Are you looking to venture into Africa and go on the safari of your dreams? On the continent’s southeast coast, the country of Tanzania is home to vastly different ecosystems. Tanzania has white sand beaches with turquoise waters, extensive savannahs, and some of the tallest mountains on the continent. To respect Tanzania’s natural diversity and stunning wildlife, if you’re looking to make your African adventure as sustainable as possible, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve done all the work for you and compiled a list of all the best things to do in Tanzania for some incredible experiences you will not want to miss.
Before we get into regionally specific tips, here are some general tips for more sustainable tourism in Tanzania.
When it comes to places to stay, book your accommodations at locally run places versus big chain or foreign hotels. Besides making your experience more authentic it will also help to bring money into the community instead of into the pockets of international investors. Some of our favorites are Christina House in Arusha, Lazy Beach House in Kiwengwa, and Kholle House in Stone Town.
We invite you to think about your photography before your adventure begins. Many times when people travel and visit cultures different from their own, they want to photograph things that are new to them. But, photographing people, especially children, without their consent is not ethical. They’re going about their normal lives and haven’t agreed to be captured by your camera. If you take the time to get to know the local people & you ask permission, they may agree to be photographed. Also, your photos become that much more meaningful when you know the story about the people in them. You can read more about ethical photography here.
We’ve divided the rest of this sustainable travel guide for things to do in Tanzania into different regions of the country. Tanzania is a very large country with many places to see and you may not be able to visit it all in the time you have. Hopefully, this list will help you prioritize what’s important to you.
Things to do in Zanzibar
Zanzibar is an island in the Indian Ocean, 22 miles off the Tanzanian mainland. Zanzibar is actually more than one island, but most people typically visit the main island, called Unguja. Zanzibar has a vibrant culture & stunning natural landscape and wildlife, making it one of the best places to visit in Tanzania.
If you’re looking to spend time with marine animals – this is the perfect place to do so sustainably. This also happens to be one of the most popular tourist attractions in Tanzania! You can book a trip in Kizimkazi with a local fisherman to take you out in a boat and hopefully see wild dolphins. At Hidden Lemur we support non-forced interaction with wildlife, allowing animals to behave naturally in their own habitats. This means not getting too close, and not feeding or touching them. There’s nothing more magical if you’re snorkeling and a dolphin comes over to check you out! This type of tourism provides a monetary incentive for fishermen to work at protecting the dolphins, instead of having to resort to other potentially harmful jobs to support their families. Plus it’s an experience you’ll always remember!
If you’re interested in learning about the local flora and fauna, We highly recommend checking out a spice tour. Most of them are located around Stone Town, so it’s best to add this to your itinerary for when you’re in Zanzibar City. We can recommend the Big Body Spice Farm. It’s a community-run farm and a member will take you on a tour explaining all the different plants to you. In the end, you get to try locally grown fruits while also learning about life in Zanzibar. The tour itself is usually free. Big Body Spice Farm will ask for a donation at the end of the tour. This is a great way to support the local community while getting to try new things. It’s also one of the most fun places to visit in Tanzania.
When you get hungry, grab a bite to eat from the Forodhani Food Market in Stone Town. This market happens every day, so it’s always a good idea. It’s located inside the Forodhani Park along the coast of the city. There are many different types of food stalls – like Zanzibar pizza, shawarma, urojo, and sugar cane juice. You can try local food while supporting Zanzibari chefs. Grab a seat by the water and watch the sunset. If you get lucky you’ll also get to see some people doing tricks as they jump & flip into the water!
The island of Zanzibar is a paradise. When you’re there you’ll notice that many local fishermen use Dhow, or Ngalawa, boats that are hand-carved out of wood. The perfect way to spend a day in the sun is by going out with a captain and sailing around the reefs along the coast. You’ll love the views of the island and getting to see beautiful sea creatures at the same time.
Another great place for a cruise & snorkeling is at Mnemba Atoll. This incredible atoll is home to beautiful reefs that are great for spotting colorful tropical fish + bigger animals if you’re lucky. You may be lucky and see pods of dolphins migrating. This is truly one of the most beautiful places in Tanzania.
If you’re looking for sea turtles, there is a rehabilitation center in Nungwi, on the northern tip of the island. The center’s mission is to help turtles that have been injured or accidentally caught by fishermen. They provide space for recovery in their natural coral ponds. When the turtles have healed they are returned back into the ocean. You can visit with the turtles and feed them seaweed snacks. The employees also share information with you about the dangers turtles face & ways you can help. Overall, it’s a nice way to spend a Tanzanian afternoon.
Ethical animal sanctuaries are incredibly rewarding ways to give back to local communities. Not only do they provide you with an intimate insight into local wildlife, but your entrance fee, if any, helps support the sanctuary’s work.
Kitesurfing is a favorite sport here and is high on the list of things to do in Tanzania. Zanzibar is the perfect place to learn. We recommend learning at Jambo Kite School in Cairo, Kiwengwa. The instructors are knowledgeable and you’re sure to enjoy your time. The views on the eastern side of Zanzibar are stunning! There’s nothing between you and the Seychelles. Consider leaving time across a couple of days for your lessons.
Things to do in Arusha
Safaris are one of the most iconic things to do in Tanzania. You can participate in these in many different parts of the country, but if you’re looking to visit the Serengeti National Park, climb, or stand in awe of Mt. Kilimanjaro – Arusha is the best place to go. No matter what your plans are, we highly recommend booking your excursions with a local guide.
A great choice for both safaris and Kilimanjaro is Green Paw Adventures. Founded by a Tanzanian man this company’s mission is to employ local people with jobs that protect the environment & profit from its thriving. This, like the fishermen in Zanzibar, gives people an economic incentive to work with the natural resources instead of needing to exploit them to support their families.
You will love their 2-day safari that takes you to Lake Manyara National Park & Tarangire National Park. The guides are so knowledgeable about all the wildlife. Some are known to have an uncanny ability to find cheetahs, giving you a uniquely private way to witness the animals.
Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro is quite the experience. If you think you can summit the roof of Africa, definitely book the climb through Green Paw as well. Their team supports travelers of a wide array of skill levels. They sing traditional songs, prepare delicious food, and encourage you during the climb. Green Paw Adventures makes efforts to ensure their treks are environmentally friendly, so you can feel good about supporting their community while having this incredible experience in Tanzania.
Things to do in Dar Es Salaam
Dar es Salaam, one of the largest cities & the financial hub in Tanzania, is located on the central east coast of the mainland. To taste the culture of the country, grab food at one of the many Swahili food restaurants here. These are also a great way to save some money while visiting. Like most regions of Tanzania, when you’re in Dar Es Salaam plan ahead when it comes to food. Order before you’re hungry because everything runs on Swahili time. Your food will take some time to be ready, but it’ll be worth it. Try the chapati and mchuzi or morogo with coconut sauce, these are local favorites. If you’re thirsty grab some tamarind juice for a sweet yet refreshing treat.
After you’ve tasted the delicious food for yourself, and if you’re interested in learning how to cook Swahili food for yourself – take a Swahili cooking class! Cooking classes are incredible ways to connect with local women and learn a new way to cook delicious food. Getting to cook over a fire and with different tools than in the Western world is such a fun way to expand your perspective. Not to mention it directly helps to support the community & results in delicious food for everyone.
Traveling sustainably is now easier than ever, and it only gets more accessible as time goes on. Traveling sustainably in Tanzania is no different, and is at the heart of this list of things to do in Tanzania to make your adventures as memorable as possible.