Exploring Tanzania – Things to see and do outside your medical Placement

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Gaining an insight into tropical medicine in Tanzania through a Gap Medics placement is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Outside of the work, you have late afternoons, evenings and weekends to explore the Tanzanian landscape. So where’s best to start? Everyone has their checklist of things they want to see, I’m constantly surprised by the sheer amount of varied activities there are to do in Tanzania, there is a wealth of information on the internet about recommended places to see and visit but these are some of the most popular activities to make the most of your medical placement.

Safari in the Serengeti
The most famous national park in all of Africa is found in Tanzania, and a Safari through the Serengeti National Park is a must – especially during the famed wildebeest migrations (December to May). Close sightings of lions, elephants, buffalos, leopards and rhinoceros’ are almost guaranteed. Safari’s can be arranged all over Tanzania, and there’s options for any budget www.serengeti.org

Trekking Mount Kilimanjaro
As the highest mountain in Africa at 5,895m/19,340ft, Mt Kilimanjaro has got to be on everyone’s checklist on a visit to Tanzania. Imposing and daunting, the path up the mountain is surprisingly accessible with its gentle slopes meaning it can be climbed by almost anyone in decent physical shape. Although there are no technical difficulties in climbing it, it’s recommended you take at least 6 days to trek to prevent altitude sickness. Organised climbs can be arranged to see the sunrise over this splendid summit, these take more than a weekend but there nothing stopping a Gap Medics student exploring the base camp and looking up in awe of the summit on a weekend or organising a tour at the end of their medical placement!

Zanzibar
Kicking back and relaxing on the many beaches is probably most people’s first reason to visit Zanzibar. Looking like a scene from a postcard, Zanzibar is blessed with white sandy beaches, inviting crystal clear water and unbroken sky meaning it’s the perfect place to unwind after your medical placement. There’s more to Zanzibar than beaches and stunning coastal panamas however and you can take a spice or fruit plantations tour, discover the colourful and ancient history of the islands, or take part in the plethora of water sport activities. The rainbow of marine life surrounding the coral island of Zanzibar makes for an ideal place to try scuba-diving and snorkelling. www.zanzibar.net

Ngorongoro crater
The unique Ngorongoro Crater, which is at 600m (2,000 ft) deep and 12.5 miles wide, covers 122 sq miles and is densely packed with almost every species of African plain mammal you would care to think of. No migrations take place in the Ngorongoro Crater thanks to all year round water provided by springs on the crater floor. Safaris to the crater are often made in conjunction with visits to the Serengeti National Park www.ngorongoro-crater-africa.org

Kondoa Rock Art Sites
A Unesco world heritage site, these rock art sites are found about 20km north of Kondoa. You will see a series of caves containing ancient paintings that can be traced back over 2000 years depicting scenes of hunting, people and animals.

Trekking to Chimpanzees
Wild chimpanzees thrive in the Gombe Stream and Mahale national parks on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. They thrive in such numbers that it becomes hard to miss them. Treks can be arranged to visit the some 200 chimpanzees of Gombe or the some 700 chimps at Mahale www.tanzaniaparks.com

Tanzania is such a varied country that it is impossible to list all the different activities and cultural experiences you may encounter. Such is the varied fabric of the country that over the course of a trip it is possible to soak up the rays relaxing in beach paradise, stare dizzyingly up at the intimidating Mount Kilmanjaro to the North, explore the ruins of ancient Swahili cities and trek through the untamed wilderness that exudes desolate charm.

Wherever you may choose to go in your free time from your placement, make sure you take the opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture and get to meet some Tanzanians. You will feel the warmth, dignity and beauty of their cultures. The medical work experience gained on your placement will help you in your medical career and the cultural experiences will stay with you long after you leave.

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