Coastal Tanzania travel guide

Shutterstock / Stefanie Van der VindenThe 800 km of the Tanzanian mainland coast has blindingly white beaches, coconut groves and mangrove swamps, but much of it is virtually undiscovered by modern tourism. Generally overlooked in favour of Zanzibar, the coast (away from Dar es Salaam) is rarely visited. With little development of any kind (tourist or otherwise), the coast has just a few farming and fishing villages dotted along its shoreline with nearby coral reefs and natural lagoons. Yet there are vivid reminders of the Swahili past to be found and the coast has a bloody and fascinating history. Palatial remnants of Persian and Omani kingdoms still remain and ancient mosques dating from the 12th century testify to the far-reaching roots of Islam. Bagamoyo was the last point reached by slave caravans before shipment and fortified houses still stand, as does the tree under which they were brought to be sold. There is also the fading grandeur of Tanga in the north, and the relatively undiscovered island of Mafia, location of the newly gazetted marine park and a wonderful place for scuba-diving. Towards the Mozambique border there is the historic ruined city of Kilwa.

Things are beginning to change, however, and there is now a clutch of upmarket beach resorts, and a new road from Dar es Salaam to Bagamoyo has recently been completed thanks to an EU grant. Also the beaches around Pangani have recently seen some tourist development and now offer some excellent rustic beach resorts, which you should enjoy while tourism there is still in its infancy. In the future this part of Tanzania could attract many more visitors.

Roads south are improving too, and slowly but surely the 21st century is arriving here, with oil and bio fuel developments creeping in. They've not changed the beauty of the areas yet, and they may not, but if you want to visit them in their most pristine state, don't leave it too late.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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