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Tanzania is regarded as a superb safari destination with many world-class opportunities for game spotting. The country has many of the best and biggest parks in Africa with ideal conditions for African game. It also has some of the most varied and unique landscapes that you’ll ever see. From grasslands to woodlands, rock formations and mountain peaks, there’s no question that Tanzania features some amazing opportunities for sightseeing and photo-safaris.
Tanzania is the largest country in East Africa and includes the islands of Zanzibar, Pemba, and Mafia. It is situated just south of the equator and is bordered by the Indian Ocean and eight countries: Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique.
Mount Kilimanjaro, once an active volcano, is the highest point in Africa and is bordered by three of the largest lakes on the continent: Lake Victoria (the world’s second-largest freshwater lake) in the north, Lake Tanganyika in the west, and Lake Nyasa in the southwest.
The center of Tanzania is a large plateau, which is part of the East African Plateau. The southern half of this plateau is grassland and part of the Eastern Miombo woodlands ecoregion, the majority of which is covered by the huge Selous National Park. Further north, the plateau is arable land and includes the national capital Dodoma.
Tanzania’s largest city and former capital, Dar es Salaam, lies on the eastern coast. Just north of this city lies the Zanzibar Archipelago, a semi-autonomous territory of Tanzania which is famous for its spices. The coast is home to areas of East African mangroves, an ecoregion consisting of mangrove swamps that are an important habitat for wildlife on land and in water.
Some of the oldest human settlements were found in Tanzania. The oldest human fossils were unearthed in northern Tanzania, an area referred to as “The Cradle of Mankind”. It is therefore believed to be the birthplace of humanity. Fossils found in this area include bones that are believed to be over 2 million years old, and the oldest known footprints of the immediate ancestors of humans, the Laetoli footprints, are estimated to be about 3.6 million years old.
About 10,000 years ago, Tanzania was populated by the Khoisan, who were slowly absorbed by Cushitic-speaking people who came from the north about 5000 years ago. They introduced basic techniques of agriculture, food production, and later cattle farming. About 2000 years ago, Bantu speaking people began to migrate from western Africa. They further developed iron working skills and introduced different ideas of social and political organization. In the early first millennium, trade with Arabia and Persia made the East African coast economically strong. As a result, Islam was introduced and Arabic influences entered the language, resulting in the development of the Kiswahili language.
All along the coast, as well as on the islands of Zanzibar, many trading cities thrived. In 1498 Vasco da Gama became the first European to reach the East African coast, and by 1525 the Portuguese had subdued the entire coast. Portuguese control lasted until the early 18th century, when Arabs from Oman established a foothold in the region. During this time, Zanzibar became the center of the Arab slave trade. The port of Zanzibar was visited by Dutch, English and French ships. In 1873 a British fleet forced Sultan Barghash to declare the end of the slave trade. Although it was reduced, illegal slave trade continued.
In 1848 the German missionary Johannes Rebmann became the first European to see Mount Kilimanjaro, and in 1858 Richard Burton and John Speke mapped Lake Tanganyika. In January 1866 the Scottish explorer and missionary David Livingstone travelled to Zanzibar, from where he set out to seek the source of the Nile.
At the Berlin Conference (1884-1885) in Berlin, rules were established among the colonial powers for how to proceed with the establishment of colonies and protectorates.
Tanganyika as a geographical and political entity did not take shape before the period of High Imperialism; its name only came into use after German East Africa was transferred to the United Kingdom as a mandate by the League of Nations in 1920.
Tanganyika was first colonized by Germany (1880s until 1919) then by the British (1919 to 1961). It served as a military outpost during World War II and provided financial help as well as munitions. Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere became the first president when Tanganyika became independent in 1961 and introduced African socialism or Ujamaa, which emphasized justice and equality.
The name “Tanzania” was created as a clipped compound of the names of the two states that unified to create the country: Tanganyika and Zanzibar.
Tanzania has a tropical climate but has regional variations due to its topography. In the highlands, temperatures range between 10 and 20 degrees Celsius during the cold and hot season respectively. In the rest of the country temperatures rarely fall lower than 20 degrees. The hottest period extends from November to February (25–31 degrees), while the coldest period occurs between May and August (15–20 degrees).
Seasonal rainfall migrates through Tanzania from north to south between October and December, reaching the south of the country in January and February, and returning northwards in March, April, and May. This causes the north and east of Tanzania to experience two distinct wet periods – the short rains from October to December and the long rains from March to May, while the southern, western, and central parts of the country experience one wet season that continues from October through to April or May.
Tanzania is growing at a very fast rate. At the end of 2020, the country’s population was estimated at 59.73 million and by the end of the century, the population will probably reach 282.67 million. Tanzania’s population is currently growing at a rate of 2.98%.
The country has a high fertility rate of 4.8 births per woman and a high birth rate of 36.2 births per 1,000 people. Unfortunately, the rapidly growing population in Tanzania has resulted in increased levels of poverty and income inequality.
With 947,300 square kilometers of land, Tanzania is the 23rd largest country in the world and the 13th largest in Africa. This, in combination with the total population, equates to a population density of approximately 62 people per square kilometer. More than 44% of the population is under the age of 15.
