As one of the Seven Summits, Mount Kilimanjaro (19,340 ft) earns a natural place on most climbers’ bucket list. While the route is non-technical – meaning you can trek to the summit without needing crampons, ropes, or other special equipment – that doesn’t mean it is easy. Roughly a third of climbers who attempt Mount Kilimanjaro do not make it up to Uhuru Peak. Those who do make it to the summit tend to be physically fit and heed the mountain guides’ advice on how to handle the high altitude. While there are several routes up Mount Kilimanjaro, the most popular are Machame, Lemosho, and Marangu. The Machame and Lemosho routes are both known for being extremely scenic, passing through 5 different ecosystems as you make your way towards the summit. The main difference between these two is that Lemosho is longer and more remote, so it is more expensive and less crowded (which can be a big plus on such a popular mountain). Marangu is also popular because it is known as the ‘easiest route’. But perhaps because of this, it has a lower success rate than Machame and Lemosho, since it tends to be chosen by less experienced climbers. It is also considered less scenic than other routes since it ascends and descends the same trail. Whatever your route up the mountain, consider adding on a night in the crater floor. It won’t be a comfortable night, and you’ll surely be ready to head down to a lower altitude by the end of it, but it’s the chance of a lifetime to experience an otherworldly landscape in a manner few people will ever experience.
It’s impossible to describe the wonder you’ll feel upon seeing Ngorongoro Crater for the first time. As you approach the crater rim, you’ll see dots all over the landscape. Then, as you descend the rugged trails to the crater floor, you’ll realize the dots are actually wildlife. Zebra, elephants, rhinos, and wildebeest roam all around, while you can find flamingos and hippos hanging out at each swimming hole. You can also visit local Maasai communities living near the crater to experience the cultural side of life in this fascinating region.
Zanzibar is a tropical paradise, which is best known for its white sand beaches and unique culture. This culture is nowhere more evident than in Stone Town, where you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to the Arabian Peninsula. That’s because Zanzibar is a former Sultanate of Oman, and Stone Town once served as Oman’s capital city. For the best views of Zanzibar’s turquoise waters and endless shoreline, you can go on a sunset sail on a traditional dhow, the style of boats used by traders for thousands of years along the Swahili Coast.
Pemba Island is part of the Zanzibar archipelago, in the Indian Ocean. Featuring extraordinary visibility (consistently 100 to 130 ft) and immense stretches of vibrant coral reefs, Pemba Island is home to some of the best dive sites in the world. You can see turtles, dog tooth tuna, eagle rays, barracuda, and even dolphins. If you’re lucky and get your timing right, you can also dive with whale sharks by heading over to nearby Mafia island.
Each year, millions of animals migrate across the Serengeti in search of better grazing areas, including wildebeest, zebra, and gazelles. As the herd moves in predictable patterns, it’s possible to plan your trip to Tanzania to witness some of the most breathtaking events, like calving season and the crossing of the Mara River. Most tours to see the ‘Great Migration’ are land-based, but you can get a bird’s eye view of the action by taking a hot air balloon ride – a once in a lifetime experience.
Sauti za Busara is an East African music festival held each February in Zanzibar. Over 20,000 people typically attend the event, which features artists from all around Africa. Besides the music, the event features a carnival and street parade in Stone Town, where you’ll see clowns, stilt-walkers, fire dancers, and acrobats roaming the ancient city.
The Kilimanjaro Marathon takes on a special significance for those who venture to its summit before or after the race. Climb before and you’ll be looking at the summit mid-race, thinking how you were just up there the week before. Climb after and you’ll be wondering how it’ll feel standing on the roof of Africa, hoping your legs will carry you up after the long run. Either way, you’ll have plenty of views of the mountain on the course if the weather is good. The second half heads straight up towards the mountain for 6.5 miles, before a long descent all the way to the finish. If you’re going all the way to East Africa for the race, might as well stay and explore a bit. Besides a safari in the Ngorongoro Crater and sailing on dhows in Zanzibar, there are also plenty of adventures to be had in neighboring Kenya. Whether you visit the Maasai Mara, go skydiving in Diani Beach, or party in Nairobi, you’re sure to be glad you extended the trip.