Top 10 Reasons to Visit Tanzania
With so many adventures on offer in Tanzania it can be hard to choose what to do and how to fit it all in. But don’t worry, we have got you covered with our ‘Top 10 Reasons to Visit Tanzania’, highlighting what we feel are the 10 best adventures on offer in Tanzania (in no particular order as they are all amazing!). We know these will make your Tanzanian adventure a trip of a lifetime.
1. Ngorongoro Crater
Sometimes called ‘Africa’s Garden of Eden’ it’s not hard to see why when you first witness the majestic beauty of the Ngorongoro Crater. It is the world's largest inactive, intact and unfilled volcanic caldera, the crater was formed almost 3 million years ago when a large volcano exploded and collapsed on itself. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the seven Natural Wonders of Africa, Ngorongoro is 610 meters deep and encompasses some 260 square kilometres of mainly open grassland with small wooded areas scattered around the crater. With the highest density of lions in Africa, and also home to rhinos, buffalos, hippos, wildebeests, zebras, and much more it is an awesome destination for game viewing.
The name comes from the Maasai people who grazed their cattle here and named it after the sound made by the cowbells (ngoro ngoro). The area was established in 1959 as a multiple land use area, with wildlife coexisting alongside semi-nomadic Maasai pastoralists practising traditional livestock grazing. The nearby Olduvai Gorge, a 14km long deep ravine, has seen extensive archaeological research which yielded much evidence of human life dating back almost 4 million years, including fossilised footprints believed to be the oldest hominid footprints ever found.
The crater has huge global importance for biodiversity conservation as it is home to many threatened species such as the black rhino, as well as hosting the annual great migration of wildebeest, zebra and gazelles, a truly magnificent natural phenomenon to witness. A trip to Tanzania should definitely include a safari in the crater, where you are guaranteed to see a multitude of wildlife in an incredible setting. The Ngorongoro Crater rightfully deserves it’s place in our top 10 list and you will see why when you visit and experience this unique place.
2. Stone Town
The historic Stone Town offers a unique glimpse of the bygone times of Swahili Culture, a place rich in history, culture and tradition. Stone Town is the heart of the Zanzibar Archipelago and the former capital of the Zanzibar Sultanate, which ruled the East African area from as far north as Lamu in Kenya to the south at Sofala in Mozambique. In Swahili it is referred to as Mji Mkongwe, meaning ‘old town’, today Stone Town has grown and become a busy centre but you can still walk the streets of the old town at the heart of the city, losing yourself in the winding network of roads and alleyways. One of the biggest attractions in Stone Town is the architecture, much of it dating back to the 19th century (and earlier), reflecting the diverse influences of Arab, Persian, Indian and European elements. Because of this diverse and historical architecture the town was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.
Stone Town is a major visitor attraction in Tanzania, making it a must visit when in Zanzibar. Here you will experience the busy narrow streets lined with shops, bazaars and mosques, and the incredible Zanzibar doors, expertly crafted from wood and displaying various symbols that give a glimpse of the history of the former inhabitants. Let the views and life on the street sink in by stopping for a freshly roasted coffee, served street-side, or a refreshing coconut juice straight from the coconut. Zanzibar is also the birthplace of Freddy Mercury so drop in and see the museum dedicated to his life and music. The newly designed seafront offers spectacular views of the port and harbour area, catch a local boat that can take you to the nearby Prison Island or various sand banks. The seafront also offers up some of the most spectacular buildings in Stone Town, including the House of Wonders, the Old Dispensary and the Old Fort, a 16th Century fort built by the Portuguese. As the sun sets head to Forodhani Gardens for the nightly food market with grilled seafood and other Zanzibari delicacies like Urojo and the Zanzibar Pizza. A visit to Stone Town is highly recommended for those interested in learning more about this unique and historic place and the rich culture it represents.
3. Selous Game Reserve
Another UNESCO World Heritage site to make it on to our list is the Selous Game Reserve. UNESCO obviously spotted that Tanzania has a lot of places worth preserving, and therefore worth exploring in our opinion. The Selous Game Reserve is another one of them. Named after a famous hunter turned conservationist, the Selous is the largest and oldest wildlife reserve in Africa, covering 50,000 square kilometres and is relatively undisturbed by human impact. The game reserve offers diverse landscapes from woods and small grasslands, but the majority is wetlands around the Rufiji river. Unlike many other parks in Tanzania you won’t find large savannahs and open plains, instead expect mostly marshy wetlands with narrow tracks, where around each corner you may come face to face with the wild animals.
