Tarangire Elephants

15 Best Things to Do in Tanzania

Tanzania has it all, whether you’re into wildlife or breathtaking natural scenery. Add history, architecture, culture, and a coastline of beautiful beaches and islands lapped by the warm Indian Ocean, Tanzania is the real deal.

As much of Tanzania’s attractions revolve around its numerous game parks, you could quite easily spend anything from a few days to a few weeks viewing its magnificent wildlife.

Below are 15 of the best things to do in Tanzania. See if you agree.

Witness the Great Wildebeest Migration in Serengeti National Park

Tanzania Great Migration
Photo Credit: Ella McKendrick

Regarded as the Greatest Show on Earth, witnessing millions of blue wildebeest, zebras, and gazelles racing through the Serengeti and Maasai Mara National Reserves, on their annual migration, has just got to be one of the best things to do in Tanzania.

Driven by their need to find water and green grass they set off on their perilous 1000-mile journey while being continually ambushed by big cats, hyenas, and wild dogs along every step of the way. The numerous crocodile-infested river crossings take their toll on their numbers and can only be described as absolute mayhem. Stragglers, the weak and wounded don’t usually make it, and cruel as it may seem, it’s just nature’s way of ensuring that only the strong survive to get to breed again.

The best time to view this spectacle is during the dry season July/October, especially at the Mara River crossing in northern Serengeti.

The great wildebeest migration can also be viewed from neighboring Kenya when the wildebeest crosses the mighty Mara River from northern Serengeti to the Masai Mara. This incredible event can easily be visited as part of a 7 to 10-day safari in Kenya.

Hit the Beach on Zanzibar Island

Some of Tanzania’s most alluring charms are its breathtaking beaches, miles of which are found on Zanzibar and surrounding islands. Easily reached from Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar Island is a tropical paradise, offering stunning white-sand beaches fringed by exotic palm trees and the crystal-clear turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean.

Whether you’re looking for luxurious resorts with all the creature comforts and a vibrant nightlife, or some rustic cottage on a secluded spot where it’s just you and the ocean lapping on your doorstep, it’s all here. Activities include all watersports, with some sublime coral reefs next to the shore perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking, to just chilling on the beach. The west-facing shores offer the most romantic sunsets on the planet.

Embark on a Walking Safari in Arusha National Park

Walking Safari Arusha
Photo Credit: Ella McKendrick

As nice as it is to embark on a game drive and see wildlife from the comfort of your vehicle, a walking safari in the African bush allows one to become part of the ecosystem. Honestly, there’s nothing quite like it! With big dangerous animals, such as lions, leopards, and elephants being rare, Arusha National Park is ideal for a truly unforgettable walking safari experience.

An armed ranger will guide you through forests, grasslands, lakes, and streams, getting you close to many animals, mainly giraffes, zebra, various antelope, buffalo, warthog, and rare monkeys. Over 400 species of birds, like fish eagles, flamingos, pelicans, secretary birds, and kingfishers, are also frequently spotted.

Oh, I forgot to mention the stunning scenery every step of the way, with views of Mount Meru and the majestic Kilimanjaro in the distance.

The best time to view animals would be during the dry winter season when the grass is short, but for birders, the summer months bring in all the migratory birds making it a feast for nature lovers and photographers.

Hike Round Lake Natron, the most Deadly Lake in the World

Situated 130 km northwest of Arusha on the Kenyan border, Lake Natron is a must- see-but-don’t-touch gem of Tanzania. Fed by hot salt-laden volcanic springs, rich in high alkaline minerals called natron, they produce a mass of bacteria and algae giving the lake its eerie Martian-like reddish color.

Despite the water being toxic to touch or drink, from June to November two million lesser flamingos gather here to nest each year, drawing hikers and bird lovers from around the world. Not much other wildlife is seen here as any bird that drops in the deadly caustic waters is soon calcified. Petrified corpses are frequently washed ashore giving the lake an even more haunted look.

Incidentally, natron was the main component used by the ancient Egyptians in their mummifying practices.

As stunning as hiking round Lake Natron is, its deep red hue is best seen from the air.

Visit the Hadzabe Tribe, Some of the World’s Last Hunter-Gatherers

Photo Credit: Ella McKendrick

Step back in history by visiting the Hadzabe, one of Africa’s earliest people and among the last remaining hunter-gatherers in the world.

Rejecting possessions and comforts of modern civilization, they prefer their nomadic existence of not keeping livestock or planting crops. They live entirely off the land, hunting and foraging for their food near the shores of Lake Eyasi in northern Tanzania.

A few lodges nearby and tour operators offer excursions to the Hadzabe to learn about their culture and you can join them as they set out to hunt with bows and arrows or forage for berries, plants, and honeycomb. A unique experience.

Go on Safari in Ngorongoro Crater

Ngorongoro Crater Safari
Photo Credit: Ella McKendrick

Just 30 km northeast of Lake Eyasi, lies one of the world’s natural wonders – the Ngorongoro Crater. Measuring 19 km across and spanning 260 km², the floor drops steeply 610 meters from the encircling volcano rim. This Eden of Africa is home to over 25,000 animals including the Big Five.

Several lodges situated along the rim offer day safaris and spectacular views of the crater. With such a high concentration of animals in a small area, you’re bound to run into some spectacular wildlife, including the rare and endangered black rhino, although no sighting is ever guaranteed. If you’re really lucky you may view a kill close to your vehicle. Apart from the animal life, there is a rich bird life including huge concentrations of flamingos that hang out around Lake Magadi.

With no animal migration within the crater, the whole year is perfect for a safari in Ngorongoro.

