A holiday to climb Kilimanjaro may be the main reason you've chosen to visit Tanzania on a gap year, but that doesn't mean you can't explore some of the country's other attractions once your trek ends, with national parks and golden beaches waiting to be discovered.
In fact, Tanzania is perfect if you want to enjoy a safari while visiting Africa, as there are so many nature reserves you can explore both by jeep and on foot. Here are just a few of your options if you want to do a bit of wildlife spotting after you've stood on the Roof of Africa.
Serengeti National Park
If you have a bit of time to spare after you've tackled Kilimanjaro, it's worth making the journey to the Serengeti National Park, in the north-east of Tanzania. The Serengeti region spans 30,000 sq km and actually covers numerous protected areas, including the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, the Maswa Game Reserve and the Masai Mara National Reserve over the border in Kenya. The Serengeti National Park takes up 14,763 sq km and is home to all manner of wildlife.
You can spot the Big Five of elephants, lions, leopards, cape buffalos and rhinos wandering on its plains, while those with a keen eye might also be able to find the Little Five - a list comprising of the ant lion, rhino beetle, elephant shrew, buffalo weaver and leopard tortoise. However, it is the annual migration of wildebeest and zebra that usually draws the biggest crowds. When the plains around the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania start to dry out in June, millions of these creatures travel north to the Masai Mara, where they can take advantage of the late rains. The sight of these giant herds travelling over such a long distance is truly breathtaking - and well worth seeing if you're in the country at the right time of year.
Tarengire National Park
Situated to the south of Kilimanjaro is the much smaller Tarengire National Park, which spans 2,850 sq km. However, what it lacks in size it more than makes up for with the wildlife it is home to. Animals such as elephants, zebra, wildebeest, impala and gazelle can all be found around its lagoons and river, while lions and leopards are often spotted lounging in trees. There are also 550 species of bird that live in and around Tarengire's swamp areas.
To see large concentrations of animals in small areas, the best time to visit is during the dry season - June to September - as herds of herbivores gather around the shrinking pools of water and dry riverbed, followed by carnivores looking for a meal.
While not technically a safari destination in the conventional sense of the word, Zanzibar offers a different kind of wildlife experience. The coral reefs that line the coast of these islands in the Indian Ocean are stunning and there is no better way to appreciate them than from underwater. Book a scuba diving course if this is something you've never done before and you'll discover a whole new world beneath the waves.
Experienced divers will have plenty to occupy them, as there are numerous marine parks around the archipelago, with creatures like cuttlefish, octopus, lobsters, groupers and butterfly fish seen on the reefs. If you're really lucky, you may even encounter dolphins while you're in the water. One of the best spots to see this amazing marine mammals is near Kizimkazi, which is in the south of Unguja - the most populated of Zanzibar's islands.