Geography and Landscape


Tanzania (officially in Swahili: Jamhuri ya Muungano wa Tanzania = United Republic of Tanzania) is a republic in East Africa and consists of the former Tanganyika and the islands of Zanzibar (actually Unguja) and Pemba. The Mafia Archipelago is formed by the 50 km long island of Mafia, a dozen smaller islands and countless coral rocks.

Tanzania Satellite photoTanzania Satellite photoPhoto: Public Domain

Tanzania is bordered to the north by Kenya (769 km) and Uganda (396 km), to the south by Mozambique (756 km), Malawi (475 km) and Zambia (338 km) and to the west by the Democratic Republic of Congo (459 km), Rwanda (217 km) and Burundi (451 km). Tanzania is entirely bordered by the Indian Ocean in the east and the other borders are also largely made up of water: in the west Lake Tanganyika, in the northwest Lake Victoria and in the southwest Lake Malawi, while the border with Mozambique is the river Rovuma.

The total area of Tanzania is 945,087 km2, which makes Tanzania the same size as France, Germany and Belgium combined. It is also the largest country in East Africa. The greatest north-south distance (Moshi-Songea) is more than 1300 kilometers, the greatest east-west distance (Dar es Salaam-Kigoma) is more than 1600 kilometers.


Great Rift Valley TanzaniaGreat Rift Valley TanzaniaPhoto: Sachi Gahan CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

The mainland of Tanzania has a very varied landscape. The Great Rift Valley or Great Rift Valley, which originates in Turkey and runs through the Dead and Red Sea to Ethiopia and splits into eastern and western parts. The western arm of the Rift comes to Tanzania via Uganda; the eastern arm enters Tanzania through Kenya. After the arms of the Rift leave Tanzania, they reunite in Malawi, ending off the coast of Mozambique. The total length of the Great Rift Valley is more than 9,700 kilometers.

As a result of the creation of the Great Rift valley, several large lakes were also created, including Lake Natron, Lake Manyara and Lake Tanganyika, where the lowest point in Africa can be found at 1,430 meters.

Tanzania has many large and small rivers, none of which are navigable. A number of rivers drain into salt lakes; the Pangani, Ruvu, Rufiji and Rovuma flow into the Indian Ocean; the Kagera in the Mediterranean and the Malagarasi in the Atlantic Ocean. Because of the many rivers and lakes, Tanzania has more surface water than any other country on the continent of Africa.

Due to the volcanism present on the border with Kenya, Africa's highest mountain, the volcano Kilimanjaro (5895 meters), has arisen. Tanzania has one more working (strato) volcano in the north at Lake Natron: the Ol Doinyo Lengai or "Mountain of God". The mountain is 2,890 meters high with eruptions in 1917, 1926, 1940 and 1966-67 and the crater has been filling with lava since 1983. Mount Meru is the fifth highest mountain in Africa.

Tanzania also has a fairly narrow coastal strip and a flat to slightly hilly central plateau with an average height of 1200 meters. The predominant landscape in Tanzania is the savannah (including in the Serengeti nature reserve); a landscape with mainly grassland and here and there a tree. Furthermore, the landscape consists of steppe and tropical forest.

The Ambori Caves are the largest cave system in East Africa with ten caves that give access to a network of limestone tunnels estimated to be 200 km long. The largest caves are thirteen meters high.

Highest mountains

Mount Kilimanjaro5.895 meters
Mount Meru4.566 meters
Mount Rungwe2.960 meters
Uluguru Mountains2.648 meters
Rubeho Mountains2.576 meters
Livingstone Mountains2.521 meters
Mbizi Mountain2.418 meters
Mahari Mountain2.373 meters
Usambara Mountains2.300 meters

Lake Victoria, TanzaniaLake Victoria, TanzaniaPhoto: Mandiafrika CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

LAKE VICTORIA (original name: Nyanza)

Lake Victoria takes its name from the explorer John Hanning Speke, who was the first European to see the lake in 1858 and named it after Queen Victoria of England.

The surface of the largest lake in Africa is 69,484 km2. The maximum north-south length is 337 km; the maximum east-west latitude 240 km. The total coastline is 3220 km and the lake is surrounded by Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

The lake is more than 1100 meters above sea level and has a maximum depth of 81 meters. Lake Victoria is an important source of the Nile and is itself fed by rainwater and by three major rivers: the Kagera, the Katonga and the Mara. In the lake there are dozens of islands, of which Ukerewe is the largest and furthermore, Rubondo Island National Park, unknown to tourists. The sitatunga lives in this park, an antelope that hardly occurs elsewhere.

There are several important ports on the lake: Mwanza, Bukoba and Musoma. Lake Victoria is the second largest freshwater lake in the world, after Lake Titicaca on the border of Bolivia and Peru in South America.

Fifty years ago, 80% of the fish population in the lake consisted of cichlids, now it is only 1%. Many of the 200 native cichlid species have been eaten by the released Nile perch, and the dumping of chemical waste and the drop of oxygen in the water have also been devastating.


Lake Tanganyika is the second deepest lake in the world with a depth of 1550 meters, after Lake Baikal in Russia (1637 m).

There are an estimated 1000 mostly native species of fish living in the gigantic lake. Kigoma is the largest city along the Tanzanian shores. Just above this town is Gombe Stream National Park, with 52 km2 Tanzania’s smallest national aprk and made famous by Jane Goodall's chimpanzee research project.

Kilimanjaro TanzaniaKilimanjaro TanzaniaPhoto: Charles Asik CC 2.0 Generic no changes made


Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in the continent of Africa, actually has three peaks, the highest of which is Kibo at 5895 meters. The Mawenzi is 5,149 meters high and the Shira "only" 3,962 meters. The three peaks are actually three volcanoes, the last eruptions of which date back to 100,000 years ago. The crater of the Kibo is 200 meters deep and still contains active fumarols (= vapor and gas source in a volcano).

On October 6, 1889, Kilimanjaro was first conquered by German mountaineers Hans Meyer and Ludwig Purtscheller.

The slopes of Kilimanjaro are very fertile and many crops grow up to 1400 meters. The lowest parts of the mountain consist of savannah, from 1800 meters there is dense forest. Above 3000 meters, the frost line, not much grows anymore. The top consists of snow and ice.

The Chagga tribe has populated the slopes of Kilimanjaro for many centuries. The Kilimanjaro National Park covers an area of 760 km2.

Ngorongoro crater TanzaniaNgorongoro crater TanzaniaPhoto: Sachi Gahan CC 2.0 Generic no changes made


The Ngorongoro crater is the largest still intact caldera (= funnel-shaped crater in a volcano formed by collapse) in the world, with a diameter of approximately 18 kilometers, an area of 260 km2 and a crater wall that is no more than 600 meters high.

The crater is inhabited by approximately 40,000 Maasai, who expelled the Mbulu and Datoga 200 years ago. In 1951 the area of the crater was incorporated into the Serengeti National Park and from 1978 UNESCO declared the crater a World Heritage Site of humanity.

The crater is located in the Ngorongoro Reserve (Ngorongoro Game Reserve; 8000 km2) and an estimated 30,000 animals live in the crater. This makes this one of the most densely populated wildlife areas in the world.

A remarkable phenomenon are the "shifting sands", a kind of dune, formed about 30,000 years ago during an eruption of the Ol Donyo Lengai volcano. Each year, during the dry season, the 100-meter-long and 9-meter-high ash and sand "dune" moves an average of approximately 17 meters in an easterly direction.

Climate and Weather

 A whirlwind on the Serengeti plains A whirlwind on the Serengeti plainsPhoto: Noel Feans CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Tanzania is close to the equator and therefore has a tropical climate with an average difference between the highest and the lowest temperature of no more than five degrees. The coastal area is warm and humid almost all year round with temperatures between 22 and 30 °C and humidity between 75 and 80%. In mountainous areas, including Mount Kilimanjaro, the Usambara Mountains, and the Northern and Southern Highlands, temperatures can drop to 12 °C from May to August. Night frosts also occur regularly in the mountainous region, and the top of Kilimanjaro is always covered with snow and ice. The hottest time of the year is generally October to February; the coolest period is from June to October. In some places inland, however, the temperature can reach more than 40 °C.

The precipitation is influenced by the prevailing monsoon winds. Much of the country has two rainy seasons: October-November with the so-called small rains, and March-May with the so-called big rains. Precipitation varies widely and is spread irregularly across the country.

On average, about 750 mm falls across the country per year. There are also areas where more than 1250 mm falls, while the arid areas, especially the Central Plateau, reach less than 500 mm per year. The Central Plateau also has only one rainy period, between December and May.

Plants and Animals


Ecologically Tanzania can be divided into a number of zones:

Fever tree in TanzaniaFever tree in TanzaniaPhoto: Nevit Dilmen CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The acacia savanna forest has a very varied flora with about 2500 plant species. The forests are located on the central plateau and the northern grassland areas. The Serengeti steppes are mainly covered with red ottoes and various cyper grasses. The vast savannah forest is dominated by acacia trees; Tanzania has 40 native species. A special acacia species is the yellow-colored Acacia xanthopholoea or fever tree, which is common along water surfaces.

