Exploring Tanzania

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Lake Manyara National Park

This fine park has a stature that far exceeds its modest 125 square mile (325 sq. km.) area, having been a mecca for seekers of wildlife, and for hunters, since safari travel began. Along its western border lie the cliffs of the Great Rift Valley escarpment, and its eastern border runs along the shores of Lake Manyara. Within this long and narrow corridor are dense concentrations of wildlife inhabiting a lovely and diverse landscape, which ranges from forest of tamarind, mahogany, and fig in the north to the wide open grasslands of the park center. Elephant, giraffe, lion, buffalo, and zebra are all to be found here, in addition to many other game and bird species.

Ngorongoro Crater Reservation Area

Ngorongoro is famous around the globe as an echo of Eden. It is a 12-mile (19 km) wide volcanic crater, ringed with towering walls and sheltering forests, grasslands, fresh springs, a large lake, and a dazzling abundance of animals of all sorts. The sunken cone of the extinct volcano (which was a behemoth during its day) serves as a natural cradle for the wildlife, which remains in the vicinity year-round.

Serengeti National Park

The name "Serengeti" has come to represent the safari experience itself, evoking images of sweeping savannas swarming with lion, wildebeest, and gazelle. In the language of the Maasai the word means "endless plain," and the 5700 sq. miles (14,763 sq. km) of park land in Northern Tanzania do indeed seem infinite. Upon these grasslands roam more game animals than anywhere in the world. There are over a million wildebeest alone.

Throughout the winter months of December to March (the best time to come), many of the animals are concentrated in the park's southern regions, near Ngorongoro. During the spring months of May or June, the vast herds of wildebeest and zebra start to head west in search of water, beginning a circuitous migration that takes some of them to shores of Lake Victoria, and others to northern areas and to Kenya's Maasai Mara park just across the border. Virtually every African game animal can be seen in the Serengeti; however, because the animals are more dispersed between July and November visitors should give themselves suffient time to track them down.

Selous game Reserve

The Selous is the largest national park in Africa. With about 21,000 sq. miles (55,000 sq. km), the reserve carves out a huge portion of Southern Tanzania. The immense size of the park makes it ideal for the traveller seeking a sense of isolation, exploration, and discovery. Few (if any) other people will be visible.

Lake Tanganyika

The first Europeans to encounter Lake Tanganyika were the British explorers Richard Francis Burton and John Hanning Speke, in 1887. Beginning on the eastern coast, they crossed Tanzania in search of the source of the Nile, finally coming upon the shores of this seemingly endless and bottomless body of water after months of great deprivation. Though this was not the mythic headwater of the great Nile (it is actually Lake Victoria, to the north), the sheer size of this lake, the world's longest at 446 mi. (714 km), made it a geographical bonanza in itself. At the northern end of Tanganyika is Gombe Stream National Park, where Jane Goodall conducts her celebrated studies of chimpanzees.

Gombe Stream National Park

Gombe Stream lies at the northern end of Lake Tanganyika. The park's forested mountain slopes, which help define the [link]Great Rift Valley[link] are home to chimpanzees that Jane Goodall studies. Though Goodall has invested more time studying Gombe Stream's chimp population than anyone alive, visitors can discover these fascinating creatures for themselves. The chimps are accustomed to humans and therefore somewhat approachable.

Mt. Kilimanjaro

Mt. Kilimanjaro is a vision that has fed the human imagination for eons. Much more than the highest mountain in Africa, it is innately and inexhaustibly symbolic. Writers render it, climbers conquer it, Africans worship it, and at the end of the day its magnetic singularity remains undiminished. Though speechless wonder reigns in its presence, the traveller who witnesses Kilimanjaro mountain will speak of it for years.

Rising 19,340ft (5895 m) above the African plain, Kilimanjaro truly stands alone among the mountains of the world. The huge, solitary volcano is unaccompanied by any mountain chain. Though its size is immense, it also has one of the world's most accessible peaks. People who are in good shape can make the ascent to its summit, Uhuru peak, in a matter of days, passing through five distinct ecological zones along the way.

The lower slopes of the mountain are defined by coffee and banana fields that rise up and end where the mountain's forest begins. An average of 80 inches of rainfall a year make the forest home to some botanical treats. Tree ferns in this region are known to grow up to 20 feet, and giant lobelia often reach 30 feet. At an altitude of about 9,000 feet, the forest gives way to grasslands and shrubbery, and elephant can sometimes be spotted roaming the high slopes. At about 13,000 feet life begins to recede, a result of extreme weather conditions inhospitable to anything more than small mosses and lichens. Once the summit area is reached, three glaciers and three volcanic peaks sit in lofty, placid comtemplation of the tremendous plains over 3.5 miles below.

It is highly advisable to take the mountain slowly. The thin air is a well-known killer of impatient weekend climbers, who misjudge their abilities and ascend too fast. Altitude sickness is common and can be fatal. No climb is permitted without a guide, and there are six routes up the mountain with varying degrees of difficulty. Huts are available at different points along the way, and the final ascent begins near midnight (so melting snow isn't a problem) and culminates with a spectacular sunrise at the peak.


The island of Zanzibar, the ornate and mysterious jewel of the Indian Ocean, was once the eastern gateway to Africa. It lies twenty-two miles off the Tanzanian coast, and it is no accident that the explorers Livingstone and Burton had homes here. Its lush forests and cloistered Arabic alleyways are indicative of all the esoteric wonders awaiting in the continent beyond.

The island has long been a meeting a place of the world. Once the center of the slave and ivory trade, Zanzibar welcomed into its harbour ships loaded with goods from India and the Far East as well as Europe and America. An Indian bazaar still operates on the island today, as well as the world's largest clove market.

The Omani Arabs who once ruled the island left behind white-washed architectural delights that are in great condition. Among them are the Sultan's Palace, the Arab fort, and the Beit el Ajaib (House of Wonders), which is Zanzibar's tallest building. Visitors often remark that a journey to Zanzibar is like going back in time--the atmosphere is that of the age of colonialism and exploration, and the haunting ruins of the slave market are a pointed reminder of the era's exploitative extremes. The slaves would be driven here from the interior of the continent, sometimes over 1,000 miles. On some days, hawkers would sell away as many as 600 lives.

Dar Es Salaam

Little more than a century old, Dar Es Salaam is a relatively modern city that has an old world charm. It shows none of the overwhelming bustle that capital cities often possess, and the name that the founding Sultan of Zanzibar gave it in 1857 still applies: "Haven of Peace."

One of the most attractive features of Dar Es Salaam is its harbor. The crescent bay is fringed with palm trees, and gorgeously wrought sailing craft often waft into port. From December to March, Asian bateels and badane set sail from India, Arabia, and the Persian Gulf, their holds bursting with carpets, silver, and brass to trade at the Indian bazaar. Johazi and Mashua, Dar Es Salaam's traditional small sailboats , come and go all day from Mafia Islands and Lamu.

Another facinating attraction of the city is its National Museum. Some of Dr. Leakey's first finds can be found in the musuem, including Nut-cracker Man and Zinjanthropus Bosei, proto-humans who roamed the Rift Valley over a million years ago. There are also detailed displays that track humanity's evolution over the eons.

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