Most of the continent is covered by a broad central plateau with elevations ranging from 900 to 1800 meters. The Great Rift Valley is cut across the nation by the Eastern Arc and the Southern and Northern Highlands mountain ranges.
Tanzania is home to Africa’s tallest peak (Mount Kilimanjaro), lowest point (the lake bed of Lake Tanganyika), and a part of the continent’s biggest lake (Lake Victoria, which it shares with Uganda and Kenya).
The weather in Tanzania ranges from humid and hot in low-lying regions like Dar es Salaam to hot during the day and chilly at night in Arusha. There are no distinct seasons like winter and summer; only dry and rainy seasons exist. Tanzania has two rainy seasons: the Mango Rains, which last from late October to December, and the Long Rains, which last from March to May.
During the lengthy rains season, several major resorts and tourist sites on Zanzibar, as well as the Mafia Island Marine Park, shut, and many routes in the national parks become inaccessible. As a result, most excursions in the parks are limited to the park’s major roadways. Travelers should make appropriate preparations for their journey.
Temperatures in Dar may easily go over 35°C during the dry season. During the noon heat, seek shade and apply plenty of sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
The following are the best times to visit:
- June to August: This is the conclusion of the lengthy rainy season, and the weather is at its finest now — pleasant during the day and chilly in the evening. However, since water is abundant in the parks and animals are not compelled to cluster in a few places to rehydrate, as they do in the midst of the dry season immediately after Christmas, this is not always the greatest time of year for safaris.
- January to February: The ideal time to visit the Serengeti is now. Huge herds of Wildebeest, Zebra, and Buffalo typically move to better grazing grounds around this time. During this time, you may be able to see some of the Serengeti’s 1.5 million wildebeest begin their historic trek. Be aware that this is most likely Tanzania’s hottest season, with even natives complaining about the heat. You have been forewarned.
Wildlife and conservation
Tanzania’s protected areas account for about 38% of the country’s total land area. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is one of Tanzania’s 16 national parks, as well as a number of wildlife and forest reserves. Jane Goodall’s continuing research of chimpanzee behavior, which began in 1960, is located in Gombe Stream National Park in western Tanzania.
Tanzania is a biodiverse country with a diverse range of wildlife habitats. White-bearded wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus mearnsi) and other bovids migrate in huge numbers through Tanzania’s Serengeti plain every year. Tanzania is also home to approximately 275 reptile species, many of which are absolutely endemic and included on the Red Lists of several nations maintained by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Tanzania has created a Biodiversity Action Plan to help save species.
The population was 44,928,923 at the time of the 2012 census. The population under the age of 15 accounted for 44.1 percent of the total.
Tanzania’s population distribution is highly unequal. The majority of the population lives around the northern border or along the eastern coast, with the rest of the country being sparsely inhabited. The Katavi Region has a density of 12 per square kilometer (31/sq mi), whereas the Dar es Salaam Region has a density of 3,133 per square kilometer (8,110/sq mi).
Approximately 70% of the population lives in rural areas, but this number has been decreasing since 1967. Dar es Salaam, the biggest city and commercial center of Tanzania, with a population of 4,364,541 people. Dodoma (population 410,956), Tanzania’s capital and seat of the National Assembly, is situated in the country’s central region.
There are about 125 ethnic groups in the population. The Sukuma, Nyamwezi, Chagga, and Haya peoples each have a population of over a million people. Tanzanians are mostly of African origin, with a minor percentage of Arab, European, and Asian descent. Bantu people make up the bulk of Tanzanians, including the Sukuma and Nyamwezi. The nomadic Maasai and Luo, both of whom are found in larger numbers in neighboring Kenya, are among the Nilotic peoples.
Arabs and Indians, as well as minor European and Chinese populations, make up the population. Many Shirazis also identify as such. During the 1964 Zanzibar Revolution, tens of thousands of Arabs and Indians were murdered. In 1994, the Asian population on the mainland totaled 50,000 people and 4,000 in Zanzibar. Tanzania had an estimated 70,000 Arabs and 10,000 Europeans.
In recent years, several albinos in Tanzania have been the victims of violence. Attacks against albinos often include hacking off their limbs in the bizarre superstition notion that owning albinos’ bones would bring riches. The nation outlawed witch doctors in an attempt to stop the practice, but it persists, and albinos continue to be targeted.