The south of Tanzania consists largely of forested savannah or Miombot, with about 15 species of Brachystegia and long grasses. The very remarkable solitary jagged baobab trees are found all over Tanzania, especially below the 1300 meter line.

The lowland rainforest can be found on the lower slopes of the Usambara Mountains in the east. This mountain range has an unbroken forest area with the largest height differences in East Africa. This is one of the richest biological habitats in Africa with 276 registered trees of which 50 are native. In total, Tanzania is only 1.5% covered with dense forests.

Trichilia Emetica, TanzaniaTrichilia Emetica, TanzaniaPhoto: JMK CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The riverine forests and evergreen forests line the major rivers and the slopes of Lake Manyara. The forests consist of tall trees such as Trichilea emetica, Bridelia micrantha and Ficus sycamorus. Other well-known appearances are the borassus and the date palm.

Mountain forests grow between a height of 1200 meters and the tree line of 3000 meters. Due to the varied rainfall, there are more species in some places than in others. Macaranga kilimandscharica is mainly found on the slopes of Kilimanjaro. Juniper, olive trees, Nuxia congesta, ivy, camphor and the 30 meter high conifer Podocarpus milanjianus predominate on the rainier northern and western slopes.

Beneath the trees is a dense vegetation of shrubs and wildflowers, including diligent lizzie, begonia, large tree ferns, balsam and Cape violets.

Slightly higher up the slopes are the three-meter-high feather-like heather Erica excelsa and the ragwort Senecio johnstonii. The vegetation between 2800 and 4000 meters altitude can also be called very diverse with Erica arborea, Erica exelsa, Hypericum revolutum, Helichrysum, yellow protea, a rocket species and different types of lobelia. The Lobelia deckenii and the Senecio kilimanjari only grow on Kilimanjaro. Tanzania's national tree is the African grenadilla.

Various plant species can also be found at an altitude of 4000-5000 meters. About 55 species still grow in this highland wasteland, including colored lichens and plants such as the Haplocarpa rueppelii and the Haplosciadium abyssinicum.

Mangrove forests are found on the coast of the Indian Ocean, usually in the form of shrubs and lower trees. Directly behind the mangrove area there are slightly high coastal forests.

The 25 million year old Eastern Arcs, 13 forested massifs, are of great ecological significance. These forests are among the areas with the greatest biodiversity in the world and are the oldest and most stable in Africa. Thanks to the constant moist air drifting in from the Indian Ocean, these forests have been around for 30 million years. The forests are home to 16 plant genera, 75 vertebrate species and approximately 1000 native invertebrate species. Over the past century, however, five of the Eastern Arc forests have lost more than three-quarters of their afforestation due to human intervention.

Tropical rainforest is limited to parts of high mountains. On Zanzibar, natural vegetation has been almost completely replaced by planted dense coconut palm groves.

Special trees

Babobab TanzaniaBabobab, TanzaniaPhoto: Prof. Chen Hualin CC 4.0 International no changes

In cities and towns, the flame trees with their red-orange flowers are a striking and common appearance.

Related to the flame tree is the jacaranda, which has a dense bath crown and comes in many different shapes.

Mango trees are planted in the vicinity of many houses, with the well-known very edible fruits.

Very striking are the flowering flame tree and the coral tree with its spiny trunk and leathery leaves.

The candelabra resembles a cactus and the 18 meter high sausage tree has typical fruits that can grow up to a meter long and kilos.

Tanzania's most striking tree is the Adansonia digitata or baobab, known for its irregular shapes and strange branches. The fruits are a delicacy for monkeys, and the tree is also called monkey bread tree. The baobab can become several tens of meters high and grow very old.

The most recognizable acacia is the Acacia tortilis or umbrella tree, which can grow up to twenty meters high and has centimeters long thorns.

The sycamore fig is a wild fig that can reach a height of 20 meters. The round fruits are eaten by many animals, while the leaves are a delicacy for elephants.

Animals: general

Animal world TanzaniaAnimal world, TanzaniaPhoto: Tessa Verrijp in the public domain

Tanzania's animal world is primarily that of the savannah, and is characterized by numerous antelopes (of which the blue or striped wildebeest is by far the most common), buffaloes, warthogs, giraffes, hippos, zebras, rare pointed-lipped rhinoceroses, elephants, lions, panthers, spotted hyenas, hyena dogs, and so on. The fact that there are so many different animal species in Tanzania is a result of the vegetation of the country and the height differences.

The fauna of the forests includes several monkey species and in the west the chimpanzee; the wildlife of the coastal forests differs somewhat from that of the inland forests. The fauna on the high peaks has an alpine character.

The bird world is very varied with more than 1000 species.

Reptiles and amphibians include hundreds of species.

The fish fauna of the rivers is quite poor, but the lakes (Lake Victoria and Tanganyika) contain large numbers of species, especially among the mouth brooders and relatives.

The other animal groups are very rich in species but little known. Off the coast are coral reefs with a typical tropical Indo-Pacific fauna.

The island of Zanzibar is close to the mainland as far as the animal world is concerned, albeit that there are some endemic elements, such as a duiker (antelope) and a frilly monkey.

Tanzania includes a large number of national parks and reserves, some of which are among the most important and famous in the world (Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater). Nature conservation has consistently continued after independence, despite poaching and the poor economic situation.


Tanzania is home to many large mammals, more than 80 species. The famous "big five" are also found in Tanzania, namely elephant, lion, leopard, hippo and buffalo.

Short descriptions:

African Elephant TanzaniaAfrican Elephant, TanzaniaPhoto: Tessa Verrijp in the public domain

The African elephant is the largest land mammal in the world, can reach a height of 3.5 meters and males can weigh more than 6000 kg. The trunk can reach a length of 1.7 meters, the tusks can reach almost two meters. A group of elephants consists of females with young and is led by the oldest female. Bull elephants live solitary. An elephant cub weighs about 130 kilograms at birth and is one meter high. Elephants live an average of 60 to 70 years. Two types of elephants live in Tanzania, the African bush elephant and the forest elephant. Adults eat leaves, branches, bark and fruits.

Hippotamus TanzaniaHippotamus, TanzaniaPhoto: Tessa Verrijp in the public domain

The hippopotamus lives in herds in most of Tanzania's major rivers and lakes and weighs up to 2500 kg, varies in length from 3 to 4 meters and grows to about 1.5 meters in height. They spend most of their life in the water, but they can also manage well on land. Adult animals have no natural enemies.

The black or point-lipped rhinoceros is still in danger of extinction; white rhinos are extinct in Tanzania. An adult black rhino can weigh up to 2500 kg, reach an average height of 1.75 meters and a length of more than three meters. Rhinos have no natural predators, only young animals sometimes fall prey to lions or a group of hyenas. The rhino's poor eyesight is offset by excellent hearing.

Lions TanzaniaLions, TanzaniaPhoto: Tessa Verrijp in the public domain

The lion is Africa's largest feline. A groop consist of six to twelve lionesses and their cubs and one or more males. They can grow up to two meters in length and weigh up to 200 kg. Generally, the females hunt and feed on antelopes and other small game, but giraffes are also attacked. The lions in Lake Manyara National Park have one striking feature: they climb trees!

Cheetah TanzaniaCheetah, TanzaniaPhoto: Tessa Verrijp in the public domain

The leopard lives solitary and usually hunts at night. The leopard is so strong that it can carry an adult impala up a tree. They live on plains as well as in forests.The cheetah is one of the fastest mammals in the world. Over short distances it can reach more than 100 km per hour. Young cheetahs often fall prey to lions, leopards and spotted hyenas. Caracals live in Tanzania's drier areas and are very similar to lynx in appearance. The serval is a bit smaller than the cheetah and lives in long grass and reeds. The African wildcat is one of the ancestors of the domestic cat. It occurs throughout Africa, up to the outskirts of cities.

Spotted Hyena, TanzaniaSpotted Hyena, TanzaniaPhoto: Tessa Verrijp in the public domain

The spotted hyena is a scavenger but also hunts in groups for antelopes, zebras and even the dangerous buffalo. The striped hyena is somewhat smaller than the spotted hyena and is sometimes seen in Northern Tanzania.

The black-backed jackal and the striped jackal hunt small mammals, but are also scavengers. The blackback lives on the open savannah, the striped jackal prefers a wooded environment.

The African wild dog is unique in the animal kingdom. They are very good hunters working together in groups of 10-15 specimens. This animal is in danger of extinction.

Giraffe TanzaniaGiraffe, TanzaniaPhoto: Tessa Verrijp in the public domain

The Maasai or Kenya giraffe is found in Tanzania, which stands out for its irregular spotting pattern. A male can grow to 5.5 meters and even a newborn giraffe is 1.75 in size. Giraffes live on leaves, fruits, flowers and tree bark, but have a strong preference for the thorny acacia. They live in groups of 10 to 25 animals.

Only the common or burchell's zebra is found in Tanzania. A zebra herd consists of one stallion and a number of mares with foals. During the migration, the small herds grow into large herds of thousands of individuals. The zebra grows to about 1.5 meters high and feeds mainly on grass.

African buffalo TanzaniaAfrican buffalo, TanzaniaPhoto: Tessa Verrijp in the public domain

The African buffalo is very heavily built and has a height of up to 150 cm. The horns can grow up to 1.5 meters long. They live in herds of a few dozen to several thousand individuals.

