idd al Fitr, can be a wild time with much celebrating, depending on location; Zanzibar is known for its penchant for excitability at this time.

Hiking in Tanzania

Best weather

June-September (cooler, drier weather).
OK: December to January (may be some rain).
Worst: March-May (long rains on the coast)

Where to hike

• Many Wildlife Parks and Game Reserves offer protected walks where a visitor/group hires a rifle-toting guide to accompany them on an informative and down-to-earth stroll among the beasties. Arusha town is especially well set up for these hikes.

• Tanzania’s richly endowed northern highlands offer spectacular hikes particularly in the gorgeous Usambara and Pare mountains and can be organised via one of the excellent cultural tourism programmes.
Moshi or lovely Lushoto are both good bases for highland treks.

• There are superb rain forest hikes in Udzungwa, though it is not easy to overnight there.

Mt Meru

• Mt Meru, near Arusha offers fine hikes with stunning views, wildlife encounters such as monkeys and giraffe and is an excellent way to acclimatize before taking on the heights of Mt Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain.
A climb to Meru’s summit of 4, 500m will take two or three days with another day for the descent.
This trek starts at Momela Gate where guides and porters can be hired if you haven’t already arranged them in Arusha or signed up with a tour operator.

Tanzania, Mt Meru

Mt Meru is useful as a training ground for the more serious Kili trek, or simply as an easier, pleasant alternative. A trak is vaguely visible crossing from bottom left to the centre then up. Photo by Woodlouse.

Mt. Kilimanjaro

Kibo peak from Karanga Camp, Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Kilimanjaro has three volcanic cones/peaks, Kibo, Mawenzi and Shira. This view is of Kibo from the Karanga camp. Mawenzi peak requires rock and/or ice-climbing skills. Photo by Phase9.

This beautifully shaped volcano is an African icon, its snowy peak visible for hundreds of kilometres around (though the best view is from Kenya) and a natural climbing target for many fit hikers to East Africa; this will require at least six to eight days to accomplish, preferably including time to acclimatise.

Kilimanjaro’s name is something of a mystery as kilima means little mountain (maybe a Swahili joke? ) while njaro means white or shining in old Swahili.

The main hiking routes up Kili to the Uhuru peak take 6 – 8 days.
Marangu (64 kms), Rongai (65 kms), Machame (49 kms), Lemosho (56 kms), Shira and Umbwe (37 kms). The first three are the least challenging routes; Machame is the most picturesque though steeper; Rongai is the easiest for camping; Marangu offers hut accommodation, though the route is much busier as a result.

About 15, 000 – 20, 000 hikers try to reach a peak every year but less than half succeed. The final section to the summit is normally climbed at night when the scree (loose stones) is frozen over and easier to scramble over.

At 5, 896m (19, 343ft) Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest peak and climbed – without mountaineering gear – by thousands of visitors every year, though careful preparation is vital, including hiring a good guide and warm clothes. Hiking around the lower levels of the volcano is also popular with the less ambitious.

Most hikers get to Kili (as it is casually known) via Moshi and Marangu village.

Beware: the high altitude and relative ease of ascent encourages hikers to climb too fast, inducing altitude-inspired headaches and early fatigue at the least, AMS (acute altitude sickness) or even death in the worst cases. Don’t be over-ambitious or plan a fast hike, you may simply not make the grade, like two thirds of Kili climbers, or perhaps come down in a black bag, which doesn’t look good on most people.

Tourists wishing to climb Kilimanjaro are obliged to hire an accredited guide or travel with a hiking company – generally considered to be the easiest way to deal with lunatic bureaucrats and endless, necessary bookings, equipment acquisition and so on.
Efficient hiking companies can be found in both Moshi and Marangu. Moshi has some boisterous, low cost night spots.

Take. As a bare minimum you’ll need to take good, waterproof trekking boots, layers of of warm, loose clothing, a light waterproof jacket, a fleece, scarf, hat, gloves, sunglasses and sleeping bag, though these can be bought or rented locally if you’re not fussy about the condition.
And of course camera, water bottle, torch, toilet paper, snacks and basic medicines. This is just a hint of the complexity of this trek, so take Kili seriously and check with tour operators for suggestions and a full list of requirements that if you have any sense a porter will be carrying anyway!

Best time to climb Kilimanjaro

December – February when it’s normally dry and clear, or June to August. Try to time the ascent to arrive at the top when the moon is full, so torches are less necessary and ambient light lends drama to the scene.

Getting to Tanzania

Apart from planes to Tanzania’s capital, Dar es Salaam, there are plenty of regular African buses lurching from Kenya to Tanzania. Nairobi – Arusha or Dar es Salaam, Mombasa – Dar es Salaam, Voi – Moshi, for example.
More adventurous visitors might try for a dhow sailing from Mombasa – Zanzibar (Pemba).
From Zambia’s Kapiri Mposhi trains run erratically on the Tazara line to Dar es Salaam.

Getting around Tanzania

• Domestic airlines perform respectably and prices are acceptable.

• Buses, both full size and mini-buses known as dalla-dalla are the transport norm and get just about everywhere though roads are in bad shape and accident rates high, especially on the Arusha to Moshi route. Buses are not permitted to travel at night.

• Car rental costs are high, particularly since most tourists will require a 4WD vehicle hired from Dar es Salaam.

• Ferries are an interesting option and can be found on Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika, Lake Nyasa and on the sea coast, but sadly the lovely, tranquil and traditional dhow as serious transport is now rare in Tanzania after a couple of bad accidents with tourists.

