Stay on the mainland coast for Swahili culture and long walks or horse rides on peaceful Indian Ocean beaches.
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 some recognition of its own. Interesting small lodges have opened, often as labours of love. Often these are in beautiful and quiet coastal spots where the locals are not used to many visitors. Yet they relish the chance to trade produce and stories with overseas guests.
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. Lodges to consider here are Saadani Safari Lodge & Simply Saadani Camp.
The port of Dar es Salaam is Tanzania’s largest city. It is also a gateway to the Selous, 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. You can stay just up the coast, outside the city.
Swahili culture is a heady mix of Arab, Indian and African origin. 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. Later the prosperous trading centre was the starting point of various European explorations. Such as those of Livingstone, Speke and Stanley. There are numerous ruins, a museum and a mosque dating back to the 12th century to explore. The place to stay is a private island just offshore, Lazy Lagoon.
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