Your first word associations with Tanzania will likely be safari, Serengeti, or Mt. Kilimanjaro. And they should be. Tanzania has the largest and most heavily populated animal parks and reserves in the world. The yearly migration of 2 million wildebeests across the Serengeti into Kenya leads the single largest and most dramatic movement of animal life on earth, but that's only the stage show for the remarkable depth and variety of this amazing place.
This is the land of the the oldest human remains, uncovered by the Leakeys in the gorges of Oldavai and the Ngorongoro Crater; the land of the Masai warriors; the land of the highest mountain in Africa; the land where Stanley found Livingston; the land of the greatest inland bodies of water in Africa - Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika, and Lake Malawi; the land of Jane Goodall's chimpanzees at Gombe National Park; and the islands of cloves and spices. This is quite a land.
As a responsible caretaker of the land, Tanzania, with the assistance of world-wide organizations, has set aside a variety of protected areas to preserve its wildlife and botanical sanctuaries: 12 national parks, 14 game preserves, one conservation area, 3 biosphere reserves, and 4 world heritage sites. The abundance of natural wonder has made Tanzania one of the prime visitor destinations in the world.
Recently, Tanzania surpassed its well-known northern neighbor Kenya as the most popular safari venue in the world. The range of choices can be disconcerting - balloon safaris, camping safaris, photography safaris, hunting safaris, jeep safaris, walking safaris, 4-WD safaris, plane safaris, helicopter safaris, canoeing safaris, cultural safaris, ethnic safaris, eco-safaris -- the list goes on.
Restrictions on the number and type of safaris in each of the protected areas differ considerably, so be sure to check what's available in what areas before you commit to a specific trip.
One thing is almost guaranteed - once your senses have confronted the wildness and the beauty of the plains of Africa, they will never work under their old restrictions again. And if you fly or ferry them out to the Zanzibar islands, the almost mythical spice islands, your senses may never want to go home again.
Tanzania is a surprising mixture of traditional Africa, colonial Europe, and the Middle East. From Vasca da Gama's first stop in 1498 until the very last of the 17th century, the Portuguese dominated the loose collection of tribal trading groups on the coast. Arabs from the sultanate of Oman helped expel the Portuguese and then settled on Zanzibar for trading in spices, slaves, and ivory. In 1841 Sayyid Said moved his capital from Muscat, in Oman, to Zanzibar.
German commercial interest in the area led to agreements with interior tribes and an arrangement with the Sultan of Zanzibar that resulted in the German East Africa Company. When the German government took over the trading company in 1891, they declared the territory their protectorate and essentially colonized the area, but not without bloody revolts and reprisals. Germans, by treaty, "gave" Zanzibar to the British in 1890. During WWI, British and Belgian troops occupied Germany's mainland territory, and the League of Nations handed over all of Tanganyika to the British afterward.
Tanganyika was led into independence in the Commonwealth by former teacher Julius Nyerere in 1962; Zanzibar separated from the British in 1963, and a 1964 leftist revolt overthrew an Arab led government, ousted most Arabs and Indians from the islands, and joined Nyerere to create the single nation of Tanzania.