Geography of Tanzania

Tanzania comprises many lakes, national parks, and Africa's highest point, Mount Kilimanjaro (5,895 m or 19,341 ft). Northeast Tanzania is mountainous, while the central area is part of a large plateau covered in grasslands. The country also contains the southern portion of Lake Victoria on its northern border with Uganda and Kenya.

Geography of Tanzania
Tanzania sat.JPG
RegionEast Africa
Coordinates6°00′S 35°00′E / 6.000°S 35.000°E / -6.000; 35.000
AreaRanked 30th
 • Total945,087 km2 (364,900 sq mi)
 • Land93.51%
 • Water6.49%
Coastline1,424 km (885 mi)
Borders4,161 km (2,586 mi)
Highest pointMount Kilimanjaro
5,895 metres (19,341 ft)
Lowest pointIndian Ocean
0 metres (0 ft)
Longest riverRufiji River
600 km (370 mi)
Largest lakeLake Victoria 59,947 km2 (23,146 sq mi)
Exclusive economic zone241,888 km2 (93,393 sq mi)
Map of Tanzania
Location of Tanzania
Topographic map of Tanzania
Köppen climate classification map of Tanzania

Administratively, Tanzania is divided into 30 regions,[1] with twenty-five on the mainland, three on Unguja (known informally as Zanzibar Island), and two on Pemba Island.

Physical GeographyEdit

Northeast Tanzania exhibits a mountainous terrain and includes Mount Meru, an active volcano, Mount Kilimanjaro, a dormant volcano, and the Usambara and Pare mountain ranges. Kilimanjaro attracts thousands of tourists each year. West of those mountains is the Gregory Rift, which is the eastern arm of the Great Rift Valley. On the floor of the rift are a number of large salt lakes, including Natron in the north, Manyara in the south, and Eyasi in the southwest. The rift also encompasses the Crater Highlands, which includes the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the Ngorongoro Crater. Just to the south of Lake Natron is Ol Doinyo Lengai with an elevation of 3,188 m (10,459 ft),[2] the world's only active volcano to produce natrocarbonatite lava. To the west of the Crater Highlands lies Serengeti National Park, which is famous for its lions, leopards, elephants, rhinoceroses, and buffalo plus the annual migration of millions of white bearded wildebeest. Just to the southeast of the park is Olduvai Gorge, where many of the oldest hominid fossils and artifacts have been found.[citation needed]

Further northwest is Lake Victoria on the KenyaUganda–Tanzania border. This is the largest lake in Africa by surface area and is traditionally named as the source of the Nile River. Southwest of this, separating Tanzania from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is Lake Tanganyika. This lake is estimated to be the second deepest lake in the world after Lake Baikal in Siberia. The western portion of the country between Lakes Victoria, Tanganyika, and Malawi consists of flat land that has been categorised by the World Wildlife Fund as part of the Central Zambezian miombo woodlands ecoregion. Just upstream from the Kalambo Falls, there is one of the most important archaeological sites in Africa. Tanzania's Southern Highlands are in the southwestern part of the country, around the northern end of Lake Malawi. Mbeya is the largest city in the Southern Highlands.

The centre of Tanzania is a large plateau, which is part of the East African Plateau. The southern half of this plateau is grassland within the Eastern miombo woodlands ecoregion, the majority of which is covered by the huge Selous National Park. Further north the plateau is arable land and includes the national capital, Dodoma.

The eastern coast contains Tanzania's largest city and former capital, Dar es Salaam. Just north of this city lies the Zanzibar Archipelago, a semi-autonomous territory of Tanzania which is famous for its spices. The coast is home to areas of East African mangroves, mangrove swamps that are an important habitat for wildlife on land and in the water.


Eastern and central Tanzania are drained by rivers that empty into the Indian Ocean. The major rivers are, from north to south, the Pangani, Wami, Ruvu, Rufiji, Matandu, Mbwemkuru, and the Ruvuma River, which forms the southern border with Mozambique.

Most of Northern Tanzania drains into Lake Victoria, which empties into the Nile River.

The western portion of Tanzania is in the watershed of Lake Tanganyika, which drains into the Congo River. The Malagarasi River is the largest tributary of Lake Tanganyika.

Part of southwestern Tanzania drains into Lake Malawi, which empties south into the Zambezi River.

The Southern Eastern Rift area of north-central Tanzania is made up of several endorheic basins, which have no outlet to the sea and drain into salt and/or alkaline lakes. Lake Rukwa in west-central Tanzania, is another endorheic basin.


Tanzania has an equatorial climate but has regional variations due to topography.[3] In the highlands, temperatures range between 10 and 20 °C (50 and 68 °F) during cold and hot seasons respectively. The rest of the country has temperatures rarely falling lower than 20 °C (68 °F). The hottest period extends between November and February (25–31 °C or 77.0–87.8 °F) while the coldest period occurs between May and August (15–20 °C or 59–68 °F).

Seasonal rainfall is driven mainly by the migration of the Intertropical Convergence Zone. It migrates southwards through Tanzania in October to December, reaching the south of the country in January and February, and returning northwards in March, April, and May. This causes the north and east of Tanzania to experience two distinct wet periods – the short rains (or "Vuli") in October to December and the long rains (or "Masika") from March to May – while the southern, western, and central parts of the country experience one wet season that continues October through to April or May.[3]

The onset of the long rains averages 25 March and the cessation averages 21 May. A warmer-than-normal South Atlantic Ocean coupled with a cooler-than-normal Eastern Indian Ocean often causes the onset to be delayed.[4]

Climate changeEdit

Tanzanian rice farmer - agricultural activities will be affected by climate change.