Wildebeast TanzaniaWildebeast, TanzaniaPhoto: Tessa Verrijp in the public domain

The (white-bearded) wildebeest is most common in Africa. Wildebeest normally live in groups of about 30 animals, but tens of thousands of wildebeest gather during the annual migration between Serengeti Masai-Mara.

The eland is the largest antelope in Africa, lives on the vast grassy plains and migrates in herds of about 20 animals. The male's helical horns can reach a length of 1.25 meters.

Other antelope species include the hartebeest (two species: Coke's hartebeest and topi), the sable antelope, horse antelope, oryx or skewer, common waterbuck, large kudu, lesser kudu, bushbuck, reedbuck, gray duiker, dik-dik, and oribi.

The Grant's gazelle has graceful long horns and lives in herds of about 30 animals.

The Thomson gazelle is the most common gazelle in Tanzania; in all of East Africa there are about 1 million in number.

Other gazelle species are the impala and the giraffe gazelle or geruka.

The warthog is the only African wild boar. The warty outgrowths on its head (four in the females and six in the males) are very characteristic.

The brush boar is mainly active at night and is only sporadically found in Tanzania.

The bat-eared fox is silver-gray in color and they mainly eat termites. They mainly live on grassy plains and slightly wooded terrain.

The white-tailed mongoose is very large and occurs throughout Tanzania. The animal lives solitary and hunts invertebrates, small mammals, but also eats fruits.

Other mongooses are the gray mongoose and the zebra mongoose.

The tiger cat is a nocturnal animal, lives solitary and hunts large invertebrates and small mammals.

Other small predators include the common genet, the African civet and the rattle or honey badger.

The chimpanzee is a great ape, about 120 cm in size and lives in wooded areas in groups of up to 100 animals.

Baboon, TanzaniaBaboon, TanzaniaPhoto:Tessa Verrijp in the public domain

The baboon is the largest monkey in Africa and lives both in trees and on the ground. They live in groups of up to 100 animals, and eat plant species, insects, eggs and even small mammals.

Other monkeys include the green meerkat, the blue meerkat, colobus or fringed monkey (black and white fringed monkey, red fringed monkey, Uhehe red fringed monkey) and the very rare Sanje crested mangabey, discovered only in 1979. Kirk’s red fringed monkey lives only on Zanzibar.

The jumping hare is a rodent, but it is explicitly not a member of the hare family. It is about 80 cm tall, lives in tunnels and feeds on roots, grass and other plants.

The great galago is a small primate species and a distant relative of the lemurs of Madagascar. Galagos eat everything, but prefer fruit, especially figs. The Senegal galago is also found in Tanzania.

Unbelievable as it may seem, hyraxes are related to the elephant. They eat leaves, flowers and fruits. The tree badger is related to the cliff badger, but lives at night.

The porcupine can grow up to three meters long, including spines. In Tanzania there are two species that, except in dense forest, are found everywhere in Tanzania.

The aardvark somewhat resembles a pig, is solitary and only active at night. With its long sticky tongue it catches termites, ants and larvae.


Tanzania has more than 1000 bird species, including some very rare ones, such as the Udzungwa partridge (only discovered in 1991), the Abbotts duiker and the green Pemba pigeon. The great variety in bird species is mainly caused by the many climates in Tanzania and the different vegetation forms.

Ostrich, TanzaniaOstrich, TanzaniaPhoto: Tessa Verrijp in the public domain

The ostrich living in groups is the largest and heaviest bird in the world. It is a flightless bird that can reach speeds of up to 50 km per hour.

The secretary bird is a bird of prey that hunts rodents, insects and reptiles. It hunts on the ground, but can also fly and sleeps in a thorn tree at night.

The Kori Bustard is the heaviest flying bird in Africa. A male specimen can reach a height of 1.20 meters and a weight of 18 kg. They hunt insects, reptiles and small rodents.

The scavenger marabou is a large stork species that lives in colonies. They also eat grasshoppers and frogs. Other stork species are the saddle-billed stork, the white stork, the African gaper, the Abdi-stork and the African nimmerzat.

The most common vultures in Tanzania are the white-backed vulture and the Rüppels vulture. Other vultures include the Egyptian vulture, the bearded vulture, the hooded vulture and the eared vulture.

The sacred ibis, a wader, is particularly notable for its bald black head and neck. It can be found on river banks, beaches and in swamps. They search for snails and crustaceans in the mud. The hadada ibis lives in pairs or small groups.

The African snake-neck bird resembles a cormorant and lives in inland waters and preferably around slow-flowing rivers. It catches its food underwater, piercing the fish with its dagger-like beak.

The white-breasted cormorant is the largest cormorant species in Africa and is also the most common. The smaller African pygmy cormorant is also found in Tanzania.

Other common waterfowl are the lesser and greater flamingo, the white pelican, the pink pelican, the hammerhead, the giant heron (largest heron species in the world), the cow heron, the blue heron, the black-headed heron, the purple heron, the spur-winged goose, the crown lapwing and the African jaçana or lily carpet.

The African bald eagle is closely related to the bald eagle. In East Africa there are also several other eagles, such as the fighting eagle, the crowned eagle, the black eagle, the bateleur (kind of snake eagle) and the steppe eagle. A special owl species is the Verreaux's eagle-owl and furthermore the African eagle-owl, the pearl-tailed owl and the barn owl.

The white-bellied turaco is a poor flyer and lives in wooded areas. The gray turaco is common in southern Tanzania.

Honey suckers always live near flowering plants, as they depend on honey, their main nutrient. There are many species in Tanzania, including the emerald, robin, green-throated, olive and amethyst honey sucker.

The red-billed token is one of the twenty token species that occur in Tanzania. They eat insects, small reptiles, seeds and fruits and nest in tree cavities. Other tokens are the Ethiopian Yellow-billed Tok, the Crested Tok and the Gray Tok.

The speckled mouse bird, like other mouse bird species, has soft, fur-like feathers. They eat fruits and live in colonies of 10-30 birds.

 Fischer's Lovebirds in the Serengeti National Park, TanzaniaFischer's Lovebirds in the Serengeti National Park, TanzaniaPhoto: D. Gordon E. Robertson CC 3.0 Unportedno changes

Fischer's lovebird is named after the 19th century explorer G.A. Fischer. The bird is native to Tanzania and only occurs in the north of the country on open grassy plains and agricultural areas.

The dwarf bee-eater is the smallest of the bee-eater family and grows only 15 centimeters in front. Not only do they eat bees, but also cicadas, hornets, wasps and dragonflies. Other species are the white-hooded bee-eater and the mountain bee-eater.

The red-billed oxpecker is a member of the starling family and eats ticks and blood-sucking flies from the backs of livestock and large wild mammals. Rare is the yellow-billed oxpecker.

The helmeted guineafowl is common in Tanzania. The bird mainly lives on the ground but stays high in trees overnight. They eat insects, snails, fruits and seeds. Another species is the vulture guineafowl.

The crested francolin is one of the sixteen species of the francolin. They look a bit like partridges, live mainly on the ground and nest in shallow cavities. The crested variety mainly lives in dry wooded areas.

The seed-eating dark red fire finch often nests near people. They live in colonies of 20-40 birds.

Weavers are large finches, weaving intricate hollow nests of grass. Each species makes its own typical nest. The black-headed weaver makes a nest in the shape of an onion.

The red-billed weaver is one of the most abundant birds on Earth and a pest to agriculture. Other species are the spectacle weaver, the mask weaver and the Speke's weaver.

Spur cuckoos are particularly at home on the ground and hunt insects, reptiles and small rodents there. In Tanzania, among other things, the eyebrow spur cuckoo and the blue-headed spur cuckoo occur.

The shield raven is the most common type of raven in Africa. They eat carrion, birds, insects, small rodents and eggs. A larger species is the white-necked crow.

Stork TanzaniaStork, TanzaniaPhoto: Tessa Verrijp in the public domain

There are of course many more birds, including mountain rooster, tricolor glacier starling, Hildebrandt glacier starling, green-tailed glazed starling, blue long-tailed glacier starling, crowned crane, hornbill, Egyptian goose and Stork.

Several small birds with extremely long tails include the African paradise monarch, magpie shrike, red-throated widowfinch, rooster-tailed widowfinch, broad-tailed paradise wida, and Fischer's agapornis or "lovebird".

Reptiles and Amphibians

Nile Crocodile TanzaniaNile Crocodile, TanzaniaPhoto: Haplochromis CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Most of the approximately 500 reptile species in Tanzania are harmless, but watch out for some poisonous snake species and of course for crocodiles. Many amphibians have adapted to the prolonged dry spells, simply disappearing underground for several months, waiting for the new rainy season.

The Nile crocodile grows to 5-7 meters long and can weigh up to 900 kg. They can also reach a high speed on land. They mainly eat fish and also mammals such as baboons, antelopes, wildebeest and occasionally people.

The Nile monitor is the largest lizard in Africa and can reach a length of two meters. They prefer to eat eggs, but also birds and small mammals. They climb trees but can also stay underwater for a long time.

With a length of no more than 130 cm, the savannah monitor is a lot smaller than the Nile monitor.

