safe travels tanzania

Tanzania, East African country situated just south of the Equator. Tanzania was formed as a
sovereign state in 1964 through the union of the theretofore separate states of Tanganyika and Zanzibar. Mainland Tanganyika covers more than 99 percent of the combined territories’ total area. Mafia Island is administered from the mainland, while Zanzibar and Pemba islands have a separate government administration. Dodoma, since 1974 the designated official capital of Tanzania, is centrally located on the mainland. Dar es Salaam is the largest city and port in the country.


The Tanzania mainland is bounded by Uganda, Lake Victoria, and Kenya to the north, by the
Indian Ocean to the east, by Mozambique, Lake Nyasa, Malawi, and Zambia to the south and
southwest, and by Lake Tanganyika, Burundi, and Rwanda to the west.

Physical features of Tanzania

Except for the narrow coastal belt of the mainland and the offshore islands, most of mainland
Tanzania lies above 600 feet (200 meters) in elevation. Vast stretches of plains and plateaus
contrast with spectacular relief features, notably Africa’s highest mountain, Kilimanjaro (19,340 feet [5,895 meters]), and the world’s second deepest lake, Lake Tanganyika (4,710 feet [1,436 meters] deep).

Mount Kilimanjaro

kilimanjaro crater rim

Crater rim of Kilimanjaro at dawn.
The East African Rift System runs in two north-south-trending branches through mainland
Tanzania, leaving many narrow, deep depressions that are often filled by lakes. One branch,
the Western Rift Valley, runs along the western frontier and is marked by Lakes Tanganyika
and Rukwa, while the other branch, the Eastern (or Great) Rift Valley, extends through central
Tanzania from the Kenyan border in the region of Lakes Eyasi, Manyara, and Natron south to
Lake Nyasa at the border with Mozambique. The central plateau, covering more than a third of
the country, lies between the two branches.

breeding flamingos

lesser flamingo

breeding flamingos

Lesser flamingos (Phoeniconaias minor) at a breeding colony on Lake Natron, Tanzania. During the breeding season some 1.5–2.5 million lesser flamingos congregate in the shallows in dense clusters.
Highlands associated with the Western Rift Valley are formed by the Ufipa Plateau, the Mbeya Range, and Rungwe Mountain in the southwestern corner of the country. From there the southern highlands run northeastward along the Great Rift to the Ukuguru and Nguru mountains northwest of Morogoro.

rift valley

Extending from the northern coast, the Usambara and Pare mountain
chains run in a southeast-to-northwest direction, culminating in Kilimanjaro’s lofty snow-clad
peak and continuing beyond to Mount Meru (14,978 feet [4,565 metres]). Immediately to the
west of Mount Meru, another chain of mountains begins, which includes the still-active volcano Ol Doinyo Lengai and the Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest caldera, or volcanic depression.This chain extends through a corridor between Lake Eyasi and Lake Manyara toward Dodoma.

Mt Oldoinyo Lengai
Ol Doinyo Lengai,{ The mountain of God’s} volcano near Lake Natron, northern Tanzania.

Tanzania: Ngorongoro Crater


bush and forest explorer
Lions in the Ngorongoro Crater, northern Tanzania.
Drainage Because of its numerous lakes, approximately 22,800 square miles (59,000 square km) of Tanzania’s territory consists of inland water. Lake Victoria, which ranks as the world’s second largest freshwater lake, is not part of the Rift System. Although Tanzania has no big rivers, it forms the divide from which the three great rivers of the African continent rise—the Nile, the Congo, and the Zambezi, which flow to the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Indian Ocean, respectively. Separated by the central plateau, the watersheds of these rivers do not meet.

All of Tanzania’s major rivers

  •  Ruvuma
  • Rufiji, 
  • Wami, 
  • Pangani

Drain into the Indian Ocean. The largest, the Rufiji River, has a drainage system that extends over most of southern mainland Tanzania. The Kagera River flows into Lake Victoria, whereas other minor rivers flow into internal basins formed by the Great Rift Valley. With so many rivers, mainland Tanzania is rich in hydroelectricity potential.