Hike Mount Kilimanjaro

Mt. Kilimanjaro
Photo Credit: Ella McKendrick

Rising 5895 meters above sea level, being Africa’s tallest mountain and the highest free-standing mountain in the world, hiking Mount Kilimanjaro must surely be the Holy Grail for visitors to Tanzania.

Although accessible to anyone of reasonable fitness and health, it is no picnic either. Insomnia, air sickness, lack of oxygen, and fatigue take their toll on everyone. Numerous companies offer multi-day treks to the summit, traversing every environment on the planet. Agricultural zone, tropical rainforest, alpine desert, and sub-zero arctic conditions. But what a thrill, hey!

The scenery is breathtaking virtually every step of the way, especially at dawn and dusk. And from the summit, well, it’s just indescribable.

Swim in Chemka Hot Springs

Chemka Hot Springs
Photo Credit: Ella McKendrick

Just south of the Kilimanjaro foothills and only 30 km east of the airport, the clear turquoise waters of Chemka Hot Springs provide the perfect stop for a dip and a chance to relax. Surrounded by thick bush and palm trees it’s a gorgeous little oasis in the middle of the African scrub.

The shallow water makes it perfect for families with children while the deeper pool with its own “Tarzan Swing” provides some extra fun. The water is not really hot, just warm and the tiny fish that inhabit it, provide some free pedicure treatment.

Join a Traditional Jumping Dance with the Maasai Mara

Known for their traditional colorful garments and their unique dancing style, visiting a Maasai village provides an opportunity to learn more about their culture and traditions. If you’re up to it, you may be invited to join them in their traditional ceremonial dance.

Although tribesmen often perform a version of this dance for visitors, most are unaware that this dance is part of an ancient ritual transforming boys into adulthood. The higher the young men can leap vertically without their heels touching the ground, the better their chances of attracting a wife. Go on, give it a go!

See Huge Herds of Elephants in Tarangire National Park

Tarangire Elephants
Photo Credit: Ella McKendrick

Situated about halfway between the capital, Dodoma, and Arusha, the 2,800 km² Tarangire National Park is home to a wide array of animals, including all the big cats, black rhino, buffalo, wildebeest, giraffe, zebra, and also has one of the largest elephant populations in Africa. Some herds are up to 300 strong. A sight to behold.

During the dry season, a somewhat scaled-down migration takes place here. Not as dramatic as the Serengeti migration, but spectacular in every other way.

As with all game parks in Tanzania, the best time to visit would be during the dry season.

Go on a City Tour of Stone Town in Zanzibar

Whether you’re into history, culture, architecture, street markets or just looking to buy traditional colorful fabrics, Stone Town in Zanzibar has it all, and it’s all crammed into just one square kilometer! Once the center of the Spice, Ivory, and Slave routes, Zanzibar was the melting point of African, Indian, Persian, Arab, and European cultures, all leaving remnants behind to remind us of its past, some of which are sad, tragic and never to be repeated.

A City Tour of the historic Stone Town can be adapted to suit your preferences, with the Old Fort, Anglican Cathedral, which was the old Slave Market, various palaces and museums, and for music lovers, the House of Freddie Mercury, all being must-sees.

Scuba Dive in Zanzibar

With hundreds of kilometers of coastline, surrounded by crystal clear water with coral reefs bursting with life, scuba diving in Zanzibar is simply sublime. Shallow and deep water dive spots are found virtually in every corner of the island for novice and experienced divers alike.

Among the rich marine life, one may encounter open-water gamefish like tuna, barracuda, and giant trevallies, while closer to the seabed, giant groupers, parrotfish, and the bizarre-shaped Napoleon wrasse are fairly common. Turtles, dolphins, manta, and stingrays add more excitement not to mention the biggest fish in the ocean – whale sharks.

Take a Balloon Safari Over the Serengeti

Tanzania Balloon Safari
Photo Credit: Ella McKendrick

If you can afford it and you want a genuine Out of Africa experience, there is no better way than taking a Balloon Safari over the Serengeti. Floating gently at high altitude provides panoramic views of the Serengeti while flying low and slow over the treetops allows you to view the game from a different vantage point. And if you’re lucky to witness the great migration, you’ll get a proper perspective of its sheer drama and magnitude.

Lodges within the Serengeti can arrange balloon safaris as well as tour operators.

Explore Mafia Islands

If you want to enjoy a laid-back island retreat without the madding crowds, the Mafia Islands, situated about 160 km south of Zanzibar is where to go. Although there are a few high-end lodges and villas, they too remain low-key.

The main attraction here is undoubtedly the solitude, the picture-postcard shoreline, and the fabulous snorkeling and diving conditions. Crystal blue water, teeming with life wherever you look, with the main stars being the gigantic whale sharks that pass through between October and February each year and the humpbacks a month or two earlier.

The island is also a turtle sanctuary and believe it or not, you can also see hippos here.

See Chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park

Made famous by Jane Goodall way back in 1960, Gombe National Park is situated in the remote northwest corner of Tanzania alongside Lake Tanganyika. Its dense rainforest is home to troops of chimpanzees, as well as other wildlife such as leopards, hippos, bushpigs, and a vast array of bird species. The main stars however are the chimps.

Guided tours can take you into the bush to view them in their natural environment. You could also take a refreshing swim and snorkel in the clear warm waters of Lake Tanganyika.

It may be a bit more difficult and costly to get there – quite a bit more than you can expect to pay on a typical Tanzania safari – but believe me it’s worth every cent and every effort.

15 Best Things to Do in Tanzania

You may have realized by now that Tanzania is a country that has so much to offer. Apart from awe-inspiring wildlife and sensational natural beauty, it also has a fascinating history, culture, and a gorgeous coastline. In a nutshell, it has something for everyone.

This article originally appeared on The World Overload. Featured Photo Credit: Ella McKendrick

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