Geography & Wildlife
A varied landscape
The low plain of Tanzania’s coast soon rises to an interior plateau which averages around 1,000 metres.
A mountain magnet
In the northeast, the giant volcanic massif of Kilimanjaro is a magnet for trekkers and mountaineers, with Africa’s highest peak at 5,895 metres – see Tourism & Communications.
However, there are variations in the land’s height. A branch of the East African rift valley crosses the country – see Great Rift – and mountain ranges in the southwest and northeast.
As well as the mainland, Tanzania includes the low-lying coral-bound islands of Zanzibar, Pemba and Matia. In the north, the country contains the southern half of Lake Victoria, Africa’s second largest freshwater lake; the waters of the lake straddle over three countries: Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya.
Smaller lakes include Lake Natron and Manyara, which lie along the East African rift valley.
Rich in wildlife
With its varied topography, the landscapes and habitats of Tanzania range from mangrove-swamps along parts of the coast, to dense montane/mountain forests and craggy volcanic peaks, to vast open savannahs and semi-desert scrubland.
An unusual raptor
The tall secretary bird (Sagittarius serpentarius) is perhaps the most unusual of all the raptors, with its dove-grey body, long black wings and crane-like legs. The bird stands 1.3 metres tall and can stride up to 20km each day in search of snakes.
It’s little wonder then that the country is one of the most naturally diverse environments in the world.
Tanzania has over 400 species of fauna among the country’s estimated 4 million wild animals. The huge herds of grazing animals such as zebras, wildebeest and gazelles help to make up these numbers. Preying on these animals are a large number of predators, such as lions, cheetahs, leopards, wild dogs and hyenas. The endangered African wild dog is most likely spotted in the Selous Game Reserve (see Map).
The country also boasts over 1,100 species of bird, including nearly 100 species of hawks, eagles, vultures and owls.
Plethora of parks
There are over 40 national parks and game reserves which protect the country’s rich natural heritage and provide tourism opportunities – see Tourism & Communications.
The large parks to the east of the country, such as the Serengeti, Ngorongoro and Selous Game Reserve, are the most visited. But areas in the west and south are seeing increasing numbers of visitors.
Four of the country’s parks – the Kilimanjaro National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Selous Game Reserve and the Serengeti National Park are listed by UNESCO as sites of outstanding natural value.