Tanzania Swahili Coast
The Swahili cost – bustling sea-port and colonial centers of old
Dar es Salaam – a vibrant hub of activity
The capital of Tanzania is all but name, Dar es Salaam is a busy metropolis of some 6 million people. Despite its size the city retains all the bustle and flavor of a major seaport, with much of the colonial and oriental feel still intact in architecture and in the trading areas.
Originally a small fishing village, Dar es Salaam owes its development to a Sultan of Oman who moved to Zanzibar and its fortuitously located inland harbor. In fact, its name literally means ‘Haven of Peace’. Which is what it has provided for shipping and commerce from the era of the German Colonial Directorship to the present day.
The city centre is a hive of activity, architecturally interesting and with a number of museums well worth the visit – the National Museum, the Village Museum, the Nyerere house at Magomeni, the Botanical Gardens and the Mnazi Mmoja Park. Don’t miss the lively fish market at Magogoni and the White Father’s Mission House, one of the oldest buildings in the city.
Dar es Salaam also has a number of public buildings of interest, including the State House, the City Hall, the Old German Prison, the Railway Station and the Ocean Road Hospital. The city is the obvious springboard for visits throughout Tanzania, with road, railway and air links to destinations all over the country, and air and ferry links to the Zanzibar and Mafia archipelagos. After a couple of days in Dar es Salaam you can relax on the pristine white sands of the city’s north and south coast.
Heading north out of the city, the first stop is Bagamoyo, a once-busy port whose sleepy air belies its vibrant past (for more details see Cultural Highlights).
Saadani National Park – Where the Bush meets the Beach
Another 70 km up the coast is the Saadani National Park, which is ideal for a day’s excursion from Dar es Salaam. Although the bark is new, animal stock is good, and is building day by day. Hippos, crocodiles, Roosevelt Sable antelope, giraffes, elephants and lions are in attendance, although for some Saadani’s endless white beaches are the main attraction. Try to stay overnight to savour a sunrise over the Indian Ocean that will long remain with you. Out to sea, bottlenose dolphins are often sighted off the southern coast of the park and from mid-October to late November green turtles come ashore at Madete in the north to breed.
Pangani and Tanga – seaports past and present
Close to the beach, Pangani is a small Swahili town set on the river of the same name. originally a dhow port, Pangani’s importance as a centre of commerce reached its zenith in the late 19th century, when it was another major export point of slaves and ivory, and one of the largest ports on the coast. Today you can see relics of that bygone era, as well as visit the beaches, the Pangani river and falls, and Maziwe island.
Tanzania’s second-largest seaport, Tanga is a good stop if you’re en route to or from the north east. Places worth a visit are the Ras Kazone peninsula and Jamhuri Park, which overlooks the harbor, and Totem Island, to which fishing boat captains in the harbor will usually take you for a fee.
Mtwara – Mikindani gateway to southern Tanzania
The starting point of Livingstone’s final voyage, Mikindani is a tiny Swahili town on the south-eastern coast, which was once a major port and trading post. Charming and opicturesque, it offers v visitors stunning vistas, vibrant and colorful markets as well as petty to do in the line o sports and leisure. Be sure to take a day-sail on a dhow not much different to those used on the old sea routes which is a excellent way to take in the magnificent views from the bay. Further out, the blue wagers offer sport fishing enthusiasts plenty of opportunity to do battle with pelages, kingfish, barracuda, marlin and tuna,.
Along the cost, divers ad snorkelers can revel in the pristine beauty of the reefs in the Mnazi Bay Marine Reserve, which also offers holidaymakers miles upon miles of magnificent white beaches.
Beyond Mikindani lie a number of interesting spots to visit, among them the Ruvuma River to the south (home to hippos, crocodiles and a wealth of birdlife), and the Lukwila – Lumesule Game Reserve to the south-west, one of the least frequented reserves in Africa and home to lions, leopards, hippos, crocodiles and antelope, to name but a few.