Africa is rarely thought of as a destination for cyclists; even less so the animal filled wildernesses of the Serengeti. But it’s catching on. Cyclists can cover more ground than walking safaris, while getting up close to wildlife and really experiencing being out in this phenomenal landscape. Plus you get to leave the juddery jeeps behind – and experience a sense of freedom.
Kenya gets all the cultural kudos in East Africa, but there are plenty of cultural experiences to be had in Tanzania – from stalking the Big Five with a Maasai guide, to hiking up Kili with a local Chaga villager or discovering the blended culture of Zanzibar and the Swahili coast. Generally, community tourism has avoided the exploitation of Kenya – but do ask questions to be sure.
It’s hard to compete with the Serengeti, the migration and the Ngorogongoro Crater – but southern Tanzania doesn’t try to. It has its own unique charms. While the wildlife abounds here, the tourists don’t; there are a handful of lodges in the enormous Selous Game Reserve – one of the largest reserves in the world – and even fewer in Ruaha.
Zanzibar is Tanzania’s go-to beach destination, but there are in fact several tiny islands hidden away in the Indian Ocean. The reefs off Mafia, Chole and Pemba Islands offer world class diving – underwater safaris where you might encounter whale sharks. Zero impact ecotourism is the focus on Chumbe Island – a private nature reserve; while Mnemba Island has a true castaway vibe.
The kind of place where you’re going to find yourself humming Toto’s “Africa”; the Serengeti needs almost no introduction. It is the stuff of African legend, the savannah traversed by a million wildebeest – zebras and gazelles in tow – during the world’s greatest migration. At 15,000km2, Tanzania’s oldest park has space for lodges and camps to suit all tastes, plus Big Five game drives, walking safaris and even cyclists.
The greatest journey of all, the image of millions of animals stampeding across the endless East African landscapes leaves people tingling. While the focus is on the annual Mara River crossing, the migration is a swirling circle of wildebeest and other plains creatures around the Serengeti – so your guide should be able to find them at any time of year.
The ultimate way to experience Africa, a camping safari plants you right in the middle of the wilderness – a temporary guest in the home of the African wildlife. You’ll slumber surrounded by the strange sounds and smells of the savannah, beneath the stars of the southern sky.
Zanzibar, also known as Unguja, embodies the image of “exotic”; an enticing mélange of Middle Eastern, Indian and Swahili culture and food, spice tours, and dhows blown along by the tradewinds. Explore the alleyways of UNESCO-listed Stone Town, then escape to a tranquil resort, framed by white sand and the deep blue of the Indian Ocean.
If the Maasai seem too much of an East African cliché, the Hadzabe may be billed as an “authentic” alternative. Many Hadzabe still lead a traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyle and wear animal skins. However, this is not always compatible with neatly packaged tourism experiences, and the vast majority of Hadzabe tours are exploitative and damaging. Choose extremely carefully.
If you want to watch or swim with dolphins, Kizimkazi in Zanzibar is not the place to do it. Tourist boats outnumber cetaceans, and with no regulations they are free to crowd, chase and jump in at will. “Guides” are simply local boat owners with no knowledge of dolphin behaviour. For an ethical – and enjoyable – experience, read our Dolphin watching guide.
With two of its lodges in the top ten most expensive hotels in the world, Tanzania knows how to do super luxury. Comfort is great on safari – but zebra skin rugs, infinity pools and grand pianos (yes, really) won’t get you any closer to experiencing Tanzania – nor will they improve your chances of seeing wildlife.
The biggest mistake anyone can make when climbing Kilimanjaro is to try and get to the top too fast. Quite simply, the longer you take, the greater the chance you’ll see the summit. Five-day routes have a less than 50 percent success rate, rising to over 95 percent on eight-day trips. The biggest challenge by far is the altitude; longer routes give your body chance to acclimatise.
“Jambo!” is the famous Swahili greeting – however, this is slang, and only used to greet tourists.
“Hujambo” is more correct (Hello, how are you?). “Sijambo” is the response (I am fine)