Facts about Tanzania

Tanzania, officially known as the “Republic of Tanzania” is an East African country located just south of the Equator. Explore the nature and beauty of Tanzania from savannah national parks, forests, mountains, beaches etc. The Tanzanian safari in the Serengeti national park, Mt Kilimanjaro, Ngorongoro crater and several other fascinating nature and wildlife areas are some of the top reasons people visit Tanzania. Birding Tanzania is a highlight for both hard core birders and those leisurely involved in bird watching safaris.

The country became a sovereign state in 1964 after the union of the previously separate states of Tanganyika and Zanzibar. Mainland Tanganyika accounts for more than 99 percent of the combined territories’ total area. The rest are the Mafia Island which is administered from the mainland, whereas Zanzibar and Pemba are administered separately. Dodoma is Tanzania’s designated official capital since 1974 and it is centrally located on the mainland. Its largest city and port is Dar-es-salaam.

Tanzania Geography

Tanzania is 947,303 square kilometres (365,756 square miles) making it the 13th largest country in Africa and the 31st largest in the world. It shares borders with Kenya and Uganda to the north, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west, and Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique to the south. Tanzania is located on Africa’s eastern coast, with a 1,424-kilometer Indian Ocean coastline. It also includes several offshore islands, including Unguja (Zanzibar), Pemba, and Mafia. The country is home to Africa’s highest and lowest points: Mount Kilimanjaro at 5,895 meters (19,341 feet) above sea level and the floor of Lake Tanganyika at 1,471 meters (4,826 feet) below sea level.

Tanzania’s north-eastern region, which includes Mount Kilimanjaro, is mountainous and densely forested. The country also contains a portion of three of Africa’s Great Lakes. These include Lake Victoria which is Africa’s largest lake, and Lake Tanganyika, the continent’s deepest lake, which are located to the north and west, respectively. The lakes are known for their unique fish species. Lake Nyasa which is found to the southwest. The central of Tanzania is the large central plateau with plains and arable land.

The Zanzibar Archipelago is just offshore on the eastern shore, which is hot and humid. Kalambo Falls, located near the south-eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika on the border with Zambia, is Africa’s second highest uninterrupted waterfall. Menai Bay Conservation Area in Zanzibar is the largest marine protected area.

Tanzania Climate

Tanzania Mainland

Mainland Tanzania is divided into four major climatic and topographic zones: the hot and humid coastal lowlands of the Indian Ocean shoreline, the hot and arid zone of the extensive central plateau, the high inland mountain and lake region of the northern border, where Mount Kilimanjaro is located. Furthermore, the highlands of the northeast and southwest, with climates ranging from tropical to temperate. Elevation changes influence Tanzania’s warm equatorial climate. The high amount of solar radiation throughout the year is associated with a limited seasonal variation in temperature: the mean monthly variation at most stations is less than 9 °F (5 °C). Ground frosts are uncommon below 8,200 feet (2,500 meters).

Rainfall in Tanzania is highly seasonal. Approximately half of mainland Tanzania receives less than 750 mm of precipitation per year, which is considered the minimum required for most tropic crop cultivation. The central plateau receives less than 510 mm of rain per year on average and has only one rainy season between December and May. Rainfall is heavier along the coast, with two precipitation peaks: October-November and April-May.

Zanzibar & Pemba

The Indian Ocean contains the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba. Zanzibar is 22 miles (35 kilometers) off the coast of Tanzania, and Pemba is 35 miles away (56 km). Low-lying Pemba is at an elevation of 311 feet (95 meters), and Zanzibar, is at 390 feet (119 meters).  Several ridges rise above 200 feet (60 meters) in the west and northwest of Zanzibar, but nearly two-thirds of the south and east are low-lying. Pemba, on the other hand, appears hilly because streams draining into numerous creeks gullied and eroded the level central ridge. Short streams on Zanzibar Island drain mostly to the north and west. The few streams in the east vanish into the porous coralline rock.

Rainfall levels in Zanzibar and Pemba are approximately 1,520 mm and 2,030 mm, respectively. The wettest months are April and May, with the driest months being November and December. The humidity level is high. The average temperature in Zanzibar is in the low 80s F (high 20s C) and Pemba is in the high 70s F (mid-20s C).

Tanzania Culture & People

Mainland Tanzania

Tanzania’s population, according to most credible surveys, includes more than 120 different indigenous African peoples, the majority of whom are now grouped into larger groups. Some of the smallest ethnic groups are slowly disappearing. This is a result of the effects of rural-to-urban migration, modernization, and politicization.

