Tanzania, officially the United Republic of Tanzania (Swahili: Jamhuri ya Muungano wa Tanzania), is a large country in Eastern Africa within the African Great Lakes region. Parts of the country are in Southern Africa. It is bordered by Kenya and Uganda to the north; Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west; Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique to the south; and by the Indian Ocean to the east. Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain, is in north-eastern Tanzania.
Tanzania's population of 51,82 million is diverse, composed of several ethnic, linguistic and religious groups. Tanzania is a presidential constitutional republic, and since 1996, its official capital city has been Dodoma, where the President's Office, the National Assembly, and some government ministries are located. Dar es Salaam, the former capital, retains most government offices and is the country's largest city, principal port, and leading commercial centre.
European colonialism began in mainland Tanzania during the late 19th century when Germany formed German East Africa, which gave way to British rule following World War I. The mainland was governed as Tanganyika, with the Zanzibar Archipelago remaining a separate colonial jurisdiction. Following their respective independence in 1961 and 1963, the two entities merged in April 1964 to form the United Republic of Tanzania.
In 1967, Nyerere's first presidency took a turn to the left after the Arusha Declaration, which codified a commitment to socialism as well as Pan-Africanism. After the declaration, banks and many large industries were nationalised.
Tanzania was also aligned with China, which from 1970 to 1975 financed and helped build the 1,860-kilometre-long TAZARA Railway from Dar es Salaam to Zambia. Nonetheless, from the late 1970s, Tanzania's economy took a turn for the worse, in the context of an international economic crisis affecting both developed and developing economies.
From the mid-1980s, the regime financed itself by borrowing from the International Monetary Fund and underwent some reforms. Since then, Tanzania's gross domestic product per capita has grown and poverty has been reduced, according to a report by the World Bank.
In 1992, the Constitution of Tanzania was amended to allow multiple political parties. In Tanzania's first multi-party elections, held in 1995, the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi won 186 of the 232 elected seats in the National Assembly, and Benjamin Mkapa was elected as president.
Since 2015 John Pombe Joseph Magufuli (born 29 October 1959) is the President of Tanzania. As he began his term as President, Magufuli made international headlines for his austerity and impatience with corruption and waste. He cancelled Independence Day celebrations, traditionally a time for the government to spend big on a public display of nationalism. In its place he declared the day should be spent on street-cleaning to improve sanitation (in which he himself participated) and arresting the spread of the cholera outbreak. But next to that he also cut the English language from being taught in school (and he himself barely speaks any English), passed a rule that no foreign vehicles are allowed to drive in national parks, but tourist need to visit using an Tanzanian Tour operator (meaning that many overlanders do not visit parks anymore). So one can debate whether or not he actually does good for the country…many people we have met so far, complain about the new president, especially that his new measures will have an huge impact on tourism in Tanzania and not for the better… Another recent ruling to add 18% of VAT on all tourist activities, was not appreciated by the industry, that had to inform their customers, or had to take their loss. When asked at the announcement, he clearly stated he only wants the high-end tourists to come to Tanzania and no more backpackers. We guess we can conclude it is working…
Border crossing and Myeba
The exit on the Malawi border didn’t take us more than 15 minutes or so…it was a little bit different on the Tanzanian side, but still smooth for Africa. The only thing that really took time was the fact that we needed to pay our road tax/ temporary import permit for our truck for Tanzania. They used to accept USD at the border…like they still did for our visa, however for the TIP we needed to pay in TSH and off course we needed to change our money for a really poor exchange rate at the border post (as the ATM was not working and the bank closed)! So we ended up paying almost 10% more than the actual price. All in all it took about 1,5 hours and we are driving into Tanzania.
We planned our first stop at Utengule Coffee lodge, about 15km north of Myeba (the regional capital) 150km drive from the border. As we thought we still had half a tank left in the back (±60lt), we were not too worried… after switching on the pump however, the needle only went up 2 mm; the equivalent of about 30km… Expecting that –like in Malawi - no credit cards are accepted at the fuel stations… As a result, we stood in line an hour to get money from the ATM. Go figure, it is the end of month again and everyone had received his or her salary J. After filling up we continued our drive to Utengule Coffee lodge…we told each other at the beginning of our trip that we would never ever drive in the dark, due to the high number of accidents that occur during the evening/night. But we arrive in the dark at 20.30 at the campsite…or is it a helipad where we are allowed to camp.
