In 2011 I had just finished high school and I decided to take a year of to travel. That is the best decision I have ever made. During my gap year I did not only get to see the world; I also learned a lot about my self and I learned to see things in different perspectives. In the fall of 2011 I spent three months volunteering at a hospital in Tanzania. I also got to see a lot of the country, and here is a list of my favorite destinations in Tanzania. I really recommend a trip to this beautiful country!
Going on a tanzania safari is essential when you are in Tanzania because you can find many of Africa’s most interesting national parks in the country. We were on a tight budget, and we had doubts that we could get a good safari without spending a lot of money. Luckily we found a great budget company, Nature Beauties. They offered a five day long safari including four national parks; Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Tarangire and Lake Manyara. Serengeti is maybe the most famous national park in Tanzania, and it was really awesome. Serengeti is a must if you want to spot “The big five”. Lake Manyara is not that famous, but it is a very different national park; it is so green! The Ngorongoro’s landscape is stunning and unique, and we were lucky to see many different animals here as well. Tarangire is famous for its big herds of elephants.
We went on a budget safari, which is a bit different from the luxury safari many companies offer. We stayed in tents, but what is a better experience than sleeping in a tent surrounded by wild animals?! Our driver/guide was amazing – he knew where to find the animals and he knew everything about them. We also had our own chef who cooked tasty Tanzanian food for us every night. Many budget safaris are done in big groups (where you drive in a bus, not a jeep), and I am really happy we were only four of us in the group – more people would have ruined parts of the experience.
Zanzibar is an extremely beautiful island. The island is popular among tourists, and it is the perfect place for a relaxing holiday. On Zanzibar you find stunning beaches, great snorkeling places and an exciting culture. We visited three amazing places in Zanzibar. The island is small, and it is easy to travel around the island. To get to Zanzibar we took a boat from Dar es Salaam.
Stone Town is the main city on Zanzibar. The city is filled with tourists and there are souvenir shops on every corner. The town is still incredibly charming and it is on the Unesco World Heritage List. You can wander in Stone Town’s narrow streets for days without getting bored. One of the most interesting things about Stone Town is its culture, which is influenced by Arab, European and Indian culture, in addition to the underlying Swahili culture. I found Zanzibar very different from Tanzania because of this.
It is popular to do spice tours form Stone Town, as Zanzibar is known as “The Spice Island”. We went on a Spice Tour and got to see some interesting spices and fruits, as well as beautiful nature – but the Spice Tour is not a must if you ask me. Another popular excursion from Stone Town is a trip to Prison Island to see giant turtles. Unfortunately, we could not do this because of bad weather.
Kendwa is a small place located one hour north of Stone Town. There are many resorts and hotels located in Kendwa, so the place is filled with tourists. We spent a few days here, just relaxing on the beach. We went on a boat trip for one day and it was the best day ever. We went snorkeling, and I even got to swim with dolphins! Kendwa is also a place for partying and there are many things going on, so if you are into this, Kendwa is the place for you.
Paje is located on the east coast of Zanzibar, and it is a quieter place than Kendwa. There are still many resorts, hotels and restaurants located here. The beaches are picturesque, but it is difficult to swim here because of the shallow water. We stayed at a hotel with a great pool, so it was not a problem for us. This is a great place to relax!
There are also a few nice places on the coast of the mainland. Unlike on Zanzibar, there are not many tourists here, so it gives a more authentic experience. We spent some days at Peponi Beach Resort, near the city Tanga. We stayed in a huge “banda” on the beach and it was really cheap. There are not many other hotels and restaurants in the area, so we had all-inclusive and the food were amazing.
We also visited Bagamojo, a town further south, near Dar es Salaam. Bagamojo was founded in the 18th century and was the original capital of German East Africa. The architecture of the city reflects this. We visited Bagamojo because some friends of ours were volunteering here, but it is a charming place where you can experience traditional Tanzanian culture.
What I remember the most from my stay in Tanzania is not any of the places mentioned above, but what I experienced while I was volunteering in the Tanzanian countryside. Visiting the rural areas of Tanzania is a must if you want to get to know the people and the culture of Tanzania. I volunteered at Haydom Hospital, which is located 5-6 hours from the nearest city, Arusha. You do not have to go that far from a city to see rural areas; you can see rural areas on arranged tours from the main cities in Tanzania as well. I fell in love with Tanzania while visiting the rural areas, and I can not imagine a place that is more different from Norway.
Remember to follow me on Instagram @mariameland!