The name Tanzania conjures up images of wildebeest stampeding across vast savannah, rain forests teeming with monkeys and birdlife, and great plains brimming with legions of game. All of these natural wonders and more are on offer in this exceptionally diverse African nation. Visitors typically visit Tanzania to partake in at least one of the four well known Tanzanian tourist experiences: a relaxing seaside vacation on the picturesque island paradise of Zanzibar, an underwater tour of some of the world’s most renowned dive sites around the gorgeous Spice Islands, a safari adventure in some of Africa’s most impressive game reserves, or a hiking excursion around Mount Kilimanjaro National Park. Whichever of these incredible holidays you choose, you will undoubtedly be welcomed by some fabulously friendly and peaceful inhabitants who, despite being divided into 120 different ethnic groups and cultures, live in harmony with one another and provide some of the most wonderfully exotic local cuisine you could imagine. With all of this diversity on offer, the most difficult part of your Tanzanian holiday experience is likely to be deciding where to go!
TRAVEL, TRANSPORT AND GETTING AROUND
If you are visiting a number of parks and reserves in Tanzania, you can either drive or fly between them. Roads in most of the wilderness areas are in poor condition and unmarked, and self-driving is not recommended. Operators will supply you with a driver who doubles as an informal guide; alternatively, you can arrange to fly to your destination and utilize a car and driver supplied by the lodgings. Elsewhere in Tanzania, towns and cities are linked by a steady stream of buses and dala-dalas (minibuses), and in the cities, there is public transport in the way of buses, dala-dalas, taxis, and, in some places, bicycles or tuk-tuks.
Precision Air run regular services, mostly via Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro or Zanzibar, to all main towns and other destinations in East Africa and beyond. All national parks and some of the top-end luxury lodges have airstrips and Coastal Air operates between these and the main airports on the mainland and the islands of Zanzibar, Pemba and Mafia. ZanAir has frequent connections between Zanzibar, Pemba and the mainland.
Driving is on the left hand side of the road
FOOD, DRINK AND CUISINE ADVICE
Most camps, lodges or hotels cater specifically to tourists and serve Western-style food, ranging in standard, but generally are excellent. Game lodges tend to offer a daily set menu with a limited selection, so it is advisable to have your tour operator specify in advance if you are a vegetarian or have other specific dietary requirements. First-time visitors to Africa might take note that most game lodges in and around the national parks have isolated locations, and driving within the parks is neither permitted nor advisable after dark, so that there is no realistic alternative to eating at your lodge.
Tap water in Tanzania is generally not safe to drink, and most travellers try to stick to mineral water. Filtered and bottled water can be difficult to find you are travelling outside of main town and so it is advisable to stock up. Most camps, lodges and hotels have bottled water readily available.
Please note that, as of 2016, Tanzania has banned the use of plastic bags in a bid to tackle pollution and protect the environment. Travellers’ to Tanzania will no longer be allowed to bring plastic carrier bags into the country. This ban targets all plastic bags that are imported, exported, manufactured, sold, stored, supplied and used.
CLOTHING AND DRESS RECOMMENDATIONS
It never gets really cold in Tanzania so lightweight clothing, preferably cotton or linen, is recommended. While on a game viewing safari, avoid brightly coloured clothing, stick to whites, beiges, khakis and browns. There may be long days sitting in safari vehicles, so it is advisable to wear light comfortable clothing such as short sleeved shirts and cotton/linen trousers or shorts. Denim will become too hot and extremely uncomfortable. Walking shoes and socks will be required.
The evenings will be chilly, so long sleeved shirts and trousers should be worn. A sweater may be needed. These will also prevent you being bitten by insects. A hat should be worn at all times outside. The sun may sometimes not feel hot, but it can still easily burn, especially if it is cloudy and overcast.
If visiting Zanzibar or any coastal town don’t forget to take a swimsuit, as it is invariably warm. Ladies are recommended to take cotton skirts, blouses and dresses. Sandals are a must for this environment! On the beaches and within the confines of hotels, normal swimwear is acceptable but nudity is not.
As over a third of the population in Tanzania is Muslim, it is therefore not etiquette for ladies to walk around in public displaying their legs and shoulders. Remember to dress modestly as short shorts, miniskirts, vests and tank tops will be frowned upon.
CLIMATE AND WEATHER
Just south of the equator, Tanzania is huge and its sheer size means that the climate varies considerably within it. However, generally the main rainy season, or the ‘long rains’, lasts during about March, April and May. Afternoon tropical downpours are the norm – which are heavier and more predictable beside the coast and on the islands. The humidity is high and daily temperatures reach the low-mid 30°s.
The long dry season lasts throughout June, July, August, September and October is when rainfall is unusual, even on the islands. Temperatures vary hugely with altitude and location, but it’s usually a fine, clear sky and sunny weather – it’s a great time to visit Tanzania. During November and December there’s another rainy season: the ‘short rains’. These are much lighter than the main rains and less reliable.
If it has rained during the short rains, then it normally dries up for a few months, January and February, which is Tanzania’s ‘short dry season’, before starting to rain again in earnest in March.