Tanga was once another stopping point, in competition with Pangani and Bagamoyo, for caravans on their way to the hinterland of Central Africa searching for ivory and slaves. The Germans also made it a centre of colonial administration during their occupation in the early 20th century. Evidence of German’s presence can be found in Tanga’s architecture today, but only few landmarks and historical buildings have remained in the area. Tanga’s port, however, provides a main link between northern Tanzania and the Indian Ocean.
For the discerning tourist and intrepid traveler, Tanga region is a stunning diverse destination. It undoubtedly has a lot to offer and is a surprisingly safe and friendly place to travel, filled with an incredible mixture of different cultures and some of the best places to visit.
This is evident in many aspects of life, particularly visible in the region’s magnificent landscape, unique culture and friendly people – making it as one of the preferred destinations for adventurous travellers.
Thousands of kilometres of the long Indian Ocean coastline with its sheltered bays and lagoons, and the lush mangrove forests, pristine semi-arid forests help to shape the identity of Tanga.
The first thing that visitors notice on their arrival is the state of relaxation and prosperity that is palpable, and it is good to bask in the sunlit narrow streets of Tanga with most of the city roads done to perfection. The experience an exhilarating stretch of tarmac roads in Tanga is bound to satisfy a desire of any traveler.
Self-drive holidays in Tanga are great – the roads are well signposted and easily navigated – but don’t underestimate the value of a good guide who will show you parts of the area you may not have otherwise explored.
Tanga is situated on the Tanzanian northern coast close to the Kenyan border.
It has road connections with Arusha, Moshi, Mombasa, Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. Tanga has a small airport as well as airstrips at Ushongo (Pangani) and Saadani national park. Boat services are available to Pangani, Pemba and Zanzibar.
Amani Nature Reserve
Amani Nature Reserve (ANR), located in the East Usambara Mountains, is a paradise of nature with unique flora and fauna. It has been termed as the “Last Paradise.” The flora species composition is diverse; trees of over 60 meters tall exist throughout the reserve while below, many different types of plant species are supported by them.
Amani situated in the pockets in the East Usambara Mountains, is part of the huge natural entity that makes up the Eastern Arc Mountains. It was Gazetted in 1997 with the main objective to involve the local community to take part in the management of the reserve and forest conservation to increase income generating opportunities.
The ANR has a total area of 8380 hectares divided into ecological zones that is home to a collection of medicinal plants, Biodiversity preservation, restoration and Botanical garden.
The reserve has endemical and endangered plants, more than 340 bird species, including a few endemic; there are also 74 genuses of animals, which include reptiles, mammals, amphibians and mollusks. Tourists are likely to see the endemic chameleons, snakes such as cobra, amphibian’s particularly legless frog, Butterfly and other insects.
ANR is registered with the Tropical Biology association as one of the reputable research institutions, to learn first hand about tropical ecology and conservation. Many research works are conducted yearly by renowned universities in the world such as UK’s Leeds University. Others include Tanzanian universities and research institutions (UDSM, SUA and NIMR) and others from Uganda and Madagascar.
The ANR is one of the most important water catchment’s areas that through the Zigi River provide domestic water to Tanga town, associated industries, estates and adjacent local communities. In addition, it provides water to the Hale and Pangani hydropower stations in Pangani River, among other benefits.
The ANR is suitable for site seeing, hiking, camping, butterfly, farming visit, trekking in the nature forest, night walks, bird watching, picnics, boating, fishing and learning. (website: www.amaninature.org).
Tourist attractions Land pattern and land use
Amani Nature Reserve extends from lowland to the upper plateau. The upper plateau allows visitors to observe the land pattern of the East Usambara, and these are one of the must-see attractions in the ANR. The land use in the upper plateau, including the local agricultural farming and tea estates adds the portfolio of attractions to the tourists.
There 3 views point namely Kiganga Hill, Ngua and Mbomole Hill viewpoints.
There are three waterfalls namely Derema, Ndola and Pacha in the ANR. Many visitors here choose to hike to the waterfalls.
Tea farming is under the East Usambara Tea Company that has a few acres of cultivated tea plantations that offer a good sighting to visitors.
Nine visitors trail:
(nature trails): Labeled, mapped and well documented in the leaflets and trail guide books are available (Mbomole Hill, Monga trail, Ndola trail, Turaco Bird trail, Kwamkoro Nature trail, Derema trail, Zigi trail, etc.)
Butterfly & Spices project:
The villagers run a butterfly project in which a substantial quantity of live butterfly or larva or purple is exported to German, the UK and Switzerland. Locals through groups and individual arrangements produce different spices sold in the Tanga region and beyond.
About 35 kms from Muheza, a town located on highway to Tanga.
