Sunday, 19 January 2014
Karibuni Tanzania – Land of Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar & the Serengeti (and Konyagi)
Just a 5-hour direct flight south from Dubai is one of the world’s most stunning tourism destinations – the United Republic of Tanzania. This East African state of 45 million people is one of the world’s fastest growing economies, which is being fuelled by oil and gas exploration, mining, agriculture and tourism. The tourism sector in particular has been growing rapidly with the country welcoming more than 1 million visitors per year. This is no surprise as the country is home to some of the world’s iconic tourism attractions and has a unique and colourful history.
Mount Kilimanjaro – This towering snow capped stands at 5,895 metres (19,342 feet) making it the tallest mountain on the African continent and the highest free-standing mountain in the world.
The Serengeti – This national park covers 14,760 sq. km and is famous for the annual wildlife migration when between December and July around 1.5 million wildebeest and 300,000 zebra (along with antelope) gather up their young and start their long trek from Tanzania's Serengeti Plains, further north to Kenya's Masai Mara National Reserve.
Ngorongoro Crater – Known as the “cradle of mankind” because of ancient finds there led scientists to conclude that all mankind originated from there – effectively making all of us Tanzanians. This IS the world’s largest caldera and home to 30,000 large mammals, including the rare black rhino.
The Islands of Zanzibar – This Indian Ocean paradise, was controlled by the Sultanate of Oman for 200 years until 1890, and is home to stunning white sands beaches; exotic spices and a vibrant culture that blends Persian, Arab, Indian, European and Bantu influences. Its capital Stone Town is a maze of streets filled with traditional houses and buildings dating back to the 19th century. Queen’s deceased front man Freddie Mercury was born in Stone Town and the house of his birth is a popular photo stop.
TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN TANZANIA
1. Go on Safari – Safari means journey in Swahili and it will be an unforgettable trip as Tanzania several National Parks and game reserves where you will easily spot lions, elephants, rhinos, giraffes, hippos and other large game.
2. Climb Mount Kilimanjaro – One of the most popular things to do is to climb to the summit, a 5-7 day hike not recommended for the faint hearted or the unfit. Although many guides claim that smokers have an easier time at the thin-air high altitudes because of their already diminished lung capacity. If you can climb it run its foothills during the Kilimanjaro Marathon held every March. It is sponsored by Kilimanjaro Breweries and the cold free beers after the race is worth the effort.
3. Ride a Dhow – Take a sunset trip on these single masts and sail vessels in Zanzibar. Another great trip on dhows is a Safari Blue trip which includes swimming in stunning coves, landing on a white sand strip in the middle of the ocean, lunch on a private island and swimming with dolphins. They also supply lots of refreshments which keeps everyone even happier.
4. Eat Local – Tanzania’s melting pot of cultures and availability of exotic spices and fresh seafood means the local cuisine is amazing. Try the Zanzibar pilau (similar to Trini pelau), nyama choma (roasted goat meat marinated in spices), mishkakis (beef, seafood, chicken on skewers), pweza (octopus) curried in coconut milk, ugali (white corn polenta) with beans, kachambari salad (a limed juice dressed salad) tandoori grills on the street. The daily Forodhani Gardens food markets in Stone Town, Zanzibar is a must. If you need a Caribbean fix, Velisa’s Jamaican Restaurant on Kawe Beach is a must – her stewed oxtail and escovitched snapper are scrumptious, she has a resident DJ names Jah Pete and jazz on Sunday evenings.
5. Drink Local - Drink the local beer – most of them come in giant sized bottles with the best being Serengeti and Kilimanjaro. If you are brave enough try a shot of the local Konyagi – a cheap papaya gin that also comes in penny-cool type packets and will kill every germ in your body. If you are even braver try pombe – the home brewed beer that might include ingredients such as fermented cane juice, bananas, honey, sorghum and exotic herbs. It is frothy and deceptively strong which after imbibing may cause you to change your plans for the rest of the day.
6. Lime like a Trini Dar – Dar es Saalam has numerous bars and activities which makes it a liming haven. The nightlife in Dar is pulsating and exciting with many hotspots opening till dawn. You will hear a lot of bongo flava, which is the infectious Tanzanian R&B/Hip Hop music in most places, but also be prepared to hear Michael Bolton or Celine Dion’s greatest hits being played over and over again. The monthly full moon party at Mediterraneo on the beach is a must, as well as crawl through the local bars and clubs in the Peninsula area such as Elements, Maisha, Watanashi Lounge and Q-Bar. The latter is an outdoor bar known for its excellent vibe, good music, and with a nice mix of locals and visitors – and a good chance you will be accosted by a lady of the night. A must attend event is the charity goat races when all the who’s who in Dar come dressed up in costumes and you might even see some goats race if you leave the numerous refreshment stands with music, food and dancig
7. Go on a Spice Tour – Take a tour of the spice farms in Zanzibar and see how everything from vanilla, cardamom, cloves, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon and nutmeg are grown. You can also learn about the medicinal (and aphrodisiac) properties of the spices.
8. Drink the Coffee – Tanzania is famous for its excellent coffee and boasts numerous cafes serving rich and robust varieties. Visit Zanzibar Coffee House in Stone Town for an excellent cuppa – and their food is excellent as well. Or try Stiggbucks (our version of Starbucks) in Arusha. Take back home some Kilimanjaro branded coffee.
9. Ride a Bajaji – Called tok toks in India, these door-less, small 3 wheeled vehicles are cheap and excellent for getting around Dar es Salaam and most are uniquely decorated – usually with memorabilia of the driver’s favourite football team. Make sure to negotiate the price before the driver takes off.
10. Use your Lion King Swahili – Although English is one of the official languages and widely used, using the few Swahili words you’ve learn from Lion King such as rafiki (friend) and hakuma matata (no worries) will get you some respect with the locals. Few other phrases to use include jambo (hello), habari (what’s the news), tafadali (please), and asante sana(thank you very much). If you don’t know the Swahili word then usually adding an “i” to the end of the English word works – bill becomes “billi”, left becomes “lefti”, roundabout becomes “keepi lefti” and school becomes “schooli”. Do not however mix up kumi and kuma – one means ten and the other one will get your slap in face from a woman (unless she works at Q-bar – see item 6).
Getting to Tanzania from the UAE
Emirates offers daily direct non-stop flights from Dubai. Qatar and Oman Air also offers daily flights via Doha and Muscat respectively. Other major international airlines flying into Dar es Salaam includes Turkish, Ethiopian, KLM, Kenya Airways, Swiss Air, South African, Air Uganda, Rwandair and Egyptair.
For More Information
Visit the Tanzania Tourist Board website at www.tanzaniatouristboard.com
PS: This piece was written for the Trinidad and Tobago/UAE Community website