Monday, 30 April 2007

The most Beautiful Beaches and Lodges South of Dar es Salaam

Turtles hatching and rushing into the sea - a regular sight at South Beach, Ras Kutani and Amani Beach, due to a respective protection project ongoing! A little great wonder of life.
Sunset at Ras Kiroko

Amani Beach Hotel

With elements of Swahili architecture, Amani Beach Hotel is less secluded than below described Ras Kutani, but shares the same generous beach. Child policy welcomes kids of any age, there is a nice swimming pool, cottages are spacious even though a bit darkish, and food is good: with candle light at white set tables under the archades it makes for a very nice dinner setting. And the hotel provides babysitters for parents to have a moment on their own, if wished so. Tel. 0754 41 00 33 (the hotel no longer is a Protea Hotel);

Kim Beach in Gezaulole

The village of Gezaulole, 13km South of the Kigamboni Ferry across Dar’s port (keep straight on the dirt track after the butterfly shaped sign of Kipepeo Beach, instead of following the tarmac road turning slightly right; you can also reach Gezaulole by public Dala Dala bus bound for Kimbiji) hosts a Cultural Tourism Programme, a camp site Akida’s Garden, and a great Beach with some Makuti roof shelters you can rent for a fee of 1’500TzSh per person and day, for a bucket of water, a waste bin and clean toilets in return. It is also possible to stay overnight on the beach camping. Valeriani, the chief guard of Kim Beach (Tel. 0756 27 78 05), present most week ends busy caring for the visitors, can provide a night guard and even fire wood for a barbeque in the sand. He also can organize for Dhow trips on Sinda Island. However, despite Valeriani’s presence be attentive to thieves and look your valuables into the car.
Have a close look at the little saint forest to the right of the camp site – well hidden under the trees are some Swahili graves preserved. Unfortunately, due to the destruction of the reefs out in the sea (on Sundays, when the guards of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism are on leave, too, you can observe the water fountain and hear the sound of dynamite fishing) more and more forest is destroyed during high tide, and one day in the not so distant future even these ancient graves will be gone.
Gezaulole is a Zaramo word meaning “try and see”. Zaramo people, the initial founders of the village, have been living along the coast for many centuries. When Arab settlers arrived in the 16th century, the village became a centre for merchants dealing in with ivory, hides and slaved bound for Zanzibar and beyond. During Tanzania’s Ujamaa, period, the village was chosen as one of the pilote settlements: people were relocated to the area in order to create a concentrated agricultural zone. The Name of Gezaulole became a new meaning: “try and see” how villager could develop their lives under the new socialistic policy of Nyerere. It turned out into a devastating experiment turning Tanzania into a country highly dependent from food imports to feed its growing population.

Ras Kutani

“There is a rapture on the lonely shore, There is society, where none intrudes, By the deep ea, and music in its roar: I love not man the less, but Nature more”

The Beach resort of Ras Kutani (Prior bookings with Selous Safari Company in Dar es Salaam, Tel. 022 213 48 02 or 212 84 85; e-mail:; are absolutely essential as drive in guests are not welcome; fares are 99US$ for residents per person and night) , located 35km South of Dar es Salaam (follow the tarmac road from Kigamboni ferry South, until it turns into a wide dirt road; After 29km from the ferry, a sign post towards the left indicates the turn off to Amani Beach; follow this sign post, and finally the sign posts for Ras Kutani) in coastal forest, next to a beautiful sweet water lagoon and on a long, completely unspoilt beach great for early morning runs or late afternoon walks is special: the tranquillity of the place, the secluded cottages constructed of organic, local materials that harmonise perfectly with the natural surroundings, the individual hides on the beach, and if you are lucky dinner served on your own little platform into the lagoon, the perfect little shortbread served early morning to your cottage with hot coffee or tea all make the little difference and attention to give the visitor the feeling of being important and unique, allowing to forget about daily life in the bustling and hot city of Dar es Salaam instantaneously.

About Ras Kiroko see separate post.


