Tanganyika was originally colonised by the Germans who then lost the colony after WW1 when it became a British Mandate, gaining independence from the British in 1961. Zanzibar which was a British Protectorate until 1963 when it too gained independence and was run as a constitutional monarchy by the Sultan, but he was quickly overthrown in the Revolution and soon after Zanzibar joined with the Republic of Tanganyika to form the Republic of Tanzania.
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The visionary socialist leader of Tanzania was Julius Nyerere, the father of the Nation. His socialist experiments lacked failed for many reasons and 1985 he stood down and back by the International Monetary Fund the new leaders followed a path dictated to them. The country is one of the poorest in the world, but improving.
Historically along the coast there were many trading stations, trading ivory, cloth, gold, food and slaves from the interior. Kilwa was as wealthy in 1505 was Portugal was according to Vasco do Garma, but the arrival of a Portuguese fleet resulted in the trading station being moved to Zanzibar which then flourished. Kilwa, now in ruins is a World Heritage site well worth a visit.
Tanzania has over 120 different tribes with each having their own dialect. Nyerere in his vision for a Unified country made Kiswahili the national Language and now, 50 years on most people are able to speak with each other. Nyerere also managed to unite the country as one with everyone being Tanzanian first and their tribe second which is why Tanzania, unlike many of its neighbours have never had tribal conflicts.
Tribal identity is slowly being dismantled, traditional housing is being replaced with bricks and corrugated iron sheets and hunting practices are being restricted.
The population has grown from 10 million at independence to nearly 50 million today and this is placing a strain on the infrastructure and resources of the country. Forests are being cut down for firewood, pastoral lands being cultivated and pastoralists moved.
For the tourist/visitor there is much to see and experience. 25% of the country is given over to National Parks including the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater and Tarangire in the north and many more lesser visited ones in the south. The coastal towns with their Arabic influence offers a fascinating diversity of life. Zanzibar, Pemba and Mafia Islands offer great beaches and snorkelling/diving opportunities. Mt Kilimanjaro and Meru offer excellent climbs and the Pare Mountains some beautiful hiking. The Oldavai Gorge on the way to Serengeti is the site of the famous footprints of the first human, which is why Tanzania is called the Cradle of Civilisation. The greatest asset the country has are the people who are warm and friendly and have a fantastic sense of humour, but to see this you need to get away from the cities and mix with the real people and eat in their cafes and learn some of their language.
Getting around could not be easier with a fantastic network of local buses, backed up by airports for those with less time.
In the interior you can sail down Lake Tanganyika to Zambia or visit the hilly area near the border with Malawi. The main scenic attraction, for which you do not have to be a mountaineer, is to climb Mount Kilimanjaro; but you do have to be fit (unhappily, global warming is causing the snow on the summit to melt). It is easy to travel by bus from Nairobi to Arusha, the main centre for the game parks, and Moshi, the base for climbing Kilimanjaro. There are services to Arusha (Kilimanjaro Airport) as well as Dar.
Tanzania has a reputation for peace and stability, having got off to a good start under its popular first president, Julius Nyerere. His policy of ‘Pan-African socialism’, based on self-reliance, came up against corruption and mismanagement and has, as elsewhere, been replaced by a Western neo-liberal model, which has left the poor poorer and the rich richer; but this is still a country at ease with itself where visitors feel welcome.
Zanzibar is a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania, follow this link to the Zanzibar country profile.
Ethical Travel Issues and advice
Trekking – Porters Rights:
Mountain trekking – it’s exhilarating, it’s beautiful, it’s challenging. But how many of us could do it without the porters who carry our luggage and equipment? Porters are an essential part of treks. However, they often suffer appalling working conditions.
Porters work in some of the harshest tourism conditions in the world, carrying tourists’ backpacks. Frostbite, altitude sickness and even death can be the cost for the porters carrying trekkers’ equipment in the Himalayas, on the Inca Trail in Peru and at Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. Lack of shelter, inadequate food and clothing, and minimal pay are commonly faced problems.
The majority of UK operators now have policies on porters, paving the way for improved pay and working conditions for hundreds of porters. Look out for the Ethical Trekking logo or use one of our Ethical Tour Operators.
Tourism Concern’s code of conduct has been used by the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP) to develop its own Guidelines for Proper Porter Treatment. KPAP, based in Tanzania, continues to monitor porters’ working conditions, encourage and track adherence to the Guidelines amongst trekking companies, and promote awareness amongst trekkers of companies aspiring to better practice.
