Tanzania is bordered on the south by Mozambique, Malawi, and Zambia; on the west by Zaire, Burundi, and Rwanda; on the north by Uganda and Kenya; and on the east by the Indian Ocean. Tanzania is the largest of the East African nations, and it possesses a geography as mythic as it is spectacular.
In the northeast of Tanzania is a mountainous region that includes Mt. Meru (14,979 ft/4,566 m) and Mount Kilimanjaro (19,340 ft./5,895 m), the latter of which is the highest point in Africa and possibly the most breathtaking mountain imaginable. To the west of these peaks is Serengeti National Park, which has the greatest concentration of migratory game animals in the world (200,000 zebra, for example). Within the Serengeti is Olduvai Gorge, the site of the famous discoveries by the Leakeys of fossil fragments of the very earliest ancestors of Homo sapiens. The Serengeti also contains the marvelous Eden of Ngorongoro, a 20-mile-wide volcanic crater that is home to an extraordinary concentration and diversity of wildlife.
Moving west from the Serengeti, one reaches the shores of Lake Victoria, the largest lake on the continent and one of the primary headwater reservoirs of the Nile. Southwest of Lake Victoria, and forming Tanzania’s border with Zaire, is Lake Tanganyika, the longest and (after Lake Baikal) deepest freshwater lake in the world. It was at Ujiji, a village on the Tanzanian shore of Lake Tanganyika, that H.M. Stanley presumably encountered David Livingstone in 1871. Livingstone had fallen ill while searching for the source of the Nile, and despite his illness he refused to leave. Instead, he persuaded Stanley to accompany him on a journey to the north end of Lake Tanganyika. The region that they passed through has since become famous as Gombe National Park, the site of Jane Goodall’s chimpanzee research station.
Southeast of Lake Tanganyika is a mountainous region that includes Lake Malawi (previously Lake Nyala), the third largest lake on the continent. East of Lake Malawi is the enormous expanse of the Selous Game Reserve, the largest in Africa with over 21,000 sq. mi. (55,000 sq. km.) and perhaps more than 50,000 elephants.
Moving northeast from Selous brings one to Tanzania’s low, lush coastal strip, the location of its largest city, Dar es Salaam. Dar Es Salaam is the embarkation point for Zanzibar, the fabled emerald isle that lies off the Tanzanian coast.
The climate of Tanzania varies quite a bit, considering that its environment includes both the highest and the lowest points on the continent. While the narrow lowland coastal region is consistently hot and humid, the central regions of Tanzania are sufficiently elevated so as to offer much cooler temperatures. The rainy seasons extend from November to early January and from March to May.