One of the most frequented attractions in Tanzania, Mount Kilimanjaro National Park is home to Africa's highest mountain peak. Unlike other parks in northern Tanzania, this one is not visited for the wildlife but for the chance to stand in awe of this majestic snow-capped mountain and, for many, to climb to the summit. Mount Kilimanjaro can be climbed at any time, although the best period is from late June to October, during the dry season.
Kilimanjaro, a World Heritage Sites, was formed over 1 million years ago by volcanic movement along the Rift Valley. Three points - Shira, Kibo, and Mawenzi came to be about 750,000 years ago. The highest point is Uhuru Peak on Kibo, which is one of the Seven Summits of the world.
Zanzibar is one of Tanzania's top destinations because of its fascinating past and its incredible beaches. Zanzibar's location in the Indian Ocean has made it a natural trading center throughout its history. Famous for its spices, Zanzibar also became an important slave trading post under its Arab rulers. Stone Town, Zanzibar's capital, is a World Heritage site and boasts beautiful traditional houses, narrow alleyways, a Sultan's palace, and many mosques.
Zanzibar has many beautiful beaches, that can be enjoyed on any budget. Some of the surrounding islands offer a total paradise for the luxury traveler, Mnemba island is absolutely idyllic for a romantic vacation.
Located between the Serengeti and Lake Manyara, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is home to the famous volcanic Ngorongoro Crater and one of Tanzania's most popular wildlife viewing areas. This huge volcanic crater has a permanent supply of water which draws all kinds of animals who stay in this area rather than migrating. Visitors come here primarily for viewing large game and bird watching, but also of interest in the conservation area is the Olduvai Gorge. This important archeological site has revealed ancient skull and bone fragments that have delivered critical information about early mankind.
The Ngorongoro Crater is the largest intact ancient caldera in the world, nearly three million years old. The Ngorongoro volcano was one of the world's tallest mountains before it exploded and collapsed. Thousands of wild game can be seen on the crater floor, including lions, elephants, rhinos, Thomson's gazelles, and buffaloes, but wildebeests and zebras account for over half of the animals that call the Ngorongoro Crater home. Bird watching is superb, especially around Lake Migadi, which attracts flocks of flamingoes to the shallows. Hippos are content to submerge themselves during the day and then graze in the nearby grass in the evening.
Lake Manyara National Park is comprised of forest, woodland, grasslands, and swamps. Two-thirds of the park is covered by water and Lake Manyara is host to thousands of flamingoes, at certain times of year, as well as other diverse bird life. The highlight of Lake Manyara Park is the large population of elephants, tree-climbing lions and hippos that can be observed at a much closer range than in other parks. This park is also home to the largest concentration of baboons in the world.
Wildlife drives, canoeing (when water levels are high enough), mountain bike tours and bird watching are the most popular activities in Lake Manyara National Park.
With less than 1000 visitors per year, Mafia Island is an undiscovered Tanzanian gem. It has a rich history, and a strong Swahili culture unspoiled by tourism. Much of the island and its beautiful beaches have been designated as a marine park. It is one of the best places to deep-sea fish, dive, and snorkel in Africa. You can watch whale sharks, turtles and many other interesting species of wildlife.
There are about half a dozen boutique hotels and intimate resorts to stay at. They include the eco-friendly and intimate Kinasi Lodge; Pole Pole; and Ras Mbisi Lodge.
Tarangire National Park was established in 1970 and is best visited in the dry season from July to September when the animals gather along the river. During the dry season, Tarangire National Park has one of the highest concentrations of migratory wildlife. Wildebeest, zebra, buffalo, impala, gazelle, hartebeest and eland crowd the lagoons. One of the most noticeable highlights of Tarangire National Park is the baobab trees that dot the grassy landscape.
The park is excellent for birdwatching, with more than 300 species recorded in Tarangire. These species include buzzards, vultures, herons, storks, kites, falcons and eagles.
Pemba Island is the northernmost island in the Zanzibar archipelago. Around Pemba are many desert islands and some of the best scuba diving in the Indian Ocean, with visibility that is unparalleled. Lush coral gardens, colorful sponges and sea fans are all found in the underwater haven. The city of Chake Chake, the main population center on Pemba, is a popular base for scuba divers.
Pemba is less visited than Zanzibar and as a result has a more laidback atmosphere. From December to February visitors can watch traditional bullfighting; a sign from the days of Portuguese dominance in the 16th and 17th C. The island is hilly with deep valleys so it has become popular with mountain bikers who are drawn to the 1,000-meter peaks.