Tanzania’s wild places are still gloriously wild. Roads run through them, of course, and they are spotted with campgrounds and lodges. But mostly the wildlife has these places to itself: huge herds of elephants and wildebeests, flocks of flamingos, silent families of giraffes, noisy packs of wild dogs. Lions have no trouble finding lunch; zebras skitter about, worried they’ll be lunch; vultures wait to clean up.
The wild remains wild because it is protected. An estimated 28% of Tanzania is designated as national parks and game reserves—from the Serengeti in the north, which sweeps uninterrupted from neighboring Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve, to Selous in the south, with its long distances and large variety of animals.
No area is more protected, by geography as well as by permit, than the Ngorongoro Crater, whose steep walls create a separate ecosystem with its own representative collection of animals. Combined, the crater, Serengeti and the Masai Mara represent one of the world’s most important ecosystems, and it is estimated that some 3 million large animals inhabit this region. Many of them move around the plains of East Africa on the annual wildebeest migration, the largest movement of animals on Earth.
Because these spaces are protected—and because they are so wild—the best way to see them is by guided tour, locally known as safari, which means journey in Swahili. Even the most adventurous traveler will benefit from the guides’ expertise: They know where the animals are, and they can take care of entry to the parks quickly and efficiently.
Although most visitors spend their time in the wildlife areas, travelers should make time for Tanzania’s other attractions as well. The country boasts Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa and the highest mountain in the world that can simply be walked up. There are white-sand beaches on the Indian Ocean along the mainland coast. Then there are the impossibly exotic, evocative islands of the Zanzibar Archipelago, with their intriguing culture, architecture, watersports and wide range of beach accommodations. Tanzania’s smaller, lesser-known parks are dedicated to not only big game but forests and mountain ranges, primates and birds, and the marine life along the coast.
The Tanzanian people are friendly and interesting, and there are more than 130 ethnic groups. Culturally, the country is fascinating and incredibly varied. Many of the peoples of the interior—for instance, the pastoralist Maasai and Barabaig, and the hunter-gatherer Hadzabe—still cling proudly to aspects of their traditional lifestyle and animist beliefs.
Despite the many different cultures, Tanzania has had a peaceful history and an enviable political stability compared to some of its neighboring countries.
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