Tourism Concern have carried out a very successful campaign on Porters Rights, to learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles on Porters Rights:
Displacement of Local Peoples:
Tourism development has caused many communities to be forcibly displaced. Indigenous groups, people living in informal settlements, or people who lack official title deeds to their lands are particularly vulnerable to displacement or loss of access to lands and waters essential for their livelihoods. This often happens with little or no warning, compensation or alternative provision.
Governments and private companies have forced many tribal peoples from their ancestral lands to make way for national parks and so called ‘eco-tourism’. Fishing communities are removed from their coastal villages and blocked from accessing the sea as hotels are built and beaches are privatised, destroying livelihoods and traditional ways of life. Informal settlements are bulldozed under beautification projects in the lead up to major international sporting events.
To learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles on Land displacement:
Interacting with local people:
Locals are extremely friendly, chatty and generous which means most interactions will be enjoyable with a requirement for a little patience. Tanzanians will go out of their way to ensure you, as a visitor, are happy and comfortable, so it is important to ensure you do not take advantage of this. In many places local people are inquisitive and keen to practice English, so if you stand out as a tourist, you may experience extra attention in public. It is rare for someone to outwardly express offence or upset, as well as frustration or annoyance. By doing this, particularly with a raised voice, it will come across as rude and make others feel uncomfortable.
To ensure the further protection of children, never purchase any item or service from a child, or pay for a photograph. In fact, as in any other part of the world, taking photographs of children without parental consent, for one’s own collection is distasteful. Children can get excited about seeing their photos on a camera or phone, if they insist, make a point of having the photo printed and given to them, and never post it online. Finally, any visit to an orphanage, school or children’s home to ‘have a look around’, particularly if distracting lessons or handing out gifts, is damaging and confusing.
Indigenous Tourism & Cultural Loss:
As we have extended the scope of our holidays into remote places, we now see ‘remote people’ as part of our holiday landscape. Our interest in other people’s cultures is not always sensitive. What are the implications, for example, of tourists viewing, filming & photographing tribal peoples who now demand payment in exchange for becoming models in their finery? Performing for tourists has become an income earner for tribal groups all over the world. But the income comes with a price.
Most trips to mainland Tanzania incorporate some time to learn about local traditions and provide the opportunity to purchase beautiful souvenirs. Although it is becoming more commonly acknowledged that tourist encounters with ‘remote’ tribal villagers are often staged and paid for, such experiences are still in high demand. There is a difference in opinion as to the effect this demand has on indigenous people and their lives. Many dub these trips as ‘human safaris’, where locals are blackmailed into ‘performing’ for temporary onlookers and highly symbolic and spiritual traditions become marketised. This is correct to a significant extent when non-reputable and non- socially conscious operators are used. However, it is also true that tourism in some rural villages allows inhabitants to gain income where traditional methods are failing, and have enabled local people to remain in their areas of origin without being forced to move to the cities to look for work. As well as this, elaborate welcomes represent the pride and warmth of the Tanzanian people and receiving guests can be very enjoyable for them.
The most important things to ensure if you plan to spend time with tribal people are that money you spend (if any) is channelled fully and ethically to the people you meet, that you have time to converse with the locals and build trust, you put your camera away and only explore places you are invited to, and that you research the history, beliefs and way of life of the tribe before deciding whether the visit is likely to either empower or exploit.
To learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles on Indigenous people and tourism:
Travelling presents an opportunity to photograph in lots of different destinations and situations, but sometimes there may be culturally sensitive issues to think about before reaching for the camera or other photo-taking device. There are lots of people in the world who do not have clean water, electricity, schooling or enough to eat, let alone access to mobile telephones, the internet and printed media, so they have no idea where their photograph may end up or how it could be used. Sadly, in this day and age, child prostitution, child trafficking and other crimes against children are facilitated via the Internet, and photography can play an unwitting and innocent role. Photography and its use is no longer straight forward, so perhaps it is time to stop and think a little about the ethics of photography.
Taking photos of friendly local people can be a highlight for many travellers and photographers. Smiles are universal ways to engage, as is showing people the photo you just took of them. If you show an interest in their work or ask them questions, they’ll be happy to have their picture taken. In some touristy places it has become common for people to ask for money for their photos to be taken. Do as you wish, but a photo of someone you shared a laugh with may have a better lasting impression than one you paid for. Don’t forget the same holds true for any porters and guides that may help you along the way. Take an interest in them and you’ll be rewarded with more great photo opportunities.
To learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles on ethical photography: https://tourismconcern.wpengine.com/ethical-photography/
Unfortunately there is a high level of street homelessness and begging that occurs in Tanzania’s towns and cities. This is a result of three key factors: displacement and environmental degradation forcing rural people into cities, rapid population growth, and lack of opportunities or welfare system. It is difficult not to be shocked or moved by scenes of whole families living by roadsides, young children begging day and night in groups and people with disabilities lacking support. The good news is that there are several charities operating to help tackle these issues. It is advisable to do some research before or after your trip to find organisations doing positive, sustainable work and to support the individuals through the charity. This way you can politely smile and say ‘no, sorry’ or ‘no thank you’, knowing your money will be channelled to the best solution.
Mass Tourism & All-inclusive resorts:
There are over 200 resorts and lodges in Tanzania offering all-inclusive stays, bookable through international holiday companies. Large hotels, structures and reserves catering for tourists continue to pop-up across the country. Aside from the impact on the environment and wildlife, the human consequence is huge. Mass package tourism has caused the displacement of indigenous peoples and their livelihood, the exploitation of employees through cheap and unfair labour and very high percentages of each holiday cost not making it into the local economy – known as ‘high economic leakage’. Neighbouring Kenya suffers similar problems, so to read more about these issues, see here, and check out Tourism Concern’s relevant reports:
Wildlife & Endangered Species:
Travel and tourism counts for 12.5% of Tanzania’s total GDP – this is due in large part to the lure of it’s abundant wildlife. The country has 16 species recognised officially as being endangered or critically endangered. This list includes the severely threatened Black Rhino, the Pemba Flying Fox, African Elephant, Chimpanzee, Blue Whale and several species of shrew endemic to Tanzania. The safari industry, as well as international pressure, has led to around 40% of the land to become protected as reserves or parks. There are also many laws governing the conservation of Tanzania’s wildlife, some of which also cover poaching and trafficking. Unfortunately however, not only do these activities still occur, but attempts at conservation and the methods of designating land for reserves are causing difficulties for rural human populations.
There is often a difficult dynamic between indigenous pastoral communities, tourism companies and native wildlife. Built development usually saps natural resources and disturbs wild animal territories. As well as this, farming villages have been required to move out of reserve areas – leading them to re-settle in locations that are unsafe, over-populated or hard to farm. In other areas, high numbers of wild species’ forced into smaller habitats can threaten whole herds of livestock and with it whole livelihoods, through competing for food or hunting.
The most responsible safari will be run within and by a local community, in collaboration with an internationally recognised conservation charity to ensure the best situation for the Tanzanian wildlife and people alike
The most pressing environmental concerns in Tanzania are deforestation (a huge 1.1% of the country’s forests are being lost each year) and illegal timber trading, water pollution and soil degradation due to infrastructure development and over-farming.
Mass Tourism & environmental degradation:
Although the environmental issues such as deforestation & water pollution stem from lack of regulation, education and government support, they are all accentuated by mass tourism. As the tourist trail gets busier – particularly in the north of the country, through Dar E Salaam and in Zanzibar – huge strains are being felt. Improving access to and the capacity of the major points of interest, including Kilimanjaro, the Ngorongoro crater and Lake Victoria has been to the detriment of these areas and their surroundings. Trail erosion and agriculture on the mountain are affecting water flow and natural habitats due to visitor demand. Also sewerage systems (if any) and waste disposal provisions are inadequate and cause further threats to ecology on land, in water sources and in the ocean.
Fortunately small progress is being made, with the Kilimanjaro National Park General Management Plan aiming to tackle the major environmental risks and a plan in place to limit the number of visitors to this, and other parks. Elsewhere, there has been a call to introduce an international body to guide, certify and monitor so-called eco-lodges. ‘Eco-tourism’ is on a massive scale in Tanzania, however there are currently no official standards for what an eco-lodge or eco-tour must do to ensure they are operating with maximum responsibility. The organisation Responsible Tourism Tanzania is making headway in national standard setting.
Tourists use more water than the ordinary consumer. Indeed, the water ‘footprint’ of the Western world, as in our carbon footprint, is very high. There are already serious water shortages worldwide and a prediction of ‘water wars’.
The United Nations has claimed that ‘The average tourist uses as much water in 24 hours as a third world villager would use to produce rice for 100 days.’ Tourists need unlimited supplies of water – they are used to it at home and desire copious amounts on holiday: for drinking, baths and showers, swimming pools, overflowing fountains and green manicured lawns.
