Over the years, Tanzania – thanks to improvements in infrastructure, accommodations and flight availability – has slowly and resolutely crept out from underneath the shadow of Kenya as one of the premier safari destinations in Africa.
Its promise of significant bookings as a stand-alone product for 2010, rather than an add-on and secondary safari destination with Kenya as it has been in the past, is a reality and a logical step in the evolution of this incredibly diverse and game-rich country.
And according to Amant Macha, director of marketing for the Tanzania Tourist Board headquartered in Dar Es Salam, this 2010 “emergence” has been a long time coming. “For the past five years, we have invested quite a lot in carrying out marketing campaigns in the U.S., which included road shows, advertising on the TV on CNN, WABC, and currently, we have something going on with National Geographic,” Macha explains. “We have also conducted several educational tours for American journalists and tour operators to see our tourist attractions.”
That something that’s going on with National Geographic is a series on the “Great Migration” that has mesmerized the American public and reminds and informs them that this awesome annual trek of tens of thousands of wildebeest and zebra—along with their predators—across the expanses of the Serengeti Plains into the Masai Mara of Kenya and back again, spends the better part of the migration traveling through and returning to Tanzania.
As a result, even though both Kenya and Tanzania have long been popular destinations for first-time safari-goers, travelers to Africa are finally beginning to realize how much and how many diverse attractions Tanzania has to offer, not to mention one of the most stable governments in the continent and one of its safest destinations.
The best-selling points, Macha says, are Tanzania’s wealth of World Heritage sites, which includes “…the Serengeti National Park, the biggest national park in Tanzania containing more than three million animals. The uniqueness of that national park is the annual migration that involves the movement of the wildebeest numbering about 1.3 million, followed by zebras and predators. This is the only migration in Africa that can be seen on the Serengeti.”
Still another classic safari destination and a must-do attraction is the Ngorongoro Crater which, Macha explains, “…is known as the eighth wonder of the world and where tourists can be sent into the crater about 2,000 ft. down. On the crater floor is a big concentration of wildlife including buffalos, elephants, lions, cheetahs and leopards. We also have the highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro, which is snowcapped and I believe now we’ve got about 35,000 tourists here [each year] to climb the mountain. So that’s another unique thing for Tanzania. Then we have Zanzibar, which are historical and cultural cities and towns off the east coast of Tanzania,” and one-time important center of the slave, silk and spice route in Eastern Africa.
Additionally, an aspect that’s definitely promising more business from North America is the increased lift, including recent new routes from South African Airways. “You’ll find that Tanzania has become more accessible now than in previous years because more airlines are having direct flights with just one or two stopovers for Tanzania,” Macha says. “For example, South African Airways, now they have flights from New York to Johannesburg and then a daily flight to Tanzania. Then you have Emirates, Qatar Airways, KLM, Northwest Airlines via Europe and then direct to Tanzania daily.”
upsurge of interest Tour operators, too, are beginning to notice an upsurge of interest in Tanzania. Brad Crockett, Africa region manager for Kensington Tours, points out that recently when people are requesting an Eastern Africa safari, “We don’t get a lot of people just requesting Kenya, while we do get a lot of people just requesting Tanzania.” Still, he says, up until now, anyway, “Tanzania has always been in the shadow of Kenya.”
A big reason for that, however, Crockett surmises, is the lack of knowledge about Tanzania’s diversity and the quality and particulars of the safari product itself. “You’ve got Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti, which is like three times the size of the Masai Mara. And then you’ve got the migration—it’s a totally different migration. People look at the classic migration of the wildebeest crossing over the river in Kenya, yes, that’s in the migration. But when they come back into the Serengeti in January or February, that’s when all the wildebeest give birth to their calves. And they’re all on the same breeding cycle so about 80 percent of them give birth about that time. So you’ll see that all around in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater and a lot of people don’t know about that.”