Less visited by tourists, it is a secluded reserve, home to elephants, buffaloes, crocodiles, hippos, black rhinos, lions, East African wild dogs, giraffes, zebras and many bird species. Game drives, walking safaris, boat safaris and fly camping are all on offer here to enjoy the spectacular scenery and wildlife. So when you plan your trip think about adding in some extra special adventures like stalking game through the bush on a walking safari or watching the crocodiles and other river animals whilst floating by on a boat.
This is one of the few remaining real wild places in Africa. For those with a more adventurous side who want to get away from the crowds and have a safari experience like no other, the Selous will not disappoint. It’s a great spot for honeymooners, adventurers, families and everyone in between as the place has something for everyone. Check with us for tailor made itineraries set in the Selous that include the best that the reserve has to offer.
4. Watersports in Zanzibar
A trip to Tanzania isn’t complete unless you also head across the water to the stunning islands of Zanzibar. The Zanzibar Archipelago in Tanzania is one of the most famous archipelagos in the world. Made up of the two main islands of Pemba and Unguja - the latter better known as Zanzibar - it evokes feelings of mystery, adventure and a closeness to nature. Many visitors include a trip to Zanzibar after a safari in mainland Tanzania, to rest and recuperate on the golden beaches, enjoying the warm turquoise waters. But Zanzibar has so much more to offer so don’t spend to long sunbathing and make sure you get out to enjoy the Indian Ocean and the many water based activities on offer in Zanzibar.
Paje Beach, located on the main island of Zanzibar, is renowned as one of the worlds best spots for kitesurfing. Alongside it's pristine beaches and ideal lagoon conditions, Paje experiences consistent winds for approximately 9 months of the year. These are perfect conditions for those who want to learn to kite, do a refresher course, or enjoy some tricks and wave surfing. Zanzibar is a great spot for beginners with courses and equipment available. For the more adventurous you can even enjoy full moon night kiting or explore some secret sandbanks and remote beaches that Zanzibar has to offer on a week long extreme kitesurfing live aboard yacht trip.
Freediving in Zanzibar can be a very rewarding experience and this is especially true if you are into marine life and recreational freediving. Zanzibar’s waters teem with dolphins and other marine life including large pelagic fish, small coral fish, turtles, and the occasional migrating humpback whales (between July and November). Enjoy freediving courses taught out of the only freediving centre in East Africa, located in Nungwi, the north point of (Unguja) Zanzibar Island. Or if you are already an experienced freediver then hop on board a boat and head out to dive some awesome new and secret spots. Trips freediving with dolphins are also available where freediving with local bottlenose and the humpback dolphins on any given day is practically guaranteed.
If you prefer to dive with the comfort of an oxygen tank then you are also in luck as Zanzibar has some amazing scuba diving expeditions, with the option of heading out to explore the many reefs and small wrecks surrounding the islands. Dive in and discover the diverse and colourful life underwater, you will see a variety of life including coral reefs, barracudas, snappers, silver sweetlips, Napoleon wrasse, groupers, parrotfish, surgeonfish, lobsters, green turtles, and sea stars amongst others.
Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) is currently considered to be the fastest growing water sport in the world and it is taking off in Zanzibar. If you haven’t tried it before then make it a priority in Zanzibar as the coastal waters are a great place to paddle. SUP uses a surf style board and a long paddle, where you stand up and use the paddle to propel yourself forward. So in a way it is like a cross between canoeing and surfing. In Zanzibar you can explore the natural beauty of mangrove forests by SUP, paddle boarding the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean, where you see this amazing habitat for 8 species of mangrove tree and a variety of bird and animal life. Weave your way through mangrove tunnels to the sounds of the lapping water and birdsong as your guides teach you how to SUP and show you the mangrove eco-system. This is a SUP adventure that will leave you both exhilarated and at peace.
There are many many more water based activities you can enjoy in Zanzibar including snorkelling, kayaking, surfing, yacht cruising and fishing to name a few. So if you are up for a salty adventure then Zanzibar will be sure to keep you buzzing and topped up with Vitamin Sea!
5. Mount Kilimanjaro
Mount Kilimanjaro or just Kilimanjaro, as it is referred to in Tanzania, is the highest mountain in Africa and the highest single free-standing mountain in the world. Its summit rises 5,895 metres above sea level and can be seen towering above the landscape for miles around. Kilimanjaro is actually a dormant volcano with three volcanic cones, Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira. The mountain is part of Kilimanjaro National Park which, unsurprisingly, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is a major climbing destination, regarded as one of the major peaks to climb in the world, Kilimanjaro should be on everyones ’bucket list’ whether you are an avid climber or a beginner as the various routes up can accommodate most climbing abilities.
