If you close your eyes and conjure up the quintessential romantic image of Africa, what you’ll most likely image is Tanzania – the drama of the wildebeest migration along a seemingly endless savannah, the incongruous snow and glaciers of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the iconic and statuesque Maasai warriors, the exotic palm-fringed beaches on the spice islands of Zanzibar – it’s all here.
More than almost any other destination, Tanzania is the land of safaris. Wildebeest stampede across the plains. Hippos jostle for space in muddy waterways. Elephants wander along seasonal migration routes and chimpanzees swing through the treetops. Throughout the country there are unparalleled opportunities to experience this natural wealth: take a boat safari down the Rufiji River past snoozing crocodiles in Selous Game Reserve; watch giraffes silhouetted against ancient baobab trees in Ruaha National Park; sit motionless as water-birds peck in the shallows around Rubondo Island; and hold your breath while lions pad around your vehicle in Ngorongoro Crater.
Tanzania boasts some of the most impressive national parks and game reserves in Africa, and the Serengeti National Wildlife Park is considered the continent’s premier spot to see wildlife roam unheeded across wide open plains. The Serengeti National Park is Tanzania’s oldest and most popular park, and vast plains of the Serengeti National Park cover almost 5,700 square miles.
The annual wildebeest migration across the Serengeti is not only one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, but simply one of the most spectacular wildlife event on the planet. The migration is the lifeblood of the plains, fertilizing the soil, and providing vital protein for predators – without it, the entire eco-system would collapse. A glimpse into the interconnectedness of life itself!
Africa’s great wildebeest migration is an incredible event to witness. Every year, more than 1.4 million wildebeest — along with gazelles and zebra — stampede Lion King-style across the veldt of southern Africa. When dry, cool August descends upon the Serengeti in Tanzania, the wildebeest begin their astounding journey north, following the rains to the Maasai Mara in Kenya. In a single year, these massive herds can migrate nearly 1,000 miles during the largest mammal migration on Earth.
Tanzania has the largest concentration and diversity of animals in Africa, and there are over 1,100 bird species to spot in the country. The country proudly showcases some of the world’s most treasured game reserves, including the Selous Game Reserve, which is the world’s largest game reserve. This is home to more than 120,000 elephants, 160,000 buffaloes and about 2,000 rhinos. Furthermore, the Selous boasts Africa’s greatest concentration of hippos, crocodiles and wild dogs.
The Ngorongoro Crater is another of the most pristine wildernesses on earth, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to being the world’s largest intact crater. On the crater floor, grassland blends into swamps, lakes, rivers, woodland and mountains – all a haven for wildlife, including the largest predator population in Africa. The Big Five even call this volcanic crater home, and it is one of the last wild refuges for the black rhino.
Even further from the beaten path are parks in the extreme west of the country, which offer the unique opportunity to track chimpanzees in their natural habitat on the fringes of Lake Tanganyika, one of Africa’s Great Lakes.
Beyond its safari stalwarts Tanzania has no less than 503 miles of sublime coastline and pearly-white beaches, with some magnificent islands offshore. Known as the Swahili Coast, this was a favored stop on ancient trading routes between the Indian sub-continent and the Middle East. Spices, jewels, and slaves once passed through, bringing with them a mélange of cultural riches that remain today.
Tanzania is not short of mountains either. The striking and snow-capped Mt. Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest peak and the world’s highest free-standing volcano. It is also home to the Chagga people, and to a wealth of birds and wildlife. Climbers by the thousands venture here to challenge themselves on its muddy slopes, rocky trails and slippery scree. The rewards: the thrill of standing at the top of Africa; magnificent views of Kilimanjaro’s ice fields; and witnessing the sunrise illuminating the plains far below.
Wherever you go in Tanzania, opportunities abound for getting to know the country’s people and cultures. Meet red-cloaked Maasai warriors. Spend time with semi-nomadic Barabaig near Mt Hanang. Experience the hospitality of a local meal and the rhythms of traditional dance. Chat and barter at local markets in the Usambara Mountains. More than anything else, it is the Tanzanian people – with their characteristic warmth and politeness, and the dignity and beauty of their cultures – that make visiting Tanzania so memorable.
The ancient nomadic stewards are the iconic Maasai. They are among the most well-known local tribes due to living in traditional Maasai villages near the Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Area. They are most recognized by their distinctive customs and dress, their stunning bright robes, beaded jewelry and remarkable height have fascinated visitors for decades. Many Maasai continue to live as they have for centuries, in interconnected communities without any electricity, cell phones, internet or running water.
Best Time to Visit Tanzania?
Many travelers visit Tanzania to see the Serengeti’s great wildebeest migration. Linked to the rainfall, this stunning migration takes place throughout the year, and follows a fairly predictable pattern, as the wildebeest are constantly seeking fresh grazing and water. The best wildlife viewing months in Tanzania are during the Dry Season from late June to October. The best chance of seeing the wildebeest migration in the Serengeti is during June and July, and the time to see the wildebeest calving is late January to February.
AirlinePros partner Precision Air is the first and only IATA member, operating scheduled flights into the Serengeti National Park through the Seronera air strip.