Last weekend, I received an email from a friend in Tanzania and it reminded me of all the beautiful times we had there almost three years ago. If you’ve been reading about my travels for awhile now, you’ll probably know that Tanzania has a special place in my heart.
In 2008, Alberto and I spent a few months volunteering in Tanzania and during our stay, we forged strong friendships with locals, learned lifelong lessons from my students and explored different corners of the country. Tanzania gave me some of my best travel memories – with its amazing people, stunning beauty and striking characteristics. Here are some of the highlights of my stay there.
Volunteering in Bomang’nombe
Through a European non-profit organization, we’d arranged to volunteer at the local education office in Bomang’nombe, a village at the foothills of Kilimanjaro. Our main role there was to help reconstruct a school (build windows, doors and sturdier walls) and teach English.
The experience at Bomani Primary School was one of my most memorable travel experiences thus far – from getting to know my students well, visiting them at their orphanage, spending invaluable time with them after school to forming close relationships with the local villagers and feeling like part of their community.
Volunteering is one of the best ways to truly immerse oneself in a country – we’d arranged the volunteering stint independently but there are also several tour operators that design tailor-made holidays to combine volunteering with travel.
Visiting Small Villages and Towns
Some of my favorite places in Tanzania were small villages where our local friends brought us to. These places represent the heart of Tanzania – where local women are decked out in colorful kitenges, random Masais roam and children play in open fields. We’d spent a few days in the capital of Dar Es Salaam and didn’t like it one bit: chaotic traffic, air pollution and overwhelming touts. In contrast, the villages we enjoyed were quiet, relaxed and calm.
A friend brought us to his hometown, Machame, and we instantly fell in love with the waterfalls, banana plantations and curious people (everyone came up to me to touch my hair). In Marangu, we visited our friend’s mother who told us plenty of her childhood stories and legends. It was through these heartlands, that we got to know Tanzania under its surface.
Serengeti Wildlife Safari
Tanzania has some of the best wildlife-watching opportunities in Africa – and as avid wildlife buffs, we were stoked to go on a wildlife safari through the famous Serengenti National Park. From Arusha, we booked ourselves on a 4-day safari that brought us through Serengeti, Lake Manyara and the Ngorongoro Crater.
There is a wide variety of safaris available: from luxury safaris in massive, enormous tents to basic camping safaris. Being budget travelers, we opted for a basic camping safari after scouring through the tour operators. Expect to pay up to $1,500 per person for a luxury safari in Tanzania and $600 for a basic camping safari (prices depend on season). You can usually find good last-minute deals in Arusha.
Beach-bumming on Zanzibar Island
Zanzibar island, a short ferry-ride from the capital, is one of the most beautiful islands I’ve ever been. We left this for the last part of our trip and spent two weeks relaxing and soaking up a different vibe of the country. Upon arriving on Zanzibar, we rented a jeep and took time to explore every inch of the island. Our first base was Paje, a quiet patch of beach with only fishermen in sight. Then we moved to Nungwi, where we met fellow travelers, went snorkeling and had the best seafood in Tanzania. Zanzibar signified a dreamy end to our amazing trip through Tanzania but it definitely left me wanting for more.