Planning a Trip to Tanzania

Tanzania is one of the most exciting places to visit in Africa. It is serious about protecting its natural heritage and almost a quarter (23%) of its landscape has been allocated to game reserves and national parks that are home to a staggering range of animals. The town of Arusha is the safari capital of East Africa and the starting point for trips to the vast plains of the Serengeti, the birthplace of man at the Olduvai Gorge, the natural beauty of Lake Manyara and the Ngorongoro Crater. In contrast to the flat plains, Tanzania is home to the tallest mountain in Africa: every year thousands of people fulfil their lifetime ambition of climbing to the top of Kilimanjaro. The country has a long coastline steeped in a Swahili culture that has been alive since the first dhows arrived on the trade winds from Asia. A walk through the narrow, twisting passageways of Zanzibar's capital, Stone Town, reveals beautiful Arabian architecture, while the Indian Ocean offers excellent opportunities for diving, snorkelling, fishing, sailing and even swimming with dolphins. Here, at some of the best beaches in the world, it is impossible not to relax in the dazzling sun and warm azure waters.

Wildlife safaris

Some of the national parks and game reserves of Tanzania are world famous, such as the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater and Mount Kilimanjaro, and have excellent facilities and receive numerous visitors. Many others, though, rarely see tourists and make little or no provision in the way of amenities for them. Most people visit on an organized safari, which involves staying at a safari lodge or tented camp, or at the cheaper end of the scale at a campsite, and going out on game drives in a specially adapted vehicle, with a guide, although it's still a good idea to take along some wildlife and bird books. The best time of day to spot animals is early in the morning and late in the afternoon, as many animals sleep through the intense midday heat. Animals can be seen most easily during the dry season when the lack of surface water forces them to congregate around rivers and waterholes. However, the rainy seasons, from October to November and March to June, are when the animals are in the best condition - after feeding

on the new shoots - and you might be lucky enough to see breeding displays. The disadvantage of the wet season is that the thicker vegetation and the wider availability of water mean that the wildlife is more spread out and more difficult to spot; also, driving conditions are far harder in deep mud as none of the park roads are paved. However, prices for lodges can be up to a third lower during the rainy seasons. Driving around endlessly searching for animals is not usually the best way to view them. While speed limits are often 50 kph, the optimum speed for game viewing by car is around 15 kph. Drives can be broken up by stops at waterholes, and time spent around a waterhole with your engine switched off gives you an opportunity to listen to the sounds of the bush and experience the rhythms of nature as game moves to and from the water.

Tanzania's game parks and reserves are well organized; following the few park rules will ensure an enjoyable stay.

Game-viewing rules

c Keep on the well-marked roads and track; off-road driving is harmful because smoke, oil and destruction of the grass layer cause soil erosion.

c> Do not drive through closed roads or park areas. It is mandatory to enter and exit the parks through the authorized gates.

c For your own safety, stay in your vehicle at all times. Your vehicle serves as a blind or hide, since animals will not usually identify it with humans. In all the parks that are visited by car it is forbidden to leave the vehicle except in designated places, such as picnic sites or walking trails.

c Stick to the parks' opening hours; it is usually forbidden to drive from dusk to dawn unless you are granted special authorization. At night you are requested to stay at your lodge or campsite.

c Never harass the animals. Make as little noise as possible; do not flash lights or make sudden movements to scare them away; never try and attract the animals' attention by calling out or whistling.

c Never chase the animals and remember that they always have right of way.

c Do not feed the animals; the food you provide might make them ill, and once animals such as elephants learn that food is available from humans they can become aggressive and dangerous when looking for more and will eventually have to be shot.

c If camping at night in the parks, ensure that the animals cannot gain access to any food you are carrying.

c Do not throw any litter, including used matches and cigarette butts; this not only increases fire risk in the dry season, but also some animals will eat whatever they find.

c Do not disturb other visitors. They have the same right as you to enjoy nature. If you discover a stationary vehicle and you want to check what they are looking at, never hinder their sight nor stop within their photographic field. If there is no room for another car, wait patiently for your turn, the others will finally leave and the animals will still be there. If there is a group of vehicles, most drivers will take it in turns to occupy the prime viewing spot.

c Always turn the engine off when you are watching game up close.

c Do not speed; the speed limit is usually 50 kph. Speeding damages road surfaces, increases noise and raises the risk of running over animals.

c Wild animals are dangerous; despite their beauty their reactions are unpredictable. Don't expose yourself to unnecessary risks; excessive confidence can lead to serious accidents.


