Tanzania is in Africa’s finest safari destination. An unparalleled one-quarter of its surface area has been set aside for conservation purposes, with the world-renowned Serengeti National Park and incomprehensibly vast Selous Game reserve heading a rich mosaic of protected areas that collectively harbour an estimated 20 percent of Africa’s large mammal population.
And yet there is more to Tanzania than just safaris. There is Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru, respectively the highest and fifth-highest peaks on the continent. Richly filled with freshwater bodies which include, Lake Victoria, Tanganyika and Nyasa which happen to be three largest freshwater bodies in Africa. Then of course there is the magical “spice island” of Zanzibar, the highlight of a vast Indian Ocean coastline studded with postcard beaches, mysterious mediaeval ruins, and offshore reefs swirling with brightly colourful fish.
It doesn’t stop there. Raising from sandy shores of The Lake Tanganyika, the forested Gombe Stream and Mahale Mountains National Parks via with each other as the best place in the world to track wild chimpanzees. Closer to the coast the Udzungwa Mountains and other massifs of the Eastern Arc are dubbed the “African Galapagos” in recognition of their unique wealth of endemic plants and animals. And Tanzania’s daunting natural variety is mirrored by cultural diversity embracing 120 distinct tribes: From iconic Maasai pastoralists of Rift Valley to the Arab -influenced Swahili of the coast, to Hadzabe gatherers of Lake Eyasi.
So, how to define the experience offered by a country with highlights as unique and diverse as Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar, Lake Tanganyika, Serengeti and Selous? An experience that might for some entail long days hiking in sub-conditions on the upper slopes of Africa’s most alluring peaks; for others a once-in -a-lifetime safari followed by a sojourn on an idyllic Indian Ocean beach, for others still the trill of eyeballing habituated chimpanzees, or diving in spectacular offshore reefs around Mafia, or backpacking through the time -warped pots and crumbling ruins the half-forgotten such coasts.
Well, the one thing that does bind Tanzania’s diverse attractions, is of course its people, who take justifiable pride in their deeply ingrained national mood of tolerance and peacefulness. Indeed, Tanzania, for its ethnic diversity, is practically unique in African having navigated a succession of modern political hurdles – the transformation from colonial dependency to independent nation, from socialist state to free market economy.
Tanzania has also, over the past 20 years, emerged from comparative obscurity to stand as one of Africa’s most dynamic and popular travel destinations: A land whose staggering natural variety is complemented by the innate hospitality of the people who live there. How do you define the Tanzania experience? Surprisingly easy, really. It can be encapsulated in a single word, one visitor will hear in a dozen times daily, no matter where they travel in Tanzania, or how they go about it: The smiling, heartfelt Swahili greeting of “Karibu” – Welcome!