The mountain is encircled by mountain forest with numerous mammals, many of them endangered species, living in the surrounding park. Because of its shrinking glaciers and disappearing ice fields, the mountain has been the subject of many scientific studies. When climbing Kilimanjaro hikers can choose from six well-trodden ascent routes, which converge towards the summit. The Marangu and Machame routes are most popular, whilst the longer routes Rongai, Lemosho and Shira are quieter but gaining more popularity. The steepest route, Umbwe, is climbed by very few climbers as it does not allow much time for altitude acclimatisation. The foothills surrounding the mountain also offer some great hikes for those that would rather admire the majestic peak from below. If you are determined and lucky enough to summit then you can expect awe-inspiring views of the sunrise above the clouds from the snowy summit of Uhuru peak. Not for the feint hearted, Kilimanjaro is mother nature at her most awesome.
6. Ruaha National Park
Ruaha is the largest National Park in Tanzania, covering an area of around 13,000 square kilometres. It is home to lions, leopards, cheetahs, giraffes, buffaloes and many other wild animals. It is even believed to have the highest concentration of elephants in all of the National Parks in Africa. In the heart of the park is the Great Ruaha River, where one can spot crocodiles and hippos. This place is also special for birdlife enthusiasts as more than 400 different species can be found in the areas of the park, some of them are known to be migrants from within and outside Africa.
Located in the middle of Tanzania about 130 kilometres from Iringa it is a wild and rugged place off the beaten track. So for another wild and uncrowded safari location Ruaha is a must see. The park is also a habitat for the endangered East African wild dogs, which offers a rare encounter, bringing many enthusiasts from around the world to witness these fascinating animals. The vegetation in the park is mainly semi-arid with the iconic baobab and acacia trees dotting the horizon. Ruaha hosts some world class lodges as well as fly camping so it can accommodate any type of traveller wanting to escape the crowds and witness nature in such a unique setting.
7. Yacht Charters and Live Aboard Trips
Tanzania is world renowned for its exceptional wildlife safaris, but did you know that there are also exceptional yacht cruising options available? The Zanzibar Archipelago is a sailor’s dream come true, made up of more than 50 islands, many of them uninhabited hidden gems. Pemba, the second largest island, is still very much off the beaten track and offers some world class scuba diving, snorkelling, and fishing along its many miles of pristine coral reef slopes that descend into the surrounding clear blue waters.
The Mafia Archipelago, situated to the south, has numerous offshore reefs, sand banks, and satellite islands, which also offer some very exotic cruising options. The islands are surrounded by extensive reef systems and lagoons that can be explored by yacht and live aboard. If you come in the right season you may even get the chance to spot whale sharks and swim alongside the gentle giants.
Further south is Kilwa Kisiwani, an historically important position in the area as it was East Africa's most important trading centre between the 13th and 14th Century AD. With countless miles of coral reefs and lagoons, islands and inland waterways, and the UNESCO World Heritage sites to be explored, yachting in the area offers glimpses into the rich past of the Swahili Coast whilst enjoying the stunning colours of the Indian Ocean.
Day cruises, multi-day live aboard trips, dolphin/whale spotting, fishing and diving trips are all available in Zanzibar. With the options of a unique luxury traditional dhow or a luxury sailing catamaran our experienced crews will ensure you have the trip of a lifetime exploring the hidden gems of the Indian Ocean.
8. Serengeti National Park
The word Serengeti is derived from the Masai language and means ‘endless plains’, a fitting description of this magical landscape. With mind blowing numbers of wildlife, large expanses of open plains and acacia woodlands, and an amazing diversity of birdlife, the Serengeti is one of the seven Natural Wonders of Africa and ten Natural Travel Wonders of the World. 1.5 million or so wildebeest and zebra graze the lands along with countless herds of other antelope, while prides of lions, the endangered cheetah, and leopard claim it for hunting grounds.
Approximately 70 large mammal and 500 bird species can be found in the diverse habitats which include grasslands, woodlands, kopjes, riverine forests and swamps. The Serengeti is also the traditional home to the Maasai tribe, known as fierce warriors who live alongside the wild animals raising their cattle. Today you can still see the Maasai people and even visit their traditional villages to learn more about their lifestyle.