Undoubtedly one of East Africa's greatest tourism assets are the vast areas of fringing coral reef that stretch south from the equator, hugging the coastline and surrounding islands. These huge living coral formations, which in the past were a mariner's worst nightmare, have now become the play- ground for the tourist and house at least 3000 different species of marine animals and plants. El Niño has been to blame for much of the coral bleaching and damage to many top reefs of East Africa but the positive signs of regrowth are definitely in place, and for divers the visible damage shouldn't detract from the splendour and abundance of the fish life. The main diving areas of Tanzania are found on the islands of Pemba, where there are dramatic drop-offs, and Zanzibar and Mafia where there are fringing reefs and coral gardens. On the mainland, local divers recommend the offshore islands around Dar es Salaam. The best time to dive in Tanzania is between October and April before the long rains and subsequent river outflows affect visibility, but check individual locations for more details. Plankton blooms are reasonably common and can reduce visibility drastically. Out of season many dive centres and resorts close (Swahili Divers, Pemba). The diving conditions surrounding the islands are more reliable and the waters generally clearer than off the mainland. Average visibility in the diving season ranges between 10 and 30 m increasing to 20 to 40 m around Pemba and Mafia islands.
The warm waters (between 24°C in September
and +30°C in March) and colourful reefs provide an exciting training ground for first- timers wishing to explore the underwater realm. There are some 25 PADI dive centres

in Tanzania and most offer single dives or diving courses, often in Italian, German and French as well as English. Dive schools are listed in the relevant section of the book and their websites are a very good resource for more information. Costs average US$50-60 per dive, though if you book more than one dive at a time the costs come down. The beginner's PADI Open Water course takes four to five days and costs US$450-500 and includes theory lessons, pool sessions and
four or five ocean training dives; One Ocean
Diving on Zanzibar also offers the 'Discover Scuba' option if you just want to experience a one-off dive for fun. Medical questionnaires must be completed prior to a course and medical certificates may be required. In the case of emergencies, a decompression chamber opened on the east coast of Zanzibar in 2006. Non-divers can enjoy the reefs by snorkelling from the beach or a boat, this can be arranged at all of the coastal resorts.

Diving tips

All divers should be aware of the potential
threat they pose to the fragile underwater environment and should help to sustain this delicate ecosystem by taking a few simple precautions. These diving tips are adapted from the Marine Conservation Society's 'Coral Code'. For further information visit www.mcsuk.org or contact the Communications Officer, T+44 (0)1989-566 017.

Review your skills. If you haven't dived for a while, practise in the pool or sandy patch before diving around the reef.

Choose your dive operator wisely. Report irresponsible operators to relevant diving authorities (PADI, NAUI, SSI).

Control your fins. Deep fin kicks around coral can cause damage, so move gently and smoothly.

Practise buoyancy control. Through proper weighting and practice, you should not allow yourself or any item of your equipment to touch any living organism.

Never stand on the reef. Corals can be damaged by the slightest touch. If you need to hold on to something, look for a piece of dead coral or rock.

Avoid kicking up sand, which can smother corals and other reef life.

Know your limits. Don't dive in conditions beyond your skills.

Do not disturb or move things around (eg for photography).

Do not collect or buy shells or any other marine curios (eg dried pufferfish).

Do not feed fish.

Do not ride turtles or hold on to any marine animal as this can easily cause heart attacks or severe shock to the creature.

When to go

Situated just south of the equator, Tanzanian temperatures average between 25 and 30°C. The hottest season is January-February and the coldest month is August. Humidity varies, being high along the coastal strip and on Zanzibar but much lower in the interior highlands. There are long rains,
, from March to May and short rains,
, fall from October to December. In addition there are
frequently heavy rains in the south of Tanzania
from December until April. On the coast, high temperatures are cooled by ocean breezes so it is rarely overpoweringly hot, although
humidity levels peak just before the rains arrive and it can become unbearably uncomfortable.
Away from the coast, it is much drier and the rains are a little kinder. On peaks above 1500 m the climate is cooler, with permanent
snow on the highest peaks such as Kilimanjaro
where nightime temperatures drop well below zero.