Arusha is superbly located. Originally a trading post for the local Arusha and Meru tribes, with a small German military garrison established in 1900, it developed into sprawling centre for tourism. To enjoy the town, however, you need to know where you want to go. Any undecided Wazungu face in the streets of Arusha is a welcome feast for the local flycatchers, and they are abundant and can be very insisting and even aggressive.

Beautifully located within a coffee farm, with a great colour concept, good food (try goad cheese rosmarin black olive pizza) the Arusha Coffee Lodge, just at the border of town direction Manjara, is a great place for a good meal or a lazy Sunday afternoon. While rooms are expensive, food is very affordable, and coffee, as it needs to be, excellent. Enjoy and wind down.

For mouth watering croissants, pastries, fresh juices and really good cappuccinos head to “The Patisserie” (0754 28 87 71 or 0754 30 21 74) at the clocktower round about. The place is Indian run, has good internet connections, and also a selection of beautiful postcards; A peaceful place to recover from the bustle outside. The Restaurant on the first floor terrace of the Jacaranda Hotel (Tel. 027 254 46 24 or 027 254 49 45; e-mail:;; double rooms are 70US$) on Vijana Road does nice dishes in a cosy candle light atmosphere. The Indian restaurant in the Impala Hotel is outstandingly good, despite plastic table and chairs! Good Italian food is served in Pepe restaurant (Tel. 0787 55 55 60), however the newly constructed setting in a suburb garden lacks a bit of atmosphere. The newly opened Fire Tree restaurant in a beautiful Arusha Suburb garden is said to be excellent, too.

For cultural events, as well as bookings with the local Cultural Tourism programme, organising great hikes in the surroundings of Arusha, including up to a waterfall on the foot of Mount Meru, head up to the Old Boma, into the Via Via café (e-mail:;) which hosts music and film events, and does a selection of Swahili dishes. The museum next door is well worth a quick visit as well.

The Impala Hotel (Tel. 027 250 71 97 or 027 250 84 48; e-mail: or; also has a regular bus shuttle to Nairobi. Leaving at 8am in the morning and reaching Nairobi at 2pm in the afternooon.

Despite its proximity to Arusha little visited, but very beautifully located between Mount Meru and Kilimanjaro, with its own craters, tropical forests and an abundance of wildlife, is Arusha National Park. It can be reached within an hour from Arusha. Ultimate Safaris (Tel. 027 254 41 77 or 0754 28 21 81 or 0784 28 21 81, e-mail:; do day excursions into the park with open roof Landcruisers for 125US$ per vehicle. There are several lodges in the Park (Momela Lodge charges about 75US$ for a double; Tel. 027 250 64 23 or 027 250 64 26; e-mail:; and beautifully located campsites to stay overnight.

Day Excursions from Dar es Salaam

From 9.30 am onwards boats daily leave from Slipway on the Peninsula to Bongoyo Island, which is about 45Min. out in the sea in front of Chui Bay (7’0000TzSh per person). The beach is beautiful with Makuti roofs for shade, which you can rent, and fried fish and cold beer on sale. There are walking trails across the island, including to shark bay, and snorkelling is not bad. The down side of the proximity to town comes after the big rains, when all the wastes of Dar es Salaam washed into the sea end up on the shores of Bongoyo Island. There are some Locals that have made a business out of recycling some of these wasted – however the sight a of a beach scattered with hospital waste is little inviting. Bongoyo Island, together with Mbudya Island make part of the Dar es Salaam Marine Reserve and staff present on the island are knowledgeable about local wildlife ( Biodiversity of Tanzanian coastal waters is amazing. However, despite that turtles, dugongs, dolphins and whales are protected under both Tanzanian and International legislation, many are still being illegally killed, their habitats destroyed and the enforcement of the law reamains very weak.