There are public transports from Muheza, 35 kms away
The picnic sites are available for visitors fully supplied with sanitary equipment. These are: River’s site (Zigi), hill pick (Mbomole Hill) and in-situ forest site (Kiganga).
One with fixed water closet (ANR HQ), second one (Kiganga) allowing a mobile sanitary system.
Muheza town has NMB branch and Post Bank, including a CRDB (ATM) to cater for financial services. For large supplies, visitors are advised to buy supplies at Muheza where a big market has a good stock of both dry food and other groceries.
Tongoni provides an insight into the early settler’s lifestyle in the fishing village. Ruins of ancient mosques, tombs and remains of the first Shiraz of Persian origin, with elaborate inscription and stone carvings are found here.
The locals that inhabit in the area: Wabondei and Wazigua are predominantly fishers who owned the village until when the Shirazi came. Tongoni village has an exceptional look at one of East Africa’s Islamic settlements, which was established around the early 14th century. Tanga is primarily and predominantly populated by Muslims.
Tongoni is believed to be the location of the first port before Tanga, and that the Portuguese sailor Vasco Da Gama visited Tongoni in the year 1498. During his visit, it is said that he abandoned and destroyed one of his ships, the ‘San Raphael’ for being beyond repairs. Vasco Da Gama is said to have returned to Tongoni a year later and spent close to two weeks.
A glimpse into the villager’s lifestyle of the locals provides a simple and charming reception. Visitors are welcome to see the fish market and buy a few fish species, including prawns.
Tongoni village is found nearly 17 kms south of Tanga on the way to Pangani,
The Amboni caves are believed to be the most extensive limestone caves in East Africa, located in Kiomoni village. The caves, a one and half kilometer stretch, are a fascinating historical site, which were used as hiding places for the locals.
The Amboni caves are among the area’s most popular attractions that have attracted, over the years, hundred thousands of tourists both local and foreign.
The caves are very dark inside and potentially lethal. Nearly all tunnels or chambers are accessible to tourists via a guided tour.
The Amboni caves are among the area’s most popular attractions and feature vast below-ground halls with towering formations. Visitors are advised to wear comfortable shoes and to bring a pocket-size camera, since it’s cumbersome to bring a camera with a large lens as walking is through tight squeezes. And before entering some of the tight spots, visitors are asked to leave large bags in an area to pick up later.
The views of towering formations in the caves are an admiration. Nearly all its tunnels or chambers are accessible to tourists via guided tour. Walking through squeezes while getting treated to views of incredible formations makes the visit well worth it.
The caves have religious significance to the local people who pray and make offerings in one of the shrines. For a section of locals, the caves have been long-known as the place to worship to pray for different needs. Chamber number one is used for the prayers, in what many people associate with superstitions. Different items are deposited here during players as ‘gifts that the local villagers offer to the spirits.
The caves’ upkeep is under the department of Antiquities in the ministry of natural resources and tourism.
Located nearly 8 kms from Tanga town.
TANGA CULTURAL TOURISM INITIATIVE PROGRAM
The following tours are on offer;
– AMBONI CAVES TOUR
– TONGONI RUINS
– TOTEN ISLAND TOUR
– HOT SULPHUR SPRINGS
– YAMBE ISLAND TOUR
– ULENGE ISLAND TOUR
– SAND BANK ISLAND TOUR
– SWAHILI COAST TRADITIONAL DANCES
– VISITING TRADITIONAL HEALERS
– FISHING WITH LOCAL FISHERMEN
AMBONI CAVES TOUR (2 ½ hours)
Amboni guided tour starts from Tanga City centre through various historical buildings then to Kiomoni village. You will get to know how local brew is prepared as you pass through a number of local clubs and get to know the lime making process as well. Outside the caves enjoy a natural forest around and welcoming sounds of monkeys and birds. Your guide will take you through various compartments/rooms used for different purposes and enjoy the Cave’s natural beauty while listening to well narrated stories about the caves.
Amboni caves are 8 kms from the Tanga city centre. Visitors can opt to explore the caves by a rented tax (2 hours tour), use a bicycle (3 hours tour) or use public transport and then walk for 20 minutes to the caves from public road (5 hours)
TOTEN ISLAND TOUR (3 hours)
On your dhow or engine boat, sail to Toten Island to meet the fishing villagers and explore a coastal forest dominated by huge and majestic Baobabs. Listen to hundreds of tales and myths surrounding the Baobab trees and the island. Proceed to the Portuguese ruins which are remains of what used to be a prison in 15th century. Explore the great places where at different colonial times British and Germans lived.
HOT SULPHUR SPRINGS TOUR (1 ½ hours)
A cycling tour to gallanos sulphuruos hot spring which the local people use to bath for skin healing which the local believe if they bath there, while crossing local farms of various type like coconut, vegetable gardens and learn the process of planting to harvesting of the crops.
