Tanzania See And Do
Chumbe Island , Zanzibar
Tel: 255 24 223 1040
A pristine, coral-ringed island off the south coast of Stone Town, Chumbe is the site of one of Zanzibar's most ambitious—and successful—conservation projects. The island and its surrounding reefs were designated as a marine sanctuary in 1994 to preserve an incredible variety of marine life, including more than 350 species of fish. The virgin coral-rag forest is busy with birds and other tiny critters; keep your eyes peeled for giant coconut crabs scuttling up the tree trunks. While mostly uninhabited, Chumbe holds some interesting ruins of past inhabitants—including a small mosque and still-functioning lighthouse, both dating from the early 1900s. You can stay on the island at Chumbe Island Coral Park, a luxe eco-lodge, or take a day trip from Stone Town through One Ocean Dive Center's snorkeling tours (255-24-223-8374; www.zanzibaroneocean.com).
Zanzibar's dive scene is striking and diverse, from sunken ships off the coast of Stone Town to dramatic, plunging walls ringing Pemba and colorful coral gardens surrounding idyllic Mnemba. Even if you can't swim, dive operators will be happy to outfit you with a life jacket and snorkel to explore the islands' aquatic wonders.
Diving is possible throughout the year in Zanzibar, though it's not always ideal. The strong monsoon winds that dictate weather patterns around the islands mean conditions can vary dramatically. Generally speaking, September through November offers the calmest seas, though conditions are typically good from July into March. Fierce storms and notoriously erratic weather make the monsoon season from late March until June the worst time for diving.
With five dive centers around the island, One Ocean is Zanzibar's leading dive specialist, offering a wide range of trips across the archipelago (255-24-223-8374; www.zanzibaroneocean.com). If you're staying at any of the exclusive lodges on neighboring islands such as Mnemba, Chumbe, or Fundu Lagoon, you'll not only have a first-rate dive center on the premises but you'll be just minutes away from some of Zanzibar's best dive sites. Long transfer times make visits to the more remote sites prohibitive from Stone Town; your best bet is to explore the nearby wrecks and coral reefs while based in town, then move on to the beach resorts to do some serious diving.
A leafy oasis about an hour's drive from Stone Town, Jozani is a good place to break up the monotony of long, lazy days on the beach. Hard-core hikers might be disappointed by the forest's diminutive size, but an amble along Jozani's nature trails makes for a pleasant stroll and can be covered in about an hour. The park is best known for its resident red colobus monkeys, a rare primate species that can be spotted scampering through the lush canopy; visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon for the best chance of sightings. Jozani is a popular day trip from Stone Town—it's frequently offered along with dolphin tours off the southern coast near Kizimkazi—and visits can be arranged through any hotel in town or travel agencies such as Zan Tours (Malawi Rd.; 255-24-223-3116; www.zantours.com).
Katavi National Park's remote location in western Tanzania has helped to preserve its relatively untouched character, but it also means that you'll have to take a charter plane to get here. You're unlikely to see other tourists on game walks or drives to Lake Katavi and the park's other watering holes, which are home to more hippos and crocodiles than anywhere else in Africa. What you are likely to see are lions, giraffes, zebras, and animals like roan and sable antelope, which are hard to spot in Tanzania's other parks. During the dry season, from June through October, herds of as many as 1,000 buffalo gather on the floodplains of the Kapapa River, along with elephants, impalas, and hyenas. Palahala Camp offers the best access to these areas, as well more comfortable digs than at the rustic camps located elsewhere in the 1,727-square-mile park.Collen Clark
Mount Kilimanjaro may be Africa's highest peak—and the tallest freestanding mountain in the world—but what's captured the imagination of generations of adventurous travelers is its topographical drama. Kilimanjaro rises in near isolation from the flat equatorial scrublands; an ascent takes you from subsistence farmland through lush tropical rain forest, open moors, alpine desert, and finally to the snowcapped (for now) peak.
Kilimanjaro is one of the world's most accessible mountains to summit, requiring no ropes or technical climbing experience. But it's a serious physical undertaking. You can climb Kilimanjaro in as little as five days, although swift ascents make altitude sickness much more likely. A six- to eight-day route allows your body time to become acclimated, but nearly every hiker experiences headaches, shortness of breath, and hypothermia. It is crucial to book with a reputable guide (such as Zara Tours, Alpine Ascents, or Abercrombie & Kent), undergo the necessary training (hit the gym at least four times a week and take outdoor hikes for at least three months leading up to your climb), and choose your route wisely. Marangu is the easiest and has huts for overnight accommodations. Machame, the most scenic, is steeper and requires sleeping in tents. Umbwe, the most challenging and direct route to the summit, is recommended only for very experienced climbers. The dry seasons, from late June through October and from late December through February, are generally the best periods to climb.Collen Clark
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area includes Olduvai Gorge (site of some of the most noteworthy fossil finds), the alkaline lake of Masek, a string of volcanoes, and the famous Ngorongoro Crater. The crater, which covers 102 square miles, formed when a large volcano exploded and then collapsed in upon itself two to three million years ago. The steep, unbroken walls now ring grasslands, forests, and swamps that teem with reedbucks, lions, leopards, Thomson's gazelles, elephants, and the elusive black rhino. The popularity of the area—second only to the neighboring Serengeti National Park—makes for crowded wildlife viewing during high season. It's best to arrive at the crater as early in the morning as possible.Collen Clark
A short flight from Unguja—the island commonly referred to as "Zanzibar"—will bring you to this tropical gem, a lush, hilly emerald isle where time moves at a snail's pace. Pemba has seen a mere fraction of the development of Unguja; just a single luxe hideaway, Fundu Lagoon, sits along a cozy crescent of beach on the island's eastern side. Drive along the main (and only) north–south artery, and you'll pass villages all but untouched by the modern world, where farmers lay out the latest harvest of cloves and black pepper to dry in the sun. The island is ringed by a dramatically plunging sea wall that offers some of East Africa's top diving. Because of the time it takes to cover the distance in a dive boat, few people make the trip from Unguja, and you'll probably have most of the sites to yourself. Fundu Lagoon organizes everything from dive trips to spice tours to village visits for its guests, though all come at an additional price.