Andrew Majembe (Tel. 0784 49 03 99; e-mail: organizes early morning and late afternoon bird walks in different areas in and around Dar depending on the season. The flamingo tour to the salt mines in Kunduchi is well worth and the variety of coloured and large sized birds living in town is amazing, even for the ones that rather prefer the walk to the bird spotting! A very particular sight are also the huge bats flying over Ali Hassan Mwyini road when approaching down town towards the evening – have an eye open for them, they are not crows!

Josephine Siara’s (Tel. 0755 74 55 65 or 0754 00 02 34); e-mail: Horse Club is located in walking distance from Amani Beach and Ras Kutani (to reach the Club from Dar, follow the tarmac road from Kigamboni ferry South, until it turns into a wide dirt road; After 27km from the ferry, a sign post with a horse head towards the left indicates the turn off to the stable. Follow that sand track along the sign posts until you end up in the flowery gardens surrounding the stable;) The riding tours along the beach and narrow trails through fields, bush and garden, are fantastic, however only to be recommended to well experienced riders, as Josephine’s horses are rather hot blooded! A tour of 1.5 hours is 40’000TzSh.

The closest escape from town into the green are Pugu Hills, originally a forest reserve, but badly damaged by the expanding town and hunger for charcoal. Yet, still some forest is left. A good starting point for hikes is the Pugu Hill Guesthouse (Tel. 0754 56 54 98 or 0754 39 48 75; , with a good restaurant – they do excellent steak with pepper sauce - under a huge Makuti roof overlooking the valley below, bandas and a campsite. To reach Pugu Hills Guesthouse, drive to the airport, but instead of turning left from Nyerere Road into the airport area, you turn right towards Kisarawa, on tarmac road. Passing several market spots, and a prison, you reach an ORYX petrol station about 20 to 30Minutes after having left Nyerere road. Turn left and a little later on your right on the slopes below the forest you can already see some of the coloured bandas in the equally forested territory of the guesthouse. A dirt track leaves up the hill. If you reach the Tazara railroad crossing the dirt road, you have gone too far. The Guesthouse can provide you with guides for a beautiful two hours hike to the water reservoir completely surrounded by forest, or for an early morning half day hike to the impressive cattle market at Pugu railway station, where cattle from Mwanza - mainly Sukuma herds - are brought and sold.

Cattle markets have similarities all over the world – be it in Tanzania, Britain, China or Armenia. It is a men’s thing, there is a lot of money involved, clever middlemen do the business, a lot of suspicion is expressed towards every stranger – and there is good and substantial food available! We went to Pugu Hill cattle market, some 20km from the centre of the four Million town of Dar es Salaam, the place where meat enters the town still on four legs. In Tanzania, several breads of cows are bread, some more the light Zebu version, others a lot heavier, with impressively long horns. These horns must be so heavy to carry, the elegant ones bent up site, and the odd ones bent down site, giving the respective cow or bull a rather stupid expression into the face. In the nearby stalls still in the animal compound, Chapati – a kind of a omelette, Amazi – something similar to our dough nuts, and later on in the day Ugali – Polenta - with meat and spinach are prepared in abundant quantities; However, in February 2006, in Pugu Hills there was one remarkable difference to other cattle markets in the world. Animals were so thin that they died on the spot, they refuses to stand up for a last time despite being hit and pinched by a dozen of men – the result of an East African drought, partly man made, partly bad luck; There was even a couple of Maasai with their hopelessly thin cattle. Desperation must have run them to do what they are said to never do: sell their cattle;

Before, the Central railway line was used for the transport, explaining the location of the market, but since 2004 only lorries are allowed to bring in cattle, reducing the travelling time for the poor beasts. Do not go on the market without a guide. Cattle trade is about a lot of money, and the presence of strangers with cameras can render people nervous.

There are also numerous bat caves in the Pugu hills to visit with a guide, and the numerous small trails are excellent for off road biking.

Important mission stations had been established in the Pugu Hills, including Pugu Secondary School where Julius Nyerere worked as a teacher before venturing into politics full-time.

Afriroots (Tel. 0754 45 98 87 or 0713 65 26 42 ; e-mail:; organize low budget day, week end and longer trips regularely, mostly by public transport, such as hiking in the Uluguru and Udzungwa mountains, cultural tours, biking and safaris.

