Book ID 889
Briggs, Philip Guide to Tanzania, 2006 June
Extract Author: Philip Briggs
Extract Date: June 2006
It would be easy to reduce an introduction to Tanzania to a list of facts and figures. This vast East African country really is a statistician's dream: within its borders lie Africa's highest and fifth-highest mountains, the world's largest intact volcanic caldera, Africa's most famous national park and the world's largest game reserve, as well as portions of the three most expensive lakes on the continent, one of which is the second-largest freshwater body in the world, another the second-deepest. When it comes to wildlife, Tanzania is practically without peer. An unprecedented 25% of the country is protected in national parks and other conservation areas. Together, these conservation areas support an estimated 20% of Africa's large mammal population, and one of them plays host to the singular spectacle of some two million wildebeest, zebra and gazelle. Furthermore, Tanzania is poised to overtake Kenya as boasting Africa's second-longest bird checklist (after the Democratic Republic of Congo), with significantly more than 1,000 bird species recorded, and new endemics being discovered all the time. And as if that were not enough, the three great lakes that lie along Tanzania's borders vie with each other for the honour of harbouring the world's greatest diversity of fish species...
Travel isn't simply about ticking off the sights. When you spend a long time in a country, your feelings towards it are determined as much as anything by the people who live there. I have no hesitation in saying that, on this level, my affection for Tanzania is greater that for any other African country I have visited. It is an oasis of peace and egalitarian values in a continent stoked up with political and tribal tensions, and its social mood embodies all that I respect in African culture. As a generalisation, I've always found Tanzanians to be polite and courteous, yet also warm and sincere, both amongst themselves and in their dealings with foreigners. The one thing I can say with near certainty is that you will enjoy Tanzania. Whether you decide to stick to the conventional tourist circuit, opt to carry a dusty backpack around the southern highlands, or charter a plane to go chimp-tracking in the rainforests of Mahale, Tanzania is a wonderful country.