There’s so much more to Tanzania than the Great Migration, including miles of unspoilt coastline. By Stuart Forster
Many travelers head to Tanzania primarily to view wildlife on game drives, but the tropical climate and almost 900 miles of coastline mean this East African nation is also a popular destination for beach vacations. The warm water and colorful marine life of the Indian Ocean draw many scuba divers and snorkelers to chic resorts on Mafia Island and Zanzibar.
With a landmass of around 342,000sq miles, Tanzania is larger than the states of Texas and Washington combined. Travelers should plan what they want to see and experience as the country’s vastness hosts a multitude of terrains and microclimates.
Wildebeest traverse the sun-parched grassland of the Serengeti National Park during the Great Migration: a spectacle loved by wildlife photographers and nature enthusiasts. A glacier can be seen near the 19,341ft summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest point in Africa.
English is widely spoken in Tanzania, which helped attract 86,860 visitors from the USA in 2016; that’s a rise of more than 30 per cent on the 66,394 U.S. arrivals of the previous year.
The long dry season, from June until October, is a popular time to visit. However, the short dry season, between January and February, is an option for those seeking sunshine during a winter getaway. The main rainy season runs from March through May, when heavy downpours are common, especially in coastal regions.
With 17 national parks covering almost 15 per cent of the country — and more than four million wild animals — nature and wildlife tourism remain key in drawing people to Tanzania. That said, cities such as Dar es Salaam offer exciting opportunities to experience local culture, as well as food and nightlife.
Morning: Snap memorable photos of local life at Dar es Salaam’s vibrant Kivukoni Fish Market, where things get going around daybreak. Fishermen land their daily catch in colorful wooden boats. The auction that follows is a lively, convivial affair: wild gesticulation and animated discussions are common during trading. Head upstairs for the best viewing of the activity below.
Afternoon: Drive just north of Dar es Salaam to the open-air Village Museum, where examples of authentic dwellings from around the country provide insights into local customs and traditions. Staff demonstrate weaving, pottery, carvings and other handicrafts, and intermittently perform spirited tribal dances. Hunger pangs can be satisfied with delicious regional dishes from the onsite restaurant.
Evening: Unwind with a couple of cocktails and a seafront meal at the Cape Town Fish Market bar and restaurant. Look out onto Msasani Bay while sipping one of the venue’s punchy rum-laced sundowners. If sushi or a grilled seafood platter doesn’t appeal, there’s always peppered steak or succulent lamb cutlets. ctfm.co.tz
Morning: Take a window seat in a light aircraft and marvel at the stunning coastal scenery of white sandy beaches during the short flight to Saadani National Park. Some operators fly via Zanzibar to the country’s only seafront wildlife sanctuary. Stretch out under palm trees or take a dip in the water where green turtles and dolphins swim. coastal.co.tz auricair.com
Afternoon: Giraffes, zebras and wildebeest are among the many species that roam Saadani’s grassland and savannah habitats. Knowledgeable armed rangers lead walking safaris in a landscape dotted with graves from the First World War, when German and British forces confronted each other in efforts to exert control over East Africa. saadani.com
Evening: As the sun begins to drop towards the horizon and animal activity intensifies, join a game drive around the park. There’ll be opportunities to spot lions, buffalo and hippos. Alternatively, find a quiet spot from which to view the area’s 400 or so species of birdlife: African fish eagles and woolly-necked storks are among the commonly seen species. saadanipark.org
Morning: Follow in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway by heading to the Serengeti, the national park with the name that means ‘endless plains’ in the Maasai language. Vast herds of zebras, gazelles, and wildebeest thunder southward during the Great Migration, then sweep northward after the rainy season. serengeti.org
Afternoon: Board a light aircraft to soar above migrating wildlife, including elephants and giraffes, and gain an understanding of the sheer scale of the natural phenomenon. Early risers and keen photographers may prefer the serenity of a flight within the basket of a hot air balloon. scenicairsafaris.com balloonsafaris.com
Evening: Spend time with an expert naturalist in the Ngorongoro Crater during a safari, a Swahili term meaning ‘journey’. The world’s largest unflooded, unbroken volcanic crater measures around 12 miles across. The densely forested rim hosts a rich ecosystem. Lions and rare black rhinos are frequently spotted at its base.