There are more than 80 types of skinks, a type of lizards. A number are found in East Africa, of which the African striped skink is the most common in Tanzania.

The three-clawed turtle grows to a maximum size of 90 cm and can weigh about 45 kg. It is green-brown in color and can be found in larger rivers, lakes and sometimes even in the sea. This turtle mainly eats fish and mollusks, but also fruits and insects.

Other turtles in Tanzania include the panther turtle, the African pond turtle, the pancake turtle, and the green turtle, the largest of the sea turtles.

Black Mamba TanzaniaBlack Mamba, TanzaniaPhoto: Safaritravelplus in the public domain

The black mamba can grow up to eight feet long and feeds on birds and small mammals. The black mamma is highly poisonous, as is the puff adder, which only grows to one meter in length. Unlike other snakes, the puff adder is viviparous.

Other snakes include the Mozambican spit cobra, the most common snake in Africa, the tree snake and the African rock python, Africa's largest snake.

The African bullfrog can grow up to 20 cm long, which is very large for a frog. In addition to worms and insects, they even occasionally eat small mammals.

The bottlenose dolphin is a marine mammal because it belongs to the dolphin family. The animal can grow to four meters long and weigh 650 kg. They swim in schools of a few dozen individuals around the island of Zanzibar.

The rare Chumbe coconut crab is the largest living land crab in the world. It climbs palm trees and can crack a coconut with its claws.

In October 2009, it was announced that the Kihansi Spray Toad or Kihansi vaporizer pad, a path that only occurs in the area of Kihansi waterfalls in Tanzania, is on the verge of extinction due to the construction of a dam. The amount of water in its habitat has therefore decreased by 90%.


Stick insect TanzaniaStick insect, TanzaniaPhoto: L. Shyamal C 3.0 Unported no changes made

Several tens of thousands of invertebrate species live in Tanzania. Some can be dangerous to humans, such as poisonous spiders, malaria mosquitoes, scorpions and tsetse flies.

Stick insects can grow up to 20 cm. They almost only eat leaves. Some species have wings, but only males can fly.

There are about 2,000 mantis species worldwide. They catch small insects with their front legs. A Tanzanian species can grow up to 15 cm.

The dung beetle also comes in all shapes and sizes; they grow, for example, between 0.5 and 4 cm long. They feed on animal feces and are often eaten by mongooses and bat-eared foxes themselves.

The achaat snail has a shell that can grow to 10 cm and eats all kinds of vegetation. In some areas the snail is very harmful to agriculture.

The mopane worm is in fact a larva or caterpillar of the great night peacock. It only eats leaves of the mopane tree and is in turn eaten by the locals, for whom it is a protein-rich delicacy.

The golden wheel spider, of which the female grows to 5 cm, make very strong webs, in which even small birds get entangled. The spider is poisonous, but not deadly to humans.

Centipede TanzaniaCentipede, TanzaniaPhoto:Bernard Dupont CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

There are over 1000 species of centipedes (actually several hundred feet), many of which are found in Tanzania. The large varieties can grow up to 30 cm long. They eat dead and rotting plants.

Of the more than 2500 species of mosquitoes, many are found in East Africa and therefore also in Tanzania. The female Anopheles are very fond of human blood and are the carriers of the parasites that cause malaria.

The tsetse fly is also very dangerous to humans. Some species carry parasites that can cause sleeping sickness.

Goliath beetles can grow up to 10 cm and weigh about 100 grams. There are two species in Tanzania, Goliathus goliatus and Goliathus orientalis, both of which are excellent in flight.

The draft ant is the largest ant in the world; worker ants measure 33 mm, the queen grows to 52 mm. The queen lays tens of millions of eggs in a year. The migratory ant lives in wooded areas.

The Tanzanian long-clawed scorpion is neither very poisonous nor aggressive, it is black with brown legs and adults grow to about 8 cm in length.


Many fish species are found in the pools, streams, rivers and lakes of Tanzania. The warm Gulf Stream of the Indian Ocean off the coast and around Zanzibar also has many fish species.

Nile Perch TanzaniaNile Perch, TanzaniaPhoto: Daiju Azuma CC 4.0 International no changes made

The Nile perch is the largest freshwater fish in the world and can reach a length of almost 2 meters and weigh 140 kg. This predatory fish lives in the major rivers and lakes, including of course Lake Victoria.

The Nile tilapia is a lot smaller than the Nile perch and can weigh 2 kg. This fish is widely eaten in East Africa and is also farmed there.

The tiger fish is a predatory fish that hunts smaller fish and crustaceans such as shrimps. It can grow up to 75 cm and weigh more than 18 kg.

The cichlid family consists of many hundreds of species, many of which are found in the great African lakes. Most cichlids are no larger than 20 cm.

The large grouper is one of the largest coral fish in the world and can live for decades. They often live in shallow water and eat crustaceans, fish, small turtles and even small sharks.

The black marlin can grow up to three meters in length and weigh about 180 kg. They hunt tuna, swordfish, squid and even dolphins.

The large barracuda can grow to almost two meters in length and feeds on small fish such as mullet, parrotfish and anchovies.


Entree sign Serengeti National Park, TanzaniaEntree sign Serengeti National Park, TanzaniaPhoto: Thomas Huston CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The Serengeti National Park (from 1951) is one of the most famous game reserves in the world and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Serengeti covers 14,763 km2. The entire Serengeti sco system includes the Maasi Mara in Kenya and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, an area of approximately 25,000 km2. One third of the park consists of grassy plains ("Siringit" is Maasi for "where the land has no end"), and so-called "cups" stand out: mountains of large pebbles that have emerged from erosion. In the vicinity of the cups there is often more vegetation and therefore more game and poultry.

In the middle of the park is the Seronera Valley, one of the richest wildlife areas in the area. Well known is the seasonal migration of wildebeest and zebras between Serengeti and Masai Mara, involving millions of animals twice a year. Estimated populations include 150,000 zebras, 25,000 buffaloes, 200,000 Thomson gazelles, 8,000 giraffes.

In 2010 a new snake species was discovered in southwestern Tanzania, which was confirmed in early 2012 in the scientific journal Zootaxa. The snake is named after a 7-year-old girl and has been given the generic name Matilda's horned viper (Atheris matildae). Matilda's horned viper is yellow-black in color, has green eyes and two pointed horns on its head.


Antiquity and Middle Ages

In the Oldowai Gorge 1.8 million year old remains of humanoid beings (including Zinjanthropus) have been found. The original inhabitants of mainland Tanzania have now almost disappeared. They were hunters and gatherers, related to the South African San (Bushmen).

Oldowai Gorge TanzaniaOldowai Gorge TanzaniaPhoto: Noel Feans CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

They were expelled by Bantu-language peoples, mostly farmers, and Nilotic-speaking pastoralists such as the Maasai. This immigration to the Tanzanian territory started about 3000 years ago and continued until about 1850.

From the 9th century onwards, Arabs settled along the coast, and the mixing of the Bantu languages and Arabic gave rise to Kiswahili, a commercial language or "lingua franca" that was understood and spoken by almost all native inhabitants of Tanzania. Portuguese dominated the trade between 1498 and 1828, when they were finally defeated by the Arabs.

Slaves were the most important commodity at one point. Many slaves were shipped to sugar plantations on the nearby islands of Zanzibar, Mauritius and Réunion, to Arab countries, as well as to America and the Caribbean. The "peak" of the slave trade was in the 1960s. Bagamayo was then the main slave market in mainland East Africa.

German rule

Fort Bagamoyo, TanzaniaFort Bagamoyo, TanzaniaPhoto: Rudolf Hellgrewe in the public domain

In 1884 the German Carl Peters was commissioned by the Deutsche Ost-Afrika Gesellschaft into the East African interior. On behalf of Chancellor Bismarck, treaties were concluded with local chieftains, who could therefore count on "protection". However, when this resulted in the prohibition of local traditions and the shooting of a black man, a revolt broke out in 1888, which was, however, brutally crushed by the "Reichsregierung". The Sultan of Zanzibar saw his control over large parts of the mainland lost and enlisted the help of the British. However, they counterproductive and in 1890 even concluded an alliance with the Germans, making Tanganyika (now: Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda) a German protectorate and Kenya, Uganda and Zanzibar within the British sphere of influence. A narrow coastal strip on the mainland remained for the poor sultan, and Great Britain's Queen Victoria gave Mount Kilimanjaro to the German Emperor's grandson.

The colonization of Tanganyika by the Germans was quite difficult, especially in the interior. Important for the area was the construction of a railway line from the coast to a fertile area near Kilimanjaro. Construction of the railway started in 1891 and lasted until 1911. In addition, the cultivation of commercial crops such as coffee and sisal was stimulated and financed. Cotton did not yield much due to the poor soil quality, and when people were forced to grow cotton in the southern coastal areas, the Maji Maji uprising broke out in 1905. This cost the lives of more than 70,000 Tanganyicans, not only through war but also through hunger and disease.

However, the Germans soon realized that forced labor did not work here and stimulated small-scale African agriculture, with the additional consequence that the unrest among the population decreased sharply. This allowed, for example, cotton cultivation to develop well south of Lake Victoria, the residential area of the Sukuma. The cotton trade was almost entirely controlled by Asian traders at the end of the nineteenth century.

