The Tanzanian Trail

An African experience without Tanzania is never complete. Blessed with wildlife and other natural marvels, this country can refresh and mesmerise you

Mt Kilimanjaro

Tanzania is the best country in Africa to visit for wildlife and nature's marvels. It has the unique distinction of having two World Heritage Sites, Africa's highest mountain as well as the second largest lake in the world. Yes, Tanzania holds rich natural treasures that other countries can only envy about. From the majestic Kilimanjaro and wild Serengeti to the wondrous Ngorongoro crater and ancient Zanzibar, it is endowed with the most precious gifts of nature.

Whether you take a walk on the beach of Dar es Salaam observing the depth of the Indian Ocean or stay in game reserves in the midst of wild animals, you can experience the bounty of nature in full measure. Also as Tanzania is much more peaceful and secure than any other African country, you can appreciate its scenic beauty in blissful abandon.

The old capital

Dar es Salaam, the old capital of Tanzania, is a colourful city where there are as many native Africans as Indian expatriates. A large number of Gujaratis have settled here, living in harmony with the locals. Perhaps the "Gujju" families are as much at home in the city as they would be in Mumbai with climate, beaches and bazaars almost similar in the two metros.

Dar es Salaam is a peaceful city; nevertheless, it pulsates with life. As you drive the city roads, you can see locals selling their wares on pavements and at traffic signals, sometimes singing and dancing at street corners or chattering while making a deal at the fish or fruit market. You may also find them rushing to get a seat in a dala dala [taxi] or a dhow [boat].

To feel the pulse of the city, visit the city centre, bustling with people, or visit the bazaar and shop for wooden handicrafts, bead jewellery, fruits and cashew. At roadside shops, you can pick green-red mangoes and passion fruits as well as a variety of precious stones, from coloured garnets to the "Royal Tanzanite".

Dar es Salaam has enough to offer walkers and shoppers alike!

To get a feel of the Indian Ocean and its cool beaches, hop on to a ferry and head for Kigamboni, the little island on the other side of the city. Both the ride on the vast ocean and the drive in the narrow streets of the village will refresh and recharge you.

Even a walk on the ocean road parallel to the beach is enough to make you feel good. Or you can drive all along the beach and combine it with a visit to Mwange crafts market or the village museum. Artisans are seen at work, carving exquisite ebony and mahogany pieces and bargain for a few too.

The Zanzibar experience

Lake ZanzibarVisitors to Dar es Salaam are sure to make a trip to Zanzibar. This island city is about 25 km from the Tanzanian coast and is situated 6 degrees south of the equator. About 95 km long and 32 km wide, Zanzibar is a magical land of stone structures and spice gardens. It is an enjoyable two hour ride by ferry.

Zanzibar's Stone Town was declared a World Heritage Site in 2000 by UNESCO. With winding alleys, bustling bazaars, echoing mosques and grand Arab houses, Zanzibar reminds one of the mystical city of the Arabian Nights. As you take a walk on one of its streets, you will see locals wearing colourful kangas [printed skirts and shawls] and typical topis, speaking Swahili in a musical tone. On the main road opposite the beach, friendly sellers apply "henna" on the hands of tourists.

Close by, in kiosks, bright kangas are available. Visit the museums, which once were the home of Arab sultans, to learn about the nineteenth century monarchs of Zanzibar. The National Museum, the Palace Museum and the House of Wonders are not only fine architectural buildings, but they also unfold the lavish lifestyle of the sultans of yore.

On the outskirts of Zanzibar are the spice gardens. Laid out on acres, the aroma emanating from the spice fields will intoxicate your senses and arouse your appetites. Energetic young guides will take you on a tour of the gardens to demonstrate the medical, cosmetic and culinary use of the different spices present.

They will also allow you to pick a turmeric, clove or cardamom to taste. You can purchase these fresh, pure spices at cheap prices from the stalls put up by the locals at the garden.

Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar can provide tourists with enough pleasures of the land and sea. However, to see Africa at its natural best, you have to visit the game reserves.

Game reserves

Tanzania has 11 nature reserves covering 25 per cent of the country's land. The best among them is the Serengeti National Park. It is believed that 20 per cent of all African mammal population is found here. Serengeti is derived from the Masai word siringet meaning endless plain. It is about 330 km from Arusha, the commercial capital of Tanzania.

Its rugged, vast area is spread over 14,763 sq km of land. It is Tanzania's first and largest national park, which has plains that formed 3-4 million years ago! As you drive through its wild stretches, you can watch thousands of zebras, wild beasts and gazelles moving around; pride of lions sitting under the shade of a tree, and cheetahs running to catch their prey.

If you are lucky, you can spot a leopard on the top branch of a tree feasting cautiously on a deer it had hunted earlier. Serengeti is a great animal kingdom where thousands of animals live and also migrate to fresher pastures of Masai Mara in Kenya. Visiting this kingdom and observing the animals, you are bound to feel like an intruder sneaking into the privacy of the beasts.

Rustic lodges in sylvan surroundings and trained safari guides to take you round can make your trip memorable. No wonder foreign tourists flock to this animal terrain to see Africa living and breathing in its wildest best! The Masai tribesmen who live in the conservation area also attract the visitors with their colourful dress and garish looks. With painted faces, these tribesmen stand on the sides of the road inviting tourists to photograph them in return for cash.

Highland delight

Heading to or from Serengeti to Arusha, you may be lucky to observe the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain of Africa [5,895 m], in the background. To experience the beauty of the mountain and feel its presence, visit the Kilimanjaro National Park. About 30 km from Arusha, the park is a good combination of the static and moving wonders of nature. Lake Manyara, below the Great Rift Valley, is another beautiful sight to view en route to to Serengeti.

Lying between Lake Manyara National Park and Serengeti National Park is the unique Ngorongoro Crater. About 185 km from Arusha, Ngorongoro conservation area is again as much a home to Masai residents as it is to the wild animals. You can find the tribesmen walking around casually, unmindful of the presence of wild animals in the vicinity.

Ngorongoro conservation area is the most scenic highland country and is characterised by a chain of volcanic peaks and depressions forming the topographic backbone of the area. Three of these peaks have collapsed to form a caldera, the largest of them being the Ngorongoro Crater. With a diameter of 19.2 km, depth 610 m and 304 sq km area, the oblong bowl of the Crater houses a number of animals in the grassland at its bottom.

As you drive through the Crater, you can closely see hyenas, hunting dogs, wild beasts or zebras. These animals have merged with their surroundings, moving about in blissful abandon. They only become cautious when humans invade their territory. However, with tourists pouring into their land continuously, they seem to have become used to the presence of strangers.

The neighbourhood of Serengeti and Ngorongoro holds other attractions too. Olduvai Gorge, where the earliest remnant of human habitation was found, is worth a visit. You can have a spectacular view of the Gorge and go around the museum at the top to learn interesting facts about our early ancestors.

Shifting Sands, a little away, is another miracle of nature that has to be seen to be believed! Every year, the arch-shaped grey hill of sand shifts by a few yards but retains its original shape. Climb up the hill to feel the sand shifting under your feet. Is it real or a dream, you may wonder. However, that is the fun of being in wild Africa. And a Tanzanian holiday will make you experience the thrill of being in the real wild Africa!

Fact File

How to reach: Air India and Air Tanzania flights operate between Mumbai and Dar es Salaam
Best Season: December to February
Climate: Humid and tropical
Currency: Tanzanian shillings [approx. 25 TS = 1 Rupee]
Language Spoken: Swahili and English

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