But water, in developing countries, is often a precious commodity. More than 2 billion people lack access to clean water and sanitation, and 80 per cent of all deaths in the developing world are water related. Put a hotel near a local community and the pressure on the water supply is acute.
Tourism Concern has extensively campaigned on water equity and have published reports & articles on the topic. To learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles:
The climate in Tanzania varies quite considerably depending on location and altitude, however, most parts of the country feel both a long and short dry season, and a long and short wet season annually. The highest humidity is found closer to the coast and islands, and the rains fall here in daily tropical downpours. If heading to Mount Kilimanjaro, visitors will experience more unpredictable conditions – wind, rain and low temperatures (down to single figures) can occur all year round.
The lowest average annual temperature in most areas is 25c during the long dry season between June and September. Then usually follows the ‘short rains’ during October to December and it starts to get hotter. January and February are a lot drier, with annual temperatures peaking at an average of 30c. The ‘long rains’, between March and May, see average monthly rainfall peaking at 250mm – almost double that of the shorter wet season – and temperatures cooling slightly.
A large part of the country is sprawling plateaux of over 900m in altitude with a surface dotted with craters and salt-water lakes. There are two large mountain ranges – the south-west Kipengere and the Pare in the north-east. Near to the Pare range, though standing on its own, is Africa’s highest mountain Kilimanjaro, an extinct volcano. Further west lies the huge, magnificent fresh-water lake, Victoria, which spans into Kenya and Uganda.
Agriculture is by far the biggest economy in Tanzania however there is very little large-scale farming. Maize is grown all over the country, with cassava in more humid areas. Resilient millet is nurtured mostly in the central plateaux where drought often occurs. The nature of the soil and high temperatures in this area mean rainfall is not easily absorbed and evaporation is quick. As a result crop and pastoral farmers not only have to contend with very dry conditions, but also flooding when it rains.
An arranged meeting with a Tanzanian will usually begin with a handshake, and the hand-holding may continue during extended lively small talk. General greetings in public settings will be more formal but still chatty. Friendly same-sex human contact is seen a lot in Tanzania; however romantic displays of affection are not seen in public. People, particularly women, are more reserved in rural areas, and the highest respect is shown to the elderly. Dress is modest, with shoulders and knees covered at all times (unless bathing), and full-length clothing is recommended in rural and religious locations.
Actions involving human exchanges and food are conducted with the right hand, as the left is seen by many as unclean. Furthermore, if being offered food, it can be offensive to smell or refuse it as this suggests the cook is bad or inferior. If you need to decline an offer, explaining your decision or situation will command better understanding and respect than being direct.
Ugali, a thick, sticky maize meal porridge is the staple carbohydrate in Tanzania. It is served with fish or vegetable stews and often eaten with the right hand only. Visitors will find fresh fruit, juice and vegetables readily available, as are international snack and drink brands. Fresh fish and seafood is abundant in coastal areas and on the islands, and a good choice of cuisine is found in cities and tourist spots.
Outside of these locations variety is more limited, with meat choices primarily chicken and goat. As a result of Indian immigration, curries and chapatti are commonly eaten, and other popular dishes contain familiar Indian spices.
With the Muslim population of the country standing at around 1/3 – mostly living in coastal areas and islands – drinking alcohol in public is frowned upon. However, bars stock popular spirits and local beers, and in some places you may be offered other local alcoholic specialities – from fermented sugar cane to brewed banana or honey beer.
The official language of Tanzania is Swahili – or Kiswahili. This means that the most common words you will hear are the greetings ‘habari’ or ‘jambo’/’hujambo’. English and Arabic are also commonly spoken, and it is possible to get around any area on the tourist trail with English. There are hundreds of other local dialects and tribal languages still spoken in the country. If spending time with a tribe, people would be delighted to hear you learn some of their own words.
If you have light skin, you may hear the expression ‘Mzungu’ called to you or used to describe you. This Swahili word was originally the name for ‘someone who comes and travels around’, and for hundreds of years these kinds of visitors were mainly of European descent. With the growth in tourism, the word has come to be used casually to describe any person with light skin. Although white skin comes with connotations to some local people, ‘Mzungu’ is not intended to sound offensive.
About 1/3 of Tanzanians are Christian, 1/3 are Muslim and the rest follow one of numerous indigenous religions. Those who class themselves as religious are most likely to be stricter in their faith than people in secular western societies. A majority of the Muslim community live in coastal regions or on the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba. As always, it is recommended to do some research before spending time with locals to ensure you are aware of important customs and beliefs.