We also really wanted to do a coffee tour on the farm, but the next morning the assistant manager has meeting and could not do a tour with us, so we ended up relaxing at the campsite, playing a couple of games of BAO. The next morning we planned the coffee tour at 9.00AM, but as it is Africa they forgot to mention that we needed to report to the office at the coffee farm… and hence arriving 15-20 minutes late and naturally, we feel bad about this.
The assistant manager is from Zimbabwe and speaks very good English. He explained about all the steps from the nursery to the roasting of the coffee beans as well as the different varieties of coffee they grow (Arabica, Robusta and Liberia). When we arrived at the ‘quality division basin’ that divides the high quality beans (sinkers) from the lower quality beans (floaters), Judith got stung in her nose by a wasp (or was it a bee?). Immediately tears got to her eyes and she started hyperventilating…Wilfred rushed to the car to get her medication as she often has an allergic reaction to stings of insects. After taking her medication and breathing normally again (after 30 minutes or so) we were lucky enough to continue the coffee tour. Learning more on the different grades of coffee, roasting our own batch and concluding the tour with a nice cappuccino. We liked the coffee varieties so much we purchased three different blends that we can enjoy on the rest of our trip.
Ruaha National Park
After two nights at the coffee lodge we drove towards Iringa for our visit to Ruaha national park. Our stopover is at the old farm campsite, a lovely place with lot’s of shade and the possibility to buy fresh vegetables, straight from the farm…we even got some Brussels’s sprouts (Wilfred favourite J).
From there we visited Ruaha National Park, the largest national park of Tanzania, almost the same size as Denmark. As you need to pay all the fee by credit card Wilfred paid (for the first time since our trip) the park fees and is blown away by the price he needed to pay…almost $190,- dollars for entry and a campsite in the park.
The name of the park is derived from the Great Ruaha River, which flows along its south-eastern margin and is the focus area for game-viewing. The park is currently facing a significant environmental challenge from the progressive drying up of the Great Ruaha River. The river used to flow all year round, but since 1993 there have been increasingly long and exceptionally dry ‘dry seasons’ in which it has dried up, leaving just some ponds of water. Different hypotheses have been advanced to account for this, and one view is that it is caused by the expansion of irrigation schemes for rice cultivation and growth of livestock keeping in the Usangu wetland, which feeds the Great Ruaha River. At the gate we read that this wetland is very likely going to be bought and added to the National park in order to restore the balance in the park again…
Luckily, we were still allowed to drive our own truck into the park despite the new legislation that foreign registered vehicles cannot enter national parks anymore (of which we did not know at the time of going to the park). After entering the park, we decided to make it a long game drive and drove towards an area called ‘small Serengeti’. We were rewarded with stunning scenery through out the park and a (very) close encounter with 14 lions ! Many of them younger than two years. Next to that we saw hippo’s, crocodiles, impala’s with calves, lesser kudu, a couple of spotted hyena’s, black backed jackals and much more.
For accommodation we ended up getting a room at the rest house, as the bathroom was okay-ish clean…and not extremely dirty like at the campsite and banda’s. We did spend the night sleeping in our own truck as the room was very hot and a nice wind outside kept us nice and cool in our bed. After dinner we were watching a series on the laptop when all of a sudden Wilfred noticed something in the corner of his eye… , at not more than 7 metres, a spotted hyena walked calmly passed us… Not knowing how many were out there, we decided to watch the last part in the truck.
Mikumi National Park and South of Dar es Salaam
Mikumi National Park
Our next stop was around Mikumi National Park and Selous Game reserve, however we learned at the lodge where we were staying that it was no longer allowed to drive with our own vehicle in the park. Making visits to these parks very expensive (as you need to either pay the park fees and book a tour with a tour operator or stay at one of the luxury camps inside the park (for at least $300 per person !)). We decided not to visit the parks as we are going on a 9 day safari to the Serengeti and some other parks around it in two weeks. Lucky for us, the main road to Dar es Salaam goes right through the Mikumi national park and the remaining water supply for the animals is relatively close to the main gate and hence close to the road. While passing through the park (at a maximum speed varying from 30-50km/h, we still saw a lot of animals, such as buffalo’s, impala’s, giraffe, warthogs and -of course- many baboons.