Magogoni Fish Market in Dar es Salaam

One of the most colourful sight in down town Dar, and a great opportunity for photographers, is the Magogoni fish market on the spur just at the entrance to the Dar es Salaam harbour, well worth a visit – if you can stand the horrendous smell! There are fish auctions ongoing, and early in the morning buckets and buckets of fish is unloaded by hand from incoming Dhow boats. Tourists are welcome, you can even take pictures and have team in the near by food stalls to watch.

Friday, 27 April 2007


Greeting to the degree it tires you, and you do not know which side to look and answer first, exchanging the standard news, which can be good, peaceful, about the journey, your home or work. Children shout “mzungu” after you, and there are many children in Pemba, until your ears hurt, and you instantly hope that some “mzee”, an elderly respected person, will tell them to stop on the spot. When you do it, they will not stop.

Deep green rice fields, oxen in the evening light, the sun settling through the mangroves into the sea. All over, the island is planted with clove trees and coconut palms; still it looks green and surprisingly natural. Idyllic Pemba.

The women are beautiful and tall, wearing high heels und moving elegantly, carrying their children on the arm and never on the back. Sweets, fresh bread, tiny little cups of coffee served under mango trees, and spices dried along the road – the seemingly small but fundamental differences of Pemba compared to mainland.

12th of January, shooting in the middle of the night, we are lying in our beds in the local guesthouse, expecting a bullet to cross over our heads. It is only the day 43 years after revolution, when the islanders, upset by a little educated Ugandan, had evicted their sultan colonialist regime from the island back to Oman. The next morning, almost all shops are closed. Even our old gentlemen with his little coffee and coconut stall along the road, where we usually had a stop before and after our bike rides, had allowed him self a rest to celebrate revolution; All the children wore new cloths, walking up and down the main road on the hand of their fathers, having sweets; Little girls with happy expressions on their face tell us that for this one day they had meat and no fish for lunch, spicy Pilau but no rice, and even a delicious cake!

It is a desperately poor island. An island without cars, most villages linked one to each other by sandy bicycle trails only. Sails of the dug out canoes are hand stitched, the bikes have only one gear, and chains are never oiled. Has a man a little money left, he buys a second wife. In ancient times already, it had been a place for retirement for the rich traders, and then the Omani made it a centre of their slave trade. The historic dimension of the island is underestimated and nowadays hard to imagine – while people today live as basic as a hundred years ago, carrying the rubble of the former palaces away to build their shacks and huts, the place at times minted its own coins; The political hand is heavy, the smaller and poorer island among the two, Pemba, with a majority of CUF voters and a lot of remaining Arab roots, is dominated by the bigger and richer sister island, Unguja (generally called Zanzibar), where the main land backed CCM has everything under control. The elections have just past, with a surprising victory of the ruling party CCM, even on Pemba. Hundreds of mainland soldiers leave the island again on crowded boats – they get their tickets first, tourists and citizen only second. The system is corrupt through and through to a degree people do not perceive the problem any more. The old man trying to sell us completely overpriced tickets to enter a historical palace of which not much more than a few piles of rubble is left, has no problem at all with the tiny detail that the prices are rewritten several times by hand…while we clearly had a problem it, even more as the ticket for the museum we had bought in the island’s capital was said to allow us free entry to any sight over the island already...

Pemba comes highly recommended for bikers – there are hundreds of trails and tracks to follow where the locals are biking, and in every village there is some coffee served somewhere under a palm tree, and bikers are welcome to join. There is little infrastructure on the island, tourism has hardly touched, and kids in the villages will be excited about the appearance of Wazungus! Clove plantations carpet the island and are a feast to the sences, when they are dried in the sun along the roads. Beaches are a little difficult to access, due to well maintained and extensive Mangrove forests surrounding almost the whole island – but for great swimming and snorkelling let yourself transport to the protected Mesali Island by the staff of the Jondeni Guest House in Mkoani – it is a great place.

