Map of Tanzania’s plains and waters

Residing within the African Great Lakes region and considered to be the largest of the East African nations– at 947,303 sq. km (365,756 sq. mi), – Tanzania possesses a geography as mythic and unique as it is breathtaking. The country is divided into 30 regions; 25 on the mainland, 3 on Zanzibar island and 2 on Pemba island. Its mainland is dominated with grasslands, plains, Africa’s highest elevation as well as a large central plateau.

Tanzania is bordered by some of Africa’s largest lakes, including Lake Malawi (in the south), Lake Victoria (Africa’s largest lake; shared with Uganda in the north), and Lake Tanganyika (Africa’s deepest lake; shared with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia and Burundi in the west). Within the country’s borders, the confluence of rivers Kilombero and the Luwegu form the Rufiji river, Tanzania’s largest river. It flows for approximately 281 km (175 mi) northeast before it meets the Indian Ocean.

Olduvai Gorge, eastern Serengeti Plain
Olduvai Gorge, eastern Serengeti Plain

One of the world’s most important and rich archaeological sites, the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania’s northern expanse has been a key area in furthering the understanding of early human evolution. A steep-sided ravine stretching about 48 km (30 mi) long, is believed to have occupied homo habilis; the earliest human species, approximately 1.9 million years ago. Paleoanthropologists have discovered hundreds of fossilized bones and stone tools, that have led them to resolve that humans evolved in Africa.

The north-eastern region of Tanzania is quite mountainous. Within this region, lies dormant stratovolcanoes Mount Meru standing at 4,565m and Africa’s highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro, reaching an elevation of 5,895m with its three volcanic cones: “Kibo,” “Mawenzi” and “Shira.” Recognized as the Roof of Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro is a major climbing destination, attracting roughly 35,000 trekkers a year from all over the world.

Edge of the Ngorongoro Crater, Ngorongoro Conservation Area

The Ngorongoro Crater, also located in northern Tanzania is the world’s largest intact caldera. One of the most beautiful, natural wildlife sites in the world, the crater forms a magnificent bowl of about 265 sq. km; up to 600 m deep. It is home to the highest density of big game in Africa, including a healthy population of black rhino, the largest tusker elephants and numerous other predators. Today, the crater is understandably one of the continent’s most prominent safari destinations.

The climate of Tanzania ranges from hot and humid on the coast, to a more temperate climate in the elevated parts of the country in the north-east and south-west. Tanzania has two rainy seasons; a long heavy one from March to May, and a shorter, lighter one from November to January.

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