A to Z: Everything You Need to Know About Traveling to Tanzania
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A to Z: Everything You Need to Know About Traveling to Tanzania

Avocado: Thought you’d miss creamy avocados and guacamole while traveling in East Africa? Think again. Tanzanian avocados are delicious and abundant. Occasionally, trees drop avocados to the unsuspecting passerby below, so be ready with the rest of your picnic!

Bantu People: Long ago, the Bantu people were a homogenous group; however, now the label encompasses millions of people who speak hundreds of languages in the “Bantu language family” throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Most of the 120 languages spoken in Tanzania come from the Bantu language family.

Conservation: Over a third of Tanzania’s land area is reserved for conservation, including Tanzania’s sixteen national parks and numerous game reserves. The conservation efforts are broad, ranging from wildlife protection to forest and national park conservation.

Dala Dala: If you like getting cozy with strangers while barreling down the road at Evil Knievel speeds, the dala dala is the right transportation for you! Dala dalas are shared minivan taxis where personal space and obedience to traffic laws are overwhelmingly absent.

Elephant: Majestic and widely celebrated, you can find elephant decorated ornaments on every corner in Tanzania. However, if not controlled soon, illegal poaching may cause wild African elephants to be an image of the past. Since emerging as the hotbed of Africa’s elephant poaching crisis, many organizations have joined Tanzania’s government in the fight to save the elephants.

Fanta: Fanta comes in glass bottles, and although the flavors are similar to what you find outside of Tanzania, it is more satisfying to drink soda from a glass bottle. People will offer you Fanta, chai, and coffee when you enter their home, and you always graciously accept.

Giraffe: Tanzania’s national animal, each giraffe has a unique coat pattern, just like human fingerprints. Like the elephant, giraffe poaching is forcing numbers of wild African giraffes to plummet.

Hakuna Matata: It means no worries for the rest of your days! The laid back vibes in Tanzania make this Swahili phrase an important one for every visitor to master linguistically and in practice.

Indigenous tribes: There are over 120 indigenous tribes in Tanzania, each of them with unique identities and ways of life, but all of them proudly Tanzanian.

Jambo: Greetings are everything in Tanzanian culture. Even if you don’t speak Swahili, a general understanding of greetings is important during a stay in Tanzania. You can get surprisingly far (and surprise your hosts) in a conversation if you know the appropriate greetings and responses!

Kilimanjaro: The highest point in Africa at 5,895 meters, Kilimanjaro is also the tallest freestanding mountain in the world. It usually takes climbers five days to reach the summit and stand on top of Africa. You’ll have to leave camp at midnight to reach the summit for sunrise, but if your timing is right, the experience is extraordinary.

Lions: Lake Manyara in northern Tanzania is home to tree climbing lions. Rare to see, you are extremely lucky to catch a glimpse of these while on safari!

Maasai: Hailing from northern Tanzania and southern Kenya, the Maasai are fierce warriors and an iconic symbol of East Africa. Devoted to maintaining the integrity of their natural surroundings, the Maasai rely on herding livestock. You can recognize them by their red Shukkas, and their intricate beaded jewelry.

Ngorongoro Crater: The Ngorongoro Crater is a collapsed volcano that is believed to have once been taller than Mount Kilimanjaro. Now it is hosts over 30,000 species of birds and animals, and has one of the highest density of lions in the world. The Ngorongoro Crater has water year round, even in the dry season, so animals tend to stay there instead of migrate like their relatives across Africa.

Olduvai Gorge: The Olduvai Gorge has been instrumental in understanding the evolutionary history of our human ancestors. Just south of the Olduvai Gorge are The Laetoli Footprints, which are estimated to be 3.6 million years old. Before discovery in 1976, the oldest footprints of bipedal human ancestors were just tens of thousands of years old.

Power Cuts: The struggle is real. In Tanzania the power goes out a lot. The only consistent thing about the timing of the power cuts seems to be that it always happens when you’re doing something important. Invest in a headlamp, and never leave it behind!

Question Prices: Question almost every price until you get a better one. This includes, but is not limited to, every item at every market, transportation, hotels, and even airfare. Haggling can be a fun interaction if you keep in mind that although you might want a great deal, the seller also has to pay the bills. Try and keep it reasonable for both sides.

Reggae: Once you hear this song, you’ll never get it out of your head, even if you can’t understand the lyrics. Nothing is more suitable for a Zanzibar beach day than some reggae music.

Serengeti: The Serengeti hosts the largest annual land mammal migration made up of wildebeest, zebra, gazelle, predators, and more. On safari, or journey in Swahili, in the Serengeti you are sure to see Africa’s natural wildlife at its best.

Tangawizi: Tangawizi, Swahili for “ginger”, is better known to foreigners as the Tanzanian ginger ale-like fizzy drink. Like fanta, tangawizi is more enjoyable when consumed from a glass bottle. Along with being fun to say, tangawizi is also incredibly delicious.

Ugali: Fun to eat, this cornmeal-based staple often leaves visitors unimpressed. Tanzanians love it, especially the process of rolling it into a ball before eating. Who says you can’t play with your food?

Vitenge: Pronounced “kitenge” in English, a vitenge is an inexpensive and multi-purposed fashion necessity for women in East Africa. Women use these boldly patterned pieces of cloth as head scarves, baby slings, and sarangs with brilliant practicality.

Wildlife: From Jane Goodall’s famed chimpanzees to the big five, there is no shortage of amazing wildlife in Tanzania!

Yanga: Yanga is a Dar es Salaam based Tanzanian football club (Young Africans Sports Club). They are the 2015 Tanzanian Premier League champions with a legacy of success and fiercely loyal fans.

Zanzibar: Getting lost in Stone Town and lounging on the beach in Zanzibar are essentials for a well rounded trip to Tanzania. The tiny island is over 99% Muslim, giving it a whole different feel from mainland Tanzania. If the stunning architecture, maze-like streets, and history of Stone Town don’t win you over, the turquoise water and quiet beaches will.

About the Author

Christina Nicholls