Tanganyika under British mandate

Battle of Tanga (1914) between British and German troops, TanzaniaBattle of Tanga (1914) between British and German troops, TanzaniaPhoto: Public domain

The First World War had a profound effect on German rule in East Africa. The German army lost to the British time and again, but the British did not manage to chase the Germans out permanently.

However, the 1919 peace treaty stipulated that Germany should give up its claims to East Africa and all other colonies. Tanganyika was then placed under British mandate, on the understanding that the Rwanda-Urundi area fell into Belgian hands. However, the British did not find their new mandate area interesting and, in combination with the global economic crisis, Tanganyican agriculture suffered badly from the lack of investment and falling export prices.

During the Second World War, the Tanganyican economy improved again. British troops in East Africa needed a lot of food, but also rubber. Even after the war, Tanganyika remained interesting to the British, because large sales areas had disappeared due to the independence of India.

Tanganyika on the way to independence

 Tanganyikan African National Union Tanganyikan African National UnionPhoto: The National Archives UK Open Government 1.0 no changes made

After World War II, all League of Nations mandate territories were placed under the supervision of the United Nations. Its purpose was to gradually give those areas self-government and guide them towards independence. The first Legislative Assembly elections were held in Tanganyika in 1948.

In 1956, Julius Kambarage Nyerere, the future president, traveled to the United Nations in New York to advocate the independence of Tanganyika, which he was a strong supporter of. Ultimately, the United Nations recognized the right to self-determination and Nyerere's national political movement Tanganyika Africa National Union (TANU) was also recognized as a national political movement. This desire for independence dates back to the time between the two world wars and was prevalent across the country. The 'indirect rule' form of governance used by the British in particular caused a lot of bad blood. This meant that the British appointed local chiefs, even in areas where these chiefs did not mean the common population. The chiefs were therefore accused of collaborating with the colonizer.

Also for economic reasons things did not work out between the British and the Tanganyicans. The production of agricultural crops had to be further increased and therefore the small farmers were driven from their land to build large plantations. In addition, people were forced to apply other agricultural methods, which turned out wrong due to a lack of knowledge. In order to withdraw from the power of the British and the chiefs, the farmers in the main production areas united in cooperatives. This also increased the opportunity to resist. The British viewed these developments with mixed feelings, which entailed both advantages and disadvantages. Ultimately, however, the cooperatives would turn against the British rulers for good.

After the farmers, the dock workers in the cities revolted against the British. Their main demand was a wage increase, and both railway workers and teaching staff would eventually strike with the dockers. To prevent the strikes from spreading to other parts of the country, the British decided to make concessions. They agreed to the pay rise and allowed the formation of unions. In 1955, the Tanganyika Federation of Labor (TFL), a federation of various trade unions, was established under the leadership of Rashidi Kawawa, the later Prime Minister. The first national political party, the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU), was also established in 1954, the successor to the anti-colonial movement Tanganyika African Association (TAA), which was founded in 1922.

Rise of Julius Nyerere

Tanganyika: Julius Nyerere holding a sign demanding complete independence from the British Empire in 1961 Tanganyika: Julius Nyerere holding a sign demanding complete independence from the British Empire in 1961Photo:The National Archives UK Open Government 1.0 no changes made

Julius Nyerere was the great man of this movement, for as early as 1940 he had demanded more attention from the British for the development of the African population and in 1954 a draft constitution of the TAA was even published.

In 1959 Tanganyika got a cabinet for the first time, eventually with five ministers from the TANU. In 1960, the general election was won by TANU, with 70 out of 71 seats, with Nyerere as Prime Minister. In May 1961, the country gained full self-government and on December 9, 1961, the independent Tanganyika was proclaimed, with Nyerere as president.

Tanzania initially went well under Nyerere. Nyerere was popular and managed to maintain unity among the more than a hundred population groups, with the TANU as a binding agent. He even resigned a month after the transfer of power to organize the TANU all over the country. His place was taken by former union leader Rashidi Kawawa, who immediately overhauled the colonial administrative system.

Developments on Zanzibar

Karume ZanzibarKarume ZanzibarPhoto: Unknown CC 3.0 Netherlands no changes made

On the island of Zanzibar, developments did not go so fast and the existing hierarchy remained intact for quite some time. Here the Europeans occupied the highest posts and the Africans were kept under control and put to work on the farmland. Two years after Tanganyika, in December 1963, Zanzibar and Pemba also gained independence, but the government only lasted one month.

In January 1964 the black population revolted against the oppressive Arabs and the sultan was expelled. Thousands of Arabs were slaughtered and others fled to Oman and other Gulf countries.

Power was now in the hands of the Afro-Shirazi Party (ASP), which included Africans from the mainland and Arabs. The new regime, led by Sheikh Abeid Karume, forged close ties with communist countries such as the GDR and China, much to the concern of the United States.

After all, it was the time of the Cold War and they wanted to avoid a second "Cuba" at all costs. Nyerere was pressured by the Americans to form a union with Zanzibar and Pemba, and on April 22, 1964, the time had come: Tanganyika and Zanzibar together formed the United Republic of Tanzania, while Zanzibar retained a large degree of autonomy.

However, this autonomous position is still causing problems to this day. For example, Zanzibar has its own president and its own government. The president of Zanzibar is also vice-president of the United Republic of Tanzania. There have been several coup attempts over the years, including in 1984 and 1988. Karume was murdered as early as 1972; he was succeeded by Aboud Jumbe.

These coups were triggered by discontent, because the economy of Zanzibar was much worse than the economic situation of Tanzania. The large differences between the African and Arab population groups also played a major role in this. The relations between the main island of Unguja and Pemba are also far from good.

Preparations for a multiparty system in 1992 initiated a process of secession by islanders. The first election under the new system was held in Zanzibar in 1993. The elections were won by the Revolutionary Party of Tanzania (CCM), but boycotted by almost the entire opposition.

President Nyerere

In 1965 Nyerere declared Tanzania a one-party state; he was still deeply convinced that in order to maintain unity in the country, one political party was best. In Tanganyika only the TANU and in Zanzibar only the Shirazi party was admitted.

President Nyerere and Prince Claus of the NetherlandsPresident Nyerere and Prince Claus of the NetherlandsPhoto: Rob Croes/Anefo in the public domain

In addition, he was also a little afraid of his own position. After independence, economic development lagged behind expectations and that did not benefit his popularity. The many millions of small farmers in particular were poorly off and received almost no government attention. Industrial development also lagged far behind and the sale of agricultural products abroad stalled. Domestic unrest led to an army mutiny in 1964 and trouble at the University of Dar-es-Salaam in 1966. However, with the help of British troops and Nyerere's verbal talents, these crises were quickly averted.

On February 5, 1967, the Arusha Declaration was published by the Executive Committee of TANU. Some of the main points of the future policy were self-reliance (self-reliance) and "ujamaa" (family sense). It also included a leadership code and characteristics of Tanzanian socialism: an active role for the state, no more exploitation of the peasants and one could no longer depend on foreign countries.

Immediately after the Declaration was published, all banks and many large companies were nationalized. Also notable were the establishment of so-called Ujamaa villages, which were based on the old values and traditions of the family communities in the countryside. In the villages, the land could also be worked jointly and all kinds of social facilities could be realized more easily.

The result was a massive migration of more than 3 million Tanzanians who moved to the new villages. Nyerere's plans were received with great enthusiasm both nationally and internationally.

Seventies and eighties

Arusha Declaration Monument TanzaniaArusha Declaration Monument TanzaniaPhoto: Jonathan Stonehouse CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

From the early 1970s, however, it soon became clear that "Arusha" and ujamaa would not bring the hoped-for economic prosperity and prosperity. Both external and internal factors were to blame for the economic downturn. In terms of trade position, Tanzania was hit hard by the rise in oil prices and the prices of export products lagged far behind those of imports. The disintegration of the East African Community in 1977 did not help the economic situation either, and a war with Uganda in 1978 brought defense spending to almost 25% of national income. The weather was also not cooperative due to heavy floods and long periods of drought.

In 1977 the TANU and the Afro-Shirazi Party of Zanzibar merged into the CCM, the Chama Cha Mapinduzi, the Party of the Revolution.

The ujamaa project was also unsuccessful internally: due to the applied shifting agriculture, the soil quickly became depleted, resulting in a decline in agricultural production. Moreover, the land in the vicinity of the new villages was by no means always suitable for agriculture and there was often a shortage of water. The closure of farmers' cooperatives in 1976 was not a smart move either. Their role was taken over by state trading companies, which were soon rife with corruption, inefficiency and bureaucracy.

All these factors led to a deep crisis in Tanzanian society. The Tanzanians lost faith in their leaders, reinforced by continued inflation and lagging wages. Almost everyone was forced to do some extra work, and little was left of the once socialist stronghold in Africa. From the early eighties of the last century there was for the first time open resistance against the party and government.

War broke out with neighboring Uganda in 1979, after troops of dictator Idi Amin invaded Tanzania. Tanzanian forces expelled Amin with the help of Ugandan exiles.

