There's a reason safari means "journey" in Swahili: No other word better sums up the experience of this southeast African country. Tanzania's unspoiled national parks rival any in the world. Capture the annual wildebeest migration across the Serengeti plains, or the Big Five -- elephants, lions, leopards, buffalo, and rhinos -- on camera. Dolphins and flying fish accompany the ferry to Zanzibar, full of pristine, white-sand beaches and coral stone architecture. Everywhere you go, a warm, laid-back welcome receives you, along with a fascinating blend of Arabic and African influences.
Dar es Salaam typifies African city life with its riotous mix of modern buildings, dusty markets, traffic, people and cows. Early risers can spot traditional fishing dhows negotiating the crowded harbour to unload at Kivukoni Fish Market. Sample aromatic raw cinnamon, ylang-ylang and vanilla on a guided walking tour of Zanzibar's spice plantations, while the island's 200 year-old Stone Town blends Arab, Indian and African influences in a fascinating warren of narrow streets, ramshackle verandas and intricately-carved woodwork.
Eating and Drinking
Traditional Swahili dishes such as ugali (maize porridge), mishkaki (meat kebabs) and rice and beans are available everywhere and worth sampling. Join hungry office workers to snack on hot, sticky mandazi doughnuts from street stalls and cafes. Indian restaurants in coastal towns make the most of local coconuts and spices in their aromatic curries, or you can try freshly caught red snapper, lobster and barracuda.
Hike from the Ngorongoro Crater, a "lost world" of astounding wildlife inside a collapsed volcano, to the Maasai tribe's holy mountain, Oldoinyo Lengai. Stop to explore Olduvai Gorge, site of the oldest human remains in the world. Dive or snorkel among sparkling multicolored fish and whale sharks over coral reefs in Mafia Island's Marine Park. Mount Kilimanjaro is Africa's highest mountain, but anyone who's reasonably fit can climb it to marvel at the expansive Serengeti plains below.
The ivory sand and azure water of Zanzibar's East Coast are beautiful, whether you rough it in a basic wooden hut or live it up in a family-friendly resort. Armor-plated rhinos, spindly marabou storks and bull elephants lend a prehistoric edge to game-viewing safaris. Track chimpanzees in Gombe National Park, near western Lake Tanganyika. Selous, Katavi and Ruaha parks deviate from the usual itinerary, but the high-cost, low-impact camps, smack in the middle of nature, make for an unforgettable stay.