The Jondeni Guesthouse (Tel. 024 245 60 42 or 0777 46 06 80;; 30US$ for a double;) five minutes above Mkoani comes highly recommended. The locally run place has a fantastic sun set terrace, simple seafood dishes are delicious and plentiful. The owner of the guesthouse Ally Seif is extremely friendly and will tell you what ever you want to know about the island. He also can pick you up at the ferry terminal, organize ferry tickets and the trip to Mesali Island.

In Chake Chake accommodation is available in the Le Tavern Hotel (Tel. 024 245 26 60 or 0777 42 90 57). They also rent out motorbikes and serve good Swahili Food on their roof top terrace overlooking all Chake Chake.

Alternatively, and if you do not mind to be surrounded by divers only, which count the different species of fish they have seen every evening, Swahili Divers (Tel. 024 245 27 86 or 0784 80 86 92;;;; 55US$ for a double;) offer accommodation in an old and beautiful Quaker Mission House equally overlooking the town. Besides the obvious diving Swahili divers also offer kayaking in the Chake Chake creek. Their barbeque dinners are excellent.

The museum in the Old Boma in Chake Chake is well worth a visit. The various archeological sites on the island however are rather disappointing. They are little protected and villagers over time have carried and continue to carry the handy stones away for new constructions.

Just a couple of kilometres North of Chake Chake centre, there is the Pemba Essential Oil Distillery, which can be visited, and sells excellent clove oil.

Ferries from Dar to Pemba stop in Stonetown in Zanzibar, and take about five hours. Sepideh and Seastar run three times weekly a speed boat to Pemba, leaving Dar at 7.30 in the morning, and returning to Dar in the evening. Schedules however are changing frequently. For the latest information and for reservations, you better call James at the Ferry port in Dar es Salaam, Tel. 0713 34 65 43. He is also very helpful in buying tickets.

Biking on Zanzibar

Biking on Zanzibar is great – there is nothing much comparable to a bike ride on the bright white beaches of the East coast when the tide is out and you feel complete freedom. Recommended routes on Zanzibar are

2 days: Stonetown – Paje - Jambiani – Makunduchi - Kitogani - Stonetown with an overnight stay in Casa del Mar in Jambiani (; 70US$ for a double)

2 days: Stonetown – Chwaka – crossing Chwaka bay by local Ngalawa boat (about 20US$, but you have to haggle, and the tide should be in) - Bwejuu – Paje – Jozani Forest – Stone Town with an overnight stay in the Robinson ‘s Guesthouse in Bwejuu (Tel. 0777 41 34 79; about 25US$ for a double) is a little pearl on the island. The garden into which the few small but most beautiful bandas have been built is one of the most beautiful and dense ones along the East Cost. Breakfast comes with a beautiful fruit platter and home made bread, while dinner – mostly fresh fish, soups and salads - is taken on the floor with all the guests sitting around a few kerosene lamps; There are near by bars and restaurants where you can go for dinner for a change, too, and a rather high tower you can climb with excellent star gazing opportunities on the top level – however do not be tempted to jump, the water is not deep at all!
3 days: Stonetown – Mahonda - Mkokocheni - Kendwa – Matembwe – Pwani Mchangani - Mahonda – Stonetown with a first overnight stay in Kendwa Amaan Beach Resort (60US$ for a double) and a second overnight stay in Nyota Guesthouse in Matembwe (Tel. 0777 48 43 03 or 0777 43 90 59 or 0777 87 20 51; e-mail:;; 65US$ for a double); The Nyota Guesthouse in Matembwe comes highly recommended, with beautifully decorated rooms, a small but good Mezzanine restaurant with delicious sea food and Italian menus, all on an absolutely fantastic beach with bright turquoise waters and sea weed plantations.

If you want to avoid the rather unpleasant and sometimes dangerous first hour of biking out of Stonetown, then hire one of the numerous minibuses down town, or load your bike on the roof of a Dala Dala bus just as the locals do.