Tanzania is more than just Kilimanjaro. OK, “just” Kilimanjaro sounds lame considering it’s the highest mountain in Africa and trekking up it is not a stroll in the park. But it’s not the only exciting thing you can do in Tanzania. Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie, nature lover or just want something a little different, then Tanzania is the place to be. We’ve found nine exciting outdoor activities in Tanzania to get your pulse racing.
1. Mountain trekking
Kilimanjaro is the most famous mountain in Africa, but did you know that her sister mountain Mount Meru is just as amazing? Meru is a challenging climb and you get the same awesome views so it’s certainly worth a trek: after all, everybody else will be focused on Kilimanjaro so you’ll have the mountain to yourself (well, nearly!). Kilimanjaro itself isn’t for you if you like a comfy bed and a light stroll.
Instead you need to be prepared for a six to ten day heavy trek through rainforest, montaine forest, alpine heather, ice fields and finally a crater rim in total darkness – definitely challenging! And you must acclimatize because it’s dangerous not to; you don’t want to be one of the unlucky climbers who have to turn back so close to the summit.
Further north lies Oldoinyo Lengai, Maasai for “Mountain of God”, an active volcano 2878 m high, which produces an unusual, highly fluid lava (carbonate rather than silicate, for all you geeks). The lava weathers easily and creates a rich and fertile landscape that’s a stopping point for the wildebeest during their Great Migration. Oldoinyo Lengai last erupted in 2008 but it’s still leaking lava.
If you’re a volcano fan then this is the trip for you, and you can climb it in 12 hours. You’ll start at midnight and trek through the night, with dawn unfolding as you climb higher. From the summit you can enjoy views of the saltwater flats of Lake Natron and Kenya beyond. It really is a remarkable climb.
2. Surfin’ Tanzania
Rather be out flying in the sea breeze than trudging up a mountain? Then try windsurfing and kitesurfing at Jambiani, a tiny fishing village on the coast of Zanzibar. The shallow water, sandbank-enclosed lagoon and crystal-clear water of the Indian Ocean are great for beginner kitesurfers, and there are plenty of reputable schools with multilingual trainers on site to teach you. The waves are perfect for windsurfing, too, and when you’re not in the ocean you can chill out at one of the little cafes at Jambiani or make for lively Paje nearby.
3. Diving and snorkelling
The waters around Zanzibar are famous for clarity and for the breadth of varieties of colourful fish that flit around. This means they are perfect for snorkelling and diving and, if you’re a beginner diver, there are many safe dive schools that offer lessons. If you want a more than awesome diving experience, head for Pemba Island, just north of Zanzibar. Also known as “The Green Island” because of its lush terrain, Pemba’s offshore coral reef and steep dive walls of the Pemba Channel make it one of the best dive locations in East Africa.
Even more off the beaten track is Mafia Island, a gorgeous gem with rich reefs in a well-managed marine park and an amazingly diverse ecosystem – estuarine, marine, mangrove and coral reef. It’s full of history and culture, too. Offshore at Kilindoni Harbour on Mafia Island, you’ll get the opportunity to watch and even dive with whale sharks, those beautiful 8m long giants that look terrifying but are wonderfully gentle.
4. Horse riding
Tanzania’s glorious landscape is a feast for the eyes and what better way to see it close up than by horseback? Horseback riding is available most places in Tanzania and you can choose a quick few hours, a day ride or even a multi-day riding safari in some of the smaller parks like Arusha, Manyara and Lake Natron. Pick an expert tour company and you’ll enjoy the peace and calm of the landscape, away from the revving engines and crowded trails of jeep safaris. You’ll be matched with a horse that’s right for you – who is just as much of an individual as you are.
5. Bike safari
If you’re feeling a little more energetic and are proud of your strong legs, then try a bike safari. You’ll see the sights and get fit at the same time – what more could you want? Tanzania by bike is an unforgettable challenge, especially around the rocky paths of the Arusha National Park and the coffee and banana plantations around the foothills of Kilimanjaro and Meru, or the wildlife trails around Lake Manyara.
You’ll enjoy cycling through and past herds of zebra and wildebeest as you keep your eye out for giraffe. Your bike will have a bell which you’ll use to warn smaller animals in your path, and as long as you can outsprint a cheetah, you should be ok. Joking! So far, there have been no reports of cyclists as lunch.
For those of you who want to ride a little faster without making an effort, then try quadbiking. The terrain around the southern shores of Lake Tanganyika has perfect country trails to bike along and unspoilt villages to stop in for refreshments and a chat with the locals. Alternate your quadbiking trips with freshwater diving in the lake.
7. Chimpanzee trekking (Mahale Mountains)
The Mahale Mountains in the far west of Tanzania are a series of beautiful peaks, near to Lake Tanganyika. They are clad in misty forest and are the perfect habitat for chimpanzees, which thrive in the region. Go on a chimp trek and you’ll get up close and personal to chimpanzees in the wild. They’re not tame, rather they are habituated – used to people so not fazed by them. These amazing creatures carry on with their normal lives while you have the privilege of witnessing them play, groom, argue, eat and sleep. On the way to the mountains you’ll also meet with yellow baboons and a whole host of mountain forest mammals.
8. Hot air ballooning
There’s nothing more spectacular than floating above the magnificent landscape of the Serengeti in the pinky apricot skies of an African dawn. With no power lines or fences, ballooning in the Serengeti is a safe and spectacular adventure that is never the same twice.
You’ll observe a herd of animals from a unique perspective and you’ll really get to take in all of this beautiful landscape – from the finest detail to the wide scope of the endless skies. With the balloon basket gently creaking, the gentle breeze softening your hair and the slow sense of movement, it’s a delight for all the senses.
9. Wildlife safari
You didn’t think we’d leave out the wildlife safari, did you? Everybody knows that the variety of wildlife in Tanzania is breath-taking, and is the main reason that thousands of people travel to Tanzania each year. There are beautiful creatures to see all across Tanzania but the more famous areas are the plains of the Serengeti, with the spectacle of the Great Annual Migration of wildebeest and zebra, and the lush World Heritage Site of the Ngorongoro Crater. There are many safari operators to choose from just pick wisely. There can be shady tour “operators” out there looking to scam you. Go with someone who has a good reputation and who allows you to choose between day trips from a fixed base or a trek from a mobile base.