One of the oldest inhabited areas on earth, Tanzania was founded in its present form in 1964 when mainland Tanganyika (formerly a German and then British colony) merged with Zanzibar (Arab ruled) after both gained independence.
The largest country by area in East Africa, Tanzania’s population is approaching 44 million, with Dar es Salaam the largest city. A relatively poor country with an agricultural-based economy, in recent decades gold and mineral resource production has increased while Tanzania has also developed a prosperous tourism industry. The world-renowned Mount Kilimanjaro and Serengeti National Park are the jewels of this industry.
Tourism has been helped by a stable political system, with multi-party parliamentary government introduced in 1992. The economy has grown above 6% annually since 2006, one of the best growth rates in sub-Saharan Africa.
Tanzania’s relatively well-preserved wilderness sustains great biodiversity, from the scores of wildebeest to over 250 reptile species. Home to 120-odd tribal groups, more than 80 percent of people still live in rural areas. Swahili and English are the official languages (the latter is used more in schools and universities than in day-to-day speech), while numerous local dialects are still spoken across the country.
Christianity is the largest religion followed by Islam, though Tanzania does not have an official religion and prides itself in pluralism and diversity; it also retains a number of indigenous religions and cultures.
The reasons for visiting Tanzania are innumerable, but the main list includes the following:
- Over one quarter of it’s land mass is dedicated to National Parks, Game Reserves and Game Controlled Areas, which gives Tanzania more land dedicated to National Parks than any other country in the world and ensures:
· The finest game viewing potential anywhere.
· From the largest Game Reserve in Africa (The Selous, 19,293 square miles), declared a World Heritage Site in 1982, to one of the smallest (Gombe Stream, with it’s chimpanzee population) and from one of the best known (the Serengeti) to the least (Mahale Mountains).
· The highest mountain in Africa, Kilimanjaro, 19,340 feet (and the eighth highest, Meru (14,979 feet)
· The Serengeti ecosystem (just the Park itself covers 5,700 square miles, which gives some scale to the Selous!) and it’s attendant migration.
· The collapsed caldera, wildlife miracle and World Heritage Site of the Ngorongoro Crater, often said to be the Eighth Wonder of the World!
· Olduvai Gorge - the “birthplace of Man”.
· Very varied habitats and vegetational zones.
· A wonderful 497 mile coastline on the Indian Ocean, and three main tropical islands: Zanzibar, Pemba and Mafia.
· Zanzibar is a draw in itself.
· An excellent climate.
· The second deepest lake in the world (Lake Tanganyika, 4,725 feet) and the largest lake in Africa (Lake Victoria).
· The Great Rufiji river.
· A substantial portion of the Rift Valley, see “Geography” below. (Kirurumu Tented Lodge is on the lip of the Rift).
· Political stability - see Politics & Religion, below.
· Exceptionally friendly peoples.
· English (and KiSwahili) as the main languages.
· Relatively low levels of tourism.