In terms of avoiding the rains, the best time to visit is between May and October, but Tanzania has much to offer all year round. The wildebeest migration in the Serengeti occurs from November to June. If you are planning a trekking holiday the
best months are May to September. Travelling
by road, especially in the more remote areas or through the national parks, is easier during t
he dry months, as road conditions deteriorate
significantly in the rainy seasons. March, April and May can be months of heavy rain making
travel on unsealed roads difficult. Even in these
months, however, there is an average of four to six hours of sunshine each day. Finally, bear in mind that malaria peaks during the rainy seasons, when the mosquitoes are prolific. Most of the lodges drop their rates significantly, sometimes by as much as 50%, during low season from the beginning of April to the end of June.

Sport and activities



The Serengeti National Park is the top spot for a gentle float over the animals from a balloon, and for many this excursion is the highlight of a visit to the park (albeit expensive). Most of the lodges and camps in the Seronera and Western Corridor can organize this activity. Tourists are picked up around 0530 and driven to the site where the lift-off will take place. Watching the balloon inflate is part of the experience. Once the balloon rises, passengers can watch the sunrise high above the plains when the sun comes up and turns the grasslands from blue to gold. This is quite a spectacular experience, especially during the months of the migration. Flights last 60-90 minutes and cost US$500 per person.


www.tanzaniabirding.com has compre- hensive bird checklists and information about birds endemic to Tanzania.

Apart from all the animals, Tanzania also boasts
a fine selection of birds with 1108 recorded species, of which 22 are endemic to Tanzania. Birdwatching is a popular pastime and can easily be combined with game viewing. Apart from the national parks, good spots for birdwatching include the Usambara Mountains and the foothills of Kilimanjaro. Most tour operators will be able to arrange safaris particularly aimed at birdwatchers.

Climbing and hiking

Details of local operators are listed in the relevant chapters.

Tanzania's numerous parks and reserves offer many climbing options for the avid explorer. Although Kilimanjaro tops the list as Africa's most famous - and highest - mountain, Tanzania boasts many other mountain ranges and attractive peaks. Most of the country's mountains and volcanoes are in the north and east of the country.

They vary from the dramatic crater of Mount Meru and the active volcano of Ol Doinyo Lengai,
to tamer options like the Usambara Mountains
and comparatively gentle slopes of the Crater Highlands. Tour operators and trekking companies will happily put together an itinerary that suits your preferences. It is advisable, especially when climbing at higher altitudes, to take things slowly and allow your body to acclimatize. There are no mountaineering or outdoor outfitters in Tanzania, so when preparing for a trek in the country, bear in mind that you'll need to bring most of your own gear. Sleeping bags, good hiking boots, many layers and waterproof outer clothing is essential for keeping warm and comfortable at high altitudes. Bring a few refillable plastic water bottles and a good day pack as well - although porters will carry the heavier equipment, you'll want to have a few things easily available throughout the day.


Details of local operators are listed in the relevant chapters.

Fishing is not a particularly popular pastime for visitors to Tanzania's rivers and lakes, and there are virtually no facilities. However, deep-sea fishing is attracting more tourists on the coast, especially in the deep Pemba Channel. It reaches depths of 823 m, and is home to three varieties of marlin - black, blue and striped - as well as sailfish, spearfish, swordfish, yellowfin tuna, tiger shark, mako shark and virtually every game fish popular with anglers. A gentle north current runs through the channel, acting much like a scaled-down version of the Gulf Stream, which is forced up by the lip in the north of the channel, also referred to locally as the Sea Mountain, which creates rips and eddies that bring nutrients to the surface that concentrate the fish in a very tight area. The fishing season is usually from August to the end of March. A number of operators offer excursions in customized boats, some with high-tech tackle and equipment.


Afri Kite Centre
, www.kitecentrezanzibar. com;
Kite Zanzibar
, www.kitezanzibar.com.

