Tanzania Mainland Coast and beaches

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The allure of Zanzibar often means that the benefits of alternative islands and stunning mainland coast locations are overlooked; leaving them crowd-free for us! If diving is not a main focus, we wholly recommend staying on the mainland coast. The beaches here are fabulous, generally deserted and good value. There is little to do in many cases, but a stay here at the beginning or end of a trip is a neat way to relax.

Beyond Zanzibar’s main island, Pemba Island is just 30 minutes flight north, and Mafia island is 45 minutes south. Both are primarily diving locations, the beaches do not compare to those on Zanzibar, but there are fine options for those wishing to avoid crowds and enjoy thriving coral reefs.

Tanzania’s mainland coast has, to the everyday tourist, been overshadowed by Zanzibar Island. Now, as Zanzibar becomes ever busier, discerning travelers look for new beach areas along the immense and beautiful Tanzania seaboard. Here ancient Swahili history, culture and hospitality combine with hundreds of miles of endless beaches and the warm Indian Ocean.

The Tanzanian north coast is a section of coast renowned for its quiet and excellent beaches, such as Pangani, Saadani, Ushongo and Bagamoyo. It is somewhat more accessible than the south coast, and regional airlines are now providing scheduled charters to most points of interest, where there are also many good beach hotels.

Pangani, 250 kilometers north of Dar es Salaam, is an ancient and unspoiled small town founded in 1820 at the mouth of the Pangani River. It occupies a wonderful river location, and with its walled waterfront and the Omani buildings, it is a great place to get out of the hustle and bustle of the main beach resorts. There are a couple of budget guesthouses on the beach front; Mkoma Bay is a short distance away and The Tides boutique hotel is about 40 minutes drive from town. We offer special packages to Pangani and The Tides and also you can combine those with a safari, including a Saadani NP safari – see below.

Saadani National Park, a newly gazette park, is located halfway between Pangani and Bagamoyo, and is among the only places in Tanzania where you might go on a morning safaro game drive before spending the afternoon snorkeling. This is not a place where you will come to see the ‘Big 5’, but it is the ideal place to combine a different safari with snorkeling, diving and relaxation – all in one day.

Bagamoyo is the closest that you will get to a typical beach resort in mainland Tanzania, situated on a strip of white, sandy beach that stretches as far as the eye can see. The old town has not changed a lot since the early 19th century, and offers a number of attractions. It is worth visiting the Holy Ghost Mission, Livingstone’s deathbed, which is now a museum on Bagamoyo’s history. It is also worth visiting the nearby Kaole Ruins.

Tanzania’s far south coast has everything that you would expect from a tropical beach holiday with endless beaches lined with palm trees and offshore reefs. There are only two things that are missing from this scene, infrastructure and tourists.

The Island of Kilwa Kisiwani, about 300 km south of Dar es Salaam, is where you will find the superb medieval Kilwa Ruins. Kilwa was a very important gold-trading centre during the early 14th century. Here you will find beautiful Swahili architecture, including elaborate mosques, an old well system which is still in use, and a seafront fort dating back to the Portuguese occupation. Nearby Kilwa Kivinje is a beautiful old fishing village which dates back to the early 19th century, when it acted as an important coastal trading link.

Mnazi Bay-Ruvuma Estuary Marine Park was gazette in 2000 and extends over 650 square kilometers between the Ruvuma River and the Mozambique border. It is a great haven for marine birds and the offshore reefs offer more coral species than anywhere else in East Africa.