The variety of soils in mainland Tanzania surpasses that of any other country in Africa. The
reddish brown soils of volcanic origin in the highland areas are the most fertile. Many river
basins also have fertile soils, but they are subject to flooding and require drainage control. The red and yellow tropical loams of the interior plateaus, on the other hand, are of moderate-to-poor fertility. In these regions, high temperatures and low rainfall encourage rapid rates of oxidation, which result in a low humus content in the soil and, consequently, a clayey texture rather than the desired crumblike structure of temperate soils. Also, tropical downpours, often short in duration but very intense, compact the soil; this causes drainage problems and leaches the soil of nutrients.


Mainland Tanzania can be divided into four principal climactic and topographic areas: the hot and humid coastal lowlands of the Indian Ocean shoreline, the hot and arid zone of the broadcentral plateau, the high inland mountain and lake region of the northern border, where Mount Kilimanjaro is situated, and the highlands of the northeast and southwest, the climates of which range from tropical to temperate. Tanzania’s warm equatorial climate is modified by variations in elevation.

The high amount of solar radiation throughout the year is associated with a limited
seasonal fluctuation of temperature: the mean monthly variation is less than 9 °F (5 °C) at most stations. Ground frosts rarely occur below 8,200 feet (2,500 meters).
Rainfall is highly seasonal, being influenced greatly by the annual migration of the intertropical convergence zone. Roughly half of mainland Tanzania receives less than 30 inches (750 mm) of precipitation annually, an amount considered to be the minimum required for most forms of crop cultivation in the tropics. The central plateau, which receives less than 20 inches (510 mm)
per year on average, is the driest area and experiences a single rainy season between December and May. Precipitation is heavier on the coast, where there are two peaks of precipitation:
October–November and April–May. The offshore islands and many highland areas have high
annual precipitation totals of more than 60 inches (1,520 mm).

Plant and animal life

Forests grow in the highland areas where there are high levels of precipitation and no marked dry season. The western and southern plateaus are primarily miombo woodland, consisting of an open cover of trees, notably Brachystegia, Isoberlinia, Acacia, and Combretum. In areas of less precipitation, bushland and thicket are found. In the floodplain areas, wooded grassland with a canopy cover of less than one-half has been created by poor drainage and by the practice of burning for agriculture and animal grazing. Similarly, grassland appears where there is a lack of good drainage. For example, the famous Serengeti Plain owes its grasslands to a calcrete,
or calcium-rich hardpan, deposited close to the surface by evaporated rainwater. Swamps are found in areas of perennial flooding.

Desert and semidesert conditions range from an alpine type at high elevations to saline deserts in poorly drained areas and arid deserts in areas of extremely
low precipitation.



A giraffe browsing on the leaves of an acacia tree, Tanzania.
Because of the historically low density of human settlement, mainland Tanzania is home to an exceptionally rich array of wildlife. Large herds of hoofed animalswildebeests, zebras, giraffes,
buffalo, gazelles, elands, dik-diks, and kudu—are found in most of the country’s numerous game parks. Predators include hyenas, wild dogs, and the big cats—lions, leopards, and cheetahs. Crocodiles and hippopotamuses are common on riverbanks and lakeshores. The government has taken special measures to protect rhinoceroses and elephants, which have fallen victim to poachers. Small bands of chimpanzees inhabit Gombe National Park along Lake Tanganyika.
Nearly 1,500 varieties of birds have been reported, and there are numerous species of snakes
and lizards. In all, about one-fourth of Tanzania’s land has been set aside to form an extensive
network of reserves, conservation areas, and national parks, a number of which—including
Serengeti National Park, the Selous Game Reserve, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and
Kilimanjaro National Park—have been designated UNESCO World Heritage sites.




A young chimpanzee using a stem as a tool to remove termites from a termite mound, Gombe
National Park, Tanzania.



tanzania flag


Jamhuri ya Muungano wa Tanzania (Swahili); United Republic of Tanzania (English)


unitary multiparty republic with one legislative house (National Assembly [3931])


President: Samia Suluhu Hassan




Swahili; English




Tanzanian shilling (TZS)


(2020 est.) 57,797,000


(2019) 25








(2018) 153.3


(2018) 59.2


Urban: (2018) 33.8%
Rural: (2018) 66.2%


Male: (2017) 61.2 years
Female: (2017) 64.1 years


Tanzania has the largest animal population density out of any country in the world. That is, there are more animals per square mile of land in Tanzania than in any other country.
Tanzania is home to the famed Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa, with its summit at 19,340 feet (5,895 meters). A little more than two of the U.S. state of California can fit within Tanzania, as it is the largest
country in East Africa.
Tanzania experiences some of the most luminescent moons in the world, often so bright that
flashlights are not necessary for people to see at night.
Tanzania is divided roughly into thirds between practitioners of folk religion, Christians, and
Muslims (many of whom live on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar). Currently, the largest religious
denomination in Tanzania is Roman Catholic Christianity, followed by Protestant Christianity,
Sunni Islam, and Shia Islam.

