Finding Direction in Tanzania

I sent you a compass because I wanted you to recall the prominence of vast open spaces in Tanzania. Some of these places are reached by small planes and seeing the area requires travel by foot or river. But how would you find your way if you were alone? If you have a compass and map you could find your way using them.  Here is a Website that describes how to use a compass.

If you don’t have a compass and map but know something about the area you can use landmarks. Mount Kilimanjaro is big and can be seen from many locations. It is north toward Kenya so you could orient with this mountain in mind. If you know the rivers of the area and how they flow, you can follow the waterways. But what if you don’t have any of that? If you know a little about the area like the most common direction of wind movement, you can use that. Even on a still day you can observe tree growth and discern direction.

An important thing to remember is that Tanzania is in the Southern Hemisphere, below the equator. While we use the North Star to determine direction of the North Pole in the USA because we are in the Northern Hemisphere, the Southern Cross is used to determine the direction of the South Pole in the Southern Hemisphere. The North Star may not be visible from your position in Tanzania but because Tanzania is so close to the Equator, it may be visible from some places such as on Mount Kilimanjaro.

The skies of Tanzania, away from the light pollution of cities, provide for stargazing in brilliant clarity. There are even safaris on the Serengeti Plain that cater to the stargazer. Enthusiasts are able to watch the animal migration by day and view the skies with the help of an Astronomer by night. The Southern Cross can easily be seen and direction of South established. Here is a Link to a youtube to learn more about how to see the Southern Cross and use it for direction.

If you are traveling in the daytime you can establish direction with the movement of the sun. The sun moves east to west across the sky. If you stand a stick in the dirt you can observe the shadow placement and length to help determine the relative time of day and the direction.

Vegetation can be observed for hints to direction. Free standing trees are normally asymmetrical with vegetation more full on the side receiving greater sunlight. This is typically the north side in the Southern Hemisphere and the south side in the Northern Hemisphere. Wind effects can be seen on some plants as well. Wind normally travels north east and south east in Tanzania.

There are other methods of using knowledge of the country and its animals to determine relative direction. If you know the rivers of the area you can determine the direction by the flow of water. If you know the time of year and observe migrating animals you can make some assumptions regarding direction.

I hope you have gained an interest in East Africa through our virtual trip to Tanzania.  I know I have enjoyed it very much.


Author: terrisloanclark

I am Nanna to my Grandchildren, mom, wife, sister, daugher, physical therapist and friend.

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