Kitesurfing is the latest craze on Zanzibar. Afri Kite Centre has a base at Paje and can arrange
kitesurfing lessons for beginners and also rents
out equipment. Kite Zanzibar does the same at the beach at Ras Nungwi. The wind is best from April to November when it picks up to 12-20 knots in the afternoon. Expect to pay US$120 for a three-hour beginner's lesson.


Equestrian Safaris
, www.safaririding.com.

There are a few opportunities to go horse or camel riding, especially around Arusha and Moshi . These include fun short camel rides from the Meserani Snake Park and longer seven-day horse safaris for experienced riders in the foothills of Kilimanjaro arranged with Equestrian Safaris.

Spectator sports

Check the daily press for information on sports fixtures.
Mount Kilimanjaro Marathon
, www.kilimanjaromarathon.com;
Goat Races
, www.goatraces.com.

In large towns the main activities will be football matches. Fixtures tend to be arranged, or postponed, at short notice so check the daily press. There are also cricket matches over the weekends, and golf, tennis and squash tournaments are held at clubs but are open to the public. Many world-class runners have come from Tanzania and every year a torch called the Uhuru (or freedom torch) is lit on Mount Kilimanjaro and then carried across the country by runners to celebrate independence. Occasional sailing regattas are held at the yacht clubs in Dar es Salaam and Tanga. The Mount Kilimanjaro Marathon is an annual event in March which
starts and ends in Moshi and attracts a number of Tanzanian and Kenyan professional runners,
as well as international participants. If you're in Dar es Salam in August, don't miss the unusual and hilarious Goat Races. Goats are released from their traps and then the owners, by any means possible without actually touching them, cajole their goats on to the finishing line. Betting is an integral part of the event, proper racing programmes are drawn up, and the goats are paraded around the ring before each race. Winners are picked up by their owners and cheered by the crowds, while the losers bleat despondently.


Details of local operators are given in the relevant chapters.

Watersports are widely available on the coast and the islands, and many hotels and resorts
organize scuba-diving, windsurfing, kitesurfing,
snorkelling, jet-skiing, waterskiing, sailing and deep-sea fishing. You can rent snorkelling
gear but if you intend to do a lot of snorkelling
it might be worth bringing your own. Some reefs are close enough to swim out to, especially on Zanzibar, otherwise you can negotiate with a local fisherman to take you out. This is considerably cheaper than an organized trip through a resort. Swimming with dolphins is a popular excursion on the southwest of Zanzibar.

How big is your footprint?

Much has been written about the adverse impact of tourism on the environment and local communities. It is usually assumed that this only applies to the more excessive end of the travel industry. However, travellers can have an impact at almost any density and this is especially true in areas 'off the beaten track', where local people may not be used to Western conventions and lifestyles and where natural environments are sensitive.

Of course, tourism can have a beneficial impact too, and this is something to which every traveller can contribute. The tourism industry in Tanzania is very important for the country's economy and creates many thousands of jobs. In recent years there has been a well-applauded effort to initiate projects that involve and benefit the local communities and wildlife. Both people and animals rely on Tanzania's wide open spaces and Tanzania really has embraced the age of ecotourism through effective community-run wildlife management.

Many national parks are part-funded by receipts from people who come to see exotic plants and animals. Similarly, travellers can
promote protection of valuable archaeological
and heritage sites through their interest and entrance fees. However, when visitor pressure is high and/or poorly regulated, damage can occur. In Tanzania, many of the most popular destinations are in ecologically and culturally sensitive areas that are easily disturbed by extra human pressures.

It is worthwhile noting the major areas in which travellers can take a more responsible attitude to the countries they visit. These include changes to natural ecosystems (air, water, land, ecology and wildlife), cultural values (beliefs and behaviour) and the built environment (sites of antiquity and archaeological significance). At an individual level, travellers can reduce their impact if greater consideration is given to their activities. Canoe trips up the headwaters of obscure rivers make for great stories but how do local communities cope with the sudden invasive interest in their lives? Similarly, have the environmental implications of increased visitor pressure been considered? Where do the fresh fish that feed the trip come from? Hand caught by line is fine but dynamite fishing causes a great deal of damage and waste.

