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History of Tanzania Safari

How the first Tanzanian safari came about

Tanzanian Safaris Beginnings

The history of Tanzania Safari dates back to the early to mid 1800s; this is the western understanding of what a safari is, what we know as safari has radically changed over the last hundred years or so. 

Safari is a word that finds its origins in many languages. Arabic, Urdu and Hindi, all contain similar words  safar or safariya from which the word safari has been derived. The word safari was adopted into the KiSwahili language and means ‘to travel’

The word safari as we now know it was coined by Sir Richard Burton who was a 19th century English linguist and explorer who along with John Hanning Speke were the first Europeans to visit the Great Lakes of Africa in search of the source of the Nile. He left Zanzibar and took over 2 year to cross what is now Tanzania, read more about his exploration here.

The Original Safari

The original safaris were taken by both Africans and Arabs. They would travel long distances through arid and semi-arid lands to get to the sea ports, rivers and early cities. The entire purpose of traveling long distances was primarily trade. Adventure was never on anyone’s mind. There were trading ports along the east coast of Africa including the famous Kilwa Kisiwani . The Arabs traveled west across Persia and modern day Saudi Arabia while Africans traveled across the whole African continent. 

The Hunters’ Safari

The concept of a safari in the 19th century and early 20th century was primarily a series of hunting expeditions. Men with guns, primarily British and Americans and their large retinues would embark on adventures across the wild lands of the continent; many people consider this the true beginning of the safari. 

One of the most popular early books in America was the account of former President Theodore Roosevelt and his exploits across east Africa on his hunting safaris.

Today very few people remember William John Burchell, Frederik Selous and Thomas Ayres, the great explorers and naturalists who explored much of Africa and paved the way for these early hunting expeditions. Frederik Selous was a British explorer, officer, professional hunter, and conservationist, famous for his exploits in Southeast Africa and passed away in the Selous Game Reserve – giving it its name today.

The Modern Traveler on Safari

This is the safari you will be on. Much like the safaris of old it involves covering large distances in Tanzania, often with adventures and with plenty of wildlife to see.

Gazing at wildlife, treasuring the sights, enjoying exotic food and drinks and relaxing are more or less what comprises a modern day African safari. No guns, no running out of water and food or being helplessly faced with a herd of five thousand buffalo knowing for certain that the death knell has been rung.

“Nothing but breathing the air of Africa, and actually walking through it, can communicate the indescribable sensations.”

William Burchell

English Explorer