Zanzibar and Pemba

things to do in zanzibar stone town
Relief and drainage
The islands of Zanzibar and Pemba are located in the Indian Ocean. Zanzibar is 22 miles (35 km) off the coast of mainland Tanzania; Pemba, 35 miles (56 km). Low-lying Pemba, whose highest point reaches an elevation of 311 feet (95 meters), and Zanzibar, which reaches 390 feet (119 meters), are islands whose structure consists of coralline rocks. The west and northwest of Zanzibar consist of several ridges rising above 200 feet (60 meters), but nearly two-thirds of the south and east are low-lying. Pemba appears hilly because the level central ridge has been gullied and eroded by streams draining into numerous creeks. On Zanzibar Island short streams drain mostly to the north and west. The few streams in the east disappear into the porous
coralline rock.


Among the 10 types of soils recognized in Zanzibar are fertile sandy loams and deep red earths, which occur on high ground; on valley bottoms, less-fertile gray and yellow sandy soils are found. The eight soil types in Pemba include brown loams; pockets of infertile sands are found on the plains.


Zanzibar and Pemba have precipitation levels of about 60 inches (1,520 mm) and 80 inches
(2,030 mm), respectively. Precipitation levels are highest in April and May and lowest in
November and December. Humidity is high. The average temperature is in the low 80s F (high 20s C) in Zanzibar and the high 70s F (mid-20s C) in Pemba; the annual temperature ranges are small.

Plant and animal life

les meilleures activites a faire en tanzanie
Long-term human occupation has resulted in the clearance of most of the forests, which have been replaced with coconuts, cloves, bananas, citrus, and other crops. On the eastern side of the islands, especially on Zanzibar, there is bush (scrub).
Although there is some difference between the animal life of the two islands, it is generally
similar to that on the mainland. Animal life common to both islands includes monkeys, civet
cats, and mongooses. More than 100 species of birds have been recorded in Zanzibar.


Tanzania mainland Ethnic groups According to most reputable surveys, Tanzania’s population includes more than 120 different indigenous African peoples, most of whom are today clustered into larger groupings. Because of the effects of rural-to-urban migration, modernization, and politicization, some of the smallest ethnic groups are gradually disappearing.
As early as 5000 BCE, San-type hunting bands inhabited the country. The Sandawe hunters
of northern mainland Tanzania are thought to be their descendants. By 1000 BCE, agriculture
and pastoral practices were being introduced through the migration of Cushitic people from
Ethiopia . The Iraqw, the Mbugu, the Gorowa, and the Burungi have Cushitic origins. About 500 CE, iron-using Bantu agriculturalists arriving from the west and south started displacing or absorbing the San hunters and gatherers; at roughly the same time, Nilotic pastoralists entered Cthe area from the southern Sudan.

Today the majority of Tanzanians are of Bantu descent; the Sukuma—who live in the north of
the country, south of Lake Victoria—constitute the largest group. Other Bantu peoples include the Nyamwezi, concentrated in the west-central region; the Hehe and the Haya, located in the country’s southern highlands and its northwest corner, respectively; the Chaga of the Kilimanjaro region, who inhabit the mountain’s southern slopes; and the Makonde, who reside in the Mtwara and Ruvuma regions of the southeast. Nilotic peoples—represented by the Maasai, the Arusha,
the Samburu, and the Baraguyu—live in the north-central area of mainland Tanzania.

The Zaramo,a highly diluted and urbanized group, constitute another ethnic group of considerable size and influence. The majority of the Zaramo live in the environs of Dar es Salaam and the adjacent coastline. The Zanaki—the ethnic group smallest in number—dwell near Musoma in the Lake Victoria region. Julius Nyerere, the country’s founding father and first president (1962–85), came from this group.