Some factors, such as the management and operation of a hotel chain, are beyond the direct control of individual travellers. However, it is possible to voice concern about damaging activities. An increasing number of hotels and travel operators are taking 'green concerns' seriously, even if it is only to protect their share of the market. Be wary of the 'eco' label, however; all too often companies use the word to refer to outdoor adventure activities, not environmentally protective practices.


Environmental legislation, too, plays its role in protecting destinations. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) aims to control the trade in live specimens of endangered plants and animals and also “recognizable parts or derivatives” of protected species such as seashells or coral. If you feel the need to purchase souvenirs and trinkets derived from wildlife in Tanzania, it would be prudent to check whether they are protected. Importation of CITES-protected species can lead to heavy fines, confiscation of goods and even imprisonment.

Responsible travel

Where possible choose a destination, tour operator or hotel with a proven ethical and environmental commitment - if in doubt, ask.

Spend money on locally produced (rather than imported) goods and services, buy directly from the producer or from a 'fair trade' shop, and use common sense when bargaining - the few dollars you save may be a week's salary to others.

Use water and electricity carefully - travellers may receive preferential supply while the needs of local communities are overlooked.

Learn about local etiquette and culture - consider local norms and behaviour and dress appropriately for local cultures and situations.

Protect wildlife and other natural resources - don't buy souvenirs or goods unless they are clearly sustainably produced and are not protected under CITES legislation.

Always ask before taking photographs or videos of people.

Consider staying in local accommodation rather than foreign-owned hotels - the economic benefits for host communities are far greater - and there are more opportunities to learn about local culture.

Make a voluntary contribution to Climate Care, www.co2.org, to help counteract the pollution caused by tax-free fuel on your flight.

Tanzania on screen and page

Books to read

Going Solo
, children's author Roald Dahl describes his early life in East Africa, where he was sent as an employee of Shell before World War I. He recalls his experiences as having taught him “how to look after myself in a way that no young person can ever do by staying in civilization”.
Green Hills of Africa
is Ernest Hemingway's account of his first safari in 1933, while William Boyd's novel,
An Ice Cream War
is a sensitive story about an English family, an American plantation owner and a German Count set during World War I in German East Africa.
In the Shadow of Man
is Jane Goodall's fascinating account of her first arrival in Africa to study chimpanzees at Gombe and she has followed this with several more books about chimpanzees and conservation. In 2008, Dale Peterson
wrote her biography
Jane Goodall: The Woman
Who Redefined Man. Emilie Reute's
Memoirs of an
Arabian Princess from Zanzibar
is an engrossing
historical story that offers a
vivid portrait of 19th-century life in the Sultan's
Serengeti Shall Not Die
, by Bernhard and Michael Grzimek, is a classic account of the unique character of this world-famous park.

Films to watch

Adapted from a short story by Ernest Hemingway,
The Snows of Kilimanjaro
(1952) is a classic film starring Gregory Peck, Susan Hayward and Ava Gardner. Harry Street is an American writer who is on safari in Africa when he is accidentally scratched by a thorn, which leads to infection and ultimately death. As he lies delirious, with Kilimanjaro looming in the background, he recalls the lost loves of his life.
(1962) starring John Wayne, is an adventurous comic romp about Americans capturing animals for zoos and was filmed near Arusha with good scenic shots of Mount Meru. Much of
King Soloman's Mines
(1950), starring Deborah Kerr and Stewart Granger, was filmed in Tanzania. Adapted from Rider Haggard's book, it's a story of finding treasures in the unexplored interior of Africa.
Stanley and Livingstone
(1939) is about Stanley (Spencer Tracey) tracking down Livingstone (Cedric Hardwicke) on
the banks of Lake Tanganyika. The German
Serengeti Shall Not Die
(1959), was the first wildlife documentary to be aired on television, and put the Serengeti on the map as a tourist destination.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
Products in this Region

Kilimanjaro & Northern Tanzania Handbook

From the snow-capped beauty of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain, to the vast plains of...

Zanzibar & Pemba Handbook

Zanzibar's coastline offers some of the best beaches in the world, with its dazzling white sands...
PDF Downloads

  No PDFs currently available

Digital Products

Available NOW!