South of Dar es Salaam
The 300km drive to Dar es Salaam is beautiful, almost 50km through the national park, followed by a 100km mountain pass and lastly through the valley of baobabs. Along the road there were many stalls selling fruit and/or vegetables and since it is mango season we wanted to buy a couple of them. The first two of stops in a town were unsuccessful as they only wanted to sell to us at really high “muzungu” (white people) prices (of course we do not mind to pay more, but we also do not like to been seen as fools J). Changing our tactic, we decided to try our luck outside of the villages at smaller stalls. We approached an older lady, that seemed to be alone at her stall, but somehow we still ended up with more than ten people around our truck trying to sell us something. Wilfred clearly stated that he only wanted to buy mangos and only from the lady we approached. After buying the mango’s (us and the lady being happy with the sale) we drove away and some of the salesmen were very aggressively bonking on our truck (!?).
The drive was very scenic, but Wilfred could not enjoy it to the fullest as he needed to be very alert for busses… The bus drivers in Tanzania really seem to have a death wish; overtaking at (double) white lines, in blind curves or even when traffic (including trucks or other busses) is close by. The closer we got to Dar es Salaam, the more annoyed he got with them…they seem to overtake just for the sake of it…clearly not leading to anything ! The 15km drive through Dar took us, unfortunately, more than two hours due to regular congestion.
Our campsite is at the south side of Dar and since April of this year you have two options to cross the river; the ferry or the brand new suspension bridge. We opted for the bridge and interestingly this led us right through harbour’s industrial area with where the major petroleum companies are located. The road is filled with potholes, some even more than 30cm deep, and many fuel trucks, waiting to be filled are parked, on both sides. When we finally get to the end of the industrial area, a brand new ‘fly-over’ like crossing brings us to the 6 lane bridge… With us about 5 other cars use the bridge to get to the other side. The bridge is clearly ready for the future, unfortunately the roads to it are not. At the other end we were even welcomed by a very poor dirt road that connects the bridge to one of the old single lane roads. We finally arrived at the campsite around 6.30PM and found a nice place right on the beach. That night we ate fresh seafood made Swahili style and drank (spicy) masala tea made from freshly ground ginger, black pepper and other spices.
The main reason for staying in Dar is not to visit it, but to apply (again) for a second passport at the embassy. We had tried in the Netherlands, but this was refused since legislation said only business travellers were allowed to have a second passport. However legislation was changed in the beginning of November and now everyone can apply for a second passport, if they can prove the necessity (did our complaining help?). At first the second passport was a precaution to be able to apply for the different visa’s (many times you need to wait several days), while being able to identify ourselves while travelling. However since Ethiopia changed their application process following the ‘State of Emergency’, we now really need the second passport as it needs to be send to the Ethiopian embassy in Brussels allowing us to travel through Tanzania and Kenya. Apply for the passport is unfortunately not as easy as we hoped. We needed to send a lot of information to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (having an airline ticket is the best way as it show more than intent, but since we travel by car we hope our detailed travel plan, including pictures of it made 7 month ago will suffice). Advised by the embassy, we did not yet apply (and pay the €130,-), but first send the info by email. We are now waiting for an answer whether or not it will be granted. If not, we do have a couple of options, but not really one we look forward to;
- ship the truck from Mombasa to Oman (which seems to be very expensive);
- drive back to Windhoek, Namibia;
- or one of us flies back to the Netherlands and applies for the visa there. Hopefully we will know in a couple of day’s time…
Kilwa Masoko and Kilwa Kisiwani
Whilst waiting to hear from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs we visited Kilwa Masoko, a region renowned for its world heritage site Kilwa Kisiwani and in the past for it excellent fishing options. Many of the largest fish recorded in the ‘Guinness book of records’ were caught in the Kilwa region. Unfortunately, since a couple of years there is an increase in ‘dynamite fishing’ destroying not only the balance for sustainable fishing of most species, but killing its coral environment as well.
