Close your eyes and conjure up the quintessential image of Africa: the drama of the wildebeest migration along an infinite savannah; the incongruous snow of Mt Kilimanjaro; proud Masai warriors stalking the plains; exotic palm-fringed beaches on the spice islands of Zanzibar. Now look no further - it's all here in Tanzania.
Throngs of wildlife roam free in sprawling national parks, fishermen still plough the turquoise waters off Tanzania's coast in dhows (traditional wooden sailboats), and pristine beaches lie in wait for the sun-worshipping crowd. Best of all, Tanzania has seen little of the strife that has afflicted other African nations, meaning that all its treasures are tantalisingly accessible.
Tanzania boasts some of the most impressive National Parks and game reserves in all of Africa. The plains and savannahs of the Serengeti National Park are considered the premier spot on the continent to see wildlife roam unheeded across vast plains. Nearby, within the steep walls of the Ngorongoro Crater lies one of the most densely concentrated populations of African animals on earth. These include wildebeest, gazelle, zebra, lion, leopard, cheetah, elephant and even the elusive white rhino. Not to be forgotten, the Selous Game Reserve is larger than Switzerland, and is wild, remote and virtually untouched by any human presence save for a handful of safari camps in the north. Other parks like Ruaha will appeal to those who want to experience magnificent game watching well off the popular tourist trail of the northern circuit parks and reserves, while, for those with a penchant to get off the beaten track, the parks in the extreme west of the country, Gombe Stream and Mahale, offer the unique opportunity to track chimpanzees in their natural habitat.
With its pearly-white beaches, Tanzania has 804km (503 miles) of sublime coastline and some magnificent islands offshore. Known as the Swahili Coast, it was a favoured stop on ancient trading routes between the Indian sub-continent and the Middle East. Spices, jewels and slaves once passed through, bringing with them a melange of cultural riches that remain today. The colourful language of Swahili (referred to as Kiswahili) was born here, and features words not only of African origin, but ones from as far away as Indonesia and China. The ruins of once sophisticated cities with their old mosques, Arabian-style houses and coral palaces still remain, while places like Stone Town on Zanzibar and Bagamoyo on the mainland are still today living testaments to the Swahili coastal tradition that has gone on for thousands of years.
A mountain that needs no introduction is Mt Kilimanjaro, snow-capped and standing as Africa's tallest mountain at 5,895m (19,341ft). Open for climbing to those with energy and time on their hands, the week-long ascent and watching the sunrise over Uhuru Peak is one of Africa's most challenging achievements. Tanzania is home to over 120 different ethnic groups and takes pride in its multicultural heritage. The tall, red-robed Masai are the best known of Tanzania's people and are easily visited as part of a safari itinerary.