The Serengeti Plains host the world's most famous and largest terrestrial mammal migration in the world. During the migration more than 2 million zebra, wildebeest and gazelles migrate, with their recently born calves, from the Serengeti towards the Masai Mara in Kenya in search of fresh grazing grounds. The migration starts with the calving season which occurs approximately between January and March, depending on the time of the rains. When the calves are strong enough to travel and the rains end (usually in May), the animals then head northwest into the areas around the Grumeti River, where they typically remain until late June. The iconic and well documented ‘river crossings’ occur in July as the herds have to cross the Grumeti and Mara rivers. This activity has become a very popular tourist attraction and is on many bucket lists as crocodiles gather in the rivers in anticipation for their next meal. The great migration is an awesome spectacle to behold so think about planning your trip in order to witness it, just expect the park to be busy. If you do want to avoid the crowds then there are other areas and times of the year to witness part of the migration. No mater when you decide to visit the Serengeti we guarantee that you will be blown away by the immense vistas, vast herds and diverse wildlife. The Serengeti is a once in a lifetime destination that we highly recommend.
9. Balloon Safari
Game drives and walking safaris are an amazing experience but have you ever thought about experiencing the wildlife and views from up high, where the eagles soar? The Serengeti Plains is in our opinion one of the world’s best settings for a hot air balloon flight. Balloon flights start early, with the balloon being inflated while you enjoy the beauty of the African sunrise. Board and lift off and you will realise just how much wildlife surrounds you on the plains. Rising along with the sun, your balloon floats in whatever direction the winds of the day are blowing. You will marvel at the timeless cycle of life and death as it unfolds right below you, safely tucked away in your basket suspended in the sky. You will see zebra, wildebeest and gazelles grazing the plains and if you are lucky you may see the big cats stalking their prey through the long grass. The silhouettes of elephant and giraffe will gently materialise from the pre-dawn darkness as the bright sun warms the land. This truly is an experience like no other.
Flights are approximately an hour long, and at the mercy of the wind, no two flights are the same. You may soar up to 1,000 metres (or more!), or maybe just inch along a few feet above the ground. Either way, this is one flight you that you will never forget. Upon landing you can even celebrate with a sparkling wine breakfast set in the bush and served under the shade of a convenient acacia tree, surrounded by none other than mother nature. Hot-air ballooning over the Serengeti Plains is definitely a highly recommended activity, so leave the game vehicle for the morning and hop in a balloon for the flight of your life.
10. Sport and Selective Fishing
As mentioned before, the Zanzibar Archipelago is one of the most famous archipelagos in the world, evoking feelings of mystery, adventure and awe. Zanzibar and it’s surrounding waters are a superb destination for sport and selective (spear) fishing. Combining a cultural and historical location with some of the best fishing spots in the world, with golden sand beaches to relax on after a successful fishing trip. The Indian Ocean here is home to many trophy fish including wahoo, black marlin, giant trevally, greater barracuda, dorado, green jobfish, dogtooth tuna, snapper and yellowfin tuna.
You can enjoy half and full day trips or for a more extreme adventure Zanzibar has some of the best live aboard fishing and spearfishing trips in the world. The reefs and blue water close to Zanzibar offer some fantastic spots and can be included as an add on activity to a bigger trip to Zanzibar and Tanzania or as a dedicated fishing package to include accommodation and other wonderful activities to be had in this special part of the world.
The legendary Latham Island lies nearby and is a excellent destination for a live aboard trip. Our trips even boast several world record dogtooth tuna catches! Latham Island is a flat coral island located some 40 nautical miles south east of Zanzibar Island. Surrounding Latham is a 10 nautical mile by 4 nautical mile reef rising from approximately 500m of water and coming up to form a sand island at it's centre. The island is only inhabited by birds, whose nesting sites make up for a highly recommended visit to the island. From September through March every year, Latham Island is THE top location in the world for giant dogtooth tuna.
Pemba Island is also a great spot for blue water fishing, with some of the cleanest waters and most dramatic drop-offs in the world. It is relatively unaffected by tourism and a great wild setting for a fishing trip. Large schools of yellowfin tuna feed off the island’s southern and northern points due to the upwelling currents bringing nutrient rich waters to the island’s steep drop-offs.The best season for wahoo and large mahi mahi is from July through October while dogtooth tuna are present year round but prevalent in larger numbers from October through March.
Zanzibar is the perfect spot for a fishing trip, whether you are a keen angler or spearo and want to set out for the trophy fish of your life, or you want to learn the art of fishing whilst enjoying some fantastic boat trips with friends and family. Hop on board with us and we will show you the amazing life just below the surface of the shimmering aqua-marine water.
This list is just 10 of the reasons we think you should visit Tanzania but there are many more reasons than just these 10. Tanzania truly is an epic destination for an adventure, with a huge amount of wild spaces, beautiful scenery, enchanting wildlife and exhilarating activities. So what are you waiting for, come to Tanzania and see for yourself!