Zanzibar

Zanzibar’s Stone Town. Photo by David Berkowitz

What to do in Tanzania other than hiking or animal pursuits

***Zanzibar culture, beaches and diving.

*Legendary Lake Victoria, source of the Nile, is in Tanzania’s northwest and also borders Uganda and Kenya. This is Africa’s largest expanse of freshwater but surrounded mostly by mankind these days and inhabited by decreasing numbers of fish and increasing numbers of malarial mosquitoes and bilharzial snails as the lake’s eco-system gives up under the weight of human demands.

Victoria’s premier (Tanzania) tourist destination is Mwanza port, convenient for visiting the primitive islands of Ukerewe and Ukara, the Sukuma Museum (Tanzania’s largest tribe are the Sukuma) and even Serengeti National Park, just 5km from the lake. Surrounded by rocky hills Mwanza is Tanzania’s second-largest city and the core of the lake area.

Matemwe Beach in Zanzibar, Tanzania

Matemwe Beach on Zanzibar Island. Photo by Olivier Lejad.

**Dar es Salaam (aka Dar, or Bongo by locals, possibly because bongs are always on the go) is not the capital of the country (which is dull Dodoma) but a large, lively and cosmopolitan port city throbbing with African music, an eclectic nightlife that rivals any in East Africa, good food, great shopping in the Kariakoo Market, a couple of small but worthwhile museums and even some fine beaches.

North of the city are several developed beaches, such as Jangwani (21kms) which has both a family-friendly Waterworld amusement park and colourful coral reefs for scuba divers a few kilometres offshore. Fungu Yasini, 7kms away is the easiest dive to access while snorkelling is a treat around Mbudya Island, 3km offshore.

South of Dar the beaches are less organised and more lie-back-and-fry, with a scattering of accommodation ranging from campsites to pricey lodges, but no scuba to shout about.

Dar es Salaam is gateway to the three luscious islands, culture, beaches and scuba diving of Zanzibar, Pemba and Mafia.
A day trip north from Dar is Bagamoyo, a notorious slaving port and home to many exquisite colonial buildings.
South of Dar lurk dazzling, empty beaches and ancient ruins but the roads become extremely poor and travel there is rewarding but only for tough cookies.

Dar es Salam, Tanzania

Dar es Salaam, not what most Tanzania tourists are looking for but it has a certain energy. Photo by Muhammad Mahdi Karim.

Cultural Tourism

Another interesting possibility in Tanzania is spending time with and getting to know local tribes, often involving wildlife walks, horse riding, or village visits with Maasai, Meru or Il Larusa tribes. Learn about traditional healing, village life, cattle care (drink blood? ! ) and more. There are too many cultural tourism projects in Tanzania to list so if you’re interested check with the Tanzania Tourist Board in Arusha which is the current hub for these kind of activities.

Visas

Single-entry three-month visas can be bought on arrival at an airport or from a Tanzanian consulate beforehand. If you wish to stay longer it’s easiest to leave the country and return. Visas for overland crossings vary constantly and even from border to border, but should be cheaper.

Money

Tourist areas, safaris and scuba ($80+ per day) are pricey but individuals who go their own way without these luxuries can survive on surprisingly little, perhaps $20 per day or less, though even a low end safari will cost at least $90 per day.
Take $ cash for ease of exchange but also some cheques for backup. Towns have ATMs that will provide funds too (at a price).
Credit cards are accepted for major tourist services but you can expect a 5% or even 10% surcharge so it may be cheaper to withdraw the cash from an ATM after all!

Health

• Malaria is caused by stings from the female Anopheles mosquito and is commonplace in low-lying areas of Tanzania. It can be avoided by protecting yourself from mozzie bites and taking prophylactic pills. See our Malaria page for avoidance tactics and an anti-malarial summary, but we feel that at the moment expensive Malarone is the best preventative.

• Eating and drinking advice for foreigners in developing countries such as Tanzania can be found on our Travel Health page.

• Make sure you are inoculated against typhoid, tetanus, hepatitis A and have a polio booster.

• HIV is prevalent in Africa so be very sensible about intimate relationships with local people and do not imagine being drunk excuses terminal idiocy.

• when out walking in wilderness areas wear shoes and walk noisily to protect against snakes – who would much rather be doing something other than sinking their pristine fangs into your dirty, sweaty foot.

• don’t swim, wash or even touch stagnant fresh (as opposed to salt, which is fine) water, such as fresh-water lakes, unless your guide can confirm it’s safe from bilharzia, a tiny and unpleasant burrowing critter that can cause long term damage, though it is curable.

A Food Market in Forodhani Gardens, Stone Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania

A Food Market in Forodhani Gardens, Stone Town, Zanzibar. Photo by Rod Waddington.

Food

Cuisine in Tanzania – other than on Zanzibar’s stylish and exotic island – is more hearty than haut, fatty than fashionable.
Rice and cornmeal porridge (ugali) are the national dish, usually offered with some variety of animal protein, vegetable stew or beans; portions tend to be huge.
Tourist-oriented fry-ups are common in many towns with fish, chips, chicken, burgers and eggs on the menu as well as samosas, chapatis, rice cakes, meat balls, kebabs and corn cobs.
Health freaks might choose to make a meal of Tanzanian fruit, which is superb, from the usual bananas and avocados, papaya, pineapple and mangos to passion fruit, custard apples and guavas.

Electricity:
230v, 3 flat pins, occasionally 3 round pins (2 small, 1 large).