Top 5 'Must-Do's' While Volunteering in Tanzania!
Volunteering in Tanzania is incredible. Only a 5 hour bus journey from Nairobi, Kenya but a noticeably different culture and people. Tanzania, like the rest of Africa, has amazing scenery, beautiful people, a rich a diverse cultural history and so much to do in your down time from volunteering. While your volunteering days can be spent in schools, orphanages, hospitals or out on environmental sites your free time can be just as diverse. From relaxing at the beach in Zanzibar, to exploring the nature and wildlife at Ngorongoro crater, to shopping at the bustling local markets, to enjoying fantastic food and for the more energetic there’s climbing Mount Kilimanjaro...
The bigger towns of Tanzania are busy, chaotic, loud and exciting while the beaches, mountains and villages that you can explore are quieter, relaxed and run to African time. There really is something for everyone no matter what you enjoy. In saying that here is my list of top 5 must do’s while volunteering in Tanzania …
Kilimanjaro is on lots of bucket lists and it really is an amazing feat. The local guides help you to enjoy your experience while pushing through the physical barriers. The view from the top is breathtaking and all the more satisfying when you know you have pushed yourself to the limits to get there. Also in Tanzania is Mount Meru, this is another great climb and is often used as a warm up to Kilimanjaro to help with altitude sickness. I would recommend doing some physical training before the climb and also having altitude sickness pills on hand just in case. You can arrange your climb prior to arriving in Tanzania or while volunteering ask your hosts to help you find a reputable guide.
The crater is another safari experience in Africa. The crater is one of the largest of its kind in the world and is home to the big 5. It has become a big tourist spot so it’s best to plan to arrive early to get some viewing without the groups of other safari vans. Despite this though it is an amazing little world of its own. You can watch Massai herding their cows while lions and hyena’s watch on, scope out herds of lions and if you’re lucky track down one of the black rhino. It is a beautiful and amazing place and gives you the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of Africa’s most special wildlife.
Shanga Shanga – Arusha
Shanga is on the outskirts of Arusha and is a beautiful setting where people with disabilities work and live – learning skills and trades and running small businesses. There are beads, necklaces, blown glass, clothes and you can also get a little tour of the project to see how it runs. The people with disabilities who live and work here would otherwise probably liv on the streets. Shanga gives them a place of safety and a meaningful life. There is also an open air café and the setting is beautiful. You can easily spend an afternoon meeting the employees, watching them perfecting their crafts, enjoying a drink in the gardens and knowing that your visit is helping to support the lives of these vulnerable people.
When you need a relaxing break from volunteering in Tanzania nothing beats some time at the beach in Zanzibar. It can be a bit of a tourist hot spot but you can also go exploring and find some hidden gems. Swimming, sunbathing, diving, spotting dolphins, sailing, horse riding - there are never ending adventures to be had in Zanzibar.
You can also spend some time roaming around the old Stone Town and the nightlife is great. Zanzibar can be more expensive than other areas of Africa – due to the high tourism rates but is definitely worth a visit during your trip.
Learning to cook curry with my host family!
Tanzanian food is delicious and your hosts will definitely make sure you are well fed, a favourite of mine was a pea curry we had on our first night. It was delicious!! Once our hosts realised it was a favourite it featured on the menu a lot. On our last night we were welcomed into the kitchen to learn how to prepare the curry so we could make it at home. We sat in there armed with notebooks writing down each step in between chopping vegetables, mixing, adding spices and figuring out exactly how we might find the right spice mix once we were home. Our curry was fantastic – maybe not quite as good as the locals can make it but a pretty good effort. It’s fantastic to learn your favourites while you’re there. Once you’re home and re living your travels it’s great to be able to recreate an African feast - for me its pea curry from Tanzania and Chapati from Kenya or Uganda .
Tanzania has so much to offer any visitors but volunteering gives you the unique opportunities to not only enjoy the tourist aspects but also to get involved in the community, to learn about the culture and people of Tanzania. It’s through these opportunities that you will be able to make your own top 5 must do’s while volunteering in Tanzania.