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Swahili Coast

The Life Of Spice
The beaches on the east African coast are among the finest in the world, activities ranging from drift dives to kitesurfing.
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Swahili Coast

Most tourists who visit Tanzania choose to finish a safari with a visit to Zanzibar with its old capital Stone Town and beautiful beaches. But Tanzania has 1,400 KM. of coastline and the coast of mainland Tanzania unlike that of neighboring Kenya is very underdeveloped. Although little visited by tourists, it is extremely beautiful and wild. We can not claim to have visited the whole coast and there remains much to be explored but we have traveled the coast extensively.

North of Dar es Salaam there are a series of uninteresting small beach resorts which give way to a series of small fishing villages, interspersed between white sandy beaches. The most interesting town on the coast is undoubtedly Bagamoyo, the coast’s foremost slave port and the departure point for many expeditions into the interior. It is set on a beautiful bay fringed by mangroves and its laid back village-like atmosphere today belies its sinister past. There are many interesting colonial buildings still standing and the town makes a very interesting visit. Stay at the wonderful Lazy Lagoon close to Bagamoyo and relax in paradise.

North of Bagamoyo is the Saadani Game Reserve, the only costal Park on the East Coast of Africa. Beyond is the town of Tanga which is now Tanzania’s second largest port. It is not a town of great interest

Just south of Dar es Salaam is a beautiful area of white sand beaches stretching for miles. The area around Ras Kutani is particularly beautiful and little known.

Beyond, for those who wish to visit the far South coast, access is determined by the state of the vast Rufiji river delta, the largest mangrove forest in East Africa. This is a wild area rich in bio-diversity but fairly inhospitable.

Few make it beyond the Rufiji to the southern coast of Tanzania but for the explorer who wishes to venture on, there are the three Kilwas to be discovered These three settlements, Kilwa Kivinje, Kilwa Masoko and Kilwa Kisiwani, are of great historic interest and atmosphere. Kilwa Kisiwani is of particular interest having once been the most important trading port of the whole East Coast of Africa. The Sultanate of Kilwa was founded in 975 by a Shirazi trader, its riches were founded on the gold trade from Zimbabwe, but its fortunes ebbed and flowed with successive invasions and conquests with this island town periodically returning to being a simple fishing village, as it is today, between short periods of riches and fortune.

Tanga

Tanga, Tanzania’s third largest city and second largest port,  is the principal town on the northern coast of Tanzania, a time-warped port which briefly served as the capital of German East Africa before Dar es Salaam usurped the role.  Relaxed, friendly and atmospheric, it is a lovely character-filled town full of old German and Asian buildings.

Now one of the more modern ports along Tanzania’s coast, the city rose to prominence when settled by the Germans after the harbour at Bagamoyo proved to be too shallow for trade on any large scale.  Tanga boasts the first school in German East Africa, built in 1893, and a railway to Moshi was started in the same year and completed in 1911.  The rail link inland and the excellent natural harbour guaranteed Tanga’s survival  to this day, when most business conducted is export of sisal.

 

Excursions Around Tanga

Amboni Caves

8 kilometres north of Tanga lies the entrance to Amboni Caves, the most extensive limestone cave network in East Africa and thought to extend hundreds of kilometres up the coast.  The caves have been part of local legend and folklore for thousands of years, long before their discovery by Europeans in 1940.  Local belief still holds that the main cave is inhabited by a god of fertility, and offerings are still regularly made here.  The forest around the cave entrance is excellent for bird-watching, and is also home to a troop of endemic black-and-white colobus monkeys.

Tongoni Ruins

Tongoni, about 20 kilometres south of Tanga itself,  was never a large town but was always well-off, and the ruins visible today stand testament to the wealth in the town.  The town, of the Shirazi people, peaked during the 14th and 1th centuries, and now boasts the largest concentration of historical tombs on the East African coast.  There is also a ruined mosque at the site.  The caretaker will charge a small fee to show you around the ruins.