For example, in 1982 an airplane was hijacked, and hijackers demanded the resignation of the government. Less than a year later, a plot against the government was discovered, but even now it had no consequences for the government of Nyerere. Nyerere was succeeded by Ali Hassan Mwinyi in 1985, as real economic reforms were highly desirable. Despite allegations of things like corruption and abuse of power, Mwinyi remained in his post for ten years and helped Tanzania through a difficult period in all respects. He implemented economic reforms and there was also more political freedom.

The nineties

Mkapa TanzaniaMkapa TanzaniaPhoto: World Economic Forum/Photo by Aly Ramji / Mediapix CC2.0 Generic no changes made

Due to the monopolistic position of the CCM, the call for a multiparty system arose, something which was finally realized in 1992.

In 1994 half a million refugees from civil war-ravaged Rwanda crossed the border into Tanzania, as did tens of thousands of refugees from Burundi. The Rwandans were again forced to return to their country in December 1996.

In 1995, elections were held for the first time since the 1960s, with multiple parties taking part. The election was won by the CCM's Benjamin Mkapa, many say for a lack of anything better. Mkapa was the replacement for Ali Hassan Mwinyi. Fifteen parties took part in the chaotic elections, and this political division obviously played into Mkapa's hands.

The irregularities in the elections were the reached a climax in the capital Dar-es-Salaam: they had to be repeated there. Ultimately, the CCM got 215 of the 265 seats. The cabinet put together by Mkapa was very surprising; many technocrats and the old guard was almost completely dismissed. Almost all regions were also represented in the cabinet.

On March 14, 1996, the presidents of Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda inaugurated the secretariat of the East Arican Co-operation in Arusha. The new EAC also aims to achieve close cooperation in the areas of transport, communication, agriculture, livestock, fishing, industry and some other, less important economic sectors.

In May 1996, President Salmin Amour of Zanzibar was sworn in as a member of the Union Government. In late 1997 and early 1998, Tanzania was hit by severe flooding that destroyed roads and lost crops. At the end of 1998, food supplies for 300,000 people were at risk, especially in the Eastern and Northern regions, due to drought and a plant disease that destroyed part of the crop. In August of that year, Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaida terrorist group attacked the US embassy in Dar-es-Salaam. Twelve people were killed and more than eighty injured.

Former president Nyerere passed away on 14 October 1999, who, as a mediator, until his death, tried to end the civil war in neighboring Burundi. Tanzania was home to 300,000 Burundian refugees and in 1999 also received at least 120,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

21st century

Kikwete, TanzaniaKikwete, TanzaniaPhoto: World Economic Forum/Photo by Matthew Jordaan / Mediapix CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

In October 2000, President Mkapa was re-elected with 69% of the vote and the CCM increased its majority in parliament to 85%. While the elections went well overall, Zanzibar was once again experiencing chaos, fraud and violence. CCM candidate Amani Karume was elected president of Zanzibar, but the CUF did not recognize this result and refused to sit in the House of Representatives.

At the end of January 2001, the opposition called for peaceful demonstrations, which, however, got out of hand and resulted in up to 30 deaths on Pemba. That is why partial elections in Pemba in May 2003 were eagerly awaited. The elections were conducted peacefully and democratically, with the CUF as the big winner, winning all seats.

In fact, only two political parties set the political scene in Tanzania, in addition there are a number of smaller parties. The two most important are the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) and the opposition Civic United Front (CUF); the latter has many followers among Muslims, especially on Pemba and in the coastal regions. In the 2005 elections, 197 of the 223 seats in parliament went to CCM and CCM presidential candidate Jakaya Kikwete won with 80% of the vote. The CUF currently holds 19 seats in Parliament.

In 2008, the head of the central bank Daudi Ballali is fired and in February the president changes the government, all because of corruption scandals.

In November 2009, Tanzania, together with Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, formed an alliance to promote trade and the free movement of people between these East African countries. President Kikwete will be re-elected in October 2010. In March 2012, large oil reserves are discovered off the coast of Tanzania. Six ministers were fired for corruption by President Kikwete in May 2012. In March 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping also visited Tanzania during his Africa trip. In November 2013, an illegal amount of ivory was found at Chinese traders in Dar es Salaam. In November 2015, John Magafuli wins the presidential election. In April 2016, Tanzania and Uganda decide to build the first East African oil pipeline. In February 2017, the government banned several private health centers from fighting HIV and AIDS. The government has accused the clinics of promoting homosexuality. In 2018, Denmark suspends aid to Tanzania due to the government's intolerant attitude towards homosexuality. The next elections are scheduled for October 2020.



Sukuma women and children, TanzaniaSukuma women and children, TanzaniaPhoto: Paulshaffner CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

The Tanzanian population consists for 99% of Africans and consists of about 120 tribes, mainly Bantu speakers, who came from West and North Africa in the distant past. The oldest group of inhabitants speak Khoisan (a so-called "click language"), a language also spoken by the Hottentots of Southern Africa. The Cushite-speaking tribes migrated to Tanzania from Ethiopia and Somalia.

The largest tribes are those of the Sukuma, Nyamwezi, Haya, Nyakyusa and Chagga with more than 1 million members each.

In addition to the African population groups, Tanzania is home to Nilots (Luo, Maasai), Arabs, Asians (mainly Indians and Pakistanis who live in Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar) and Europeans. The original population of Zanzibar consists of Hadimu, Tumbatu and Pemba.

There are no predominant contradictions between the different tribes. This is most likely because none of the tribes make up much more than 10% of the total population.

Short description of important or special tribes:


The reasonably prosperous Chagga were one of the first tribes to meet Lutheran and Roman Catholic missionaries, who provided better agricultural methods. They mainly live on the southern slopes of Kilimanjaro, where they mainly grow coffee on the fertile soil.


The Dorobo are a Nilotic speaking hunter tribe living in the same areas as the Maasai. However, most of the tribe lives in Kenya and they are called Ndoboro there.


The still very traditionally living Ha live in western Tanzania and on the northern shores of Lake Tanganyika. They are livestock keepers who are world famous for their traditional dances.


The Hadzapi, who have lived in Tanzania for thousands of years, live in Northern Tanzania and are farmers and pastoralists. Closely related to the Hadzapi are the Sandawe and Hi tribe. The San tribe or Hottentots from southern Africa are also closely related to Hadzapi, who speak Khoisan, a so-called "click language". The ancestors of this tribe lived in Ethiopia.


The Haya are farmers who also benefited greatly from the early introduction to Europeans and socially and culturally. Both coffee and banana cultivation is important to them and they are also culturally and socially highly developed.


The Hehe are a very self-contained tribe, with strict social and cultural customs. It used to be a warlike people, nowadays some clans live from agriculture, others from cattle breeding and still others have a mixed farm.


The Hi live mainly southwest of Lake Eyasi in Northern Tanzania. It is one of the smallest Tanzanian tribes and they are closely related to the Hadzapi and the Sandawe. They speak Khoisan, a "click language". The primitive people live from hunting, eat tubers and do not live in tents but live in the open air.

MAASAI ("he who speaks the language of the Maa")

Maasai are livestock farmers who migrated from North Africa, via the Nile Valley, to Tanzania in the 17th century. The largest Maasai tribe, the Ilkisongo, lives in Tanzania.

They are very striking because of their large stature and their colorful clothing.


The very retired Makonde live in southeastern Tanzania and partly in Mozambique. They are among the largest tribes in Tanzania and are renowned for their beautiful carvings.

NYAMWEZI (Swahili: "people of the moon")

The Nyamwezi, sister people of the Sukuma, live in the very dry area south of Tabora on the Ugalla River. These former trading people originated from a number of Bantu tribes and now mainly grow rice, maize and sorghum.


The ancestors of this "tribe" come from the Shiraz region of Iran and eventually mixed with Bantu tribes. There is actually no longer any question of a real tribe.

SUKUMA ("people of the north")

The Sukuma, sister people of the Nyamwezi, are the largest tribe in Tanzania and make up more than 10% of the population. They mainly live south of Lake Victoria in northern Tanzania. They live from extensive livestock farming, but mainly from agriculture, and were the first to grow cotton on a large scale. They also grow sorghum, millet and maize.


The Swahili are not so much a separate people as a collection of peoples in the coastal area of Tanzania.