Tanzania’s overall fertility rate in 2010 was 5.4 children born per woman, with 3.7 in urban mainland regions, 6.1 in rural mainland areas, and 5.1 in Zanzibar, according to Tanzanian official data. 37.3 percent of all women aged 45–49 had given birth to eight or more children, and 45.0 percent of presently married women in that age range had given birth to as many children.
Religious surveys were removed from official census reports after 1967, thus current data on religion are unavailable. In 2007, religious leaders and sociologists estimated that Muslim and Christian groups are about equal in size, accounting for 30 to 40% of the population each, with the rest made up of individuals of other faiths, indigenous religions, and “no religion.”
According to 2014 estimates, 61.4 percent of the population is Christian, 35.2 percent is Muslim, 1.8 percent practices Traditional African religion, 1.4 percent is unaffiliated with any religion, and 0.2 percent practices other faiths. In the mainland, more than 99 percent of the population is Muslim, while in Zanzibar, more than 99 percent of the population is Muslim. Ahmadiyya Muslims account for 16 percent of Muslims, 20 percent of non-denominational Muslims, 40 percent of Sunni Muslims, 20 percent of Shia Muslims, and 4% of Sufi Muslims.
Roman Catholics and Protestants make up the majority of the Christian population. The high number of Lutherans and Moravians among Protestants reflects the country’s German past, while the number of Anglicans reflects Tanganyika’s British heritage. Due to missionary activities, Pentecostals and Adventists are also prevalent. The Walokole movement (East African Revival), which has also provided fertile ground for the development of charismatic and Pentecostal organizations, has influenced all of them to different degrees.
On the mainland, Muslim communities are centered around the coast; however, significant Muslim populations may also be found in interior metropolitan centers and along historic caravan routes. Sunni Muslims make up the vast bulk of the Muslim population. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s biggest and wealthiest city, has a mostly Sunni Muslim population.
Other religious organizations, including as Buddhists, Hindus, and Bahá’s, have strong congregations, mostly on the mainland.
Tanzania is one of the world’s poorest nations. Tanzania’s gross domestic product (GDP) was projected to be $43.8 billion in 2014, or $86.4 billion when measured in purchasing power parity (PPP). Tanzania is a middle-income nation, with a per capita GDP of $1,813 (PPP), 32 percent lower than the average of $2,673 for the 45 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, and placed 23rd among them.
Tanzania’s per capita GDP increased at a rate of 3.5 percent per year on average from 2009 to 2013, outpacing just nine nations in Sub-Saharan Africa: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Lesotho, Liberia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
South Africa, Switzerland, and China were Tanzania’s top trade partners in 2012, accounting for $5.5 billion in exports. Switzerland, China, and the United Arab Emirates were its top import partners, accounting for $11.7 billion in total.
Tanzania fared well throughout the Great Recession, which started in late 2008 or early 2009. Tanzania was insulated from the slump by strong gold prices, which bolstered the country’s mining sector, and the country’s weak integration into global markets. Tanzania’s economy has grown quickly since the crisis ended, owing to strong tourism, telecommunications, and banking industries.
However, according to the United Nations Development Program, recent economic development has benefitted mainly the “very few,” leaving the bulk of the people behind. Except for Burundi, Tanzania’s 2013 Global Hunger Index was the worst in the EAC. Except for Burundi, the percentage of people who were undernourished in 2010–12 was the highest in the EAC.
Tanzania has an extremely high rate of poverty. Tanzania has made limited progress in combating severe hunger and malnutrition. According to the 2010 Global Hunger Index, the situation is “alarming.” Rural children suffer from much higher rates of malnutrition and chronic hunger, despite the fact that the gap between urban and rural children has decreased in terms of stunting and underweight. Inadequate infrastructure investment, restricted access to agricultural supplies, extension services, and finance, limited technology, as well as trade and marketing assistance, and significant reliance on rain-fed agriculture and natural resources all contribute to low rural sector productivity.
Around 68 percent of Tanzania’s 44.9 million people live on less than $1.25 per day, and 16 percent of children under the age of five are malnourished. According to the United Nations Development Programme, the most significant problems Tanzania confronts in poverty reduction include unsustainable exploitation of natural resources, uncontrolled agriculture, climate change, and water-source encroachment (UNDP).
According to the UNDP, Tanzanians have limited resources in terms of financial services, infrastructure, or access to better agricultural technology, which exacerbates hunger and poverty in the nation. According to the United Nations’ Human Development Index, Tanzania is ranked 159th out of 187 nations in terms of poverty (2014).