The Many Faces of Tanzania

The home of the Serengeti and the Great Migration, Tanzania’s reputation is exemplary. But, just like its name, there is far more to this East African nation than wide-open plains and 1.5 million wildebeest.

Formerly the United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, incorporating the mainland and its outlying islands, the contraction of TAN-ganyika and ZAN-zibar was adopted in 1964 unifying in name the extraordinary diversity of Tanzania.

Alpine treks to the summit of snow-capped mountains, exploring jungles concealing shrewdnesses of chimpanzees, brackish lakes teeming with vibrant flamingos, ancient tribal cultures, and breathtaking nights under canvas are concluded with tropical beaches and tranquil ocean escapes. To say a nation has it all may be somewhat overzealous, but Tanzania can boast the title equally as much as any other in the realm of safari travel.

Discover the diversity of Tanzania:

Serengeti National Park

Possibly Tanzania’s most renowned and visited region, the Serengeti is a marvel of the natural world. A Big Five destination, it is also home to giraffes, cheetahs, and numerous species of antelope, but it is one of the largest of these that attract most visitors. The two million-strong herds of the annual Great Migration spend two-thirds of their year traipsing across Tanzanian turf, much of which is within the bounds of the Serengeti, giving rise to spectacular river crossings, and carnivore pursuits.

Stretching almost 12,000 square miles (30,000 km2), the Serengeti is immense, and its collection of camps and lodges enables one to find sublime remoteness in absolute luxury. Here too, one can find captivating Maasai villages and tribal culture.

The Ngorongoro Crater

The vast caldera of the Ngorongoro reaches to the horizon when viewed from its plateaux, its flat plains scattered with an array of life. Bordering the Serengeti, it shares much of its mammalian diversity with its neighbor, with the distinct absence of giraffes, which are deterred from entering by the crater’s steep walls.

The impression of a lost world is enhanced by lodges and farmsteads that hark back to the colonial era, instilling a timelessness in all who visit. Increasing this further is the paleoanthropological site of Olduvai Gorge, one of the world’s most significant regions for tracing our ancestral roots back more than 19,000 years.

Early Morning Sunrise In The Ngorongoro Crater

To truly capture the immensity of the Ngorongoro, few experiences are more impressive than taking a bush lunch on the caldera floor, the breathtaking scenery enveloping you as wildlife looks on curiously, and the impressive mountains rise on all sides.

Chimpanzee Trekking

Where Uganda and Rwanda have their gorillas, Tanzania has chimpanzees. Our closest living relatives are, thankfully, not as endangered as gorillas, but no less endearing to witness in the wild. Their interactions are profoundly familiar, showing tenderness and family dynamics akin to our own relations with one another. It might almost be expected for them to be caught in conversation, such is their acute intelligence. 

From the banks of the vast Lake Tanganyika, one ventures into the jungle, head craned upwards, searching the canopy for signs of primate activity. When the first is spotted, others follow, resting in the branches, foraging on the forest floor, and grooming one another. Guides are alerted of the troops’ locations, navigating through the towering trees to all but ensure sightings of these wondrous creatures. 

Back at camp, the sense of wilderness pervades, suites built traditionally from timber and thatched roofs, and a pristine beach unfolding to the water’s edge. Fishing, snorkeling, and sailing are among the pastimes to entertain when not immersed in the verdant undergrowth in search of chimpanzees.

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The Majesty of Kilimanjaro

The highest peak of the African continent, Mount Kilimanjaro’s perennially snow-capped summit is visible from Kenya, but its base lies distinctly within Tanzania’s borders.

Majestic to view on a game drive, casting an omnipresent backdrop to wildlife photography, it is not necessary to scale the slopes of Kilimanjaro to be overwhelmingly impressed. Within the surrounding national park, elephants and giraffes amble majestically across the grasslands while big cats prowl in search of prey, and the lowland slopes are frequented by servals, hyrax, bush babies, aardvarks, and several smaller antelope species.

Sergey Pesterev Mfx814jtyro Unsplash 2

However, for the more adventurous few expeditions can compare to the spectacular ascent.

Taking at least four days, the climb to Kilimanjaro’s Uhuru Peak is not a casual walk in the woods, in metaphor or reality. Though manageable for a range of fitness levels, one must be prepared in advance. Several months of physical training is advised, and the increased altitude also must be considered.

Guides and porters escort travelers, carrying all but a day pack for their clients’ comfort and ease. Nights are spent under humble canvas in simple bedding, cooks crafting superb meals considering their unforgiving surroundings, and this is by no means a luxury tented safari. However, the striking landscapes of the ascent and jaw-dropping 360-degree view from its apex are more than worthy of the effort.

If this all seems like far too much hard work, the highest pinnacle of the continent is also viewable by helicopter, and from this elevated perspective, its immensity and grandeur are breathtakingly spectacular.


The Hadzabe & Datooga Tribes

Though both are located within the Karatu district of Arusha, the Hadzabe and Datooga hail from distinctly different origins. While the Hadzabe are of an authentic Tanzania lineage, descendants of the Bantu, the Datooga are thought to have migrated from Sudan several millennia ago.

Despite this genealogical disparity, the tribes share similarities in their communal ways. While the Hadzabe are hunter-gatherers, more akin to the San of Botswana, and the Datooga are agriculturalists, their ways of life have significant parallels.

Both adhering to traditional lifestyles, they provide a fascinating glimpse into a tribal culture vastly different from our own, and village visits are equally intriguing and enlightening. Wonderfully hospitable, they will welcome you in, share their culture, and even possibly offer samples of their cuisine or rally your help for daily tasks.

Walk with the Maasai in the Highlands

One of the most prevalent tribes of North-Eastern Africa, the Maasai hold a strong cultural position within Tanzania’s tribal network.