Main concentrations of individual tribes

Haya girl, TanzaniaHaya girl, TanzaniaPhoto: Happiness Stephen CC 4.0 International no changes

Northern Tanzania from west to east

Nguruimi, Kuria, Ikuzu, Sweta, Isenye, Ngorome, Nyamongo, Nyabasi, Nata, Ikoma, Songo, Meru, Arusha, Chagga, Pare, Mbugu, Shamba, Bondei

Around Lake Victoria

Nyambo, Haya, Rundi, Subi, Zinza, Sukuma, Kerewe, Kara, Zanaki, Bakway, Basita

Indian Ocean coast from north to south

Digo, Zigua, Kwere, Zaramo, Rufiji, Mbwera, Matumbi, Machinga, Makombe

Central Tanzania from north to south

Sumbwa, Hadzapi, Mbugwe, Hi, Iraqw, Sukuma, Masai, Gorowa, Nyisanzu, Nyiramba, Iramba, Tatoga, Rangi, Burungi, Sandawe, Nyaturu, Gogo, Nyamwezi, Rungwa, Kaguru, Nguru, Luguru, Kutu, Sagara, Vidunda, Hehe, Kimbu, Pimbwe, Sangu, Bungu, Guruka, Nyia, Ngonde, Safwa, Mbunga, Ndamba, Bena, Ndingo

Southern border from west to east

Namwanga, Fumbo, Kukwe, Ndari, Wanji, Kinga, Nyakyusa, Kinga, Kisi, Manda, Pangwa, Ngoni, Nyasa, Matengo, Ndendehule, Ndonde, Yao, Pogoro, Makua, Mwera

West near Lake Tanganyika from north to south

Ha, Manyema, Vinza, Jiji, Baholoholo, Tonwe, Bende, Konongo, Fipa, Rungu, Mambwe

Distribution and demographics

Dar Es Salaam, TanzaniaDar Es Salaam, TanzaniaPhoto: BBM Explorer CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Tanzania officially has almost 54 million inhabitants in 2017 and is relatively sparsely populated with an average population density of approximately 57 inhabitants per km2.

The population distribution is very uneven. Some coastal areas and Zanzibar / Pemba are densely populated, with more than 300 inhabitants per km2.

The area around Lake Victoria also has a high population density. However, only one person per km2 lives in some arid regions.

The annual population growth was around 3% between 1985 and 2010 (2017: 2.75%).

The biggest cities are: Dar es Salaam, main port, government seat and former capital (6 million) Dodoma, Zanzibar Town, Morogoro, Mbeya, Tanga and Mwanza. Yet most people still live in rural areas, a consequence of Tanzania's tradition of being a tribal society. In 2017, 34% of the population lives in cities.

Population composition in 2017:

Life expectancy in 2017:


Swahili is mainly spoken in East Africa by approximately 50 million people in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Congo and Rwanda. In Tanzania and Kenya it is the official national language. However, for most people who speak Swahili it is not their native language. That's it for just 5 million of the said 50 million speakers.

Distribution of Swahili language, TanzaniaDistribution of Swahili language, TanzaniaPhoto: Slashme CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Swahili, called Kiswahili by the Tanzanians (the preposition "ki" indicates that it concerns a language), is still used in primary education, among other things. English is also widely used, including in secondary and higher education, in parliament and on official occasions.

Swahili is a mixed language of original bantu languages, strongly influenced by Arabic, Portuguese and Hindi. Swahili used to be a lingua franca or common trade language. The word Swahili comes from the Arabic "sawa hili", which means "from the coast".

Swahili has fifteen dialects of which Kiunguja is the most common. Other dialects include Kimvita, Kiamu, Kipemba, Kimtang'ata, Kimrima, Kiamu, Kipate, Kisiu, Kitikuu, Kivumba, Kingwana and Kingozi, a literary dialect used in classical Swahili poetry.

Special about Swahili is that every letter is pronounced, regardless of whether it is part of a group of consonants. If a letter is written twice, it is also spoken twice. In Swahili, the emphasis is almost always on the second to last syllable.

Furthermore, all tribes have their own language.

Some Swahili Words and Phrases


Approx. 25% of the population still adheres to indigenous nature religions, which, however, are often mixed with other religions. A number of tribes are almost unaffected by other religions, especially the Maasai. Their god is called Engai and the main sacred site is on the still active volcano Ol Doinyo Lengai, “the Mountain of God”.

Mosque in Tanga, TanzaniaMosque in Tanga, TanzaniaPhoto: Gordon Greenall CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

The percentage of Muslims is approximately 35, on the island of Zanzibar even 95% of the population is Muslim. The first mosque was built in 1107 and Zanzibar currently has about fifty mosques. On the mainland, most Muslims live in the coastal areas.

Hindus are mainly found in Dar es Salaam among the Asian population.

The number of Christians, who can be found mainly in the interior, is estimated at 46%, of which 33% are Roman Catholic and 13% Anglican, Presbyterian, Orthodox and Lutheran.


State structure and administration

Tanzania Coat of ArmsTanzania Coat of ArmsPhoto: FischX CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The United Republic of Tanzania consists of the mainland and islands of Zanzibar, composed of the main island of Unguja, and Pemba and many other small islands.

The federation's head of state is the president, who can be elected for up to two five-year terms. He has a lot of power, because he appoints the prime minister, is commander in chief of the armed forces, has the right to veto the legislation, appoints some of the members of parliament and has the right to dissolve the parliament.

The 296 members of the Parliament or National Assembly (Bunge) are elected in part for five years by Tanzanians aged eighteen and older. 231 members are elected by the population, 49 places are reserved for women nominated by the president. Five seats are reserved for the Zanzibar House of Representatives, there is one attorney general, and up to 10 other members are nominated by the president. Although Dar es Salaam (Swahili: "House of Peace") is the undisputed economic, social and administrative center of Tanzania, Dodoma is formally the country's capital.

Zanzibar and Pemba have also had their own daily administration and an elected parliament since 1979, which are responsible for the internal affairs of the island. The House of Representatives consists of 50 directly elected members, to which nine women are added.

Since 1985, the two islands also have their own regional Constitution. The President of Zanzibar was also Vice President of Tanzania until 1996 and is also elected for a term of five years. In reality, Zanzibar has been governed by decree since 1964. For the current political situation see chapter history.

Administrative division

Administrative division Tanzania Administrative division Tanzania Photo: TUBS CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Tanzania is administratively divided into 26 regions (21 mainland; 5 Zanzibar), which are divided into 130 districts and are led by a regional commissioner.

Zanzibar and Pemba are divided into three and two regions respectively. A district is headed by a district commissioner appointed by the central government.

ArushaArusha36.486 km21.290.000
Dar es SalaamDar es Salaam1.393 km22.500.000
DodomaDodoma41.311 km21.700.000
IringaIringa56.864 km21.500.000
KageraBukoba28.388 km22.050.000
KigomaKigoma37.037 km21.700.000
KilimanjaroMoshi13.309 km21.400.000
LindiLindi66.046 km2790.000
ManyaraBabati45.820 km21.050.000
MaraMusoma19.566 km21.375.000
MbeyaMbeya60.350 km22.075.000
MorogoroMorogoro70.799 km21.800.000
MtwaraMtwara16.707 km21.150.000
MwanzaMwanza19.592 km23.000.000
Pemba 906 km2365.000
PwaniDar es Salaam32.407 km2890.000
RukwaSumbawanga68.635 km21.150.000
RuvumaSongea63.498 km21.120.000
ShinvangaShinvanga50.781 km22.800.000
SingidaSindiga49.341 km21.100.000
TaboraTabora76.151 km21.750.000
TangaTanga26.808 km21.650.000
ZanzibarZanzibar1.554 km2625.000


School kids TanzaniaSchool kids TanzaniaPhoto: Sanderflight in the public domain

Compulsory education has existed since 1970 and Tanzania was one of the countries in Africa with the lowest illiteracy rate. Since 1986, the illiteracy rate has been growing again, from 9.6% in 1986 to 27.2% in 1997. At present, less than 50% of children go to primary school, and one in ten pupils subsequently completes secondary school. In particular, many rural girls drop out of school early. The families there have little money and prefer education for their sons.

The Tanzanian government realizes that good education is one of the pillars for the development of the country. Education is therefore one of the spearheads and one of the (overly optimistic?) Goals was primary education for everyone in 2015. Under the impulse of the Basic Education Master Plan (BEMP), a start was made in 1997 on reforming primary education.

The structure of the Formal Education and Training System consists of two years of pre-school education, seven years of primary education, four years of 'junior secondary' and two years of 'senior secondary'. After that, one can pursue three or more years of higher education.

Many Catholic and Protestant organizations have founded schools and there are also private schools founded by parents. Tanzania has two universities: the University of Dar es Salaam, founded in 1961 and the University of Agriculture of Sokoine, founded in 1984.



Dar Es Salaam Economic Center of TanzaniaDar Es Salaam Economic Center of TanzaniaPhoto: Davis Stanley CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Until the end of the 1970s, Tanzania was considered a model developing country, partly because of the large amounts of development aid from abroad. At the beginning of the 1980s, however, economic decline struck due to declines in the world market of important export products such as coffee and cotton, and an underdeveloped transport and communications sector as the main cause. In 1986 a reform agreement was signed with the IMF and the World Bank, whereby the agricultural sector was to serve as the basis and engine of development in other sectors. Liberalization of the economy was initiated and foreign investment was encouraged. However, developments are still very slow.

At the end of the nineties, the economy took a negative turn due to a sharp drop in exports. Tanzania was granted the status of Heavily Indebted Poor Country by the IMF in 1999. This resulted in a cancellation of the external debt.

Because the economy is one quarter dependent on the agricultural sector, the economy is very vulnerable. 80% of the working population is employed in agriculture, horticulture and forestry, livestock farming and fishing. Heavy rainfall or extreme drought means a greatly reduced production, which in turn weakens economic growth.

In the East African Development Strategy, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda have agreed that a customs union and a common market will be realized.

Despite everything, Tanzania is currently one of the poorest countries in the world, where one fifth of the population lives below the poverty line. Most of the poor population lives in rural areas, but the number of urban poor is also growing rapidly.

