06/19/2012 09:18 EDT | Updated 06/19/2012 10:49 EDT

The Three Faces Of Tanzania

Caroline Levesque

Most first-time travelers to Tanzania arrive with three things in mind: Kilimanjaro, safari, and Zanzibar. And different as these attractions are from each other, each one is impressive in its own right.

After landing at Kilimanjaro Airport, we stopped in Moshi to spend the night. When you turn off the main street up School Street, at the second corner you’ll find Union Coffee, a co-op comprised of 700 small fair trade coffee producers. Danford Magache, the café manager, gives guided tours of the coffee plantations that grow on the slopes of Kilimanjaro. For only 71,000 shillings ($45), the visit includes transportation and lunch.

Moshi is also the headquarters of several safari and trekking companies for those interested in climbing Kilimanjaro. When selecting a company, it is important to choose one that pays and treats its employees according to the standards set by the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project. This is the case with Trek2Kili, founded in 2008 by Johanne Truchon, a woman from Quebec who wanted to encourage young Tanzanians in their efforts to start a business. Now back in Quebec, she remains active with the company, but it’s Azizi Aman Msuya who now heads up operations.

From Moshi, we set off for Tarangire National Park. Seen at sunset with its baobab and acacia trees, it is often the subject of photographs advertizing the country’s safaris, or adorning the cover of the latest pop psychology bestseller.

Having spent four hours roaming the park on muddy roads—it was the rainy season—we spent the night at the Ol Mesera Tented Camp. It was started as a retirement project by Barbara Lavrich, originally from Slovenia but settled in Tanzania since 1962. “I don’t have anything to go back to in Slovenia, and I have everything to make me happy right here,” Barbara tells us. It was great to have all the rewards of camping, like hearing the hyenas laughing before going to sleep, with the comforts of a hotel, including a large bed, a shower with hot water and electricity powered by solar energy.

After a good night’s sleep in the savannah, we headed for the Ngorongoro Crater. It is a destination that is not to be missed for anyone who wants to go on a safari in Tanzania. This 20-km wide valley is the home of countless species of animals: zebras, gnus, buffalos, elephants, baboons, hippopotamus, rhinoceros, lions… The Maasai (a local tribe) also courageously bring their animals into the area for water and grazing.

From the lush forest, we were drawn to the Zanzibar Archipelago (Unguja and Pemba), with its beautiful beaches and fragrant spices. Known for its history under the rule of the Sultanate of Oman and the spice and slave trade, the architecture and aromas recall this eventful time in the history of these two magnificent islands.

In fact, it was in the ruins of a sultan palace, now meticulously renovated, that the Mashariki Palace Hotel opened its doors last year. Straight out of one of the stories in One Thousand and One Nights, the hotel perfectly embodies the atmosphere in Stone Town, the capital of Zanzibar.

From there, you will find information about tours of spice plantations, whether by asking at the hotel reception desk, a taxi driver, or at a tourist information office in the city. Finding one of these tours could not be simpler, and they’re an essential experience for all lovers of spices.

At the north end of the island, there are extraordinary white sand beaches and calm waters for any who want to fish, dive or simply lay out in the sun. At Nungwi, the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel offers a pool, massages, and a huge number of comfortable beach chairs.

Thank you to the Mashariki Palace Hotel and the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel for the invitation.

Photo gallery La Tanzanie en trois temps See Gallery