Toten Island

Directly offshore from Tanga lies Toten Island, which can be reached by boat from the harbour.  On the island are ruins of two mosques and a number of tombs and graves – some locals refer to Toten as the Island of the Dead.

 

Pangani

Pangani Town lies about 50 kilometres south of Tanga and is a traditionally Swahili town lying at the mouth of the Pangani River.  The town has a relaxed ambience, surrounded by virtually unspoilt beaches to both the north and south.   Historically the town has played a notable role, owing to its position at the mouth of the river, which assumed a vital role as a transport route to the interior of the country.   The town was a major export point for the notorious slave and ivory trades, and was one of the largest ports between Bagamoyo and Mombasa.  Within the town itself, remnants of the German and Arabic influences can be seen in the architecture and carved doorways.

The beaches to the north and south of the town have only recently been opened up to visitors with the advent of a new road.  This coastline is beautiful, consisting of long unbroken stretches of white sandy beaches backed by palm trees and light forest, in which the bird and wild life is well worth a look.

 

Excursions around Pangani

Pangani River

The river provides some of the best birdwatching in the area, as well as resident populations of crocodiles and other animals.  Boat and canoe safaris on the river offer the opportunity to observe nature form an unusual perspective!

Maziwe Island

Maziwe Island is approximately ten kilometres offshore and is a small sand island and nature reserve.  Snorkelling here is fantastic, and trips here can be arranged through the Cultural Tourism Office.  Maziwe can only be visited at low tide, however, as it disappears at high tide, and obviously there are no refreshments or other facilities available on the island!

 

Dar Es Salaam

Known as the Haven of Peace in the Arabic tongue, Dar es Salaam is Tanzania’s largest and liveliest city. Once upon a time this place was nothing more than a sleepy fishing village but thanks to a large influx of sultans and trade it has become a cultural mecca. The melting pot of Asian influence, African heritage and Muslim religion congeals within the city creating a wonderful atmosphere, amazing architecture and vibrant markets.

As soon as the sun gleams over the dusty rooftops the streets boom to life with street sellers calling out bargains from the fish market, locals walk by with sacks of rice on their head and the boats start moving across the beautiful harbor. Whether you are looking to soak up the sun on the beach, explore the busy markets or throw yourself head first into a whole new world – Dar es Salaam has something for everyone.

Africa is famed for its fascinating market culture and in Dar es Salaam Kariakoo market is one of the best. Overtaking whole streets you can be jostled along with the crowds and admire the shaded stalls over spilling with bright fabrics and garments, handmade jewelry and a range of interesting artifacts that make the perfect souvenir. Be sure to explore the early morning catches down at the fish market, before dawn breaks across the water local fishermen will be hauling in the nets and getting ready to sell most of Dar es Salaam their supper. Mwenge Carvers Village is another great place to visit to find traditional hand carved goodies; from stunning paintings to hand crafted wooden ornaments it’s a great way of supporting the locals.

You can find a few really interesting museums within the city; from the National Museum depicting the cultural heritage of Tanzania to the dance shows at the Makumbusho Village Museum, there is so much to see and do when exploring the city.

Beach lovers will delight in an afternoon spent on the dazzling Coco Beach. Hordes of locals gather here to wade in the waters, snack on delicacies from the street vendors and catch some live music upon the soft sands. Whilst swimming and diving isn’t highly recommended inside the city you can catch a local bus to one of the nearby towns or sail across to Bongoyo Island to immerse yourself in the warm ripples of the shimmering Indian Ocean.

 

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Shared Safaris To Swahili Coast

This is usually in a large vehicle with space for up to 8 guests.

  • Can decrease prices a lot especially for groups less than 3.
  • Great opportunity to meet other people from around the world.
  • You have separate rooms but the benefit of good company during transfers and meals.

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Private Safaris To Swahili Coast

This is a private vehicle allowing you complete freedom.

  • You can decide on when you want to start & end your safari day.
  • Complete freedom – stop when & for how long you want.
  • Recommended for specialist photographers, honeymooners and families

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Swahili Coast Map

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