Tanzania is the largest country in East Africa, covering a vast area of 945,087km (364,898sq.mi). The unique landscapes of its diverse interior are the result of extensive volcanic activity and tectonic faulting, which created the Great Rift Valley. Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro, at 5895m (19,349 ft), is the highest on the continent of Africa. The country shares Africa’s three largest lakes — Victoria, Malawi (also known as Nyasa), and Tanganyika — with its East African neighbors. Uganda and Kenya border Tanzania on the north, sharing Lake Victoria’s waters and the prosperous, fertile lands along its shoreline.

Tanzania is one of the greatest safari destinations in Africa, covering a diverse selection of landscapes. It is home to the Big Five — elephants, lions, leopards, buffalo, and rhinos — which used to be the favorite trophies for game hunters, but are now some of the more popular animals to watch on a game drive. About 25% of Tanzania is occupied by parks and reserves, and in the Indian Ocean, which borders it on the east, aquatic life is protected in a number of marine parks. Most visitors spend the bulk of their time game viewing in Tanzania’s popular northern circuit, where the Serengeti National Park has to be one of the most famous wildlife areas in the world. It’s here on the grassy undulating plains that the annual migration of hundreds of thousands of wildebeest and other animals takes place — one of the greatest movements of animals on earth. Equally impressive is the Ngorongoro Crater, a caldera created by a collapsed volcano that supports a staggering number of animals. In southern Tanzania, in the vast and untouched Selous National Park, large herds of elephants and buffalo roam in a landscape that’s reminiscent of what the whole of East Africa looked like a few hundred years ago.

Tanzania is also home to archaeological sites such as the Olduvai Gorge, where traces of early man were discovered, as well as historical coastal towns where the Swahili way of life can be experienced. The highlands boast some impressive mountains, including Kilimanjaro, the tallest in Africa and the only mountain in the world over 5,000m (16,000ft) that can be walked. Along the Indian Ocean are unpolluted beaches, and off the coast is the fascinating island of Zanzibar — steeped in culture and history, and the islands of Pemba and Mafia, which offer excellent diving on the reefs. In the seldom-visited west of the country is Lake Victoria, the world’s second-largest lake and the source of the Nile, and the skinny Lake Tanganyika, on whose shores Stanley uttered those immortal words, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume!” upon finally finding the great African explorer. Today, it’s the location of isolated parks harboring healthy populations of chimpanzees.

Like much of East Africa, Tanzania is home to the fiercely traditional and striking-looking Maasai people; seeing an isolated, red-robed warrior stalk the plains is a lasting image of Tanzania. Their beaded jewelry and red-checked blankets make good souvenirs to buy. Tanzania also offers other interesting arts and crafts, most notably the Makonde sculptures carved in ebony, and tanzanite, a turquoise-blue semiprecious stone unique to the country.

Think of the “Africa experience”, and a kaleidoscope of images spring to mind: herds of zebra, wildebeest, and gazelle stretching to the horizon under pearly dawn skies; a cheetah stalking through dry grass; a warrior striding into the sunset; white beaches backed by coconut palms swaying in the warm sea breeze; a snow-capped mountain rising out of the red dust of the plains.

This entire image reflects the beauty of not simply a great continent, but only one country — Tanzania. However, Tanzania is much more than a set of stereotyped Hollywood images. It is a modern, progressive state with a rich culture and historical heritage that began almost four million years ago when our primitive ancestors first left the forest and walked upright onto the plains.