If you're exploring on your own, you'll find facilities on Pemba basic, with just a handful of tourist-friendly hotels and a range of restaurants best described as modest. Ferries from Unguja arrive (erratically) throughout the week; a better bet is one of the daily direct flights (around $70 with Coastal Aviation; www.coastal.cc) from Stone Town to Karume Airport, a short taxi ride from Chake Chake, the island's largest town. From there you can arrange to rent a car or motorbike to get around the island—a better option than the unreliable dalla-dallas that ply the main roads. The Old Mission Lodge is a good place to start for local info on transportation and island tours, and it also offers excellent dive packages (255-24-245-2786; www.swahilidivers.com).
Once the province of big game hunters and rugged adventurers, the Selous Game Reserve has slowly started to open up to nonhunting tourism. The Selous is Africa's largest wildlife reserve—the entirety of Switzerland could rest comfortably within its borders—and its varied ecosystems support large herds of elephants, hippos, zebras, and buffalo; one third of Africa's population of wild dogs; and a diverse mix of birds, including giant kingfishers, wattled crane, palm-nut vultures, and Pel's fishing owls. All camps, with the exception of the Selous Project, are located in the northern part of the reserve, above the Rufiji River; the southern section is zoned for hunting. In addition to jeep and walking safaris, many camps offer boat safaris that sail past the lurking crocs and wallowing hippos of the Rufiji. Because the park is so remote, you may have to book a private charter flight in order to visit—be sure to consider this additional cost when planning a stay in the region. Collen Clark
Serengeti National Park is the Africa of postcards, and a must on a Tanzanian safari itinerary. Its 5,700 square miles of grassland, savanna, and forest are home to the Big Five (elephant, leopard, buffalo, rhino, and what is thought to be the country's largest lion population), as well as hyenas, jackals, and cheetahs. Large herds of giraffes graze amid gazelles, elands, impalas, warthogs, and klipspringers, and you'll also spot massive birds such as grizzled vultures and prickly secretary birds. There's nearly as much variety among the lodges in the region as there is among the wildlife: We recommend the Kirawira Luxury Tented Camp for its throwback colonial grandeur, or, for over-the-top opulence, Singita Grumeti, which sits on a reserve bordering Serengeti National Park.
The greatest concentration of wildlife can be found during the rainy season, from December to June. The greatest concentration of tourists can be found between June and August, due to the annual Great Migration, when more than 1.5 million brindled wildebeests and thousands of zebras head north through the Serengeti to the Masai Mara in Kenya. The famous crossing of the Grumeti River can occur anywhere from May to July; though the spectacle is one of nature's most memorable, it can be all but impossible to plan for it months in advance. You can also catch parts of the migration as the wildebeests head back through the Serengeti in late October through early December. Collen Clark
In the 19th century, when Zanzibar was at the height of its economic prominence, its sprawling plantations dominated the global spice market—as well as the islands' economy. Cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla are still grown in abundance around Zanzibar; during the harvest, when villagers lay out blankets of freshly picked cloves on the roadside to dry in the sun, the pungent smell stings the nostrils. Spice tours are offered as popular half-day trips from Stone Town, typically including a visit to a plantation, spice tastings, and a traditional Zanzibari lunch, often wrapping up with some beach time before returning to town. All of the island's upmarket hotels offer tours, or you can book through independent operators such as Zan Tours (Malawi Rd.; 255-24-223-3116; www.zantours.com).
Stone Town , Zanzibar
During the 19th century, when its Omani rulers were at the height of their powers, Stone Town was home to a colorful collection of scheming sultans, greedy merchants, conniving colonial powers, and notorious cutthroats who prowled the alleys after dark. Slaves, spices, and ivory were exported to the deserts of Arabia and to markets in Europe and America; dhows cluttered the chaotic harbor, their upright sails carving the ocean's waves like shark fins, destined for foreign ports.
Today's Stone Town is as colorful and clamorous as it was a century ago, though colonial officials have given way to camera-toting tourists. Its narrow streets are a tumult of temples, churches, mosques, and the crumbling remains of Arab palaces. Make time to visit iconic sights like the Old Fort, built by the Portuguese in the late 17th century; the House of Wonders, used by Sultan Barghash as a ceremonial palace after its construction in 1883 and today housing a history museum; the Anglican Cathedral, erected on the site of the old slave market; and St. Joseph's Cathedral, built by French missionaries in the 19th century and buried deep in Stone Town's labyrinth.
Local companies such as Zan Tours (Malawi Rd.; 255-24-223-3116; www.zantours.com) offer walking tours of town. Much of Zanzibar's history has been preserved through oral tradition, making a guide useful, but you'll be amply rewarded by strolling the streets yourself, watching the locals haggle for fish at the market, or hearing the cries of schoolchildren reciting their lessons in a madrassa.
Thanks to the warm Indian Ocean, Zanzibar is the perfect spot to frolic in the water. You can windsurf, water-ski, sail, or fish (this is, after all, one of the world's top game-fishing destinations). If you wish to explore the spectacular coral reef beneath the waves, you can snorkel or scuba dive. Dive sites include Turtle City, where you may see as many as ten turtles in an hour's dive, and a sunken ship, the Great Northerner, between Pange and Bawe Islands.