Vast lakes, the Great Migration and Africa’s highest peak – Tanzania is a place that puts a serious dent in any travellers’ bucket list. Packed with opportunities for adventure and animal encounters, there is plenty to do in Tanzania, and to make sure you don’t miss any of it, we’ve compiled a list of the best of the best to look out for when choosing your Tanzania tour operators.
Safari in Serengeti National Park
Grab a front-row seat at the one of Africa’s premier theatres of nature, where the phenomenal savannah of 15,000 km2 sets the scene for both herbivores and hungry predators playing their part in the ‘Circle of Life’.
Witness the Great Migration
Check the calendar and book your trip to coincide with the army of over two million hooves crossing the open plains of the Serengeti in their annual circular migration. The leaders of the pack are the spectacular herds of wildebeest and zebra, galloping for survival in search of fresh grasslands – while big cats and crocodiles lurk at the river.
Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro
Hike up the snow-capped ‘Roof of Africa’ to the world’s highest freestanding peak at 5,895 metres, on an altitude-testing trek attempted by visitors from all corners of the globe. The trek is difficult to arrange solo, so leave it to the experts for a well-organised and safe once-in-a-lifetime journey.
Visit Stone Town, Zanzibar
Once a trading post of the Middle Eastern slave trade, the oldest part of Zanzibar City is dotted with spice markets and coral rag houses – serving as living proof of the mixed Arabic and African cultural heritage now protected under UNESCO.
Sail and swim at the Zanzibar Islands
Soft white sand and traditional dhow sail boats are the hallmarks for exploring Tanzania’s exotic islands, straight out of picture-perfect paradise in the Indian Ocean.
Spot black rhinos in Ngorongoro Crater
The fertile plains inside this 20km-wide volcanic caldera support a goldmine of wildlife, always well-watered inside the rim’s sanctuary. Spot the Big Five in minutes, including the critically endangered black rhino – that rarely stray from ‘Africa’s Eden’.
Back to mankind’s roots in Olduvai Gorge
Olduvai Gorge is dubbed the ‘cradle of mankind’ due to the archaeological discoveries of some of the first hominid fossils, which suggest mankind’s existence here 3.5 million years ago. The ravine’s museum remembering our earliest ancestors is well worth a look.
Markets in Arusha
Acting as the check-in terminal for many of Tanzania’s blockbuster sites, the city of Arusha provides a place to stock up in the bustling markets before the safari adventures begin.
Reptile spotting at Meserani Snake Park, Mt. Meru
The exclusive safari truck institution offers an opportunity to meet the reptilian neighbours – but never fear, they’re safe behind tanks rather than hiding in your sleeping bag. The park also boasts a legendary bar to get the party started.
Elephants, lions and baboons at Lake Manyara
Game drive to admire hordes of tree-climbing lions and baboons, in a national park that is two-thirds covered with water. This adventure offers a prime opportunity to zoom in on playful bath time with families of elephants.
Monkey around at Gombe Stream National Park
Gombe Stream National Park is the best place to get up close to man’s closest relative. Chuckle with the playful chimpanzees in the wild, which provided inspiration for Jane Goodall’s famous Research Centre.
Dodoma and Dar es Salaam
Tanzania’s cities such as capital Dodoma and port city Dar es Salaam do not find their way onto all itineraries, but the lively metropolises boast unique history and attractions that make both worth a stopover. In purpose-built Dodoma grand architecture mixes with a slow-paced lifestyle, while Dar es Salaam is home to a population more than four times the size of Dodoma – and offers lively fish and craft markets along with a unique fusion of architecture.
Tropical hiking in the Usambara Mountains
The most easterly ranges of the Eastern Arc Mountains offer mystical tropical jungle landscape at its best. Formed almost two million years ago, the mountains premier attractions nowadays are mainly trade towns like Lushoto and the Mazumbai University Forest, which is perhaps the most untouched tropical forest to be found in the area.
Tanzania’s great lakes
Tanzania is home to the biggest portion of Africa’s biggest lake, Lake Victoria, with 49% of the enormous tropical body of water within its borders, while the other parts lie in Kenya and Uganda. Red Lake Natron, which is extremely alkaline due to its high levels of evaporation, is also well worth a visit.
Local village life in Mto wa Mbu
The name Mto wa Mbu translates directly to ‘river of mosquitoes’, but don’t let that put you off the authentic experience of village life that waits for you here. Just remember to pack some insect repellent!
The Galapagos Islands of Africa
Home to incredible biodiversity, Udzungwa Mountains National Park well and truly deserves the nickname ‘the Galapagos Islands of Africa’. The tropical flora and fauna have even earned the park a place as an Ecoregion of Global Critical Importance designated by the World Wildlife Fund.
Courtney Gahan is a serial expat, traveller and freelance writer who has bartered with Moroccan marketeers, seen the sun rise at Angkor Wat and elbowed her way through crowds on NYE in NYC