YAMBE ISLAND TOUR (6 hours)
Explore old German ruins which were used as quarantine in 19th century on a half day sailing tour to Yambe Island. Come and meet local inhabitants in this area and learn more about their cultures
NDUMI VILLAGE TOUR (3 hours)
The tour will take you along the Coast of Indian Ocean to explore old buildings, collection old stuff such as coins, beads and sheds of pottery at Ndumi dated 14th century.
ULENGE ISLAND TOUR BY BOAT (HALF DAY)
Visitors will visit the German building which was use as administration block
By the Germans during the colonial period, German graves and Hospital.
SAND BANK TOUR (FULL DAY)
Tour starts from Raskazoni passing by the fish market where you will see how the fisherman trade the fish business and identify different species of fish, Proceed for your water sports activities (diving, snorkeling and boat rides)
TRADITIONAL DANCE (4 – 5 HOURS)
A group of women known as TWAN traditional dances will give you an insight of their traditional dance and songs, you will participate in various Swahili dances elaborating different occasional and events such as marriage ceremony.
Get an insight on how African traditional healers do their work. On your guided tour your guide will explain various things about the healing process, medicines and different diseases cured
SISAL FARM TOUR (3 hours)
Get an insight of sisal production by visit the sisal plantation. Learn the whole process from how sisal is grown to the final stage of making sisal ropes locally and other modern factory processing ways. Then proceed to local salt mining farms just beyond sisal plantations.
FISHING WITH LOCAL FISHERMEN (6 hours)
You will participate on fishing with local fishermen using local available materials. Get your catch of the day that will be prepared as part of your meal and sell the rest of the catch at the fish market. Learn how to negotiate when selling fish after a long hard work in the Indian Ocean.
Where to stay: A wide range of guest houses, hotels and lodges is available in and around the town of Tanga. Camping grounds are available in various places depending on nature of your tour around the region. Camping facilities and Mountain bikes can be hired in Tanga town at a very reasonable price. Tourist information office or tour guides can make arrangements for homestays and overnights in local guest houses when staying or making hikes of several days in Tanga
Urithi Tanga Museum
Tanga’s new boma has been renovated with support from the German Embassy in Tanzania and Tanga’s sister city Eckernforde. It was originally built in the 1890s by the Imperial German colonial administration during the then German East Africa.
The building, built using coral stone, lime and sand was used as a government office and residence for the province commissioner of northern Tanganyika then comprised of Tanga, Kilimanjaro and Arusha. It was fully rehabilitated and conserved by URITHI using expert technicians from the Zanzibar Stone Town.
Once the conservation work was complete, URITHI was granted the use within the building for a museum dedicated to the heritage of Tanga. Photo exhibits on Tanga’s historical architecture and buildings and the Sisal industry are on display. The museum building is open for viewing, from the basement to the watch-tower, including the two floors.
Urithi Tanga Museum is a project of URITHI – The Tanga Heritage Centre. URITHI’s mission is to preserve and promote Tanga’s heritage and to make use of the heritage for community development.
Independence Avenue (next to the Tanga Library), Tanga city.
Lushoto and its people; it would be hard to know where to start. It is a town that exists in a nebulous state of optimistic beauty after being hardened by stunning scenery and a breath of fresh air. Like all places where winter likes to settle in for a good, long stay, the people of Lushoto nearly always embrace every moment of cool weather. When you live, visit or grow up in Switzerland, Lushoto sounds about as close and familiar as Switzerland.
It has sweeping landscapes with their towering peaks with farms, the breathtaking view and endless vistas (green and lush scenery) that interest many visitors.
Lushoto boasts of a rich hinterland ideal for farming, which includes bananas, pears, pumpkins, tomatoes, potatoes, yams, maize, cabbage, carrots, capsicum, plumps or apples and more that find their market within the Tanga region and beyond.
Its rainforest is one of the most popular bio diversity places in Africa. Now, it is a centre of one of the best cultural tourism programmes in Tanzania – The Friends of Usambara (www.usambaratravels.com.).
The cultural tourism enterprise provides various activities for visitors, such as guided hikes and cultural visits to the Irente view point, Irente farm, Usambara farms, Magamba rainforests and more. Most of the incomes go to fund development projects such as drilling well in remote areas, building primary school and funding reforestation efforts.
In Lushoto, people live a more traditional lifestyle, and the locals are genuinely happy to see visitors walk by, greeting everyone with big smiles.
Location and access:
Lushoto is accessed via Mombo town on the Arusha to Dar es Salaam highway. Public transports to Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Moshi and Tanga are available daily.