Introduction to Tanzania

Did you know that the world’s largest volcanic crater (Ngorongoro) is located in Tanzania? Surely you already know that the highest mountain in Africa (Mount Kilimanjaro) is also there. But did you know that Tanzanian lions can climb trees?! You can see them in Lake Manyara National Park! Or maybe you don’t know any word in Swahili and want to learn some basics?

So let’s find out more about Tanzania, its culture and traditions below!

Country local name: Jamhuri ya Muungano wa Tanzania
Government type: a republic
Capital: Dodoma; note - officially changed in 1996; serves as the meeting place for the National Assembly; the executive branch offices and diplomatic representation remain in Dar es Salaam, the largest city and commercial capital
Time difference: UTC+3 (8 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
Independence: 26 April 1964; Tanganyika became independent on 9 December 1961 (from UK-administered UN trusteeship); Zanzibar became independent on 10 December 1963 (from UK); Tanganyika united with Zanzibar on 26 April 1964 to form the United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar; renamed United Republic of Tanzania on 29 October 1964
National holiday: Union Day (Tanganyika and Zanzibar), 26 April (1964)
Population: 51,045,882
Etnic groups: mainland - African 99% (of which 95% are Bantu consisting of more than 130 tribes), other 1% (consisting of Asian, European, and Arab); Zanzibar - Arab, African, mixed Arab and African
Languages: Kiswahili or Swahili (official), Kiunguja (name for Swahili in Zanzibar), English (official, primary language of commerce, administration, and higher education), Arabic (widely spoken in Zanzibar) and numerous other vernaculars
Religions: mainland - Christian 30%, Muslim 35%, indigenous beliefs 35%; Zanzibar - more than 99% Muslim
Terrain: plains along the coast; central plateau; highlands in north and south
Elevation extremeslowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: Kilimanjaro 5,895 m (highest point in Africa)
Natural resources: hydropower, tin, phosphates, iron ore, coal, diamonds, gemstones, gold, natural gas, nickel
Agriculture – products: coffee, sisal, tea, cotton, pyrethrum (insecticide made from chrysanthemums), cashew nuts, tobacco, cloves, corn, wheat, cassava (manioc, tapioca), bananas, fruits, vegetables; cattle, sheep, goats
Industries: agricultural processing (sugar, beer, cigarettes, sisal twine); mining (diamonds, gold, and iron), salt, soda ash; cement, oil refining, shoes, apparel, wood products, fertilizer
Exports: gold, coffee, cashew nuts, manufactures, cotton
Shopping hours: Monday – Friday from 8 am to 6 pm, Saturday from 8.30 am to 12.30 pm
Major infectious diseasesdegree of risk: very high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vector borne diseases: malaria, dengue fever, and Rift Valley fever
water contact diseases: schistosomiasis and leptospirosis
animal contact disease: rabies (2013)
Climate: varies from tropical along coast to temperate in the highlands
Natural hazards: flooding on the central plateau during the rainy season; drought



Tanzania’s location in Eastern Africa gives it its tropical climate with slight regional variations which makes it attractive to visit throughout the year. However, everything depends on what you want to experience. There is a rainy season (November to May) and a dry season (June to October), which is the most appealing to travelers.

In our opinion, the best time to go there falls between June and October, when the parks unveil their most beautiful scenery, the weather is sunny and the skies are cloudless. It is also the best season to explore the Serengeti’s great wildebeest migration and to climb Kilimanjaro.

On the other hand, the best time to visit Tanzania’s coast with its Zanzibar Archipelago would be in the hotter months such as December and January – remember it’s the southern hemisphere! And it’s advisable to avoid these areas during the peak of the wet season namely in March April and May.

The cuisine of Tanzania is quite varied depending on which part of the country you are going to. Rice, ugali, grains, prawns and tropical fruit are the base of the Swahili culinary where dishes are flavored by coconut milk and a plethora of exotic spices.

In central parts of Tanzania most restaurants serve cooked green bananas (matoke), dishes composed of grilled chicken, fish, meat relish or meat stews. As you make your way east towards the coast you will naturally see seafood prevailing on the menus.

Let’s go into some detail about the local specialties!

Nyama choma is roasted meat (often goat meat). Ugali which is also popular in the neighbouring Kenya is a kind of porridge made from cornmeal, millet, sorghum flour or cassava: the flour is mixed with water and boiled until it reaches a thick paste. Duckling Dar es Salaam is usually served for special guests and as the name suggests is made from duckling stewed with red peppers, onions and tomatoes. Rice, cooked bananas, cassava or potatoes are great accompaniments. Mishkaki is similar to Middle Eastern kebabs but can be made of spicy barbecued beef, chicken, goat or fish.  Mandazi are balls of fried dough similar to doughnuts. Wali wa nazi is a meal made from rice and coconut milk. Makubi is made from peanut butter, spinach and tomatoes. You should also try delicious Tanzanian Coconut Bean Soup.

The most popular drink in Tanzania is a small cup of chai tea. It is usually served sweet and with milk. 


· Tanzania was the first African’s country who gained independence.

· Over 120 languages are spoken in that country.

· “Mungu Ibariki Afrika” which means “God Bless Arica” is the national anthem of Tanzania. What’s interesting is that Tanzania shares it with South Africa and Zimbabwe.



