If time were limited and you could only visit one country in Africa, my recommendation would unequivocally be Tanzania. The territories of TANganyika and ZANzibar (TANZANia) have everything you could possibly desire on an exotic vacation. Safaris, beaches, culture? Check, check & check! What Tanzania lacks in affordability it makes up in variety. It’s most famous attraction is the Serengeti National Park. In this yearly exodus, millions of wildebeests travel north across the Serengeti plains in Tanzania to the greener pastures of the Maasai Mara in Kenya. It’s the stuff legendary National Geographic documentaries are made of. If you happen to visit Tanzania during the months of January and February like I did, the birthing season is just as captivating as the migration season. Over 300,000 calves are birthed in this period. Such a high concentration of defenseless calves is tantamount to a buffet meal for predators. So if watching a pride of lions ambush their prey is on your bucket list, birthing season would give you the best odds.
For those all about the beach life, Zanzibar is the place to be. The sand at Kendwa was so white that I needed to buy polarized sunglasses before I could focus on relaxing. And not only was it blindingly white, it was also exceptionally hot. Strolling barefoot on the beach felt like walking on hot coals. Slippers are also a must-have. My favorite thing about the beach was that it was chock-full of Maasai Warriors. On the off chance that I encountered one who didn’t speak English, you can exchange pleasantries using the little Swahili you remember from the Lion King. ‘Hakuna Matata’ and ‘Jambo Bwana’ came in pretty handy. My only issue with Kendwa beach was that there are no ATM’s. Paying for a meal or a hotel is hit-or-miss as not everywhere accepts credit cards.
Halfway through our stay we had to travel over an hour back to Stone Town in order to withdraw cash. Being a city slicker more than a beach bum, I relished the change in scenery. I prefer the alleys of Stone Town to the beaches of Kendwa any day of the week. Plus there was just something enigmatic about Stone Town. Its aurora and architecture hearken back to a time long passed. Historical gems can be found in the labyrinth of narrow passageways that is Stone Town. From the Sultan’s Palace to the childhood home of Freddie Mercury, there is so much history behind every building façade. The markets of Stone Town had such a kaleidoscope of color too. You can probably find any/every spice available there because for centuries, Zanzibar was the spice capital of East Africa.
In contrast, Dar es Salaam is a gritty and congested city. Traffic is omnipresent and unbearable during working hours. Be warned, a simple 30 minute cab ride to the airport can easily last 3 hours during the evening rush. In a few years though, Dar es Salam may be completely unrecognizable. It is currently undergoing a massive infrastructure transformation. Rapid bus system, skyscrapers and condos are popping up everywhere. Every night I was on a mission to find the best Indian BBQ restaurant in the city, a rare benefit of colonization. I tip my hat to all the Indo-African restaurateurs. Tandoori infused meat served with a beastly cold Savanna Cider was my guilty pleasure.