Rainforest in Murangu

It gets drier somewhere in the middle

The coastline at Bagamoyo

When I told people I was going to Tanzania this summer, at least half of them remarked, “Wow, it’ll be hot.”  Really?!?!?!  Hotter than a Georgia summer?

While most places near the Equator are hot and jungle-y, east Africa tends to be much cooler and drier.  The plate tectonics that made the Great Rift Valley, the great lakes of east Africa, and Mt. Kilimanjaro have left Kenya and Tanzania high and dry (but not a desert, generally).  The high elevation in parts of these countries make the temperature nice and mild.  Mountains to the west also block the west African monsoons, leaving a drier, less humid climate compared to west Africa or South America.  Plus, June and July tend to be the cool season for most places in Tanzania.

Yes, I went to the Equator to escape the Georgia summer heat.

Topography dictates climate here.  There are rainforests in the highlands, arid regions in the central plateau, and hot, humid coastal regions.  By itself, Mt. Kilimanjaro has 5 major biomes as you climb up:  rainforest, heath, moorland, alpine desert, and the glaciated (for now, anyway) summit.

As we drove from Moshi to Dar es Salaam, the landscape changed quickly along the way.  Lush trees gave way to cactus-like Euphorbia and then again to coconut palms.

The socioeconomic status of the people changed, too.  Part of this change is politics, but a lot of it is the difference in biomes.  The mountain regions have lots of rain and good soil, so the population is much wealthier than that of the drier regions in the middle.  Even though delicious fruits come out of some of these dry places, much of it goes to waste because it either can’t be transported before it spoils (solar dryer!) or there’s no market transport them to (open up, world).  On the coast there are fishermen and lots of international trade (formerly ivory, gold, and slaves–a tale to be told in another post).

It’s not the Sahara, folks.  Tanzania is a country of biodiversity and cultural diversity.  Even in Zanzibar, I’ll be sitting more coolly than I would in Athens, GA.  Drinking coconut juice.