Climate change in Tanzania is affecting the natural environment and residents of Tanzania. Temperatures in Tanzania are rising with a higher likelihood of intense rainfall events (resulting in flooding) and of dry spells (resulting in droughts).[5][6]

Water scarcity has become an increasing problem and many major water bodies have had extreme drops in water levels, including Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika Lake Jipe, and Lake Rukwa.[7][5] Tanzania's agricultural sector, which employs over half of the population is particularly vulnerable as farmers are predominantly dependent on rainfed agriculture.[7] On the other hand, increasing intense rainfall events has resulted in flooding across the region damaging infrastructure and livelihoods.[8] A high percentage of the population of Tanzania lives along the coast and are dependent on fisheries and aquaculture.[7] Sea level rise and changes in the quality of water are expected to impact these sectors and be a continued challenge for the country.[7]

Tanzania produced a National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs) in 2007 as mandated by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The NAPA identifies the sectors of agriculture, water, health, and energy as Tanzania's most vulnerable sectors to climate change.[9] In 2012, Tanzania produced a National Climate Change Strategy in response to the growing concern of the negative impact of climate change and climate variability on the country’s social, economic and physical environment.[10] In 2015, Tanzania submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC).[11]


Road map of Tanzania

Location: Eastern Africa, bordering the Indian Ocean, between Kenya and Mozambique.

Geographic coordinates: 6°00′S 35°00′E / 6.000°S 35.000°E / -6.000; 35.000

Continent: Africa

note: includes the islands of Mafia, Pemba, and Unguja

  • total: 947,300 square kilometres (365,800 sq mi)
  • land: 885,800 square kilometres (342,000 sq mi)
  • water: 61,500 square kilometres (23,700 sq mi)

Land boundaries:[12]

  • total: 3,861 kilometres (2,399 mi)
  • border countries: Burundi 451 kilometres (280 mi), Kenya 769 kilometres (478 mi), Malawi 475 kilometres (295 mi), Mozambique 756 kilometres (470 mi), Rwanda 217 kilometres (135 mi), Uganda 396 kilometres (246 mi), Zambia 338 kilometres (210 mi), Democratic Republic of the Congo 459 kilometres (285 mi)

Coastline: 1,424 kilometres (885 mi)[12]

Maritime claims:

Terrain: plains along coast; central plateau; highlands in north, south[12]

Elevation extremes:[12]

Natural resources: hydropower, tin, phosphates, iron ore, coal, diamonds, gemstones, gold, natural gas, nickel[12]

Land use:

  • arable land: 12.25%[12]
  • permanent crops: 1.79%[12]
  • other: 85.96% (2011)

Irrigated land: 1,843 square kilometres (712 sq mi) (2003)[12]

Total renewable water resources: 96.27 cubic kilometres (23.10 cu mi) (2011)

Natural hazards:

  • flooding on the central plateau during the rainy season; drought
  • volcanism: limited volcano activity; Ol Doinyo Lengai (elevation 2,962 metres (9,718 ft)) has emitted lava in recent years; other historically active volcanoes include Kieyo and Meru[12]

Environment - current issues: soil degradation; deforestation; desertification; destruction of coral reef threatens marine habitats; recent droughts affected marginal agriculture; wildlife threatened by illegal hunting and trade, especially for ivory[12]

Environment - international agreements:[12]

Specific geographic regionsEdit

Extreme pointsEdit

This is a list of the extreme points of Tanzania, the points that are farther north, south, east or west than any other location.


  1. ^ "Regions of Tanzania", Statoids, last updated 25 July 2012
  2. ^ Tanzania in figures 2012, National Bureau of Statistics, Ministry of Finance, June 2013, page 9 Archived November 26, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ a b "UNDP Climate Change Country Profiles: Tanzania", C. McSweeney (University of Oxford), M. New (University of Oxford and Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research), and G. Lizcano (University of Oxford)
  4. ^ "The onset and cessation of the 'long rains' in eastern Africa and their interannual variability", Theoretical and Applied Climatology, authored by P. Camberlin and R. E. Okoola, vol. 75, pages 43-54, 2003
  5. ^ a b "Tanzania". Climatelinks. Retrieved 2020-11-27.
  6. ^ Future Climate for Africa. "Future climate projections for Tanzania" (PDF). Future Climate for Africa.
  7. ^ a b c d "Tanzania | UNDP Climate Change Adaptation". Retrieved 2020-11-27.
  8. ^ "Tanzania: Floods in Dar es Salaam - Emergency Plan of Action Final Report n° MDRTZ024 / PTZ040 - United Republic of Tanzania". ReliefWeb. Retrieved 2020-11-27.
  9. ^ United Republic of Tanzania (2007). "National Adaptation Programme of Action" (PDF). UNFCCC.
  10. ^ "Tanzania: National climate change strategy - National Policy, Plans & Statements -". Retrieved 2020-11-27.
  11. ^ United Republic of Tanzania (2015). "Tanzania Intended Nationally Determined Contributions" (PDF).
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m The World Factbook - Tanzania, U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, updated 29 April 2013