At a restaurant we met two young Canadian journalists (that did a special on dynamite fishing a couple of months ago who were staying at a friend’s lodge. Their friend took over the lodge just 6 weeks ago and the lodge is not yet open for guests as they are changing a lot of things. We were still looking for a campsite and decided to have a look at the place…and we had two options: camping for $20 per night or staying in one of their open plan banda’s for $30 per night…we didn’t have to think long and took a banda !
The next day we did a tour of the Kliwa Kisiwani (meaning Kilwa on the island), which was once East Africa’s most important trading centre. At its height, Kilwa’s influence extended north past the Zanzibar Archipelago and south as far as Sofala on the central Mozambican coast. While these glory days are now well in the past, the ruins of the settlement are one the most significant groups of Swahili buildings on the East African coast. Although the first settlements in the area date to around 9th century BC, Kilwa remained a relatively undistinguished place until the early 13th century. Kilwa came to control Sofala and to dominate its lucrative gold trade, and before long it had become the most powerful trade centre along the Swahili coast. In the late 15th century, Kilwa’s fortunes began to turn. Sofala freed itself from the island’s dominance, and in the early 16th century Kilwa came under the control of the Portuguese. It wasn’t until more than 200 years later that Kilwa regained its independence and once again became a significant trading centre, this time as an entrepôt for slaves being shipped from the mainland to the islands of Mauritius, Réunion and Comoros. In the 1780s, Kilwa came under the control of the Sultan of Oman. By the mid-19th century, the local ruler had succumbed to the Sultan of Zanzibar, the focus of regional trade shifted to Kilwa Kivinje on the mainland, and the island town entered a decline from which it never recovered. Nowadays the island has a population of about 1000 people, mostly fishermen and their families. The ruins are a short distance from the mainland and after a 15 minutes boat ride (always Judith’s favourite part of a tour J) we got to the island. Our guide led us past the main ruins on the island; the Kilwa fort, tombs of Kilwa sultans, the Great Mosque, a large palace (Husuni Kubwa) and finally the smaller palace (Husuni Ndogo).
The Kilwa fort was built in the early 19th century by the Omani Arabs, on the site of a Portuguese fort dating from the early 16th century, close by are the ruins of the beautiful Great Mosque, with its columns and graceful vaulted roofing. Some sections of the mosque date to the late 13th century, although most are from additions made to the building in the 15th century. In its day, this was the largest mosque on the East African coast. After a short walk of about 2km from the Great Mosque is Husuni Kubwa, once a massive complex of buildings covering almost a hectare and, together with nearby Husuni Ndogo, the oldest of Kilwa’s ruins. The Husuni Ndogo complex, which is estimated to date from the 12th century or earlier, is set on a hill another 2km walk. It must have once had great views over the bay and mangrove below. Since it turned to high tide our captain was able to pick us up at the small palace, so we didn’t have to walk back to the main beach, close to the fort.
Earlier that day we asked Hassan, the manager of the lodge, if he could buy us some nice fresh seafood. Expecting that we had to cook ourselves we were pleasantly surprised that the (large) kingfish was already baking in the oven. It is too much for the four us and we shared the food with the staff of the lodge.
After dinner we helped the Canadian couple with a ‘sinterklaasgedicht’ for their Dutch friends.
North of Dar es Salaam
After two nights we drove back to Dar es Salaam, as we are expecting to get an answer from Foreign Affairs beginning of the week and want to apply as soon as possible. Even though we don’t have proper seats in the back we gave the journalists a lift to Dar (which they experienced it as much more comfortable than the bus). In return, they invited us to stay with them in Arusha as they knew we were still looking for a place to stay. After dropping them of at the Hyatt hotel and drinking a cup of coffee, we continued to a campsite 30km north of Dar es Salaam in a small fishing town, right on the beach. We spent the next couple of days working on the photo albums, updating our blog, eating fresh fish and simply relaxing on the beach awaiting an answer from Foreign Affairs.