The Tanzania Coast
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.
The Saadani National Park, the only national park on the Tanzania coast, is starting to see visitor numbers grow. Bush planes are helping you to reach small resorts. Examples include Pangani and Bagamoyo on the Tanzania coast. These are now joining the far better known and up-market resorts south of Dar es Salaam, such as Ras Kutani, in wooing the connoisseurs away from the islands.
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. But 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.
Ras Kutani on Tanzania Coast
South of Dar es Salaam are several palm-lined Tanzania beaches. The nicest Tanzania beaches lie 30km away at Ras Kutani. Here there is a white swathe of sand and riding stables nearby. Plus mangroves to explore by kayak. And colobos monkeys and plenty of birds make their home in the the indigenous woodlands. There are two beach resorts. Each with a very different style and ambience. Ras Kutani is the one that works best with the safari camps of Selous and Ruaha.
Bagamoyo, Tanzania Coast
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. So 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.