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While northern Tanzania boasts some of the continent’s most popular attractions, there is plenty of opportunity to explore lesserknown — but by no means inferior — attractions and get a real sense of what the country is all about. Phil Clisby travels from Arusha to Dar in a car, rediscovering his backpacking spirit of adventure

This button here. You see? The red one, ” points Alan Msuya, our rental car handover guy. “This is the panicky button. ” I’m just outside Moshi at the Mountain Inn, home to 4x4 Safari Rentals and, as the lodge’s name implies, a cracking view of Kilimanjaro. It’s comfortable accommodation, with excellent food — particularly the curry — and ideal for the budget-style, self-drive safari on which I’m about to embark. As well as the big red button, which is linked directly to the rental company’s HQ, our 4WD Tata Xenon is equipped with a GPS tracker and a phone, enabling the staff to keep track of our whereabouts should we run into difficulty. Self-driving in Tanzania is a relatively new venture, but with a good road network and excellent ground support, it is, in my opinion, the best way to experience the country. It’s backpacking for the more mature traveller. Someone, like myself, who wants the experiences that getting off the main track brings, but without having to sleep in a shop doorway or travel on a train sandwiched between a basket of rotting tomatoes and six chickens.

Walking the plains of Mkomazi,
where we encountered our anxious elephants; driving into Saadani National Park

I settle into the driver’s seat and, with an element of trepidation, point the car in the direction of Arusha. There’s a lot to take in at first: indication, or lack of it (“In Tanzania, indicators are a luxury, ” our guide Living Temba tells us); people strolling nonchalantly along the road; police speed checks and stop barriers; weaving motorbikes, and buses that pay scant attention to anyone else. But I soon settle into the rhythm and it’s still a darn sight easier than driving in London.

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About Travel Africa

Why Botswana? Where to go, what to see, how to plan for your trip to this amazing country • Slow safari - letting wildlife come to you • Kaokoland, in search of remoteness • What it's really like to walk in Luangwa • Self-drive Tanzania • Know your owls • Sierra Leone rises • 60 reasons to visit Nairobi • Lapalala Wilderness... and much more!