Habari – Hello, how are you?
Mambo/ Sasa/ Jambo – Hello, what’s up?
Mzuri/ Safi/ Poa/ Poa kichizi kama ndizi – Good/ I’m fine/ Cool/ Crazy cool like banana.
Bomba! – Awesome!
Asante (sana) – Thank you (very much).
Karibu – You’re welcome.
Ndiyo – Yes.
Hapana – No.
Pole pole – Slowly, slowly.
Samahani – Excuse me (when you want to get attention and to say “pardon me”).
Kwa heri – Goodbye.
Usiku mwema – Good night.
Unazungumza Kiingereza? – Do you speak English?
Sisi tupa wapi? – Where are we?
Kulia – Right.
Kushoto – Left.
Msaada! – Help!
Saa ngapi? – What time is it?

·   A handshake is the most common greeting, however always do it with the right hand and avoid using the left one as it is considered to be used for toilet duties. If you are in rural area, remember to greet people in appropriate order: starting with senior members of the family with women always last.
·   Tanzanians are very friendly and kind. Don’t be surprised when someone invites you to their home. Just be careful: if the meeting is supposed to be official and concerning business, it’s nice to bring a gift. However, don’t bring flowers – those express condolences.
·   While you are talking with someone, be indirect. But don’t avoid the main topic, either. “Talking around it” is an unspoken custom cause Tanzanians like a good talk and a good joke.  
·   Personal space is very important. Touching (pats on the shoulder, on the arm or long handshakes) is acceptable between people of the same gander. Just don’t keep the eye contact too long, that can be interpreted as an invasion of privacy.
·   Being late is a common thing, Tanzanians even joke about and talk about “Swahili time”.
·   Being dressed well is very important. Wear clothes that cover most of your body. It is advisable to avoid shorts and jeans in business situations.  
·   Be respectful towards old people. In their culture the older you are the more knowledgeable you are.
·   Avoid pointing out with a finger and displays of affection in public.

The Zanzibar Archipelago consists of Zanzibar islands (also locally called Unguja), Pemba and many smaller islands. It is located on the Indian Ocean and is the most often visited destination in Tanzania. It offers amazing white sand beaches, coral reefs, diving opportunities and colorful history: all to be enjoyed by families, friends and honeymooners. If you are a true enthusiast of fauna and flora choose Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park or Cheetah’s Rock to admire the amazing variety of animals and plants.

Stone Town is a World Heritage site and the cultural heart of Zanzibar. It is well known for its traditional houses with intricately carved wooden doors, winding narrow streets, old churches, museums, a spectacular Sultan’s palace among others.

Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest peak in Africa which stands 19,340 feet (5896m) tall. You can climb it at any time, but we recommend you do it in the dry season. The climbing expedition takes 5 days so pack enough clothes, food and maps. No special climbing equipment is necessary, though. You can’t miss West Kilimanjaro and the northern safari parks either, which are often overlooked. Mount Kilimanjaro National Park is a must see as well!

Ngorongoro Conservation Area is situated between the Serengeti and Lake Manyara. That area is a home to 30 000 different animal species (including the Big 5). That’s also where the world’s largest crater is located: it is nearly 3 million years old and is a permanent supply of water. It attracts all kinds of animals, such as the very rare black rhinos, lions, elephants, gazelles, wildebeests, zebras and buffaloes. Visitors love watching birds and hippos there, which can also be found around Lake Migadi. You just have to experience it!

As the largest park in Tanzania – Serengeti National Park – attracts many tourists each year due to wildlife viewing and spotting different species of birds (nearly 500 species!). If you want to participate in the most impressive natural event, you must be here in May or early June while the great migration of millions of zebras and wildebeest happens. You can even experience all that from up above riding in a hot-air balloon!

Selous Game Reserve is Africa’s largest game reserve that covers more than 5% of the entire mainland Tanzania. This amazing place is a home to elephants, hippos, wild dogs, cheetahs, buffalo, some of the last remaining black rhinos, crocodiles, many bird species and many other animals. The Rufiji River dissects the Selous Game Reserve and winds its way more than 250km through the park. You will be able to watch the diverse water-based wildlife there. The best time to visit that area is during the season between June and October.

Mafia, Pemba and Chole Islands are very luxurious holiday destinations. They all have a very colorful history and are one of the best places to dive and snorkel in the relaxing and singular surroundings offered by exclusive boutique hotels or intimate resorts.

Mafia Island is still an undiscovered gem. It offers traditional Swahili culture surrounded by peaceful white-sand beaches and crystal clear waters of the Indian Ocean with its astounding underwater life. The Mafia Island Marine Park draws many travelers and tourists from around the world. It has beautiful coral gardens, myriads of birds, over 400 species of fish, whale sharks, green and hawksbill turtles, and many other species of wildlife, which all are a must-see!

Pemba Island, like the Mafia Island, is full of mysteries. It is surrounded by sundry desert islands which are some of the best scuba diving areas in the entire Indian Ocean. Simply magical because of all the variety of coral reefs and coral gardens that one can see in this relatively small area.

There are many other places worth seeing in Tanzania such as: Chole Islands, Katavi National Park, Gombe Stream National Park, Arusha National Park, Ruaha National Park, Tarangire. National Park, Lake Manyara National Park, Mikumi National Park, Saadani National Park, Rubondo Island National Park, so just pick and choose any of these during your trip and you will not be disappointed!

Read our stories from our trips to NEPAL and PERU combined with volunteering experience, which we made in 2016 and 2017 >>

Join our next volunteering trip in a group and spend 2 weeks far away! Read more HERE!