Bordering Kenya and Uganda, Tanzania is the largest country in East Africa. For those seeking the thrill of being at one with nature and witnessing untouched wildlife up close and personal, this is the ultimate holiday destination. Journeying across open plains which fade over the horizon, deep rainforest valleys, snow-capped mountains, and centuries-old ruins, are just some of the ways hiking and nature enthusiasts will fall in love with this diverse and idyllic country.
Venturing to each and every corner of Tanzania will uncover a unique and breathtaking vista just as memorable as the last. Seeing the land streaked in gold as the sun shimmers downwards, slowly vanishing along with the silhouettes of even the largest animal, is truly a wondrous sight to behold. The welcoming and charming nature of Tanzanians will only reinforce that ease of childlike joy that comes from exploring the many astonishing places awaiting you.
For anyone wishing away the lights and sounds of busy inner-city life for a night under the stars, or who consider themselves a wanderluster of the natural world, then Tanzania should be at the top of their bucket list. Pack up your hiking boots and make your trip as unforgettable as possible by taking a look at our top recommendations for what to see and do while you’re there. Make sure to note down your favorite places in your BUCKiTDREAM planner.
Serengeti National Park
Welcoming over 90,000 tourists each year, Serengeti National Park is an adventure that shouldn’t be missed. This 5,700 sq. mile UNESCO World Heritage Site houses one of the oldest ecosystems in the world, untouched for eons. As you enter from the summit of Naabi Hill, you’ll gaze upon the all-encompassing grasslands and open plains that seem to stretch out across an infinite land. The sights and sounds which travel from predators and prey will enrapture you within one of the greatest wildlife destinations on the planet.
At the very center of the magic that the Serengeti National Park imbues, is the annual migration of over 1 million wildebeest, as well as 200,000 zebra. These magnificent animals travel in herds across the sprawling plains every October to November, down from the rocky terrain of the north until they reach the southern grasslands, and then swinging around to the forest valleys that lie in the west. Often lying in wait, however, can be a slew of predators, ranging from hyenas, jackals, and even lions. A multi-day tour will set you back a dollar or two, but you can be assured that it’ll be worth every cent.
Sitting at nearly 12 miles wide, Ngorongoro is one of the largest unbroken calderas on earth. Its walls surround a bursting land of nature and wildlife. Open grasslands and swamps line the crater as you venture deep inside a living, breathing paradise. 20% of Tanzania’s wildebeest and zebras migrate between the crater and the Serengeti. But the wildlife doesn’t stop there, as over 300 elephants also travel throughout the region, along with the extremely endangered black rhino.
The permanent springs and rivers that run through the crater are the core reason so many animals are attracted to Ngorongoro. This is apparent when spending some time at the Ngoitoktok Springs picnic site, where a whole host of hippos can often be seen enjoying the area. Furthermore, during the rainy season Lake Magadi attracts flocks of flamingos along with over 500 species of bird that can be found in the greater region. The principle route once inside the crater is to descend Seneto road on the western side and vacate by ascending on Lerai road. The crater is open from 6am to 6pm; however, it is generally advised to only spend a maximum of six hours inside, and, if self-driving, to hire a park ranger.
Nestled beside a small fishing village 10 miles south of Tanga, you’ll find these exquisite ruins, surrounded by tall trees overlooking the coast. Found throughout are curious remains of an ancient settlement, including remnants of a mosque, as well as overgrown tombs – the largest collection on the East African coast, dating back as far as the 14th Century.
While Tongoni goes unnoticed by most due its reserved location, these ruins were once an important and prosperous trading center in the 15th Century, led by their own Sultan. The Portuguese came over during the 18th Century, which spelled Tongoni’s downfall. What remains can now be explored by the public with the assistance of a resident guide, Mr. Job Tengamaso. Taking a vehicle along the coast towards the town of Pangani can get you close, with a short walk required to discover Tongoni’s majestic wonders and history.
Of course, much of your trekking adventure will occur while on foot, however, to get a full lay of the land, long distance travel is required and isn’t always straightforward. Unfortunately, driving around most of Tanzania is not advised due to the poor quality of the roads. This can be combated by taking one of the many buses that are commonplace around the country, driven by experienced and knowledgeable drivers. Taxis are also prevalent throughout larger towns, with prices often being open to haggling. To get the complete Tanzania experience, though, flying is recommended due to it not only being the fastest way to travel, but also the safest.
Where to Stay
As the beauty of Tanzania calls out to those daytime hikers and nighttime star-gazers, luxury hotels – which often reside within distant resorts and busy, built-up areas – can be shunned, especially when you consider that the majority of the country’s attractions lend themselves to multi-day events.
The land of Tanzania is a backpacker’s bread and butter, with national parks housing designated camping sites available to all who wander, and an emphasis on budget guesthouses in small towns. For a truly authentic voyage, it’s best to keep on the move.
What to Eat
When it comes to eating in Tanzania, safety should be an absolute emphasis. Produce is often of poor quality and is known to prove difficult for western diets. When staying in smaller towns and villages, make sure all the water that you drink is either boiled or filtered – this precaution also goes for the peeling of all fruits and vegetables before eating. On your travels, cheap street food will be plentiful and is often cooked over an open fire. Several local dishes include Mchicha, a vegetable stew with meat or fish, as well as what has generally considered Tanzania’s national dish: Ugali, a polenta-style dish made with corn flour that accompanies a variety of meats and stews.
Without question, the must-see destination while on your Tanzanian travels is the most famous landmark in the country: Mt Kilimanjaro National Park. This eponymous mountain is a hiking enthusiast’s dream. Sitting on the equator within the most visited park in Tanzania resides this 19,341 ft. tall, snow-capped behemoth. This awe-inspiring natural beacon is not only Africa’s highest mountain but also one of the tallest freestanding mountains in the world, rising from the farmlands and lush rainforests below.
Around 25,000 trekkers each year hikes to the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro. Swarms of keen expeditionists have traveled to Kili since its public opening in 1977, due to its allure of non-technical climbing. While scaling the mountain is indeed a challenging feat for most, it does not require ropes or pre-existing skills of technical climbing, assuming you’re traveling with a guide. Going solo is a different matter entirely, but regardless, it is advised to be thorough and informed before embarking on the climb.
While it can be rather expensive, professional tours proudly boast a 96% success rate. Upon reaching the peak, it becomes easy to understand why so people visitors travel to Tanzania for Mt Kilimanjaro alone. Gazing out across one of the continent’s most glorious sights is an experience few others can match. No matter what words we could possibly write down, they would be a disservice to describing the sensations that await you on top of Mt Kilimanjaro. Answer the call of adventure, and stand on top of the world.
For intrepid explorers and nature’s wanderlusters, Tanzania deserves the number one spot on any bucket list. Why not start on those plans in your BUCKiTDREAM planner today, and don’t forget to share your experiences on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.