While Tanzania is famous for its wildlife, wilderness and mountains, it also boasts about 1400 km’s of prime tropical coastline and tropical islands. When one thinks that a coral reef has the same amount of biodiversity as a tropical rain forest, and the migration of humpback whales from the temperate climes to the tropics dwarfs the movement of wildebeest on the Serengeti plains, it is fair to say that Tanzania is endowed with richness in the ocean comparable to what it boasts on land.
Zanzibar is definitely the most famous feature of Tanzania’s coast, boasting its own international airport and a plethora of accommodation options. With its white sandy beaches, turquoise waters, rich spices and long history, it is definitely an ideal island paradise destination!
Pemba is a less known, but no less stunning, island located just to the North of Zanzibar. This is a destination for those wanting to submerge themselves into the underwater world as Pemba is known for its pristine marine life, with some of the best diving and snorkeling around. Some of the highlights are spectacular drift dives and the stunning Misali Island Conservation Area, one of the last places one can still encounter coconut crabs. Life is more laid back on Pemba with less crowds
This is another tropical island destination that has remained off-the-radar in Tanzania. Located to the South of Zanzibar and Dar-es-Salaam, it is ideal for families and people looking for a more relaxed destination away from the crowds. The Mafia Island Marine Park located at the southern part of the island is the largest Marine Park in Tanzania, and protects one of the last large-scale intact coral reef ecosystems left in Tanzania. Mafia Island is located off-shore of the Rufiji River Delta, one of the largest Delta systems in Africa. Every year Whale Sharks gather off-shore of Mafia to feed on plankton in the nutrient rich water, making Mafia one of the few places where you can reliably swim with these majestic creatures.
Fanjove is a little hidden treasure in the vast Indian Ocean. It is a privately owned island located some 20 km off-shore of the mainland, and is only accessible by boat from nearby Songo Songo island, the closest Airstrip.
This is an exclusive location for those who really want to experience the wonders of a small tropical island. Isolated as it is, it also boasts amazing snorkeling, diving and fishing opportunities!
If one is willing to get off the main tourist routes, there is an unlimited number of places to visit along the Tanzanian coastline. The Swahili culture along the coast is rich and vibrant with long-time connections with the Arab traders. One can visit many ruins that were once slave-houses or forts protecting strategic harbors. The Mnazi Bay-Ruvuma Estuary Marine Park located along Tanzania’s Southern border with Mozambique, has been identified as an area of global importance for marine biodiversity, and protects a large range of coastal marine and terrestrial environments.
The Dorobo Experience
For those interested in a more private and exclusive experience, Dorobo also owns some property on the coast. Located just South of the Pangani River, between the towns of Tanga and Dar-es-Salaam, Pembe Abwe Beach is an area where one can truly get a glimpse of life in coastal Tanzania, unadulterated by the glitter and shine of tourist attractions.
In true Dorobo fashion, this is an area where we have long-term relationships with the surrounding communities and a visit to Pembe Abwe truly embodies the whole coastal experience. Here, you can feel like you really are connected to your surroundings and can truly sink and relax into tropical coastal life while still learning about, and with, the local community. The activities here are endless; from snorkeling and diving at the stunning Maziwe Island Marine Reserve, to visiting the local fish market as the day’s catch is brought in, or visiting the old slave markets of Pangani town.
Pembe Abwe Beach is definitely a great and relaxing way to end a trip to Tanzania, as safaris are usually pretty full on with something happening every day. A few days spent here gives one time to digest, absorb and reflect on all that has happened. See below for more details on what Pembe Abwe has to offer:
The set-up is rustic and simple but comfortable, with sleeping rooms, or “bandas”, located a short distance from the central Banda and overlooking the ocean. These are A-frame structures boasting en-suite bathrooms with toilet and showers. All Bedding is provided and consists of either mattresses on the floor or on traditional beds made from a sturdy frame with woven cord between.
The main central “banda” is built around a large Baobab tree and has an open design and floor-plan. It is the social hub where meals are eaten, games are played and a place to escape from the afternoon sun to read your book or take a siesta. Above this main banda, a small tree-house has been built where one can take advantage of the cool afternoon breeze and enjoy the view. The adventurous may even wish to sleep up here.
The kitchen is located behind the main banda, where your cook will be preparing your meals. Meals are prepared fresh from seasonally available fruits, vegetables and sea-food. Fish, squid, octopus and crabs are often bought directly from fisherman off the beach. Fresh produce can be bought at the nearby village of Mwera, and more specialty items can be ordered from the town larger towns of Tanga, Pangani or even Arusha if there is a scheduled flight.
Things to Do
While life for the people living along the coast is quite full with things to do – going out on the ocean to fish and collect food, repairing boats, mending fishing equipment, tending the small farms, weaving baskets – there is a sense of serene calmness to their activities that no-doubt is influenced by their proximity to the ocean. The same is true for visitors to the area, with plenty of time for relaxing but also a lot to do for the adventurous.
Biking & Walking
Take a stroll down the beach and explore some of the tide pools, bursting with weird and wonderful life, that are exposed on the low tide. Down the beach a-ways a small stream, locally termed the “windy-pop”, runs into the ocean and at low tide one is able to poke about in the mangroves along its banks. Beyond the beach lies some prime coastal forest that offers great bird-watching and walking.
About a 45 minute walk down the beach lies the fishing village of Ushongo where one can watch as boats and nets are repaired and the days catch comes into the market. A number of hotels are located around the village where one can enjoy a drink or shop for curios.
Bikes can be rented from the village to use for beach cruising or exploring the little trails that wind between farms and homesteads inland.
One can rent wind-surfing equipment, and double or single Kayaks can be obtained to explore the sheltered bay. During high-tide, the small stream flowing into the ocean down the beach is accessible to kayaks and offers some amazing opportunities to get close to birds perched on the banks.
On calm, clear days a fringing coral reef located just out in front in the bay is accessible and offers great snorkeling opportunities.
Excursion can also be organized to the Maziwe Island Marine Park. This is a sandbar located about 8km offshore and surrounded by turquoise waters and pristine coral reef. Being off-shore, the water is usually clear with great visibility and offers some of the best snorkeling anywhere on the Tanzanian coast.
Diving in the Marine Park can also be organized through Kasa Divers, who run a PADI accredited dive shop near the fishing village of Ushongo.
The Kasa Divers dive shop also runs a Green Turtle nest relocation program. Green Turtle eggs laid on Maziwe Island would normally be killed by the high-tide (it was once a larger island and nests were above the high-tide mark) and so are relocated to the mainland. If lucky, you might be there when one of the nests is hatching and can watch the little hatchlings struggle for the ocean.
Located just south of the Pemba channel and across from Zanzibar, the area boasts some world-class game fishing for Tuna, Billfish and other pelagics who arrive with the northerly trade winds between October and April. Throughout the year one can also target juvenile Giant Trevally, Barracuda and other reef fish.
Spending a day with a local fishing boat can also be arranged. One should be prepared, however, to spend the whole day out on the ocean in a small sailboat.
There are numerous other activities such as visiting the old German fort overlooking the Pangani River, learning about the history of slavery and the Arab trade in the town of Pangani, visiting the coconut plantations and weaving baskets and matts with the local ladies.