It is estimated that only about half of the population has clean drinking water and diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, diarrhea and infections are common. The high death rate is also negatively affected by AIDS; It is estimated that almost 10% of the population is HIV positive, especially the age group between 15 and 49 years. in recent years economic growth has picked up by an average of 6-7% per year (2017). The GDP per capita is $ 3,200 (2017).

Agriculture, livestock, forestry and fishing

Rice farming TanzaniaRice farming TanzaniaPhoto: Michaelgoima CC 4.0 International no changes made

The agricultural sector contributes approximately 23.4% to the GNP (2017) and provides employment to 66.9% of the working population. In addition to self-sufficiency, this sector makes a large contribution to export income. Most farmers have a piece of land of no more than 2 ha. Important agricultural areas are the coastal plain, the areas with volcanic soil in the north around Tanga, Moshi and Arusha. Furthermore, the area around Lake Victoria and the southwest.

The main agricultural exports are coffee, cotton, tea and cashews. The once thriving sisal production in Morogoro Province collapsed in the 1980s. Flower cultivation is a relatively new commercial market, both for the production of seed and for the export of cut flowers to Europe. Among other things, wheat is grown on the slopes of the Ngorongoro highlands, while a lot of corn is produced in the drier areas. In the coastal areas, copra is harvested on commercial coconut plantations, from which coconut oil, coconut cake for livestock and other by-products are extracted.

The area around Moshi, especially the lower area around Kilimanjaro, is world famous for the Arabica coffee, the best coffee grown in Tanzania. Most of the plantations are owned by members of the Chagga tribe.

Cloves are grown on Zanzibar and in particular Pemba, about 80% of the world production. Vanilla, ginger, nutmeg and lemongrass are also grown on a fairly large scale on Pemba.

Livestock farming occurs mainly in the north and central highlands and is carried out by nomads, mainly for their own use.

Approx. 45% of the land is covered with forest, where only a small part can be exploited in a commercially responsible manner. Important for export are ebony, mahogany and sandalwood; by-products are beeswax, resin and gum. As more and more land is cleared for agriculture and the production of firewood and charcoal, deforestation is an increasing problem.

Tanzania has plenty of fish-rich waters, but a shortage of modern ships and processing capacity. Of the fishery, the inland fisheries on Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika are important. In Kibirizi and Kigoma along Lake Victoria, sardine fishing is the main industry. Although tilapia is the most commonly eaten, Nile perch, which was only released in Lake Victoria in 1956, accounts for 75% of the total catch.

Sea fishing is still little developed. A vibrant domestic trade in deep-sea fish has developed along the coast, including marlin and tuna, as well as octopus, crab and snapper.


Tanzania natural resources mapTanzania natural resources mapPhoto: Shakki CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Mineral extraction is owned by the State Mining Corporation, but does not yet contribute much to GDP, although it is one of the fastest growing sectors in the Tanzanian economy. Tanzania's soil contains many minerals, including coal, iron ore, diamond, gold, tanzanite, salt, gypsum nickel and cobalt. Companies from Western countries have recently made major investments in the mining sector. For example, the large gold mine of Bulyanhulu is in Canadian hands and a large part of the profit goes abroad. The local communities therefore benefit very little and that has regularly led to riots and even bloody confrontations.

The large number of mines in Tanzania mainly produces gold. Tanzania has the third largest gold mine in Africa, with a yield of more than 10,000 kilos per year.

Tanzanite is a light brown semi-precious stone, which was only discovered in 1967. After heating, the stone changes into a beautiful purple-blue color. The only mine in the world that produces tanzanite is located in Mererani. The United States is the largest buyer with 80%.


Sisal products TanzaniaSisal products TanzaniaPhoto: Achim Rachka CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The industrial sector accounted for 28.6% of GDP in 2017. The industry is mainly concerned with the processing of the agricultural products and is concentrated in Dar es Salaam, Moshi, Tanga, Arusha, Mwanza, Morogoro and Dodoma. In addition, there are a petroleum and petrochemical refinery, cement, fertilizer, tobacco, paper and textile mills.

Growth sectors are food production, beverages, textiles, paints and sisal ropes.

Energy supply

Logo Tanesco, TanzaniaLogo Tanesco, TanzaniaPhoto: Public domain

Power generation and distribution are provided by the Tanganyika Electricity Supply Company (Tanesco). Electricity is mainly (approx. 75%) supplied by hydropower plants. Other important sources of energy are imported petroleum and coal. Little use is made of wind and solar energy.

A sisal biogas plant is opened in 2004 in the Tanga region. Tanzania thus becomes the first East African country to generate electricity from sisal waste.


Tanzania ExportTanzania ExportPhoto: R. Haussmann, Cesar Hidalgo, CC 3.0 no changes made

The government is heavily involved in foreign trade. For example, only since 1996 there has been a total lifting of the import and export restrictions in force. Although the trade deficit is gradually narrowing, it was still close to $ 3 billion in 2017.

Exported are: coffee, cotton, cloves, tea, tobacco, cashew nuts, gold, diamond, sisal and products from the processing industry. Main buyers are India (especially cashews) Kenya, China, South Africa and the EU countries, The total value of exports was $ 5 billion.

Imported are machinery, vehicles, semi-finished products (petroleum) and foodstuffs. Main suppliers are China, India, UAE and South Africa. The total value of the imports was $ 7.9 billion.


Tanzania Railways CorporationTanzania Railways CorporationPhoto: Erasmus Kamugisha CC 4.0 International no changes made

The Tanzanian road network is widespread, but only a small part of the total road network, in total approx. 100,000 km, is asphalted. With the Integrated Roads Program, the Tanzanian government is investing heavily in the road network. At the moment, the main cities are easily accessible by road, although the road condition is not always good.

The Tanzam Highway runs from Dar es Salaam via Morogoro and Iringa to the Zambian capital Lusaka. The Tanzam Highway cuts through Mikumi National Park.

The Tanzania Railways Corporation is the state rail company and the governor of 3000 km of railways. The main railway lines are the line from Dar es Salaam to Kigoma, the line from Tanga to Arusha and the line between Dar es Salaam and the Zambian city of Kapiri Mposhi, which gives the country a rail connection to the whole of southern Africa. The railway is operated by the Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority.

Since 1970, the Tazara Railway has run through Tanzania and Zambia, for 1,860 km, starting in Dar es Salaam and ending in Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia. The collapse of the Zambian copper industry puts the future of this railway at stake.

The port of Dar es Salaam has great significance for the economy of Tanzania, but also for the neighboring countries Zambia, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. Other major ports are those of Tanga and Mtwara. Smaller ports on the Indian Ocean are Kwale, Kilwa, Lindi, Mafia, Bagamoyo and Pangani.

The national airline is Air Tanzania, privatized since 2002. Liberalization of the market has created some new airlines that compete with Air Tanzania on domestic flights.

Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, Mwanza and Arusha (due to the tourist attraction of Kilimanjaro) have international airports. There are also a large number of smaller airports and landing strips at many national parks.

Holidays and Sightseeing

Zanzibar, TanzaniaZanzibar, TanzaniaPhoto: Avishai Winiwarter CC4.0 Internationalno changes made

Tourism is a potential growth sector. On average, the tourist market has grown by 7 percent in recent years. Revenues have increased tenfold in the last decade and the number of tourists has quadrupled, with most tourists coming from Italy, Spain, Germany, Switzerland and Israel. Zanzibar attracts more than 100,000 tourists annually and tourism is the second largest source of income after the production of cloves.

Tanzania has a number of world-renowned natural attractions.

Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, is important. Kilomanjaro is a mountain range consisting of three volcanoes. Many tourists climb this mountain every year. It's not a very difficult climb in itself, but altitude sickness can be a problem because of the thin air at this altitude.

Serengeti national park TanzaniaSerengeti national park TanzaniaPhoto: Michelle Maria CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The Serengeti National Park is Tanzania's major tourist attraction and top safari destination. It is best known for its great migration with millions of animals traversing the park in search of water and food elsewhere. The park is described in more detail in the chapter plants and animals.

In the Ngorongoro area you will find the largest collapsed volcano crater in the world. Such a crater is also called Caldera. Ngorongoro is located at an altitude of 2,200 meters near Arusha. This is the habitat of the colorful Massaai tribe. Due to its remote location, you can see many wild animals at the bottom of the crater. Especially the lion population is a draw.

Less famous but well worth a visit are parks in the western and southern parts of the country, especially the Selous Game Reserve. It is a much larger area than the Serengetti and is almost the size of Switzerland. What is special is that this is one of the few reserves where you can make a safari on foot. Animals that can often be seen here include Elephants, Hippos and Rhinos.

Kariakoo market in Dar es Salaam, TanzaniaKariakoo market in Dar es Salaam, TanzaniaPhoto: Prof.Chen Hualin CC 4.0 International no changes

Also special is the Kairakoo market in Dar es Salaam, the largest covered market in Africa.

Click the menu button at the top left of the screen for more information


Heale, J. / Tanzania
Marshall Cavendish


Vlugt, B. / Kenia, Tanzania, Zanzibar

Waard, P. de / Reishandboek Tanzania

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated December 2021
Copyright: Team Landenweb