Saturday, 27 December 2014

Top 10 Things To Do in Tanzania

So it's the Christmas period - let's have a bit of a break from dentistry!

A Pride of lions and their cubs in the Serengeti. We were so lucky to chance upon these lionesses just after a kill and they were taking their cubs to the carcass to have a bite to eat!

Some of you fourth year dentists may be trying to decide where to go on your electives in the summer. There are a lot of places to choose from but those of you who have read my previous post about volunteering as a dentist (see here) will know how I travelled to Tanzania last summer to treat patients in a rural hospital in Zanzibar. 

As the cold wintery months kick in I find myself reminiscing about my previous adventures to hotter climates so here I will list my top 10 things to do in Tanzania to help you plan your visit to Africa!


1. Safari

This is definitely the number one thing to do in Africa in my opinion. Whilst safaris can be quite expensive, I'd recommend shopping around tour companies, go for camping safaris or limit the number of days you go.

We opted for a 3 night 4 day safari as we wanted to go to the Serengeti, the Ngorogoro crater and Tarengire national parks. 
The Serengeti is HUGE so most of the options that included it were the longer Safaris.

You can book the Safari before you arrive in the country but we were lucky as we got a pretty safe recommendation from people we were staying and were able to barter down the price too which you shouldn't be afraid to do! 

I think that 3 nights in a tent was definitely the maximum I could've handled and it's surprisingly cold at night time so bring something to wrap up warm!

A baby elephant we saw in Tarengire National Park


2. Zanzibar beaches


When you picture blue waters and white sands, the beaches in Zanzibar surpass your expectations!

Pretty much wherever you go in Zanzibar there are great beaches. I'd recommend Nungwi, Kendwa, Jambiani and Paje.
Be prepared to bombarded with locals trying to sell you anything, from snorkelling trips to coconuts to sunglasses.

Wind surfers at Paje Beach

3. Kilimanjaro


The highest lone standing mountain in the world - you don't have to fully commit to climbing Kili if that's not your cup of tea!

It takes around 6-7 days to climb the mountain and come back down again and it's not as challenging as some other mountain ranges. The cost however was pretty similar to safari so we decided not to climb all the way to the top, instead we explored the foothills around the mountain with a guide who was from one of the villages at the foot of the mountain, Marangu.

Even if you're passing through Moshi, the nearest big town to the mountain, or flying into Kilimanjaro airport you can get pretty nice views on a clear day.

One of the numerous waterfalls around the bottom slopes of Kilimanjaro

4. Kijamboni


A small village a short distance from Dar es Salaam, it can be a nice escape to the hustle and bustle of the city.

Whilst the beaches aren't as lovely as the beaches on Zanzibar, they are still very pretty and were much quieter and peaceful as they're weren't really that many touts about. It's also cheaper as there's more of a local vibe as there aren't as many tourists about.

Apparently it does it a bit busier at weekends when people come down from the city, but if you're looking for more a local experience I'd recommend Kijamboni. Getting there is pretty easy from Dar as there's lots of Bajajis (or Tuk Tuks) eager to take you!


5. Snorkelling


There are so many opportunities in Tanzania to snorkel: we snorkelled on 3 different occasions, at Mnemba in Zanzibar, just off Prison Island and at Pangani.

Out of the three, Pangani was definitely the most enjoyable as the gear we were given was the best and we were the only group in the sea and the coral reef was full of life, whereas Mnemba was full of other snorkel groups and Prison Island was scarily quiet!

Equipment really does make a lot of difference when snorkelling, so either bring your own or make sure the equipment offered is of decent quality.

And don't worry if you haven't snorkelled before, I had never snorkelled before and it's not too difficult even if you're not a great swimmer as you can wear a life jacket!

Aboard a dhow enroute to Mnemba Island Atoll

6. Prison Island


A small island just a short dhow trip from Stone Town in Zanzibar, the island has an old ruined prison but more famously,  sanctuary of tortoises, some reaching so big you could ride them (but as the signs frequently remind you, you must no sit on the tortoises).

There is also a great beach and an opportunity to snorkel whilst you're there.

Feeding the tortoises at Prison Island

















7. Dolphin/whale watching


Whilst there are a lot of companies and individuals offered dophin watching trips be careful as it can turn into a hunting session where one boat spots a dolphin and every boat in the vicinity chases after it.

We saw a humpback whale on one of these trips, but this was all we saw and be warned if you have a delicate tummy - the sea can get very choppy and rough.

We actually happened across a pod of dolphins accidentally when we were getting a local boat across from Pangani to Nungwi which was much more rewarding that chasing after them.

Either way be prepared for a very early start in the morning!


8. Stone Town and Forodhani night market


The capital of Zanzibar, Stone Town is a maze of alleys filled with stalls and shops.

There area great places to eat along the seafront, but my highlight by far is when the sun goes down is the food market that pops up every night in Forodhani Gardens. Everything from the famous Zanzibar pizzas to shwarma wraps to lobster skewers.

So after a spot of souvenir shopping (remember to bargain hard!) gorge on the best food from the locals!

The famous Zanzibar pizzas - yum yum!


9. Full moon party, Kendwa


Whilst the full moon parties of Thailand are infamous, the monthly full moon party at Kendwa Rocks on the north tip of Zanzibar should not be missed!

Make sure you book accommodation in Kendwa in advance as places (especially Kendwa Rocks itself) book up pretty quickly.

There is also half moon parties so don't panic if there's not a full moon for when you're planning to be there.


10. Masai Village


We visited a Masai village called Malanga on our way back from Safari in Ngorogoro national park.

It was really interesting to learn about how these Masai people lived and we were shown around their homes in their village as well as looking at their little school (which was reserved just for the boys) and they told us stories of how they lived for example the risk of lion attacking their cattle or even villagers themselves!

You can also arrange village visits from Arusha and there is a 'donation' that the village leader charges to let you into their homes.

A Masai welcoming dance we were given at the village in Ngorogoro national park


This was my first trip to Africa and it really did open my eyes to what life is like in poorer countries as well as learning about their culture and religion. We arrived into Zanzibar during the fasting period of Ramadam so we had to learn how to dress and behave respectfully in this Islamic region. We had a great time and the more touristic areas were there in case we were hungry during the day!

I hope that those of you who are planning to travel to Africa have a few more ideas of what to do when you're out there! 
And if you're thinking about going out to South East Asia why not check out my post with my top activities when you're out there!


I'd love to hear any other recommendations for what to do in Tanzania from others who have been there! Please leave your comments in the section below!


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