Tanzania is renowned for its wildlife but the coast and islands of Tanzania could well stand alone as an African travel destination.
Spices, sultans and slavery, elephants gamboling in the surf, whale sharks, coelenterates and decaying buildings dating back to the days of the slave trade – this is the coast of Tanzania. Add to this all diving, snorkeling and game fishing, and you have a holiday to savor.
The Coast of Tanzania
The mainland Tanzania coast has long been a Cinderella to the beguiling lure of visiting Zanzibar and the spice islands. This is understandable, for the islands are seductive and easy to reach by scheduled flight. But there is a charm to the Tanzania beaches on the mainland that is gaining a little recognition of its own.
The Saadani National Park, the only national park on the East African coast, is starting to see visitor numbers grow. Bush planes are helping guests reach small resorts. Such as Pangani and Bagamoyo on the Tanzania coast. These are now joining the far better known and up-market resorts south of Dar es Salaam.
Saadani National Park, Tanzania Coast
Saadani on the Tanzania coast is unique. Not just in that it is the only coastal game reserve, but in the sense that staying here is as much about visiting a community as a wildlife sanctuary. Though the Saadani game reserve was created in the 1960s, the local Saadani village dates back to the 9th century. Once an important trading hub, its 800 or so inhabitants and their families are now mostly fishermen. Unusually, the community is not separated from the reserve. Which seems to bring advantage to both. The tiny number of lodges here all draw their staff locally and are all very much involved with local community projects. Locals make use of the beaches to fish. And guests spend a fair amount of time in the village as well as on game drives or chilling on the beach.
Dar es Salaam
The port of Dar es Salaam is Tanzania’s largest city. A gateway to the Selous, to Zanzibar and to the southern Tanzania coast with their ancient Swahili settlements. Dar es Salaam itself is not a pretty city but it does offer an accurate window on to modern African city life. Colourful street markets jostle with cars and bicycles and sell anything and everything from curios to everyday items.
Bagamoyo, Tanzania Coast
Swahili culture is a heady mix of Arab, Indian and African origin. With a dual focus on the trade winds of the ocean and the religion of Islam. About an hour north of Dar es Salaam is the World Heritage Site of Bagamoyo. Tanzania’s oldest town. In the 19th century, the fishing harbour became the final mainland stop for the ivory traders. And slave caravans from the interior. The prosperous trading centre was then the starting point of various European explorations. Including those of Livingstone, Speke and Stanley. There are numerous ruins, a museum and a mosque dating back to the 12th century. The place to stay is a private island just offshore, Lazy Lagoon.