Journey Around Tanzania

Geography, Areas & Climate of Tanzania

Geography, Areas & Climate of Tanzania

A Brief Overview of Tanzania

The United Republic of Tanzania, the largest in the East African Community, spreads out from the western shore of Lake Tanganyika stretching east to Dar es Salaam on the coast of Indian Ocean. Along its western border is the trough in which the great lakes of Africa lie, at the north being Lake Victoria, on the west Lake Tanganyika – the longest freshwater lake in the world – and south Lake Nyasa, almost as long. Both are very deep and are more like mighty rivers than lakes. The greater part of Tanzania is a high and comparatively healthy plateau with a low plain bordering the ocean. The back of this the land rises, opening up to woodlands and magnificent savanna plains covered with grass and bush. One of Tanzania’s most remarkable geological features is the Great Rift Valley in the north-eastern regions of the country. Two branches of the Rift Valley run through Tanzania: The western branch contains Lakes Tanganyika, Rukwa and Nyasa; while the eastern branch ends in northern Tanzania and includes Lakes Natron, Manyara and Eyasi. Mount Kilimanjaro lies on the northern border of Tanzania, halfway between Lake Victoria and the Indian Ocean. It is only a few miles south of the equator, yet, its top, the highest in Africa, is always covered by snow. Kilimanjaro is one of the highest of the world’s mighty mountains. It ends in two peaks, which viewed from a distance resemble a saddle, the taller one (known as Kibo) rising far above the other and each peak is a crater. Once the most valued of the German territories in Africa, and about twice the size of Germany in Europe, it is fairly well-populated, with well over 120 tribes. Administratively, the mainland of Tanzania is divided into 20 regions and Zanzibar into 5 regions. Each region is subdivided into districts. Republic of Tanzania borders Kenya and Uganda in the north; Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and Zambia in the west; and Malawi and Mozambique in the south.

Salient Features of Tanzania

  • Surface Area: 940,000 km2
  • Number of Districts: 169
  • Major Lakes: Victoria, Tanganyika, Nyasa, Rukwa, Natron, Eyasi, Manyara
  • Date of Independence: December 9th, 1961
  • Current Population: 57 million
  • Official Languages: Swahili and English

Political Map of Tanzania
Political Map of Tanzania. Image courtesy of nations-online

A Look Into Selected Districts of Tanzania

1. Kagera Region

Spatial Location of Kagera Region in Tanzania

Bukoba is the chief town on the western side of Lake Victoria and the capital of Kagera Region. It is situated in the most north-westerly part of Tanzania, 1,400 kms from Dar es Salaam by road. Its position and the impaired communication means that it is isolated from the rest of the country. In spite of that, Bukoba District is an important part of Kagera Region and Tanzania because it is very productive. Tin is mined at Kyerwa and several cash crop are grown including coffee. Bukoba is made up of the east facing escarpment near Lake Victoria and plateau country inland. Between the ridges and the flat topped plateau are flat floored and sometimes marshy valleys. Along the lakeshore there are occasional rocky highlands, but mostly it is an area with relatively narrow lake plain with few deltaic areas, where rivers have deposited their alluvium at the edges of the lake. Located just south of the equator and lying close to an enormous water body, the climate of Bukoba could be described as equatorial with temperatures modified by altitude. It lies at an altitude of 4,000 feet (or 1,220 metres) and more, and it is, generally speaking, wet, since it receives over 2,000 mm of rain each year. More important than the total figure, as far as the coffee growing is concerned, is the fact that no month is dry, so that it rains throughout the year. Even so, there are two salient periods of heavier rains in March-April-May and November-December. These two wetter seasons are the ‘Long and Short’ Rains.

What gives Bukoba its very high rainfall is its closeness to Lake Victoria and the direction taken by the main winds. The short rains are the easiest to understand since they caused by the north-east trades, which have blown across part of the Indian Ocean and Kenya. When they reach the north-eastern edge of the Lake Victoria, these warm winds evaporate moisture from the surface of the lake. By the time they reach Bukoba, on the western side, the winds are saturated with moisture and heavy rainfall occurs as soon as land is reached. The Long Rains of March, April and May are caused in a different way. Most of the rain during these months is convectional. The strong heat of the sun causes air to rise; as it rises the air cools and rain may fall. Because Bukoba is very near the lake, the air that is made to rise will be saturated with moisture. Hence the local heating by the sun causes convectional storms which bring heavy rainfall. In addition, the south-east trade winds blow during these months. As these winds cross the lake from the south-east they evaporate moisture as rain when they reach the western side of the lake. If we now look at the temperature, the area is almost always hot year-round (24-28 degrees Celsius), reflecting an equatorial climate.

View of Bukoba Town in Kagera Region
A View of Bukoba Town in Kagera Region. Image Courtesy of The Citizen