Lake Manyara National Park
Lake Manyara is easily seen from the road that climbs up the Rift Valley, where all safari vehicles on their way to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater stop for a gawk at the pink flamingos. Once inside the park there are tracks through the permanent oasis of lush greenery, with the algae-streaked lake on one side and impressive baobab-strewn cliffs on the other. It’s famous for its tree-climbing lions, and elephants are easily spotted among the giant acacia and fig trees.
The island of Pemba is famed for its traditional sport of bull fighting. Unlike its Spanish counterpart, this sport does not involve killing the bulls, but it is a hangover from the days of Portuguese rule in the 16th and 17th centuries.
The waters off Tanzania’s coast are ripe for big-game fishing, best done from the island of Mafia. Big catches are made in the waters here, including shark, barracuda, marlin and snapper, with power boats and tackle available for hire from the lodges on the island.
Game drive at Tarangire National Park
The Tarangire National Park, only 130km (80 miles) from Arusha and 8km (5 miles) off the Great Cape to Cairo road, is easily accessible but often overlooked in favour of the other northern circuit parks. However, a game drive here rewards with unusual scenery of giant silver-trunked baobab trees, and the Tarangire River is a favourite haunt for wildebeests, zebras, elands and elephants.
Hot air ballooning
The endless plains of the Serengeti (www.serengeti.org) come to life in the early hours of the dawn, and seeing the park waking up from a hot air balloon is one of the best experiences ever. The annual migration of some two million wildebeest followed by their predators, from November to May, is the best time to hitch a ride.
The lower slopes of Mount Meru (4566m/14980ft) in Arusha National Park are one of the most easily accessible places to spot buffalo, giraffe, black and white colobus monkey and warthog – and it is one of the few parks where walking is permitted. The 3-day trek to the summit of the mountain, although far less popular, is an equally challenging and cheaper option than climbing Mt Kilimanjaro.
Mwenge Carvers’ Market
Located 8km (5 miles) north of Dar es Salaam on the way to the northern beaches, this fascinating market has vendors selling their beautiful handmade wares. Many of the items are carved from dark shiny ebony. This is the place to buy famous Makonde wood carvings – the Makonde people come from southern Tanzania and are considered to be some of the finest carvers in East Africa.
National Museum & House of Culture
Located next to the Botanical Gardens in Dar es Salaam, the National Museum (www.houseofculture.or.tz) reveals the fascinating history and culture of this ancient region, and features the 1.7-million-year-old skull of Nutcracker Man. Peacocks stroll the gardens, where there is a striking sculpture in memory of victims of the 1998 Dar es Salaam US Embassy bombing.
Ngorongoro crater safari
At 610m (2,000 ft) deep, 20km (12.5 miles) wide and covering 311 sq km (122 sq miles), the Ngorongoro Crater is the largest intact caldera in the world. Another of Tanzania’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the crater is densely packed with almost every species of African plains mammal (including the densest lion population in Africa). Safaris to the crater are often made in conjunction with visits to the Serengeti National Park.
Ruaha River Gorge
The Ruaha River Gorge in the Ruaha National Park boasts of its unparalleled scenery along its length. Tanzania’s second-largest and wildest park, it is famous for its exceptionally large herds of elephant, buffalo and over 400 species of bird (www.tanzaniaparks.com).
Safari in the Serengeti
The most famous national park in all of Africa is found in Tanzania, and a safari through the Serengeti (www.serengeti.org) is a must-to-do on any visit to Tanzania – especially during the famed wildebeest migration (November to May). Close sightings of the ‘big five’ (lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhino) are almost guaranteed. Safaris can be arranged all over Tanzania, particularly in nearby Arusha, which is the springboard town for safaris to all the parks in Tanzania’s northern circuit.
The Technicolor marine life surrounding the coral islands of Zanzibar and Pemba accounts for the ideal place to try scuba-diving and snorkelling. There are countless diving sites around the islands that are protected as marine national parks and reserves. The warm Indian Ocean has clear visibility to see all kinds of coral, brightly coloured fish, dolphins, manta rays, turtles and sharks.
Selous Game Reserve
For a truly remote wildlife adventure, head to an isolated lodge in the Selous Game Reserve (www.tanzaniaparks.com). This UNESCO World Heritage Site covers an area larger than Switzerland (about one-sixth of Tanzania’s land surface), making it one of the largest game reserves in the world. It is home to a full complement of African animals, and it is renowned for its exceptionally large elephant herds.
Spice plantation tours
As the epicentre of the historical spice trade, Zanzibar is the place for an aromatic tour of spice and fruit plantations. Organised tours are available all over the ‘Spice Island’ (as Zanzibar is also referred to), with tastings and specimens available for sale along the way.
Zanzibar’s Stone Town was the hub of the ancient spice trade, and once served as the maritime metropolis of East Africa. It was ruled by Shirazi Persians, the Portuguese, the Omani Arabs and British colonials. Today, this UNESCO World Heritage Site remains a labyrinth of narrow, winding streets lined with exotic shops, bazaars, colonial mansions, mosques and squares.
The Sukuma Museum, 15km (9 miles) east of Mwanza along Lake Victoria, is uniquely known for its weekly staged performances of traditional dances of the Wasukuma tribe including the Bugobobobo (Sukuma Snake Dance) (www.sukumamuseum.org)
Tracking chimpanzees on Lake Tanganyika
Troops of wild chimpanzees thrive in the Gombe Stream and Mahale national parks (www.tanzaniaparks.com) on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. Both parks have spectacular scenery with mountains of forested valleys plunging into the lake and are one of the few places in Africa where one can see chimps in their natural habitat. Treks can be arranged to follow the troops with sightings almost guaranteed.
Trekking Mount Kilimanjaro
As the highest peak on the African continent at 5,895m (19,341 ft) Mt Kilimanjaro has taunted avid explorers with its snow-capped peak for decades. It’s a hard slog to the top, but anyone of reasonable fitness can do it. Climbs may take five or six days if well organized and it include guides, porters, food and equipment. Watching the sunrise over this splendid summit is an indescribable spectacle.
The ancient town of Bagamoyo, 72km (45 miles) north of Dar es Salaam, was a one-time slave port and terminus for the trade caravans. The town mosque and Arab tombs date from the 18th century, while there are a number of churches and mission buildings dating from the 19th century and later on buildings from when the Germans occupied the town during the colonial period. Pick up a guide for a walk around town and it is an easy day excursion from Dar es Salaam.
Zanzibar’s magnificent swathes of palm-backed white sands allures for a wonderful beach holiday. The many resorts (from simple beach cottages to 5-star luxury) offer a range of activities, such as water-sports, diving and snorkelling, sunset cruises on white-sailed dhows – not to mention delicious dining in fine seafood restaurants.