Tanzania is home to Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, and is one of Africa’s most popular safari destinations. Most visitors will find themselves passing through Dar es Salaam and heading out on safaris and various wildlife viewing adventures. For those who want to take a break and spend some time soaking up the sun, the beautiful white sandy beaches of Zanzibar beckon. Here are some of the most unforgettable tourist attractions in Tanzania
Ruaha National Park
Located in the middle of Tanzania, the Ruaha National Park is the largest national park in the country. The park is named after the Hehe word “ruvaha,” meaning “river.” Filled with wild dogs, lions, leopards, elephants, cheetah, giraffes, zebras, impala, bat eared foxes and jackals, the park offers visitors an opportunity to get up close and personal with nature. Due to the parks somewhat rnemote location visitors can enjoy viewing the wildlife without competing with hordes of other tourists.
Lake Victoria is the largest freshwater lake in Africa and is bordered by Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. This lake is the source of the White Nile and provides an income for millions of residents along its shores. The Tanzanian section of Lake Victoria is one of the least visited regions in the country, however the towns of Bukoba, Musoma and Mwanza have a number of attractions. Near Mwanza and Musoma are many islands, some have become wildlife sanctuaries. Bird watching and fishing trips are popular excursions, and boat trips or hikes can be arranged around Lake Victoria.
Mount Kilimanjaro is an inactive volcano in north-eastern Tanzania, near the border with Kenya. At 5,892 meters (19,331 feet) above sea level, Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest peak and the world’s highest free-standing mountain. Although positioned close to the equator, Mount Kilimanjaro is famous for its snow-capped peak looming over the plains of the savannah. The mountain has become a major tourist attraction for mountaineers and trekkers from around the world.
In the wet season Lake Manyara is home to almost 300 different species of migratory birds, including thousands of flamingos. In the dry season, alkaline mud-flats take the place of the waters. This is the best time to see large mammals such as hippos, elephants, wildebeest and giraffe. A number of safari lodges provide tourists with lodging and day and night safaris to see the wildlife.
The island of Unguja, part of Zanzibar, makes up the final Spice Island. Once part of the British Empire, today Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania. The African island has been for centuries an important trading center, a melting pot of African, Indian and Arab influences. Zanzibar’s major tourist attraction is Stone Town, with its whitewashed coral rag houses. This island has some of the best beaches in the world with varying surf depending on what side of the island you are on. Visitors will find soft white sand and clear water
Serengeti National Park
Serengeti National Park is among the best-known big game safari destinations in Africa and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Tanzania. It is famous for its annual wildlife migration of wildebeest and zebra. One of the best times to visit the park is in May when the grass becomes dry and exhausted and the wildebeest and zebra start to mass in huge armies offering a spectacular wildlife show.
Mafia Island Marine Park
Mafia Island draws divers and snorkelers from around the world to the undersea world protected by the Mafia Island Marine Park. The best months for diving are October to March but the best weather on Mafia Island is May to October, March and April are months of heavy rain. Mafia Island Marine Park has excellent coral gardens, an abundant variety of fish and a relaxed diving atmosphere. Countless birds and over 400 species of fish can be seen in the area. Mafia Island is also a traditional breeding site for the green turtle, which are unfortunately close to extinction.
Mafia is also a desirable location for deep-sea fishing, especially tuna, marlin, sailfish and other big-game fish.This island paradise first saw settlers in the 8th or 9th C, but Mafia became a more important settlement during the 12th to 14th C when it held a key position in the East African trading routes.
Pemba Island is the northernmost island in the Zanzibar archipelago. Around Pemba are many desert islands and some of the best scuba diving in the Indian Ocean, with visibility that is unparalleled. Lush coral gardens, colorful sponges and sea fans are all found in the underwater haven. The city of Chake Chake, the main population center on Pemba, is a popular base for scuba divers.
Pemba is less visited than Zanzibar and as a result has a more laid back atmosphere. From December to February visitors can watch traditional bullfighting; a sign from the days of Portuguese dominance in the 16th and 17th C. The island is hilly with deep valleys so it has become popular with mountain bikers who are drawn to the 1,000-meter peaks.
Stone Town is the cultural heart of Zanzibar and little has changed in the last 200 years. The grand old Arabian homes lining the narrow streets and winding alleys give the city its own unique charm. The majority of homes in Stone Town were built in the 19th C when Zanzibar was one of the most important Swahili trading towns in the Indian Ocean. Visitors will notice the bras-studded, intricately carved wooden doors on many of the houses.
As the world’s oldest functioning Swahili city, many of the landmarks in Stone Town have been restored to their original glory. Some of the historic buildings are now museums which can be visited. The town also has a couple of interesting old churches of historical significance. A walk along Creek Road takes visitors to the original Stone Town area and the location of the Central Darajani Market, Beit el-Amani, City Hall, and the Anglican Cathedral.
Other national parks tourist attractions in Tanzania include…
Arusha National Park
Gombe Stream National Park
Katavi National Park
Kitulo National Park
Tarangire National Park
Mahale Mountains National Park
Lake Manyara National Park
Mikumi National Park
Mkomazi National Park
Rubondo Island National Park
Saadani National Park
Udzungwa National Park