Tanzania has a very uneven population distribution. In the arid regions, population density is as low as 1 person per square kilometer, about 53 people per square kilometer in the water-rich mainland highlands and up to 134 people per square kilometer in the capital city of Zanzibar. About 80% of the population lives in rural areas. The largest city in Tanzania is Dar es Salaam with 2,698,652 inhabitants.
The Tanzanian Shilling is the official currency of Tanzania, but US-Dollars are also widely accepted in tourist areas. Dollar notes printed before 2009 are usually not accepted. You can exchange money at many authorized dealers, banks, and bureaux de change. Make sure to get a receipt after each transaction.
Most banks in major cities have ATMs, but they are not always reliable and sometimes break down or run out of money. To minimize the risk of card cloning, only use ATMs located within the bank. For your daily expenses it is always important to carry a wallet with small change and keep the rest of your cash separate and out of sight. Especially when you spend several days in more remote areas like game parks, ensure that you have enough cash on you.
Furthermore, it is recommended to take along a ‘mix’ of means for payment, including cash, a world debit card, and a credit card (VISA or MasterCard). Also, we recommend taking along American Dollars for emergencies, which you might also need when crossing borders.
There are ATM´s (Automated Teller Machines) available in the larger cities of Tanzania. Remember that for every transaction you will be charged additional banking fees. Please do not forget to change the security settings of your bankcards to ‘worldwide’ if necessary – ask your local bank for instructions.
Tanzania is noted for its great variety of wildlife throughout the country. It is estimated that there are more than four million wild animals in Tanzania representing 430 different species and subspecies. The country houses about 20% of Africa’s large mammal population. Zebras, giraffes, elephants, wildebeest, buffaloes, hippos, antelopes and gazelles are found everywhere as well as larger predatory animals like lions, cheetahs and leopards.
In Tanzania, you also find approximately 60,000 insect species, 25 types of reptiles and amphibians, around 100 species of snakes and many fish species. Also birds are widely represented in Tanzania with around one thousand species, including kingfishers, hornbills and flamingos.
Small patches of tropical rainforest in Tanzania’s Eastern Arc range provide an ecosystem for a vast variety of plants, many of which are unique in the world. They include the popular Usambara or African violet (Saintpaulia) and Impatiens, which are sold as house plants in grocery stores in western countries. Similar forest patches – remnants of the much larger tropical forest that once extended across the continent – are also found in the Udzungwas, Ulugurus and several other areas. South and west of the Eastern Arc range are stands of baobab, with some particularly striking baobab-studded landscapes in the Tarangire National Park.
Away from the mountain ranges, much of the country is covered by miombo (‘moist’ woodland), where the main vegetation consists of various types of the Brachystegia tree. Much of the dry central plateau is covered with savanna, bushland and thickets, while grasslands cover the Serengeti plain and other areas that lack good drainage. The Amani Nature Reserve and the Kitulo National Park are among the country’s botanical highlights, and Kitulo is one of the few parks in Africa with wildflowers as its main attraction.
The official language in Tanzania is Swahili, but there are hundreds of local dialects. English is the second official language and the country’s commercial language. It is also the main medium of instruction at all higher education institutions. You will find that most of the people with whom you come into contact are fluent in English and have a surprisingly good command of the language.
For Tanzania, recommended vaccinations are DTP, and vaccination against hepatitis A/B. Malaria does occur in Tanzania, therefore ask your local health services for the most updated advice on vaccinations and preventative care.
Health facilities include hospitals in the bigger cities. District hospitals, rural clinics, dispensaries, and health centers also operate throughout the country.
Tanzania has one of Africa’s fastest growing economies with nearly 7% annual national GDP growth since 2000. However, widespread poverty has persisted, with 49% of Tanzania’s population living below the international extreme poverty line of $1.90 per day (World Bank, 2011). Especially among Tanzania’s predominantly rural population (73%), economic growth has been limited. Inclusive, broad-based growth is hindered by low productivity growth in labor-intensive sectors like agriculture, which employs 77% of working-age adults. The agriculture sector has grown by just 4% per year over the past decade.
Private sector engagement is an essential component of the economic development of Tanzania and the country’s efforts to reach middle-income status by 2025. Businesses in Tanzania are at the forefront of encouraging growth through job creation, innovation, generating tax revenue, and fair competition. The Tanzanian private sector’s vast financial resources and expertise in market-based solutions have the potential for tackling systemic social challenges. Currently employing about 70% of the youth in Tanzania, the private sector provides a critical pathway to self-reliance.
Tanzania’s president and National Assembly members are elected concurrently by direct popular vote for five-year terms. The president appoints a prime minister who serves as the government’s leader in the National Assembly. The president selects his cabinet from among National Assembly members.
The Constitution also empowers him to nominate ten non-elected members of Parliament, who are also eligible to become cabinet members. The National Assembly has 295 members. At present, the ruling party CCM (Chama Cha Mapinduzi) holds about 90% of the seats in the Assembly.