Welcome to Tanzania

They say there are seven wonders in the world but there are more in Tanzania. Perhaps the whole of Tanzania is one of them, reflects Alan Barnard, who takes us on a quick trip through the country.

As a tourist destination, Tanzania can be considered the world’s largest natural game park. It is home to the Big Five (lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard, rhino), home to the Maasai, and of course, the home of the highest mountain in Africa. Set along the east coast of Africa, adjacent to the island of Zanzibar, Tanzania is a green jewel shining in a sea of blue. Water forms 50% of the country’s borders, which include some of the deepest lakes in Africa – Lake Tanganyika, Lake Nyasa and the largest Lake Victoria. Zanzibar, another jewel of Africa, is one of the most famous and infamous islands in the world, considering the heritage it so proudly defends. Married politically to the mainland at independence, it gave birth to the new nation that gives the precious stone Tanzanite its name.

The history of Zanzibar justifies the importance it has in the political arena. A visit to the old slave market, the old church, the old town of stone that still breathes history in the making, tends to inspire a sense of awe. Here a people fought for their freedom against tyranny and won. Here, on African soil, Africans claimed their own. It was the Zanzibar Revolution of 1964 that gave a people their freedom forever from the yoke of colonial oppression. These paths of history that were made on land and via sea, routes by which men entered deep into the heartland of the continent, remain today to give us access to the country, which some say is “a paradise unimaginable to those outside of Africa”. Mainland Tanzania rises in stages, coastal bush giving way to forest and grassland, mountain and plateau.

The temperature varies with the altitude, providing temperate conditions in Mbeya (south) and Arusha (north.) Settled on the ridges, in the valleys and on the plains of this untamed land are the sanctuaries that give life, sustenance and shelter to the wildlife that draws tourists from all over to come and see the world as it was in the beginning, unspoiled by man. They say there are seven wonders in the world but there are more in Tanzania. Perhaps the whole of Tanzania is one of them. For example, no one knows just how deep Lake Tanganyika is, geologically speaking. No one can say how deep the Rift Valley is – a depth you can see from outer space. One feels the mighty presence of Lake Victoria, discovering what size means particularly from the vantage-point of Mwanza. The inland sea that the Victorian explorers named after their queen reminds you it was here long before them. The source of the longest river in the world, however, is not the largest lake in the world.

Source: New African – January 2010

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