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About Tanzania

Going on safari, climbing mountains, taking a sun holiday: it is all possible in Tanzania as it is one of the most beautiful, most varied countries of Africa. More “crown jewels” are to be found here than anywhere else: Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Mount Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar to name but a few. A country that has much to offer and leaves a strong impression.

Tanzania consists of the former Tanganyika and the islands Zanzibar and Pemba. The present name Tanzania is derived from the first three letters of (Tan)ganyika and (Zan)zibar. The capital is Dodoma, but the numerous embassies and governmental buildings are still located in the former capital Dar es Salaam (house of peace). It is the largest country in East-Africa, lies south of the equator and is about 23 times larger than the Netherlands. In the north it is bordered by Kenya and Uganda, in the west by Congo, Rwanda and Burundi, in the south by Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia en in the east by the Indian Ocean.

Landscape

Tanzania has an extremely varied landscape, with lakes, rivers, volcanoes, steppe and tropical forest, but it mainly consists of savannah (grassland with widely spaced groups of trees). But this is not all Tanzania has to offer, it also has mountain area like the attractive Usambara Mountains, Mount Meru, and of course Mount Kilimanjaro. Most visitors, however, come to Tanzania for its world famous game parks like the spectacular Ngorongoro crater and the impressive Serengeti. Somewhat less famous, but certainly no less impressive are Arusha National Park, Lake Manyara and Tarangire National Park.

Very characteristic for Tanzania’s landscape is the Great Rift Valley, an enormous rift that originates in Turkey and continues into Ethiopia. It has a total length of more than 9700 kms. and its width varies between 50 and 300 kms. It is from several hundreds to as much as thousands of meters deep. It is therefore expected that one day East Africa will tear away from the rest of Africa. The forming of the Great Rift Valley also created several large lakes, among which Lake Victoria. Africa’s largest lake. Lake Victoria, the source of the Nile, was discovered by an Englishman, John H. Speke. He named the lake after the then queen of Britain, Queen Victoria.

Population

Tanzania still has many small populations, each with its own traditions and cultures. It is inhabited by approximately 120 tribes who strongly vary in size, and have between several hundreds to several millions of members. One of the best known tribes are the Maasaï; these cattle nomads still adhere to traditional habits and clothing. They are known for their typical way of dancing. They jump straight up in the air, the one even higher than the next. The area by Lake Eyasi is inhabited by the Hadzabe. . This tribe is related to the Bushmen and speaks a click language. Song and dance are important for the population of Tanzania. It is not only used for expressing sorrow or joy, but also to chase away evil spirits and for healing.

Religion

Most of the Tanzanian population are Christians or Muslims or are followers of one of the many domestic nature religions.

The language

Swahili, called Kiswahili by the Tanzanians, is the country’s official language, but it is often mingled with English words. It is characteristic for Swahili that every letter is pronounced. So if a letter occurs twice in writing, it is also pronounced twice. For many Tanzanians Swahili is not the mother tongue; this is the tribal language which is spoken at home. Someone may therefore be able to speak Swahili, Maasai, Chagga and English.

Education

Since 1970 education has been compulsory up to and including the age of 16, but from 1985 to 1995 the economy has been doing worse and illiteracy is increasing again. Especially out in the country two out of three girls leave school early. The families are poor and find it more important that their sons continue their education. However, this is not easy because it is often impossible to find secondary education in the immediate environment. In recent years several projects have been started to make the distance in equality between boys and girls smaller.

Climate

Tanzania is close to the equator and therefore has a tropical climate. Dry and wet seasons alternate. The average temperature is pleasant. At mid-day temperatures sometimes reach 30 degrees, but it does not very often get really hot. The difference between day and night temperatures can easily be around 12 degrees. There is a long rain period from March up to and including May (long-lasting showers) and the short rain period is from mid-October until the end of November (brief showers). This makes June to September and December to February the best periods for your journey.

Time difference

In winter, it is 2 hours earlier in Tanzania than in the Netherlands and in summer it is 1 hour earlier.

How to get there

Tanzania has 2 international airports, one in Dar es Salaam and one in Arusha. You can also fly to Nairobi which is a lot cheaper. Twice a day numerous shuttle buses drive from there to Arusha or Moshi for about $25,- per person. This perfect way of getting a taste of African atmosphere can of course be arranged by us. You do need to get a transit visa for Kenya, but this can be bought at the airport and costs about $50, -. Do take into account that the visa must be paid in cash, in US dollars. If you also travel back through Kenya, you will need to buy another transit visa at the border. This can however be arranged quickly.

Money

The Tanzanian currency is the Tanzanian shilling, mostly abbreviated to TSH or TZS. It is possible to take out money with your Visa or Master card at cash points in larger cities, but to a limited extent. Do be aware of cash points not always being operational. It is therefore sensible to always have some cash, in dollars. Money can be exchanged at banks or exchange offices. Other than in the more luxurious hotels and restaurants, credit cards are rarely accepted and also have a bad exchange rate. In general, shops accept dollars, even although the articles are prized in shillings. The current exchange rate can be found on Exchange-rates.org. The average price level is lower than that in the Netherlands, a safari (especially the entrance fees) and fuel have Western prices.

Safety

Tanzania is a relatively safe country, but it wise to be careful. Do consider that the population is very poor and will sometimes turn to small crime in order to survive. Do not wear expensive looking jewelry and use a moneybelt, preferably worn under your clothes. Put some money in it, and copies of your passport, visa, and ticket. If you have the opportunity, leave your original passport, visa, and ticket in a safe, together with other valuable items. Make sure that you have some small cash handy, so you need not take out your moneybelt in a crowded place. Be alert in markets, in public transport, or in crowded places. Just to be sure, take a taxi after sundown.

Electricity

Electricity in Tanzania is 230v. and three-pin sockets are used. It is therefore useful to bring a universal adapter. Electricity falls out frequently, so bring a good torch or headlight.

Internet

Most hotels and lodges have internet access. The larger cities have internet cafes that charge fairly low rates.

Tips

The tipping system is not comparable to ours. Wages are low in Tanzania, so tips are an important part of the income. Although it is not compulsory, the guidelines for tipping after a safari are: $15, - per day for the driver and $10, - per day for the cook. Tips for other guides are about $5, - and for smaller services $1, - per day.

Food and drink

Tanzanian food is no haute cuisine. Chicken or porc and rice are served often. The use of many herbs and spices makes the meals tasty to eat. The traditional Swahili dishes are rather spicy. The national dish is ugali; this is made from corn flour accompanied with a sauce, meat or fish, and beans. Some, but not much, vegetable is always available. Food is often prepared in coconut milk. In the large cities you can also get french fries. Do not eat raw or uncooked food. If you also go to Zanzibar, the Spice island, you can order deliciously spicy fish dishes.

Do not drink water from the tap, but buy bottles of mineral water. Many different beers are on sale, both Western and local.