Today, the majority of Tanzanians are of Bantu origin, with the Sukuma, who live in the country’s north, south of Lake Victoria, constituting the largest group. Other Bantu groups include the Nyamwezi, who live in the west-central region; the Hehe and Haya, who live in the country’s southern highlands and northwest corner, respectively. The Chaga of Kilimanjaro live on the mountain’s southern slopes whereas the Makonde, live in the Mtwara and Ruvuma regions of the southeast. The Maasai, Arusha, Samburu, and Baraguyu are Nilotic peoples who live in the north-central region of mainland Tanzania. Another ethnic group of significant size and influence is the Zaramo, a highly diluted and urbanized group. The majority of the Zaramo live in Dar es Salaam and the surrounding coastline. The Zanaki is the smallest ethnic group and lives near Musoma in the Lake Victoria region. Julius Nyerere, the country’s founding father and first president (1962 – 1985) belonged to the Musoma ethnic group.

However, Asian and European minorities are also present. Asian immigration was encouraged during the colonial era, and Asians dominated the up-country produce trade. They are divided into several groups, the majority of whom are from Gujarat, India. Others include the Ismls, the Bohras, the Sikhs, the Punjabis, and the Goans. Nonetheless, emigration has steadily reduced the Asian population since independence. Tanganyika’s European population, on the other hand, was never large because it was not a settler colony. It was primarily composed of English, German, and Greek communities. During the post-independence period, a slew of European, North American, and Japanese expatriates chose Tanzania as their temporary home.

Tanzania, unlike many other African countries, does not have a single politically or culturally dominant ethnic group. However, those groups that were exposed to Christian missionary influence and Western education during the colonial period (notably the Chaga and the Haya) are better represented in government administration and the cash economy.

Zanzibar and Pemba

On the islands, there are several African groups. Indigenous Bantu groups, such as the Pemba in Pemba and the Hadimu and Tumbatu in Zanzibar. There are also assimilated settlers who arrived in the 10th century from Persia and are referred to as Shirazi.  There are also small Comorian and Somali enclaves. Arab settlements were also established early on, and there was intermarriage with the locals. Asians are a tiny minority.

Tanzania Wildlife Safaris and Birding Safaris

Mainland Tanzania

In Mainland Tanzania, forests thrive in highland areas with high rainfall and no distinct dry season. The western and southern plateaus are predominantly miombo woodland, with an open canopy of trees such as Brachystegia, Isoberlinia, Acacia, and Combretum. Bushland and thickets are found in areas where there is less rainfall. The famous Serengeti Plain, for example, owes its grasslands to calcrete, or calcium-rich hardpan, that evaporated rainwater deposited close to the surface. Swamps can be found in areas prone to flooding. Desert and semidesert conditions range from alpine to saline deserts in poorly drained areas. In addition, to arid deserts in areas with extremely low rainfall.

Because of its historically low human settlement density, mainland Tanzania is home to an exceptionally diverse array of wildlife. Most of the country’s National Parks are home to large herds of hoofed animals, including wildebeests, zebras, giraffes, buffaloes, gazelles, elands, dik-diks, and kudu. Hyenas, wild dogs, and the big cats—lions, leopards, and cheetahs, among other predators, call the country home too. On riverbanks and lakeshores, crocodiles and hippopotamuses are common. The government has taken special precautions to protect rhinoceroses and elephants that have been poached. The Mahale Mountains and Gombe National Parks, located along Lake Tanganyika, are home to large groups of chimpanzees.

Nearly 1,500 bird species, as well as numerous snake and lizard species, have been recorded in Tanzania.

Approximately one-fourth of Tanzania’s land has been set aside to form an extensive network of reserves, conservation areas, and national parks, several of which have been designated UNESCO World Heritage sites, including Serengeti National Park, the Nyerere national park, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Kilimanjaro National Park.

Zanzibar and Pemba

Long-term human occupation has resulted in the removal of the majority of the forests and have been replaced by coconuts, cloves, bananas, citrus, and other crops. There is a bush on the eastern side of the islands, particularly in Zanzibar (scrub). Although the animal life on the two islands differs slightly, it is generally similar to that on the mainland. Monkeys, civet cats, and mongooses are common on both islands. Zanzibar is home to about 100 bird species.