Where does one begin when writing about a country in Africa, particularly a country as vibrant and alive as Tanzania? Upon arrival I was able to purchase my Visa at the airport in Dar es Salaam, but be aware that Tanzanian officials do not take US dollars that were printed before the year 2000.

Dar es Salaam means "haven of peace," and if you are cool you will know to just call it "Dar' for short. In Dar there are museums, beaches and a collection of cultural influences that vary from Arab to Indian, German to British.

A remarkable find in the middle of this urban sprawl is the Tingatinga "“ an art co-operative where I found a piece of art to bring home. Authentic and well worth the visit, add to your list the Makumbusho Village museum, another surprise in the heart of the city. Featuring traditional homes found in different parts of Tanzania that represent 18 ethnic tribes, visitors can walk through the homes and in some case watch artists and craftsmen creating traditional artwork. The homes are furnished as one would find in the countryside including cattle pens and meeting places. I also had the chance to watch a group of traditional dancers with a guide explaining the various dances and songs.
While most folks head up to the area in Tanzania known as the Serengeti, I took the exact opposite trek heading south during my time in the country. I wanted to get an idea of what everyone else was missing. I was not disappointed.

The first stop was in the Selous Game Reserve at Lake Manze Camp on the shores of Lake Manze, the largest protected wildlife area in Africa as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was my first time in Africa and I got to see a pack of wild dogs and had the chance to stand next to a 1000-year-old Banyan tree.

Of course you will see the regular lineup of game so don't even question that, but beyond such an experience there is so much more as well, like walking to your tent. Did I mention Manze Lake Camp offers tent accommodations? At night the lights go out and you're all alone. You and the sound of the roaring lions in the distance and the hippos just yards away coming out of the river for the evening to find dinner.

It's those sounds that you'll never forget even when you're back home and have almost forgotten that this other world does exist.

After three nights at Lake Manze Camp we were off to the more primitive Mdonya Old River Camp. This camp is located in Ruaha National Park, Tanzania's largest elephant sanctuary. We didn't see as much wildlife here (it was during the rainy season), and if I were to say you were further away from anywhere you have ever been in your life, it would more than likely be true. You can feel it and it makes your senses come alive.
In fact, the Ruaha is a large undeveloped wilderness and the beautiful open landscape is rich in elephants, buffalo and lion. This is the kind of experience at Mdonya Old River Camp, that is reserved for the person looking for a genuine, off-the beaten track, round-the-campfire experience. You won't regret it either. Also, with just 11 tents "“ all spread out fairly evenly in the bush, you are with the animals"”again, not looking on, but being a part of it all.

You don't need to bring your dance shoes or a party dress for this adventure, just a sense of wonder and joy since both Mdonya Old River Camp and Manze Camp are at the heart of it "“ the best place to be in order to find the truly authentic Africa.

Points of Reference

Where to Stay in Dar es Salaam:
Southern Sun – www.southernsuntz.com

How to book either African Safari Camp: Find a reputable African Travel agent or you can email info@adventurecampstz.com. Visit the properties websites at www.adventurecamps.co.tz.

Camp and park fees: Extras fees are charged for park fees. At Manze River Camp expect an extra $75 per person per night and at Mdonya Old River Camp $20 per person per night.

Getting Around the Country:
Once you're there you have to get around the country and to your safari destinations. My recommendation is Coastal Aviation (www.coastal.cc). The seats are comfortable and the planes are on time, other than the view what more could you ask for, right?

For more information visit www.Tanzaniatouristboard.com

Rita Cook is a writer/editor who specializes in writing on a variety of subjects, primarily travel. With over 1000 articles to her credit in the past 10 years and four books, Cook is also the Editor-in-Chief of The Insider Magazine and Managing Editor for Celeb Staff Magazine. She started her career in Chicago working with well-known Sun Times Columnist Irv Kupcinet. She writes a weekly eco-friendly column called "The Green Life" for the Dallas Morning News and has also worked many other national and regional publications. Cook can also be heard on the radio every Sunday morning in Los Angeles on The Insider Magazine Radio Show's featured segment "I'm Standing Here."