Every year, wildlife documentary producers flock to the famous Serengeti National Park to follow the Great Wildebeest Migration. It has become such a popular attraction that Tanzania has reached an agreement with the governments of Kenya and Uganda: a film-maker’s visa from any of these countries is valid in all three countries.
Arusha: A Gateway To Many Locations
Tanzania is the largest country in East Africa and is known for the best national parks in the world. Besides the Serengeti, Arusha National Park has diverse habitats. It covers Mount Meru, Ngorongoro Crater and Momella Lake.
Mount Meru is the second highest peak in East Africa after Mount Kilimanjaro and only a few kilometers away from Kilimanjaro International Airport. Ancient forests on its lower slopes are home to colobus monkeys, and along the hiking trails crystal-clear rivers and waterfalls create a tranquil environment.
The city of Arusha became a base for many productions filmed in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania after the success of the 1961 movie ‘Hatari’, featuring John Wayne. Many of the streets of Arusha depicted in the film are still the same sixty years later.
Hardy Kruger’s farmhouse that served as the set for the 1950’s film ‘The African Queen’ and many other films, is now the new Hatari Lodge in the Arusha National Park.
Lake Victoria, Chief Reservoir of The River Nile
Lake Victoria is the largest freshwater lake in Africa and the chief reservoir of The River Nile. Shared by Uganda and Kenya, it is the ideal location for productions featuring wildlife and gorilla trekking, the Masai Heartlands Tour, birdwatching adventures or white river rafting along The River Nile.
Further West, Lake Tanganyika is another scenic filming location. The bustling port town of Kigoma has a lot to offer: the Gombe Stream National Park- famous for its chimpanzees and the work done by Jane Goodall; sportfishing and boat cruises. The local fishermen go out to cast their nets in the deep waters at nightfall. The traditional fleets of lantern-lit dugout canoes and sailing dhows make a delightful night-time picture as their colorful, illuminated sails are reflected in the dark waters.
The Lupita Island Resort is a beautiful, private facility off the shore of the lake and boasts the most highly recommended boutique accommodation in East Africa. Thatched cottages surround an open-fronted lodge on a hilltop that gives panoramic views of both the lake and the tropical forest in the distance. If you prefer to camp on the island, there are canvas tents set on raised foundations with private verandas and bathrooms.
To get to the island, African Fixer will arrange the hire of a helicopter. Although there is a ferry, it is always over-crowded and the unpredictable waves of Lake Victoria make boat transportation unreliable.
Walking along the beaches of Lake Tanganyika and chatting to the villagers, one heras fascinating stories about ‘ Gustave the giant crocodile’, ‘Pamba the lake monster’ or ‘Chipekwe the killer of elephants’. These legends are told to protect the 100-year old MV Liemba ferry from too many curious onlookers on safari.
Built in Germany in 1913 and originally christened the Graf von Goetzen, she arrived in Kigoma in 5,000 boxes to be reassembled. Armed and commissioned as a steam-powered gunboat, she was deliberately scuttled in 1916 to prevent her from falling into British hands. She was raised in 1924 by the British Royal Navy and used in 1935 to film ‘The African Queen’.
Since then, she has provided a reliable ferry service on Lake Tanganyika and has been overhauled with extra V.I.P cabins and berths. Michael Palin used her in 1992 while filming the B.B.C television series ‘ Pole To Pole’, drawing so much attention to the famous ferryboat that everyone on a Tanzanian safari hopes to include a tour of the lake on her. The ferry is only operational during the calm, dry season between October and March, as the weather in this region is volatile and the roads become impassable during wet weather.
Production Services In Dar es Salaam
Dar es Salaam, the largest city in Tanzania, is a port city on the Indian ocean. It serves as the main production service center for film-makers, due to its close proximity to the Zanzibar Archipelago where the government hopes to establish a tech hub.
Dar es Salaam has many interesting filming locations for television, corporate or music video productions: the Kivukoni Fish Market, St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Bongoyo Island and the University of Dar es Salaam are the most popular ones.
For larger productions, the Tazara Railway links Dar es Salaam to Zambia and runs through the Selous Game Reserve.
Apart from being the commercial center of Tanzania, Dar es Salaam is also the hub for culture and artistic growth and offers many co-production opportunities.
In September 2021, director Amil Shovji became the first Tanzanian to screen a film: ‘Vuta N’Kuvute’ (Tug of War)– at the Toronto International Film Festival. Although the film is set in Zanzibar, all production services were sourced in Dar es Salaam to avoid creating a ‘bongo film’ mass-released in DVD format. As Steve MArkovitz, the veteran South African producer who collaborated on the film explains:
“ Zanzibar has no film infrastructure to speak of, so it was a long road of planning and relationship-building to prepare for the shoot. We had to assemble a crew from Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa- which would not have been possible without the services of a local fixer in Dar es Salaam’
So before heading off on your Tanzanian adventure, make sure to contact your country’s consulate in Dar es Salaam about visas and permits. From there, they will contact us at African Fixer to arrange all other details required for planning your shoot.