On the elevated periphery of the Ngorongoro, their bomas provide insightful tribal interactions, largely unchanged over the centuries they have resided here. Within the verdant valleys of the caldera, they continue their pastoralist ways, grazing their cattle on the lush grasslands, clad in their vibrant kikois and shuka blankets.

Venturing into the wild, one can join a Maasai escort to explore the region on foot, not only tracking animals and learning more about the surrounding flora and fauna but also discovering the world through Maasai eyes. Hearing of the Maasai’s tribal ceremonies, fables, and beliefs transports one back in time, giving a greater understanding of how the Maasai have thrived so successfully in harmony with the landscape.

Maasai Shepherds, Ngorongoro, Tanzania

Flamingos at Lake Natron

This toxic and remote lake is a foreboding destination for all but a few, but for flamingos, it is a seafood smorgasbord worth flying hundreds of miles for.

Feeding on the carotene-rich plankton of these brackish waters causes the flamingos’ plumage to gain its distinctive hue, and without it, their feathers would gradually fade to white.

This far-flung outpost is inhospitable at ground level, but from the air its lunar landscapes are breathtaking. Visited almost exclusively by helicopter, the opportunity to see this unearthly vista from the air should not be missed.


A Walking Safari in Nyerere 

In the central south of Tanzania, Nyerere National Park (formerly Selous National Park) lends itself perfectly to walking safaris. With its meandering riverways, dense woodlands, serene lakes, and expansive plains, Nyerere offers a diverse landscape through which to amble under the armed supervision of a ranger and expert guide.

Taken at a leisurely pace, a walking safari allows you to observe the minutiae that lie beneath your feet; the spoors and paws of mammals, the plants that sustain them, and the insect life that buzzes and scurries at your passing.

Heightening the sense of remote wilderness exploration, a night in the bush is a stunning conclusion to a day’s walking. Arriving at a suitable glade, you will be welcomed into a temporary camp, sometimes with an open fire or chef’s grill, the sweet smell of wood smoke and aromatic foods wafting on the gentle evening breeze. Accommodation is simple, yet well-appointed and comfortable, and as night falls, you will drift off to the sounds of the bush, either under canvas or, for an even greater immersion, with the twinkling stars visible above you through a fly-net canopy.

Katavi National Park

A relatively untouched wilderness region located in western Tanzania, Katavi is the country’s third-largest national park. Blessed with lakes, rivers, and pools, it possesses profuse foliage which, combined with the life-giving water, attracts large numbers of herbivores and the predators that pursue them.

Zebras, giraffes, and elephants can be seen in significant numbers, while Katavi’s Cape buffalo herds are the largest to be found anywhere on the planet.

From lush flood plains to grassy plains and riverine woodlands, this melange of ecosystems provides superbly varied game viewing. On a single drive, it is possible to trail through different environments, witnessing the particular species attracted to the plantlife taking root.

Throughout Africa, a healthy ungulate population also entices the carnivores, and this is no different in Katavi. Lions and leopards are found in good numbers, but so too are some of the lesser-seen felines and canidae, including cheetahs, wild dogs, and hyenas. A lesser-traveled park, Katavi provides exceptional game viewing often in complete privacy and seclusion.

A landmark of curiosity often visited on game drives is an ancient, towering tamarind tree, said to harbor the spirit of a legendary huntsman named Katabi. Visitors are invited to contribute an offering within the tree’s exposed roots in honor of this iconic tribesman.

Coffee & Gemstones in Arusha

Tanzania Isn’t one of the world’s more significant coffee exporters, but the quality of its beans is worthy of attention. On the periphery of Arusha, coffee plantations take advantage of the rich soil and climate of the hillside regions. A half-day’s excursion from the city center will allow you to explore these decades-old farms, learning of their history and the process of manufacturing world-class coffee. Sampling the blends and brews, one will gain a greater understanding of bean types, roasting methods, and the numerous climatic changes that affect the flavor and body of the bean.

Back in the city, jewelry stores display vibrant blue gemstones, expertly crafted into necklaces, earrings, and other trinkets. Similar in appearance to sapphire, the dazzling Tanzanite can only be found in a small region of the country, and nowhere else in the world. A visit to the mine and visitors’ center explains the discovery, history, and process of unearthing this rare, semi-precious gemstone – a unique memento of any visit to Tanzania.


An Island Escape

When the animals have been seen, the mountains scaled, and the culture absorbed, Tanzania has a special treat in store: the islands of Zanzibar.

Comprising numerous small atolls and four primary islands, this tropical paradise is a haven of serenity, an idyllic final chapter for rest and relaxation. The main island of Zanzibar holds a wealth of history, drawn from numerous African, European, and Middle-Eastern cultures. A key port on the Spice Route, the Portuguese had a powerful and evident influence over Zanzibar’s evolution, but so too did Arabian travelers and the island’s indigenous population. Stone Town is a walk through history, the almost unchanged alleyways and buildings transporting one to a time of pirates, timber sailing ships, and the bustle of the spice trade.

Though Zanzibar Island has its own beaches and shoreline, Pemba, to the north, is far less developed, with luxurious properties providing pristine private beachfronts, a wealth of water activities, and spas to pamper safari-weary limbs.

An oasis of calm and tranquility, the warm azure ocean beckons for bathing, sailing, or snorkeling the abundant reefs surrounding the island.

In exquisite conclusion to any journey, traditional dhows offer unforgettable cruises on the placid ocean, complete with champagne and bathed in the golden light of sunset.

Tanzania is a superb safari destination, but it also holds so much more, with diverse offerings that often entail numerous border crossings and nations. From snow to sand, culture to creatures, Tanzania offers a wide variety of captivating disparity.

Discuss Tanzania for your next destination on a luxurious Rothschild safari.